Bringing High Stakes From the Classroom to the Parent Center: Lessons From an Intervention Program for Immigrant Families
by Susan Auerbach & Shartriya Collier ó 2012
Background/Context: As accountability pressures have mounted toward ever-higher targets under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, low-achieving schools have sought new tools for raising achievement. The association between parent involvement and student achievement is well established, though the association is an indirect relationship mediated by other variables. Schools have sponsored a variety of parent education programs attempting to influence achievement; evidence on their results is mixed. Among the most popular efforts at the elementary school level are family literacy programs, which generally take an intervention-preventive approach that aims to supplant home literacy practices with school-based norms and practices. The Families Promoting Success (FPS) program was an intervention that trained parents in reading skills to improve student test scores in schools that had not met targets under NCLB. This series of workshops was unusual for specifically targeting families of low-scoring students and for focusing on tested word analysis skills. One of the few empirical examinations of the intersection of parent involvement and NCLB, this study shows how parent programs mirror broader forces in urban schooling and how the high-stakes climate affects home-school relations.
Purpose/Focus: The purpose of this study was to investigate what happens when low-performing urban schools bring high-stakes accountability pressures to parent programs, to shed light on possible new directions in family engagement. How do educators and immigrant parents make meaning of a parent education program geared to accountability goals? The study examined processes, interactions, and meanings related to FPSís design, implementation, and perceived outcomes for families and educators and considered alternative approaches to parent engagement suggested by the findings.
Research Design: This multiple case study used mainly qualitative methods to examine the FPS program at four low-performing Los Angeles elementary schools with predominantly low-income, Latino, English learner populations and immigrant parents. Data sources included staff interviews, bilingual parent focus groups, and extensive observations of program workshops and planning meetings, supplemented by a parent questionnaire and document review. This study was part of a larger investigation that examined the programís influence on student achievement.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Findings suggest that staff designed a narrow, test-driven parent curriculum to address accountability pressures without considering parentsí needs or concerns. The program represented an intensification in parent education that parallels the intensification in student instruction under accountability-driven reform. Though the program was well-intended and made parents more aware of testing and reading skills, related research showed that the program did not influence student achievement. Instead, parents and staff described various benefits on intangible aspects of family and school-family relationships. These unintended consequences suggest the pitfalls of imposing high-stakes pressures, school agendas, and interventionist approaches on parents, as well as the promise of finding common ground and the need for relationship building with marginalized families.
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