Supporting what works

About a year and a half ago, award-winning journalist Leonard Pitts, whose Miami Herald column is syndicated nationally (including in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), started a series called “What Works” to profile programs having real impact and producing real outcomes for America’s kids.

With nearly 1.4 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. (a good many whose focus is children and youth), I can only imagine how many responses Mr. Pitts received to his request for nominations. Parents as Teachers was one of them, although it was not among those highlighted in his column.

That’s not surprising. Of the approximately 3,000 entities nationwide offering Parents as Teachers services, many don’t even use the Parents as Teachers name. They go by the name of their sponsoring agency (e.g., Head Start, Even Start, Smart Start, xyz Child Care Center) but receive training, certification, curriculum and technical assistance and ongoing support from Parents as Teachers National Center. 

In April, Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone (and one of Mr. Pitts highly recognized programs that work), spoke to parent educators at the Parents as Teachers Conference in St. Louis. His message then was the same as Mr. Pitts notes in today’s column: we can spend $3,500 (in the case of Harlem Children’s Zone) on a child at age 8, or $60,000 a year to keep him in prison for 10 years.

Interestingly, Parents as Teachers National Center estimates a the cost of offering its Born to Learn model of services at $1,400-$1,800 per family…about half that of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Parents as Teachers begins working with families from the beginning…at birth, or even during pregnancy, to get it right.

There are many programs that ‘work’. We all face the same challenge: getting companies, legislators and private citizens to say, “I want to support what works. I want research to back it up and I want to see outcomes to prove it works.” It’s not rocket science. It’s simple math.