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Citation:Mapp, K. L. (1999). Making the connection between families and schools: Why and how parents are involved in their childrenÕs education. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

The purpose of this case study is to develop a deeper understanding of parents' perceptions about their involvement in their childrenÕs education and to explore the factors that influence parent involvement, especially among "hard-to-reach" parents. Three themes emerged from the study. First, parents expressed a genuine and deep-seated desire to help their children succeed in school. Second, parents understood that their involvement helped their children's educational development. Third, the parents were involved in ways that went beyond the traditionally recognized activities such as volunteerism or school governance committees. Parents suggested that factors such as their own educational experiences, their own parents' involvement when they were students, their cultural norms and values about parent involvement, and their other responsibilities and time commitments influenced their involvement. School factors that influenced involvement centered on those that were relational in nature. When school personnel initiated and engaged in practices that welcomed parents to the school, honored their contributions, and connected them to the school community through an emphasis on the children, respectful, caring, and meaningful relationships between parents and staff were cultivated and sustained. ParentsÕ caring and trustful relationships with school staff enhanced their desire to be involved and influenced how they participated in their childrenÕs educational development. For two years the researcher conducted observations and one-on-one interviews with staff and parents at an urban elementary school serving a racially and socioeconomically diverse population of approximately 220 students. Over 90 percent of the parents at this school are involved in one or more of the schoolÕs family involvement activities. It is important to note that while many schools focus on programming family involvement, they may forget to focus on building relationships between families and school staff. The establishment of relationships between parents and teachers, and the existence of an open door policy where parents can come and go in the school at will, are identified in this study as keys to family involvement.

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