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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Family Perceptions of Opportunities for Engagement in a High Poverty Urban High School
by Fitch, George E., Jr., Ed.D., Shippensburg University, 2019, 115; 27742776
Abstract (Summary)

Effective partnerships between family and school are significant for the 13.5% of American children living in poverty. However, research illustrates that there are barriers that impede families in poverty from being involved in school and they often are perceived as being less involved in their child’s education as well as having no voice. This perception is magnified towards Latinx and African American families.

The purpose of this study was to investigate family perceptions of opportunities for engagement in a high poverty, urban high school. This high school is unique because of the significant population of economically disadvantaged families with 27% in poverty and 49% in acute poverty as well as the racial diversity with 48% of the families identifying as Latinx, 42% identifying as African-American, and 10% identifying as Caucasian or other.

Focus group interviews were planned to gain an understanding of the differences in perspectives between racial and economic groups of families and their suggestions for how family-school engagement could be improved. Purposive sampling was used to recruit adult family members representing poverty for the three distinct family types (Latinx, African-American, and Caucasian/other), however, very few parents attended. When asked about their nonattendance, parents revealed the realities and circumstances of their lives that make it difficult for them to physically attend established meetings. They offered to speak with the researcher by phone and the researcher obliged by conducting individual phone interviews.

Parental comments aligned significantly across groups and with the literature on eight major themes: Communication, barriers to parental engagement, access to needed resources and information, support of families and students, positive relationships with families, effective qualities of parent and school engagement, families’ educational history and experiences and school as a community partner. Parents also voiced unique concerns, not reflected in the literature, based upon their unique characteristics of race, gender, and age and across different socio-economic levels.

Findings from this study led to recommendations that families will feel most engaged when communication is two-way, school personnel listen and learn from families and community supports are utilized as a vehicle for families to gain prompt access to needed resources. Positive relationships must be developed between school personnel and families. Mutual trust and respect are essential. Staff must understand and respond in ways that demonstrate that they understand the unique culture of different families as well as the realities of what families are going through. Changing methodology in this study from established group meetings in which parents were required to be physically present at a given date and time to individual phone interviews conducted at their convenience did exactly that; and it serves as a model of how schools can implement the findings of this study.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gaudino, Ann C.
Commitee: Kubasko, Wendy, Witmer, Miriam Gomez, Mumin, Khalid, Wooten, Carol
School: Shippensburg University
Department: Educational Leadership and Special Education
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 82/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, Educational administration, Secondary education, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Engagement, Family, High school, Perceptions, Poverty, Urban
Publication Number: 27742776
ISBN: 9798582502739
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