Academic journal article School Community Journal

Preparing Urban Teachers to Partner with Families and Communities

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Preparing Urban Teachers to Partner with Families and Communities

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study explored how graduate coursework can impact urban teachers' knowledge, skills, and dispositions regarding family and community involvement. (Note: California requires graduate work for teacher certification.) Specifically, the research investigated how teacher attitudes toward family and community involvement changed after taking a graduate level course taught at two separate universities. The study utilized mixed methods combining a semantic differential study of graduate student attitudes with a qualitative analysis of the students' perceptions of their experience in the course. Results from the semantic differential (p < .05) and qualitative data indicate a significant change in teachers in three global areas: (a) their professional knowledge and skills, (b) their professional dispositions, and (c) their authentic relationships with students, their families, and the community. The findings from this study can be used by teacher education programs, university professors, and school districts as they structure and implement programs that support and encourage teachers in interfacing with their students' families and communities.

Key Words: school-community partnerships, family involvement, community, organizations, parents, families, teacher education, urban schools, collaboration, teachers, professional development, programs, candidates, preservice

Introduction

Numerous studies over the past decade show that when schools, families, and community groups collaborate to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more (Barnard, 2004; Bryan, 2005; Epstein et al., 2002; Fan & Chen, 2001; Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies, 2007; Ingram, 2007; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Putnum, 2000; Sheldon, 2003, 2007). Research also confirms a need to prepare teachers, particularly those working with families of color and in poor urban communities, on how to establish more authentic relationships that will lead to increased family and community involvement and student success (Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Henderson et al., 2007; Ingram, 2007; Jeynes, 2003, 2007; McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004; Sheldon, 2003, 2007). This preparation can and should be a part of the preparation all teachers receive in their college or university programs (Morgan, 2009; Villani, 2004).

Family and Community Involvement in K-12 Schools

Leading researchers have found that when schools work with students' families, everyone involved benefits-students, families, and schools (Green et al., 2007; Henderson & Berla, 1997). Additionally, when families are invited to participate at their children's schools, they do become involved (Feuerstein, 2000; Green et al., 2007; Hoover-Dempsey, 2005; Warren & Quintanar, 2005). Warren and Quintanar (2005) found such involvement leads not only to improved academic achievement for students, but it also increased teacher morale. Some (Ingram, 2007; Jeynes, 2003, 2007; McWayne et al., 2004; Sheldon, 2003, 2007) suggest this is particularly the case in urban communities. Kellaghan, Sloan, Alvarez, and Bloom (1993) have even gone so far as to suggest that interventions with children from disadvantaged backgrounds need a home component in order to be effective.

The literature provides significant evidence supporting the value of family involvement, yet questions remain unanswered regarding how to effectively engage families, particularly in poor urban communities. The Harvard Family Research Project (Shartrand, Weiss, Kreider, & Lopez, 1997) reported that many teachers and principals lack training on how to reach out to parents. Additionally, some researchers (Delpit, 2006; Kellaghan et al., 1993) emphasize the lack of effectiveness of schools to reach out to communities of color, where the ethnicity and background of the teachers often differs from that of the students. Delpit (2006) and Valdes (1996) assert that many educators and schools have placed the blame for lack of academic success on students and their families and suggest that much research and practice has supported this "deficit model" that moves the accountability for student success away from the school and its teachers. …

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