Critical Beginnings: Creating School Community for All Children and Families
Ernest Boyer's The Basic School: A Community for Learning (1995) aligns with other important research and programs that encourage parent involvement to maximize each child's educational potential. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand and to document the first steps undertaken by one school as it began to address Boyer's school as community priority by reaching out to an uninvolved parent population. Meaning was constructed from the perspective of the researcher who was an active participant in the process. Research questions included:
What happened when one school began to address the needs of its at-risk population by intentionally reaching out to involve the parents of these students in the life of the school?
How was this accomplished within the context of a school beginning to address the priorities of a "Basic School?" 3) What structures were created to facilitate the process and guide its progress?
Teachers in the School as Community Family at Kizer Elementary School were the initial focus of this study. Additional groups with related purposes became part of the inquiry as the process unfolded. Transcripts, field notes, and related documents were collected from all relevant group meetings and outreach activities from June of 1997 through January of 1998. The process of data analysis yielded descriptive conceptual models and an interpretive narrative case study that follows a modified chronology of the communicative action steps undertaken by a group of educators readying themselves for outreach to an alienated parent population.
This study produced practical implications for schools wishing to begin the steps toward increasing the level of family and community engagement with student learning. A case was made for self-reflective action to create opportunities for authentic conversation that can empower families to take greater initiative in the public education of their children. If schools can learn to build, support and sustain relationships with parents, particularly their at-risk populations, they might expect a greater level of success in educating their children.