Announcement of Ed.D. Dissertation Defense Kyle John Schimpf: “Exploring Changing Expectations of Middle School Families within a COVID-19 Context”
It is well documented that effective and responsive middle schools must be set up to support students through numerous changes experienced during adolescence. In practice, however, the work of public schools is not done in a vacuum, and educators must consider parent expectations in decision-making. Meeting the varied needs of adolescent learners and being inclusive of parent expectations are both challenges that have been compounded by the major disruptions to school operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the research site, Parktown Middle School (PMS) in the Central Atlantic School District (CASD), the challenge of educating during a global health emergency raised the need to better define and understand the expectations of parents, and to identify whether and how parent expectations changed during COVID-19. Research in two fields of study, parent participation in schools and schooling during crises, establishes the importance of studies conducted in local contexts, and reinforces the importance of utilizing parent input when supporting adolescent students. Through a survey, this study surfaced the expectations of PMS parents within the areas of academics, school culture/climate, and school-home relations with consideration for prepandemic and COVID-19 contexts. Findings showed that parents held universally high expectations for academic and school culture/climate-based items, and lower priority for schoolhome relations needs. During the pandemic, there were significant changes to expectations in all three areas, including the softening of academic expectations, a raised level of importance for student wellbeing, and the need for higher levels of communication from school. Focus group input helped to explain survey results, contextualize findings, and reveal just how difficult the COVID-19 school experience was for caretakers and their children. Parents eagerly provided their hopes for the post-pandemic future at PMS, which allows this author, Principal at PMS, to take a critical look at school practices in an effort to align services to the actual needs of families to further balance academic, social, and emotional support. Though specific to a local context, this study should encourage other school leaders to engage their parents to define the expectations they hold for their child’s school experience.
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