A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Studies of Education Reform: Parent and Community Involvement in Education - 1995
Implications for Future Research
In our original review of the current state-of-the art, and in the Summary Review of the Literature, we presented four recommendations for future research. First, we recommended that future research focus on middle grades education, based on specific roles as schools, families, and communities join together to benefit students. Second, we recommended that both quantitative and qualitative analyses of the context and processes of developing, planning, and implementing middle grade school/family partnerships and family involvement programs be conducted. Third, a recommendation that research on the challenges to forming middle grade school/family partnerships, and the strategies used to meet those challenges was made. The fourth recommendation was that short and long-term potential outcomes of middle grade school/family partnerships on students, teachers, schools, school districts and communities be investigated.
While this study represents a good beginning, it is our hope that it is only a springboard for further dialog and research about middle grade school/family and community partnerships. We have learned about the contexts; planning, design, and implementation; challenges; supports; and outcomes of middle grade school/family and community partnerships in nine sites that represent promising practices and programs. The research from these sites answered many of our initial questions; many questions remain unanswered.
Limitations of the Research. There are two implications can be drawn from the fourth recommendation for future research that we noted previously. First, examining the potential outcomes implies comparisons between partnerships and other conditions; for example, similar schools, families, and communities without partnerships. Second, exploring outcomes over time, or longitudinally, is also implied.
Our research design (qualitative; ethnographic/descriptive) and methodology (semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, follow-up telephone interviews, and document review) allowed for neither comparisons between partnerships under controlled conditions, nor a longitudinal study of us sites or participants in those sites. Our study was conducted over a six-month period with two visits to each of the selected sites. In short, we did not follow programs over time; neither did we follow students exposed to those programs over time.
The outcomes that we have reported in the Case Study Summaries in this volume, and in Volume II of this Final Technical Report (Case Studies) [not available on line], are almost entirely based on the perception of participants, rather than hard evidence, e.g., norm- or criterion-referenced tests. The reported outcomes have not been verified independently. While perceptions are important, they may be colored by enthusiasm and vested interest, and may not reflect actual conditions as they exist.
Outcomes that we report here, e.g., changes in attitudes and behaviors, depend on a few informants rather than a representative sample of teachers, parents, and others in these sites. However, key informants we interviewed described changes in organization and school procedures which were then verified by documents collected at the site, and/or the reports of other participants. In the future, studies related to parent, family, and community involvement should incorporate designs that provide for carefully controlled comparisons over longer periods of time, with representative samples of respondents.
Our conceptual frameworks for each of the three research focus areas (comprehensive districtwide programs, school restructuring, and adult-child learning programs) provide a useful organizational schema for our implications. Implications, in the form of research questions, are presented below for context; program planning, design, and implementation; challenges; supports; and outcomes.
- Are the findings of this study replicable in other varied contexts?
Middle grade settings, organizational patterns, and instructional delivery systems vary. The findings from this study should be tested in these environments.
- What gender, age, family structure, multicultural, and multiethnic differences exist in middle grade school/family and community partnerships?
Differences in participation by fathers; older parents, family members, or siblings; single or blended families; and the role of race and ethnicity should be explored further.
- Are the specific differences between rural and urban school/family partnerships meaningful?
Program Planning, Design, and Implementation
- What planning and design processes are most effective?
Investigations and planned comparisons of the planning and design processes of middle grade school/family and community partnerships may yield important findings for developing and sustaining other partnerships.
- Do the planning, design, and implementation processes for middle grade school/family and community partnerships have implications for high schools? Can the same processes be used in secondary schools to develop school/family and community partnerships?
- Does information from research improve the quality of planning, design, and implementation of middle grade school family partnerships?
- What other innovative practices have schools, families, and communities used to overcome the challenges associated with developing and sustaining partnerships?
- Do the challenges of middle grade school/family and community partnerships apply to other levels and types of education reform?
- What roles can federal, state, and local policymakers play in supporting the active involvement of middle grade parents, families, and communities?
- Do specific types of preservice and inservice professional development have different levels of success in school/family and community partnerships?
- What costs associated with middle grade school/family partnerships produce the greatest benefits? Is there a point of diminishing returns?
- How can practitioners and researchers design more exacting and rigorous studies that examine the link between middle grade school/family partnerships and student achievement?
- What benefits to the various participants are likely from conceptualizing school/family and community partnerships in different ways?
Our current research has provided a snapshot of middle grade school/family and community partnerships. Like a still photograph, it has captured dynamic individuals, processes, strategies,and activities and frozen them in one-dimensional images that reflect only the surface of who and what they are. Research has the capability to help the stakeholders in middle grade partnerships continually grow and change; to help educators, parents and families, students, and communities and businesses engage in self-study and reflection on their partnerships; and provide rich qualitative and quantitative data to improve education reform efforts.
[Implications for Policy and Practice]
[Appendix A: References]