Effects of Parent Expectations and Involvement on the School Readiness of Children in Head Start



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There is an achievement gap occurring between ethnic minority children, mostly from low-income homes, and European American children in the United States. The gap between these children is present at school entry. Many children are not prepared for the minimal standards needed to succeed in school and, as a result, the gap widens throughout schooling. School readiness is an important attribute for future success among all children. There are many efforts to close this school readiness gap through early intervention. Head Start is an example of an early intervention program offering educational and social services to low-income families in an effort to promote school readiness among children at-risk for school failure. Early intervention programs, policy, and research acknowledge that advocating parent involvement and empowerment is the foundation for improving children's ability to be successful in school. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between parent variables and school outcomes. Specifically, the focus was to study how parent expectations and parent involvement in home learning and enrichment activities affect the school readiness of children enrolled in Head Start. The study examined how these parent variables were related to children's school readiness, and differences between ethnic groups, gender groups, and level of risk. The study tested a model whereby the effect of parent expectations on school readiness is mediated by parent involvement. The sample consisted of 77 caregivers, primarily mothers or mother figures, and their children who were enrolled in a Head Start preschool program. The caregivers were given experimental measures in addition to questionnaires adapted from standardized measures to assess parent behaviors. Standardized measures were administered to children to assess school readiness. Demographic information and level of risk were gathered using existing data collected during the enrollment process. Results indicated that high parent expectations directly relate to increased school readiness scores. Parent expectations also had a positive direct relationship to parent involvement. However, results did not support that parent involvement in home learning activities served as a mediator of the relationship between parent expectations and school readiness variables. In addition, the analysis of ethnicity, gender, and risk level suggested these variables had no moderation effects on the parent expectations and school readiness relationship or the comprehensive model. Study implications for parent behaviors and school readiness are discussed.