A comparison of principals' and parents' perceptions of family engagement in schools

Karen Ash Frost


In an age of educational accountability, the ability of a school leader to create a strong community partnership with parents is not only seen as important, but vital for improving school success School leaders are expected to create an atmosphere conducive for student learning and parent involvement. In order to build a school where families are engaged and eager to participate, the principal must strive to understand what parents think about family engagement in schools, and compare it to their own perceptions in order to create a strong partnership. The purpose of this study is to compare principals' and parents' perception of family engagement as it relates to communication, school culture, and school leadership. This is a quantitative study using a survey created for principals and archived data of parent responses from a district-wide school improvement survey, in order to compare perceptions of both groups. Principals from 56 schools in a large metropolitan school district were surveyed, and data from 11,765 parents was used for the comparison. A Pearson Correlation and Paired Samples t-test were used to analyze the data. It was found that the correlation was positive and statistically significant between parent and principal perceptions of communication and school culture. The correlation for school leadership was not statistically significant. Paired t-tests indicated the mean perception of parents and principals differ regarding school culture and school leadership. There was no difference in the parents' and principals' perception regarding communication. Based on these findings, the schools in this study have a good communication system between school and home. These schools need to communicate their vision and goals to stakeholders, and allow parents to give input into school decisions. Principals must take time to analyze parent perceptions and use that information when developing the family engagement plan.