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The effectiveness of targeted approaches to parent engagement

Danielle J Sheridan, Johnson & Wales University


Educational reform and improvement are perennial and pressing issues. Parents, teachers, and politicians recognize the important role parents play in supporting their children in school. While parent involvement is a priority for many schools, few attain parent engagement in critical aspects of school policies and practices. Research literature indicates that traditional methods of involvement (e.g., parents' nights and school volunteers) may not adequately engage parents. There are few models of effective strategies for meaningfully engaging parents in school. The purpose of this case study was to investigate parent engagement in decision-making, a strategy of involving parents that has the potential to increase the quality of involvement and its effects on student performance. This study examined the effects of targeted parent engagement activities on the quantity and quality of parent involvement. Existing parent involvement practices, parent preferences regarding methods of engagement, and the impact of targeted engagement activities were also investigated. All engagement activities focused on the development of a new report card in a primary school. Three phases of data collection were employed: surveys, focus groups, and telephone interviews. A survey packet was distributed to a sample of 320 parents to examine report card preferences and opinions. Focus groups were conducted to further explore parent report card preferences and telephone interviews were used to examine parents' preferences regarding methods of engagement. The key findings of this study indicate that: (1) parent involvement occurs through traditional methods, (2) surveys provide baseline data regarding the beliefs of the majority of the parent community and identify areas for further investigation, (3) focus groups promote interactive discussion, provide an in-depth investigation of specific aspects of parents' responses, and identify patterns and themes regarding parents' beliefs, (4) telephone interviews encourage open, candid discussion and provide untarnished personalized feedback, (5) parents value participation in targeted engagement activities and prefer the focus group method, and (6) targeted engagement activities increase parent involvement in decision-making and validate parents as partners in education. Recommendations are made for implementing targeted engagement activities and conducting future research.

Subject Area

Elementary education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Sheridan, Danielle J, "The effectiveness of targeted approaches to parent engagement" (2004). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3148908.