How can parents and schools work together to improve student learning? Schools and parent groups everywhere grapple with this challenge every day, but when it comes to making partnerships work, the Parent Institute for Quality Education is one group that has a proven track record.

Grassroots beginnings

In 1987 a group of Spanish-speaking immigrant parents met in San Diego, California to talk about how they could improve their children’s grades. From their conversations grew the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE). PIQE now has eight centers in major cities in California and one center in Texas. The group’s mission is to forge a productive, healthy relationship between parents and schools; PIQE achieves this goal through a unique process.

A school within a school

Here’s how it works: At the invitation of a school, PIQE organizes and conducts intensive nine-week courses that guide parents through sensitive issues in supporting their children’s education. Topics include such universal subjects as “Motivation and Self-Esteem,” “How the School System Works” and “Communication and Discipline.” Sessions are flexible to accommodate different schedules, and parents play a role in deciding the curriculum.

This straightforward approach can sometimes be intimidating for parents of different cultures who aren’t accustomed to thinking about education as a partnership. But PIQE has enjoyed steady success in bringing parents from diverse backgrounds closer to their kids and their schools.

A growing presence

Since 1987 the Institute has “graduated” more than 300,000 parents in school districts in California, Arizona and Texas. The graduations are festive and high spirited. Graduates and their families cheer and celebrate as parents are awarded their diplomas. Many graduates then cycle back into the organization by performing outreach and joining the volunteer staff.

Schools play an important role as well. They contribute by inviting the Parent Institute to hold sessions at their school, recruiting participants, providing facilities and support for the courses, and then following up with parent involvement programs. Schools also provide matching funds for the cost of the program, making it cost-free to participants. In addition, many schools that start a PIQE program stay with it year after year, as new parents come into the school community.

PIQE’s efforts have a positive effect upon students. Several years ago, Stanford Research Institute performed a comprehensive evaluation of the PIQE program, and found that children of PIQE graduates had fewer disciplinary problems, spent more time on homework each night and were more motivated to attend college.

For additional information, see the The Parent Institute for Quality Education Web site.