We know Parents as Teachers can deliver children to schools developmentally on track. We know we can help close both the readiness and achievement gaps. Dr. Edward Zigler’s recent study of 7,000 Missouri kindergarteners showed quite clearly that Parents as Teachers brings low income children to the same level as non-poverty children, moving all of them ahead at both kindergarten and 3rd grade and reducing the need for IEPs.
Our priorities haven’t changed, but the approach Parents as Teachers uses to engage families in the early learning process has.
This new approach lifts up the importance of healthy child development within the context of family well-being, leading to successful schools and healthy communities.
- We heard very clearly that families are evolving and that to meet their needs Parents as Teachers needed to evolve.
- We heard from legislators of the importance to give priority service to high needs families.
- And we heard from foundations that support our work that to remain sustainable, we must clearly demonstrate our evidence and research base, and establish and maintain model fidelity.
Parents as Teachers hasn’t changed so much as it has evolved. Child development may not be changing but families are, and the way we translate and present information to families has become increasingly complex. Parents as Teachers has shifted from using an instructional approach to a more process-oriented approach to parenting with a focus on family well-being. This requires new learning.
Children develop within the context of families, so the strengthened Parents as Teachers approach focuses on family well-being. The process of working with parents from that perspective is different. Our model has always been universally applicable, but now we are helping parent educators learn how to approach all families and think differently about Parents as Teachers. Parents as Teachers is still preparing children for school. But we’re doing so by strengthening the family unit.
Our approach to personal visits, the cornerstone of Parents as Teachers, has moved from a focus on child development to a focus on development-centered parenting and family well-being. Parent educators now learn how to facilitate, reflect and partner with families to achieve outcomes for their children. Even the structure of the visit itself has changed to reflect that.
Parents as Teachers hasn’t lost its education focus. In fact, with this new approach we are better preparing children for school and creating a stronger family system in which they will live throughout their school years.
All of this positions Parents as Teachers as the gateway to the education continuum, delivering children to schools ready to learn and their parents ready to support that learning.