Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

William Curlette, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Dr. Kevin Fortner

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Gary Bingham


State and federal educational policy makers have promoted family engagement as an important factor for helping to address the persistent achievement gap in the United States. Research suggests that when parents are involved in their children’s education both at home and in early care and education programs, children demonstrate greater levels of academic success in an array of areas, such as school attendance, motivation toward learning, and overall academic performance. Despite these positive outcomes, challenges persist within research regarding how the construct of family engagement is measured, which has made it challenging to document the true impact of family engagement initiatives and interventions in educational settings. This study examined and improved ways in which family engagement is measured in a specific Head Start/Early Head Start setting that serves a predominately African American population. The study described strengths and limitations of different methods for assessing family engagement as well as evaluated valid and reliable family engagement instruments that have been used in prior research. A mixed methods instrument development process was employed where qualitative data were used to infuse the viewpoints of participants throughout the development process using Q-methodology. Validity and reliability scores were established for the instrument through the inclusion of important instrument development procedures such as construct conceptualization, factor analysis, differential item function analyses, and a study of group differences. Ecological systems theory supported the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data throughout the instrument development process, aiding in the explanation of the complex systems of interaction that effect the ways in which family engagement occurs in educational spaces. Results from the study reveal justifiable validity and reliability scores for the instrument intended to measure family engagement for the study population. A potential three-factor structure emerged from the analyses. Further steps should be taken for the finalization and refinement of the family engagement measurement instrument.