A COMPARISON STUDY OF HOME AND SCHOOL PERSPECTIVES ON PARENT ENGAGEMENT IN CHILD CARE
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Overwhelming evidence has documented the large achievement gaps that persist between children from families that are poor, less educated, immigrants, and members of minority racial groups on one hand, and children from families that are middle or high income, educated, and members of the majority racial and linguistic groups on the other. However, an increasingly sophisticated body of research has documented that parent engagement in their child’s education can have a significant impact on student learning. Despite agreement on the importance of parent engagement, home-school partnerships continue to be weakened by varying definitions and perceptions of what constitutes effective parental engagement. Current literature suggests that parent and school perspectives and definitions on parental engagement need to be in concert to strengthen this collaboration. Research that compares the perspectives of teachers and families on parent engagement, based on family engagement frameworks, has shown to be effective in enhancing children’s learning and socio-emotional development. This study examined parent and teacher perceptions regarding the role and engagement of parents in four child care centers. The study also examined parent engagement perceptions differentiated by two demographic variables, ethnicity and gender of the parents’ child. The alignment of these perceptions was examined with a research-based parent involvement framework (Hoover Dempsey and Sandler, 1995, 2005). A mixed method sequential exploratory design employing surveys and focus group interviews was used. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) determined statistically significant differences between teacher and parent perspectives for four of the six motivational variables. Findings also revealed statistical significant differences in parent perspectives by ethnicity for two out of the six motivational variables. No statistical significant differences in parent perspectives by the gender of the parent’s child were found. The qualitative analysis resulted in several overall emergent themes including family responsibilities and conflicting work schedules. Both parents and teachers perceived communication as the key to successful partnerships. The results from this research study provide useful empirical data that suggests the need for conversation between home and school to share one another’s thoughts and beliefs. Also suggested is the need for schools to focus on implementing programs that help parents overcome challenges posed by contextual variables. Significant differences found in perceptions regarding involvement between Blacks and the two other ethnic (Whites and Hispanics) groups suggest that portions of the framework may be useful in identifying the most important constructs for specific populations. The possibility that parental family structure could potentially explain a portion of the low levels of parent involvement is also a topic worth of further study. This information can be used by schools, teacher education programs, and professional development programs to inform future teachers and current teachers that different perspectives do exist, and that there is value in creating forums for sharing those perspectives. Improving relationships and methods of involving parents will enhance student outcomes.