Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Giilian Bayne

Subject Categories

Civic and Community Engagement | Education | Inequality and Stratification | Urban Education


parent involvement, institutional logics, Parent Teacher Association (PTA), education, segregation, relational inequality


Parental involvement in schools takes many forms. This thesis explores formal parent/guardian organizations in public schools (not charter) in New York City, like the parent teacher associations (PTA), the School Leadership Teams (SLT), as well as district-wide organizations like the Community Education Councils, through which parents/guardians organize for collective actions that impact all the schools in the district. Using a mixed methods approach, this thesis identifies: 1) the types of parents/guardians that participate in these organizations and their motivations; 2) how parents/guardians understand their relation to school governance and school policy and how this understanding is reflective of their socio-economic status; 3) how the structures of parent organizations limit or enhance parent engagement and 4) and how the practices and norms of parent organizations have evolved in reaction to political and social forces. An institutional logics framework is coupled with a theory of relational inequality to gain a deeper understanding of how actors negotiate for organizational resources, power and authority. By contextualizing analysis of parent organizations within larger social institutions, including the historical development of parent organizations and the evolution of theories regarding parental involvement, we can better understand how parent/guardian identities are constructed in education policy, how the practice of parent engagement reflects strategic decisions and behaviors that perpetuate unequal resource allocations. An examination of the norms and regulations governing parental organizations allows us to understand how parents are limited in their ability to affect educational reform, even though their advocacy and engagement are prerequisites for meeting governmental educational mandates. The performance of parental involvement in school settings reifies longstanding logics of who is valued, what forms of learning are valued, and what forms of parental involvement are acknowledged and allowed; in turn augmenting the power and authority of parents that are already socio-economically privileged within schools and the broader community.

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