The Power of Prevention: Why Investing Early Makes Sense
This blog post was written by PCHP Massachusetts State Program Director Carol Rubin
On Friday November 9th, members of the Parent-Child Home Program’s (PCHP) MA Advisory Council along with State Director Carol Rubin presented at the MA Association of School Committees/MA Association of School Superintendents Joint School Leadership Conference. This conference is the largest annual gathering of school superintendents and school committee members in the state. Each of the current and former school leaders who spoke on the PCHP panel had brought and/or overseen PCHP implementation in the districts they worked in, and spoke from deep experience when they emphasized its power and impact.
Brendan Walsh, a long-time advocate for the Parent-Child Home Program, a former Title I director, and now a school committee member in Salem, began the presentation by talking about the power of words. He described how PCHP works with families with young children facing educational, language, and literacy barriers, and focuses on building the quality and quantity of verbal interaction in the home. He also talked about the long-term savings from PCHP of having fewer children referred for special education services. Noting that school committee members have to make important decisions about how to spend school district dollars, Mr. Walsh advocated for spending the money BEFORE children enter kindergarten to help close the achievement gap and reduce future expenditures.
Roy Belson, the former superintendent of the Medford Public Schools, and a passionate proponent for “front end loading” investments in young children, spoke about bridging not just the achievement gap, but the preparation gap. Bill Cameron, the former superintendent of schools in both Salem and Central Berkshire Regional School District, and a current school committee member in Pittsfield, discussed how the Parent-Child Home Program is not just for kids, but for their parents too. He highlighted the importance of PCHP’s “affective” aspect in addition to being a “linguistic opportunity” for the family. Children enjoy and are gratified by the one-on-one time with their parents. Carol Rubin, a former PCHP coordinator in Newton/Waltham/Needham, then described the program’s vision, impact, and research findings.
Maryann Dawson, the Stoughton PCHP Coordinator, then spoke about the important role PCHP plays in the district’s early childhood programming. Originally brought to Stoughton by Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi to engage new immigrant families, PCHP is now reaching diverse families across the district. Maryann told the story of one PCHP mother who gained so much confidence as a result of her participation in the Program, that she is now an active member of the city’s PTO organization. Maryann also showed examples of the wonderful children’s books and educational toys families receive as curricular materials that become permanent learning supports in their homes.
The panel enjoyed the opportunity to speak with other school superintendents and school committee members from across Massachusetts, and hopes that they were inspired to bring PCHP to their communities.