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Foundation Hosts Parent-Engagement Advocates to Expand Efforts Nationally

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More than 40 researchers, practitioners, and advocates will meet with a variety of funders and corporate leaders June 20 in Los Angeles to brainstorm solutions to barriers that impede the growth of promising parent-engagement strategies.

The Eva Longoria Foundation, a Los Angeles-based foundation that is dedicated to empowering Latinas through education and entrepreneurship, is hosting the daylong meeting. Longoria, an actress, whose credits include the television show, "Desperate Housewives," established the foundation in 2012 and commissioned research from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA to determine how the philanthropy could achieve the greatest impact on improving the lives of Latinas.

Lindsay Wolff, an analyst for the Global Philanthropy Group, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm who is contracted to work as program coordinator for the Eva Longoria Foundation, told me that bolstering parent engagement was identified as an area of critical need that could yield significant positive results.

Wolff said the Longoria Foundation's own foray into parent engagement with the National City, Calif.-based Parent Institute for Quality Education or PIQE has produced impressive outcomes. According to a research conducted by PIQE, the children of parents who attend the foundation's nine-week parent-engagement courses in Los Angeles have a much higher high school graduation rate—90 percent—compared to the 66 percent graduation rate of their counterparts who attend surrounding schools. Since the program began in 2012, Wolff said about 1,500 parents have completed the parent-engagement program at 15 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses. That success, she added, has led the foundation to expand the program to more schools in the fall of 2015.

Encouraged by the foundation's own parent-engagement program, Wolff said Longoria is seeking to support the expansion of successful parent-engagement efforts nationally. She said the foundation hopes the meeting will engender some "matchmaking," by linking funders with practitioners and researchers. Additionally, the philanthropy wants to develop "concrete next steps" that will lead to more parent-engagement events in the future. 

Among those expected to attend the Longoria Foundation's parent-engagement meeting are representatives from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Flamboyan Foundation, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Univision (the Spanish language broadcast network), and the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization.

Longoria's goal mirrors the mission of those parent-engagement practitioners and advocates who will attend the National Family Community Engagement Conference on June 22 in Chicago. While parent-engagement initiatives are proving that these programs can serve a vital role in boosting student achievement, the greatest challenge has been finding a way to increase the reach of these strategies. (I recently spoke with several parent-engagement researchers and practitioners who are buoyed by the increased interest in supporting families. Read my story here.)

"This is not something that one foundation or one organization can tackle on it's own," Wolff said. "This is going to take all of us."

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