Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Van E. Cooley


Parent involvement is closely linked to student achievement. Research suggests that students, families, and schools benefit from active participation by families in the process of educating children. Many parents provide a broad range of support to their children, although, currently no common agreement on the most effective forms of parent support exists.

This study focused on the gap in the literature as to the needs of middle school at-risk students' parents. Qualitative methods were used to explore how parents of twelve at-risk middle school students (identified by low academic achievement scores of reading at least one year below grade level and thus eligible for the school's reading support services) attempt to support their children as it relates to school. Ten positive parenting practices (PPP) from the investigation, based on the literature review (Henderson, 1981, 1987; Henderson & Berla, 1994; Epstein, 2001; Rosenzweig, 2001; Carter, 2002; and Jeynes, 2005, 2007) were determined as significant supports to parents in this multiple case study. PPP include: High Expectations; Supervision and Family Structure; Talking/Discussing at Home; Learning/Literacy Activities at Home; Attending School Functions/Activities; Communication Between Home and School; Positive Learning Environment/Routine; Supporting Homework; Helping Children Feel Good about Themselves/Autonomy; and Building Home, School, and Community Collaboration.

Key findings revealed the five major PPP determined most important in rank order from this study are: (1) Communication Between Home and School, (2) Supervision and Family Structure, (3) Supporting Homework, (4) Learning/Literacy Activities at Home, and (5) Helping Children Feel Good about Themselves/Autonomy. Three of these practices determined as most important also emerged as significant in each of three research questions: (1) Communication Between Home and School, (2) Supporting Homework, and (3) Learning/Literacy Activities at Home. Parents confirmed they need support with these three parenting practices. Parents are eager to share their supports, challenges, and desires as they relate to helping their children be successful in school.

Additional qualitative research, especially with fathers, is needed to support the findings for this multiple case study. Studies with similar and varied demographics would supplement findings. Qualitative questions concerning community collaboration would enrich a future study.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access