Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sharon Zumbrunn

Second Advisor

Maureen Conroy

Third Advisor

Kevin Sutherland

Fourth Advisor

Jesse Senechal


The purpose of this embedded mixed methods collective case study was to explore eight kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers’ experiences partnering with families of their students who are at risk for emotional or behavioral disorders (EBDs). The teachers worked in two high-poverty, non-accredited Title-1 schools in an urban city. The study was part of a federally funded intervention called Behavioral, Emotional, and Social Training: Competent Learners Achieving School Success (BEST in CLASS- Elementary; BiC-E; Sutherland et al., 2017), which is targeted for students at risk for the development of EBDs. It uses evidence- based instructional practices to decrease students’ problem behaviors and increase their engagement.

Teachers had BiC-E coaches help them implement a Home-School Partnership manual and process with 1 to 2 families of students at risk for EBDs. The teachers completed pretest measures, followed by a collection of weekly coaching reports for 15 weeks, then posttest measures and posttest interviews were conducted. The study intended to (a) learn more about teachers’ perspectives of partnering with families of their most challenging student and (b) help expand the literature about home-school partnership strategies for teachers to use with their families of students at risk for EBD. Mixed methods analyses revealed three keys to teachers’ successes in partnering with families: a) using the Home-School Partnership process with the CARES Framework encouraged more than just communication, it built empathy, cultural awareness, and effective communication strategies, b) presence of coaches promoted family- teacher partnerships, and c) encouragement of a partnership approach for teachers and families underscored the strengths both partners provided. A conceptual framework illustrated the complicated nature of these partnerships and underscored further study of this under-studied topic. Themes from the qualitative components shed light on the importance of congruence in the roles and expectations for both families and teachers in the partnership. Implications for policy and practice are discussed. Findings help inform the scant literature on targeted home- school partnership processes for teachers and families of students at risk for EBD.


© Kim McKnight

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