Methods: BCPS is a large urban district serving a predominantly African American (79%) and low-income (55%) population. To maximize sample variability, we recruited BCPS personnel and parents from schools differing on geography, kindergarten readiness scores, school climate survey response rates, and family context (e.g., parent language, homelessness, history of incarceration). Individual interviews were conducted with 63 PreK and Kindergarten parents, school staff, district leaders, and community leaders and transcribed verbatim; data were coded using content analysis and compared across stakeholder groups.
Results: Analyses yielded 39 codes representing 10 overarching themes including definitions of parent engagement, home-based activities (e.g., reading with your child, checking school materials), school-based activities (e.g., volunteering in the classroom, attending parent-teacher conferences), parental knowledge of what happens in child’s school, parent-teacher-school communication (e.g., content of communication, direction of communication), trust, affective qualities of the parent-teacher-school relationship, and parents’ understanding of their impact on their child’s learning. Thematic comparisons revealed key differences by stakeholder group in what behaviors were indicative of an engaged parent. For example, 100% of parents described strategies for making learning fun compared to ≤15% for all other stakeholder groups. School-based staff were more likely to describe getting the child to school every day (53%) than were parents (0%). Principals were more likely to describe parent participation in decision-making (65%)than were parents (4%).
Conclusions: Wide differences in how different stakeholders describe parent engagement have implications for how districts are seeking to promote parent engagement in early learning. Results will be discussed in terms of 3 completing models for how different stakeholders understand the role of parent engagement in promoting young children’s academic success: a parent investment model, a teacher investment model, and a parent social capital model.