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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