Academic journal article School Community Journal

Parent Engagement in Science with Ninth Graders and with Students in Higher Grades

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Parent Engagement in Science with Ninth Graders and with Students in Higher Grades

Article excerpt

Abstract

By high school, parent engagement is likely to differ not only by grade, but by subject. This study surveyed students enrolled in high school science classes and found that parents of freshmen (9th graders) are more involved at home, less involved at school, and equally involved in educational planning compared to parents of high school students in higher grades. There were some differences in which background factors predicted parent engagement with freshmen and with older high school students. Overall, parent engagement contributed to students' motivation and performance in science. Controlling for background characteristics, parent engagement at home contributed to students' perceptions of their skill and their academic grades differently for ninth graders than for students in higher grades. Parent engagement at school contributed to ninth graders' valuing of what they were learning in science class but did not impact students in higher grades.

Key Words: parents, engagement, science, ninth grade transition, freshmen, high school students, home, schools, motivation, achievement, family

Introduction

Little comparative work has been done by grade level about how parents are engaged with school and with what consequences. For high school stu- dents, parental engagement is likely to be very important during the freshman year because 9th grade is a critical juncture in education. Parent engagement is likely to differ not only by grade, but by subject. Our prior study established that parent engagement was an important factor in predicting high school stu- dents' adjustment in their science classes and differed by type of engagement (Shumow, Lyutykh, & Schmidt, 2011). This study focuses on students en- rolled in high school science classes and extends the prior study to answer several research questions. The first question was: Are parents of freshmen en- gaged to the same extent as parents of older high school students in three specific dimensions of parent engagement (at home, at school, and educational planning)? The second question was: What background characteristics predict parent engagement with freshmen and with older high school students? The final question addressed was: Controlling for background characteristics, does parent engagement contribute to academic adjustment differently for fresh- men than for older high school students?

The Ninth Grade Transition

The transition to high school is particularly difficult for students (Barber & Olsen, 2004). More students fail and are held back in ninth grade than in any other grade-as many as 40% in some districts (Wheelock & Miao, 2005). Ninth grade is associated with declines in school engagement (Seidman, Aber, Allen, & French, 1996), grades (Benner & Graham, 2009), orientation to school (Benner & Graham, 2009; Isakson & Jarvis, 1999), and psychologi- cal well-being (Newman et al., 2007). In recent research in science classrooms, ninth graders reported lower engagement, lower skill, and lower self-esteem in class compared with older high school students (Schmidt & Shumow, 2011). Students who struggle during the high school transition are at risk for continu- ing academic difficulties (EPE Research Center, 2006; Lee, Bryk, & Smith, 1993).

There are many possible ways to address the problems students often en- counter in ninth grade in order to improve student outcomes. Although practitioner-oriented guides for improving the transition often suggest that ed- ucators engage parents in supporting their children's transition to high school, that advice is rarely predicated on research and tends to be vague advice about involving parents without enough detail to be very useful. Parents are also aware of and concerned about their children's transition and adjustment to ninth grade (Akos & Galassi, 2004). Our goal is to provide empirical informa- tion about parent engagement during high school that will help educators and parents make decisions about when and where they might best concentrate their partnership efforts to support students' success. …

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