The home is each child’s first learning environment. In turn, parents or guardians are a child’s first teacher. This is why The Public Education Foundation believes that strategic, early learning intervention is central to improving student success on a large scale.
It was eight years ago that The Public Education Foundation first began its partnership with Toyota Family Learning and the National Center for Families Learning. Through this partnership, we implemented a family learning model here in Las Vegas that enables many of our culturally diverse families to become meaningfully engaged in their children’s learning at home and in school.
The Public Education Foundation is proud to have been selected once again to renew our partnership with the NCFL and Toyota for an innovative family learning program that produces clear results. Our foundation recently was awarded a $175,000, three-year grant for Toyota Family Learning from NCFL and funded by Toyota.
The Public Education Foundation is one of only five organizations nationwide receiving the grant this school year. The program provides a proactive, innovative approach to building practical skills that help families engage in education and community, and that promotes sustainable change and helps prepare participants for the demands of jobs in today’s world. As a result, stronger families contribute to real economic change for communities.
More than 300 parents and children are participating in the program unveiled this month at seven elementary schools in the Clark County School District. This two-generation program allows parents and children to learn alongside each other and from other families. They are also serving their communities through instruction, Family Service Learning, mentoring and technology use.
Toyota’s support will increase the impact of The Public Education Foundation’s Early Learning, Literacy and Family Engagement initiative, which has been fortunate over the years to have developed strong partnerships with both the private and public sectors. Among those major contributors essential to our success are the Engelstad Family Foundation and the city of Las Vegas.
Research has demonstrated that a strong support system can help children excel in the classroom and beyond. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to give parents and caregivers the tools they need to be successful.
Independent evaluators found these results among 2015 Toyota Family Learning program participants in other partner cities: 90 percent of parents increased their engagement in their children’s education; 96 percent of parents became better teachers to their children; 75 percent of parents increased their English language skills; 34 percent of parents got a better job; 21 percent earned a GED certificate or high school equivalency
With a focus on English, academics and family engagement in education, participants learn skills such as organization and leadership through a six-step process that simultaneously helps parents and children build critical skills. The projects include a school uniform recycling program, organizing a safety week exposition and a beautification project aimed at cleaning up graffiti.
It is easy to see why parental involvement, deepened by this program, can have such an impact. And its impact extends to neighbors, the workforce and the entire community.
It reinforces why employers such as Toyota get involved and national nonprofits such as NCFL partner with local organizations, cities and school districts to reach the people who need the programs the most. We encourage others to further explore this dynamic as they look for ways to close the gap between classroom and lifelong learning for the many vulnerable and low-income families in our community.
If we prepare our children now, we will give them the tools they need to build caring communities and succeed in the 21st century global economy.
Judi Steele is president &CEO of The Public Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to bring about transformational change in teaching, learning and education leadership.