The Effect of Parental Involvement on Academic Achievement in Literacy on Preschool Students Receiving Itinerant Special Education Services.

Erin Fonner

Columbia College

Summer, 2010

 

 

 


Abstract

The purpose of this article was to look at the relationship between parental involvement and the student with special needs’ achievement in pre-literacy skills when receiving Itinerant services. The study focused on 12 preschool children, ages three to five years old, who have been diagnosed with a Developmental Delay and are currently receiving one hour of special education itinerant services a week.  The three hypotheses examined in this study addressed (A) the difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to an increase in parental involvement as measured by a teacher-made assessment, (B) the difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to the degree of at-riskness of the participants as measured by a teacher-made assessment, and (C) difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to the interaction of increase in parental involvement and the degree of at-riskness of the participants as measured by a teacher-made assessment.  According to the ANCOVA analysis results traditional involvement methods versus non-traditional involvement methods do not produce significantly different grades at p<.05; therefore hypothesis A was accepted (F= .8, df=1 and 17, p<.38).  The moderator variable at-riskness also did not show significance with the experimental group using parental involvement methods; therefore hypothesis B was also accepted (F=.01, df=1 and 17, p<.92).  There was no significant interaction between increased parental involvement and at-riskness.  Hypotheses C was accepted (F= 1.71, df=1 and 17, p<.21).


Research has found that parental involvement is imperative in creating a consistent, collaborative, and effective strategy to enable Preschool Special Education students to learn and grow.  Itinerant teachers face a particularly difficult issue when it comes to improving parental relations to inform and educate the parents in hopes of providing a more appropriate and successful learning environment.  Sadler (2003) noted that early childhood special education Itinerant teachers “act as inclusion specialists supporting preschoolers with disabilities in community settings” (p. 8).   Services can be provided through direct instruction as well as collaborative-consultation services, and ultimately work towards mastering the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals and objectives.  

What many Itinerant teachers are finding is that there is difficulty maintaining a parent-teacher relationship due to the nature of the position.  Unfortunately, they are not available when a parent comes to pick up the child at the end of the day and do not see the child on a daily basis.  It is imperative for the Itinerant teacher to increase parental involvement in order to build a bridge between school and home in the hopes of increasing pre-literacy skills.

The purpose of this article was to identify the relationship between parental involvement in the preschool classroom and the student’s achievement in literacy.  Major questions that needed to be investigated in this study were:  Do preschool students with special needs increase achievement in literacy as a result of increased parental involvement?  Will the degree of at-riskness of the participants play a role in the effectiveness of the parental involvement?

The importance of this study was to determine if parental involvement had any effect on the literacy achievement in preschool children with special needs.   Researchers have found that when the parent or guardian is active in the learning process, there is an increase in student achievement in the area of literacy. This study investigated that if parents were given supplemental materials to assist their children at home, the student’s assessment scores in literacy would increase.

From this information came three hypotheses which examined:

A.    The difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to an increase in parental involvement as measured by a teacher-made assessment.

B.     The difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to the degree of at-riskness of the participants as measured by a teacher-made assessment.

C.     The difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to the interaction of an increase in parental involvement and the degree of at-riskness of the participants as measured by a teacher-made assessment.


The Effect of Parental Involvement on Academic Achievement in Literacy of Preschool Students Receiving Itinerant Special Education Services.

Driessen, Smit, and Sleegers (2005) determined that the two types of parental involvement are school-initiated and parent-initiated.  Involvement may include contact such as parent-teacher conferences, home visits, field trip chaperone or participating in an in-class activity.  It may also include volunteering in the classroom, following through with suggested activities by teachers, and responding for requests of information.  Bridge’s (2001) research suggested that the student’s parents and their home culture are at the core of the child’s life and learning, and therefore the parents are the most powerful and influential people on the effect of the preschool curriculum.  Hill and Taylor (2004) noted that parents are considered to be children’s “first educators” and for that reason need to be educated and provide appropriate and educational activities at home that are introduced in the classroom.  Arnold, Zeljo, Doctoroff, and Ortiz (2008) stated that, “Involved parents likely help build positive relationships between children and their teachers, foster positive feelings about school in their children, and generally support children’s social and academic development, all of which may facilitate learning” (p. 77).   Once the collaboration between school and home can be formed, the opportunity for success is increased.

Research has shown that the term “parental involvement” may have multiple meanings and can be perceived differently by both the teacher and the parent.  Knopf and Swick (2007) suggested that as early educators, it is important when developing those relationships and encouraging involvement of families in the classroom, that there be a more distinct set of guidelines in setting up positive communication.  Swick (2004) suggested the following:

1.      Provide parents with multiple opportunities to be a part of shaping the family-strengthening services they and their children receive.

2.      Dialogue with the parents about the services and activities in which they participate

3.      Create parent mentors who have been successful in using early childhood services to empower themselves and their families. These mentors can educate, nurture, and support other parents in becoming empowered.

4.      Model for parents the helping relationship behaviors you hope for them to achieve.

5.      Organize parent feedback teams to assess the early childhood family-strengthening efforts. (p. 219)

Knopf and Swick (2008) further noted that “parent involvement strengthens the education that children receive, and that families’ proclivity to be involved is influenced by the strength of the relationships that we, their children’s teachers and caregivers, develop with parents” (p. 296).

            As early childhood educators, it is imperative that the teachers are cognizant of the emotions involved when dealing with parents of children with special needs.  Spann, Kohler, and Soenksen (2003) found that parent involvement can have many positive effects on children receiving special education services.  These results can include preservation of gains made in the program, generalization of gains across settings, and more effective interventions and strategies.  Children receiving Itinerant services are included in the regular education classroom and are pulled from the classroom twice weekly to receive services through one-on-one or small group sessions, and/or through inclusive services where the Itinerant teacher works with the student directly in the classroom.  These sessions are geared towards providing opportunities to master their IEP goals and objectives.  For the majority of the time however, they are included in the regular education classroom without support. 

Swick and Hooks (2005) discovered that there is an emotional sensitivity that parents of children with special needs possess and the researchers suggested that all teachers, both regular education and special education, take note of that sensitivity when including parents in the educational process.  Swick and Hooks recommended that in order to build confidence within the parents and create a positive relationship, teachers must determine the aspects which define an effective inclusive setting, include parents in all aspects of the decision-making process to determine the most appropriate learning environment, and finally increase partnerships with agencies and groups that can enhance the quality of the child’s life.

It is essential that parental involvement is encouraged by the Itinerant teacher to facilitate the necessary links between the child’s home life and their success in literacy.  Research in recent years has shown that phonemic awareness skills, letters and print, and language development are all skills that are emerging during the preschool years (Arnold, Zeljo, Doctoroff, & Ortiz, 2008).  It is through this research that the authors believed that the experience that children have in the preschool classroom builds the foundation for literacy success, as well as future academic success.  According to Sadler (2003), one way to create that link is by involving parents in reading books at home that have already been read in school and to promote excitement and a better understanding of literacy.  By building relationships with parents, educating them on what is being taught in the classroom, and providing the necessary materials, scores on literacy assessments will increase for students with special needs.

A special education teacher faces an important job of connecting both the student’s home life and school life in order to meet student needs.  The teacher must promote a positive relationship with the parent, be empathetic and supportive, and include the parent in all decision making processes.  By making the parent aware of what is being taught in the classroom, providing activities that can be completed at home, and explaining ways in which to assist their student build pre-literacy skills, parents can impact heavily on their child’s success in the classroom.

 

Method

Participants

The study was conducted over an eight week period. This study was quantitative and qualitative in nature. The participants in this study consisted of 12 children, 7 males and 5 females from 8 elementary schools in a school district in South Carolina. The participants ranged between 3 and 5 years old and had a mean age of 4 years old. There were 6 Caucasian, 5 African American, and 1 Asian participant.  All of the participants had been diagnosed and labeled with a special needs delay. Eleven were Developmentally Delayed and one had an Autism diagnosis.  All of the participants were served in Regular education preschool and Kindergarten classrooms and received Itinerant services under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Materials

            The materials needed for this study included a pre- and post-survey completed by the teachers of the participants, a teacher made pre- and post-assessment, and weekly Itinerant teacher-made packets.

Procedures

            At the beginning of the study, a parent survey was given to the regular education teachers of the participants involved. The Itinerant teacher gave each participant a literacy assessment which examined knowledge of upper and lowercase letters, basic literacy skills, reading comprehension, and a timed rhyming assessment. Through each of the 8 weeks, a teacher-made packet was sent home with information, activities, and strategies on the literacy activities of the week to work on at home. At the conclusion of the eight weeks, a post-teacher survey was given to the regular education teachers again to compare the parent involvement from the beginning of the study through the end. In addition, an identical literacy assessment was given as a posttest.

 

Results

The data from the conduct grades were analyzed by the use of a two-way factorial analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) based upon the presented hypotheses regarding the traditional and non-traditional methods used in parental involvement.  A level of significance of p<.05 was established to measure the hypotheses. The three hypotheses examined in this study address (A) the difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to an increase in parental involvement as measured by a teacher-made assessment, (B) the difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to the degree of at-riskness of the participants as measured by a teacher-made assessment, and (C) difference in the literacy achievement of preschool students with special needs due to the interaction of increase in parental involvement and the degree of at-riskness of the participants as measured by a teacher-made assessment.  

According to the ANCOVA analysis results traditional involvement methods versus non-traditional involvement methods do not produce significantly different grades at p<.05; therefore hypothesis A was accepted (F= .8, df=1 and 17, p<.09).  The moderator variable of at-riskness was above significance and; therefore hypothesis B was also accepted (F=.01, df=1 and 17, p<.92).  There was no significant interaction between increased parental involvement and the degree of at-riskness.  Hypotheses C was accepted (F= 1.71, df=1 and 17, p<.21).

Discussion

The current research suggested that the method of instruction of increasing parental involvement would increase student’s scores on literacy in preschool.  Much of the research supports the implementation of parental involvement (Arnold, Zeljo, Doctoroff, and Ortiz, 2008; Swick and Hooks, 2005; Knopf and Swick, 2007).  The results of this study did not demonstrate a significant difference in the increase in parental involvement used to impact the literacy achievement of the students.

The teaching style of the educator in this study could have had an impact on the results, regardless of the instructional method.  The characteristics the educator possessed and exhibited illustrated the genuine effort towards academic success of all participating students in the study. The number of participants also influenced the results and more participants may have yielded different results.

In conclusion, much research suggested that increasing parental involvement can increase the literacy achievement of all students despite the results of this limited study.  The integration of literacy materials, contact with the parents, and overall increased involvement, may have had no impact on student learning, but the results are not conclusive and other researchers have demonstrated that parental involvement does influence student achievement.

 

 


References

Arnold, D. H., Zeljo, A., Doctoroff, G. L., & Ortiz, C. (2008). Parent involvement in

preschool: Predictors and the relation of involvement to preliteracy development. School Psychology Review, 37(1), 74-90.

Bridge, H. (2001). Increasing parental involvement in the preschool curriculum: What an

action research case study revealed. International Journal of Early Years Education, 9(1), 5-21.

Driessen, G., Smit, F., & Sleegers, P. (2005). Parental involvement and educational

achievement. British Educational Research Journal, 31(4), 509-532.

Hill, N. E., & Taylor, L. C. (2004). Parental school involvement and children's academic

achievement. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(4), 161-164.

Knopf, H., & Swick, K. (2007). How parents feel about their child’s teacher/school: Implications

for early childhood professionals. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(4), 291-296.

Knopf, H., & Swick, K. (2008). Using our understanding of families to strengthen family

involvement. Early Childhood Education Journal, 35(5), 419-427.

Sadler, F. H. (2003). The itinerant special education teacher in the early childhood

classroom. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(3), 8-15.

Spann, S. J., Kohler, F. W., & Soenksen, D. (2003). Examining parents' involvement in

and perceptions of special education services: an interview with families in a parent support group. Focus on Autism & Other Developmental Disabilities, 18(4), 228-237.

Swick, K. (2004). What parents seek in relations with early childhood family helpers. Early

Childhood Education Journal, 31(3), 217–220.

Swick, K., & Hooks, L. (2005). Parental experiences and beliefs regarding inclusive placements

of their special needs children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 32(6), 1–6.
Appendices

Appendix A: Ancova Summary

Source

SS

df

MS

F

P

Teaching Method

15.05

1

15.05

0.8

0.3836

At-Riskness

0.14

1

0.14

0.01

0.9215

Interaction

32.13

1

32.13

1.71

0.2084

Adjusted Error

318.63

17

18.74

 

Appendix B: Adjusted Means