Academic journal article School Community Journal

Parent Perspectives on Developing Effective Family–School Partnerships in Hawai.i

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Parent Perspectives on Developing Effective Family–School Partnerships in Hawai.i

Article excerpt


Family and school partnerships have been shown to improve academic and social outcomes for children (Carlson & Christenson, 2005; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Serpell & Mashburn, 2012). In recognition of these results, laws regarding the inclusion of families in their children's education have required school systems to address family communication, participation, and engagement for all children in schools since 2001 with the No Child Left Behind Act (Crosnoe, 2015) and reiterated in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. Many schools have developed procedures to engage families, and these programs are often evaluated based on "frequency of contact," a structural model that emphasizes events such as home visits, tutoring, or conferences (Moorman Kim et al., 2012; Serpell & Mashburn, 2012).

However, family engagement often goes well beyond event attendance. In fact, counting how often parents participate in specific events such as parentteacher conferences or fundraising activities can contribute to the pervasive "parents as problems" deficit narrative in schools when parents fall short of school expectations (Baquedano-López, Alexander, & Hernandez, 2013). Because of the traditional focus on the frequency of contact, the relational aspects of family and school partnerships such as developing a welcoming atmosphere, a sense of school community, or nurturing relationships between teachers and parents often receive less attention (Crosnoe, 2015; Moorman Kim et al., 2012) than the structural aspects such as event attendance. In addition, parent perspectives of partnerships with educators are often overlooked as the school's agenda frequently takes priority.

In view of our desire to include both structural and relational aspects of family-school partnerships, we use Moorman Kim and Sheridan's (2015) definition that identifies two core features: "(1) parents and educators are mutually engaged in the educational process, and (2) efforts are aimed at supporting children's learning and positive development" (p. 2). Reschly and Christenson (2012) discussed the importance of developing congruence in messages and actions between schools and homes around the education of children; partnerships with this aim "are a means of increasing cultural and social capital for all families and youth" (p. 67). For educators to be able to integrate relational elements to develop congruence and enhance family-school partnerships, there must be a deeper understanding of the needs and perspectives of families. This study addresses this gap in the literature by examining parents' perceptions about family-school relationships.

This study was conducted in Hawai'i, a state with one school district encompassing rural and urban schools, a multicultural setting with no ethnic majority, an indigenous Hawaiian population, large immigrant and migrant populations, and many families who use multiple home languages (Welch, 2011). Hawai'i's geographic diversity results in a non-homogenous population that includes ethnic, socioeconomic, and racial differences in single schools, as well as isolation of some schools on outlying islands. As such, strategies for effective family and school partnerships in Hawai'i may be somewhat different than those in other states. A lack of literature regarding family and school partnerships in Hawai'i and in other locations with heterogeneous families highlights the need for this study. Because U.S. schools are becoming more diverse (Hernandez, Denton, Macartney, & Blanchard, 2011), the perceptions of parents in Hawai'i about these partnerships can inform educators who work with a mix of indigenous, immigrant, poor, migrant, and multilingual, as well as middle-class and White families, in a variety of locations and circumstances.

In the following sections, we discuss the theoretical perspectives that frame the study, including previous research on models of family-school partnerships. …

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