Parent Involvement One of the Most Enduring Benefits of the Head Start Program
Recent research released by Alexander Gelber and Adam Isen at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania suggests that increased parent involvement in a child’s life is one of the most enduring benefits of the Head Start Program.
By analyzing data in the Head Start Impact Study, Gelber and Isen were able to detect certain factors that indicated increased parent interaction with their children enrolled in a Head Start program vs parents who did not have children enrolled in Head Start. This included things such as reading to their children more often and increased likelihood to set additional rules regarding TV watching. Further, they showed that these factors endured long after the child left the program.
This is good news considering what many took away from the study, that student’s gains didn’t last past the 1st grade. One commentator, Russ Whitehurst, the former director of the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education, asked pointedly Is Head Start Working for American Students?
However, Gelber feels that many are overlooking the impact of Head Start on the entire family’s experience, not just the child’s.
“When policymakers are thinking about the costs and benefits of Head Start or schooling more broadly, they typically focus on the effects on kids,” Gelber notes. “But the impact the programs have on parents and the time children spend with their parents should also be a calculation in that cost-benefit analysis.”
At The Gravely Group, we’d like to go a step further and stress that increasing parent involvement in the program itself can further increase parent involvement in the child’s life. Policy Councils are not only required by law, but they are simply a good idea. When parents are directly engaged and asked for their input and feedback, they begin to take some ownership of the success of the program and further, the success of their child.
Nurturing the relationship between staff and parents, as with any relationship, takes time and trust. But as more parents come on board, they will help mentor others. And The Gravely Group can help you figure it all out. See our downloadable Essential Guide to Parent Engagement in Head Start for more information. We encourage you to print it out and take it to your next board meeting.
Interested in learning more? Contact us today to see how we could be of assistance to you.
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