The Education Innovator #6
Volume V
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 August 30, 2007 • Number 6
 Share this page Share this page
  Past issues
Editor's Note: Beginning with the September issue, The Education Innovator will come to you in a new PDF format. You will continue to receive an e-mail signaling the publication of the new issue. Inside you will find a brief description of the current issue and a PDF link to it. The new format will make the Innovator more visually appealing and interesting, and will permit the inclusion of photos and graphics that have not been possible with the newsletter's current format. We hope you like it.

What's inside...
Innovations in Education series report: Engaging Parents in Education: Lessons from Five Parental Information and Resource Centers

What's New
Innovations in the News

Innovations in Education series report: Engaging Parents in Education: Lessons from Five Parental Information and Resource Centers
A generation ago, "parent involvement" in schools usually meant "not very involved at all." Parents seldom visited the classroom unless they received a call from their children's teachers or principals. Often, the closest that mothers and fathers came to the school building was when they dropped off their children in the morning. Actual visits to the school were confined to big events such as plays and science fairs. Unfortunately, some parents still do not feel welcome in the classroom, nor do they feel they can ask substantive questions about the quality of their children's teachers and schools.

However, in a growing number of communities, the picture is very different. Gone are the days when moms just organized bake sales. On any given day, students see parents in the school building helping to organize kindergarten registration, identifying ways to raise money that will buy materials teachers need to enhance a math lesson, tutoring kids that need more time to master skills and lessons, starting after-school programs where students can learn to play a new sport or understand the stock market, serving on a school site council, or coordinating resources and services from the community for families, students, and the school. It's not just the moms participating who are participating either. Dads, grandparents, and other caregivers are getting involved. Families of economically disadvantaged or limited English proficient students are becoming more involved in their local schools too-because schools are providing more information about the range of programs and services available to them.

Helping Parents Share Responsibility for School Improvement

Helping to make this happen are Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs). A new U.S. Department of Education Innovations in Education series report, Engaging Parents in Education: Lessons from Five Parental Information and Resource Centers, highlights the practices of five centers, with successful strategies for parent and educator engagement. Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Morgan Brown announced the release of the new guide at the annual meeting of the directors of the 2007 PIRC grantees in Baltimore, Maryland on August 1st.

Drawing on lessons learned, the guide shares promising strategies for increasing effective parent involvement. The five PIRCs highlighted in the guide were selected through a rigorous peer review process that relied on both benchmarking and case study methodologies, in which researchers and practitioners helped screen the programs. From an initial list of 45 programs that support parent involvement, five highlighted PIRCs were chosen based on the range and quality of their practices, the organizations' locations and demographics of their target populations, and the quality of their collaborations with other parent involvement organizations or education agencies.

Funded through a discretionary grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), PIRCs have operated since 1995 to support parent involvement in Title I schools. The centers must be of sufficient size and scope to ensure that they can serve parents throughout a state, and each are required to focus on services to parents of low-income, minority, and limited English proficient students, using at least 50 percent of the federal funds they receive annually to serve areas of their states with high concentrations of low-income families. Special attention is directed to parents of children in Title I schools that are not making adequate yearly progress under NCLB. This effort to increase parent involvement is critical to student achievement. According to leading researchers on this topic, "students with involved parents, no matter what their income or background, were more likely to earn higher grades and test scores and enroll in higher-level programs; be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits; show improved behavior, and adapt well to school; and graduate and go on to postsecondary education."1

At present, more than 60 PIRCs across the United States as well as in each of the special jurisdictions including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia, work to strengthen partnerships that support children in reaching high academic standards, closing the achievement gap, and providing parents and educators with information and resources to help their children succeed.

To ensure that PIRCs maintain high-quality standards and implement research-based parental-involvement strategies and practices, the Department also supports the National PIRC Coordination Center, which was created in 2006 by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) in collaboration with the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP). SEDL's three decades of experience with issues of family involvement in schools, combined with HFRP's knowledge of helping education stakeholders develop and evaluate strategies that promote the well being of children, youth, families, and communities, equips the Center to assist the PIRCs with their numerous program management needs.

Leadership Training for Parents

Three of the PIRCs highlighted in the new guide -- the Indiana Partnerships Center, based in Indianapolis; the Family Works, program of the nonprofit Gaithersburg-based (Md.) Family Service Agency; and the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), based in San Antonio, Tex.-- have not only created strategies for increased parent involvement (described in the book), but they also offer parent leadership training institutes. The institutes have a common goal: empower parents to lead other parents and educators in efforts to raise student achievement.

After deciding to incorporate parent leadership training into their services, these PIRCs looked for a model from which to develop their own programs. Each offers training that was adopted-and adapted-from aspects of the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL), which has been training over 200 Kentucky parent leaders a year since 1997. They have individualized the parent leadership training, but all have preserved the mandatory "CIPL-model culminating project" that aspires to raise parents to a new level of parent engagement by requiring them to create an individualized project.

The culminating projects at each of the sites have ranged from efforts focused on getting more fathers involved in school, such as a mentoring program for boys that seeks to involve positive male role models, to curriculum-oriented efforts, such as creating a children's book club and or staging Family Monopoly Night to increase math skills.

Executive Director Jackie Garvey of the Indiana Partnerships Centers explained that their projects often aim to empower parents to link parent activities to student achievement. She recalled a memorable project that started as a small literacy effort known as "Donuts with Dad and Muffins with Mom," and reflected on how the effort evolved. "The project grew tremendously. A member created a train from a golf cart and it went around the school promoting books and reading. The organizers obtained community partners, the whole community rallied around them. It became project 'All Aboard.' It went so far as to take all the kids and families on a real train to Chicago to visit a museum. Everyone read on the train. Then we saw that the reading scores in that school really improved."

Different Ways to Engage Diverse Parents and Educators

The Indiana Partnerships Center recruits leadership trainees by reaching out to other community-based organizations and education agencies to ask for nominations. It looks for a diverse pool of participants that reflects their communities. Unlike trainings offered by the other highlighted PIRCs, at the Indiana Partnerships Center, if an organization submits candidates for consideration, the candidates are sent in teams. According to Garvey, "using teams (where parents are the majority, but there is always a school staff member) has helped in several ways: it creates buy-in for the leadership projects; it helps make it easier to integrate the project into the school improvement plan; and it makes recruitment easier. The team approach lets quality projects go deeper," she said.

The Family Works leadership training program aggressively recruits parents through targeted mailings, using lists generated by the Maryland State Department of Education, State Title I schools, the Maryland PTA, district family involvement offices, and other family support organizations. E-mail distribution lists and a network of program graduates serving as "ambassadors" also have been used. They seek candidates who are "traditionally not-involved or untapped parents who have capabilities." Applicants have to receive a sign-off from the principal of the school they represent to ensure that the parent and school are establishing a productive partnership. A committee of stakeholders charged with developing a group that is balanced, both geographically and racially, and that spans K-12 education, selects the candidates.

In addition to training parent leaders, San Antonio's IDRA targets educators, too. For example, they see the staff of a district's Title I office as a natural audience for the training. Their model is the "train-the-trainer" approach, resulting in parents and educators developing even more parents to become leaders, which builds capacity. The San Antonio PIRC broadened the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership model to cover four different types of parent involvement: parents as teachers of their own children, parents as resources to the school, parents as decision makers, and parents as leaders and trainers. The goal is to help parents see the variety of ways they can participate in the classroom and elsewhere at school. IDRA is also one of the only PIRCs that currently offers bilingual leadership training, but does not offer programs in Spanish and English separately in an attempt to bring people together.

Schools are no longer the only stakeholders in our children's education. The efforts of PIRCs and other parent involvement organizations are helping to increase student achievement as they all work together to ensure success for every child.

Resources: Harvard Family Research Project Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence Southwest Educational Development Laboratory Note: Readers should judge for themselves the merits of the practices implemented in the schools or programs profiled in the Education Innovator. The descriptions of schools or programs and their methodologies do not constitute an endorsement of specific practices or products by the U.S. Department of Education.

1 Henderson, A. and Mapp, K. 2002. A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Parent and Community Connections on Student Achievement, p. 7. Austin, Tex.: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.


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

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings made a statement on the Class of 2007 ACT scores, which rose slightly this year. Twenty-three percent of the record 1.3 million 2007 graduates who took the ACT earned scores showing they were prepared for introductory college courses in four areas, up from 21 percent a year ago. (Aug.13)

Secretary Spellings announced that 14 projects in 12 states will share $25 million in grants under the Voluntary Public School Choice program (VPSCP) to help states and school districts create or expand public school choice initiatives. VPSCP is a competitive grant program that supports projects for up to five years that aim to offer choices to students in participating schools, including options for students to transfer from low-performing schools to higher performing schools, and projects that seek to implement an inter-district approach. (July 27)

Spellings made a statement following her participation in the Congressional Black Caucus Education Summit emphasizing the importance of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and reauthorization of the law. "America's minority and low-income students are visible and accounted for? and most importantly, they're doing better in school and the achievement gap is closing," the Secretary said. (July 23)

The Secretary joined professional golfer Phil Mickelson, his wife Amy, officials from ExxonMobil, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and Math Solutions for a National Town Hall with elementary math and science teachers from across the country to stress the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math education. (July 23)

Spellings announced approval of two high-quality, growth-based accountability models, which follow the principles of NCLB. Alaska and Arizona joined six other states that have been fully approved to implement their growth models, which are a way for states that are already raising achievement and following the principles of the law to strengthen accountability. (July 3)

Four grantees will receive more than $36 million in grants through the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities program, Secretary Spellings recently announced. Grantees will use funds to help increase their credit worthiness and obtain facilities financing for charter schools. (June 29)

Secretary Spellings announced the award of $116 million for 122 new grants to improve the quality of American history education. The Teaching American History (TAH) grants are being awarded to school districts in 40 states nationwide. TAH supports three-year projects to improve teachers' knowledge and understanding of traditional American history through intensive, on-going professional development. (June 21)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII)

A new report from the Office of Non-Public Education provides information on state programs that provide financial assistance for student attendance at private elementary and secondary schools. The report, Education Options in the States: State Programs that Provide Assistance for Attendance at Private Elementary or Secondary Schools, reveals that 24 programs in 13 states and the District of Columbia provide financial assistance in the form of voucher or voucher-like tuition assistance, tax credits, and tax deductions, compared with only seven programs in seven states a decade ago.

From the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

The U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has awarded a $50.3 million contract to Mathematica Policy Research Inc. to operate the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) for the next five years. The WWC provides educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a source of scientific evidence of what works in education through high-quality reviews of programs, products, practices, and policies intended to improve student outcomes. (July 12)

The Institute of Education Sciences has awarded a total of $62.2 million in grants to 13 state education departments for the design and implementation of statewide longitudinal data systems, which will help better track student achievement and enhance learning. (July 2)

Arts Education

More than Measuring is the final publication of the longitudinal study assessing the impact of ArtsPartners, a program of Big Thought, a grantee in OII's Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants program. The study assessed how teaching and learning changed when arts and cultural programming were integrated into the Dallas public schools' curriculum. Copies of the evaluation are available for purchase. (August 2007)

"The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society," according to National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia in a commencement address he gave at Stanford University. Citing a decline in Americans' awareness of culture and the loss of arts programs in schools, he called for a rededication to arts education. (June 17)

Closing the Achievement Gap

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report download files PDF, (1.47 MB), notes that by most measures Asian Americans have a higher educational attainment than other groups, with almost half of Asian Americans age 25 or older obtaining a four-year college degree. This overall success, however, "masks" the challenges of many Asian subgroups in educational preparation and attainment. (July 2007)

The QuestBridge National College Match helps outstanding low-income high school seniors gain admission to some of the most selective colleges in America. Last year, QuestBridge's partner colleges offered admission and more than $55 million in financial aid to the 600 students who applied. The application is free, available online, and due on Sept. 30. (August 2007)

Education Reform

STARTALK, administered by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland College Park, and financed through the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, aims to expand foreign-language instruction in languages such as Arabic and Chinese that are not traditionally taught in U.S. schools. The program awards grants to K-12 programs that can feed into college or university programs. This summer, 770 teachers participated. (Aug. 1)

The National Governors Association (NGA), under the leadership of Governor Janet Napolitano (D-AZ), is creating a new foundation and task force promoting the work of American innovators and encouraging innovation. The task force will help states begin to benchmark their education systems against international best practices. Napolitano also unveiled an interactive Web site from the NGA and Scholastic, Inc. In addition, as part of Napolitano's Innovation America initiative, NGA awarded $500,000 grants to six states to establish science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) centers. The grants are made possible through the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Intel Foundation. (July 2007)

No Child Left Behind

A new coalition of business, education, community, and civil rights groups launched a campaign - NCLB Works!- and released eight principles that the groups believe should guide the reauthorization of NCLB this year. Members include the Business Coalition for Student Achievement; the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights; the Education Trust; The Links, Incorporated; the National Center for Educational Accountability; and the National Council of La Raza. (July 18)

Raising Student Achievement

Applications are now available to become a NASA Explorer School during the 2008-2009 academic year. Through this program, a team of educators from each school will receive an all-expenses-paid professional development experience at a NASA field center to develop an action plan that addresses a local need in mathematics, science, or technology. Each school may apply for technology grants of up to $17,500 over the three-year partnership. The application period ends on Jan. 31. (Aug. 30)

The Talking Page Literacy Organization (see Innovator June 14, 2006) is the lead organization in the National Illiteracy Action Project 2007-2012. The project offers a five-year plan to reverse the illiteracy trend in America by creating "Community Literacy Collaborations." The purpose of the collaborations is to provide tutoring services to Title I students and adult workforce participants and to encourage the creation of community partnerships. (August 2007)

To spur academic improvement, Virginia plans to create an award for what the state calls "VIP schools." The new Virginia Index of Performance download files PDF, (72.3 KB), program will rate public schools and districts with points for test scores and other factors. Top scorers will be eligible for a Governor's VIP Award for Educational Excellence. (July 26)

Each year, the KIDS COUNT Data Book, issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, provides information and statistical trends on the conditions of America's children and families. This year, the 18 th annual data book shows improvements in the child death rate, teen birth rate, high school dropout rate, and teens not in school and not working. (July 25)

According to a new survey published in the journal Science, students who took more mathematics classes in high school performed better in all types of college science, while students who took high school science courses such as chemistry or physics improved college performance only in those specific subject areas. Philip M. Sadler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Robert H. Tai of the University of Virginia surveyed 8,474 students taking introductory science courses at 63 U.S. colleges and universities. (July 20)

Obese elementary school children miss more days of school on average than their average-weight classmates, according to a new study in the journal Obesity. There have been decades of research about the factors affecting student performance, and race, socioeconomic status, age, and gender have been identified as the top predictors for absenteeism. This study argues that weight tops all of these factors. (July 2007)

Teacher Quality and Development

Most principals in the Chicago Public Schools admit that they inflated the performance ratings of teachers, according to a study download files PDF, (479 KB), by the New Teacher Project. The analysis of teacher evaluations showed 61 percent drew the top rating of "superior," 32 percent were "excellent," seven percent were "satisfactory" and 0.3 percent were "unsatisfactory." The survey showed 56 percent of principals admitted they had inflated a teacher's rating at one time or another. (July 2007)

Poorly organized performance pay systems can be detrimental to reform, according to the Working Group on Teacher Quality, a coalition of groups led by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching that promotes efforts to improve teacher quality. The report download files PDF, (106 KB), endorses paying teachers for growth in student achievement as measured by tests, but only when coupled with other types of evaluation, ongoing training, and a career ladder. (July 2007)

The National Council on Teacher Quality, in an annual report on the teaching profession nationwide, cites the need for reworking existing state laws that govern teacher evaluation. The State Teacher Policy Yearbook 2007 identifies six key areas of states' teacher policies in urgent need of policy attention. The report offers 10 key findings, among them the need to put the needs of children before the interest of adults. (July 2007)


Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
Seventy New York City schools are under consideration for closure, creating potentially dozens of buildings for charter schools to take over. The demand for space will only intensify as a new state law opens the door for 50 additional city charter schools in the future. [More-New York Sun] (Aug. 2)

The New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Report, a federally funded report, concludes that students in New York City charter schools are, on average, posting higher gains in reading and mathematics than they would have had they attended the city's regular public schools. [More-Education Week] (July 27) (paid subscription required) [National Bureau of Economic Research]

San Diego's High Tech High in 2004 "became the state's first charter-management organization, or CMO, to gain state approval to operate its own teacher-credentialing program." In August, it "cut the ribbon on the High Tech High graduate school of education, which appears to be the first of its kind in the country." The program offers "a hands-on approach that emphasizes learning on site and in context." The University of San Diego's School of Leadership and Education Sciences became a partner in the program, to satisfy California's requirement that charter school teachers be either state certified or working towards a certificate. [More-Education Week] (July 18) (paid subscription required)

Green Dot Public Schools, a network of high performing charters operating in Los Angeles, may expand to New York to open a high school in the South Bronx. The effort is being orchestrated in collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Randi Weingarten, president of the New York City UFT, said she approached Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot, to open the school because he favors working with unions. [More-New York Times] (June 28) (subscription required)

Early Childhood Education
Data from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, which started more than 20 years ago and has tracked 902 persons who attended the Child-Parent Centers, a pre-school through grade-three program, into their early 20s, indicates that those who participated in the Chicago program were less likely to commit crimes, more likely to have health insurance, and less prone to depression. That the impacts of this early intervention extend beyond educational performance, according to the director of the study, Arthur J. Reynolds of the University of Minnesota, "is not surprising given the well-documented links between education outcomes and adult health, mental health, and social behavior." [More-Education Week] (Aug. 7) (paid subscription required)

According to a survey of more than 1,000 parents with children age 8 or younger as well as 500 early childhood teachers, social skills are a better predictor of school success than academic skills. The PNC Study of Early Childhood Education, nationally conducted by Harris Interactive, focused on the skills children need when they enter kindergarten. "Teachers and other experts in early childhood education agree that children are more likely to succeed in school if they have the social skills to participate and learn while in the classroom," according to PNC's community affairs director, Eva Tansky Blum. [More-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] (Aug. 7)

Education Reform
Los Angeles schools superintendent David L. Brewer, in his first "state of the schools" address on June 15, unveiled an 'innovation division,' which he said would "fast-track school improvement across the nation's second largest district." He said that "the new division would allow parent groups, teachers, community organizations -- and the mayor -- to propose and launch school reform plans in a school system that has long resisted meaningful change." [More-Los Angeles Times] (June 15) (paid access required)

Ten Massachusetts K-8 schools are extending the instructional day by nearly two hours with the help of Massachusetts 2000, a nonprofit that is interested in more time in the school day in order to make room for improved teaching methods and pursue deeper curriculum standards. Plans for the extra time include added instruction in subjects like reading and math and also enrichment classes and professional development for teachers. More than 80 other Massachusetts schools have indicated interest in extending the school day as of the 2008-09 school year. [More-Christian Science Monitor] (June 14)

Raising Student Achievement
Montgomery County (Md.) public schools are successfully using a four-week summer program to help close the achievement gap and to change attitudes about the role of summer school. Among the 12 schools that participated in the Montgomery County summer program continuously from 2002-2005, reading scores of second graders increased an average of 12 points, compared to an overall gain of only nine points for the students in the whole system. [More-Washington Post] (July 29) (subscription required)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore report that two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between 9th graders of low and high socioeconomic standing in Baltimore public schools can be traced to what they learned -- or failed to learn -- over their childhood summers. The recent study tracked data from more than 300 Baltimore students from 1st grade to age 22, including data from semi-annual reading tests. The results showed that "summer learning among students in relatively well-educated, economically secure homes added a total of about 47 points to their test scores" by 5th grade while those from "relatively low-income, poorly educated families had been reduced by about two points." [More-Education Week] (July 13) (paid subscription required)

The Rhode Island Children's Crusade for Higher Education has a new name and mission. Now called the College Crusade of Rhode Island, the group will "focus on not simply getting students into college, but preparing them to do college-level work," beginning with a focus on the quality and depth of relationships that middle school students have with their advisers or mentors, which responds to research that identifies the middle years as critical ones for building college-readiness skills. [More-Providence Journal] (June 27)

Dads have a major impact on the degree of interest their daughters develop in math. That is one of the findings of a long-term University of Michigan study that has traced the sources of the continuing gender gap in math and science performance. [More-Science Daily] (June 25)

Teacher Quality and Development
The Michigan Department of Education has implemented a rating system for the state's 31 teacher-preparation programs. Most of the institutions rated passing scores, but three were rated as low performing and will have two years to improve or face state sanctions. Components of the rating, the maximum of which is 70 points, include pass rates on the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification exams, results of surveys of student teachers, and program completion rates. Oakland University in Auburn Hills and Hope College in Holland each garnered the top score of 68. [More->Detroit Free Press] (Aug.12)

A National Center for Education Statistics report reveals that most veteran teachers like their jobs. The survey debunks some commonly held beliefs, and it finds that most teachers are satisfied with their jobs-including salaries-10 years after entering the profession. [More-Education Week] (Aug.1) (paid subscription required)

As a result of a grant from OII's Teaching American History program, California State University, Sacramento, professors and historians helped Placer County (CA) eighth-grade and high school teachers examine turning points in 19th century America, including the Civil War and Reconstruction, at a two-week seminar in June. Attendees also learned more about general strategies for teaching history and collaborated on lesson plans. [More-Sacramento Bee] (July 12)

A report to the Tennessee State Board of Education shows that principals think the mid-career professionals brought into schools to teach math, science and foreign languages are more effective than traditional first-year teachers. [More-Knoxville News Sentinel] (Aug. 1)

You can go home again - especially if you want to teach subjects like mathematics and science in rural Kentucky or Tennessee, areas in which teacher recruiters are hard pressed to attract new teachers who grew up in urban or suburban areas and who are reluctant to locate in isolated communities. "With federal aid, several university and school leaders have focused on training math and science teachers in new classroom techniques and content, then having them return to their rural districts to provide support to their colleagues." [More-Education Week] (July 12) (paid subscription required)



Office of Innovation and Improvement
Morgan S. Brown, Assistant Deputy Secretary

Office of Communications and Outreach
Lauren Maddox, Assistant Secretary

John McGrath
Doug Herbert
Executive Editors

Sherry Schweitzer

Cynthia Cabell
Sr. Production Editor

Dramon Turner
Production Editor

Emily Fitzpatrick
Erin Pfeltz

Copy Editors

Issue Reviewers
Pamela Allen
Meredith Beaton
Steven Brockhouse
Doug Herbert
Dean Kern
Patricia Kilby-Robb
Stacy Kreppel
Ebony Lee
Todd May

Article Submissions
Tiffany Taber
Doug Herbert
Todd May


Print this page Printable view Send this page Share this page
Last Modified: 05/20/2009