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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Well-Connected: Exploring Parent Social Networks in a Gentrifying School
by Cappelletti, Gina A., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2017, 222; 10601402
Abstract (Summary)

The enrollment and engagement of middle-class families in historically low-income urban public schools can generate school improvements, including increased resources and expanded extracurricular programming. At the same time, prior research has highlighted the marginalization of low-income parents as one consequence of middle-class parent involvement. However, there is a limited understanding of the factors that contribute to parents’ central or peripheral positions within school-based parent networks in this context. Drawing on theoretical literature on social capital and social networks, this case study combines quantitative methods including social network analysis and regression-based analyses with ethnographic methods to examine the school-based social networks of kindergarten parents in a Philadelphia public school experiencing an increase in the engagement and enrollment of middle- and upper middle-class parents. I explore how school-based social networks matter to parents’ access to information, advice, and social opportunities and how these networks are shaped by parents’ informal participation in school-based events and formal participation in parent organizations.

Four key findings emerge. First, informal participation in school events is not associated with an increase in network centrality. Second, formal participation in parent organizations is related to network centrality. In particular, the networks of parents who participate in these organizations include other parents who are well-connected themselves and parents who participate in parent organizations also have greater access to network resources overall. Finally, consistent with prior research on parent involvement, findings indicate that middle- and upper-middle class parents are more likely to participate in parent organizations than low-income parents. Findings suggest that while race or class-based social position may influence parent networks in some ways, participation in parent organizations plays a greater role in the connectedness of parents’ ties and parents’ access to network resources. Implications for this research suggest the need examine practices for family and community engagement in schools and how parent organizations might be made more accessible to and inclusive of low-income parents, parents of color, and limited English-speaking parents. Furthermore, this research provides support to arguments made in prior research concerning the complexity and challenge of relying on middle-class parent involvement as a mechanism of school reform.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Quinn, Rand
Commitee: Pupik Dean, Christopher, Remillard, Janine, Simon, Elaine
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational sociology, Educational leadership, Elementary education
Keywords: Gentrification, Parent engagement, Social networks
Publication Number: 10601402
ISBN: 978-0-355-21907-4
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