Promoting Parental Involvement in Urban Elementary Schools: Perceptions and Experiences of Principals, Parents, and District Office
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentEducation and Urban Studies
ProgramDoctor of Education
Parent participation continues to decline among African American communities in urban schools. Parental involvement is essential to closing the achievement gap in urban schools. This grounded theory study explored the principals’ perceptions and experiences of elementary school principals, parents, and district office staff as it relates to promoting parental involvement in the educational process of children in an urban school district in north-central Maryland. In order to develop a substantive theory addressing the barriers of low parent participation, data were collected from multiple sources. The data consisted of transcripts of semi-structured interviews of the participants, notes from parent focus group discussions, document review from school and district’s Family and Community Engagement Office, and field notes. The findings suggest the existence of complex and unique barriers that continue to plague the parental involvement in this urban school district with students from low income, traditionally and culturally underserved minorities. The findings add to the existing literature. An important contribution of this study is the development of a model to explain and address the barriers related to low parental involvement. Based on the findings, recommendations were incorporated into the development of Wheeler’s Model: Circle of Continuous Engagement. The new model describes ways to address the barriers to low parental involvement by building the capacity of the principals, as well as human and social capital of the parents in the communities being served by the school district enabling them to handle challenges in their schools, and the city. The findings of this study have the potential to inform parents, school leaders, and policy decisions. This study underscores the need for designing professional development that is (a) differentiated, (b) culturally relevant, (c) based on the realities of the work environments, (d) the issues in the local communities, and (e) based on the research evidence from urban contexts. Engaging parents in transparent conversations and providing resources will shift the trajectory of the current state of affairs to a collaborative, respectful, highly effective partnership, where students excel socially, emotionally, and academically.