Parent involvement in a charter school: the persistence of traditional beliefs about parent participation
McClure, Kelly Angela
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Previous research conducted in regular public and private schools has shown that parent involvement in a child's schooling is positively related to student outcomes (Henderson and Mapp, 2002). Though the creation of charter schools has purportedly expanded the possibilities for families to participate in their children's schooling, little is known about actual practices of parent involvement in charter schools. This case study explores the nature of parent involvement in a sixth- through twelfth- grade, urban charter school in order to verify and extend findings from research conducted in other school settings. The data come from surveys of and group interviews with faculty members, families, and students; observations of parent involvement events; and individual interviews with the school's founders. Two prevalent themes emerged from this study. The first reveals a sharp contrast between the founders' philosophical orientations with respect to home-school relationships and those of the families, students, and faculty members. The founders believe that the school and home are, and should be, distinct and separate institutions of support for student achievement and adolescent development. The second theme uncovered in this study concerns the faculty's citations of "cultural difference" as a key justification for why involvement at the school has proven challenging. The study shows that these perspectives shape the school's practices of partnership with families and that the philosophical and ideological positions taken by school personnel are best understood against a broader socio-historical context. The problems with parent involvement exhibited in this study are viewed as both a product of the underlying philosophical assumptions about school and family partnerships held by the founders, as well as a continuation of historically grounded patterns of home and school interaction as articulated by the faculty. The case study of this charter school verifies previous research and extends our understandings of home-school partnership into the new context ofthe charter school.
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