Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Amy Cook

Second Advisor

Melissa Pearrow

Third Advisor

Angela K. Stone-MacDonald


Family engagement has been recognized as a strategy to help close the achievement gap (Fantuzzo et al., 2004). Through Boston Public Schools’ Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model (CBHM), a family engagement practice was implemented in partnership with an elementary school’s school-wide leadership team to promote family engagement at the school and within Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS). Understanding multiple stakeholders’ perceptions of family engagement has been recognized in previous literature; however, a shared perception of family engagement within SW-PBIS has yet to be examined. This study aimed to investigate family’s and school staff’s perceptions of the SW-PBIS behavioral expectations, communication efforts, shared-decision making, and the atmosphere as a part of enhancing SW-PBIS at the elementary school.

This case study involved implementation of two environmental walk events, during which families walked around the school observing evidence of SW-PBIS behavioral expectations. Follow up semi-structured individual interviews were completed with five family members and six school staff. Interview data was triangulated with post environmental walk evaluation surveys completed by families and school staff and observational field notes. A constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2014) was used to analyze the transcribed interviews, with the other data sources analyzed sequentially to support the categories and resulting theory.

Results suggest that the behavioral expectations facilitate a cohesive and consistent environment for students across the home and school settings. Bidirectional communication between families and school staff was enhanced through the environmental walks, with opportunities for engaging in shared decision-making at the school. Environmental walk attendees acknowledged the welcoming, inclusive school community that fostered building connections. Findings from this case study point to the environmental walk as a multifunctional event that promotes sustained family engagement for families of younger elementary school children at schools already implementing SW-PBIS. This study acknowledges the importance of reflecting on the prioritization of family engagement at urban public elementary schools and offers implications and recommendations for research, school-based practitioners and school staff, elementary schools, the family engagement within SW-PBIS framework (Garbacz et al., 2016), and CBHM.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.