Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Avima Lombard Award Nominations

Avima Lombard, 1926-2008

The Avima D. Lombard Award honors a HIPPY staff person at a local, state, or national program office in the United States whose professional services have made a significant contribution to HIPPY and to improving the lives of young children and their families. The awardees embody Avima's proactive, risk taking and determined approach to work. They have been involved with the HIPPY program in the United States, and continue to support the mission of HIPPY USA.

What is Avima's legacy? Well, after graduating from Cornell University she got her master's degree at Columbia Teacher's College, and then on to UCLA for her PhD. This same dedication to education is found in all of our HIPPY home visitors who balance home, work and college and are taking classes at local universities and community colleges. Once Avima finished her PhD, she served as a professor of Early Childhood Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and as the Director of Early Childhood Research and Projects for the National Council of Jewish Women Research Institute for Innovation in Education - quite the mouthful! This same dedication to research and practice is found in the countless evaluators and researchers who work hard to assess the efficacy of the HIPPY program model, and the hundreds of HIPPY Coordinators and Administrators who work tirelessly to implement the program model in communities across the US and the world.

The Avmina D. Lombard Award will be presented at the HIPPY USA National Conference. The deadline for submissions is January 13, 2012 - consider nominating someone who is carrying on Avima's legacy. For more information, check the HIPPY USA website.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

HIPPY Model "approved"

HIPPY was one of only seven home visiting models that meet the research based criteria for inclusion in Federal funding through the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting program, MIECHV. In Texas, this means that 7 communities will be implementing HIPPY as well as other approved Home Visiting programs. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services submitted a state plan to provide home visiting services to 7 counties in Texas. Community meetings were held to roll out the opportunity, in the following communities: Dallas, Longview, Jacksonville, Odessa, Amarillo, McAllen and Corpus Christi. HIPPY was a match for each of these communities based on their demonstrated need for home visiting and school readiness. The request for proposals is due to come out soon, and each community has been asked to consider submitting a coordinated response. Home visiting programs HIPPY, Parents as Teachers and Nurse Family Partnership will be co-hosting weekly phone calls to provide communities with information about the program models and how a community can coordinate services through this funding. Very exciting and busy times are ahead as HIPPY and other home visiting programs move forward with adding program sites!

If you are from one of these communities and would like more information, please check out our Texas Home Visiting Blog: http://txhv.blogspot.com/, or contact me, carla.weir@unt.edu.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

When is it time to take away the pacifier?

(photo credit

Dentists say that the pacifier can damage a child's bite. Pediatricians tell us that most children stop using a pacifier on their own between ages 2 and 4. Some research has even shown that pacifiers may reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS - which is dramatically reduced by 6 months regardless of pacifier use. That may be the best time to remove the pacifier for good (any benefit from it has already been gained and detriment to dental health can be avoided). For many parents though, myself included, the pacifier is a self soothing tool that becomes their child's habit into the toddler and early preschool years.

I remember struggling with this question myself. My younger daughter (now a college freshman!!!) was a pacifier baby. I was really worried about weaning her from it so I came up with a plan to make it happen before she entered Pre-K. That summer, we spent a lot of time planning for school, including planning to give up the pacifier. I asked her if she had noticed any of the children in her sister's Kindergarten class using a pacifier. We talked a lot about how it would be without the pacifier and tried to practice sleeping without it. With our big day approaching we were all a little nervous. Fortunately, her sister was only two grades above her and she was going to the same school. Her first day went smoothly and that night as I was tucking her in, she knew that it would be without her pacifier. With big tears in her eyes she said, "it's ok Mama, I'll always have my thumb" and popped that thumb in her mouth! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry...she was struggling to make that sacrifice, and yet her little problem solving genious created a new problem!!! It wasn't until several years later that she gave up the thumb! The good thing was that she knew (from all our conversations about the pacifier) that she couldn't suck her thumb at school. So, when is it time to take away the pacifier?

Undoubtably a pacifier can interfere with a child's ability to speak. For that reason, I believe it's very important to begin weaning a child from a pacifier, at least during waking hours, early on. Giving a child the opportunity to speak is key to their language development and social development. This will have a great impact on their school readiness and their social interactions. The HIPPY program provides parents with daily activities to engage their children in school readiness skills. We encourage and inform parents how to read stories, play games, sing songs, count and so many other fun readiness activities. And, we help parents with questions they may have such as "when is it time to take away the pacifier?"  Many times there's no "one way" to answer, but having someone to have this conversation with is a great resource!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Strong Start Strong Finish

Social science research is connecting the dots between a child's successful start in early childhood and graduation from high school. It's probably been about a decade since third grade became THE benchmark year. The data became irrefutable that if a child is reading not on grade level by the third grade, their odds of graduating high school were four times less than if there were on level. In a report out of Maryland, children who were doing well in Kindergarten, were school ready, were eight times more likely to read on grade level when they reached third grade. See those dots being connected? If you're interested in more details read the recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Career Expo 2011

Career Expo 2011 by hippyprogram
Career Expo 2011, a photo by hippyprogram on Flickr.

Opportunities can be stressful! Our home visitors have the opportunity to go to college using their AmeriCorps education award, of up to approximately $9,000 (if they serve four part time terms). To help them get started, we host an annual career information day, called Career Expo, hosted at Irving ISD this year. We asked representatives from various fields to speak on a panel detailing their education, skills, experiences, greatest challenges and how they got started. Home visitors also had the opportunity to experience a mock interview, have their resume reviewed and to enroll in the online AmeriCorps member system to track and use their education award. Thanks to everyone who came out for this event, volunteered to mock interview, served on the panel and especially to Irving HIPPY for hosting!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

DC HIPPY - new start up!

DC HIPPY - new start up! by hippyprogram
DC HIPPY - new start up!, a photo by hippyprogram on Flickr.

Helping new programs start up is among the favorite things I get to do in my work with HIPPY. Taking HIPPY from concept to implementation is a monumental task in any community. It requires funding, research, partnership building, hiring a coordinator, recruiting families, hiring home visitors. And, these tasks are generally done by busy people already working a full time job. In the case of Family Place DC HIPPY, a non profit organization working with Spanish speaking immigrant families in the heart of DC, it was an organization wide effort. The start up phase culminated in the 3 days I spent training the new coordinator and home visitors, followed immediately by their first week visiting families. Starting up in May is highly unusual but with some creative scheduling and a lot of hard work by staff and families, the program cycle will be complete by early Fall and ready to restart another cycle. Congratulations to everyone at Family Place in DC for getting HIPPY started!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What a Difference a Decade Makes

Our office manager and keeper of all things fiscal for HIPPY AmeriCorps, Susan Blackburn, is retiring at the end of August. I would like to thank Susan for her hard work and dedication during her decade of service and wish her the very best in her new adventures as a retiree. I asked her to share with us her own reflections from her time with HIPPY Texas, which are below.

"Ten years ago I began working with an AmeriCorps program called 'HIPPY'. I had no idea what a life changing event I was entering and how many times I would be asked to take a leap of faith and trust the funding would be there, a place to house the project would be found and all the other challenges coming with a grant funded project. Each time the challenge was met and, with team work, the program has overcome most obstacles placed in its way. In facing these obstacles I became stronger and more determined HIPPY would persevere.

It had always been my dream to join the Peace Corps and do something special with my time on this planet. My connection to the AmeriCorps program has given me a chance to fulfill that dream and far exceeded all expectations. I have seen families change, parent / child bonds formed, learned and lived the phase “si se puede”. All of the lives I have been welcomed into have added so much to mine, there are no words to express the depth of feeling in my heart as I write these words.

I wish to thank everyone who has participated in my growing process these last ten years and my inclusion in the HIPPY / AmeriCorps family; together we can change the world one child, one parent, one teacher, one school, one neighborhood at a time. A part of me will be with you always, my role is changing, my dedication to the program is unchanged."

Again, Thank you Susan! from Carla, Keshia and all the Texas HIPPY Gang.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Curriculum Training by hippyprogram
Curriculum Training, a photo by hippyprogram on Flickr.
The HIPPY model provides parents in the program with the opportunity to serve as home visitors. This is often the first work experience, or the first professional experience for our alumni parents. With training, support and supervision they provide high quality educational home visits to their peers and neighbors. Through our AmeriCorps grant they earn a scholarship which gives them the opportunity to go to college. Again, this is a first for most of our parents and home visitors. As described by Kathy White, our coordinator in Snyder, TX "Our HIPPY Home Instructors have gone from being a parent in the program, to obtaining a GED, enrolling in college and finishing two years with future plans of becoming teachers!” Their experience as home visitors provides them with marketable skills. One of my dreams is to be able to package these experiences into college credit. Their weekly training, 2-3 hours of examining the skills taught in the HIPPY curriculum that week in the context of child development, along with periodic trainings add up to over 100 hours of "classroom" time a year. CLASP, a national research and policy organization that focuses on education, employment and poverty issues, recently published their recommendations to create a national "competency based qualifications framework for post-secondary education and training". The report is Giving Credit Where Credit is Due and if realized it would create exactly the right system which would recognize on the job work experience such as HIPPY!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Common Core and HIPPY

(HIPPY Curriculum used in a home visit)

The Common Core is a new set of national education standards that have been coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It details grade by grade knowledge and skills that America's children should learn. It begins in Kindergarten (wish it were Pre-K!) and focuses on Math and English throughout all grades. The general public might be surprised that we don't already have national standards. For parents, the big question is "what does my child need to know?", and the National PTA has a guide for us.

We recently had a meeting in Little Rock to review the HIPPY curriculum and outline criteria for changes and upgrades to the Age 3 and Age 4 materials. We used the Common Core to guide our discussions and ensure that any changes we suggest are made in accordance with these new national guidelines.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HIPPY from a Social Scientist's Perspective

Researchers by hippyprogram
Researchers, a photo by hippyprogram on Flickr. Angela Nievar on the left and Arminta Jacobson, UNT Professor on the right.
I asked Angela Nievar, Assistant Professor here at UNT, to reflect on why she's interested in HIPPY as a research project. Her thoughts are below. I'd like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank Dr. Nievar for her interest in HIPPY.
From Dr. Nievar...
I started working with HIPPY shortly after I came to UNT. I had worked on evaluation projects with other home visiting models as a graduate student. In the past, I saw it as a great way to find out valuable information about a population that was really hard to access. One of my first publications was from data we collected from a home visiting project. The amazing thing about HIPPY was that the home visiting model actually worked, with long-term outcomes for children's achievement as well as short-term changes in the home environment. My thinking has shifted now from simply "this is a great way to access low-income families" to "this is a great program that helps children in low-education, low-income families succeed." I see home visiting in general as a model that helps even moreso than preschool, and my two latest publications (after a few years of hard work with HIPPY) show positive effects for home visiting in general (Nievar, Van Egeren, & Pollard, 2010) and positive effects for HIPPY at a site close to home (Nievar, Jacobson, Chen, Johnson, & Dier, 2011). The project coordinators and home visitors have really worked with us. They have been helpful and kind, and we haven't had the usual red tape that slows down grants even getting started, much less funded. So, yes, Carla, HIPPY is a valuable research project in terms of monetary rewards, but more than that, it is personally rewarding and valuable. My research has been used to inform policy and practice at the national level, based on a project that can help children succeed. To me that is more of a success story than any publication or grant that could simply further my career.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Graduation 2011!

HIPPY graduation 2011 - Dallas by hippyprogram
This year, graduation time is particularly poignant for me. My youngest daughter, with whom I piloted some of the Age 3 curriculum with many years ago, graduated from high school. I couldn't be prouder of both my daughters, Hannah and Sofia. They are smart, funny, independent, creative and kind. They are HIPPY kids! Graduation is a time of excitement, reflection and changes and it's a time to thank and recognize those who made it happen! Congratulations to all of our HIPPY parents, their children, their home visitors and the coordinators who accomplished another successful program year. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Without equity there can be no excellence"

I recently attended a US Department of Education Equity and Excellence Commission, Dallas Town Hall Meeting. It looked to me like over 100 people, including a small group of parents and high school students, were there to listen to a panel of experts and give their own input on the state of education in our community. Dr. Bonnie Lesley was a panelist who spoke from her experience as an classroom educator, district administrator and then college professor in various communities across the state. Her words are quoted in the title of this blog, "Without equity there can be no excellence", and this certainly rang true to me. Equity comes in so many forms and is most easily captured in a statistic shared by Dr. Wayne Pierce of the Equity Center. The per classroom difference in investment between the lowest 20% and highest 20% funded Texas school districts is $42,000. This also greatly resonated with me.

I had the opportunity to leave written comments for the US Department of Education Equity and Excellence Commission. Here's what I wrote:

"Very little in education is indisputable - we disagree on much more than we agree on. However, the value and impact of parents on their children's education is universally recognized - both in research and practice. And yet, enriching in-home educational experience and preschool preparation remains the most underfunded area in education. How will the Commission recognize the value of parents and school readiness? Please recognize research proven models, like Home Instruction Program for Parents of Preschool Youngsters or HIPPY."

It's true, without equity there will never be excellence. HIPPY can provide every child with a successful start in school which is known to greatly increase a child's chances for success in graduating from High School. And those $42,000 per classroom? If HIPPY were provided to every child in one Kindergarten class, it would only cost $31,200.  With only 40% of incoming high school freshmen in Dallas graduating 4 years later, a better start is the place to start. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Importance of Fidelity

No, I'm not going to write about a man and pictures he tweeted to single women even though he is married ~ that's nasty and I'm tired of hearing about it.

I'm taking about PROGRAM FIDELITY, what it means and why it's important. Whenever something works, whether it's a restaurant or a literacy program there's always a need to replicate that good idea. At the same time, adjustments need to be made for it to work in other places. In making those adjustments, we have to figure out what is the most essential part of the program that needs to be replicated. The HIPPY model is over 30 years old and has been replicated in hundreds of locations in Israel, Australia, US, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina and many other countries. Over the years we've refined what program elements are necessary and must be replicated and devised various structures to ensure fidelity to the model. These include preservice training of coordinators, onsite training of home visitors, manuals/documents, onsite monitoring, and last but not least accreditation. I've been involved with the accreditation committee to update and finalize a new and simplified accreditation instrument that will be rolled out nationally in the Fall. This document reflects a sea change in our approach to model fidelity. In the past we've identify all the quality indicators that we would like program sites to implement. This new document pares down criteria to the absolute "must haves" for program implementation. A separate process is being developed for identifying and recognizing programs who show excellence and go above and beyond the accredited must haves. Why is this important? Are we just being control freaks? It's important because social science research / evaluation is difficult enough, but is impossible and unreliable unless we can ensure that what is implemented in one community is substantially the same as what is implemented in another community. Program fidelity allows us to say with confidence that if a program works in Irving Texas it can work just as well in Irvine California.

So, that's an inside look at program fidelity!