It takes a village to raise a child and no child should be left behind. But nice slogans are empty words without guidance about how to support parents and help kids learn. A collaborative project of ISU Extension and Iowa Statewide Parent Information Resource Center (PIRC) called Partnering in Communities: Strong Families, Strong Communities can help communities move beyond the slogans and take action.
Iowa Statewide PIRC is a virtual center funded by a federal grant to help schools, parents and communities form partnerships to improve learning for Iowa children, said Jane Neff, a PIRC consultant. Over the past four years, she has been working with ISU Extension staff to design, pilot and implement Partnering in Communities because what children learn outside of school affects what they learn during the school day.
“They are in daycare or at community sponsored activities like 4-H, soccer and dance. They participate in programs sponsored by their faith community, parks and recreation, libraries or museums. They are at medical clinics, working in businesses and observing how adults respond to issues in the community. And they are observing how learning is valued in their homes. All of these things impact children’s learning when they are in school,” Neff said.
Developing partnerships among communities, schools and parents is the key, said ISU Extension family life state specialist Kim Greder. Using research-proven practices, community leaders and organizations support parents as they assist their children in becoming successful learners. Communities strengthen parents’ ability to help their kids succeed as learners when they assist parents in gaining specific knowledge and skills that promoting learning.
“School programs that encourage involvement and address specific needs of kids and families will successfully connect with families and communities. Kids learn more at school when supported by parents, school staff and community members. When parents share ideas with each other on how to help their kids at home, they create support for all kids,” Greder said.
Communities that take these steps build a strong culture that supports student achievement. Partnering in Communities projects are in various stages of development in Perry, Webster City, Storm Lake, Waterloo, Dubuque and Des Moines.
A Storm Lake participant summed it up: “Student achievement in a community is a social, civic and economic issue, and we can’t ignore this if we want a strong community.”