What is School Readiness? Head Start defines school readiness as: “…children are ready for school, families are ready to support their children’s learning, and schools are ready for children. Historically, Head Start often has led the early childhood field with a strong, clear, and comprehensive focus on all aspects of healthy development, including physical, cognitive, social and emotional development, all of which are essential to children getting ready for school.” (Head Start School Readiness FAQ)
Here at IRIS Ed we are beginning work on an exciting new project called Padres Preparados (Prepared Parents) that will help Spanish-speaking Latino parents teach school readiness skills to their pre-school children enrolled in Head Start. We’d like to share what it’s about and the process we’ll be going through to produce and deliver this culturally relevant, research-based intervention to a national audience.
Latino youth currently comprise more than one-fifth of the U.S. youth population, yet this sizable group of the nation’s future adults lags alarmingly behind non-Latino youth in academic achievement. To help address this gap, the National Institutes of Health has awarded IRIS Ed a grant to develop and produce an online parent education program in Spanish that will help young Latinos get the best start in school. Head Start supports preschool-aged children with school readiness that helps them do better when they enter elementary school. In fact, research shows that children who are prepared to enter school when they are young have a higher high school graduation rate. More than 400,000 Latino preschoolers and their parents are served by Head Start and Early Head Start schools nationwide each year.
How can we help padres get their niños ready for school? We have identified a number of positive parenting skills that research shows can lead to a child’s school readiness and improve their academic outcomes, skills such as: problem solving, emotional regulation, parental involvement and helping children gain pre-literacy skills. The final course will consist of video vignettes that model the skills, interactive exercises that prompt parents to think about and analyze their own parenting, as well as other print and online resources. The training will be delivered to parents of children in Head Start schools and will be administered by Head Start teachers.
How do we plan to create the course? The process of development begins with collaboration between an instructional designer and an expert in the field of early childhood education. We are working on Padres Preparados with Dr. Melanie Domenech Rodríguez, a Professor of Psychology at Utah State University, who has been working with Latino families for many years. Combining their areas of expertise, they will develop a “program matrix” which will serve as a kind of roadmap for the learning experience that the end user will have. The matrix will outline the skills to be taught and the order they will be taught in.
The next step is to meet directly with stakeholders. IRIS Ed will hold focus groups with Latino parents of Head Start students as well as Head Start teachers and administrators to understand the needs and learning abilities of the intended audience and facilitators. We will also attempt to gain an understanding of the daily lives and challenges of the Head Start families in order to make the training materials culturally relevant and as effective as possible.
Using the knowledge and insights gained in the focus groups, the program matrix will then be developed into a complete multimedia course. IRIS Ed’s media production department will develop scripts for video vignettes, cast actors, secure locations, shoot, edit and refine the video segments. A graphic designer will work with the development team to create printable curriculum and lay out the online interactive exercises. Finally, the web applications team will combine all of the assets and upload them to IRIS Ed’s online learning platform, irised.com, where they can be accessed by viewers. DVDs of the program will be produced so that parents can access the course without requiring the internet.
Once the course has been created, IRIS Ed will conduct an efficacy study with more than 120 Latino parents who have children in Head Start. We will measure the effects of the course on parents’ sense of self-competence, parental reading aid abilities, parental stress levels and child behavior.
The work on this project began in July of 2014 and the efficacy study will occur in the early 2016. To learn more about this project or how you can get involved with the focus groups, the video production or the research study, click on this link. Our team here at IRIS Ed is looking forward to developing a strong and impactful program that can make a difference in the lives of Latino families.