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Race, Sense-Making, and Practice in the Co-Construction of Family-School Relations

Primary Investigator(s): Carla O'connor, Simona Goldin, Kendra Hearn, Debi Khasnabis

Funding Agency: Spencer Foundation

Period: 9/1/2017 - 9/1/2019

Though race profoundly shapes experiences and constitutes a chasm between a predominantly White teaching force and an increasingly Black and Brown student body, the parent involvement literature has underestimated and underanalyzed race relative to class and culture. Doing so has compromised scholars’ and practitioners’ abilities to understand and mitigate schools’ struggles to successfully engage racially minoritized families – a pressing goal given the entrenched underperformance of minority students and extant evidence that productive family-school relations enhances student achievement. Addressing these limitations, the proposed ethnography will examine how the racialized sense-making and practices of educators and families of different racial/ethnic backgrounds intersect in one demographically diverse elementary school to affect how family-school relations vary along racial/ethnic lines. Specifically, the ethnography will capture 1) how, why, where, and under what conditions Black, Latino, Asian-American, Arab-American, and White families participate in the school and interact with school personnel and others in and out of school concerning their children’s education; 2) the racial assumptions, beliefs, and biases on the part of educators and families that influence such participation and (inter)action; and 3) the consequent implications regarding which families are (dis)empowered in school and in the local community with regards to influencing their children’s educational opportunities.