Purposeful School-To-Home Communication: Impact Of Instructional Newsletters On The Self-Efficacy Of Low-Socioeconomic Status Parents To Support Mathematics Learning At Home
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Background: Parent education is an underutilized strategy which can help mitigate persistent opportunity barriers to mathematics achievement for students of color from low-income households. Parent engagement in the form of parent education and communication—an approach endorsed by The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 which mandates that Title I schools provide materials and trainings to help parents work with children to improve student achievement−can help educators meet state education accountability standards and achieve the learning goals established by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Purpose: This study evaluated the impact of a parent engagement newsletter as an educative resource to increase parent-self efficacy and boost informal mathematics learning practices in households identified as minority and low-income. The study addressed the following questions: 1. How does the parent education mathematics newsletter as a form of school-to-home communication impact engagement in informal mathematics learning for parents of low-SES, minority elementary school students? 2. What impact does the use of an educative mathematics newsletter have on the perceived self-efficacy of parents of low-SES, minority students to facilitate informal mathematics learning with their elementary school children? Method: This study employed a sequential mixed-methods approach to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data regarding primary caregivers’ self-efficacy to support mathematics learning at home, attitudes about learning, and any impact on the adoption of academic parenting practices as a result of engaging with monthly parent education newsletters. Participants were selected via a convenience sample of adult caregivers who responded to a pre-survey and whose children attend the Title I elementary school. The quantitative pre-survey collected respondents’ self-reported behaviors, habits and attitudes regarding learning and mathematics. A nested sample of participants determined from pre-survey responses informed the selection of focus group interview participants. Participants completed two quantitative surveys following the administration of six researcher-created parent education newsletters. The newsletters provided research, age-appropriate activities, math-themed books, household items, and resources related to child development, parenting, cognition, mindset, and mathematics to support informal at-home mathematical learning experiences. Focus group interviews were conducted in English and Spanish to learn about the potential impact of the parent education mathematics newsletter. The study used inferential and descriptive statistics to determine statistical significance between study themes of self-efficacy, behaviors, attitudes and perceptions. A frequency analysis of the newsletter survey found high respondent satisfaction with the content and relevance of the information presented in the parent education newsletter. The following themes emerged from the focus group discussion which was recorded, transcribed, coded manually and using NVivo: Mathematics Perceptions and Attitudes, Intelligence Perceptions and Attitudes, Mathematical Learning Behaviors, Learning Attitudes, Parent Education, Home-School Alignment, Technology Ambivalence, and Newsletter Feedback. Results: Study results show that the parent education newsletter boosted parent self-efficacy to support mathematics learning at home. This study will add to the literature on parental engagement in mathematics learning, parental self-efficacy and mathematics achievement, virtual learning, parent education and communication, and mathematics achievement in low-SES, minority households. Conclusion: Study outcomes are consistent with the literature review and demonstrate that parent engagement in the form of parent education can support equitable school-to-home alignment by providing practical tools and information to increase family engagement in mathematics learning. Ambivalence towards technology and online learning is a particularly relevant study outcome as parents support virtual learning at home during the Coronavirus pandemic. Study limitations include the small sample size and respondents’ introspective ability of self-reported measures.