Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Steve Burghardt

Committee Members

Willie Tolliver

Harriet Goodman

Subject Categories

Community-Based Research | Education Policy | Elementary Education | Elementary Education and Teaching | Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | Social Welfare | Social Work | Urban Education


Family-School Partnerships, Elementary Education, Public Schools, New York City, Low-Income, Black Families


Educators, researchers, advocates, and others agree that effective family-school partnership is an important component in best supporting the academic outcomes and future success of students. However, schools and educators struggle in forming constructive partnerships with racially and economically marginalized and oppressed parents and families, particularly low-income Black parents and families. This compromises support for low-income Black students that are already served in underfunded and under-resourced schools compared to their White middleclass counterparts. Further, this phenomenon exacerbates a widely understood academic achievement gap between low-income Black students and White middleclass students. In seeking to unearth and better understand effective strategies and practices within family-school partnerships with low-income Black families in the hopes of improving them, most research and literature highlights the voice and perspective of school leadership, social workers, school psychologists and other professionals. A critical voiced missing in this discussion is that of the parents themselves. This study aims to highlight and bring their much-needed perspective to the conversation.

Employing in-depth, semi-structured interviews during the academic years of 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, this research gives insight and perspective into the family-school partnership experiences of twelve (12) low-income Black parents whose children were in the 3rdor 4th-grade at a public elementary school in New York City. Thematic analysis of the data revealed two main areas of focus within the family-school partnerships described: Relationships Within Family-School Partnerships and Influences Within Family-School Partnerships. Further, within each theme, four spheres of relationship (parent-child, parent-school, parent-principal, parent-teacher) and four spheres of influence (on-site school-based support program; parent manifested belief in parents' role in education; parent knowledge and opinion of teaching strategies and curriculum, and larger education system; race and ethnicity) were revealed. In addition, the data analysis showed the commitment, knowledge, and energy that the parents interviewed brought to their relationship with and to the school, as well as the constructive power that school leadership harnessed in actively seeking relationship and partnership steeped in honesty, trust, passion, and belief in and for the parents and families that they served. Finally, the study supported previous authors’ contentions for the inclusion of family home-based activities within models and frameworks of family-school partnership as well as revealed avenues for practice and future research towards the goal of strengthening family-school partnerships in support of best outcomes for students and their families.