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Organization Finds Lasting Results by Working With Parents to Improve Early Ed

Scott Hippert, president and CEO of Parents as Teachers, refers to their parent-educators as “bridge builders” between families and their schools systems.


Parents as Teachers has used an evidence-based approach for assisting young parents in optimizing the learning potential during a child’s formative years, and through their K-12 experience and beyond, for more than 30 years. Hippert says that establishing the foundations for healthy interactions with teachers and other students is paramount to success, where parents and schools should share equal responsibility in a child’s education.


“They’re also focused on working with the family on the resiliency of the entire family, the safety and nurturing of the child, making sure that child has good healthcare, connecting that family to a medical home,” said Hippert, noting that the program spans across the United States and six other countries within a network of 11,000 parent educators working with local organizations aiming towards child and family enrichment. 


Trained professional parent-educators make personal visits to the homes of parents to encourage both learning and healthy brain development. They follow a vast, heavily researched and field-based curriculum that spans thousands of strategies for successful parent engagement in a child’s education. Each technique hones in on where different family’s strive, and is customizable to their specific situation. They base the formula off of each family’s strengths, and move out to their challenges as they work together to improve the child’s learning to create patterns that generate lasting success through life. 


Not only does the work contribute to offering a wider-range of care, but it also helps stretch budget constraints through the generosity of the collective, which is solidified in its mission to improve the results K-12 education yields. 


“We work very collaboratively with other agencies,” said Missy Riley, Director of Early Childhood and Parents as Teachers for Springfield, MO public schools. 


Professional development is inherent to the Parents as Teachers community and its growth, and this year’s conference expanded upon that philosophy as thousands flocked to Dallas, TX in order to strengthen the spirit of that mission back home. 


“Our national conference last year was best described as a ‘movement’ - we bring these folks together from all around the world and allow them to share their energy,” said Hippert. 


The learning environment is enriching, he says, and offers participants their chance to share their stories and to gain valuable knowledge for tackling some of the tough situations associated with being a parent educator. 


Riley lead a conference session on community outreach, specifically in the name of big-picture goals for Springfield’s K-12 system, which include utilizing the resources of other like-minded organizations in order to see Parents as Teachers’ programs flourish. With 20 years in public education in Springfield public schools, and a decade with Parents as Teachers, she has learned the ins-and-outs of this engagement through a career of experience working with the same community. 


“My philosophy, as cheesy as it may sound, is the ‘It takes a village’ approach, because there’s really no ‘one size fits all’ [approach] that’s appropriate for any family,” said Riley. 


Parents enter the program through a variety of ways, from doctor referral to recommendations from religious leaders and other trusted community members. Hippert says that the earlier parents enter the program, the better the results, with some members beginning during pregnancy. 


“Even through the most high-needs communities, where we have tracked data for many years, we find that children whose parents participated in Parents as Teachers are performing at or above grade level in third and sixth grade,” said Hippert. 


He highlighted that neuroscientists have established that nearly 90 percent or more of brain development occurs within a child’s first five years of life, with environment, avidities, and verbal communication all playing vital roles in that development during their early upbringing. 


“So that says something about what’s happening early on in that child’s life with their parents, and the fact that we’re making sure that those parents are engage with their children’s lives, engaged with their children’s schools, and stay engaged through that child’s educational journey,” said Hippert. 


According to their data, he cited that grades and standardized test scores are higher for Parents as Teachers participants, with suspension rates two-thirds lower, and attendance two-thirds higher by grades 3 and 6. 


“You can see, just, the genuine joy on parents’ faces that have been part of the Parents as Teachers programs,” said Riley, citing that 30-50 percent of the community’s population is served by Parents as Teachers at any given time. 


She says that the spirit of collaboration works itself into the families that they work with, and fosters the foundation of motivation that families utilize to move forward through the program as children make their way though K-12.   


EdTech has been embraced with the evolution of the program, with their entire curriculum available online opposed to a printed curriculum. Two-way video teleconferencing with parents, is also getting worked in as part of a partnership with the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work. After more testing is done, they plan to use the capability in their outreach. 


Riley said that news media, specifically her area’s local newspaper, is also doing its part in exploring poverty, and the ways effective early childhood education can help eliminate it through addressing improvements in the ecosystem around a child’s learning. A series of articles released by the newspaper on the matter brought on a larger conversation within Springfield’s community that has lead to Parents as Teachers significantly increased support and success in the area. 


“People light up. It’s just such a rewarding thing to see, because you can see that they genuinely appreciated the guidance and support that they received form their parent-educators, and that they considered them an extension of the family for sure, if not part of the family,” said Riley. 



Learn more about Parents as Teachers here



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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