Promoting Parental Involvement Nationwide
Whether a child attends school in rural Arkansas, the District of Columbia, or American Samoa, parental involvement can improve his or her chances of academic success. There are 62 Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) that are funded by the U.S. Department of Education and located in every state, Washington, DC, and the U.S. territories. The PIRCs work to promote parent involvement policies and activities that can lead to improvements in student academic achievement. SEDL supports their work through the National PIRC Coordination Center.
SEDL, in collaboration with the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) and the Miko Group, Inc., established the Coordination Center in 2006. The Coordination Center receives funding from the U.S. Department of Education to provide technical assistance to the PIRCs. Staff at SEDL and the HFRP have worked closely with the U.S. Department of Education to set goals and determine the focus of the technical assistance services. The Miko Group provides logistical and program management support to the Coordination Center.
In order to build a sound technical assistance plan that addressed the specific needs of the PIRCs, the Coordination Center conducted an extensive set of needs-assessment activities, which included group and one-on-one discussions and a thorough review of the PIRCs' proposals. The Coordination Center provided technical assistance in the form of several trainings for PIRC grantees, including a new grantee orientation workshop and regional institutes.
Lacy Wood, SEDL project director
SEDL project director Lacy Wood leads the Coordination Center's work and believes that its technical assistance helps the PIRCs in two fundamental ways: it helps them meet the legislative requirements of their grants and also enables them to improve the programs and services that they offer. "PIRC leaders are taking a more strategic, comprehensive approach to the work, aligning it with the requirements of the legislation," says Wood.
Since the PIRCs completed the first years of their grants, the Coordination Center has focused technical assistance on performance management and evaluation. During the regional institutes, the Coordination Center allowed PIRC directors and evaluators to work and plan together, and provided time for evaluators to discuss evaluation methods and strategies for data collection, operational definitions for legislated mandates, and statewide impact.
"The conferences are set up in a way to help us network and learn from each other," says Dr. Nicholas Long, director of the Arkansas State PIRC. He describes a conference where he learned that the Iowa State PIRC was using a tool for family involvement. "They gave us a lot of time to talk to each other and learn," says Long. "They're not just top-down events." Wood has also observed greater collaboration and networking among the PIRCs.