Children do best when parents and teachers work together to support their development and learning. Yet many school systems struggle to effectively engage with parents as valued partners. Partnering with parents to support children’s health and development is especially important during the early years, and has long been recognized as a key component of high-quality early childhood programs. There is limited large-scale investment in integrating evidence-based practices for culturally-diverse parents, especially beyond the infant and toddler years. Such efforts are needed because the level of support to engage with families often falls off sharply when children enter the public school system. The transition to formal schooling is an important milestone in children’s and families’ lives, and it provides a critical opportunity to positively impact early childhood brain development. Moreover, establishing strong family-school relationships prior to kindergarten entry can set a solid foundation for empowering parents to stay involved and to advocate for their children throughout their educational experience.
A population-level approach that engages and supports parents as an essential component of early childhood initiatives has great potential to promote healthy development, reduce the achievement gap, and break the cycle of disadvantage for low-income children. Rigorous studies have demonstrated that strengthening home and early classroom environments can ameliorate the potentially devastating impact of stress on learning, behavior, and health, especially for children who are at highest risk for long-term problems.
ParentCorps, a scalable early childhood program for pre-k students and their families, was developed to effectively embed evidence-based interventions for both children and parents into high-poverty schools serving primarily families of color to achieve long-term positive outcomes for children. The main goals of this program are to engage and support communities of parents and early childhood teachers, promote nurturing and predictable home and classroom experiences for young children, and strengthen children’s learning, behavior, and health.
The plan involves partnering with Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) to bring ParentCorps to high-poverty schools (serving students from low-income homes) with pre-kindergarten programs (at least two classes, 36 students). Year 1 (2018 – 2019) will include a series of planning meetings between CCISD stakeholders and UT and NYU faculty to finalize details of the implementation plan. Nine CCISD schools have been identified as ideal settings for ParentCorps implementation. Based on CCISD demographic data from these school communities, we expect students to be primarily Latino (English- or Spanish-speaking) and eligible for free lunch.
Schools are expected to have increased family engagement and classrooms that are more nurturing and predictable for children. Schools are also expected to have capacity to implement evidence-based programs for parents of pre-k students and for pre-k students to increase social and behavioral competencies and early learning. Early childhood teachers are expected to change knowledge, beliefs and skills, and use evidence-based practices in the classroom and to successfully engage families. Parents are expected to change knowledge, beliefs and skills and use evidence-based practices at home to support their child’s development. Students are expected to enter kindergarten “ready to learn” with the requisite social and behavioral competencies necessary for success.