Bringing Parents Back In: African American Parental Involvement, Extracurricular Participation, and Educational Policy

By O'Bryan, Simone Travis; Braddock, Jomills Henry, II et al. | The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Bringing Parents Back In: African American Parental Involvement, Extracurricular Participation, and Educational Policy


O'Bryan, Simone Travis, Braddock, Jomills Henry, II, Dawkins, Marvin P., The Journal of Negro Education


Using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), this study explores the relationship between African American student participation in extracurricular activities and parental educational involvement. Results suggest that school-based activities may provide contexts for effectively and creatively involving parents in schools. With regard to sports participation in particular, African American parents of high school seniors involved in varsity sports were found to be highly engaged with their children around educational matters. Implications for educational policy are discussed.

A growing national concern over failing schools, and the fear that American students continue to lag behind students in other industrialized nations, has generated strong interest in parental educational involvement among researchers and school reformists. Parental involvement has also been strongly emphasized among educators and policymakers concerned with the achievement-gap between African American and White students. Indeed, the important role of parents in the socialization and promotion of positive educational outcomes for children has long been acknowledged by researchers and policymakers alike (Epstein, 1987; Fehrmann, Keith, & Reimers, 1987; Lareau, 1987; Scott-Jones, 1984; Stevenson & Baker, 1987).

Research suggests that parental involvement fosters positive attitudes toward school, improves homework habits, reduces absenteeism, reduces student's risk of dropping out of school, and enhances academic achievement (Astone & McLanahan, 1991; Epstein, 1987; Fehrmann, Keith, & Reimers, 1987; Lareau, 1987; Stevenson & Baker, 1987). Thus, developing strategies to increase parental involvement is seen as a vital component in fostering academic success (Epstein, 1995; Hara, 1998; Lareau, 1989). Over the last decade, numerous federal and state level policies have been implemented to increase the involvement of families in the educational lives of their children (Education Commission of the States, 2005; Stedman, 1994; Trotman, 2001). Although the general importance of the family on the academic success of youth has been recognized through legislation and in empirical research, participation in school-based sports and other extracurricular activities has traditionally not been a part of the research agenda or policy discourse on developing effective strategies to improve the involvement of parents in their children's schools. This study extends research on this topic by examining the relationship between African American student participation in extracurricular activities and parental educational involvement with the aim of informing educational policy.

CORRELATES AND PATTERNS OF PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) reveal variation in both the levels and types of parental educational involvement (U.S. Department of Education, 1992). For example, in 1988, most parents (79%) reported regularly discussing current school experiences with their eighth-grade children. Nevertheless, parent's discussions with their eighth-grade children about their high school plans and their plans for after high school were considerably lower (47% and 38% respectively). Among African American parents, the amount of discussions around current school experiences was comparable to the overall averages, with 75% reporting they regularly discussed current school experiences with their eighth graders. However, African American parents reported higher levels of involvement concerning their children's future educational plans-58% reported regularly discussing high school plans and 51% reported regularly discussing plans after high school with their children.

Researchers have identified a number of factors that have been consistently demonstrated to influence levels of parental involvement, including gender, race/ethnicity, family socioeconomic status (SES), parent's educational attainment, student's gender, and student's age. …

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