Academic journal article School Community Journal

Broadening the Myopic Vision of Parent Involvement

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Broadening the Myopic Vision of Parent Involvement

Article excerpt

Abstract

Parent involvement in schools - what do you believe about it? Disparate groups, like front office staff at a school, preservice teachers, teachers, school administrators, and parents respond quite differently to focus questions, which might include: What do you see as important aspects of parent involvement? What parents do you think would probably not want to be involved in parent involvement activities at the school? Do you know enough about parent involvement? Is it important to be informed anyway? Survey questions queried teachers, classified staff, parents, administrators, and preservice teachers on their perceptions of parent involvement. The purpose of this study was to unravel common threads within the data, which revealed a very narrow understanding of parent involvement. This narrow understanding needs to be broadened if, indeed, we ever want to see parent involvement as a systemic, important foundation for student learning. The study discloses that each group had a disparate view of what constitutes parent involvement. The least vocal group in this discussion is the parent; the most vocal is the teacher. The conclusion is that it is inherently important to provide training for preservice and current teachers to help broaden the often myopic vision of parent involvement.

Key Words: preservice teachers, administrators, teachers, parents, parental involvement, teacher candidates, perceptions, broadening myopic vision, family, families, office staff, elementary, middle, high schools, districts, surveys

The Disconnect in Looking at the Problem of Parent Involvement

Walk into a school and immediately one can sense the level of parent involvement. A sign in the hall warns those who enter to report to the office. The office is bustling with activity, and parents stand at the counter waiting to be recognized and welcomed. Classrooms have their windows covered in elementary schools so that parents cannot see inside. Is this a welcoming school? Are schools becoming more "fortress" schools rather than open to parent visits and involvement? (Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies, 2007). Is there a chasm of misunderstanding between the home and the school? What creates this lack of understanding? Administrators, teachers, and front office staff create the climate of the school. Teachers and clerical staff, which include front office staff, project the climate of the school and set up the level of the responsive tones of welcome or rejection (Berger, 2008). Preservice teachers enter the classroom with a fixed perspective on what roles parents should play in their instructional day. The problem also lies in an inverse reality - parents are choosing not to come to school. Parents are not visible in many schools, especially during critical times like conferences or schools events (e.g., Lott, 2001). Or is it rather that parents are seen as intrusive? Parents, especially those who are from diverse cultures as compared to the dominant culture at the school, report that they do not feel welcome; consequently, they avoid coming to school and sometimes take on an adversarial stance with school faculty (Lott, 2001).

Stating the Problem

Many studies on parent involvement attempt to capture facets of parent involvement through a focused perspective - the parent (e.g., Olivos, 2004), the teachers (e.g., Shartrand, Kreider, & Erickson-Warfield, 1994), or the administrator (e.g., Rishel, 2008). A broader understanding of parent involvement, however, is not limited to disparate groups but rather open to multiple voices responding to similar questions and sharing their perceptions about the importance and the challenges of parent involvement. As a final and perhaps more significant point, once the crux of the matter is identified, what can be done about this common finding?

The purpose of this study was to look at multiple disparate groups who play an integral role in parent involvement, to explore what perceptions these groups have in common, and in which areas there are discrepancies. …

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