Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Curriculum and Instruction PhD

First Advisor

Larry D. Burton

Second Advisor

Tevni Grajales

Third Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Abstract

Problem

Academic achievement among the nation’s youth has been on the decline for decades. The statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) paints a bleak picture of the academic performance of more than half of the 4th and 8th grade students being below the required levels of proficiency in reading and mathematics. This is evidence that a problem of low academic achievement exists among certain student groups within the public education system. Therefore, it creates an academic achievement gap, which is reflected in the disparity in the standardized scores between students of color from low socio-economic status with their white/ middle-class counterparts. The negative ramifications associated with this low level of academic achievement cannot be underscored sufficiently.

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to analyze the collective influence of the predictors parental involvement, socio-economic status and students’ perceptions of the classroom learning environment on 8th grade students’ academic achievement in mathematics and language arts. The intention was to provide an analysis of these predictors of academic achievement and to expand knowledge of the inter-relationships between the variables correlated with it. Additionally, insights into the academic achievement gap are provided.

Research Design

The study employed a quantitative, cross-sectional, survey, Structural Equation Modeling design. The sample was drawn from the middle school population. There were 77 student participants with their parents who were from two middle schools across two states in the US. The data was analyzed using AMOS statistical package to estimate the parameters and to determine the fit of the structural model with the observed data. The statistical significance level of .05 was established for the study.

Results

The results from the analysis partially supported the structural model. Some of the hypothesized relationships emerged as expected with positive, moderate and statistically significant correlations. These include Parental Educational Status (PES) with Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL), FRL with academic achievement (AA), PES with Parental Involvement (PI). The hypothesized relationship between FRL and PI, PI and AA, PI and CLE and CLE and AA did not emerge as expected. Their correlations were statistically non-significant with the correlation between CLE and AA and PI and CLE being in an inverse direction. Regarding the sub-models, the lack of a statistically significant correlation between PI and AA, resulted in its inability to mediate the relationship between PES and AA and FRL and AA. Therefore, PI failed to mediate the influence of both FRL and PES on AA. These sub-models of the inter-relationship between FRL, PI and AA and PES, PI and AA were not confirmed as expected. Further investigation is required to explain these unexpected findings, although the small sample size could be partially responsible for this outcome.

Conclusions

The conclusions that were drawn from the results of this study are that a direct relationship existed between the variables FRL and AA, PES and FRL and PES and PI. PI was unable to mediate the relationship between FRL and AA because of its non-significant relationship with AA. However, the direct robust influence of FRL on AA, eliminated the need for mediation from PI. This confirmed the potency of FRL to influence AA without any mediation from PI. The correlation between FRL and PI was not practically or statistically significant, which is in contrast with the relationship between PES and PI. PES had a strong and positive correlation with PI, which signifies that the higher levels of PES result in higher levels of PI. Therefore, it appears that PI is a function of PES, as evidenced by the higher parental involvement scores reported by more educated parents. Additionally, the intensity of the correlation between PES and FRL is not as strong as that of PES and PI. PI and AA did not achieve a statistically significant relationship, which may be attributed to the strong and robust correlation between FRL and AA. The school-based forms of PI like communication, decision making and volunteering as well as the home-based form of PI, academic socialization require social/cultural capital. This resource is not readily available to lower socio-economic parents, compared to their middle class counter-parts. The disparity in the standardized tests scores between students from the diverse socio-economic status groups requires an understanding of the role of parental involvement in academic achievement and how its types are influenced by SES. A comprehensive perspective of academic achievement must be filtered through the lens of these variables. Thus, it is imperative that the home/school partnership be effectively promoted and maintained.

Subject Area

Academic achievement, Eighth grade (Education), Education, Elementary--Parent participation, Learning ability, Classroom environment

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