Academic journal article School Community Journal

Lessons Learned from a Neighborhood-Based Collaboration to Increase Parent Engagement

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Lessons Learned from a Neighborhood-Based Collaboration to Increase Parent Engagement

Article excerpt


In general, youth whose parents are involved in their schooling experience better academic outcomes. Yet some parents, especially those with few resources in low-income urban communities, face barriers to becoming engaged in school and community. This report from the field describes the "Neighboring Project Parent Empowerment and Volunteer Readiness Program" (Neighboring Project), which was a collaborative effort between a Project GRAD site and the local public housing authority. The Neighboring Project took engagement efforts to the neighborhoods of lower-income, urban parents. The primary aim was to help parents increase their engagement in their children's schooling and neighborhoods by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to do so. To date, the Neighboring Project has been conducted at three housing sites. This paper describes the development of the Neighboring Project, including recruitment efforts and its format and curriculum. Findings from focus groups and anecdotal information reveal the Neighboring Project had lasting impact on participants and led to increased involvement in school and neighborhood. Implications for future practice and research are discussed, including the need for active outreach to parents focused on increasing their skills, knowledge, and sense of self-efficacy, as well as tapping their innate strengths and resources.

Key Words: community programs, parents, parental engagement, involvement, schools, urban, low-income, outreach, collaboration, self-efficacy, public housing authority, Project GRAD, neighborhood


A number of studies have documented that there is a positive relationship between parent involvement in their children's schooling and youth academic achievement (Fan & Chen, 2001; Jeynes, 2005, 2007; Miedel & Reynolds, 1999). Findings from a study by Barnard (2004) suggest that parent involve- ment in children's early schooling can have lasting effects by decreasing rates of dropping out in high school and increasing the rates of school completion. Furthermore, the evidence to date suggests that efforts by schools to increase parental involvement can be successful (Jeynes, 2005, 2007, 2013; Klimes- Dougan, Lopez, Nelson, & Adelman, 1992; McDonald et ah, 2006; Seitsinger, Feiner, Brand, & Burns, 2008). FJowever, many parents experience barriers to becoming involved in their children's schooling (Carreón, Drake, & Barton, 2005; Klimes-Dougan et ah, 1992; Mannan & Blackwell, 1992). These barriers include the lack of material resources (e.g., childcare, transportation), the time crunch experienced by many today, and parents feeling intimidated or unpre- pared to talk with teachers and school administrators or to help their children with schoolwork at home. Such barriers may be especially pronounced among low-income parents who must daily cope with environmental stressors.

Although low-income parents may experience barriers to participation, they also have strengths and resources that may be left untapped, perhaps due to the unwitting and unintended adoption of a "deficit approach" by school and other professionals toward lower-income parents (Lawson, 2003; Lightfoot, 2004). Moreover, the communities and neighborhoods within which parents and schools exist can either reinforce or impede parental involvement in youth schooling, including parents' attitudes toward schools and school professionals' attitudes toward parents (FJoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997). Lawson (2003) interviewed parents and teachers in a low-income and ethnically diverse ur- ban neighborhood about their understanding of parent involvement. Parents reported a community-focused perception of parent involvement and wanted schools to offer more services to enhance the community, whereas teacher per- ceptions of parent involvement were more traditional. Parents thought "the school should become a hub for community programs and supports" that could increase parent and family skills and capabilities (Lawson, 2003, p. …

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