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Evaluating Parent Empowerment: A Look at the Potential of Social Justice Evaluation in Education


by Camille Wilson Cooper & Christina A. Christie — 2005

In an effort to improve our nation's underperforming schools, education reformers are designing programs to educate and empower urban school parents. Parent involvement can be critical to a child's academic success, yet the education community still knows very little about the impact of specific parent programs. We evaluated a parent program that was part of a major school-university partnership. A responsive evaluation approach initially guided the design of our qualitative case study evaluation. Our social justiceoriented values, however, prompted us to revise our approach and adhere more closely to a social justice evaluation model. This change caused us to highlight the perspectives of low-income Latina mothers and emphasize the gap between parents' and educators' notions of empowerment. In this article, we describe our evaluation and highlight key findings that offer insightful implications for education practitioners, researchers, and evaluators. The findings pertain to the challenge of educators sharing power with urban parents and developing partnerships that are sensitive to the social and cultural factors that affect parents' values, goals, and modes of participation. We also emphasize the relationship between evaluation theory and practice and point to the potential impact of social justice evaluation in education.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 10, 2005, p. 2248-2274
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12192, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 1:32:16 PM

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About the Author
  • Camille Cooper
    University of North Carolina, Greensboro
    E-mail Author
    CAMILLE WILSON COOPER is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her research focuses on school-family partnerships, race and equity issues in school reform, educational policy, and qualitative methodology. Dr. Cooper has written articles and book chapters on the school choices of African American mothers, charter school reform, and teacher bias towards African American students. She is currently investigating how educators and parents are striving to build equitable and culturally responsive school-family partnerships in Southern schools that are experiencing demographic change due to increased immigration rates. She has authored papers that have recently been published in the Journal of Negro Education and Teacher Education Quarterly.
  • Christina Christie
    Claremont Graduate University
    CHRISTINA A. CHRISTIE is an assistant professor, director of the Masters of Arts Program in Psychology and Evaluation, and associate director of the Institute of Organizational and Program Evaluation Research in the School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences at Claremont Graduate University. Her research focuses on investigating the relationship between evaluation theory and practice, and issues related to the development of descriptive theories of evaluation. Dr. Christie co-founded the Southern California Evaluation Association, a local affiliate of the American Evalua- tion Association. She is also the 2004 recipient of the American Evaluation Association’s Marcia Guttentag Early Career Achievement Award. Dr. Christie also guest-edited two issues of the journal New Directions for Evaluation (v. 97 and v. 106 with Dr. Marvin Alkin), and authored several other papers on evaluation theory, practice, utilization, and teaching of evaluation that have been published in the American Journal of Evaluation, Studies in Educational Evaluation, and the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation.
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