The Education Innovator #12
Volume III
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 April 4, 2005 • Number 12
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What's inside...
EPIC (Every Person Influences Children)
What's New
Teacher-to-Teacher initiative accepting presentation proposals for summer workshops; Secretary Spellings speaks at Women's History Month celebration; two Arts Education grant competitions now open; OII to sponsor Innovations in Education Exchange: Choosing a School for Your Child; Excellence in Economic Education competition reopens; Western Folklife Center, Inc., receives award from Institute of Museum and Library Services; RIFNet launches new television program; and Project CHILD charter school to open.
Innovations in the News
Pasadena Independent School District (TX) receives Advanced Placement grant, plus information on alternate routes to teacher certification, charter schools and contract schools, parental involvement, and technology.

EPIC Programs Create Informed Parent-Leaders
You may not be a "Desperate Housewife" or a candidate for the television series "Nanny 911," but you are a parent with many responsibilities to juggle and just as many questions about how to be the best caregiver for your child. Parents who wonder how to best serve their children often need a place to find information and speak with other parents. In New York State and other areas of the country, parents can turn to the parent centers sponsored by EPIC.

EPIC (Every Person Influences Children) is a nonprofit organization based in Buffalo, New York, whose mission is to help parents, teachers, and community members raise children to become responsible and capable adults. Founded in 1980, EPIC has reached more than 15 states during its 25-year history. In 2004, EPIC centers served about 20,000 New York parents, teachers, and community members through its eight centers located in Bronx Districts 9 and 10, Buffalo, Fallsburg, Niagara Falls, Mt. Vernon, Yonkers, and Monticello. In addition to the New York centers, the organization is currently active in New Jersey, Texas, and the Virgin Islands.

Each parent center serves economically disadvantaged, minority, and limited-English proficient communities and is typically housed in a school. Each is staffed with professionals and offers parenting resources and training, a lending library, and computers with Internet access. The centers serve as central locations for the referral of community-based services and information on opportunities offered under No Child Left Behind. EPIC centers conduct two main parent-focused programs: Pathways to Parenting and Pathways to Leadership

The Pathways to Parenting program trains community members, often parents themselves, to lead small discussion groups where participants discover solutions to parenting challenges and enhance their parenting skills. EPIC's workshops empower parents and encourage them to become more involved in their children's education. EPIC offers workshops in three areas: Parents of Infants and Toddlers; Parents of Young Children; and Parents of Young Adolescents. All workshops are offered in English and Spanish and provide participants with parenting guides that reinforce what is taught in each workshop.

The Pathways to Parenting program provides specialized workshops that target specific needs in a community. For example, Ready, Set, Read, a seven-week series of two-hour workshops, focuses on enhancing family literacy. Based on research from the National Reading Panel, participants explore topics such as how children learn to read and how to engage children in learning. It also helps parents enhance their own literacy skills. A Ready, Set, Read parent guide provides simple techniques and activities to prepare children for reading and increase their potential for academic success.

The second program, Pathways to Leadership, links parents, teachers, and school faculty in a collaboration to develop participants' leadership skills. The program aims to increase participants' knowledge about how to become effective advocates for children in their local community. Pathways to Leadership includes workshops and training in three areas: Parents as Advocates, The Parent Leadership Institute, and Creating Home/School Partnerships and Parent Involvement.

During the Parents as Advocates series, parents learn how to develop relationships with their children and their children's teachers. For example, facilitators help parents understand New York's Learning Standards in the Helping Your Child Succeed in School workshop. This series also focuses on raising parent awareness about options if their children's schools fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Others across the country can benefit from EPIC's work with families and schools through its new website, funded by The John R. Oishei Foundation, a Buffalo-based organization. On this website, parents can find information about NCLB, school choice, supplemental educational services, schools' AYP status, literacy, and parenting techniques. All of the documents on the site are written in parent friendly language and can be downloaded and printed.

Vito Borrello, president of EPIC, states, "This web presence is a significant step toward achieving EPIC's vision of reaching a much wider audience nationally and supporting relationships that will promote effective parenting."

Currently, EPIC is working on a television program, Because I Said So, which it is estimated will reach over one million New York State residents. The one-hour television program, offered through a partnership between EPIC and a Buffalo-based Public Broadcasting Station, will showcase how some schools are closing the achievement gap and ways in which parents are helping their children succeed in low performing schools. Other topics will include parental options and choice for schooling, supplemental educational services, and school readiness.

In 2003, the EPIC parent centers' program was evaluated by an independent agency, Magi Educational Services, Inc. The three-year study found that EPIC centers improved parent-child relationships, increased parents' knowledge of child development and academic achievement, and increased parent involvement in schools. In the first year of the program, parent participation in parent/teacher conferences at EPIC schools was at 34 percent. By the third year, participation increased to 60 percent. In 2003, 79 percent of teachers who taught in schools where a parent center was located attributed increased parent involvement at the school to the center. Evaluations of EPIC parenting workshops over the past ten years show similar results.

EPIC programs are funded by a variety of federal, state, and private grants. EPIC was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 1999 to establish six parent support centers across New York State, and in 2003, received a Parental Information and Resource Centers grant to create two more centers, bringing the total to eight. EPIC co-hosted a one-day education summit, "Working Together To Make No Child Left Behind a Reality," with the U.S. Department of Education and the New York State Department of Education on November 13, 2004, in New York City.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative and appears to have increased parental involvement in education in specific areas where it operates. The program does not, however, have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education's Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative is accepting applications from educators interested in presenting at the 2005 summer workshop series on the use of research-based instructional practices. Proposals must be submitted to the Department by April 11, 2005. To receive the notice for open registration for the summer workshops, visit (March 21)

March marked the 18th anniversary of Women's History Month. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings spoke at the celebration sponsored by the Office of Management and Budget's Diversity Council and the Office of Administration. The Secretary acknowledged how far women have advanced in America and in the world and urged people to focus on sustaining that progress. The Secretary also noted her recent trip to Afghanistan where she toured the Women's Teacher Training Institute with the First Lady and other members of the U.S.- Afghan Women's Council. (March 31)

From OII

OII will sponsor the eighth Innovations in Education Exchange at the U.S. Department of Education on the topic of "Choosing a School for Your Child" on April 12 from 10:00 a.m. until noon. To RSVP, please email with your name, title, organization address, and e-mail address by April 8, 2005. For additional information, please read the agenda for this event. (March 21)

Two Arts Education grant competitions are now open:

The competition for the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program is now open. This program provides grants to eligible entities to permit them to enhance the credit of charter schools so that they can access private sector and other nonfederal capital to acquire, construct, and renovate facilities at a reasonable cost. The deadline to apply is May 31, 2005. (March 24)

The Excellence in Economic Education grant competition has reopened. The new deadline to submit applications is April 8, 2005. (March 31)

Families across the country can view the work of well-known children's book authors and illustrators on a new two-part television program entitled A Child's Bookshelf: Inside Children's Literature. The program has been created for parents and educators to demonstrate ways families can encourage children to enjoy reading. The program is a collaboration of two OII programs: RIFNet, a distance learning service of Reading Is Fundamental, and Star Schools. (March 21)

Arts Education/American History

First Lady Laura Bush presented Western Folklife Center, Inc., in Elko County, Nevada, with an award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C. The award honors institutions whose innovative programs and collections have influenced learning in their communities. For 23 years, the Western Folklife Center has provided its patrons with exhibits, workshops, educational programs, and concert series that highlight the rich history and contributions of the American West. (March 14)


Curriculum Advantage, Inc., and Edusoft are partnering to integrate a tool to track student performance on district and state assessments with customized student learning plans to help achieve the ultimate goal of improved student achievement. (March 31)

In2Books, a reading and writing mentoring program, is enabling 400 students in Chicago Public Schools to enjoy books and write about their reading through its Internet-based program for students in the second through the fifth grades. In2Books matches students with adult pen pals who correspond with students during the school year about five books, all of which the students are allowed to keep. Adults email their letters to In2Books staff, who send them off to teachers for distribution to students. Students write letters in return. (March 28)


A new charter school, which will be based on the Project CHILD model (see March 7 Innovator), is slated to open in Marietta, Georgia in the fall of 2005. Project CHILD is built on research conducted at Florida State University (April 4).


Innovations in the News

Advanced Placement
More students in Waltham High School (MA) are taking AP courses and tests. In 2000, 41 students took AP classes, while 82 students have tentatively signed up to take 128 AP tests this year. [More-Daily News Tribune] (March 29)

The Pasadena Independent School District (TX) has received a grant from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to increase the number of students who take and successfully pass the Advanced Placement (AP) examinations in mathematics, science, and English. Part of the grant will provide the school district with funds for a "Laying the Foundation" guide for Pre-AP math, science, and English teachers. The bulk of the funds will be used for teacher training sessions, exam fees, equipment, and incentives for teachers, administrators, and students. [More-Pasadena Citizen] (March 25)

Alternate Routes to Teacher Certification
Many individuals looking to contribute to their local communities are finding a way to do so through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Transition to Teaching Program. The program enables college graduates and mid-career professionals to receive teacher training and instruct children in public schools. Ninety percent of recruits teach in Prince George's County (MD), due to the county's extensive recruiting efforts. Currently the program is seeking individuals with experience in science, mathematics, English, and Spanish to enroll before the April 15th deadline. Participants attend the Howard University School of Education in Washington, D.C., in the summer, and those who complete the program sign three-year teaching contracts. [More-The Gazette] (March 30)

Charter Schools and Contract Schools
A record number of charter schools will be opening in New York City in the fall. The city has 32 charter schools with 20 more on the way. Both the mayor and the chancellor are committed to opening at least 50 new charters. Chancellor Klein enlisted foundations to create a new center to support and train leaders of charter schools. [More-New York-WABC] (March 31)

Nebraska State Senator Adrian Smith (R., Gering) is proposing "contract schools" in the state. Smith says, "The beauty of what we're going to call a contract school is we don't spell out every little thing that must occur." Smith wants to allow those wishing to form their own districts to propose a contract to the K-12 board. The proposed contract would include spending the same or less as the K-12 district per student, and to have test scores that meet or exceed the larger district's. [More-Press and Dakotan] (March 30)

Parental Involvement
Two Howard County (MD) schools join twelve other schools that were recently recognized by the National PTA. Patuxent and Lime Kiln Middle Schools were awarded National PTA's Parent Involvement Schools of Excellence certificates. To receive the honor, a school must have parental involvement programs or practices that support open communication, parent roles, student learning, partnerships with the school and community, and volunteerism. [More-The Baltimore Sun] (March 27) (free registration)

Many African American parents across the nation are becoming even more involved in their children's education. ''What we are trying to do in the black community and Latino community is to build a commitment to intellect," says Edmund Gordon, retired Yale professor, who is among the African American scholars and social workers who are working to encourage black parents in Harlem (NY) to become more aware of their role in their children's education. In other parts of the country, such as Silver Spring, Maryland, African American parents are organizing groups to exchange information about standardized tests, summer school, after school programs, and other interventions. [More-The Boston Globe] (March 28)


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Last Modified: 08/13/2009