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!