Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Carlos Zalaquett

Co-Major Professor

Liliana Rodriguez-Campos

Keywords

Mentoring, Photovoice, Resilience, School-community collaboration, School Counseling, Urban Education

Abstract

Abstract

Faith-based school-family-community partnerships have been a federal mandate over the past decade, yet little has been written about the outcomes of these faith-based partnerships. A need exists to understand if the potential in these faith-based partnerships is indeed realized in positive outcomes for students and schools. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a faith-based school-family-community partnership, Just Love. Just Love is a faith-based school-family-community partnership between a large suburban church and a Title 1, urban elementary school, Charisma Elementary School (Charisma ES; pseudonym). It was implemented in what is considered a "failing school". Just Love's purpose was to have the volunteers from the church provide love, care, supportive adult relationships and service to the teachers, students, and parents of Charisma ES through a comprehensive, systemic program: Just Mentor (i.e., a school-based mentoring program), Just Connect (i.e., a classroom adoption program), and Just Rewards (i.e., a school wide student incentives/rewards and parent involvement program). The Bryan and Henry (2012) School-Family-Community Partnership Process Model was used in developing Just Love.

The Model for Collaborative Evaluations (MCE) (Rodriguez-Campos, 2005) was used in this evaluation to actively engage stakeholders during the evaluation process and to answer the evaluation questions (Rodriguez-Campos & Rincones-Gomez, 2012). A mixed methods research design was used. Differences in student outcomes (i.e. academic, behavior and attendance) were examined between Charisma ES and another matching school without a faith-based school-family-community partnership were analyzed with descriptive statistics, paired T-tests, and mixed ANOVAs. Student outcomes were also investigated relevant to different aspects of the Just Love programs including adopted classrooms compared to non-adopted classrooms and mentored students compared to non-mentored students.

In addition, this study gave 20 children (i.e., mentees) who had experienced all aspects of the Just Love programs an opportunity to share their perceived satisfactions, experiences, challenges and recommendations regarding Just Love through the method of photo elicitation including picture selection and interviews (DeMarie, 2010; Harper, 2002). The transcribed data from the interviews and the pictures used in the photo-elicitation process were analyzed using thematic analysis with a focus on capturing the voices of the students.

Student outcome data were collected for three years from 2010-2013, with 2009 as a baseline year. The findings from the quantitative aspect of this study revealed that students in Charisma ES made significantly greater gains in reading than students in Joseph ES following the implementation of the partnership. Further, number of disciplinary referrals decreased dramatically at Charisma ES in contrast to Joseph ES whose disciplinary referrals increased. Attendance rates differed significantly between the two schools with students in Joseph Elementary School having higher attendance rates than students in Charisma Elementary School.

On average, both adopted and non-adopted classes made gains in reading in each of the three years although adopted classes appeared to have higher reading scores in 2011-2012 than non-adopted classes. The average number of disciplinary referrals per class was lower for adopted classes than for non-adopted classes in 2011-2012, one academic year after the Just Love partnership program was implemented. Concerning attendance, there were no significant differences in attendance rates between students in adopted and non-adopted classes at Charisma ES,

Mentored students at Charisma made significant improvements in reading. They also had a dramatically lower average number of disciplinary referrals than non-mentored students in 2012-2013, just two years after the Just Love partnership was implemented. When compared to non-mentored students, mentored students had significantly higher attendance than non-mentored students in 2011-2012, just one year after the Just Love partnership began. Further, attendance appeared to have a positive relation to the number of years students were mentored.

Findings from the qualitative aspect of this study were captured using thematic analysis of the children's perceived satisfactions, experiences, challenges and recommendations concerning Just Love. The six categories that emerged from the data were (a) perceptions of Just Love, (b) positive feelings, (c) positive relationships and connectedness, (d) classroom and school climate, (e) experiences, and (f) support and resources. Each of these categories comprised a number of themes that aligned with identified protective factors and developmental assets necessary for the resiliency of and successful outcomes for children.

Taken together, the findings reveal that Just Love, a faith-based school-family-community partnership contributed to improved student outcomes in reading achievement, behavior and attendance and provided important protective factors and developmental assets for the children in Charisma ES. The Just Love partnership program presents a viable model for schools, school districts, and faith-based and community organizations that have a desire to foster resilience in children at-risk, generate positive academic, behavior, and attendance outcomes for children and decrease the chances of children growing up and developing risky behaviors. Implications for practice, training, evaluation, policy, and future research are discussed.

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