Morningside Parent Engagement Collaborative’s First Year Results
In early 2014, leaders from The Miles Foundation, the Morris Foundation, and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation discussed how an early childhood parent engagement initiative in Morningside could impact kindergarten readiness and student achievement. Morningside is a 2.2 square-mile neighborhood in Fort Worth where more than 70% of the residents live below the poverty level, and nearly half lack a high school degree. In September 2014, the three foundations launched the Morningside Parent Engagement Collaborative (PEC), partnering with seven local nonprofit agencies to offer parent engagement programs to Morningside families with children ages 0-5. Each of the agencies designed and implemented unique programs targeted to this group:
- AVANCE Inc., in collaboration with United Community Centers, provided parent-child education classes at Bethlehem Community Center. The classes focused on basic skills for children to help them become ready for school and parent education topics to support parents in their role as their child’s first teacher.
- Camp Fire First Texas collaborated with Like My Own, a Morningside neighborhood childcare center, to provide monthly Parents’ Nights for families to join in dinner and facilitated conversations about parent-child topics such as establishing routines, positive discipline, and nutrition.
- The Concilio offered a 30-week parent education program designed to help parents support their children’s learning at home, particularly in the area of early literacy. The program targeted parents of Morningside elementary pre-kindergarten students and included literacy focused early education activities for the younger children (not yet in school) of the parent participants.
- East Fort Worth Montessori Academy worked in the community to establish a family resource center providing classes to help parents support learning for children at home.
- The Fort Worth Library collaborated with Briscoe elementary school to open the school library on Saturdays for families in the surrounding neighborhoods. The program included story times and child development classes and activities for parents and their children.
- The Parenting Center, through partnerships with other organizations, provided a series of eight-week parent education programs in a variety of locations in and near the Morningside community. The curriculum, “Parenting That Wins,” is designed to help parents in their efforts to nurture their children and support early learning.
Although the agencies provided different program activities and approaches, they shared common goals. In the near term, the PEC set a target to reach 200+ families and to:
- Increase parents’ confidence and ability to support children’s development and learning at home,
- Increase parents’ connections to resources in the community, particularly in relation to child, family and education issues.
- Encourage parent participants to take a lead in community parent engagement efforts.
- Increase collaboration among community agencies in their efforts to meet parent engagement needs in the community.
The PEC’s long-term objectives are to:
- Increase parents’ engagement in their children’s education, and
- Positively impact children’s school readiness and academic success.
After the first full year of programming, the PEC is proud to report data that reflect progress toward achieving the group’s desired short- and long-term outcomes.
To collect this data, each PEC agency administered the University of Idaho Parenting Survey at the end of their series of parenting sessions. The survey uses a retrospective testing methodology, which asks parents to first rate how they feel “Now’” (after attending the PEC sessions), and then answer the same questions thinking back to how they felt “Then” (before attending the PEC sessions).
Parents were also given the opportunity to provide open-ended comments about the programs, and participated in parent focus groups and meetings with agency staff to share feedback. Their input was overwhelmingly positive, with parents reporting details about:
- Increased patience and understanding with their children.
- More time spent with their children in learning activities.
- New ways of thinking and acting with their children.
- Making friends and spending time with adults.
- Helping to organize group events in their community.
Some examples of the parents’ most common comments included:
The parent survey results after year one, as well as testimonials from agency staff and parent participants, suggest that the PEC is positively impacting the parent participants in many ways. Parents showed greater knowledge of how their children learn and behave. They also have more confidence that they can guide their children’s behavior and help their children learn. They are spending more time reading to their children, a key contributor to literacy and learning success.
The PEC funders and agencies are already engaged in dialogue around what will be tweaked in the coming year. This reflection will be augmented by a parent focus group, which will help gain a sharper insight into the most helpful aspects of the programming and which areas need improvement. Sharing best practices across agencies and connecting parents to resources will continue to be resounding themes of our collaboration.
We recognize there is still much work to be done through the PEC, but we applaud the creative, dedicated work of our PEC agencies in this first year. We believe this group has already helped to make a difference in the Morningside community, and we are excited about our involvement going forward.
A special thanks to the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and the Morris Foundation for their collaboration on this initiative – from funding, to assessment and metrics-building, this truly has been a team effort. We look forward to our continued partnership.