Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Individual & Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Dr Gene Diaz

Second Advisor

Dr Robin Roth

Third Advisor

Dr Suzanne Margiano


Family involvement and engagement in children's education has been a part of the educational landscape in the US for several decades. Research indicates family engagement, broadly defined as activities carried out by an adult in support of a child's educational development, has many benefits such as individual student achievement, as well as less traditional outcomes such as behavioral and mental health benefits, better school attendance, high school graduation rates, and secondary school enrollment. Family engagement has been included in federal education policy since the 1960s and continues in today's policies. However, teachers and parents often maintain different perspectives and report differing experiences with family engagement. If research and policy position family engagement as critically important in education, what then accounts for the discrepancy between the policies and how family engagement is carried out in practice?

This qualitative inquiry uses an adapted grounded theory approach to co-construct an understanding of how families and school personnel understand and enact family engagement in education in one urban school. Findings suggest there is little to no awareness of formal federal policy, and formal state and district policies have only slightly more influence. Teachers' choices about family engagement practices appear to be more individualized, based instead on their personal experiences and informal policy, the practices and attitudes of colleagues, and the principal's expectations. This research suggests the lack of knowledge about family engagement policy, coupled with a teacher culture that is ambivalent about family involvement, results in individualized approaches—inconsistent and varied from year to year, teacher to teacher, and family to family. Resources at the school appear inadequate to meet the school's needs, which also affects family engagement efforts. Conclusions from this inquiry are situated in a proposed working theory, and considerations for future practice are offered.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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