Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

Committee Chair/Advisor

Hans Klar

Committee Member

Robin Phelps-Ward

Committee Member

Rachel Wagner

Committee Member

Bonnie Holaday


Across diverse educational spaces, parental engagement is regarded as a critical factor in determining student academic achievement. However, dominant narratives of low-income African American parent (LIAAP) disengagement have been perpetuated in scholarship and practice, adding to the centuries of misuse and maltreatment Black families have experienced historically by way of educational institutions in the United States. Therefore, to counter these narratives and better understand parental engagement from the perspectives of LIAAP, in this three-article dissertation, I explored the impacts of race and social class on LIAAP engagement. Through a Critical Race Theory (CRT) lens and a phenomenological Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach, I employed a research design that captured the lived experiences of LIAAP and gleaned a community perspective from their insights (Bush et al., 2019). In Chapter 1, I introduced the study by highlighting important background information, defining the problem of practice, identifying the research questions, and discussing the purpose and significance of the study. Further, I explained my positionality, described the theoretical framework and research methodology, and summarized the limitations and delimitations of the study. In Chapter 2, I examined past educational contexts and prior research studies related to African American parental engagement to conceptualize a socio-historical timeline and situate the current state of LIAAP engagement within the literature. I propose that the United States’ educational climate is currently in a critical state that requires focused attention on listening and understanding the experiences of African Americans to transform educational outcomes for Black families. Next, in Chapter 3, I used critical race methodology to present a counternarrative of LIAAP engagement through community cultural wealth. Findings indicated that Black parents accessed multiple forms of underrecognized cultural capital to engage in their children’s educational experiences and that despite the challenges associated with their racial and social statuses, the Black parents in this study consistently sought opportunities to improve educational outcomes for their children. Finally, in Chapter 4, through the use of focus group data, I presented community-based participatory research (CBPR) as a promising research approach for educational leaders to build trust with Black parents, increase parent engagement, improve school outcomes, and transform educational policy. I discussed two major themes: the impact of past educational experiences and the relationship between trust and care. I concluded in Chapter 5, by summarizing each chapter and discussing the overall “essence” of the LIAAP experience based on the three selected articles—battered yet unbothered, we want what’s best for our kids. I end the chapter by providing implications and recommendations that promote equitable engagement practices for Black families and schools.



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