Parental involvement in middle school education: The perceptions and practices of African American parents in a Long Island middle school
This study investigated how African American parents define school and its purpose, as well as their perceptions and practices on the nature of their roles regarding parental involvement in a Long Island middle school when classified by Epstein's Parental Involvement Types: Parenting, Communicating, Volunteering, Learning at Home, Decision Making, and Collaborating with the Community. This study compared the African American parents of high and low achieving students and students living in poverty and at the non-poverty level. This study also investigated parents' views of the importance of education, the main purpose of schooling, and the roles educators and parents play in school. Attention also was given to participants' definitions of parental involvement and the intentional and/or unintentional behaviors of school personnel and how they related to Epstein's Typology of Parental Involvement.
Parents in this study were categorized by the results of the New York State Grade 8 English Language Arts test to measure achievement and free or reduced lunch status used to measure poverty. This qualitative case study indicated that regardless of the parents' background, their children's achievement, or poverty level, the perceptions they held were determined to be their reality in practice in terms of their level of parental involvement. The findings in this study suggest minimal differences between African American parents of high and low achieving students and African American parents of living in poverty and non-poverty students.
All parents in this study determined that Parenting was an activity they perceived as important and valued in practice. This also was true for Communicating and Learning at Home where eight of nine parents perceived this activity as important and valued in practice.
Conversely, one parent, whose child was classified as low achievement and living in poverty perceived Volunteering as important and an activity he/she valued in practice. It should be noted that two parents of students, one classified as low achievement and one classified as high achievement perceived Decision Making as important and an activity they valued in practice. Parents in both categorizations specified that they had more of a direct influence and impact at home with their children rather than in school.
Furthermore, this study indicated minimal dissonance or cultural mismatch between the African American parents and the school. Parents may have perceived several factors that allowed them to view the school as somewhat supportive but mentioned at times it did not meet all of their needs. The parents in this study had similar definitions for parental involvement which included, establishing relationships with school personnel, parent-child discussions and interactions about school related issues, parent support for the child both academically and emotionally, and homework assistance. Some of the parents' definitions of parental involvement did not align with Epstein's Six Types of Involvement. A majority of the parents perceived minimal intentional or unintentional barriers at the middle school study site.
0325: African Americans
0533: Secondary education