Early Childhood Initiative Seminar featuring Angel Harris

A New Framework for Understanding Parental Involvement: Setting the Stage for Academic Success

November 30, 2016
3:00 PM-4:30 PM

The Coleman Report posited that the inequality of educational opportunity appears to stem from the home itself and the cultural influences immediately surrounding the home. However, this line of inquiry assumes school and home processes operate in isolation, which is often not the case. An example of how families and schools can reinforce one another is through parental involvement. Whereas some studies suggest children have better achievement outcomes when parents are involved in their education, other studies challenge the link between parental involvement and academic outcomes.  One major reason for this lack of consensus among scholars is that parents’ involvement has been measured differently across studies. Thus, scholars disagree about how parents should be involved and which aspects of parental involvement are associated with improvements in children’s academic outcomes, which contributes to inconsistent findings.  Duke Sociology Professor Angel Harris argues that the mixed results observed in previous studies reflect that parental involvement does not operate through the typical channels posited by researchers, educators, and policy makers; traditional measures of parental involvement fail to capture fundamental ways parents actually help their children academically.  He will present a framework of parental involvement that might provide some clarity on how parental involvement operates.
Angel Harris is professor of sociology and director of the program for Research on Education and Development of Youth (REDY) at Duke University. His research interests include social inequality, policy, and education. His work focuses on the social-psychological determinants of the racial achievement gap. Specifically, Harris examines the factors that contribute to differences in academic investment among African Americans, Latino/as, Asian Americans, and Whites. He also studies the impact that adolescents’ perceptions of opportunities for upward socio-economic mobility have for their academic investment and the long-term effects of youths’ occupational aspirations both within the United States and Europe.
Harris earned a bachelor’s degree from Grambling State University, a master’s degree from Kansas State University, and a Ph.D. in public policy and sociology from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the faculty at Duke, he was a member of the faculty in sociology and African American studies at the University of Texas at Austin and Princeton University. Additionally, he was a fellow of the National Forum on the Future of Liberal (Arts) Education.