In March 2008, RMC was contracted to develop recommendations for an ongoing system of evaluation for two parent leadership training programs: Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) and Parents Supporting Educational Excellence (Parents SEE).
RMC's work was conceived as a series of evaluation activities, with each activity informing subsequent work, and focused ultimately on providing recommendations for an ongoing evaluation system. Evaluation activities began with a national scan of the evaluations of comparable leadership development programs designed for parents. From this baseline understanding of evaluation issues and practices in the field, RMC designed, piloted and analyzed the results of pre- and post-training surveys for Parents SEE participants, conducted a community profile study involving interviews with alumni, program staff, and community informants; and developed, conducted and analyzed results of alumni surveys for the two parent leadership training courses. The complete evaluation report includes summaries of findings from each of these preliminary phases of work, as well as a chapter presenting a set of recommendations for ongoing evaluation. The recommendations include a model of change, indicators of outcomes and impacts, and methods for evaluation data collection. This Executive Summary presents an overview of the proposed evaluation system, as well as key findings regarding the impact of the parent leadership programs.
The Parent Leadership Training Model of Change provides a systematic way to examine how parent leadership programs influence or produce important effects and impacts on children, families, schools, and communities. The model serves as a framework for evaluation and for identifying the intended outcomes and impacts of the parent leadership training programs; building the case for a program's success by showing the extent to which the program produced the intended outcomes and impacts.
Although PLTI and Parents SEE are different parent leadership programs, both are based on a civic empowerment training model, share core values, and are predicated on the idea that increases in personal and collective capacity pave the way for long-term impacts, for example, outcomes that go beyond individual or group capacities to create concrete and lasting changes.
The model presents a perspective on the flow of influences depicting how parent leader training produces diverse outcomes. The strength of the model is that it organizes and illustrates the different types of outcomes and impacts and their relationships to one another. The change model suggests that parent leadership training produces a number of intermediate outcomes in the form of capacities that are developed within individuals and groups, which then lead to working together in the realization of long-term social and civic impacts.
Intermediate civic and social outcomes include capacity building of individuals and collectives. This includes outcomes related to increases in the resources, skills, and knowledge of individuals, and the improvement of resources and support through the development or strengthening of networks, coalitions or partnerships. Long-term civic and social impacts are defined as sustained changes in behavior and action of graduates, improved schools and communities, and changes in legislation, policy and practice affecting children and families.
Recommendations for the ongoing evaluation system include a set of indicators of outcomes and impacts derived from study of the programs, and strategies for data collection at both local and state levels. Recommended strategies include maintenance of computer-based recruitment and enrollment data; bi-annual alumni surveys; pre- and post-training surveys for each course; and community interviews. An online, state-wide community network of parent leaders is recommended as an additional means of maintaining close contact with alumni. Evaluation findings revealed that dynamic parent leader networks have formed within individual cities and communities in which the programs have been offered, and alumni are receptive to using electronic tools for staying connected. A parent leadership social networking site, with individual profile pages, topic-area discussion pages, bulletin boards, and other features, would provide a means for program alumni to share their accomplishments and current interests. Such a site would also provide a means for local and state leaders to keep apprised of the interests and activities of program alumni.
The following impacts of the Parents SEE program are drawn from a series of evaluation activities including Parents SEE pre- and post-training surveys, an alumni survey, and a community profile study.
-- Parent's response to a survey question on Parents SEE's impact.
The Parents SEE training provides parents with new skills and knowledge valuable for supporting child outcomes. Pre-training percentages are shown in parenthesis.
Participants gain an appreciation and skills for developing partnership and working as part of a network of child advocates. Alumni report that they maintain contact with other alumni from their classes and with Parents SEE facilitators and staff. These networks serve important functions for providing support, sharing information, resources, and advising one another on child advocacy activities. Alumni report having the following types of contact on a regular basis, at least twice a month.
Alumni report increased levels of involvement in school and community activities as well as increased responsibilities and aspirations for further engagement. They report increases in the ways they are involved in education, school and community activities.
Over one-third of the respondents indicated they had served on school, district, regional or state committees and advisory groups since completing Parents SEE training.
Participants indicate they are enthusiastic about continuing their involvement in advocating for children and described work on school policies, continued involvement in parent leadership training, interest in being a parent representative in school or community settings, and targeted issues related to serving different student populations, developing curricula, and other changes.
The following impacts of the PLTI program are drawn from a series of evaluation activities including an alumni survey and a community profile study.
-- Parent's survey response to PLTI
The PLTI provides parents with new skills and knowledge valuable for supporting child outcomes, as well as a greater sense of efficacy. Alumni described changes in their behavior before and after attending PLTI. Assessments of their pre-training behavior are shown in parenthesis.
Alumni described the overall impacts of PLTI involvement on their lives as follows:
Participants gain an appreciation of and skills for developing partnership and working as part of a network of parent leaders. PLTI alumni report that they maintain regular contact with other alumni from both their and other classes within their communities, and with PLTI facilitators and staff. These networks serve important functions for providing support, sharing information, resources, and advising one another on parent leadership activities. Alumni report having the following types of contact on a regular basis, at least twice a month.
Some alumni are do-ers, who start programs and initiatives, while some provide support; others are connectors and resource conduits, and yet others have become topic experts. In some cases, alumni funneled their training into paid professional work, including working for PLTI or sponsoring agencies, while others held elected, board or other membership positions in community organizations. Some had served as parent representatives or testified in the state legislature, and others pursued volunteer work in their schools or elsewhere.
The depth of their engagement across a variety of roles and tasks (from general civic participation to new responsibilities and roles as leaders) has increased.
Alumni report that their work has resulted in a number of impacts in their communities. A sampling of the programs initiated, services enriched and other ways in which alumni are serving the community follow:
Nearly 10 percent of the alumni who responded to the survey have political aspirations, and hope to seek positions on the Board of Education or elected office.