1 The Effects of Parent Trust on Perceived Influence and School Involvement Laura L. B. Barnes, Roxanne M. Mitchell, Patrick B.Forsyth, & Curt M. Adams Oklahoma State University A Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association Montreal, Canada April, 2005
2 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 2 Abstract Based on trust theory and previous findings, authors use a path model to predict and examine how parental trust of the school and principal, and home involvement in their children s learning, predict parent school involvement directly, and by way of their perceptions about their influence on school decisions. Findings support the direct predictive value of parental trust of school and involvement in home learning for parental school involvement. Parent perceived influence and trust in the principal did not predict parental school involvement. Results support efforts by schools to create a trusting school community.
3 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 3 The Effects of Parental Trust on Perceived Influence and School Involvement The need to involve parents in the challenging task faced by public school educators has never been more critical than it is today. Yet, the increased emphasis on parent choice initiatives and alternatives to public schooling; such home schooling, voucher supported private schools, and charter schools are evidence of the waning trust in public schools. Bryk and Schneider state, this distrust reflects a belief that schools are inadequately fulfilling their responsibilities to educate the nation s children to be productive citizens (1996, p.1). However, the demands placed on educational facilities to lift achievement for all students by mandates such as the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act cannot be achieved without the cooperation of parents. Schools and parents must collaborate in this task if they are to be successful. The positive effects of parental involvement on academic outcomes are welldocumented (Keith et al., 1998; Miedel et al., 1999; Reynolds, 1992). Epstein and Dauber (1991) have described five levels of parent involvement that educators need to be aware of in their efforts to improve parental support and participation. These include, first, assisting parents to fulfill their basic obligations to provide for their children s safety, health and well-being by providing parental education and support; second, communicating with parents regarding their children s progress and school programs; third, involving parents in active volunteering at the school, fourth involving parents in learning activities at home, and finally involving parents in decision-making, governance and advocacy within the school.
4 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 4 In order for schools to collaborate with parents successfully and to develop programs that promote meaningful parental participation it may be necessary for schools to foster an atmosphere of trust. Trust has been shown to be a vital ingredient for the smooth and efficient operation of organizations and a critical success element to most business, professional, and employment relationships (Lewicki & Bunker, 1996, p. 117). Conversely, the lack of trust can be very costly and can result in broken communication and ultimately complete severing of relationships (Lewicki & Bunker, 1996). The importance of trust to schools has been well established (Bryk & Schneider. 2002, 1996; Coleman, 1990; Goddard et al., 2000; Hoy & Kupersmith, 1984, 1985; Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 1999; Hoy et al., 1992; Tarter et al., 1989, 1995; Tschannen-Moran, 2001; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy; 1997, Uline et al., 1998). Recent definitions of trust have focused on its multidimensional nature (Mishra, 1996, Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 1999; Sheppard & Sherman, 1998). The authors of this paper are interested in studying parental trust of the school and the principal and the consequences of that trust for both parental involvement and perceived parental influence. In view of the multidimensional definition of trust developed by Hoy and Tschannen-Moran (1999), we view such trust as parental willingness to risk vulnerability based on the confidence that the principal and school personnel are benevolent, reliable, competent, honest, and open. Involving parents actively in the school requires some measure of trust both on the part of school personnel and on the part of parents. Tschannen-Moran states, school personnel who do not trust parents will guard against giving them a real voice in decisions affecting the school (p ). Since trust involves reciprocal relationships, parents who do not view school personnel as behaving
5 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 5 according to normative expectations will also likely be unwilling to collaborate effectively with teachers and school personnel (Bryk & Schneider, 1996, 2001). Teacher trust (teacher trust of principal, teacher trust of teacher, and teacher trust of clients) has been shown to be positively related to and predictive of teacher perceptions of parental involvement and parental influence (Tschannen-Moran, 2001). In this study we focus on parent trust (parent trust of principal and school) as measured by parent, rather than teacher perceptions. Parent trust of school and principal are hypothesized to have both direct effects on involvement in school-based activities (Epstein & Dauber s level 3 involvement) and indirect effects via perceived influence on school decisions. Though influence had been conceptualized as a level of involvement (Epstein & Dauber, 1991; Tschannen-Moran, 2001), in the current study we consider perceived influence as a predisposition to behavioral involvement. That is, parent belief in collective parent influence is hypothesized to predict involvement in school. A third hypothesis specifies that parent involvement in children s learning outside of school (Epstein & Dauber s level 4 involvement) predicts parent involvement in school. The theoretical path model is presented below in Figure 1.
6 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 6 Figure 1. Theoretical Path Model of Trust and Influence on School Achievement Learning Involvement Parent Trust of School Parent Trust of Principal School Involvement Perceived Influence Error Error Method The proposed causal model was analyzed using structural equation modeling procedures, specifically LISREL 8.5 (Joreskog & Sorbom, 2002). Because most variables were measured using existing scales, a single indicator model was evaluated in which the error variance for the measured variables was specified based on coefficient alpha. Data Sources and Measurement A stratified random sample of schools was drawn from the 836 public school population in one quadrant of a Midwestern state. Fifteen parents within each school were randomly selected to receive a parent survey. The final parent sample consisted of 428 parents from 58 schools with an average of 7.4 parents per school. Twenty-seven percent of the parent respondents had children in elementary school, 43% were middle
7 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 7 school parents, and 30% were parents of high school students. Parents responded to four instruments: A 10-item survey measuring Trust of School (Forsyth,Adams, & Barnes, 2002); a 15-item survey measuring Trust of Principal (Barnes, Forsyth, & Adams, 2002); a 9-item survey measuring Perceived Influence (Tschannen-Moran, 2001); and a 15-item survey constructed by the authors from items used by local school districts to measure parental involvement. The scales measuring parent involvement in school (School Involvement, 6 items) and parent involvement in home learning (Learning Involvement, 7 items) were derived through a factor analysis of these 15 items. The factor analysis yielded a third factor composed of 2 items that reflected parental contact with teacher and principal. This factor was not included in the current analysis because the nature and source of initiation of the contact may be a confounding factor e.g., was the contact in response to a teacher s concern over a behavior problem or did the parent contact the teacher/principal to discuss an upcoming school event? Examples of an item for each scale, coefficient alpha, scale means, standard deviations, and the error variance for the LISREL analysis computed from the individual parent-level data-at-hand are presented in Table 1 below.
8 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 8 Table 1. Item examples and scale statistics for measured variables. (n = 428) Scale and Example items Coefficient Error Scale Scale SD Alpha Variance Mean Parent Trust of School Kids at this school are well-cared for Parent Trust of Principal is well-intentioned Perceived Influence planning school improvement Learning Involvement Do you read with your child? School Involvement Do you chaperone for field trips? Results Because the focus of this paper was on parents, all data analyses for this report were conducted with parent as the unit of analysis. As shown in Table 1, the study variables were measured with high reliability. In Table 2, the parent trust variables are seen to be highly correlated with each other and moderately correlated with perceived parent influence. The trust variables had small, yet statistically significant, correlations with school involvement. Learning involvement was significantly correlated with school involvement.
9 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 9 Table 2. Correlations among study variables (n = 428) Learning Involve School Involve Perceived Influence Trust of School Trust of Principal Learning Involve 1.00 School Involve.48** ** 1.00 Perceived Influence Trust of School.15**.21**.53** *.42**.68** *p<.05 **p<.01 The Chi Square and fit indices from the LISREL analysis indicated a well-fitting model, though with one degree of freedom, this was not too surprising (χ2(1) =.23, p =.63). The model explained 35% of the variance in school involvement and 30% of the variance in perceived influence. As hypothesized, parent trust of school directly predicted parent school involvement (β =.15, p <.05). Parent collective influence did not predict parental involvement in school. Given the non-significant path from collective influence to school involvement (β =.05, p >.05), the indirect effects of parent trust of school (through parental collective influence) were negligible. Parent trust of school was a significant predictor of parent collective influence (β =.48, p <.01). However, parent perception of collective influence appeared to have no importance for parent behavior, namely school involvement. Parent involvement in learning outside of school was a significant predictor of school involvement (β =.55, p <.01). Contrary to prediction, parent trust of principal significantly predicted neither school involvement directly nor indirectly through parental collective perceived influence. Though parent
10 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 10 trust of principal had significant zero order correlations with the dependent variables in this model, it was not significant when parent trust of school was included in the model. Figure 2. Estimates of Effects of Trust and Influence on School Involvement Learning Involvement Parent Trust of School Parent Trust of Principal.55**.15*.48**.09 School Involvement Perceived Influence zeta2.70 zeta1 Importance Parent school involvement is universally regarded as having important educational consequences. The empirical findings of this study sort out some important predictors of parent involvement that have both theoretical and practical significance. In these data, parent trust of the school as an institution and parent involvement in home learning predict parent involvement at school. Parental involvement in school activities will be enhanced by school efforts to create a trusting school community. The finding that parent perceptions about their collective influence do not predict school involvement
11 Effects of Parental Trust on Influence and Involvement 11 suggests that some current strategies used by schools, such as parent advisory groups and other forms of governance participation by parents may not be critical to the promotion of parental involvement. The lack of a role of parent trust in the principal for parent involvement and parent perception of parent influence in the school is noteworthy here. The task of building trust appears to be a broad task involving historic parent experiences with all school players, probably teachers in particular, rather than the direct behavior or efforts of administrators. It is parent perceptions about the benevolence, reliability, competence, honesty and openness of the school as experienced generally that have importance for parent participation, rather than their perceptions and beliefs about the principal. Though school is the unit of analysis for much research on school participation and trust, the focus of the current study was on parents. Response variance is assumed to reflect variability among parents within schools as well as variability attributable to between school differences.
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