Open Access Dissertation
Education, Elementary--Parent participation--Middle West; African American parents--Middle West--Attitudes;
Parent involvement may have implications for student achievement (Epstein, 1986; Hoover-Dempsey, Bassler, & Brisse, 1987; Lopez, Scribner, & Mahitivanichcha, 2001). Today African-American parents are frequently criticized for not being involved enough in their students' education (Dearing, Kreider, Simpkins, & Weiss, 2006). African-American parent involvement can be limited due to a lack of time, monetary resources, or transportation; past negative experiences with school; a non-welcoming school environment; or a different definition of parent involvement (Epstein, 2001, Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Hill, Castellino, Lansford, Dodge, Bates, et al., 2004; Hughes & Kwok, 2007). Missing from the research of both Hoover Dempsey and Sandler (1997, 2010) and the Epstein (1986, 2001) models of parent involvement are cultural narratives of African-American parents' explanations for the nature of their involvement.
The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe how one group of African American parents explains the nature of their involvement with their children, and their children's teachers and school. Specifically, the study was designed (a) to understand what motivated this group of African American parents to become involved in their children's education; (b) to explore what parental role construction guided their parental involvement; and (c) to describe how these African American parents perceived their teacher, student and school invitations for involvement.
Eight African American parents involved in their students' education participated in this study. The methodology used for the study was a narrative interview. A narrative interview can be considered when the idea is to see respondents' answers as cultural stories to examine the rhetorical force of what interviewees say as they deploy their narratives to make their actions understandable to those who otherwise may not understand (Silverman, 2003). This research design was used to examine the explanations of this group of African American parents regarding their involvement with their child, their child's teacher and school. All families shared participation in the same school, called Strathmore here. A deviant case analysis was in order as Strathmore, with a population that was 92% African American, had much higher parent-teacher conference participation rate at 94% than the local district or the national average of 74%. Themes that emerged from parent explanations of their involvement were: school climate, role construction and family involvement.
Parents viewed their involvement in their child's education as a welcomed responsibility derived from the fact of being a parent. They did not report taking cues from other parents in the role construction for their involvement as Hoover-Dempsey would suggest (2005). Parents reported the importance of a welcoming and inviting school as demonstrated through positive parent-to teacher relationships and teacher-to-child relationships and an overall attitude of professionalism to support parent involvement at school. This group of African American parents also welcomed involvement with their child by extended family members, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
The findings of this research describe a deviant case because all parents reported a positive experience, which is not typically reported for African American parents. This group of parents indicated that their involvement was a requirement of their background. If the school had not been as welcoming and responsive then parents may have chosen to discharge their duty to be involved by instead becoming more involved at home. To gain further insight, future research should be conducted at a predominately African American school where relationships are not as positive to compare narratives from those parents. Their stories may be different and would further add to the conversation on what motivates African American parents to become involved in their child's education.
Future research should take into account parents that do not have a positive experience as well as schools that are not as receptive to parent involvement. This research suggests that teacher efforts to develop meaningful relationships with parents are useful. Furthermore relationships can cross color lines.
This research adds another perspective to the existing literature about African American parent involvement. Such information is beneficial for educators seeking to increase parent involvement with African American and parents from other cultures. This research has further implications for those who prepare teachers and who provide professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators to take into account cultural differences and its impact on parental involvement.
Year of Submission
Doctor of Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Linda May Fitzgerald, Chair
1 PDF file (vi, 102 pages)
©2011 Charletta D. Sudduth
Sudduth, Charletta D., "Our voices: A descriptive account of African American parental involvement in an urban elementary school" (2011). Theses and Dissertations @ UNI. 632.