The purpose of this research is to determine the effects of implementing quarterly family night activities on the stakeholders’ quality perceptions of a middle school and whether those perceptions will influence student academic performance. This study was conducted at an urban middle school in the southern part of the United States. The study included all stakeholders including students, parents, staff, and community members. The school planned and implemented quarterly family night activities centered around the four core subjects. Each quarterly activity was implemented by its respective core department and teachers and students both worked towards implementation. Survey and focus group data revealed an overall positive effect from increased family participation on stakeholders’ quality perceptions. Student test data revealed an overall improvement in student academic success while other data sources showed improvements in student attendance and decreased discipline referrals. The results suggest implementing family activities positively effects stakeholders’ perceptions of school quality which alternately improves students’ performance.
Family Night Activities’ Impact on Stakeholders’ Perceptions of the Quality of a Middle School
Adolescence is a time period when students are going through many changes such as puberty, abstract thinking abilities and the transitions between elementary, middle and high school. Some of these factors cause more stress than others in adolescents but one thing we know for sure is that adolescents are at a greater risk of drop out, arrest, drug use and psychological disorders than any other age group (Kreider, Caspe, Kennedy, & Weiss, 2007). Adolescents want to be independent and spend time with their peers but they also need guidance from parents, teachers, and other adults. This is why parent involvement in education during these adolescent years is so important. It is widely known that schools cannot prepare students for academic success without the involvement of parents. This family involvement helps students succeed in middle and high school and relates to higher rates of college enrollment (Kreider, Caspe, Kennedy, & Weiss, 2007). Two-thirds of teachers surveyed believed that students perform better when parents are involved in their education (Dervarics & O’Brien, 2011). Can increasing the amount of family involvement on a middle school campus increase test scores and therefore raise the overall quality perceptions of a middle school? Gibbons and Silva (2009) conducted research on school quality and it revealed that parents’ favorable quality perceptions of a school were directly linked to test scores. The thought was that if we could increase family involvement it would then increase students’ test scores and that would, in turn, increase the quality perceptions of the school. With increased quality perceptions at the school, parents would then be more inclined to participate in students’ school activities. The idea is to create a cyclic effect with each factor feeding off of the other. It is these beliefs that prompted this research project. A middle school noticed that there was a decline in test scores over the last 3 years and that a negative perception of quality of the middle school campus was growing. The researcher conducted pre- and post-surveys at the beginning and end of the 2016-2017 school year and involved as many stakeholders as possible. These stakeholders consisted of teachers, students, and parents from the middle school. Focus groups and individual interviews were also part of the data collection process to ensure a proper triangulation of data ensuring a more reliable data collection process. Implementation of quarterly family night activities were held throughout the school year in hope that the increase in family night activities would impact the stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of the middle school in a positive way. All stakeholders including teachers, administrators, staff, students, parents, and community were impacted by this project. The hope was that when family involvement increased on the campus so would test scores and the quality perceptions of the school. The middle school was located in an area known as ‘Cenla’, which comes from the combining of the words Central and Louisiana. The school was right in the heart of the city and the second oldest middle school building in the parish with the highest student population. For many years, this middle school was the premiere middle school in the parish, winning awards every year for the best test scores, athletics, faculty, and administration, as well as providing more charitable donations than any other school in the parish. Over the last few years there has been a steady decline in test scores, teacher morale, and shared vision between administrators and other stakeholders. During the academic year, 2016-2017, the campus consisted of 888 students from grades sixth to eighth of which there were 481 males and 407 females. The student ethnicity makeup of the campus was 50.28% African American, 2.82% Hispanic, 43.4% White, 0.56% Native American, and 2.93% Asian. There were 50 total teachers on the campus of which 36 taught regular education classes and 14 taught special education classes. Of those 14 teachers who taught special education, four taught gifted, one taught English second language and nine taught special education. There were 14 sixth grade teachers, 17 seventh grade teachers and 19 eighth grade teachers on campus. All parents who attended family night events were participants in the research study but 20 parents participated directly in the study and they had varying ages, genders, ethnicities, and economic levels. All teachers, staff, administrators, students, and parents from the middle school participated in the research project. Some challenges of this action research project were parent and teacher participation, administrative support and completion of surveys, interviews and focus groups. It was understood that the negative perceptions of the school would be hard to overcome at first but once parents saw how much time and effort was put into the family night activities they began to participate more throughout the school year.
Test scores on the middle school campus declined over a 3-year period and staff began the process of searching for answers to why this happened. There were many reasons that could be listed as contributing factors. These factors included student discipline, student and teacher attendance, classroom management, and curriculum. When focusing on student discipline along with student and teacher attendance, it was noticed that on the days when there was an increase in absenteeism of teachers and students there was also an increase in student discipline issues so why were students and teachers both missing so many days of school? Setting aside medical issues, it was noticed that the absenteeism began around the same time test scores started dropping. Maybe the students weren’t taking attendance and their education seriously because teachers weren’t leading by example. If teachers were missing so many days of school, then students were inferring that teachers were not that concerned about their education so why should they care so why were teachers missing so much school? There was a feeling among those teachers who miss so many days that they needed time off to recharge or get away. Why did these teachers feel this way? The morale or perceptions of quality on the school campus was the main contributing factor. Teachers did not feel supported, felt a lack of parental concern/involvement, inconsistent discipline policy, and discontent among teachers. If the teachers were feeling this way, then the students must also be feeling the same effects. The focus became the improvement of the perceptions of quality on the middle school campus. In order to increase the quality perceptions, test scores had to be increased. To accomplish that we had to first increase family involvement on campus.
A decline of student test scores and low morale among teachers and other staff members prompted an investigation into the causes of these declines and how to improve both areas. After conducting this investigation, it was determined that a focus on improving parental or family involvement could possibly help with improvement in both staff morale and student test scores. The decision was made to focus on the perceptions of quality on the middle school campus. A search began to find the answer to the question, “How does the implementation of quarterly family night activities impact stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of a middle school campus?” In response to this question, family night activities were planned around the four core subjects of Math, English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies.
Significance of the Study
The significance of this study is its potential for increasing positive perceptions of the quality of the school campus using family night activities to bring teachers, students and parents together. Parental involvement makes families and the community feel more a sense of belonging to the school. This project involves the teachers and students in the planning and implementation of family night activities, making both groups feel like they are a part of the school’s decision-making process. Students who are more involved, should be more willing to attend school and exhibit positive behavior in the classroom. With more parent, student and teacher involvement and more positive behavior from students, teachers should not feel the need to take so many personal days off from school. The combination of parent involvement, student ownership, and higher teacher attendance rates should improve test scores. This research also has a broader scope than just impacting our campus. It will also be beneficial to any other school campus who faces similar problems. Those administrators will be able to review research procedures, data collection and data analysis to improve the quality of their own campus. This study will add to the knowledge base of parental involvement and its impact on quality perception. Increased parental involvement may be the key to improving the quality of our middle school campuses.
Assent is a term used to express willingness to participate in research by someone who is too young to give informed consent but is old enough to understand the research, its expected risks and possible benefits, and the activities expected of them as a subject. If an assent form is signed by the juvenile, informed consent must also be obtained from the subject’s parent or guardian (California State University at San Marcos, 2013).
According to The Glossary of Education Reform (2014) climate/culture refers to the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions, but the term also encompasses more concrete issues such as the physical and emotional safety of students, the orderliness of classrooms and public spaces, or the degree to which a school embraces and celebrates racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural diversity.
A focus group could be defined as a group of interacting individuals having some common interest or characteristics, brought together by a moderator, who uses the group and its interaction as a way to gain information about a specific or focused issue (Marczak & Sewell, n.d.).
Lickert style survey
The Likert survey is a popular format of questionnaire that is used in educational research to obtain quantitative data. Since the inception of this psychometric scale, there have been several versions based on the number of points in the scale. The Likert scale can be four-point, five-point, six-point, and so on. The even-numbered scale usually forces a respondent to choose while the odd-numbered scale provides an option for indecision or neutrality. For example, subjects would rank questions as strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree and then point values are assigned to the answer choices (Bright Hub Education, 2016).
School Climate Survey (SCM)
According to the National School Climate Centers (2016), a school climate survey is a survey that provides an in-depth profile of your school community’s particular strengths and needs. With the SCM, you can quickly and accurately assess student, parent, and school personnel perceptions, and get the detailed information you need to make informed decisions for lasting improvement. The SCM is an empirically validated tool that has been used by thousands of educators, students, and parents nationwide.
According to The Glossary of Education Reform (2014) a stakeholder is anyone who is invested or involved in the welfare and success of a school and its students, including administration, teachers, students, parents, families, community members, school board members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as city counselors and state representatives. In other words, stakeholders have a “stake” in the school and its students, meaning they have personal, professional, civic, or financial interest or concern.
Triangulated methods of data collection draw from at least three different data sources and include both quantitative and qualitative data. This in turn enhances the researcher's ability to obtain more accurate and reliable results during analysis with less chance of bias. Triangulation in research increases the credibility of the research (Murphy, 2011). Vision. According to The Glossary of Education Reform (2014) a vision is a public declaration that schools or other educational organizations use to describe their high-level goals for the future—what they hope to achieve if they successfully fulfill their organizational purpose or mission. A vision statement may describe a school’s loftiest ideals, its core organizational values, its long-term objectives, or what it hopes its students will learn or be capable of doing after graduating.
Review of the Literature
In order to fully understand the background and impact of family night activities on the quality perceptions of a school campus, an extensive review of current literature was conducted. It was important to review what family involvement is, how school quality perceptions are effected by school performance, how data can be used to understand stakeholders’ perceptions of quality, and what types of data collection should be used that are pertinent to this study.
Empirical research was conducted by Bhargava and Witherspoon (2015) on family involvement in middle and high schools. The findings of this research revealed that family involvement comes in three forms: home-based involvement, school-based involvement, and academic socialization. The consensus was that all three types of family involvement were shown to be related to students’ academic performance and engagement throughout middle school and high school (Bhargava & Witherspoon, 2015; Hill & Tyson, 2009).
In middle school, parents were found to support academics but were less likely to be involved in school-based activities. This decline in family involvement at school does not allow for close relationships between teachers and parents. Some reasons for this decline in family involvement may be an increase in the number of teachers a child has per day versus elementary school with only one or two teachers per day or the feeling that middle schools are a “less welcoming environment” (Bhargava & Witherspoon, 2015).
Jonathan Cohen (2007) states that family involvement could have positive effects on discipline incidents, student performance and teacher retention. Family involvement is completely necessary in order to improve the quality of a school campus. Schueler, Capotosto, Bahea, McIntyre, and Gehlbach (2014) determined that parents’ attitudes about the school could have three indirect influences on the students’ attitude towards the school.
The research found that not only could the parents’ perceptions of the school influence the students’ attitudes about school but it also found that these parents’ perceptions could determine if they would be actively involved with the school and influenced where they lived in regard to school zoning and their child’s school attendance (Schueler, Capotosto, Bahea, McIntyre, & Gehlbach, 2014). Stephen Sherblom (2007) wrote a review of three books on the climate and culture of schools.
In one of Sherblom’s (2007) reviews, he stated that family participation can have a positive effect on school climate or school quality. Families being more involved in the education process of their children would make them more likely to perform at optimal level (Sherblom, 2007). In other words, the more a family is involved in school activities, the better the test scores would be at that school.
Waldfogel (2016) found in his study that the amount of time a mother and father spent with their children was associated with fewer externalizing problems, higher math scores, less substance use and less delinquent behavior. Research has found that family involvement was a contributing factor to positive school quality perceptions and that positive school quality perceptions have contributed to increased teacher and student performance (Sherblom, 2007).
To improve student test scores, decrease behavior incidents, and increase low teacher morale, the quality perceptions of the school must be positive. The Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler model of parental involvement was used to assist in research development by Chris Robbins and Linda Searby (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995, 1997).
Chris Robbins and Linda Searby (2013) found in using the Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler model there were three concerns in which parents needed motivation in order to stay more involved in their middle school students’ education. Those three concerns were assisting the parent so that they are more confident in their ability to support their middle school child, increasing the number of activities and opportunities for involvement by the family on the school campus, and increasing opportunities for parents to expand their knowledge so they can in turn help their middle school child academically (Robbins & Searby, 2013).
Focus groups were then formed and they began to find ways to connect and involve parents (Robbins & Searby, 2013). They paid close attention to the areas that are unique to adolescent development. Research showed that this increase in family involvement directly effects student achievement (Robbins & Searby, 2013).
School quality perceptions
The four major areas of concern for school quality should be student safety, relationships between parents, students, and teachers, teaching and learning, and environment. The school practice of regularly evaluating school quality can be one of the best ways to ensure that you maintain positive quality perceptions on your campus (Cohen, 2007). Students, families, educators and administrators must work together and contribute to a shared school vision in order to maintain a healthy and positive quality perception (Cohen, 2007). Family involvement is completely necessary in order to improve the quality of a school campus.
Stephen Sherblom (2007) wrote a review of three books on the climate and culture of schools. In reference to one of the books reviewed, Sherblom (2007) wrote, the author used “social capital” when referring to the school quality perceptions and related it to financial capital. There must be a high level of “social capital” on your campus to ensure positive quality perceptions. The findings, of the three-book review, were that family involvement is a contributing factor to positive school quality and that positive school quality perceptions will increase teacher and student performance (Sherblom, 2007). To improve student test scores, decrease behavior incidents, and increase low teacher morale, the quality perceptions of the school must be positive.
Regardless of race, Spera (2009) found that a parent’s aspirations for their child were significantly impacted by the parent’s perceptions of school quality, parent’s higher educational levels, and their belief that the school informs parents, empowers parents, and has quality guidance. In another study of primary and secondary school students, it was found that mother and father participation in adolescents’ lives not only increased self-esteem but also affected multiple other areas of development. It also showed that family involvement in schools positively impacted achievement in Mathematics (Sirvani, 2007) and literacy (Whitmore & Norton-Meier, 2008) and that in middle school it can positively impact future high school graduation (Cripps & Zyromski, 2009).
Measuring quality perceptions
Utilization of focus groups, interviews and/or observations, and polling all members of the school community was necessary in evaluating school quality (Cohen, 2007). The steps of carrying out the action research were vital. These steps must be used when identifying, correcting and evaluating any problems on your school campus. Beth Schueler, Lauren Capotosto, Sofia Bahena, Joseph McIntyre and Hunter Gehlbach were all graduate students at Harvard University when they decided to test and conduct surveys on parents’ perceptions of the quality of their school. The survey tool developed was revised until a seven-question survey was established and the survey focused on four areas of school climate. The four areas were teaching and learning, relationships between parents, students and teachers, school safety, and physical environment (Schueler, Capotosto, Bahea, McIntyre, & Gehlbach, 2014).
The conclusion was that this survey tool could not only be used to gather information in the beginning but could also be used to evaluate any actions taken as a result of the initial findings. Each school has their own unique campus and the quality of that campus is affected by multiple factors; therefore, a measurement tool that encompasses all of those multiple factors must be used when measuring a school’s quality. The School Climate Survey (SCM) has been used in the past to help measure school quality (Zullis, 2015). A study by Zullis (2015) added two new domains to the SCMs and they are domains on measuring student engagement and family involvement. For students to be successful academically, families must be involved in the school. That means that families must have a positive quality perception of the school and actively participate in school sponsored activities and academic discussions with teachers. The addition of these two new domains adds to the usefulness of the SCM and makes it “one of the most comprehensive, yet brief” measurement tools for school quality (Zullis et al., 2015).
Likert style surveys are commonly used for measurements of school quality (Simon & Goes, 2013). Likert surveys use statements that a respondent must evaluate using a numerical scale. Using this type of survey is more reliable when measuring quality perceptions because respondents can give a numerical value to their perceptions of quality and that numerical value can then be used for reporting quantitative data (Simon & Goes, 2013).
The implementation of family involvement at the middle school level is considered challenging, yet it can aid parents and teachers in providing students a supportive education in a positive environment. Family involvement through quarterly family night activities was the focus of this study with an emphasis on its impact on the stakeholders’ perceptions of quality of the middle school campus. Through the use of Likert style surveys, focus groups and individual interviews, stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of the middle school campus might be improved, therefore improving teacher morale and retention, student and teacher attendance, and student test scores.
Action Research Design Subjects
All teachers, students, and parents from the middle school participated in this research project. The campus, during the 2016-2017 school year, consisted of 888 students from grades sixth to eighth of which there were 481 males and 407 females. The student ethnicity makeup of the campus was 50.28% African American, 2.82% Hispanic, 43.4% White, 0.56% Native American, and 2.93% Asian. There were 50 teachers on the campus of which 36 taught regular education classes and 14 taught special education classes. Of those 14 who taught special education, four were gifted teachers, one was English second language and nine were special education teachers. There were 14 sixth grade teachers, 17 seventh grade teachers and 19 eighth grade teachers on campus. All parents who attended family night events were participants in the research study but 20 parents participated directly in the study and they had varying ages, genders, ethnicities and economic levels.
After identifying the problem on the school campus, the research project began with a meeting held in July 2016 between the researcher, her campus mentor who is also her assistant principal, and the school principal. The purpose of the meeting was to develop the action research project and complete informative consent forms. The resources used for this meeting were the practicum plan, action research plan, and rough draft of the report.
Once the action research proposal was complete, the researcher submitted the research plan along with consent forms to the campus mentor for approval. The approval was completed in July 2016. The researcher then began to research articles, professional journals, and data focusing on parental involvement and campus morale. This research lasted from July 2016 to December 2016. This collected information was used as comparison data. The development of pre- and post-surveys for parents, students, and teachers, along with family night participation tracking charts came next.
The researcher developed the surveys using Microsoft Office and based them on the research of Likert style surveys for quantitative data collection. Once those surveys and charts were completed in August 2016, they were sent for peer review and necessary corrections or adjustments were made. A family night activity calendar and PowerPoint presentation were also developed in August 2016. The 2016-17 school calendar and Microsoft Office were used to create the calendar and PowerPoint presentation.
The researcher then used these materials in September 2016 to explain the research project to teachers on the campus, while also having the teachers complete surveys, participate in individual interviews, sign consent forms, and approve the activity calendar. Some teachers were asked to participate in the focus group as well. The meeting took place in the school library with a projector and screen for showing the PowerPoint. A parent meeting was also held in September 2016, in which, the research project was explained to the parents.
Surveys were conducted during this meeting along with individual interviews, and the signing of the consent forms. Some parents were also asked to sign consent forms for their children to participate in the research project. Several parents were asked to participate in the focus group before the meeting adjourned. Again, the meeting was held in the school library with a projector and screen. September 2016 was the date of the student meeting. Students were selected to attend the meeting ensuring that the group was reflective of the school demographics. The meeting was held in the school library with a screen and projector. The PowerPoint was shared, the research project was explained in terms the students could understand, surveys were completed, initial interviews were conducted, and assent forms were signed. Certain students were asked to participate in the focus group. The initial meeting of the focus group, consisting of parents, teachers and students, was held September 2016 in the school library.
Focus questions were used to entice members into elaborating on their experiences and perceptions of the quality of the school campus. A third party was asked to record and transcribe the meeting so the researcher could focus on the dialogue between members. Once all meetings and surveys had been conducted, the rest of September 2016 was used to analyze the initial quantitative and qualitative data.
The researcher then had a well-developed understanding of stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of the middle school campus. On September 2016, a meeting was held with teachers from each core subject to plan family night activities, make advertisement flyers, posters, and free dress passes. The activity calendar and Microsoft Office were utilized to complete these tasks. The advertisement flyers and posters were used to inform students, parents, and the community about the family night activities. Family night coordinators were also named during this meeting. A coordinator from each core subject was responsible for organizing and implementing their assigned family night event. Family night activities were implemented on October 2016 through April 2017.
Each event consisted of teacher planned activities, student workers, announcement flyers, tables, chairs, activity posters and sign-in sheets. Family night activities were held in the school gym and refreshments were provided by the assigned core department. Family night sign-in sheets were reviewed after each event to guide advertisement and incentives for the next event. Campus morale was also monitored from October 2016 to April 2017. Once all family night activities had been completed, post surveys, interviews and focus group meeting will be conducted in April 2017. Teachers, parents, and students completed post surveys, along with individual interviews.
The post meetings of the focus group were again recorded and transcribed by a third party. Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data will be done in May 2017 and data was triangulated to produce the final research report. Presentation of the final research report and recommendations will be done in May 2017 to the campus mentor for approval. The findings were also made available to all participants in the research project at that time.
Data Collection and Analysis
Data collection consisted of quantitative and qualitative data and three forms of data were collected for triangulation purposes. The quantitative data was collected through conducting Likert style pre- and post-surveys with teachers, parents, and students. Data analysis of the surveys included paired sample t-tests, a repeated measures t-test using a 0.05 p-value for statistical significance and descriptive statistics. The qualitative data was collected through transcripts of individual pre- and post-interviews with teachers, parents, and students. There were also transcripts of pre- and post- focus group meetings that was used as qualitative data. The analysis for the qualitative data used coding and identification of themes. These three forms of data were then triangulated to produce more reliable results. The final research report was then written using those results and recommendations were made.
Clearly, those who gained the most from increased family involvement were the students. There was improved academic achievement demonstrated in test scores. Seventh grade Math achievement improved by 28% as measured by the LEAP test. ELA LEAP scores were in the 90% range for all three grade levels. Student achievement in both reading and vocabulary increased. Other academic achievement tests, such as Discovery Education benchmark tests, also demonstrated improvement. Eight grade showing marginal growth in all subject areas tested. The number of parents participating in the quarterly family night activities grew over the school year from 5% in the first quarter to 48% in the fourth quarter. In addition, the participating parents noted three significant outcomes:
- Their appreciation for education, teachers, and learning increased
- The level of interest their children had in school improved along with their attitudes about school and their teachers
- Their respect for the impact teachers have on their children changed dramatically
There was also increased participation in extra-curricular activities on campus, improved Attendance (from 88% to 92%), and a decrease in the number of discipline referrals (from 19.4% to 9.0%) as reported by the school’s office staff. The school won the district’s “best behavior” banner for the school year. The campus also saw an increase in the Parent/Teacher Club (PTC) volunteer program which increased in number of active participants by 43% during the school year. Table 1 represents descriptive statistics and frequencies gathered from School Culture Surveys. Results of Table 1 indicate that stakeholders have a consistently high mean in every category below. This clearly demonstrates a positive view of school culture on the campus. There are some areas where the standard deviation is a little high which shows that there is still a great variability with stakeholders on some issues. The most noted were expectations of ALL students and school personnel listening to stakeholders’ ideas about the school. More research may be needed in these areas. Table 1 School Culture Survey question responses School Culture Perception Questions Mean Standard Deviation Our school culture is inclusive so that staff, students, and parents from diverse backgrounds, all feel they belong 4.44 .60 Our school mission is communicated to all stakeholders on an ongoing basis 4.34 .68 School personnel hold high academic and behavioral expectations for ALL students 4.25 .75 Teachers utilize multiple means of communication with parents and students 4.39 .64 The faculty and staff value school improvement 4.38 .60
Teaching performance reflects the mission of school 4.28 .72 School personnel make students, parents, and community members feel welcome on campus 4.39 .62 School personnel listen to stakeholders’ ideas about the school 4.19 .83
Note: The School Culture Survey contains a 5 point Likert scale with 1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, and 5=strongly agree.
Based on the results of surveys, interviews, and students’ performance data, the parental involvement on campus, the climate of the school, and the student academic performance all improved during this study. The increase in parental involvement activities on campus spurred an improvement in all other related factors. Jonathan Cohen (2007) states that family involvement could have positive effects on discipline incidents, student performance and teacher retention. The development of family involvement is completely necessary to improve the quality of a school campus. Stephen Sherblom (2007) used “social capital” when referring to the school quality perceptions and related it to financial capital. There must be a high level of “social capital” on your campus to ensure positive quality perceptions. The focus became the improvement of the perceptions of quality on the middle school campus. To increase the quality perceptions, test scores had to be increased. To accomplish that we had to first increase family involvement on campus. This action research began with research, a climate survey, stakeholder interviews, and review of students’ performance scores. This gave valuable information and a clear understanding about the need for parental involvement. The survey and interviews provided information about parental concerns for their children’s education, as well as, their appreciation of teachers and their influence over the children’s education. The potential for increasing positive perceptions of the quality of the school campus using family night activities to bring teachers, students and parents together was realized. The parental involvement activities made families and the community feel more a sense of belonging to the school. This project involved the teachers and students in the planning and implementation of family night activities, making both groups feel like they were a part of the school’s decision-making process. Students were more involved, more willing to attend school and exhibited positive behavior in the classroom. With more parent, student and teacher involvement and more positive behavior from students, teacher attendance also improved. The combination of parent involvement, student ownership, and higher teacher attendance rates also improved test scores. The data collected supported all the original expectations.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Family involvement through quarterly family night activities was the focus of this study with an emphasis on its impact on the stakeholders’ perceptions of quality of the middle school campus. Through the use of Likert style surveys, focus groups and individual interviews, stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of the middle school campus might be improved, therefore improving teacher morale and retention, student and teacher attendance, and student test scores.
The research question was to determine if the implementation of quarterly family night activities had an impact on stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of a middle school campus. The research included use of Likert style surveys, focus groups, individual interviews, and test score data. The overall results were compared and studied to determine if implementation of quarterly family night activities had an impact on stakeholders’ perceptions of quality of a middle school campus. The results of the surveys and interviews showed an improvement in stakeholders’ perceptions of their children’s education, their children’s attitudes towards education and teachers, and respect for the impact teachers have on their children’s education. Survey results showed a consistently high mean in every category at the end of the school year. This was a great improvement over the initial survey results. The focus group interviews also gave insight into the improved quality perceptions of stakeholders. As the participation in quarterly family night activities increased, so did the participation in extra-curricular activities and PTC volunteer programs. The increase in family involvement on campus had a direct effect on the students’ perceptions of their own education, school attendance, and their attitudes towards their teachers. This was evident in the survey results and focus group interviews. The office staff reported student attendance improved (from 88% to 92%) and incidents of student misbehavior causing discipline referrals decreased (from 19.4% to 9.0%). All of these factors had a positive effect on students’ academic achievement. LEAP and Discovery Education benchmark tests all showed multiple areas of improvement in all four content areas over the course of the study. The limited factors that impact the ability to state that quarterly family night activities alone were the cause for improved quality perceptions and student achievement is incomplete because there was no control group used for comparison. The study was conducted school-wide and many other factors also impacted the outcome.
The action research project was an overwhelming task at first but as the literature research was finished and the program gained a school-wide focus it became much easier. The whole campus got involved and everyone came together to make sure that the quarterly family night activities were enjoyable for everyone. The literature review helped me gain focus on the key areas of my study. Planning school-wide activities and gaining consensus among stakeholders helped me gain insight into developing as a leader on campus. Analyzing data has helped reinforce the importance of research design and using data to answer the research question. In the future, the research will have more impact if the design contains a control group and a test group. I enjoyed the school-wide focus of this action research but doing it on a smaller scale I think would have been more beneficial to my studies as an administrator. It would have given me more experience on working with subgroup data.
Regardless of the limitations of this study, the results indicated that the increased family participation had a positive effect on the student academic success and improved quality perceptions of stakeholders. Because of these findings, the campus will continue to implement quarterly family night activities each year with increased goals of family participation.
Overall the implementation of quarterly family night activities did have a positive effect on stakeholders’ perceptions of school quality and subsequently student academic success, therefore, it is recommended that schools incorporate family night activities to increase quality perceptions on their campus. The most beneficial outcome from the research project was the stakeholder interactions that improved not only parent perceptions but also impacted student success and teacher morale. The standard deviation in the data shows that there are still varied viewpoints but the consistently high mean in all categories shows that we are on the right track to significant changes in perceptions. The results of this study showed that there are many more factors that influence campus and student success than merely the building and curriculum.
Recommendations for teachers or administrators interested in implementing quarterly family night activities are to divide up responsibilities among departments on your campus. The more staff and students involved in the planning and implementation, the more impactful the activity will be to your campus. The data, however, needs to be collected by an assigned person or committee so that analysis and triangulation of data is possible.
To improve upon this research study the researcher needs to plan committee meetings at the end of each quarterly activity to discuss successes and changes that need to be made in planning the next activity. Each year, as family involvement increases, alternate activities can be planned and changes in stakeholders’ perceptions can be monitored.
In conclusion, stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of a middle school do appear to improve with the implementation of quarterly family night activities. The entire program of family involvement in the middle school needs to be revisited. As students grow older and move higher in their education, it is imperative that families stay involved in the educational process. The implementation of family involvement at the middle school level is considered challenging, yet it can aid parents and teachers in providing students a supportive education in a positive environment.
Bhargava, S., & Witherspoon, D. P. (2015). Parental involvement across middle and high school: exploring contributions of individual and neighborhood characteristics. Youth adolescence, 44, 1702-1719. doi: 10.1007/s10964-015-0334-9.
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