Involvement, Engagement, and Community: Dimensions and Correlates of Parental Participation in a Majority-Minority Urban School District
This study examines dimensions of parental participation in their children's schools and determinants of that participation. The rich literature on this issue explores questions of how parents participate and what predicts parental participation. We draw upon a unique survey of 400 parents of children attending public elementary schools in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The district is a majority Hispanic school district with strong ties to immigrant communities, primarily from the Dominican Republic. The study uses exploratory factor analysis to examine the widely held view that parental involvement can be understood as occurring along a single continuum. Our factor analysis of survey responses suggests that standard forms of participation can be aligned along two distinct dimensions, reactive involvement on the one hand and proactive engagement on the other. Analysis of novel survey questions reveals the existence of a third dimension that we term parental community. The survey and administrative data suggest that income and very recent immigration, but not educational attainment, can be important factors in involvement, while family circumstances are the main correlate of engagement. Our measures of language usage and immigration status suggest that households with the closest proximity to a Spanish-language/immigrant culture feel the strongest sense of parental community. Perhaps surprisingly, educational attainment is inversely related to the sense of community. The findings may be valuable for targeting outreach efforts and programming designed to involve parents more fully in their children's schooling.