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Connecting families at the middle school level: A single case study

Andrew D. C Anderson, Johnson & Wales University


Family engagement is believed to be essential to all students’ academic and social success regardless of students’ age, grade, race, and socioeconomic status (Clark, 2002; Epstien, 1987; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Miedel & Reynolds, Swap, 1993). Unfortunately, experience and research shows that family engagement tends to decrease substantially as children progress through the grade levels. In particular, there is approximately a 50% decrease in family engagement from elementary to the middle school level (Manning, 2003). Connecting Families at the Middle School Level is an exploratory case study that investigated one suburban middle school’s family engagement practices. The participant observer (Creswell, 2003) explored family engagement practices and methods implemented school wide, implemented by individual teaching teams, and implemented by each grade level. In addition, the participant observer also investigated if the middle school addressed the needs of the families with respect to home school collaboration. Purposeful sampling was used to collect qualitative and quantitative data through N=6 personal interviews, two parent focus groups, and N=50 teacher questionnaires. Interview participants (N=6, n=1 administrator, n=5 counselors) were selected because of their experience with home school collaboration. Focus group participants were identified with the assistance of school counselors. A total of n=6 6th grade parents agreed to participate in the 6th grade focus group and n=6 8th grade parents agreed to participate in the 8th grade focus group. Lastly, out of the N=72 teacher questionnaires distributed to the entire teaching staff at the school under investigation, N=50 questionnaires were returned. This single case study was an important study because it investigated the type of strategies that were implemented at the middle school level and further explained possible reasons why families tend to disengage during the middle school years. The major findings for this study revealed that, although there are a number of family engagement strategies implemented throughout the school, there appeared to be differences in perceptions in the type and frequency of home to school contact between teachers and parents. Ideally, parents would like to see more “proactive personal communication” from their children’s teachers. In addition, there also appeared to be differences in perceptions between teachers and parents of what should be considered “appropriate” levels of family engagement at the middle school level.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Anderson, Andrew D. C, "Connecting families at the middle school level: A single case study" (2008). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3315979.