Op-ed from the Grassroots

ASPR recently secured publication of this op-ed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, an important paper in regards to clients’ interest in its congressional delegation.

Arkansas’ Leadership on Teaching the Next Generation Must Continue

By Lia Lent, National Executive Director, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters USA

David Tenner is an Arkansan we can all be proud of. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a master’s degree; he is now a business consultant.

Yet David’s education journey began much earlier, as it does for all of us. Before he even entered kindergarten his mom stepped forward and asked for help in dealing with David’s language challenges from our nonprofit, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters—HIPPY.

HIPPY is a home visiting program designed to support parents, and grandparents, of 3-to-5 year olds, in their role as their child’s first and most important teacher. We work directly with interested families in underserved communities to provide guidance on how to teach their young children the important skills that they will need to be successful in school and in life.  As we like to say, parenthood doesn’t come with instructions.

David says, “I now realize the impact of having learned recognition and context clues skills from HIPPY. These helped me to further expand my early education skills and resulted in really successful outcomes while in elementary and middle school.”

David’s story isn’t unique. In Arkansas, for nearly 30 years, communities have taken this innovative approach to empowering families to teach the next generation.

Years of research conducted in the United States and eight other countries found HIPPY to be effective in improving school readiness, parent involvement, school attendance, classroom behavior and standardized test scores and academic performance.

In fact, research conducted partly in Arkansas has shown children participating in HIPPY demonstrate statistically significant higher achievement scores in reading, math and social studies in third, fifth and sixth grades based on multiple measures.

One of the programs in our state we are most proud of is connected to Rogers Public Schools, where it is marking 25 years of success. The program right now serves 84 children and there usually is a waiting list.

The schools in this district recognize the value of investing in young children before kindergarten. HIPPY graduates are shown to arrive at their doorstep better prepared for school and their parents are more engaged in their child’s progress.

HIPPY, and other home visiting programs like it, have proven that they provide a strong return on the investment by private supporters and foundations. Federal support for these initiatives initially began under President George W. Bush and it continues to this day.

As Congress looks to renew funding for home visiting under the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, we trust it will examine all the benefits that it provides. This federal-state partnership is a proven strategy for strengthening families and saving money.

The MIECHV program is also designed with a high degree of accountability. States track and measure effectiveness to make sure that it works as intended. The legislation requires programs to be “evidence-based,” with a proven track record of effectiveness as demonstrated through rigorous scientific study.  HIPPY was proud to be one of the first seven programs nationwide to meet this high standard.

The federal-state partnership is designed to give states flexibility to identify some of the biggest challenges facing their young children that can be addressed through home visiting support, such as infant mortality, child abuse prevention or school readiness. The states then choose the right type of family support programs to meet those needs and communities implement them. In many cases, HIPPY is the chosen model, but there are others.

In particular, the Arkansas experience with HIPPY makes it a national leader in the home visiting movement. We must not lose a step in maintaining our role and improving outcomes for the most vulnerable young people.