Date of Award

Winter 12-16-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Abigail Ross, LICSW, MPH, PhD

Second Advisor

Trenette Clark Goings, PhD



Purpose: The largest academic achievement gap in the U.S. is between African American and White students. Parental engagement and involvement are two key factors that influence academic success and may help reduce the achievement gap; however, traditional definitions and strategies used remain highly racially biased. The research supported two papers with aims of exploring (1) definitions of parental engagement and involvement and (2) barriers to and facilitators of parental engagement and involvement among African American single parents of elementary and middle school students. Methods: Employing a phenomenological design, this qualitative study used purposive sampling to recruit 15 African American single parents of elementary and middle school-aged children for participation in semi-structured interviews that explored participants’ definitions of parental engagement, the relationship of parental engagement to academic achievement, and barriers to and facilitators of parental engagement. Data was analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: Data analyses revealed four salient themes related to participants definitions of engagement and involvement: racist ideas and racist engagement, counternarrative development as an engagement strategy, effective parent-teacher communication, and cultural representation and inclusion. Data analyses revealed six salient themes related to barriers and facilitators: racism, intersectional stigma, single parent stress, African American representation, supporting diverse family forms, and accessible and equitable resources. Implications: The research findings suggested that school administrators and staff not only improve their lens of antiracist school practices, but also improve the parent-teacher communication process. In addition, schools should be intentional on integrating social justice, inclusion, and respect for diversity in policy development and school wide practices.

Included in

Social Work Commons