Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education

Boosting Parent Engagement in Majority African American High Schools

By Michele Molnar — April 10, 2012 2 min read

What gets in the way of parental involvement at inner city high schools with predominantly African American students?

Terrinieka Williams, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, studied this issue, and is the lead author of “Parental Involvement (and Uninvolvement) at an Inner-City High School,” recently published in Urban Education.

She believes administrators and teachers at such schools could increase parental engagement by looking at two areas.

“First, I think they should not place blame on parents. When people feel they’re being targeted for not pulling their weight or causing a problem, they’re not going to want to [participate],” Williams told K-12 Parents & the Public. “Parents have complex lives, just like teachers and principals have complex lives.”

“Second, if they do want parents to come to schools, they want to be sure to create a space that is welcoming and inviting for parents,” she said. “There are so many different small things in the school environment that suggest, ‘If you’re an outsider, we don’t want you here.’”

For instance, when parents enter through a metal detector and are escorted to the office—sometimes by school personnel who don’t greet them warmly—it can leave a negative impression, according to Williams.

“That’s not to let parents off the hook,” she said, acknowledging that there are uninvolved parents who are fed up or not interested in their children’s education. “I’m just not convinced at all that that’s the majority of the parents.”

To do their research, Williams and co-author Bernadette Sanchez, an associate professor at DePaul University, interviewed 15 parents and 10 staff members at a large Midwestern high school.

“I was actually surprised at how open parents and school personnel were. They were honest about their strengths and some of their shortcomings, parents and teachers both,” Williams said. Some teachers told her, “It’s not all the parents.”

Williams believes both parents and school professionals could benefit from having conversations along these lines: “Let’s figure out how we could work together. This isn’t necessarily working for me, and I think you can help. But I don’t know how. Can we think about how?”

Some parents felt like every time they went to school it was to respond to something negative happening about their child.

In the Urban Education article, Williams and Sánchez identified five major themes about the meanings of parental involvement:


  • Participation at School;
  • Being There Outside of School;
  • Communication (between adults and children, and among adults at school);
  • Achieve and Believe (involving parents’ aspirations for their children, and for more than half, a belief that God’s plan was at work in their students’ outcomes), and
  • Village Keepers (who act as surrogate parents to help out other people’s children).

As for “uninvolvement,” three themes emerged:


  • Unconcerned Parents (with low expectations for their children and indifference toward the overall well-being of their children);
  • Busy Parents, (who wanted to be involved, but whose employment and/or other family obligations prevented participation);
  • Previously Involved Parents (who, despite their efforts, had children in consistently negative situations with the school.)

Williams invites those interested in her research to contact her at tewillia@jhsph.edu.

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools
Head of Lower School
San Diego, California
San Diego Jewish Academy

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read