We caught up with Deb Black, Indianapolis Public Schools Parent Involvement Coordinator, after her first PIE Summer Institute. Parent Involvement Educators (PIEs) from around the district attended five days of intensive professional development and planning, and Black, who coordinates the work of the PIEs, was happy to answer a few questions about the PIE role and how the PIEs are poised to make a big impact in their second year in IPS.

Why is the PIE role so important for the district going forward?
Black: Years of research supports the notion that when parents talk to their children about school, expect them to do well, help them plan for college and make sure that out-of-school activities are constructive, their children do better in school. Also, when parents know how to support their children’s learning, the expectations and achievement of the child improve.  

The Parent Involvement Educator (PIE) role is important because PIEs mentor and teach parents and support their engagement and advocacy efforts through parent leadership development. Then parents, as partners with schools, can optimize the ability to be positive influences in their children’s academic achievement and success.
PIEs are moving IPS parents from parent involvement (short-term interactions) to family and community engagement (long-term, with shared responsibility), which will result in greater student achievement across the district.

What were the most important ideas/actions to come out of your recent PIE Institute?
Black: During this year’s institute, PIEs and principals collaborated to develop a family and community engagement work plan. We are now poised to better engage diverse families, better engage targeted families in a structured home visit plan and make use of the dual-capacity framework where parents, schools and community work in partnership to support academic achievement.
What will PIEs be able to accomplish in their second year that they weren’t able to in their first?
Black: Over this year, PIEs have received capacity-building training in:
  • Racial equity with REI (Racial Equity Institute)
  • CQ (cultural quotient, or cultural competency)
  • Dual-capacity family and school engagement (from the U.S. Department of Education)
  • Family Friendly Schools model (from the Indiana Department of Education)
  • Home-Visit model of academic supports
  • Identifying and engaging “best practices” for resource and community partnerships

Due to increased professional capacity, this year PIEs can better identify and address the needs of their families, include school teams to support parents as partners in academic success and embrace partnerships through a zone of support that touches children in every school in the areas of academics, mentoring, youth development and health.