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Academic optimism and community engagement in urban schools

Misty M. Kirby (University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia)
Michael F. DiPaola (The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationships among academic optimism, community engagement, and student achievement in urban elementary schools across one district.


Data were collected from all 35 urban elementary schools across one district in Virginia, USA. Correlation, multiple regression, and factor analyses were used to test the hypotheses.


In schools where the faculty are optimistic that their students can succeed despite the obstacle of low socioeconomic status (SES) and where the community is engaged, students are more likely to achieve at higher levels. Findings of this study also supported that community engagement, collective efficacy, trust in clients, and academic press do act as predictors to collectively influence student achievement.

Research limitations/implications

The Goddard measure for collective efficacy was replaced with one developed for more challenging settings such as urban schools.

Practical implications

Academic optimism and community engagement were found to work in ways that improve student achievement. Understanding the social contexts in classrooms and schools allows education leaders to work with faculty in examining current practice, in an effort to improve the educational outcomes for all students, even those who must overcome the obstacles to learning posed by their low SES.


With only one previous study of this construct in an urban elementary setting, the current study sought to test those findings in an effort to continue pushing this research agenda into urban settings.



Kirby, M.M. and DiPaola, M.F. (2011), "Academic optimism and community engagement in urban schools", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 49 No. 5, pp. 542-562.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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