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Re-examining parents as teachers

Re-examining parents as teachers

Amber Brown, curriculum and instruction assistant professor

For centuries, educators have debated why Johnny can’t read. Sometimes it comes down to a lack of support at home. If parents underwent specialized training to better prepare their preschoolers, would it make a difference in the children’s long-term academic performance?

That’s what curriculum and instruction Assistant Professor Amber Brown aims to find out. She’s taking a second look at a long-running program designed to help at-risk children increase their chances of successful early-school readiness.

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) is a three-year, early education intervention program geared toward low-income, primarily minority parents of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. Through role-play, parents are trained to be their child’s first teacher using a carefully developed curriculum of books and materials designed to strengthen cognitive skills, early literacy, and social, emotional, and physical development.

HIPPY, which began in Israel as a pilot program, is provided in both English and Spanish. Dr. Brown is conducting follow-up research to evaluate how effective the program is long term, once children leave the elementary level and advance to high school. Her study, which begins this fall, focuses on Dallas Independent School District high school seniors who participated in HIPPY as preschoolers, along with their parents or guardians.

For students whose parents consent and participate, DISD personnel will provide the students’ GPA and state-mandated standardized test scores. Mean scores for parent involvement, educational motivation, and educational aspirations also will be reported.

Brown conducted a similar study in 2010 on children in third, fifth, seventh, and ninth grades. Results suggested that HIPPY intervention can increase school achievement and build a strong base for academic success.

“Children who participated in HIPPY had significantly higher rates of school attendance, were retained less often, and had fewer repeat discipline referrals,” she says. “They also scored higher on the reading and math Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests than matching students without HIPPY experience.”