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1 PERCEPTIONS OF SCHOOL RECEPTIVIT Y AS A PREDICTOR OF AFRICAN AMERICAN PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADES By TIFFANY D. SANDERS A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008
2 2008 Tiffany D. Sanders
3 To my parents, Lon Sanders Jr. and Yvonne Sande rs, grandparents, family members, and those who have come before me to pave the way.
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I want to first thank My Lord and Savior Je su s Christ for his ble ssings, favor, guidance, and direction as I completed my dissertation a nd graduate career. I want to thank my parents Yvonne and Lon Sanders Jr. for believing in me, a nd instilling in me values such as hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Further, I want to thank my loving parents for their continued emotional and spiritual support as I end th is chapter of my life and embark upon new opportunities and experiences. I also would like to thank my sisters, Shinese, LaKeisha, and Tonya, and brother, Shon, for their words of encouragement, understanding, and support. Undoubtedly without the unconditional support of my loving and devoted family, I would not have been able to accomplish my educational, personal, and career goals of excellence. My church families, Abiding Faith Christian Center in Florida and Rock of Ages Baptist Church, and good friends (Ericka, Shavon, Danyell, and Dominique) were central to my success with this project. I especially wa nt to thank Pastors John S. Cowa rt and Pastor Marvin Wiley E. for anointing my head with oil, and praying for my continued success. I honestly was able to find the strength, motivation and momentum to comple te this project because the prayers of the faithful and righteous availed much. I would like to thank the members of my doc toral committee for challenging me to become a critical thinker and researcher. It is because of their mentorship and commitment to my personal development that I was able to complete a rigorous study that extends the literature. I especially want to thank Dr. Nancy Waldron, my longtime advisor and mentor. Thank you for investing in my future as a researcher, practitione r, and scholar. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities that you have provided for me to grow into a competent, co nfident psychologist. I want to acknowledge the generosity of Dr. Ja mes Algina as he freely gave up his time and extended his expertise to help me complete and understand the statistical anal yses needed for this
5 project. I also would like to thank Dr. Luis Ponj uan for his mentorship and for helping me design my survey. In addition, I want to thank th e principals of each school and the pastors of each church for helping facilitate the distributi on of surveys. Without their suppor t, data collection would have been an arduous process. Finall y, I would like to thank all of th e parents who took the time to participate in this study.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................................... 4 LIST OF TABLES ...........................................................................................................................8 LIST OF FIGURES .........................................................................................................................9 ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................... .............10 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION AND LI TERATURE REVIEW .............................................................. 11 Parent Involvement Legislation ..............................................................................................12 Parent Involvement Definitions ..............................................................................................14 Parent Roles .................................................................................................................. ..........18 African American Parents .......................................................................................................24 Parent Involvement for Low-income Families ....................................................................... 27 Summary of Parent Involvement Literature ........................................................................... 29 School Receptivity ............................................................................................................ ......31 School Climate ........................................................................................................................36 Cultural Sen sitivity .......................................................................................................... .......39 Quality of Communication .....................................................................................................41 Rationale for Study .................................................................................................................44 Research Question ..................................................................................................................45 Hypotheses .................................................................................................................... ..........46 2 METHOD ........................................................................................................................ .......49 Pilot Study ..............................................................................................................................49 Participants .................................................................................................................. ...........50 Instrument Development ........................................................................................................ 50 Scale description .....................................................................................................................52 Procedure ..................................................................................................................... ...........52 Data Analyses .........................................................................................................................53 Modification of Original Questionnaire .................................................................................56 Procedure ..................................................................................................................... ...........58 3 RESULTS ....................................................................................................................... ........66 Research Study .......................................................................................................................66 Analysis of Instrument .................................................................................................... 66 Hypotheses Tests .............................................................................................................. ......68 4 DISCUSSION .................................................................................................................... .....78
7 Race .......................................................................................................................... ..............79 Income ........................................................................................................................ ............80 Race and Income Interaction .................................................................................................. 81 Parent Involvement and Satisfaction Link .............................................................................. 82 School Climate ........................................................................................................................83 Cultural Sen sitivity .......................................................................................................... .......85 Quality of Communication .....................................................................................................86 Predictors of Parent Involvement and Satisfaction ................................................................. 88 School Receptivity ............................................................................................................ ......89 Limitations ................................................................................................................... ...........92 Future Research ......................................................................................................................94 APPENDIX A STUDY COVER LETTER .....................................................................................................97 B QUESTIONNAIRE ................................................................................................................ 98 C TEACHER REMINDER LETTER ...................................................................................... 101 LIST OF REFERENCES .............................................................................................................102 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................................................................................110
8 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2-1 Demographic characteristics of responding parents .......................................................... 602-2 Descriptive statistics for scale .......................................................................................... ..612-3 Internal consistency for the clim ate scale if an item is deleted ..........................................622-4 Internal consistency for the cultural sensitivity scale if an item is deleted ........................ 622-5 Internal consistency for the commun ication scale if an item is deleted ............................622-6 Internal consistency for the commun ication scale if an item is deleted ............................622-7 Internal consistency for the satisf action scale if an item is deleted ...................................632-8 Internal consistency for the involvement scale if an item is deleted ................................. 632-9 Internal consistency for the quant ity scale if an item is deleted ........................................ 632-10 Internal consistency for the quant ity scale if an item is deleted ........................................ 632-11 Demographics of schools ...................................................................................................642-12 Demographic characteristics of responding parents .......................................................... 653-1 Fit indices for the school receptivity scale ......................................................................... 733-2 Factor loadings for subscales ............................................................................................. 743-3 Intercorrelation factors .................................................................................................. .....753-4 Alpha coefficients for scales ..............................................................................................753-5 Summary of individual items for each scale ...................................................................... 763-6 Pearson Product Correlations for African American Parents ............................................773-7 Regression analysis for school receptivity variables predicting pa rent involvement ........ 773-8 Regression analysis for school receptivity variables predicting pa rent satisfaction .......... 77
9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2-1 Relationships among predicto rs and dependent variables ................................................. 59
10 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy PERCEPTIONS OF SCHOOL RECEPTIVITY AS A PREDICTOR OF AFRICAN AMERICAN PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADES By Tiffany D. Sanders May 2008 Chair: Nancy Waldron Major: School Psychology Despite an emphasis on the benefits of parent al involvement and implementing strategies to promote increased involvement among diverse ethnic groups, educators remain perplexed by low levels of African American parent involvemen t. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which school receptivity, as ch aracterized by school clim ate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication, pr edicts African American pare nt involvement and parent satisfaction related to their ch ilds education. A total of 339 parents of elementary school students completed the School Receptivity Ques tionnaire that was developed and empirically validated using confirmatory factor analyses. Findings from the present study did not indicate significant differences in reported parent involv ement base on race. The lack of significant finding based on race may be related to a long history of African American parents active involvement in their childs education. Results de monstrated there were significant differences in parent involvement in relation to income; low in come parents reported lower levels of parental involvement when compared with middle income parents. School climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication sepa rately predicted African Amer ican parent involvement and satisfaction in their childs educ ation. Notably, among the school rece ptivity variables, quality of communication was the strongest predictor of parent involveme nt and parent satisfaction.
11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND LI TERATURE REVIEW During the past two decades, parent involvem ent has been a highly researched topic and its benefits to parents, teachers, and students have been well established (Christenson, 1995; Hill & Craft, 2003; Hill & Taylor, 2004). Research fi ndings indicate a positiv e relationship between parent involvement and students academic success (Fehrman, Keith, & Raimers, 1987; McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004; Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001; Swap, 1990), as well as specific improvements in st udents academic skills such as reading comprehension (Anderson, 2000; Lee & Croninger, 1994) and math performance (Hill & Craft, 2003). Further, findings indicate th at parent involvement positivel y affects students academic achievement and these effects are sustained across a students academic career (Swap, 1990). Conversely, reasons for childrens academic and behavioral failure in school often are attributed to minimal parental involvement. Parents may be viewed as undermining a childs academic performance by being unresponsive to school requests to monitor homework completion, minimally communicating with teach ers and school officials about a childs academic progress, little to no involvement in meetings with teachers, and by not providing an environment conducive for their children to study. For culturally diverse families, dysfunctional parenting practices such as ha rsh or authoritarian punishment practices or minimal family problem solving, are believed to increase studen ts school behavioral problems, suspensions, and expulsions (Darch, Mi ao & Shippen, 2004). The presumption that culturally diverse families are generally dysfunctional and unsupportive both at home and school is largely based on inaccurate cultural views regarding minority parent involvement (Webster, 2004). Fields-Smith (2005) discredits those who marginalize minority families to explain why African American families, in particular, are
12 perceived as uninvolved and apathetic towards their childs e ducation. Fields-Smith (2005) implores school administrators and teachers to be mindful of a cultural heritage that includes sacrificial pursuit of educationand to consider ways to develop trusti ng relationships with African American parents and parents of all other races and ethnicities as well (p. 134). Additionally, Feuerstein (2001) advocates for more research to identify school-level characteristics that impact parent involvement. The purpose of this study was to examine school receptivity as a conceptual framework and to understand its impact on African American parent involvement and satisfaction related to their childs education. The following literature review will include legislative mandates that encourage parent involvement; vari ous definitions of parent involve ment that have been used to research its relationship to pa rents, teachers, and students, examination of how contextual, institutional, and individual characteristics may affect Afri can American parents and their engagement in a childs educational process; and specific school characteristics that impact African American parent involvement. This information will serve as a foundation for the definition of school receptivity and its use to examine African-American parent perceptions. Parent Involvement Legislation The topic of parent involvement has received considerable legislative attention (Spann, Kohler, & Soenksen, 2003) based on consistent li terature documenting its benefits. Under federal legislation, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), schools are mandated to develop strategies to increase parent involvement in a childs educati on and to provide opportunities for parents to make suggestions that could impr ove the school (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). More specifically, under NCLBs Reading Firs t Initiative, school agencies are urged to provide parents with up to date information a bout their childs school, including ways to be involved (e.g., parent-teacher m eetings), involve parents in th e trainings of teachers and
13 educators, and develop district wide parent advisory councils th at provide school administrators with advice about programs developed by a sc hool (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). The No Child Left Behind Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (P.L. 108-446), and Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227) have provided an impetus to enact state laws and policies that encourage schools to develop programs and partnerships that promote mean ingful participation and institutionalize parent involvement in schools (Trotman, 2001). For example, the Florid a Family and School Partnership for Student Achievement Act requires distri cts to provide parents with de tailed information about their childs academic progress and their school choices and opportunities to be involved in school. This legislation also requires school districts to develop positive strategies to build and strengthen partnerships amongst pa rents, teachers, and school admi nistrators. More specifically, school districts must adopt school board rules th at encourage parent and family involvement, develop family friendly booklets and handouts that delineate ways to become involved, and train teachers to partner with families in an attempt to improve a childs academic and behavioral performance. Recent federal legislation, such as amendmen ts to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-446), has explicitly mandated that parents have a more influential role in their childs educational pr ocess (US Department of Education, 2004). Under the previous IDEA legislation, school districts were required to i nvite parents to participate in their childs educational planning (US Department of Education, 2004). However, some parents reportedly never received invitations to be involved (Darch, Miao, & Shippen, 2004) or invitations sent to parents were either received late or the day of the initial planning meeting (Harry, Allen & McLaughlin, 1995). Additionally, prev ious IDEA legislation also stipulated that
14 school administrators obtain parent al consent to evaluate a child fo r special education services as well as approval of a childs Individualized E ducation Plans (IEP), and to provide opportunities for parents to obtain an impartial due process hearing, if they disagr ee or have complaints related to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a child. However, parents were not required to be included in the policy or decisi on making processes between parents, teachers, and school administrators. Even though IDEA 1997 had strong amendm ents that authorized the greater encouragement of parent partic ipation, through the reauthorizati on of IDEA, parents roles in education have become more specifically defi ned. Under the reauthorization of IDEA in 2004 (P.L. 108-446), schools must document reasonable attempts to contact a parent to obtain consent for an evaluation, and to attend IEP meetings. Sc hool districts are not permitted to have a final copy of an IEP completed before a meeting co mmences because it does not allow parents to review or engage in full disc ussions of the IEP teams recommendations. Under the IDEIA (2004), parents can access their ch ildrens records, ope nly agree or disagree with professional findings and recommendations, and collaborate with professionals to design and develop their childs IEP (Hamner & Turner, 2001). Parents also have two years to request a due process hearing if they suspect a school violates IDEIA regulations or there is a dispute between the agency and parent. Parent Involvement Definitions Although research suggests pos itive im plications for pare nt involvement, there are a variety of parent involvement de finitions that are used in th e professional literature likely contributing to ambiguous and inconsistent findi ngs (Fan & Chen, 2001; McWayne et al., 2004). Fan and Chen (2001) conducted a meta-analysis of studies examining relationships between parent involvement and students academic achievement. According to them, some studies have
15 defined parent involvement as pa renting practices (e.g., parents aspirations or expectations for their childrens future, and parents communica tion with children and to teachers about school) others as participation in or attendance at school activities, helping children complete their homework, or exposing children to cognitivel y stimulating activitie s (Grolnick, Benjet, Kurowski, & Apostoleris, 1997; Grolnick and Sl owiaczek, 1994; Overstreet, Devine, Bevans & Efreom, 2005). Results demonstrate a meaningful relationship between parent involvement and student academic achievement. Nevertheless, Fan and Chen recommend future research on the effects of parent involvement should attend closely to and carefully document the operational definition and measurement of th is construct. Similarly, Feuers tein (2001) suggests parent involvement be defined in ways that permit su itable measurement to identify more specifically which factors influence the construct. Parent involvement has been defined as a unitary construct (Fan & Chen, 2001). Generally, parent involveme nt has been described as beliefs, attitudes, and a broad range of activities exhibited by parents and family member s who work to encourage and support a childs academic development (Weiss, Kreider, Lopez, & Chatman, 2005). For example, activities may involve helping a child with homework, attending parent-teacher organization meetings, and volunteering in their childs cl assroom (Feuerstein, 2001). Instead of viewing parent involvement as a unitary construct, it s hould be viewed as a multidimensional construct (Fehrman, Keith, Reimers, 1987) which refers to different types of experiences and activiti es located in both the home and school (Christenson, Rounds, & Gorney, 1992). Recent efforts to define parent involvement have shifted from describing activities of parent involvement and its relationship to st udent achievement to focusing on identifying variables that influence involveme nt both at home and school. This shift appears to be the result
16 of the professional literature being saturated with inconsistent definitions, dimensions, and descriptions of parent involvement and their relationships with student achievement and other student outcomes. Despite a multitude of studies little research delineates which variables outside of individual level vari ables (i.e., socio-economic status marriage status, or ethnicity) impact parent involvement in education at home and school. Feuerstein (2001) and Griffith (1998) highlight this shift by con centrating less on describing pa rent involvement activities and focusing more on understanding how school variab les, instead of family-individual level variables, may influence parents participation in a childs schooling. A review of the various definitions is necessary to understand the transformation of this concept. Several leading theories are widely cited on the typology of parent involvement (Epstein, 1995; Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994). Epsteins (1995) typology of parent involvement laid the initial groundwork on the varying dimensions of involvement. Epsteins typology often is utilized to investigate relationships of pare nt involvement to different student outcomes (Desimone, 2001; McWayne, et al., 2004). Epstein suggests six activi ties that connect families, schools, and communities. These include 1) obligations of basic parenting, 2) communicating with schools about their childs progress, 3) volunteering at school and community related functions, 4) parent involvement in learning activities at home, 5) parent involvement in school decision making and advocacy, and 6) collaborating and creating linkages between family and community. Although Epstein defined parent involve ment from the perspective of what schools can do to promote and encourage involvement (F an & Chen, 2001), the typology largely is based on anecdotal versus empirical evidence. Grolnick and Slowiaczeks (1994) framework of parent involvement integrates developmental and educational cons tructs in childrens schooling. Sp ecifically, they posit parent
17 involvement should be divided into three dimensions: behavior, cognitive, and personal activities. The behavioral dimension involves parents participation in school activities (e.g., attending parent-teacher confer ences and volunteering in their ch ilds class). Parents active participation in school ac tivities emphasizes to the child and teacher that school is valued, and deemed important, while helping parents remain up to date on their childs progress. Cognitive parental activities invo lve parents exposing their child to intellectually stimulating material at bookstores, museums, libraries, or through reading newspapers. Pe rsonal activities are regarded as parents conveying concern abou t their childrens progress a nd school. Behavioral, cognitive, and personal involvement are moderately co rrelated (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994), thus supporting the belief that parents can expre ss involvement across different dimensions. Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler ( 1995) explored reasons parents may choose to become involved in their childrens e ducation and the effects of th eir involvement on students educational outcomes. This investigation hypothesi zed that parents are involved because of an inherent role, a desire for their childrens acad emic success, and because situations (i.e., field trips, parent visits) may offer opportunities for their involvement. This theoretical framework explains that parents partic ipation in activities depends on their skill level and knowledge, family, and other contextual variables (e.g., ch ild care, employment and income), and also opportunities or invitations to be involved. Sim ilar to its predecessors, this framework is not empirically based and may prove difficult to oper ationally define and thus study the construct of parent involvement (Fan & Chen, 2001). Recently, Walker and colleagues (2005) expanded Hoover-Dempsey and Sandlers (1995) theoretical orientation as to reasons why parents become invol ved in their childs schooling. This new model places a greater emphasis on parents motivational beliefs,
18 perceptions of school characteristics (i.e., schoo l and teacher invitations ), and perceived life contexts (e.g., availability of time and energy) as predictors of i nvolvement. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to predict pa rents home-based or sc hool-based involvement. Results demonstrated those parents motivatio nal beliefs, perceptions of invitations for involvement, and perceived life contexts explai ned 33% of the home-based school variance and 19% of the school-based variance. The research literature is repl ete with studies examining parents beliefs and perceptions about involvement in their childs schooling (Drummond & S tipek, 2004; Ritblatt, Beatty, Cronan, & Ochoa, 2002), characteristic s that influence their involve ment (Feuerstein, 2001), and predictions of parent involvement based on eco nomic factors (Overstree t et al., 2005). While studies have utilized diverse theoretical framew orks and definitions for parent involvement, the definitions of parent involvement are not always clearly presented or operationally defined. Additionally, the variables included in the studie s to predict involvement are not adequately defined to allow measurement in a meani ngful and psychometrically sound manner. Parent Roles Recent stud ies have shifted from examining relationships between parent involvement and student academic achievement (Anderson, 2000; Fehrman et al., 1987; Lee & Croninger, 1994; McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004; Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001; Swap, 1990) to understanding parent beliefs about their role in childrens academic achievement (Walker et al., 2005). Additionally, research is placing greater emphasis on understanding lowincome parents beliefs about their roles in th eir childs academic learning (Drummond & Stipek, 2004). This change was stimulated, in part, due to findings that indicate lower income, less educated, and single parents are le ss likely to be involved compared to their counterparts from higher income, better educated, two-parent hom es (Henderson & Berla, 1994; Hoover-Dempsey,
19 Bassler & Brissie, 1987; Ritbla tt et. al., 2002). Moreover, childre n from lower income homes have lower achievement levels (Drummond & Stipek, 2004). Grolnick and colleagues hypothesize stressful events might take time from [single] pare nts; usurp energy and attention, or both, making parents less psychologically availa ble for or aware of involvement activities (p. 539). Lower income parents may resist involvemen t because they have less time and flexibility to be involved. Drummond and Stipek (2004) assessed the value lower income parents place on participating in their childs academics and qua lities that affect their perceptions and involvement. Unlike other studies reviewed above, this study did not use a theoretical framework to guide their work. Thus, it is difficult to as certain how the construc t of involvement was operationally defined. Despite the lack of an ope rational definition, parent involvement activities were described as parents helping their child with homework and being knowledgeable about their childs academic learning. Parents were asse ssed about their beliefs regarding involvement through open-ended questions in a semi-structure d telephone interview. Responses were placed into various categories: providi ng their child with help and su pport, engaging in supplementary activities (i.e., flashcards), e xplaining homework, c onsulting with teachers, checking homework, and encouraging their child to do better. Results indicate that lower income parents believed they had an inherent role in facilitating their childs academic success and rated involvement as very important. More specifically, parents w hose childrens achievement ratings were low expressed a greater importance for help ing their children perform better. Grolnick, Benjet, Kurowski, and Apostoleri s (1997) suggest that an ecological crossdisciplinary perspective aids in understanding the affects of pa rent involvement. The authors assert that a three level model of factors influences three types of parent involvement. The three
20 levels include individual, contex tual, and institutional characteristics. At the individual level, parent characteristics (e.g., parent s ideas about their role in th eir childs schooli ng and feelings of efficacy) and child characteristics (e.g., chil dren who display different temperaments) may affect parents decision to be involved in school. At the contextual level, stressful life events may usurp parents time, attention and energy, thus ma king parents less available to be involved in a childs schooling. At the institut ional level, teacher practices (e.g., encouraging parents to be involved) may affect parent i nvolvement. The three types of parent involvement include behavioral, cognitive, and pers onal (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994). Behavioral types of parent involvement include volunteering at school and attending parent-teacher conference. Cognitive involvement involves taking their child to the mu seum or library. Personal involvement involves staying abreast of what ha ppens with their child. Factors from each of the three levels were found to predict different types of parent involvement. More specifically, mothers who rated th eir child as more difficult, which is a factor contained within the individual level of invol vement, reported less personal and cognitive involvement. Thus, parents who pe rceive their child as difficult to parent may minimize or withdraw their commitment of personal or cognitiv e involvement in their childs education. It was also found that mothers in higher income fa milies, which is a factor contained within the individual level of involvement, were more i nvolved at the cognitive and school level because they may have more time and fina ncial resources availabl e to visit or volunteer at their childs school or to take their child to a museum, aquarium, or other c ognitively stimulating activities. Also, mothers with higher levels of self-efficacy were more involved in their childs cognitive learning activities. That is, moth ers who regarded themselves as their childs first teacher were more likely to construct or engage their child in cognitively stimulating activities. Teacher
21 attitudes and behaviors, which are factors at th e institutional level, were positively associated with parent involvement for married couples a nd not associated with parent involvement for single parents. That is, teachers are more likel y to display positive attitudes and behaviors towards parents from two-parent versus single parent headed households This is unfortunate because some single mothers often have less tim e and financial resources available to be involved in their childrens schooli ng. Overall, the results of this study provide evidence of the complexity of parent involvement, thus supporting the argument of parent involvement as a multidimensional construct. Another study has focused on the relationship between parent involvement and school characteristics that facilitate or hinder parent involvement. Ritblatt, Beatty, Cronan, and Ochoa (2002) assessed 506 parents perceptions of whether individual, contextual, and institutional factors affected their attitudes and values to wards participating in their childs academic schooling. Another goal of this study was to deve lop and evaluate a questionnaire that examined parents beliefs about their role in a childs schooling. This study utilized the framework of an ecological cross-disciplinary pers pective (Grolnick et. al., 1997) to advance the belief that parent involvement is affected by individual, contextual, a nd institutional factors. T his framework and Epsteins typology (1995), and other sources guided the focus of this study and contributed to the construction of a parent involvement questionnaire. The first part of the instrument consisted of three subscales (i.e., why parents should be involved in their childs educat ion, why parents should not be involved, and parents perceptions about what influences their decisions to be invo lved) using a Likert styl e scale. Each subscale demonstrated adequate reliability with alpha coefficients of .93, .93, and .78, respectively. Data from factor analytic studies were used to rem ove test items that did not correspond we ll with the
22 factor structure. Four factors were determined to have adequate reliability: communication (.90), sensitivity (.93), familiarity (.80), and support (. 80). Results suggest the use of a hierarchical model to assess the complex and multidimensional na ture of parent involvement. Similar to the Grolnick et al. (1997) findings, re sults from this study demonstrated that institutional factors affected parents attitudes and decisions to pa rticipate at school. Educators who were receptive (e.g., sensitive and supportive), trained to deal with parents, and reinforced parents participation in their childs education process had increased parent particip ation on school related issues. Contextual factors (e.g., stressfu l economic environment) affect ed the amount of time parents invested in their childs learning. That is, parents preferred to be involved more at home than at school when they led busy lives and were economically strapped. Individual factors such as ethnicity also pred icted the amount of time parents were involved in a childs education. That is, African American pa rents spent more time addressing issues or concerns with the sc hool and did not view the school as supportive when compared to their White and Latino counterpa rts. African American parent s also reported less mutual familiarity with the school. Lower income pare nts spent less time engaged in extracurricular activities compared to their highe r income counterparts. Moreover, compared to higher income parents, lower income parents experienced less familiarity and were more mystified with the school system (Ritblatt et al., 2002). Ritblatt and colleagues conclude that more research is need ed to assess how schools can implement culturally sensitive approaches and be more receptive to engage parents in their childs academic learning. The implementation of culturally sensitive approaches may help parents feel more comfortable w ith the school and thus demystify the notion that schools are not receptive to lower income or minority parents. Additionally, they suggest more research is
23 needed to facilitate, encourage, and institutiona lize parent involvement. Before institutionalizing parent involvement, educators must understand which institutional factors specifically facilitate or hinder parent involvement. Lastly, Ritblatt and colleagues conclude that future research needs to focus on relationships among schools within th e greater community they serve, with hopes of promoting better home-school collaboration. According to Feuerstein (2001), more research is needed to examine institutional or school level variables that have a major influe nce on parent involvement Likewise, Ritblatt and colleagues support the belief that institutional factor s affect parents attitudes and decisions to participate at school. Feuerstein sought to define parent involvement and the institutional factors that affect the degree to which parents are involved both theoreti cally and empirically. A variety of school-related variables were identified (e.g., stude nt-teacher ratio, t eacher morale, and frequency of parent contact). By conducting principal componen ts analysis of the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) dataset, Feue rstein identified nine factors of parent involvement: children talking with their parents about school, parent contact with their childs school, parent visits at school, pa rent expectations or aspirati ons for their children, parent participation in parent teacher organizations, parents talking with ch ildren about school, a structured home environment, and invol vement in grade-placement decisions. A regression analysis was conducted to provide information about how parent involvement differs based on individual and school level factors. Results illustrated that parent participation was influenced largely by variab les that were beyond the ability of the school administrators to change. For example, simila r to the Grolnick et al. (1997) findings, higher income in contrast to lower income parents, sp ent more time volunteering at the school and were more involved in grade placement decisions.
24 Despite findings that show many characteris tics influencing pare nt involvement were hard to change (e.g., such as race /ethnicity, SES, and family size) the amount of contact initiated by the school to inform parents about their child behavior, grades, and to provide parents with general school information were the most impor tant school variables in influencing parent involvement. Thus, the frequency of contact init iated by school officials, an easily alterable variable influenced subsequent parent contact and involvement. In particular, parents who were contacted about their childs grades and beha vior positively increased their volunteerism and boosted parent participation in parent teacher organization meetings. T hus, school administrator and teacher behaviors can to have a positive imp act on some aspects of parent involvement. African American Parents The em pirical literature on African American families is full of inconsistencies and misconceptions about education and African American parents (Mandara, 2006). One misconception about African American parents is that that African American parents are primarily harsh, lacking in warmth and control. Another misconcep tion is that African American parents are apathetic or unconcerned about their childs schooling despite a history demonstrating that Blacks have been involved ev en during the segregati on and civil rights era (Fields-Smith, 2005). Researchers agree that mi sconceptions (Harry, 1992; Mandara, 2006; Rao, 2000; Trotman, 2001) are partly related to a disc ourse on parental involve ment [that] tends to favor the perspectives of white, middle-class families (Fields-Smith, 2005). Some scholars (Harry, Klinger, & Hart, 2005; Koonce & Harper 2005; West-Olatunji, Sanders, Mehta, in press) have used a strength-based approach to counteract the negative perceptions of African American families in the parent involvement literature. Using a strength-based approach to describe African American parents is essential to portraying these families as persistent and resilient despite institutional barriers. For instance, Koonce and Harper (2005) proposed two
25 tenets to foster a greater unders tanding of African American fam ilies. The first tenet is that African American parents are s upportive and try to maintain a pos itive quality of life by ensuring their families educational, financial, and sp iritual needs are met (Poston, Turnbull, Park, Mannan, Marquis, & Wang, 2003). Secondly, African Am erican families want and actively try to establish a strong relationship with the school administrators at thei r childs school. Although many African American parents desire to be i nvolved and make a lasting difference in their childs lives, some may feel unc omfortable, alienated, and discourag ed from participating in the educational process (Rao, 2000; Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). Consequently, Black parents may decide to withdraw from being actively involved in their child s schooling leaving researchers and educators to assume African American parents are passive or apathetic. Given that parents are a childs first and primary educator an d considered instrumental in facilitating academic success (Reynolds & Gill, 1994), researchers have focused on understanding strength-based qualities of Afri can American family functioning and parent involvement in education. More specifically, at tention has been direct ed toward understanding parenting practices and characte ristics that promote academically successful African American students. This attention is particularly important in light of the achievement gap between African American students and White counterparts. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics (2005) report of data aggregated from each state show s Black fourth grade and eighth grade students lag behind their White and Asian peers in reading. Additionally, NCES notes that 10% of white students and 1% of African Amer ican students can solve mathematical word problems and compute elementary algebra. Furt hermore, the high school dropout rate for Black students is disproportionately higher than for White students. Among 16 through 24-year olds,
26 11.8 percent of Blacks versus 6.8 percent of Whites were not enrolled in high school, lacked a high school diploma, and did not obtain a General Educational De velopment (GED) certificate. West-Olatunji, Sanders, and Meht a (in press) also have stud ied strength-based parenting practices among African American parents to address misconceptions about family functioning. The study highlighted positive, yet effective parenting pr actices of academically successful fifth grade African American children living in high poverty communities. Utilizing a qualitative approach, the authors interviewed five low-inco me African American mothers about strategies they used to foster academically successful children despite the odds. Of importance and consistent to the parent involvement literatur e were five themes of successful parenting strategies. First, parents emphasized the importance of staying in constant communication with their childs teacher to help rais e teachers expectations for thei r child and demonstrate to their childs teacher that parents valu e being involved in all aspects of their childs education. Parents also reported using an authoritative parent ing style that involv ed setting boundaries, open communication, and warmth. This finding is particul arly interesting since previous research has repeatedly characterized African American parent s as authoritarian, which is low on warmth and demandingness and high on control (Maccoby & Ma rtin, 1983; Steinberg, Mounts, Lamborn, & Dornbusch, 1991; Steinberg, Lam born Darling, Mounts, Dornbusc h, 1994). Notably, spirituality and ones religious faith emerged as a resiliency factor for one of the parents who encountered negative comments from educators about the academic capabilities of their child. Spirituality and religion are important factors i n the life of the African American community and provides a valuable source of social connection as well as se lf-esteem and succor in ti mes of stress (Diller, 1999, p. 84).
27 The parents in this study were insightful as to why some African American parents have unsuccessful children. They discussed how lack of maturity and confidence on the part of these parents could negatively impact their ability to effectively parent and raise academically successful children. Their suggestion to promote African American parent involvement was to avoid being judgmental, and instead to offer one s own testimony to inspire other parents. Having parents share their testimonies as to how they navigated the educational system and overcame barriers surrounding their childs schooling is another stre ngth-based, resiliency factor often not highlighted in the empirical literatur e. Hearing the testimony of other successful parents evoked feelings of co mfort and support for parents who felt they were the only people facing these troubles. These parents also provide d less familiar parents with suggestions for dealing with thei r own situation. Spirituality, giving testimonies, and collectivism are common characteristics present in the African American culture and African centered pedagogy. That is African American families have commonly relied on members in their extended family or in the village for spiritual help, support, and guidance when facing uncertain situa tions. The results of this study suggest that African American parents have coping mechanisms and demonstrate resilience, despite systemic and personal stressors (West-Olatunji, Sand ers, Mehta, in pre ss). Additionally, this alternative perception helps to transform the em pirical literature from negative misconceptions about African American family to functioning as apathetic and authorita rian to a more positive framework for engagement. Parent Involvement for Low-income Families In todays society, approxim ately 18 percen t of our students live in poverty (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistic s, 2007). The poverty rate for African American children is even higher at 35 percent. A study of the impact of race, socioeconomic status, and
28 educational expectations on parent involvement, found parent race to be the strongest individual predictor of parent involvement (Griffith, 1998). More specificall y, White parents reported more parent involvement in school activities compar ed to their African American counterparts. Schools with higher percentages of African American students had lower levels of parent involvement. Parents with high educational expectations and aspirations for their child reported higher parent involvement in school activities. Additionally, lower socioeconomic status was as sociated with lower parent participation in school level activities. Similar to previous studies (Feuerstein, 2001; Grolnick et. al., 1997), minimal parent participation may be due to si ngle parents not having enough time or financial resources available to be involved. Griffith (1998 ) also asserted that parents from low income brackets may not be involved because schools te nd to replicate the culture, values, and mores from higher and middle income classes. Consequently, parents from low-income households may feel a sense of inadequacy due to a lack of familiarity with the nuances of the middle class and thus may choose to limit their invol vement in school related activities. The interplay of race and social class, as well as the historic legacy of racial discrimination can negatively affect African Am erican parents conformity to institutional standards of desired parent involvement in ed ucation (Lareau & Horvat 1999). Due to the historical legacy of racism, Blacks may approach the educational process with hesitation or may be suspicious that their child ren are receiving unfair treatmen t. Blacks from a lower socioeconomic status may not have the cultural resour ces or finances necessary to participate in predominantly white, middle class schools. As a result, they may be unaware of the specific cultural rules that govern institutions and their policies, thus complicating the education process for blacks. A qualitative study of one African American familys compliance with school
29 standards for participation found that educators pe rceived the parents as hostile and destructive when the Black family critic ized the school (Lareau & Horv at, 1999). As a result, school officials resisted interactions with the parents, thus excluded them from opportunities to be involved. The extent to which race and social cla ss mediate parent perceptions of schools was studied by Diamond and Gomez (2004). Working cl ass African American parents expressed concern about the educational treatment of their children and consistently expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of their childs school, often desc ribing them as mediocre. They felt that teachers and administrato rs resisted their involvement, t hus making attempts to navigate the educational process more ch allenging. In contrast, middle cl ass African American parents reported more ease when interacting with school ad ministrators and teachers and reported greater satisfaction with the quality of their childs schooling. They were both critical of and complimentary toward their childs schooling and were pleased with teacher efforts to encourage their involvement. These differences exemplify th e need to understand how social class affects parent involvement and pa rent-school relationships. Summary of Parent Involvement Literature Parent involvem ent research can be divided into three catego ries: at-risk, descriptive, and outcome-based studies (Griffith, 1998). The research on parent involvement has evolved from its traditional focus on risk studies that examine popul ations (i.e., lower inco me, single parents, and less educational attainment) with lower than pr eferred levels of parent involvement (Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Grolnick et al., 1997; Hill & Taylor, 2004; Lareau & Horvat, 1999). Although parents from a lower-income backgrounds rated parent involvement as very important and believed they had an inherent role to facili tate their childrens academic success (Drummond & Stipek, 2004), over the past decade key research fi ndings have demonstrated that social class has
30 a significant impact on parent involvement. Parents from lowe r-income backgrounds were more skeptical of school policies and we re more likely to be suspici ous that their children were receiving unfair treatment (Lareau & Horvat, 1 999). Hill and Taylor (2004) report that parents from lower income backgrounds are faced with more barriers (e.g., lack of resources and increased stress from living in disadvantage d neighborhoods) to be involved. Grolnick and colleagues (1997) also found that lower-income pa rents time was often usurped because of economic hardships, thus forcing some parents to work two jobs limiting involvement at school. Conversely, parents from higher income backgr ounds were more likely to have financial resources and time available to volunteer at thei r childrens school, pa rticipate in grade placement decisions (Drummond & Stipek, 2004) or to take their children to cognitively stimulating places (Grolnick et al., 1997). Additi onal key findings suggest that lower income parents felt less familiar and more mystified with the school system (Ritblatt et al. 2002) compared to higher-income counterparts. As a re sult, lower income parents compared to higherincome parents do not feel at ease with communi cating with school administrators and were less likely to feel satisfied with their chil ds education (Diamond & Gomez, 2004). Additionally, research has focused on descri ptive studies that examine why and how parents are involved (i.e., volunt eerism, parent contact with teachers, monitoring childrens homework, and school governance) in their childs schooling (Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Epstein, 1995; Fields-Smith, 2005; Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995). Research suggests that regard less of income, parents believe th ey have an inherent role to facilitate their childs learning, a desire for academic success for their children, and children, teachers, and opportunities insist on their involvement (Drummond & Stipek, 2004; HooverDempsey & Sandler, 1995). As stated earlier, Epst eins (1995) typology is of ten cited to describe
31 different activities or ways parents are invol ved. Parents are involve d by communicating with schools about their childrens academic or beha vioral progress, volunt eering at school and community functions, and involvement in school decision making or grade placement decisions. Additionally, Grolnick and Slowi aczek (1994) described parent i nvolvement at the behavioral level by participating in school ac tivities, cognitive-inte llectual level by exposing their child to stimulating places and events, and at the person al level by conveying concern about their childs progress. Fields-Smith (2005) stated that Afri can-American parent invol vement is analogous to the African proverb It takes a village to raise a child (p.132). That is the family, community, and church often take responsibility for being involved in the schooling of African American children. Lastly, research has focused on outcome base d studies that document the link between parent involvement and student achievement (i.e., better test pe rformance, decreased student behavior problems, decreased drop out rates, and higher student grades) (Anguiano, 2004; Fan & Chen, 2001; Griffith, 1998; Jeynes, 2003). For exampl e, Anguiano (2004) concluded that parent participation has an impact on whether adolescents finish high school or drop out of high school. Jeynes (2003) conducted a meta-analysis on the effects of parent involvement on minority children. Results suggested that parent involve ment has a significant impact on academic achievement (e.g., GPA, test scores) for all minor ity children. More recently, research on parent involvement has shifted to examine mechanisms out side of individual leve l characteristics that influence parent involvement (Feuerst ein, 2001; Overstreet et. al., 2005). School Receptivity According to Feuerstein (2001), the parent involvement literature should move from examining individual characterist ics (i.e., race/ethnici ty, socioeconomic status) that influence parent involvement and instead fo cus on school characteristics. Fe uerstein posits that research
32 has already established that individual character istics are good predictors of parent involvement so future research should focus on school charact eristics because they are more readily altered by teachers and administrators. Additionally, he suggests that individual characteristics do not acknowledge the dynamic aspects of the parent-school relationship and are not easily influenced by educational or social policy (Feuerstein, 2001, p. 29). Harry and Klingner (2006) also found that efforts made by school personnel were more predictive of parent involvement than individual variables such as socio-economic st atus. Similarly, Sheldon (2005) found that parent involvement at schools is based on school characte ristics such as outreach to increase parent and community involvement. Thus, based on these findings it is important for researchers to focus on examining school level characteristics as predictors of parent involvement. Overstreet, Devine, Bevans and Efreom (2005) similarly state that researchers should examine the extent to which schools play a ro le in fostering a colla borative parent-school partnership. Nonetheless, research has not fully assessed this area likely due to the assumption and historical belief that schools actively try to el icit and desire parent support, rather than act as a barrier to parent involvement. Additionally, research has not thoroughly assessed whether parents are satisfied with the opportunities that schools provide for them to become involved. Early research in this area has demonstrated th at schools can increase pa rent satisfaction with their childs school and produce more parental sup port of school related ac tivities, if schools are receptive to parent engagement (Karther & Lowden, 1997). Investigating school characteristics which aff ect parents participat ion in their childs education may provide information and insight about the mechanisms that specifically influence involvement. Efforts to investigate school char acteristics may also pr ovide suggestions for developing effective parent-school partnerships to enhance involveme nt. In the studies that have
33 examined school characteristic s (Epstein & Dauber, 1991; Harry, Allen, McLaughlin, 1995; Rao, 2000; Zionts, Zionts, Harrison, & Bellinger, 2003), communication pattern s, cultural sensitivity, and teacher attitudes and practices have been assessed. More recently, school climate has been viewed as part of the conglomerate that influences parent involvement, with evidence documenting its predictive abil ity (Griffith, 1998; Seefeldt, Denton, Galper, Younoszai, 1998). Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1995) comprehens ively explored reasons parents choose to become involved in their ch ilds education. Their framewor k theorized that parents are involved because they perceive their childs school as receptive to their involvement. For example, parents may choose to become involved if they encounter signs that welcome them to the school or are greeted by teachers. Although th eir framework provides an initial exploration into factors that affect parent involvement, it does not indicate wh ich factors precipitate minority parent involvement. This is an important aspect to assess since educators continue to search for ideas and strategies to increase African American parent involvement. Utilizing extant literature and Hoover-Dempseys original framework, Walker and colleagues (2005) created a questionnaire to assess why parents become i nvolved in their childs schooling. The questionnaire assess ed individual and school charac teristics that impact parent involvement in education. More specificall y, the questionnaire a ssessed parental role construction for involvement in the childs educa tion, parental self-efficacy for helping the child succeed in school, parents perceptions of general invitations for involvement from the school, parents perceptions of specific invitations for involvement from the child and from the teacher, parents perceived life context, and parents involvement in home-based and school-based activities. Two sections of this questionnaire are particularly rele vant to the examination of the construct of sc hool receptivity.
34 One section of the questionnaire measured pare nts perceptions of general invitations for involvement from the school (Walker et al., 2005). Invitations are important because to a certain extent schools can predict whethe r parents will be involved based on the type of activities they sponsor for parents (Dauber & Epstein, 1993) and whether the school implicitly or explicitly is receptive to parental engagement (Benson & Martin, 2003). Schools that implicitly encourage parent involvement do not direct ly recruit parent involvement because there is an unwritten understanding between parents and teachers that their participation is valuable to helping improve the academic progress of the child. Im plicit ways schools are receptive to parent participation include creating an atmosphere that is inviting to parents by either greeting parents in a courteous manner upon entering the school or displaying projects that required parent participation to complete. Schools that explici tly encourage parent participation may have a section in the code of conduct ha ndbook that outlines ways for pare nts to be involved, they may host award ceremonies that use encouragement, accomplishments, and rewards to recognize and reinforce parent involvement, or have coffee with the principa l day where parents can schedule informal opportunities to talk with the princi pals or other school administrators (Benson & Martin, 2003). This scale contai ned three subscales: parent per ceptions of school climate, school empowerment of parents, and school-parent comm unication. Overall, this scale demonstrated adequate reliability with a Cronbachs alpha of .88. The reliability for the subscales was also acceptable with Cronbachs alpha coefficients above .73. A second section of the scale used by Walker et al. (2005) measured parent perceptions of specific invitations for parent involvement fr om teachers. Examples of specific invitations include inviting parents to visit their childs classroom, participate in school sponsored trips, and creating homework assignments that need parent s participation for successful completion. The
35 scale consisted of 6-items and achieved adequate Cronbachs alpha of .81. A section of the scales also measured parents perceived life context wh ich was created to measure factors influencing parents decision (i.e., parents time and energy) to be involved, as well as their knowledge and skills about how to be involved. Both the time and energy subscale and knowledge and skills subscale demonstrated adequate reliability wi th Cronbachs alpha coefficients of .84 and .83, respectively. As mentioned earlier, traditionally, school char acteristics have not received meaningful attention to consider the effect on parent involvement. A few studies have focused on teacher attitudes (Harry, 1992) and gene ral school practices (Feuerst ein, 2001). Even though findings from Dauber and Epstein (1993) noted school receptiv ity to be the most important predictor of parent involvement at school, it ha s not led to meaningful, rigorous research into its construct (Overstreet et al., 2005). Overstreet et al. (2005) sought to examin e the extent to which school receptivity predicted parent involvement with a low-income, single parent population. They hypothesized that when parents feel welcomed to be involved or included in school activ ities, a higher level of parent involvement would result. Parents comp leted a questionnaire that measured parent involvement with items that included how often they visited their childs classroom and school, attended school-related events, and attended Pa rent Teacher Organizatio n or Parent Teacher Association meetings. Parents also answered items that evaluated school receptivity including whether the school listened to pa rents and had activities for them to participate in. Parents also answered demographic questions and two educational aspirations questions about their self and child. While an exploration of the construct of sc hool receptivity is an important contribution to the professional literature, there were significant limitations to this study. First, reliability and
36 validity analyses were not reported for the survey used in the research study. Also, the authors did not clearly delineate the l iterature used to operationally define the construct of school receptivity. Therefore, additional research is need ed to operationally define school receptivity as a measurable construct to allow future researcher s an opportunity to measure it as a predictor of parent involvement in education. In the following section implicit and explicit school characteristics will be identified which impact parent involvement. More specif ically, school receptivity will be conceptually described as a measurable construct to determ ine its predictive ability of African American parent involvement. More specif ically, it will delineate school cl imate, cultural sensitivity, and communication patterns as separa te but distinct entities of sc hool receptivity. Each will be delineated in operational terms to measure its pr edictive ability for African American parent involvement in schools. School Climate School climate has been studied in a variety of contexts fr om examining its relationship to school connectedness (Loukas, Suzuki, & Horton, 2006) to examin ing its predictiv e ability for school disorder (Gottfredson, Gottfredson, Payne & Gottfredson, 2005). According to Griffith (1998), school climate is anothe r important dimension to consid er when examining institutional characteristics that influence parent invol vement. Seefeldt, Denton, Galper, and Younoszai (1998) hypothesized that increased levels of pare nt involvement may be difficult to achieve due to an unwelcoming school climate. That is, schools may discourage parent involvement with excessive rules and procedures for visiting th eir childs classroom a nd school personnel who possess negative beliefs about the perceived worth of parents. Yet, there are few studies that attempt to link parent involvement with school climate.
37 In one study, Griffith (1998) examined the re lationship of a schools social climate to parent involvement in elementary schools. A surv ey was created to assess the following scales: school climate, the extent parents felt informed of ways to be involved in school activities and felt informed of their childs progress, and overa ll satisfaction with their childs schooling. With the creation of a new survey, reliability and va lidity analyses were conducted and overall the scale demonstrated moderate reliability. Individu al parents responses to demographic questions (i.e., race and socioeconomic status) were used to determine predictors of parent involvement. Race was the strongest individual predictor of parent involveme nt, with White parents more involved in school activities than African American parents. Additionally, parents from lower socioeconomic status reported lower involvement in school activities. These findings are similar to studies by Gr olnick et al. (1997) and Rao (2000) which suggest that parents from a lower socioeconomic status have greater demands (i.e., working two full-time or less than desirable jobs and no child care) that may usurp time and energy needed to participate in school related activities. Gri ffith (1998) concluded th at since many schools represent the dominant or middle class culture, parents from a lower socioeconomic status may have less familiarity with the hi gher class values and mores, jar gon used by administrators and teachers, and the curriculum. As a result of th eir perceived inability, they may avoid school activities that require this familiarity to navigate the school system. To encourage involvement of parents from lower economic status, Griffith (1998) suggests including the activities a nd values of their culture in the school to promote more familiarity and ease while participating in school activities. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to determine the predictive abil ity of each scale (school climate, empowered parent, informed parent, and overall satisfaction) with scores from the involved parent scale.
38 Parents who perceived the school as empowe ring and as having a positive school climate reported higher parent involvement in school sponsored activities. That is, parents who felt welcomed and who thought the school was courteous and cooperative had higher levels of parent involvement. To maximize parent involvement, it s essential for schools to asses their social environment to determine whether it makes parent s feel welcome or discourages their attendance in school activities. Notably, pa rents who perceived the school as providing minimal information about their childrens progress, and held concerns about the quality of the academic instruction their child was receiving tended to have parents who reported more involvement. One speculation for the increased parent involvement is that parents could obtain more information about their childs academic progress and the type of academic instruction their. However, a significant relationship was not found between parent involvement and overall satisfaction. When controlling for parent race/ethnicity, Seefeldt and collea gues (1998) examined parents personal characteristics, perceptions of school climate, and their relationship to Head Start parents involvement. A di verse sample of African Americ an, Asian, Hispanic, and White parents completed a modified vers ion of the 46-item School Climat e Survey (Kelly et al. 1986). The survey demonstrated adequate reliability w ith a Cronbachs alpha coefficient of .82. A four item parent involvement questionnaire original ly developed by Ramey and Ramey (1992) was also used to measure parent be haviors (i.e., frequency of involvement in childs classroom, and frequency one keeps in touch with your child s teacher) both at home and at school. Parents reported high levels of parent involvement at home by talking with their child about their school day. A moderate number of parents reported school participation either by volunteerism or by monitoring their childs academic progress with the classroom teacher. Linear regression analyses were conducted and results indicated that parents perceptions of school climate
39 predicted their involvement in sc hool related activities. More sp ecifically, parents who perceived the school more negatively reported higher leve ls of school involvement. These findings are similar to Griffiths (1998) conclusions that parents who perceived th e school as providing minimal information about their childs progress were more likely to be involved. These similar findings suggest that parents may believe that their involvement ensures updates about their childrens academic and behavioral progress, th eir children are treated well and are receiving the best education and training. Cultural Sensitivity Multicultural education is de fined as a process of educati onal reform that ensures that students from all groups (racial ethnic, socioeconomic, abil ity, gender, etc.) experience educational equality, success, and social mobility (Cushne r, McClelland, & Safford, 2006, p. 20). According to Cross, Bazron, Dennis and Isaacs (1989), cultural sensitivity or cultural competency is a goal that education professionals should strive for and does not occur in one day of training. Thus, teacher education programs across the countr y have adopted multicultural perspectives to help pre-servic e teachers become more aware of the differences amongst cultures and ethnic groups (Cushner et al., 2006). Pre-se rvice teachers enrolled in these programs are expected to appreciate the cu ltural dimensions of communication, respond appropriate, and seek to foster culturally sensitiv e communication with students and parents (Gollnick & Chinn, 2006, p. 14) and to graduate from these program s sensitive to commun ity and cultural norms (Gollnick & Chinn, 2006). According to Cushner, McClelland, and Saffo rd (2006), educators who are culturally sensitive are less likely to avoi d or tolerate differences and more apt to respect and appreciate differences amongst students and thei r parents. They are also more apt to solve problems in culturally sensitive ways and instituti onalize an intercultural perspective in their personal and professiona l practice (p. 134).
40 Educators who are culturally insensitive may be more apt to ascribe to the deficit view that minority parents must be trained to particip ate in school activities be cause they are unaware of the values and customary practices of th e dominant, middle class culture (Harry, 1992). Bennetts Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity argues that educators who are culturally insensitive may also be defensive a nd possess negative beliefs about parents from cultures different than their ow n (Bennett, 1993). They may at times make denigrating or derogatory statements because they dont have expe rience dealing with difference (Cushner et al., 2006). As a result, parents may not feel welcom ed to participate in school activities and may avoid interactions with their childs teacher. Defici encies in cultural sensitivity have the potential of decreasing parent involvement in school activities, w eakening parent resolv e to interact with teachers and administrators, and challenging th eir worth and value as parents. Cultural insensitivity may also affect students by robbing students of their self -confidence and selfesteem, weakening their motivation to learn, and challenging their academic and social abilities (Plata & Robertson, 1998). The attitudes and practices of educators may leave African American parents feeling dissatisfied with school based se rvices. Epstein and Dauber (1991) argued that the attitudes and behavioral practices of teachers can impact w hether and how parents become knowledgeable and successful partners with schools in their ch ildrens education (p. 290). Similarly, Harry (1992) suggested the attitudes a nd behavior of professionals c ould discourage future African American parents participation in their childs learning processes. Moreover, she argued that professionals who possess a deficit and pathologi cal view of African American families can be disempowering to parents and ultimately reduce their level of involveme nt. That is, educators who ascribe to the deficit view be lieve that minority parents must be trained and educated in
41 appropriate parenting before th eir participation can be valued (Harry, 1992, p. 127). Similarly, Karther and Lowden (1997) posit that stereotypes about low-income parents, particularly African American parents, may skew teachers perceptions concerning parental attitudes about education. As a result, teachers may view parents in term s of possessing a deficit and may expect minimal contribution to the childs education (Karther & Lowden, 1997). Educators who maintain this view and insist on a provider-rec eiver model may foster adversar ial interactions with parents (Harry, 1992). As a result, parents may withdr aw their participation to avoid the negative interactions. Zionts, Zionts, Harrison, and Bellinger (2003) assessed 24 urban African American parents beliefs, values and perceptions about the le vel of cultural sensitivity demonstrated by their school district. Results indica ted that African-American parent s felt frustrated with the lack of cultural understanding displayed by Caucasian t eachers. Further, parents did not feel respected by teachers and school staff members even though research shows that parental perception of respect or disrespect is critical in determini ng whether parents decide to withdraw from the educational system (Rao, 2000). Despite research demonstrating that cultural sensitivity is critical for parents to feel respected by sc hool personnel and satisfied with school services, research has not explicitly identified this construct as a facet of school receptivity. Quality of Communication Parents m ay not be satisfied w ith the quality of their childs school because of ineffective communication patterns between schools administra tors and parents. Griffith (1998) concludes that good communication between the school an d parents and increased empowerment of parents should lead to increased parent pa rticipation or involvement in school activities, and satisfaction with school (p. 55). Smrekar a nd Cohen-Vogel (2001) explored low-income minority parents interaction patterns with schools to identif y how school communication can
42 demonstrate positive school receptivity or functio n as a barrier to parent involvement. Findings suggest the provider-receiver model, char acterized by schools providing parents with information about their child, fosters ineffec tive parent-school inter actions. This providerreceiver model consists of structured interactions that delimit communication between families and schools to formal, abrupt, and incomplete ex changes (p. 75). For example, parents reported that their interactions with teachers were us ually negative in nature and focused primarily on their childs misbehavior. Often times, these interacti on patterns placed schools with an expert status and parents with a lack of knowledge and proficiency, thus, fostering feelings of distrust, alienation, and disillusionment amongst parents. Moreover, parents were deemed as unwelcome intruders and made to announce th eir visits in advance to the school because unannounced visits were disruptive to the educational process. These interaction exchanges did not communicate that the schools were receptive to low-income parents, thus discour aging future parent involvement. Harry, Allen, and McLaughlin (1995) assesse d the communication pro cess of the special education system and how it aff ects African American parents participation. The researchers conducted semi-structured and unstructured interviews and observations of special education conferences to assess the views of parents. Re sults indeed showed that parents were supportive and involved in their childrens learning. More specifically, parents monitored homework, conducted informal conversations with the teac her about their childs progress, and attended important meetings such as IEP conferences. However, over time parents became less involved and advocated less for their child when they pe rceived the welcoming a nd open attitude of the classroom had diminished. Findings demonstrated several aspects of prof essional behavior that acted as deterrents to parental participation or advocacy.
43 Ineffective communication that affected parent involvement include d parents receiving late notices about atte nding conferences and the schools inflexible nature in scheduling conferences. In many cases letters that informed parents about an impending meeting were sent home late and oftentimes did not provide parent s with enough time to a lter their schedules to attend the meetings. School offici als were not flexible in resche duling these meetings for parents to attend. Further, limited time was allotted for conferences; thus, causing time constraints for parents to act as advocates in complex cases. Another professional behavior that hampered parent participation included th e use of professional jargon. Harry and colleagues concluded that parents were often confused by the coding system s and use of technical information in reports and presentations. As a result, most parents tended to ignore details of the reports and presentation, which placed them at a substant ial disadvantage in term s of advocacy for their child. Lastly, the structure of the meetings pl aced parents at a disadvantage. Parents were inclined to function as passive recipients whil e the professionals posse ssed the sole authority. Oftentimes, this provider-receiver model was in timidating and made parents uncomfortable to assert themselves. When parents did attempt to have [an influential role], the dynamics of the power structure usually mitigated against their success (Harry et al., 1995, p. 372). In general, parents were confused and distressed by the abse nce of meaningful comm unication and the lack of openness to participate in th eir childs learning process. Assessing quality of communication by educati onal professionals, particularly in lowincome schools, is essential since schools in low-income neighborhoods have been found to be controlled in a more regimented manner by school administration (H arry, 1992). These schools may possess hidden biases towards low-income parents that place them at a disadvantage. Additionally, they are likely to communicate in a manner that parents may perceive as
44 unfriendly. Rao (2002) examined a low income, Af rican American mothers perceptions of the aspects of professional behavior that contributed to a growing dissatisfaction with the special education system. This case study examined the process through which parents feel alienated and dissatisfied with the education system which ultimately leads them to withdraw their participation. Findings indicated the mothers decision to wit hdraw participation was largely based on a string of negative encount ers with school officials that extended over a period of time. Specific negative encounters included inflexibility in scheduling meetings, being treated as an uneducated person, and reporting the mother to a child abuse agency. Similarly, Harry, Allen, & McLaughlin (1995) demonstrated how the lack of logistical support and inflexible nature in scheduling parent-teacher conferences, back to school nights, child study team or IEP meetings hindered parents ability to become involved. In general, these experiences left parents feeling unappreciated, disrespected, judged, and undermined, which ultimately lead to a lack of parent involvement. Rationale for Study Research has dem onstrated parent involvement can benefit parents, teachers, and students (Hill & Taylor, 2004; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005). More specifically, it is positively associated with academic achievement across a students academic career (Fan & Chen, 2001; Jeynes, 2004; Swap, 1990; Viramontez Anguiano, 2004) and hi gher level of social skills in children (McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Seki no, 2004). Since the benefits of parent involvement are well known by educators and pare nts, research has shif ted to understand what factors predict parent involvement. Findings from Grolnick et al. (1997) and Rao (2000) suggest that parents from a lower soci oeconomic status have greater demands that may usurp time and energy needed to participate in school related activitie s. Griffith (1998) demonstrated that the race of the parent was the strongest indivi dual predictor of pare nt involvement. More
45 specifically, White parents report ed more parent involvement in school activities compared to their African American counterparts. Researcher s and educators are perplexed by ostensibly low levels of African American parent involvement Accordingly, significan t attention has been devoted to understanding factors at the school level that affect African American parent involvement. A call has been made to move the parent involvement literature from examining individual characteristics (i.e ., race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status) that influence parent involvement to an examination of school char acteristics (Feuerstein, 2001) such as school receptivity. Examining African American parent perceptions of school characteristics is necessary because how parents pe rceive their role in their ch ilds schooling may be a function of how the school organization treats th em (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001, p.76). Additionally, investigati ng African American parents perc eptions could prove fruitful for several reasons. First, this study can provide educators with information about certain mechanisms under their control that could prom ote or undermine parent involvement. Secondly, efforts to investigate school-level characteristics may also provide implications for developing effective parent-school partners hips to enhance pare nt involvement. This study was designed to enhance previous research by cr eating a valid and reliable surv ey to measure and compare the predictive ability of literaturebased constructs that are known to have a link to parent involvement. Research Question This study exam ined the extent to which Afri can American parents perceptions of school receptivity (i.e., school climate, cultural sensitiv ity, and quality of comm unication) influence their attitudes toward becoming and remaining i nvolved in school related activities as well as their satisfaction with th eir childs education. Group differences were assumed to exist with p <
46 .01. Significant correlational relationships were assumed to exist with p<.01 since specific hypotheses were made about direct ion and strength of the relationship. This study addressed the following question: 1) Do African American parents perceptions of school receptivity predict parent involvement and satisfaction relate d to their childs education? Hypotheses Based on the research literature, the following eleven hypotheses were created. Specific analyses used with each hypothesis are described below. 1. Research fin dings point to race as one of the strongest individual predictors of parent involvement (Griffith, 1998). Research findings also demonstrate that income mediates the extent to which parents are involved a nd satisfied with thei r childs education. Accordingly, significant and positive diffe rences in means for reported parental involvement and satisfaction are expected due to parental race and/or income. a. White parents often are more involved in school activities than African American parents (Griffith, 1998). Thus, compared to White parents, African American parents are expected to report lower levels of parent involvement related to their childs education. b. Compared to White parents, African Amer ican parents will report lower levels of parent satisfaction related to their childs education. c. Lower income parents report less involveme nt at the school level compared to their higher income counterpa rts (Grolnick et al., 1997; Ritblatt et al., 2002). Thus, compared to middle income parents lower income parents are expected to report lower levels of parent involvement. d. Lower income parents often feel less familiar and more mystified with the school system compared to higher income pare nts (Ritblatt et al., 2002). Thus, lower income parents are expected to report lowe r levels of parent satisfaction compared to higher income parents. 2. The interplay of race and social class can me diate parents perceptions of schools as well as their desire to become and remain involve d in parent activities at the school level (Diamond & Gomez, 2004; Lareau & Horvat, 1999). Thus, race and income are expected to interact on parental involvement and satisfaction. a. Compared to lower income White parents, lower income African American parents are expected to report lowe r levels of parent involvement.
47 b. Compared to middle income African Am erican parents, lower income White parents are expected to report lowe r levels of parent involvement. c. Compared to middle income white pare nts, middle income African American parents are expected to report lo wer levels of involvement. d. Working class African American parents express concern about the educational treatment of their children and often express dissatisfaction with the quality of their childs school, often describing them as mediocre (Diamond & Gomez, 2004). Thus, compared to lower income White parents, lower income African American parents are expected to report lower levels of pa rent satisfaction. e. Compared to middle income African Am erican parents, lower income White parents are expected report lower levels of parent satisfaction. f. Middle income African American parents will report lower levels of satisfaction compared to middle income white parents. 3. Parent involvement is associat ed with parent satisfaction (G rizzle, 1993). However, these findings have not been replicated with an African American sample. Thus, among African American parents, reported parent involvement and pare nt satisfaction are expected to correlate positively. 4. Among African American parents, reported parent involvement and pe rceptions of school climate are expected to correlate positively. 5. African American parents spend more time addressing issues or concer ns with the school and do not view schools as supportive compar ed to their White and Latino counterparts (Ritblatt et al., 2002). African American parents also report less mutual familiarity with the school. Thus, among African American pa rents, reported parent satisfaction and perceptions of school climate are e xpected to correlate positively. 6. Parents perceptions of sensitivity are associ ated with the number of hours parents are involved at school (Ritblatt et al., 2002). Thus, among African American parents, reported parent involvement and perceptions of cultural sensitivity are expected to correlate positively. 7. African American parents suggest ed that their level of satisfaction is directly related to their perceptions of the degree school pers onnel demonstrate respect for their cultural beliefs and values (Zionts et al., 2003). Thus among African American parents, reported parent satisfaction and perceptions of cultu ral sensitivity are expected to correlate positively. 8. Among African American parents, reported pa rent involvement and perception of the quality of communication are expected to correlate positively. 9. Among African American parents, reported pa rent satisfaction and perception of the quality of communication are expected to correlate positively.
48 10. Perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and comm unication patterns are expected to individually and jo intly predict parent involveme nt related to their childs education. 11. Perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and comm unication patterns are expected to individually and jointly predict parent satisfaction related to their childs education.
49 CHAPTER 2 METHOD This study investigated the de gree to which school receptivit y predicts African American parent involvement and parent sa tisfaction related to their chil ds education. In addition, this study examined the extent to which race, income and an interaction of both influence parent involvement and parent satisfaction related to their childs education. A pilot study was conducted for the purpos e of developing the School Receptivity Questionnaire (SRQ) and to examine the technica l adequacy of the instrument. Information collected in the pilot study was then used to modify the origin al questionnaire for use in the described research study. The focus of the rese arch study was to answer the following question: Do African American parents perceptions of sc hool receptivity predict parent involvement and parent satisfaction related to thei r childs education? A dditionally, the research study also further examined the instruments factor structure, reliability, and validity. Pilot Study The prim ary purpose of the pilot study was to determine the reliability and validity of a questionnaire designed to measur e school receptivity, to identify items that were ambiguous or confusing, to assess the format of the questionna ire (e.g., its appearance a nd arrangement of the questions), and to assess the le ngth of administration (DeVellis, 2003). Items that were unclear, ambiguous, and demonstrated low reliability were removed or revised. The pilot study addressed the following topics: a) descripti on of the samples demographics, b) instrument development, c) analyses performed to determine the instruments technical adequacy, and d) modifications made to the preliminary questionnaire.
50 Participants A pilot study should be between 20 and 40 participants Rea & Parker (2005). A convenience sample, including African American parents of elementary school children in kindergarten through fifth grade ranging in age fro m 5 to 12 were recruited from two churches located in Gainesville and Williston, Florida. Ga inesville is a small city with a population of 122,761 residents. It is located in the North Central Florida Region and it is home to the University of Florida, a major research univers ity (City of Gainesville, 2008). Williston is a small city on the outskirts of Gainesville with a population of 6,746 residents (City of Williston, 2008). A total of 37 parents participated in the p ilot study. Parents of elementary school children were recruited because parent involvement tends to wane after elementary school (Catsambis & Garland, 1997). Respondents were asked to co mplete the School Receptivity Questionnaire (SRQ). Prior to data collection, the instrument cover letter, and pare nt consent forms were approved by the University of Flor idas Institutional Review Board. Demographic characteristics for the 37 pa rents are presented in Table 1. Eighty-six percent were mothers, 11% were fathers, and 3% were guardians. Of the sample, 89% were African American, 8% were Caucasian, and 3% were unknown. Eleven percent reported receiving a high school diploma, 43% some colle ge or technical school training, 16% a college degree, and 21% a post college degree. Sixteen percent reported an income up to $29,999, 49% within $30,000-$74,999, and 24% at $75,000 or above; 11% did not report their income levels. Also shown in Table 1 is the number of pare nts responding per grade level, which reflects percentages ranging from 11% to 19%. Instrument Development A m easure of parents perceptions of school receptivity was designed based on guidelines outlined in Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational
51 Research Association [AERA], the American Psychological Associati on [APA], & National Council on Measurement in Education [NCME], 1999) The Standards recommend that scales be rooted in theory and research to aid in their development (AERA, APA, NCME, 1999). The exact number of items that need to be included in the final scale is difficult to estimate (DeVellis, 2003). As a result, researchers of ten develop a larger pool of ite ms than needed for possible inclusion. Good questionnaire items should not be vague or place re spondents in a quandary in terms of selecting a response. Questionnaire items should be brief and their reading level low, not to exceed a fifth grade level for use with the general pop ulation (AERA, APA, NCME, 1999; DeVellis, 2003). The SRQ was designed for this research study to measure parents perceptions of school receptivity. The SRQ was developed by modifying items from existing and well-developed scales that assess parent i nvolvement (Ritblatt et al., 2002; Walker et al., 2005), and school climate (Christenson & Sheridan, 2001), as well as from constructs ev ident in the parent involvement literature (Griffit h, 1998; Harry, Allen, & McLaughlin, 1995). The theoretical base for the SRQ rests on Epsteins ( 1995) typology of parent involvement previously outlined in the literature review. The SRQ includes items organi zed into 6 sections: parent demographics, school climate, cultural sensitivity, quality of communication, parent satisfaction with their childs education, and the extent and frequency to which parent s are involved in their childs education. The demographic section obtained information on parents highest level of educational attainment, socioeconomic status, ma rital status, relationship to the child, and the childs grade and age. Relationships of the four pred ictor variables (demogr aphic qualities, perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of comm unication) to African Am erican satisfaction and
52 parent involvement are presente d below (Figure 1). The framewor k illustrates that parents demographic qualities are predicted to be associ ated with parent involvement and satisfaction. Further, school receptivity is defined as pa rents perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of comm unication. School receptivity is expected to be associated and correlated with African American parents reported involvement and satisfaction in their childs school. Scale description The SRQ was developed to assess the relations hips between school receptivity (i.e., school clim ate, cultural sensitivity, a nd quality of communication) and parent involvement and parent satisfaction. The scale included 36 items for the pilot study. Likert scales commonly are used when assessing a continuum of opinions, attitudes, or per ceptions (Rea & Parker, 2005). Participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with each item on a four point Likert scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) through 4 (strongly agree ). This scale was used for items that ask parents to assess their percepti on of their childs current school climate, perceptions of cultural sensitivit y exhibited by their ch ilds current teacher, perceptions of the quality of communication demonstr ated by their childs teacher, satisfaction with their childs schooling during this academic year and the extent to which they agreed with participating in their childs education. Additionall y, parents were asked to assess the amount of contact they had with their childs teacher using a four point Likert scale from 1 ( never) through 4 ( very often ) Procedure Recruitment of participants for the study wa s made through contact with pastors of two churches located in northern Florida. Upon receiving the pastors approval, an announcement was made during services, classes, and meetings to inform interested participants about the study. Once participants were id entified, the researcher dissemi nated research packets that
53 included a cover letter explaining the study, confidentiality of data collected, and the questionnaire (SRQ). Depending upon participan t availability, the SRQ was administered individually or in sm all-groups to parents. Data Analyses The purpose of the pilot study was to determ in e content validity for the SRQ. Data were collected over a two week peri od in April 2007. Parents generally took 10 minutes to complete the survey. They were encouraged to ask questions about items if clarification was needed. At the end of the administration, parents provide d feedback on the wording of the questions, appropriateness of items to the stated construc ts, and response formats. Experts familiar with scale develop and parent involveme nt also reviewed the scale to assess the appropriateness of the items for the questions posed in this study. Item Analysis of Instrument An item analysis was performed to examine the internal consistency of the questionnaires items, to determine whether an item was consistent with the remainder of the scale, and to improve the existing scale. The Cron bachs alpha for the total scale was .79. A total of 36 items were included in the original scale. Table 2 shows the descriptive results of the item analysis for school climate, cultural sens itivity, quality of co mmunication, satisfaction, involvement, and quantity scales. Table 3 presents a summary of item analysis results per construct when a scale item has been deleted. Items that demonstrated low reliab ility were removed or revised. By deleting items that demonstrated low reliability, an improvement in the overall scales reliability resulted. Items that were poorly worded, vague, or misl eading also were modified or deleted. For the Climate scale, the obtained Cronbach s alpha was .74. This scale demonstrated adequate reliability, but further analysis demonstr ated that deletion of the first item of the scale
54 (When I visit my childs school, the principal greets me) improved the scales reliability. The first item was removed from the climate scale beca use a principal often is not available to greet parents when they enter a childs school. Thus when removed, the climate scales internal consistency improved to a Cronbachs alpha of .79. For the Cultural sensitivity scale, the obtained Cronbachs alpha was .63. This scale initially demonstrated low reliability, however furt her analysis indicated de leting item four (My childs teacher needs sensitivity training) impr oved reliability. This item was negatively worded, and respondents may have been confused about consistently expressing their strength for a statement (DeVellis, 2003) and their reluctance to switch to expressing a statement. As such, this scale item was removed from the final in strument with a resulti ng change in the scales internal consistency to a Cronbachs alpha of .82. For the Communication scale, the obtained Cr onbachs alpha was .45. This scale initially demonstrated low reliability, however further anal ysis indicated deleting item five (My childs teachers are usually negative and focus mainly on my childs misbehavior) improved reliability. This item was negatively worded, and respondents may have become confused with consistently expressing their strength for a statement (DeVellis, 2003) and th eir reluctance to switch to expressing a statement. Thus, this item was rem oved, resulting in internal consistency of .69. Further analysis of the Communication scale indicated deleting item six (Letters from my childs school are confusing and filled with jargon that I dont understand) improved reliability. This item was negatively worded a nd respondents may have become confused with consistently expressing their strength for a st atement (DeVellis, 2003) and their reluctance to switch to expressing a statement. As such, this scale item was removed from the instrument and the resulting internal consistency improved to a Cronbachs alpha of .90.
55 For the Satisfaction scale, a Cronbachs alpha of .65 initially was obtained. This scale demonstrated low reliability, however further anal ysis indicated that dele ting item four (I am not pleased with my childs teacher and I do not enjoy visitin g my childs class) improved reliability. This item may be a ssessing two different aspects of satisfacti on and may have been confusing to parents. More spec ifically, the first part of the item assessed satisfaction with a childs teacher (i.e., I am not pleased with my childs teacher) and the latter assessed satisfaction with a childs classroom (i.e., I do not enjoy visiting my childs class). As such, this item was removed from the final instrume nt and its internal c onsistency improved to .94. For the Involvement scale, a Cronbachs al pha of .70 initially wa s obtained. This scale demonstrated adequate reliabilit y. Further analysis indicated that removing item six (At times I solicit the help of family members and friends to help my child complete homework) lead to a slight improvement in the reliab ility. Although this item appeared to assess an aspect of parent involvement identified in the literature, the item was removed to improve the scales reliability. As such, the internal consistency improved to a Cronbachs alpha of .74. For the Quantity scale, a Cronbachs alpha of .67 initially was obtained. This scale demonstrated low reliability. Further analysis in dicated that removing item three (Met with the principal to discuss my childs behavior) lead a slight improvement in the reliability. Although this item appeared to assess a type of parent i nvolvement identified in the literature, the item was removed to improve the scales reliability. As such, the internal c onsistency improved to a Cronbachs alpha of .69. Further analysis of the Quantity scale indica ted that deleting item four (Received late notices about meetings with my childs teacher) improved reliability. This item was negatively worded and respondents may have become confused with consistently ex pressing their strength
56 for a statement (DeVellis, 2003) and their reluctance to switch to expressing a statement. As such, this item was removed and the resulting internal consistency improved to a Cronbachs alpha of .73. Modification of Original Questionnaire Based on th e feedback received in the pilot study, modifications were made to the questionnaire. A total of 36 items were included in the original questionnaire. Seven items were removed due to low reliability and one item wa s modified resulting in 29 remaining items. Reliability analyses were performed again afte r the poorly worded items were deleted. By removing items, the Cronbachs alpha for the SRQ improved from .79 to .82. Thus, adequate reliability was demonstrated, and the SRQ was determined suitable to gather data in the final study. Additional modifications were made before the final version of the questionnaire was administered. More specificall y, another section was added to the questionnaire to assess the importance of being involved in a childs educa tion. It was theorized that parents who believed that parental involvement is important are more li kely to be satisfied with and involved in their childs education. Thus, additional items were written. Parents rate d their level of agreement on a four point Likert scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) through 4 (strongly agree ). For example, parents indicated the extent they view ed specific parenting invol vement activities (i.e., purchasing or providing classroom supplies) as important. After making all the modifications, the revised questionnaire was resubmitted and approved by the UF IRB. Research Study Participants Research packets were distributed to 1,415 African American and White parents of elementary school children in kindergarten th rough fifth grades attending four schools in Alachua County Florida: the University of Floridas P.K. Yonge Developmental Research
57 School, and the School Board of Alachua Countys Wiles Elemen tary, Prairie View Academy and Terwilliger Elementary. Table 11 provides th e descriptive statistics for each school that participated in the study. A lthough the primary focus of this study was to examine African American parents perceptions, White parents were recruited to provide data needed to make meaningful racial/ethnic compar isons about parents perceptions of school receptivity. Only parents of elementary school students were re cruited because there is a higher level of involvement in an elementary childs sc hooling than in middle and secondary schools (Catsambis & Garland, 1997). Of the 1,415 research packets that were distributed, 339 completed questionnaires were returned within one month. The response rate was 24%. Although parents were encouraged to answer all questionnaire items, some of the resp ondents did not and they were not penalized for doing so. All data collected were coded and ente red into SPSS for analyses. Table 12 provides descriptive statistics for the sample. The majority of the respondents (85%) were mothers, 9% were fathers, and 3% were guardians, 2% were other (aunts, uncles, sibl ings), and 1% did not specify. Of the sample, 52% were Caucasian, 35% were African American, 7% were Latino/Hispanic, 5% were Asian American, and 1% were American Indian or Alaskan Native. Among the African American sample that repor ted their education le vel, 40% have a high school diploma or less, and 60% have some colle ge, or had obtained a college or advanced degree. Among the Caucasian sample that reported their education level, 7% have a high school diploma or less, and 93% have some college, or had obtained a college or advanced degree. Among the African American sample that reported their income, 63% reported an income up to $29,999, 32% within $30,000-$89,999, and 5% at $90,000 or above. Of the Caucasian sample
58 that reported their income, 12% reported an income up to $29,999, 62% within $30,000-$89,999, and 26% at $90,000 or above. Procedure Permission to recruit participants from PK Yonge and the Alachua County Public Schools was obtained by submitting study materials and the University of Florida IRB approval letter (see Appendix A), cover letter (see Appendix B), SRQ (see Appendix C), and proposal to school personnel for approval. After receiving sc hool approval, the resear cher contacted each school principals to inform them of the st udy and obtain permission to recruit parents to participate in the study. To recruit parents, a letter was sent home with childre n in kindergarten through fifth grade with information about the study and a requ est for their participatio n. Included in the letter were details about the purpose of the study indicating that information collected in the study would remain confidential and that teachers a nd administrators would not have access to the completed questionnaire. Students took the questi onnaire and envelop home to be completed by their parents or guardians. Parents completed one questionnaire for each child attending the elementary school. Completion of the questionna ire indicated the parents gave consent to participate in the study. Students returned the co mpleted questionnaire to their teachers in the sealed envelop. The researcher collected comp leted questionnaires from teachers and some parents returned completed questionnaires by ma il. Parents did not receive compensation for their participation. However, students who return ed a completed survey were given a small piece of candy.
59 Figure 2-1. Relationships among predic tors and dependent variables. African American Parents Involvement Satisfaction Perceptions of School Climate Perceptions of Cultural Sensitivity Perceptions of Quality of Communication Demographic qualities School Receptivity
60 Table 2-1. Demographic characteristics of responding parents Demographic characteristic Percent sample Relationship to Child Mother 86% Father 11% Guardian 3% Education Status High school diploma 11% College or technical training 43% College degree 16% Post college degree 22% Missing 8% Income Up to $29,999 16% $30,000-$74,999 57% $75,000 or above 16% Missing 11% Parents per grade level Kindergarten 19% 1st grade 16% 3rd grade 11% 4th grade 16% 5th grade 11% 6th grade 16% Missing 11%
61 Table 2-2. Descriptive sta tistics for scale (N = 30) Item M SD Climate 1 2.80 .99 Climate 2 3.30 .79 Climate 3 3.36 .80 Climate 4 3.56 .62 Climate 5 3.60 .62 Climate 6 3.33 .66 Culture 1 2.83 .79 Culture 2 2.63 .71 Culture 3 2.73 .78 Culture 4 2.46 .89 Culture 5 2.46 .97 Communication 1 3.43 .56 Communication 2 3.36 .71 Communication 3 3.10 .75 Communication 4 3.50 .57 Communication 5 1.83 .83 Communication 6 1.53 .73 Satisfaction 1 3.50 .57 Satisfaction 2 3.56 .50 Satisfaction 3 3.40 .67 Satisfaction 4 1.66 .88 Satisfaction 5 3.50 .50 Satisfaction 6 3.46 .50 Involvement 1 3.13 .89 Involvement 2 3.83 .37 Involvement 3 3.30 .74 Involvement 4 3.50 .68 Involvement 5 3.70 .53 Involvement 6 2.96 .88 Quantity 1 2.93 .98 Quantity 2 3.06 .94 Quantity 3 1.46 .73 Quantity 4 1.13 .34 Quantity 5 2.93 1.11 Quantity 6 2.73 1.08 Quantity 7 2.66 1.15
62 Table 2-3. Internal consistency for the clim ate scale if an item is deleted (N = 36) Item Internal Consistency Climate 1 .799** Climate 2 .708 Climate 3 .650 Climate 4 .753 Climate 5 .711 Climate 6 .621 Note : ** Deleted item Table 2-4. Internal consistency for the cultural se nsitivity scale if an it em is deleted (N= 36) Item Internal Consistency Culture 1 .519 Culture 2 .509 Culture 3 .427 Culture 4 .820** Culture 5 .466 Note : ** Deleted item Table 2-5. Internal consistency for the communi cation scale if an item is deleted (N = 37) Item Internal Consistency Communication 1 .190 Communication 2 .137 Communication 3 .208 Communication 4 .177 Communication 5 .695** Communication 6 .642 Note : ** Deleted item Table 2-6. Internal consistency for the communi cation scale if an item is deleted (N = 37) Item Internal Consistency Communication 1 .564 Communication 2 .458 Communication 3 .495 Communication 4 .525 Communication 6 .908** Note : ** Deleted item
63 Table 2-7. Internal consistency for the satisf action scale if an item is deleted (N = 36) Item Internal Consistency Satisfaction 1 .453 Satisfaction 2 .441 Satisfaction 3 .496 Satisfaction 4 .943** Satisfaction 5 .469 Satisfaction 6 .491 Note : ** Deleted item Table 2-8. Internal consistency for the involve ment scale if an item is deleted (N = 33) Item Internal Consistency Involvement 1 .594 Involvement 2 .693 Involvement 3 .579 Involvement 4 .692 Involvement 5 .654 Involvement 6 .743** Note : ** Deleted item Table 2-9. Internal consistency for the quant ity scale if an item is deleted (N = 34) Item Internal Consistency Quantity 1 .653 Quantity 2 .623 Quantity 3 .694** Quantity 4 .698 Quantity 5 .628 Quantity 6 .558 Quantity 7 .586 Note : ** Deleted item Table 2-10. Internal consistency for the quantity scale if an item is deleted (N = 34) Item Internal Consistency Quantity 1 .681 Quantity 2 .656 Quantity 4 .738** Quantity 5 .639 Quantity 6 .553 Quantity 7 .595 Note : ** Deleted item
64 Table 2-11. Demographics of schools School District Total Student % Population % Free and Reduced School Name Enrollment Lunch University of Florida PK. Yonge Elementary 340** 57% White 18% 24% Black Alachua County Wiles Elementary 647 60% White 37% 18% Black Prairie View Academy 359 3% White 89% 92% Black Terwilliger Elementary 662 33% White 73% 52% Black Note: Data obtained from the NCLB report for the 2005-2006 academic year. ** Data obtained from PK Yonges School Improvement Plan for the 2006-2007 academic year.
65 Table 2-12. Demographic characteristics of responding parents Demographic characteristic Percent sample Relationship to Child Mother 85% Father 9% Guardian 3% Other 2% Missing 1% Education Status High school diploma 11% College or technical training 43% College degree 16% Post college degree 21% Parents per grade level Kindergarten 19% 1st grade 16% 3rd grade 11% 4th grade 16% 5th grade 11% 6th grade 16% Income up to $29,999 16% $30,000-$74,999 49% $75,000 or above 24%
66 CHAPTER 3 RESULTS This study was exam ined school receptivity as a predictor of African American parent involvement in elementary school grades and parent satisfaction in their ch ilds education. In this chapter, the results of the study are presented in the following sections: a) analyses of the technical adequacy of the SRQ, and b) results for each research hypothesis. Research Study Analysis of Instrument To address the research questions posite d for this study, a survey instrument was developed to assess parent perceptions of school re ceptivity. The first step in the analyses was to determ ine the reliability and validity of the subscales and the overall SRQ instrument. A confirmatory factor analysis (C FA) was performed to evaluate th e factor models and determine which measurement model best fit the pilot data with the SRQ. It was hypothesized that a six factor model, including School Climate, Cultural Sensitivity, Quality of Communication, Importance, Involvement, and Satisfaction scales would provide the best model to fit the data. Although the Quantity scale demonstrated adequa te reliability and was included on the final scale, it was excluded from the CFA because th is scale was not used to predict parent involvement and satisfaction. The Importance scal e was not included on the original scale. The researcher added this subscale to assess whethe r importance mediated parent involvement or satisfaction with their childs schooling. The MPLUS version 4.21 (2007) program was used to examine the overall measurement model. The full sample of 339 respondents which in cluded African-American, White, Asian and Latino parents was used for the CFA. A separa te CFA was performed using only the African American and White parents in the sample. The results of the separate CFA reflected minimal
67 difference from the total samples CFA. Therefore the decision was made to report the total samples CFA. Results of the CFA indicated that the proposed six factor model did not fit the sample data. More specifically, the Importance scale, which was added to the instrument after the pilot study, cross-loaded on the other scales and it wa s deemed not distinct and invalid. Thus, the Importance scale was removed from the final School Receptivity Scale and eliminated during further data analyses. Table 3-1 illustrates the f it indices produced by both the initial six factor and final five factor models. To evaluate the ad equacy of the factor m odel, the fit index should exceed the recommended value of .90 (Bentler & B onnett, 1980), and the root mean square error of approximation should be below .10 (Browne & C udeck, 1993). Table 3-2 illustrates the factor loadings for the resulting 5 factors included in the analyses According to Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black (2002), factor loadings above .707 indicate the item s fit well onto each subscale. Although a few of the factor loadings fell slightly below .707, it was decided to keep these items because the reliabilities for these items were acceptable (above .70). Results of the intercorrelation factors are s hown in Table 3-3. All of the scales correlated positively with the other scales. Notably, some scales demonstrated a strong positive correlation r > .80, which is problematic because it suggests that the scales are measuring the same construct (Licht, 1995). Cronbach alphas, computed for all scales, are presented in Table 3-4. The means and standard deviations for all scale items are pres ented in Table 3-5. All alpha coefficients were above .80 to indicate an acceptable level of reli ability, except the Involvement scale. Based on the results of the CFA and Cronbach alpha, which demonstrated acceptable levels of reliability,
68 conditions were met for estimating validity, th e instrument was found to measure separate dimensions of school receptivity. Hypotheses Tests This study addressed the following general que stion: Do African Am erican parents perceptions of school re ceptivity predict parent involvement and satisfaction related to their childs education? Eleven hypotheses were propos ed. Each hypothesis is analyzed separately, and the results are presented below. Hypothesis 1: There will be significant and positive differe nces in means for reported parental involvement and satisfaction due to parental race or income. To address this hypothesis, MANOVAs were used to determine if there we re significant differences on the two dependent variables, parent involvement and satisfaction due to parental race or income. Before these analyses were conducted, it was necessary to assess whether the assumptions of performing MANOVAs were violated: a) independence of observations b) multivariate normal distribution of dependent variables, and c) homogeneity of covariance (Stevens, 2002). It is reasonable to conclude that independence of observations a ssumption was not violated because parents responses on the SRQ were not dependent upon ot her parents responses to the questionnaire. Since MANOVA is a robust procedure, it is also unlikely the multivariate normality and homogeneity of covariance assumptions (Weinfurt, 1995) were violated. Traditional and popular Wilks lambda ( ) a portion of the variance not explained by the independent variables and the F statistic, was used to determ ine whether the findings were significant (Weinfurt, 1995). Findings were not significant for race, Wilks = 9.95 F (2, 225) = .607, p = .546 A significant finding was noted for income, Wilks = 9.62 F (2, 225) = 4.46, p = .012. Univariate F tests were conducted to determine the effect of income on parent involvement and satisfaction. Lower income parents were expected to report lower levels of
69 parent involvement compared to middle income parents. Significant differences in parent involvement scores were observed for income Wilks = 9.95 F (1, 226) = 8.39, p < 0.04. Low income parents ( M = -.218, SD = .52) scored lower than middle income parents ( M = .14, SD = .41) on parent involvement. Lower income parents were expected to report lower levels of parent satisfaction compared to middle income parents. Differences in parent sa tisfaction scores were not significant based on income F (1, 226) = 2.29, p = .131. Hypothesis 2: Race and income will interact in relation to parental involvement and satisfaction. To address the second hypothesis, a MANOVA was performed to determine if there was a significant difference on the two dependent variables, parent involvement and satisfaction, due to an interaction between parental race and income. The results indicated a significant interaction between parent race and income, Wilks = .912 F (6, 448) = 3.51, p = .002. Univariate F tests were conducted to determine the e ffect of the interaction. Significant differences in parent involvement scores were observed for an interaction between race and income F (3, 225) = 4.71, p = .003. Lower income African American parents ( M = -.228, SD = .51) reported lower levels of parent involvement than lo wer income White parents ( M = -.184, SD = .55). Lower income White parents ( M = -.184, SD = .55) reported lower levels of parent involvement compared to middle in come African American parents ( M = -.015, SD = .43). Middle income African American parents ( M = -.015, SD = .43) reported lower levels of involvement compared to middle income white parents ( M = .024, SD = .41). Hypothesis 3: African American parents reported parent involvement and parent satisfaction will correlate positively. To addr ess this hypothesis, a Pearson product-moment correlation was calculated to asse ss the relationship between Afri can American perceptions of
70 parent involvement and parent satisfaction. As shown in Table 3-6, there was a strong positive correlation between parent involve ment and satisfaction (r = .838, p <.01.). Hypothesis 4: African American parents reported parent i nvolvement and perceptions of school climate will correlate positively. To addr ess this hypothesis, a Pearson product-moment correlation was calculated to asse ss the relationship between Afri can American perceptions of parent involvement and perceptions of school climate. As shown in Table 3-6, there was a strong positive correlation between parent involvement and perceptions of school climate (r = .832, p <.01.). Hypothesis 5: African American parents repo rted parent involvement and perceptions of cultural sensitivity will correlate positively. To address this hypothesis, a Pearson productmoment correlation was calculated to assess the relationship between African American perceptions of parent involvement and perceptions of cultural sensitivity. As shown in Table 3-6, there was a strong positive correlation between parent involvement and perceptions of cultural sensitivity (r = .769, p <.01.). Hypothesis 6: African American parents repo rted parent involveme nt and perception of the quality of communication will correlate posi tively. To address this hypothesis, a Pearson product-moment correlation was calculated to as sess the relationship between African American perceptions of parent involvement and percep tions of quality of communication. As shown in Table 3-6, there was a strong positive correlation between parent involvement and perceptions of quality of communication (r = .867, p <.01). Hypothesis 7: African American parents repo rted parent satisfaction and perceptions of school climate will correlate positively. To addr ess this hypothesis, a Pearson product-moment correlation was calculated to a ssess the relationship between African American parents
71 perceptions of parent satisfac tion and perceptions of school c limate. As shown in Table 3-6, there was a strong positive correl ation between parent satisfac tion and perceptions of school climate (r = .941, p <.01.). Hypothesis 8: Among African American pare nts reported parent satisfaction and perceptions of cultural sensitivit y will correlate positively. To address this hypothesis, a Pearson product-moment correlation was calculated to as sess the relationship between African American parents perceptions of parent satisfaction and perceptions of cultural sensitivity. As shown in Table 3-6, there was a strong positive correlation between parent satisfaction and perceptions of cultural sensitivity (r = .848, p <.01.). Hypothesis 9: Among African American pa rents reported parent satisfaction and perception of the quality of co mmunication will correlate positivel y. To address this hypothesis, a Pearson product-moment correla tion was calculated to assess the relationship between African American parents perceptions of parent satisfaction and perceptions of quality of communication. As shown in Table 3-6, there was a strong positive correlation between parent satisfaction and perceptions of quality of communication (r = .942, p <.01). Hypothesis 10: Perceptions of school cl imate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication will individually and jointly pred ict African American parent involvement related to their ch ilds education. To address whether pare nts perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communicatio n individually predicted African American parent involvement, linear regression analyses were conducted. School climate R = .689, F (1, 115) = 258.31, p = .000, cultural sensitivity R = .587, F (1, 115) = 165.94, p = .000, and quality of communication R = .749, F (1, 115) = 347.42, p = .000 individually predicted African American parent involvement.
72 A Stepwise regression analysis was conducted to examine whether a ll predictors jointly produced a change in R for parent involvement. Variables that failed to produce a change in R were deleted from the regression model. Be fore conclusions coul d be drawn about an independent variables predictive power, it was important to assess whether multicollinearity (a strong correlation of independent variables) was violated (Stevens, 2002). If multicollinearity was violated, attempts to ascertain which i ndependent variable is actually predicting the dependent variable are difficult. According to St evens (2002), to determine whether there were no such violations, Variation Inflation Factor (V IF) values should be < 10. However, VIF values exceed the recommended range, but the variables are significant, then multicollinearity is not a problem (J. Algina, personal communication, December 5, 2007). The VIF values ranged from 10.1 to 44.2. Although the VIF values were of concern, all of the independent variables were significant, suggesting that multicollinearity was not a problem. The first model included parent involvement as the depe ndent variable and perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quali ty of communication as independent variables. As shown in Table 3-7, three models were found to be significant using stepwise regression. For the first model, quality of communication was th e only predictor of pare nt involvement. This model accounted for 74% of the variance in pa rent involvement. The second model included quality of communication and cultural sensitivity R = .76, F (2, 114) = 185.95, p = .000 as significant predictors of pa rent involvement. The third model included quality of communication, cultural sens itivity, and school climate R = .77, F (3, 113) = 131.95, p = .000 as significant predictors of parent involvement. Hypothesis 11: Perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication will individually and jointly predict African American parent satisfaction related
73 to their childs education. To address whether perceptions of school clim ate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication indi vidually predicted African Ameri can parent satisfaction, linear regression analyses were conducted. School climate R = .885, F (1, 115) = 881.26, p = .000, cultural sensitivity R = .717, F (1, 115) = 294.74, p = .000, and quality of communication R = .886, F (1, 115) = 898.74, p = .000 individually predicted African American parent satisfaction. Stepwise regression analysis was used to exam ine whether all predictors jointly produced a change in R for parent satisfaction. Variables that failed to produce a change in R were deleted from the regression model. Before conc lusions could be drawn about an independent variables predictive power, it was important to assess whether multic ollinearity (a strong correlation of independent variab les) was violated (Stevens, 2002) VIF values should below 10 to conclude that multicollinearity was not violated. The VIF value was 17.9. Although the VIF value was a concern, all of the independent variables were significant, suggesting that multicollinearity was not a problem. The first model included parent satisfaction as the dependent variable and perceptions of school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication as the independent variables. As shown in Table 3-8, two models were found to be significant using stepwise regression. For the first model, quality of communication accounted for 88% of the parent satisfaction variance. The second model included quality of communication and school climate R = .896, F (2, 114) = 503.20, p = .000 as significant predictors of parent satisfaction. Table 3-1. Fit indices for the school receptivity scale Fit Index Model df /df CFI TLI RMSEA Five Factor 71703.629 253 283.413 .993 .992 .082 Six Factor 81677.130 378 216.077 .984 .982 .107 Note : CFI = Normed Comparative Fit, TLI = Tuck er-Lewis Index, RMSEA = Root Mean Square Error of Approximation.
74 Table 3-2. Factor loadings for subscales Factor F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 When I visit my childs classroom, the teacher greets me to make me feel welcome. .876 If I have questions or comments, the office staff are helpful and courteous. .838 My childs school has rule s and procedures that I must abide by in order to visit my childs class. .697 My childs teacher is willing and cooperative to discuss my childs academic progress and behavior. .886 My childs school is an enjoyable place to visit. .908 My childs teacher is we ll trained to deal with parents and students from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. .941 My childs teacher is fa miliar with the surrounding neighborhoods. .910 My childs teacher considers my cultural beliefs when planning for my childs educati onal program. .907 My childs teacher makes culturally sensitive statements. .684 My childs teacher sche dules parent-teacher conferences at times when I am available to meet. .904 My childs teacher is respectful and does not undermine my authority and judgment as a parent. .965 My childs teacher presents a no blaming, no fault problem-solving position in interactions with families. .944 Personal letters about school activities are often sent home on-time. .769 I would recommend my childs school to other parents. .927 My child is getting a go od education and enjoys learning activities. .972
75 Table 3-2. Continued F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 I am satisfied with the type of activities in which I am involved at my childs school. .927 My childs school is a good place for my child. .959 School is preparing my child for the future .915 I volunteer at my childs school. .578 I talk with my child about th e school day. .911 I make sure my childs school has what it needs. .734 I communicate with my childs teacher regularly. .854 I monitor, discuss, and help my child complete their homework. .828 Note : F1 = School Climate, F2 = Cultural Sensitivity, F3 = Quality of Communication, F4 = Satisfaction, F5 = Involvement. Table 3-3. Intercorrelation factors Factors Clim Cult Comm Sat Cult .761 Comm .921 .861 Sat .814 .703 .826 Inv .668 .595 .728 .606 Note : Clim = School Climate, Cult = Cultural Sensitivity, Comm = Quality of Communication, Sat = Satisfaction, Inv = Involvement. Table 3-4. Alpha coefficients for scales Scale Cronbachs Alpha Number of Items School Climate .860 5 Cultural Sensitivity .836 4 Quality of Communication .878 4 Satisfaction .940 5 Involvement .772 5
76 Table 3-5. Summary of individual items for each scale Item M SD N Climate 1 3.58 .61 336 Climate 2 3.60 .57 338 Climate 3 3.50 .57 336 Climate 4 3.70 .53 337 Climate 5 3.56 .59 335 Cultural Sensitivity 1 3.41 .68 307 Cultural Sensitivity 2 3.21 .67 267 Cultural Sensitivity 3 3.30 .68 276 Cultural Sensitivity 4 3.09 .92 266 Communication 1 3.57 .59 332 Communication 2 3.63 .58 334 Communication 3 3.47 .67 310 Communication 4 3.56 .66 335 Satisfaction 1 3.54 .70 333 Satisfaction 2 3.60 .63 336 Satisfaction 3 3.52 .68 333 Satisfaction 4 3.58 .63 334 Satisfaction 5 3.59 .62 333 Involvement 1 2.88 .88 318 Involvement 2 3.72 .49 337 Involvement 3 3.32 .64 329 Involvement 4 3.40 .64 332 Involvement 5 3.73 .49 335
77 Table 3-6. Pearson Product Correlations for African American Parents (all significant at .01) Factors Involve Sat Clim Cult Comm Involve 1.00 .838 .832 .769 .867 Sat 1.00 .941 .848 .942 Clim 1.00 .870 .972 Cult 1.00 .935 Comm 1.00 Table 3-7. Regression analysis for school receptivity variables predicti ng parent involvement Model B SEB R R 1. Comm .49 .02 .86* .74 2. Comm, Cult -.18 .07 -.33* .76 .02 3. Comm, Cult, Climate -.32 .12 -.53* .77 .01 Note : (N = 117, p < .05; R = Adjusted R square; R = Change in adjusted R square) Table 3-8. Regression analysis for school receptivity variables predicti ng parent satisfaction Model B SEB R R 1. Comm .87 .02 .94* .88* 2. Comm, Climate .45 .12 .45* .89* .01* Note : (N = 117, p < .05; R = Adjusted R square; R = Change in adjusted R square)
78 CHAPTER 4 DISCUSSION A plethora of research exam ines individual and school level variables that influence parent involvement in educati on (Griffith, 1998; Grol nick et al. 1997; Ra o, 2000). However, few studies have examined the extent to which school level variables impact minority parent involvement (Feuerstein, 2001). With continued concern over low levels of African American parent involvement in their ch ilds schooling, it was important to consider various levels, including school level variables, which could operate to encourage or discourage parent involvement. Given that many studies often use teach er reports as sources to identify influences of parent involvement in education (Reynolds & Gill, 1994), it seemed reasonable to examine parents directly as to what variables they repor t as influencing their involvement and satisfaction. This information may prove valuable to school administrators and policy makers as they continue to seek ways to increase minority pa rent involvement in educ ation. Further, it was important to examine school variables because pare nt involvement in education may be mediated by their perceptions of how the school organi zation treats them (Smrekar, & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). This research study examined the extent to which parents pe rceptions of school receptivity predicts African American parent invo lvement related to thei r childs education in elementary school grades. Minimal empirical evidence and research examines school leve l variables that influence parent satisfaction of their childs education. St udies that examined parent satisfaction have focused on satisfaction with educational expe riences in early childhood education programs (Fantuzzo, Perry & Childs, 2006) or special education services (Grizzle, 1993), leaving room to explore the extent to which pare nts are satisfied with their child s educational experiences in elementary school grades. Thus, another objectiv e of this study was to determine whether
79 African American parent sati sfaction with their childs education was mediated by their perceptions of school receptivity. This chapter includes a discussion of the re search findings and is divided into the following sections: an overview of the significant research find ings, limitations of the study, and recommendations for future research. Race Results dem onstrated that there were no reported significant diffe rences in parent involvement based on parental race. Therefore, whether parents id entified themselves as African American or White their reported levels of pa rent involvement with their childs school was comparable. These findings are contrary to resu lts from Griffith (1998) who found that African American parents reported less school involvement than White pa rents. One reason for the lack of consistency in findings could be based on the s cale Griffith used to measure involved parents. The scale demonstrated low reliability with a Cronbachs alpha of .59. The low reliability raises concern as to whether the scale was an accurate and valid tool to measure parent involvement and the results should be in terpreted with caution. The findings of the present study are also in consistent with findings reported by Kohl, Lengua, and McMahon (2000) who found African American parents had lower levels of parent involvement according to teacher reports. The in consistency in these findings and the present studys findings could be based on the sample used in both studies. More specifically, the present study had parents complete questionnaires of their perceptions of reported involvement. Conversely, Kohl et al. (2002) asse ssed teachers perception of parent involvement in the childs school. This unique difference is particularly interesting since discourse tends to favor the perspective of White parents (L areau & Horvat, 1999) as more involved and concerned about their childs education and regard African Amer ican parent involvement as less involved and
80 concerned about their childs schooling (Fields-Smith, 2005). In fact, Black and ethnically diverse parents may be perceived as apathetic, irresponsible, and uns upportive (Nakagawa, 2000; Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). Notably, in Kohl et al. study, African American and White parents did not self-report differe nces in parent involvement. The lack of significance in these findings lends credence to the fact that African Amer ican parents, similar to other parents, have a history of active involvement in their childs education and ad vocating for their children to receive a quality, and equitable education (Fields-Smith, 2000). According to Nakagawa (2000), the discourse surrounding ideal pa rent involvement, which favors majority, middle class parents, creates particular re presentations of parents, ones that ultimately limit the possibilities for producti ve family-school relationships (p.468). To increase parent involvement, teachers and school o fficials attitudes and beliefs as to ideal parent involvement should change. To improve attitudes, it is important that e ducators challenge their stereotypic beliefs toward Af rican American parents (Yan, 2000). Additionally, Yan suggests that educators increase their awareness of cultural differences in parent involvement because there are a variety of ways for parents to be i nvolved in their childs education and parents ought not to be judged if they are not involved in traditional ways. Income There were significant differences in parent involvem ent based on income levels. That is, low income parents reported lowe r levels of parent involvement than middle income parents. This finding is consistent with results from Ritblatt, Beatty, Cronan, and Ochoa (2002) who found that parents with lower income levels were less involved in the extracu rricular activities of their children. Similarly, Grolnick, Benjet, Ku rowski & Apostoleris ( 1997) found that lower income mothers reported less school involvement than higher income mothers. Further, the empirical literature suggests th at lower income parents may be less involved in their childs
81 schooling due to a lack of financial resources an d daycare obligations (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). Therefore, their time may be limited by working multiple jobs or because they may feel unfamiliar with their childs school that may tend to replicate the culture, values, and mores of higher and middle income classes (Griffith, 1998). Additionally, financial problems may have a negative impact on parents emotional state, family members and functioning (Meyers, Varkey, & Aguirre, 2002), thus impairing their ability to monitor their childs schooling or participate in school sanctioned activities (Taylor, 1997). Since low-income parents may perceive they are criticized for thei r parenting skills and parent involvement (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001), considered as problems (Nakagawa, 2000), and deemed incompetent by school administrators, th ey may choose to limit their participation to avoid such criticism. Although they may choose to limit their participation, low income parents believe they have a role in facilitating th eir childrens academic success (Drummond & Stipek, 2004), possess high expectations for their children to be successful acad emically (Reynolds & Gill, 1994), volunteer in their chil ds classroom, and try to keep in contact with their childs teacher as often as they could (Reynolds & Gi ll, 1994; Seefeldt, Denton, Galper, & Younoszai, 1998). Race and Income Interaction The literature is in consistent with regard to race as a predictor of parent involvement. The findings of the present study underscore the importan ce of examining income and race jointly as predictors of parent involvement in education. Th is study found significant differences in parent involvement scores based on an interaction betw een race and income. African American parents with lower income reported lower levels of parent involvement th an lower income White parents and middle income African American and White parents. These findings support work from Diamond and Gomez (2004) and Rao (2000) who found that race and social class intertwine to
82 influence parents perceptions of schools and pa rent involvement. More specifically, previous research indicates that lower income African American parents may find it challenging to navigate school systems due to a lack of financ ial, social, and cultural capital (Lareau & Horvat, 1999). As a result of these challenges, lower income African American parents may develop contentious relationships with school administ rators that may leave these parents feeling unmotivated to be involved in their childs school and schooling. Although middle-class black families benefit from their class position by having access to more cultural and social capital to navigate their childs school systems (Lareau & Horvat, 1999), findings from this present study demonstrated that middle income parents, African American parents reported lower parent involvement than middle income white parents. It may be surprising that African American middl e income parents reported less involvement. According to Lareau and Horvat (1999), White pa rents initially may constr uct their relationships with school officials with more comfort and trust while Africa n American parents may begin their relationships with school administrators or their childs teacher w ith more hesitancy and suspicion. These feelings may inadvertently redu ce the African American parents willingness to be involved at the school level. Despite a sense of hesitancy or suspicion to develop parentschool partnerships and less i nvolvement than their White middle class counterparts, black middle class parents are impressed with effort s and commitments by their childs teacher to increase their involvement (Diamond & Gomez, 2004). Parent Involvement and Satisfaction Link Com pared to parent involvement, there are fe wer empirical studies of parent satisfaction. Consequently less is known about what influe nces parent satisfaction with their childs schooling. More importantly, the few studies that examined a link between parent involvement and parent satisfaction in their childs educa tional experiences (Griffith, 2000; Grizzle, 1993;
83 Reynolds & Gill, 1994) have yielded inconsistent results. Findings from the present study were similar to those reported by Grizzl e (1993) in that parents were more involved in their childs education given an increase in their satisfacti on with their childs sc hooling and opportunities to be involved in their childs educ ation. In addition to the relationship betw een satisfaction with their childs education and increase s in parent involvement, satisfied parents are more likely to have positive interactions with their school officials (Reynolds & Gill, 1994), thus increasing the likelihood parents would be involve d in their childs education. School Climate This study also investigated relationships am ong parent involvement, parent satisfaction, and school receptivity. To date, parent perceptio ns of school climate and parent involvement have been investigated widely with incons istent findings (Griffith, 2000; Seefeldt, Denton, Galper, & Younoszai, 1998). However, no empirical studies examined whether African American parents perceptions of school climate are positively and directly linked to their level of involvement. Results of the present study indicate that African American parents who are more involved in their childs education report high er, positive perceptions of school climate. The results of the present studys findi ng also are in contrast to Seefel dt et al. (1998) results of an inverse relationship between school climate and parent involvement. That is, parents who had more negative perceptions of th eir childs school climate reported greater levels of school-based parent involvement. One possible explanation for the possible diffe rence in the present study and Seefeldt et al. findings could be based on how both studies operationally defined and measured school climate in their studies. School climate is a multidimensional construct that encompasses a variety of definitions (i.e., interpersonal contact, organizational structure) (Loukas, Suzuki, &
84 Horton, 2006). In the present study, school climate was investigated from an interpersonal context. That is, parents primarily responded to fi ve questionnaire items th at involved assessing value to their relationship with th eir childs classroom teacher (i.e., My childs teacher is willing and cooperative to discuss my childs academic progress and behavior) or school staff (i.e., If I have questions or comments, the office staff are helpful and courteous). In contrast, Seefeldts study investigated school climate from a broader organizational, environmental context. Parents primarily responded to 46 questionnaire items that assessed a variety of components (i.e., teacher-student relationships, security a nd maintenance, administration, student-peer relationships, student academic orientation, student behavioral values parent community relationships, instructional management, and stud ent activities). Since Seefeldts study broadly examined the different dimensions of school climate, they may have captured a more clear understanding of how parents pe rceptions of school climate infl uence their school-based parent involvement. Another possible explanation fo r the possible difference in th e present study and Seefeldt et al. findings could be based on the population sampled in both st udies. In the Seefeldt et al. study, 253 parents of children enrolled in Head St art completed surveys. As a result, the parents of Head Start children may have been ine xperienced in navigati ng bureaucratic school environments that have a list of policies and pr ocedures that must be followed before becoming involved. Additionally, the parents of Head St art may be inexperienced communicating with their childs school teacher. This lack of e xperience could have produced negative judgments about their childs school experi ence. Parent involvement may ha ve increased to offset these negative feelings and to possibl y gain more experience navi gating their childs school.
85 Parents of elementary school children in gr ades K-5 in the present study may have more experience dealing with school envi ronments and are less likely to have concerns regarding the policies and procedures of their child school. As a result, these parents may have more positive perceptions of their childs school climate and schooling experiences, thus increasing the likelihood of parent participati on in school activities or volunteerism at their childs school. Findings of the present study demonstrate that African American pare nts satisfaction is positively related with their per ceptions of school climate. These findings are similar to those reported by Griffith (2000) who fo und that parents who view th eir childs school climate as positive reported higher percepti ons of parent satisfaction. These findings suggest school officials may be able to build effective parent-school partnerships by making adjustments when needed to their school climate. One adjustment includes creating an inviting and warm atmosphe re for parents when they enter the school. Instead of establishing ru les that limit when parents are al lowed to visit their childs school, create an open-door policy that allows parents opportuni ties to visit at time s that are convenient for them. Additionally, provide a parent friendl y handbook that outlines guidelines for visiting a childs classroom. Cultural Sensitivity Cultura l sensitivity implies an awareness and appreciation of the mores, values, and influences that shape the priorities of fa milies and individuals (Dennis & Giangreco, 1996). Thus, an assessment of whether pa rents perceptions of cultural se nsitivity on the part of school administrators and teachers were related to parent involvement was important. Findings from the Ritblatt et al. (2002) study demonstrated a signi ficant relationship between parents perceptions of sensitivity by school officials and the amount of time parents were involved in school activities. The present st udy replicated Ritblatt et al. findings. The results are similar to Ritblatts
86 in that a strong and positive relationship was found for African American parent involvement and their perceptions of their childs teacher exhibiting cultural sensitivity. That is, African American parents who perceive their childs te acher demonstrates highe r levels of cultural sensitivity are more likely to report hi gher levels of parent involvement. Further, the results of the present study demonstrated th at African American parents reported parent satisfaction was pos itively related to their perceptions of cultural sensitivity. This finding is consistent with findings from Ziont s, Zionts, Harrison, and Bellinger (2003) who found that African American parents were sensitive to the behaviors and sentiments expressed by school personnel, and that their reported satisfaction was tied to their perception of how well they believe their childs school respected their cultu ral beliefs and values African American parent involvement and satisfaction may be incr eased by helping educators or service providers learn about and value the ethnic and religious background present in African American families. Taking the time to learn about a familys culture, religious beliefs, social behavior, view on time, and preferred language (Dennis & Giangreco, 1996) could help to build a trusting relationship and improve communication between both partie s (Flett & Conderman, 2001; Kalyanpur & Harry, 1999). Additionally, knowledge of these different values and beliefs may help educators reflect upon individual biases th at may inhibit them from developing collaborativ e relationships with parents (Dennis & Gia ngreco, 1996), thus increasing th e likelihood African American parents may want to become involved and also demonstrate increased sa tisfaction with their childs schooling. Quality of Communication The present investigatio n found African Am erican parents perceptions of the quality of communication expressed by their childs school pe rsonnel was strongly and positively related to both their reported parent involvement and sa tisfaction. This finding suggests that African
87 American parents who are satisfied with the amount of communication regarding their childs progress and school program are more likely to be involved. Surprisingly, findings from this study are inconsistent with Gri ffith (1998) who found an invers e relationship between parent involvement and minimal communication about thei r childs education. That is, parents who felt the school were not providing sufficient information resulted in parents feeling unaware and uncertain of the quality of their childs schooling. As a result of their lack of awareness, these parents became more involved to increase th e amount of communicati on between home and school. Lack of consistency in data from Gri ffiths and the present study could be due to differences in the number of parents who partic ipated in both studies For the present study, 339 parents completed surveys compared to Griffiths study where over 33,000 parents completed surveys. As a result of Griffiths large sa mple size, there was a higher likelihood that the outcome in this case, increased parent involve ment despite minimal communication about their childs education, would occur. Differences in th e scales used to measur e involved parents also may account for the lack of consistency in findings. Griffiths scale demonstrated low reliability with a Cronbachs alpha of .59. Reliability is fundamental in psychological measurement (DeVellis, 2003) and necessary for establishing va lidity. Therefore, the low reliability raises concern as to whether the scale provided a relia ble and valid measure of parent involvement. Thus, Griffiths findings should be examined w ith caution. However, the findings of the present study concur with Epsteins typology which posit s that as communicatio n with parents about their childs progress and school programs one of the basic oblig ations of a school (Epstein & Dauber, 1991). Schools that uphold this belief are more likely to find African American parents willing to be involved in their childs education.
88 Predictors of Parent Involvement and Satisfaction Each of the variab les that reflect school receptivity (i .e., school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication) was significantly and positively related to parent involvement and satisfaction. Alt hough correlation analyses may not reflect cause and effect relationships, an objective of this study was to determine whether school receptivity separately and jointly predicts African American parent involvement and satisfaction in their childs education. School climate, cultural sensitivit y, and quality of communication separately predicted African American parent involvement and satisfaction in thei r childs education. Quality of communication was the strongest individual predictor of African parent involvement and parent satisfaction. Additionally, th is finding is consistent with the idea that effective parent-school partnerships with invol ved parents depend on whether parents feel that their childs school informs them with current information about their childs progress and school programs or whether the school work se emingly to limit parent-school interactions (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). Schools that use a provider-receiver model of communication exchanges, where the school has all the knowledge and feeds the knowledge to parents who are passive recipients, are more apt to have interactions with parent s that restrict communication to topics school officials want to discuss, thus resulting in formal, abrupt, and incomplete exchanges (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). Pr ovider-receiver models of parent-school interactions also may produce more misco mmunication (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). Parents may be more apt to view these exchanges as unproductive and negative, thus consequently reducing the likelihoo d that parents want to visit or volunteer at their childs school. Educators who are inflexible with scheduli ng parent meetings and typically send home late notices of meetings are less likely to have parents involved (Harry, Allen, & McLaughlin,
89 1995). School officials and educator s could be more flexible in scheduling phone conferences or in-person meetings during less tr aditional times (e.g., before or directly after school ends) to encourage parent involvement. Furt her, if parents still are unable to attend meetings, educators could send materials that give parents instructi ons to improve their childs academic achievement home with the child (Drummond & Stipek, 2004). Along these lines, educators who are judgmental and communicate feelings of disrespect towards parents also are more likely to have less parent involvement (Rao, 2000). Conversely, schools that recognize these communication and other barriers (e.g., communicat ing during crises) (Christenson, 2004) or rarely send home positive reports about childrens behavior tend to exhibit lower levels of African American parent involvement because they actively work to combat these blockages by viewing the family as essential to the educational success of the children. School Receptivity The extent to which all three schoo l recep tivity variables jointly predicted African American parent involvement in their child rens education was determined. Demographic variables (e.g., income and ethnic background) that are difficult to change were excluded from the analyses (Feuerstein, 2001). The three variables (i.e., school cl imate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication) individually predicted African American parent involvement in their childs education. Notably, quality of communication accounted fo r most of the variance in predicting parent involvement. These results seemingly suggest school officials who wa nt to increase parent involvement levels in elementary school grades may need to place more emphasis on variables that can be readily altered such as communicatio n. More specifically, school administrators who desire to increase parent invol vement may want to evaluate how often and what types of
90 information they and their teachers are communica ting to parents about their childs progress and school programs. Increases in communication improve parent involvement and increases student academic achievement and behavioral success (Trotman, 20 01). Because of these positive relationships, Trotman recommends that educator s quickly establish rapport with parents, resist the temptation to contact parents only when problems arise w ith a student, and to communicate with parents about student successes in school. Also, eliminate family-school interactions that use the providerreceive model as a way to increase Af rican American parent involvement. According to Trotman, a team-oriented approach is more useful when parents are respected for their knowledge and expertise and are i nvited to participate meaningfully in meetings or on child study teams. Whether the combined school receptivity vari ables jointly predicted African American parent satisfaction in their childrens edu cation also was determined. The quality of communication, which accounted for most of the variance, and school climate predicted parent satisfaction. Surprisingly, cultural sensitivity did not add to the prediction of parent satisfaction even though bivariate regression an alyses demonstrated that it predicted parent satisfaction. The lack of predictor power for cultural sensitivity is notable since the result s of Zionts et al. (2003) noted that African American pare nt reported satisfacti on was tied to their perception of how well their childs school respected thei r cultural beliefs and values. One explanation for the inconsistency in data from Zionts et al. (2003) and this studys findings is that the former was qualitative and in cluded parents of children in special education. Greater cultural sensitivity and understanding of cultural differences on the part of teachers may resonate more for these parents w ho have children with varying di sabilities and thus may be less
91 satisfied with different aspects of their childs schooling. Another explanation for the lack of effect in the area of cultural sensitivity and pa rent satisfaction is the relatively high rate of omitting answers to these items on the survey. One possible hypothesis for the lack of response to the cultural sensitivity questions is that parents responding to this subscale may have felt that those questions did not directly apply toward them and felt no need to respond. Additionally, many of the parents may have been of the same racial and/or ethnic ba ckground as their childs teacher, and may not have any concerns with regard to their childs teacher cultural responsiveness. The questions used to measure cultural sensitivity also required parents to have an increased awareness of their teachers tr aining and knowledge of their childs teacher familiarity with the surrounding neighborhoods and communities. For many parents, this requirement may have been unrealistic because parents are not provided information about the type of training in cultural sensitivity a teacher has received. Additionally, some teachers do not reside in the communities of their students and th ere is less chance for parents to interact with their childs teacher in the community. As a re sult, parents may have had little knowledge of their childs teacher training and knowledge of their childs teacher familiarity with the surrounding neighborhoods and communities and thus skipped those questionnaire items. Parent satisfaction with their childs education is not a high ly researched topic and may not be a major consideration for school dist ricts and policy makers (Reynolds & Gill, 1994). However, findings from the present study suggest th at school officials and educators can increase parent satisfaction by altering seemingly cha ngeable school receptivity variables. More specifically, enhancing the quality and freque ncy of communication and fostering a positive school climate where parents feel welcome to vis it their childs classroom may increase parent
92 satisfaction, thus increasing the li kelihood that parents will want to be involved in their childs education. Limitations Several lim itations to the study include the us e of parent-report surveys, the technical adequacy of the instrument, data collection techni ques, and the generalizabili ty of the results. In the past, research often has omitted parent repor ts and only collected information from teacher and student reports to gain greate r insight into factors that may encourage or discourage parent involvement (Reynolds & Gill, 1994). Although we believe parent report scales to be more reliable assessment measures than student reports, it is reasonable to believe that parents may not always accurately report their fee lings, perceptions and behaviors. This study relied primarily on one parent report to assess parent outcomes (self-reported parent involvement and satisfactio n) and predictor variables (school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication). An independent instrument of pare nt involvement activities or a log of parent involvement hours may have been a useful supplement (Griffith, 2000). Additionally, an independent instrument should have been utilized to investigate parent satisfaction and its predictor variables. The integr ation of parent, student, and teacher reports into the study, although adding to the studys complex ity, would have provided richer data from which to draw conclusions on school variable s that influence Afri can American parent involvement and satisfaction in their childrens schooling in elementary school grades. The School Receptivity Questionnaire (SRQ) wa s developed for this study. Although the sample size was reasonable and robust procedures were in place to assess its technical adequacy, nonetheless this was a newly created instrument th at does not have establ ished criterion validity. Criterion validity is the extent to which new instruments provide accurate measurements by comparing scores from the new instrument with scores on a relevant criterion variable (Huck,
93 2000, p.102). Since the SRQ was the only instrument used for this project, th e use of an existing psychometrically validated instrument in conjun ction with the SRQ may have further addressed reliability and criterion validity issues. Whether the independent variables are dis tinct, measurable constructs capable of predicting parent involvement a nd satisfaction is another concer n. This concern is based on the fact that the independent variables were highly intercorrelated, and multicollinearity appeared to have been violated. Multicollinea rity, if violated, produces large standard errors (Stevens, 2002), thus increasing the likelihood that the null hypothesis is not reject ed and increasing the difficulty of ascertaining which school receptivity variable actually predict pa rent involvement and satisfaction. Consequently, the results of school receptivity pr edictive variables should be interpreted with caution until future research could replicate this study with a larger sample size. Data were collected from one small county located in Northern Florida. While these findings may be generalizable to other small area s located in the South east region of the United States, the researcher is unsure whether these find ings can be generalizable to African American parents located in rural areas or urban cities in other geographic re gions of the country. More than 1400 research packets were placed in students folders for parents to complete and return to their childs teacher. Although the c over letter stated to pare nts that teachers or school administrators will not have an opportunity to read the parents responses, it plausible to assume that some parents may not have recorded their thoughts and beliefs accurately because of concern they might offend their childs teacher or school. The more involved parents are likely to be the primary respondents. Since the premise of the study was to examine school variables that influence all levels of parent involvement and satisfaction, parents who limit their school involvement, because they feel alienated or ar e at odds with school administrators, may have
94 decided not to complete the survey. This is unf ortunate because data from these parents could provide useful insight into school characteristics that are easily alterabl e to influence parent involvement and satisfacti on with this population. Another limitation is that data were colle cted near the end of the academic year. Throughout the school year, parent s frequently are called upon to complete surveys or sign papers sent home with their ch ildren. Given that it was the end of the academic year parents may have reached their limits in participating in rese arch studies and may have decided to opt out of this study, thus affecting the number of respondents and quality of parents responses. Future Research After several decades of research th at focused on hard-to-change individual and contextual level variables, re search has begun to examine school level characteristics that encourage or discourage African American parent involvement and satisfaction (Feuerstein, 2001). This study provided insight into which school level variables African American parents perceive influence the extent to which they are involved in th eir childs elementary schooling. Future research should address some of the c oncerns outlined in the current study to promote more generalizability of this studys findings and to contribute to this line of research. Middle income African American parents and their involvement in their childs schooling are often overlooked in research studies. One possible reason is that middle income, black parents are perceived to be more familiar and less mystified with the schoo l system (Ritblatt et al. 2002) and they are thought to have the social, cultural, and financial resources that enable them to navigate their child s school system (Diamond & Go mez, 2004; Lareau & Horvat, 1999). Middle income, black parents tend to re gard their childs school more favorably (Diamond & Gomez, 2004) and since they are not typically associated with negative outcomes (i.e., minimal parent participation, poverty, a nd overrepresentation in special education),
95 researchers have not reviewed them as a crit ical population to study compared to their low income, black counterparts. Although middle in come, black parents view their childs school more favorably, and tend to leverage their social, cultural, and financial resources to ensure their child receives a quality educat ion, black students lag behind thei r White and Asian counterparts in the achievement gap (National Center for Ed ucation Statistics, 2005) and black middle income parents report less involvement in education compared to white pa rents. Since there is a positive relationship between parent involvement and acad emic success (McWyane et al. 2004; Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001), future research should focus on examining why middle income, African American parents report less involvement than middle income, white parents and finding ways to increase their involvement. Secondly, future research should actively recruit more responde nts to participate including those from rural, suburban, and inne r-cities located in the Southeast and other geographic regions of the country. Th e availability of data from more parents to participate in the study also can provide more data needed to reduce the concern of multicollinear ity and large standard errors will occur. Additionally, parents from different racial ethnic groups should also be included (e.g., Hispanic American parents) (P ena, 2001) and other cultura lly and linguistically diverse parents (Wong & Hughes, 2006). Furthermor e, given that this studys results were inconsistent with other studies in terms of predicting parent involvement, a meta-analysis of these studies could be conducte d to conclusively determine ethnicitys predictive power. As mentioned earlier, this study lacked severa l sources of information on the influence of school receptivity on parent involvement and sa tisfaction. Since school receptivity is a new concept thus has not been studied extensively, future studies shoul d use both student and teacher reports in tandem with this instrument to explor e its dimensions and the extent to which views by
96 parents, teachers, and students are congruent and whether they predict parent involvement and satisfaction. Efforts are needed to ensure parent s who would be least likely to complete the questionnaire are included. Additionally, there is a need for research that examines whether change occurred in parent involvement and satisfaction after schools attempted to alter school vari ables. Qualitative methods may provide useful information on how schools proceeded to alte r their school climate (e.g., to present a warm, welcoming environment to parents to be involved), increase cultural sensitivity of school educators and administrators, and enhance their quality of communication (e.g., improving parent-teacher exchanges by ridding the provider-receiver model of communication, and providing parents with updates on school events and their childs progress).
97 APPENDIX A STUDY COVER LETTER Dear Parent/Guardian, My nam e is Tiffany D. Sanders and I am a doctoral candidate in the Depa rtment of Educational Psychology at the University of Florida workin g under the supervision of Dr. Nancy Waldron. As part of my dissertation research, I would lik e to invite your participation in my study that examines the extent to which parents believe schools are happy with thei r involvement in their childs education. Parent involvement is described as a broad rang e of activities exhibited by parents and family members both in the home and school to encourage and support their childs academic development. Schools have an important role in encouraging parent involvement and providing opportunities for parents to be involved in their childs education. My re search study examines parents beliefs about their childs school environment, the ex tent to which parents are satisfied with ways their childs teacher tries to establish contact, and the extent to which parents believe their childs teachers are accepting of cultural differences between teachers and students. Participation in the study would involve completi ng a survey which will take approximately ten minutes of your time. You are not required to re spond to any questions th at you do not want to answer. You will not be asked to write your name on the survey. Teachers and administrators will not have access to this information. Your privacy will be given the highest priority and the data will be kept confidential to the maximu m extent provided by law. The data from these surveys will be compiled into a group report describing school climate, cultural sensitivity, and quality of communication aff ect on parent involvement. Your participation for this research project is entirely voluntary and y ou may withdraw at any time without penalty of any kind. There are no anticip ated risks or benefits for participating in the study. Parents will not receive any compensation. If you have any questions about this resear ch study, you can contact either me at 392-0723, extension 229 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Th e faculty supervisor, Dr. Nancy Waldron, can be reached at (352) 392-0723, extension 232. Ques tions or concerns about your rights as a research participant may be di rected to the UFIRB office, Un iversity of Florida, Box 112250, Gainesville, FL 32611, (352) 392-0433. Sincerely, Tiffany D. Sanders, M.Ed. Department of Educational Psychology Nancy Waldron, Ph.D. Department of Educational Psychology
98 APPENDIX B QUESTIONNAIRE
101 APPENDIX C TEACHER REMINDER LETTER May 22, 2007 Dear Teachers, I have created a letter to remind parents to retu rn the parent involvement surveys that you placed in students folders two weeks ago. Please send the reminder letter home today with the children. My hope is that the letter will prompt parents to complete and return remaining surveys. When students return the letters, please forward them to the front office or put them in the school psychology office. Thank you for your help and support. Sincerely, Tiffany D. Sanders, M.Ed. Department of Educational Psychology
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110 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Tiffany D. Sanders was born and raised in May wood, Illinois. After graduating from Proviso West High School, she enrolled in Northe rn Illinois University (NIU). While completing her studies at NIU, Ms. Sanderss interest in psychology, multicultural families, and children developed. Ms. Sanders graduated from NIU in th e spring of 2002 with a B achelor of Arts with honors in psychology and a minor in family and child studies. In the summer of 2002, she began her graduate career in the School Psychology Program at the University of Florida in the Departme nt of Educational Psyc hology. Her specialization areas are diversity and multicultu ralism and promoting parent i nvolvement in education with minority and at-risk families. In May of 2008, she was conferred her doctorate in school psychology. She will continue to work in alte rnative schools and community mental health settings to promote academic and behavioral suc cess with youth who are high-risk and to build healthy families. She intends to sit for the Ex amination for Professional Practice in Psychology to become a licensed psychologist.