Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Deliberative democracy: A space for school boards and parents in public eduation policymaking
by Bonitatibus, Ann N., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2013, 209; 3562262
Abstract (Summary)

Research indicates that in the No Child Left Behind era of public education, local districts with elected school boards may be perceived as relinquishing control over policies that affect their school system. With the locus of control coming into question, school boards may struggle with how to involve parents in local decision making. Therefore, it is essential that boards of education openly engage parents by exploring and reflecting on how parent voices can influence the policies that govern public schools. This qualitative study examines how, during the course of approximately 10 months, a seven-member school board involves parents at its public meetings during policy-making processes. Specifically, one way for a school board to engage parents in a policy-making process is to employ deliberative democracy. Thus, this is a qualitative inquiry that, through two case studies, examines a school board's deliberative democratic processes and the parents' participatory stances during public meetings as policies are established or modified. The purpose of this research is to inform school boards, policymakers, parents, and other educational leaders on how elected school boards can preserve a locus of control in decision-making processes at the local level by engaging parents in policymaking. The primary data collection methods included public meeting observations, a school board survey, and interviews. Findings presented through narratives and thematic analyses reveal scenarios where deliberative democratic tenets were exercised. These tenets included purpose, intent, procedures, practices, and reciprocity. In both case studies, parents adopted various stances such as advocate, proxy agent, and expert. However, throughout the processes, study participants noted tension between formal meeting procedures and their desire for informal dialogue. Limitations included selective homogeneity of participants in deliberative processes, root cause analysis for parent participation, and the challenges of local space. Implications for school boards, parents, and deliberative democracy are discussed. Further areas for research could consider the use of electronic media in deliberative democracy, the presence of affective domains in procedurally-steeped processes, the possibility of micro-deliberative practices, and the leveraging of deliberative democratic processes that reclaim local space.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gold, Eva
Commitee: Ben-Porath, Sigal, Lytle, James H.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational and Organizational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 74/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education Policy, Education philosophy
Keywords: Deliberative democracy, Parent engagement, Policymaking, Public meeting, School board, Stance
Publication Number: 3562262
ISBN: 978-1-303-09818-5
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