Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Sophia Catsambis

Committee Members

Paul Attewell

Juan Battle

Katherine Chen

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Leadership | Educational Sociology | Elementary Education | Organization Development | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Urban Education | Work, Economy and Organizations


schools as organizations, parental involvement policy, parental involvement, school effectiveness, high risk schools, school improvement


Drawing on organizational theory and the school effectiveness literature, this project incorporates new methodological approaches to the analysis of a national longitudinal data set (ECLS-K: 2011) in order to investigate ways in which school goals around parental involvement, distribution of power, and culture affect parental involvement in children’s education, especially in schools serving large proportions of lower socioeconomic status families.

Parental involvement is widely accepted among researchers and policymakers to be essential for students’ academic success; however, parents with lower socioeconomic status exhibit less participation in both home-based and school-based activities compared to those of higher socioeconomic backgrounds.

Many recent federal and state policies on education attempt to address this gap in involvement by mandating the development of programs promoting parental participation. Unfortunately, most of these approaches are unsuccessful. Despite the underperformance of such initiatives, a systematic study of the organizational features of schools and their causal relationship to parental participation in children’s education has not been performed.

The study develops indicators of three key school organizational features, focusing on goals or priorities, power distribution, and culture. Data mining techniques are applied to explore which of the features, individually or combined, predicts parental involvement. The final two phases applied methods of causal inference and multi-level modeling to test the effects of the predictive school features on parental involvement practices. Findings show that beyond persistent school demographic characteristics, school goals or priorities related to parental involvement are the only predictive organizational features. Specifically, priority to engage parents in school social life positively impacts school-based parental involvement, but not in high risk schools. Priority to engage parents in academic-related communications negatively impacts home-based parental involvement, particularly in high risk schools.