KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research

Parenting Assessment Supports Families as Lifelong Educators

Posted by Marilee Comfort on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 @ 04:47 PM

parents as teachersA couple of weeks ago I was invited to co-facilitate a workshop on parenting assessment with Heather Nusbaum, Early Childhood Education Specialist, Ohio Head Start Training and Technical Assistance Center, at the Ohio Head Start Association Leadership and Professional Development Conference.  Approximately 200 Program Directors, Coordinators, and Evaluators attended from Head Start and Early Head Start (HS/EHS) programs across the state.  Many of the conversations, both inside and outside of sessions, involved the outcome data generated by the CLASS, an observational assessment of the quality of teacher-child interactions.  The Office of Head Start requires the CLASS as part of its monitoring review and professional development systems for center-based programs.  The Ohio Head Start leaders seemed to embrace this classroom observational assessment as a guide for improving teacher practices and quality education for children.  So I was listening intently for the readiness of the leadership to incorporate observational parenting assessment into their family services.  After all, you may recall a previous KIPS blog entitled Measuring What Works for Children: CLASS™ for School & KIPS for Home in which guest blogger Sedra Spano from Teachstone said: 

Both the CLASS and KIPS are reliable observational tools that have been validated in multiple studies. Observations are important, because what teachers or parents report to do on surveys or in interviews can differ from what they actually do in their interactions with children. 

Fortunately, teachers don’t stand alone in educating children. The Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework, developed by the Office of Head Start’s National Center on PFCE (NCPFCE), stresses that families are children’s lifelong educators.  This is 1 of the 7 essential Family Engagement Outcomes for HS/EHS programs.  According to the NCPFCE’s Research to Practice brief titled

Families as Lifelong Educators:

Parents and families are their children’s most important educators, with many opportunities to build the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Families educate their children every day – both in formal and informal ways. Through positive interactions with their children, parents promote healthy development and prepare them for school, successful relationships, rewarding work, and better health. The skills and attitudes parents encourage will teach their children to care for themselves and for others, so they will grow into adults who can do the same. –page 1.

As this blog frequently discusses, there is overwhelming research evidence that parents play a primary role in children’s school achievement and healthy development.  As Robert Pianta, developer of the CLASS, says, “What Gets Measured Gets Done”.  So a logical next step for HS/EHS programs that devote concerted efforts to enhancing parenting is to adopt an observational parenting tool. Just as an observational assessment like CLASS specifically guides improvement in teacher-child interaction, an observational parenting assessment, like KIPS, guides improvement in parent-child interaction. 

It makes sense to assess parenting, the driving force in children’s development.  The Families as Lifelong Educators brief suggests partnering with families by discussing child assessment data to guide learning activities at home and in the HS/EHS program (see page 3).  Likewise, discussing observational parenting assessment results would guide parents and HS/EHS program staff toward improvements that promote each child’s development.

Managing all of the assessment data needed to document child, family and program outcomes in order to improve programs can be a daunting task. The National Center on PFCE has developed guidance on how to gather, analyze and talk about data with staff, families and community members, titled Measuring What Matters: Using Data to Support Family ProgressThey suggest guiding principles grounded by developing a program culture based on the Four-R Approach:  Responsible, Respectful, Relevant, Relationship-Based.  

The Four R Approach provides guiding principles for making decisions, evaluating program progress, and identifying changes that can improve program effectiveness as part of a data-driven program culture. Staff can use these principles when partnering with families, setting family goals, and assessing progress toward these goals over time. Page 6.

The guide lays out a continuous cycle of Four Data Activities aimed at measuring progress toward family outcomes:  parenting assessment data cycle

1) Systematic preparation and planning,      
2) Collection of family-related data,
3) Aggregating and analyzing the information collected, and
4) Sharing and using the results (NCPMFO, 2013a). 

(National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement (2013). Measuring What Matters: Using Data to Support Family Progress USDHHS, p.8)

This cycle of activities is useful at two levels.  First, when applied to observational parenting assessments, staff and parents can work together to identify parents’ current strengths and set improvement goals.  Assessments can then monitor progress on the goals the parent has chosen, and identify strategies for change and next steps.  Second, programs can use the Four Data Activities process to improve the program’s services aimed at developing families as lifelong educators.  Research consistently shows that early parenting is a driving force in school achievement and healthy development.  Since parents play a primary role, it’s essential to add parenting assessment, the missing piece of the assessment puzzle, to guide and support families in being lifelong educators of their children.


Assess What Matters to Children 

Download our paper:

Nine Ways Parenting Assessment Can Make a Difference in Your Program.  

Learn How Parenting Assessment:

1. Documents evidence of parenting outcomes
2. Tailors services to individual parenting strengths and needs
3. Monitors progress and guides service planning
4. Reinforces parenting progress and confidence
5. Serves as a parenting check-up as children develop
6. Shifts staff focus from child to parent-child interactions
7. Offers a common language for staff , families and programs
8. Builds reflective practice during supervision
9. Informs continuous quality improvement for staff and program.

parenting assessment matters to children

Tags: Parenting Assessment, Early Head Start, Head Start, Parents as Teachers, engagement-parent, family, community