Defining Parent Leadership and Kindergarten Readiness

This blog post is the third in a series focusing on a study of early learning success markers (indicators), ages 0-8, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The full report, Markers that Matter: Success Indicators in Early Learning and Education will be released later this month. In May, FSG hosted a webinar where we shared some highlights of our work to research, synthesize and vet a set of early learning indicators. In this blog series, we are attempting to answer several questions posed by webinar participants. You can see the webinar presentation, including the indicators and emerging themes, in the slides posted here (“View the presentation”).

Webinar participants asked: For Thrive in 5, and Boston Children Thrive, what constituted leadership? How did parents exhibit leadership? How is the impact of parent leadership measured? 

Parent leadership and its many expressions are evolving within and across the Boston Children Thrive (BCT) neighborhoods and at a city level. BCT includes multiple leadership opportunities—it is not a one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it a curriculum/training model.

The BCT sites moved from providing a multi-session curriculum on leadership and advocacy skills to a hands-on, peer-to-peer learning model in which parent leaders work with one another and community-based organizations to carry out projects to engage more families in the community. Through the projects, parents learn leadership, collaboration, advocacy, community organization, group process, and other skills, in real time. The BCT/Thrive in 5 role is to create the opportunity and the conditions for these parent leaders to be successful. At this point, we know how many parents have participated, and are participating, in any of these leadership roles and activities over time; we also know their cultural/linguistic characteristics.

We have a ways to go on how we measure impact with parent leadership, but would say that as a part of a longitudinal study, we hope to identify changes in the individual parents who assume these leadership roles, as well as the changes in the social networks and reduced isolation, of the parents they are reaching. We are also interested in knowing how patterns of family enrollment and participation in BCT are or are not associated with the work of parent leaders and parent-led projects. We also have an interest in changes in the community-based organizations that partner with parents (moving from a service-oriented approach to partnering with parents as equals and leaders). One of the ways that Thrive in 5 is thinking about measuring individual impact with parent leaders, with our evaluation assistance, is through a fellowship concept in which parent leaders would set individual goals (furthering education, getting a job, etc.) and then track progress on those goals over a certain period of time.

Webinar participants asked: How do you define kindergarten success?

The Boston Public Schools (BPS) uses the DIBELS assessment (specifically two subsets of the assessment—letter naming proficiency and nonsense word proficiency) which assesses literacy skills. It's the only district-wide assessment done at Kindergarten entry, so it's the best we have for now. Ideally, Thrive in 5 would have liked to use a more holistic measure, but the DIBELS is the best we have until alternative assessments that BPS is piloting (like the Learning Accomplishment Profile – Diagnostic Edition (LAP-D) and the Ages & Stages Questionnaires: Social-Emotional (ASQ:SE) are in use across the district for a few years (BPS started using the LAP-D this year). The Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (which the state department of Early Education and Care is moving forward on under a grant program) may also be a measure that Thrive in 5 might use in the future. A key benefit is that it would allow for statewide comparison, but such a plan is likely to happen at a later point in time.

Learn more about Donna Haig Friedman, PhD and Thrive in 5 Boston

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