Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why not computer programs?

I've explained HIPPY to random strangers on planes, elevators and grocery stores; as well as decision makers in schools, legislatures and the media. My "elevator speech" goes something like this: "We provide 30 weeks of home visits to parents of 3, 4, and 5 year olds, using a weekly curriculum that the parent works on with his/her child. This prepares the child for school and helps parents understand the importance of their role as their child's first teacher."  Most of the time people get it, they have their own childhood experiences to draw from, or their experience as a parent with their own children -- reading to them daily and later helping them with homework. As technology takes such a front seat in our society, education and parenting practices, more and more people have asked me "Couldn't you get a computer program for the kids to work on?", it always shocks me a little but I try to stay calm! NO! I want to exclaim. No video, computer game or video game will ever take the place of a parent playing with or reading to his or her child! I know that our kids need to learn how to use computers, and they will!!! Many of our parents have and use their own computers and internet, but nothing can replace that one on one interaction - that's the best way a love of learning and reading will be developed and handed down from one generation to the next. I saw an interesting website by an advocacy group trying to reduce the effects of corporate marketing on our children. I found it interesting because it relates to the fact that children spend more time in front of the TV and computer than ever before, and often this means less time with their parents. This makes that one on one time reading together, playing, singing, talking that much more precious and important!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Home Visitation in the National Spotlight

Children's gifts distributed to Dallas HIPPY family (mom in red, remainder is Dallas and Texas HIPPY staff)

The buzz has been growing about Home Visitation with lots of things happening at the national and state levels. At the national level, home visiting was included in the controversial Health Care Reform Bill. Every state has until the end of September to conduct an assessment on the need for home visitation programming. A statewide coalition has been formed in Texas, under the leadership of the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition. Our first act as a coalition has been to offer our support to the state as they engage in the required assessment. We are hopeful that if funding comes in from the healthcare funding, it will allow us to expand much needed services within the communities already served, and to open new communities to home visiting services. It's interesting to be discussing the basic concepts of home visiting now, in my 22nd year in the field! For example, is home visiting a program model or a methodology? Can it be effective as a stand alone activity or does it need to be embedded into an overall strategy?

Texas HIPPY program coordinators would tell you that once you enter a family home, even though you may be there for educational purposes, all sorts of social, psychological and financial hardships are revealed, and program staff must be well versed in community resources and how to refer families to receive help. All of our programs have developed a strong network of partnerships that help families who are faced with a myriad of problems, including developmental disabilities in children; lack of basic resources such as utilities and food; and family crisis issues such as violence, depression and legal problems.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blue Print for Education Starts in Kindergarten

There's a big push going on right now to try to convince the Administration to include pre-K in the new Blueprint for Education--the education reform initiative. It seems only logical to include pre-school in the education plans for our country. We know beyond a shadow of doubt that the "home" is the greatest influence on a child's educational success. The blueprint exhorts for such improvements as better teachers and leaders in schools, equity for all students, raising the bar and promoting innovation. These are all commendable and desirable - and yet they can only take students as far as parental support, knowledge and participation will allow. Most preschool education happens in the home, especially with Latino parents, who represent the most rapidly growing sector of the school population. Begin with parents and better student outcomes will follow.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Serving Latino Youngsters

HIPPY Irving "graduate"

"States have a long way to go to develop early learning programs that are responsive to the needs of Latino and English language learner children and families," findings from a recent white paper by the The National Council of La Raza. One of the strengths of HIPPY has always been the Spanish language curriculum which allows parents to work with their children in their native language. Research by the Southern Education Development Laboratory: SEDL found that Latino students entered school with less competence than whites in foundational math and reading. Where 75% of white children could recognize letters while only about half of Hispanic children could do so. Our most recent evaluation results show that 83.1% of HIPPY Kindergarten students were rated overall as "ready for school" by their Kindergarten teachers across the state. Moreover, 87.7% were found to be particularly ready in the area of classroom adaptability, and 90.8% were rated as ready in terms of their classroom verbal behavior. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Impact Texas

Throughout 2009-2010 program year I had the opportunity to participate in "Impact Texas". Our program was selected from among a host of applicants who participated in the CCAT: Core Capacity Assessment Tool. The assessment helped us identify areas in our organization and program that need strengthening. I participated in a series of training in the area of strategic thinking, influence development and team management that have benefited me personally / professionally (how to manage a team under changing circumstances, creating outcome oriented employee evaluations) and our team as a whole. One of the great team benefits has come to us in the shape of Ann Ranson who has coached us individually, as a team, and program wide with our coordinators and advisors. As a result, we are developing an in-house Team Operating Agreement, and have undergone a strategic planning process statewide. This document is being finalized and will guide our operations for the next 3 years. Thank you One Star Foundation for selecting HIPPY Texas for Impact Texas!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jumo - new social network

Just when I begin to feel like I've got a handle on social networking I read that one of the founders of Facebook is developing Jumo, to "Bring together everyday individuals and organizations to speed the pace of global change. We connect people to the issues, organizations, and individuals relevant to them to foster lasting relationships and meaningful action." I'm wondering how it will fill a niche that's different from Ashoka/Changemakers, or Network for Good, and who knows what other things that are out there that I haven't seen yet! Read more about Jumo here.  

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Webinar Archive

Back in January I did a webinar, my first experience! I've finally gotten ahold of the link to that webinar and can share it with everyone. It's a presentation on HIPPY 101 - ie. all the basics of the HIPPY model. Please listen if you're interested! Here is the link to that archive. In the Participant Login section, put in your name and hit the Enter button. If you have not used Wimba before may want to run the Wizard to make sure your computer is set up properly to view/listen the session. One note:  There is a period of about one minute silence around the 45 second mark (probably due to computer glitch).

Now that I've had the first under my belt and understand the technology better I have a lot of ideas on how to make it interactive and more interesting. I'm looking forward to trying it again! 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Connecting, A-twitter?

At the 2010 Southwest Cluster Conference I attended a workshop on non profits getting the most out of web 2.0, and heard some startling facts! Here at Texas HIPPY we're trying our best to get connected on the web...please join, promote, comment or view us online in whatever formats you use!

WEB 2.0:

1. Since April 2009, Twitter has been receiving around 20 million unique visitors each month - so far I've only tweeted about 50 times, follow me

2. Flickr hosts more than 3.6 billion images, we have about 200 pictures, check them out 

3. Close to 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, we haven't done this but just purchased a Flip Camera, which I saw demonstrated at the workshop, here, (bad video alert!). Prepare for some GOOD HIPPY videos in the future! 

4. The average US internet user spends an estimated 68 hours a week online, both at home and at work. (this was the startling fact, I hope we still have time as a society to talk to our families, walk our dogs, tend our gardens and read to our children...)

5. Facebook has more than 400 million active users, with over half of them logging in daily!!!! We're working on our facebook presence, figuring out the different ways to use causes, fan pages, groups, company pages, etc. For now you can join the HIPPY Texas Group page on Facebook ~ we need a wonderful volunteer to help us work on our presence there!!!

6. I've also joined Linked In, a professional social networking platform, please join me there!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

El Paso Partnerships

At El Paso HIPPY community partnerships are the norm. Over 40 home visitors are each linked with one of 12 partner non-profit organizations in the community. Corporate and volunteer partnerships are also at work in El Paso. Recently they were adopted by El Paso Kickback whose annual tournament raised them $1,000 for literacy materials. Earlier this year, Toro Employees were recognized by the El Paso times for their Community work at the Christmas celebration at the YMCA on December 22nd.  The YMCA executive Director, Bill Coon offered Toro a place for the event and donated toys for the kids.Over 50 kids and 20 families were invited to the event. With the support of the Giving Program, Toro employees organized the event throughout the year by doing fund raisers. Guadalupe M. Arellano, United Way Director for Community Services said, “these are all the presents these kids might get this Christmas, you have impacted the lives of these children so much, thank you for serving our community.” Kids were amazed to see their presents and Santa with Elf.  

(pic shows Muriel Thomas Borders, left) being interviewed for the El Paso Kickball HIPPY fundraiser)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

1963 ~ A Big Year

I had the opportunity to visit HIPPY in Anniston Alabama recently. I flew into Birmingham on a Sunday and rented a car, faced with an open afternoon. I was so happy to find (thank you Birmingham Airport for the free wi-fi!) that there's a Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham and I spent a fascinating and emotionally exhausting afternoon there. I was born in 1963, right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, and the year of the Birmingham bombing that killed 4 little girls (in the church right across from the museum). How different a city is Birmingham today. Yes, there's always work yet to do, but in my birth-year Birmingham buses, hotels and restaurants were segregated. On that day, I sat at a restaurant with an integrated clientele of barbecue lovers. I know that Civil Rights is a lot more than sitting together at the same dining table, but it seemed to be a good sign. On returning home I was reminded of at least one good thing that came out of that tumultuous era -- AmeriCorps VISTA which is 45 this year. Our HIPPY*VISTA program focuses on increasing support, funding and volunteerism in the communities HIPPY serves. This work was recently recognized by the Dallas Foundation who awarded us a grant.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


(thanks to Kate Sumbler for the pic)

I recently went to a really great training by the DFW Chapter of the American Marketing Association on hosting effective events. I've been thinking about having a HIPPY event for a while but have been hesitant because of the nightmare stories out there about how events suck up all your time away from your core mission. And yet...there's an attraction to events too...gaining visibility, raising funds and the possibility of providing information to a greater audience of parents and young children. And so, there is hatching a possible plan, which will be discussed with the board, advisors, site staff and other collaborators...and maybe, am thinking May 2011 (yeah, that far out in advance!) maybe...we'll have a HIPPY event. Let me know what YOU think!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Little Kids Counting

Early Ed Watch had an article about the important of developing children's math skills. While HIPPY is often cited as a literacy development curriculum (it is!) we often see strongest gains in children's math skills. In Dallas, across grade levels, 79% of HIPPY students met the TAKS Math Standards, compared to only 68% of non-HIPPY students. In Irving HIPPY, more students were found to have gained sufficient mastery in English to be able to take the TAKS Math administration in English, compared to non-HIPPY students. (This is significant because these second language learners completed the HIPPY curriculum in their native language of Spanish, but once they learned the concepts it was more readily transferred into their second language of English). These gains are attained because the HIPPY curriculum exposes children to math concepts such as counting, one to one correspondence, patterning and number recognition as early as age 3. According tot he Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics, 60% of 3 year olds receive no math instruction at all! For more information about the importance of early math experiences, check this out.

(pic below, Dallas home visitors preparing and role playing HIPPY curriculum, including Math activities (!), for the week.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Maternal Depression

Being a parent isn't easy, but for parents who face economic, social, cultural and personal hardships, it's an even more daunting task. That's why programs like HIPPY, that provide in-home support and information from a caring, trained peer can have such a positive effect on families. In Mental Health Needs of At-Risk Families, a report by Dr. Angela Nievar of UNT, she found a positive significant difference between HIPPY parents and non-HIPPY parents in the HOME (Bradley & Caldwell, 2000) score, which includes observations of parenting and survey questions.  The HOME measures actual parenting, including appropriate responsiveness of parents, responsibility parents take for their children, and the type of environment that parents provide for their children. Parents who did not participate in the HIPPY program reported significantly more attachment-related stress on the Attachment subscale of the Parenting Stress Index (Abidin, 1994) than HIPPY parents.    Results of the parent interview are reported below by group.  Higher percentages of HIPPY parents:

1.       Thought that parents should quickly develop close, warm feelings for their child.
2.       Reported having close, warm feelings for their child.
3.       Did not describe their child as “mean.”
4.       Felt more comfortable holding and taking care of children.
5.       Said that their child knows them and wants them.

I was reminded of this recently when I read about a February 15th study published online in Pediatrics, which found that post-partum depression occurs at an elevated rate among low income women. Linda H. Chaudron, M.D., and colleagues studied 198 low-income mothers and found that 56% met criteria for minor or major depression, compared with a rate of 14% in the general population. Three routinely used depression screening tools proved to be effective in identifying post-partum depression in this low-income group, but the authors caution that scores two or three points below the traditional cut-off may require further evaluation in low-income moms. (Mental Health Weekly DOI:10.1002/mhw)  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Children Count Too

Today I received a letter in the mail, my US Census form. It turns out the young children are the MOST UNDERCOUNTED group in the US Census. Because of that, HIPPY is partnering with the US Census to get the word out to families. According to a recent webinar I attended with the Center on Public Policy Priorities, for every 100 people not counted, a community may lose $1.2 million over 10 years. The reason behind this calculation is that opportunities for Federal funding is tied to population statistics. You can hear the whole webinar here: What can you do? Everyone knows parents of young children, and knows how hectic their lives can be. You can be the friendly reminder to them to fill out their Census form, and to make sure their children are counted! If you work with parents of young children, please get Census information to them, help all Texas children be counted this year!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why isn't "things are going great" news?

What's going on around here? Our programs have had their annual round of site visits from HIPPY USA and fared very well. Some of the national trainers pointed out that they observed some excellent home visits, home visitor training and parent meetings. Our sites are now turning their attention to end of year plans which are going to be bigger and better than ever! Houston HIPPY is having to secure a space for ONE THOUSAND expected attendees. Dallas HIPPY will be hosting 3 or 4 large events, each expected to have over 400 attendees. Grand Prairie will be receiving a visit from a local sports figure at their annual HIPPY Store event, an incentive program that gives parents points for participating daily with their child and enables them to "purchase" items such as clothes, household items and school supplies. On the funding front, Texas HIPPY received a grant from the Dallas Foundation to match our AmeriCorps and VISTA grants and will be selecting a new round of VISTA members for the fall. Business as usual? or good news? Both I guess...As an education program it's hard to get this good-business-as-usual story out there! It turns out that education stories account for only 1.4% of all national news coverage.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Praying for Rain

AmeriCorps grants are for 3 years. This year our third year is up, and we submitted a recompete grant for another 3 year cycle. It's always a nervous time ~ we need to build on what we've learned, raise the bar, build on efficiencies. Soon after submitting the grant, I heard that the House passed Fiscal Year 2010 Funding Bill for ServiceOmnibus providing $1.149 billion to Corporation for National and Community Service. This figure fully funds the President's request for FY10 and is the largest appropriation in CNCS history. The bill now awaits passage by the Senate before it can be sent to the President to sign into law. The current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on December 18th, though Congress could approve another CR to keep agencies funded if the Omnibus does not become law before that date.

Now I feel like the farmer...I've put the seeds in, and am prayin' for rain...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Online Workshop - join in!

My first experience at doing an online workshop will be on January 29th, 12-1pm. Cool! I'll present an overview of the HIPPY model, and share with other parent educators some HIPPY strategies that I think they could adapt to their programs. This is being organized for the Texas Association of Parent Educators (TAPE) through the Collin Community College.

I've attended a few online presentations and hope that I can keep mine interesting, useful and interactive. Join in if you can, if not, spread the word!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Increasing Educational Achievement

Can we put to rest the question whether preschool education is necessary? "One of the challenges for policy makers is sorting through the evidence..." says Steve Barnett, of Rutgers University, in a video interview on the Teachers College Record. His recent statistical summary of the impact of early childhood education reviewed over 120 studies over several decades and demonstrated that us that preschool has impact on cognitive, social/emotional development and schooling outcomes. The immediate impact of preschool is that it closes 70% of the achievement gap! What matters? The design must include intentional teaching and individualization - these increase effect size. HIPPY does this by providing parents with a well laid plan of activities over the course of 30 weeks, and teaches them how to adapt to their child's particular learning styles and needs.

Watch the full interview here: