Involving Low-Income Parents and Parents of Color in College Readiness Activities: An Exploratory Study

By Holcomb-McCoy, Cheryl | Professional School Counseling, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Involving Low-Income Parents and Parents of Color in College Readiness Activities: An Exploratory Study


Holcomb-McCoy, Cheryl, Professional School Counseling


This article describes an exploratory and descriptive study that examined the parental involvement beliefs, attitudes, and activities of 22 high schoaol counselors who work in high-poverty and high-minority schools. More specifically, this study examined school counselors' beliefs and activities about involving parents in the college admission process. The results indicated that the participants believe that working with parents about college opportunities is a major part of their job. A majority of the participants also reported that they spend "some time" conferencing with parents about college admissions and a majority reported that they "never" organize parent volunteer activities. Implications for school counselor practice and future research are discussed.

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There is a plethora of literature and research that illustrates the positive influence family involvement has on the development of students' educational goals and success (Ceja, 2006; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandier, 1997; Jeynes, 2007; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Moles, 2000; Rich, 1985). In fact, family and/or parental involvement has been positively linked to several outcomes, including higher academic achievement, sense of well-being, school attendance, student and family perceptions of school climate, student willingness to undertake academic work, quantity of parent and student interaction, student grades, aspirations for higher education, and parent satisfaction with teachers (Greenwood & Hickman, 1991). Although all students benefit from family and/or parent involvement, low-income students and students of color (i.e., African American, Latino/Hispanic) fare significantly better in gaining admission to 4-year colleges and universities when their parents are involved in their schooling (Wadenya & Lopez, 2008). National Assessment of Educational Progress data in 2006 indicated that a 30-point scale point differential on standardized achievement tests existed between students with involved parents and those students whose parents were not involved (Dietel, 2006).

Given the emphasis on college readiness in the No Child Left Behind Act and President Obama's Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2010), the role of parents in the college readiness and preparation process has become a significant topic among educators (Rowan-Kenyon, Bell, & Perna, 2008; Venezia, Kirst, & Antonio, 2004). Access to selective 4-year colleges and universities (admitting less than 50% of all undergraduate applicants) has become a highly competitive process in which many parents use extensive and elaborate resources to ensure that their children have the opportunity to attend the most prestigious institutions. Unfortunately, parents who have not had opportunities to attend college themselves have neither experience with the process of college preparation and college-going nor sufficient access to needed information (Ceja, 2006). And, research on African American and Latino parent involvement in college preparation and planning has shown that despite high expectations for educational attainment, few parents have access to meaningful information to help them understand the college application process (Torrez, 2004).

School counselors are influential in disseminating college information, especially among low-income students and students of color (e.g., Latino/ Hispanic, African American). Some have even indicated that school counselors' biases influence the type and quantity of information given to particular groups of students (Hart & Jacobi, 1992; Terenzini, Cabrera, & Bernal, 2001). Further, research suggests that students' perceptions of school counselors' postsecondary expectations of them may influence whether they even seek the school counselor out for college information (Bryan, Holcomb-McCoy, Moore-Thomas, & Day-Vines, 2009).

Therefore, the primary purpose of this article is to describe an exploratory and descriptive study that examined high school counselor beliefs, attitudes, and practices in relation to parent involvement in the college preparation/admission process. …

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