I met Love at a Starbucks earlier this month. Tami Love that is. She was in the middle of a driving tour of Arkansas, 15 hours in the car that took her from the Delta to the Ozarks. Despite the miles, she was energized by her conversations in some of Arkansas’s smallest and largest communities when I met her in Little Rock to catch up.
Who is Tami Love, you ask?
Tami works for a community-based organization in Chicago called the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA). I first met her last September in an elementary school auditorium in Chicago. I was there with about 15 representatives from communities around Arkansas that were all Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR) Community Solutions Initiative sites. We'd heard that Chicago had incredible examples for how to engage families, so we all went up there to see how schools, parents, and community leaders were coming together as partners to help their children succeed.
LSNA’s Parent Mentor Program (PMP) was especially exciting to me and the AR-GLR communities. This program trained and placed parents in classrooms to assist teachers four days a week and then provided parent-centered skills training every Friday. Some of PMP’s benefits included:
Improved Student Outcomes: With extra support in the classroom, students received the individualized instruction they needed to succeed, learn, and get prepared for school and life
Support for Teachers: Parents provided another set of eyes and ears in the classroom and helped teachers connect to other parents and the broader community
Parent Empowerment: Parents came together with each other and educators to share and learn how they were building on what kids learned in the classroom at home–over time, parents felt more comfortable speaking with their children’s teachers
Strong School Relationships: Parents learned how to navigate the school system and become equal partners with teachers and administrators to advocate for their students’ success
Homegrown Teacher Pipeline: As parents gained skills in the classroom, some chose to go back to school too, and many became teachers as well; LSNA created a teacher pipeline that reflected the diversity of the Logan Square Neighborhood
So Why was Tami in Arkansas?
Parent engagement, when done right, really provides students the support they need to read at grade level by the end of third grade. After seeing Tami and the PMP model in Chicago, the AR-GLR team wanted to learn more. So we brought Tami to Arkansas to visit us in our communities: Marvell, Eudora, Little Rock, and Springdale. We talked about:
How parents, schools, and communities can go beyond the bake sale to bring parents into schools and form parent-teacher partnerships to educate students
How the PMP model we saw in Chicago could work in our communities given our unique contexts
What staff, resources, and relationships are important for this model to succeed
What communities wanted to do next to build stronger partnerships between parents based on what we learned from Tami and one another
Tami will continue to provide her knowledge and insight to AR-GLR communities over the summer, and we look forward to seeing how parents, teachers, administrators, and community members across Arkansas continue to support kids in new and innovative ways to ensure all Arkansas children read at grade level by the end of third grade.
Read AR-GLR's updated Full Speed Ahead progress report to learn more about how the Campaign is helping communities prepare every Arkansas student to read at grade level by the end of third grade.
READ FULL SPEED AHEAD