Starting Small, Reaching High (B)

Case Solution

Susan Rosengrant, Christine W. Letts
Harvard Kennedy School ()

In the early 1980s, the Missouri Director of Early Childhood Education launched a novel parenting education pilot project aimed at increasing children’s readiness for kindergarten and promoting family well-being by dispatching specially trained educators in monthly home visits to care for parents and help promote their babies’ early development. . In 1985, when an evaluation announced good results for the pilot, the Missouri Legislature had already made Parents as Teachers mandatory for school districts across the state. Soon after, the St. Louis-based National Parents as Teachers Center, established to oversee the state program and respond to outside inquiries, became an independent non-profit organization. From the beginning, the National Center staff has incorporated quality controls into parenting educator programming and training, assuming rapid growth; In 1999, Parents as Teachers programs served more than 500,000 children in the United States and six other countries. But despite these quality control efforts, the flexibility and adaptability that allowed for rapid replication meant that the National Center was unable to effectively manage or monitor its more than 2,000 locations around the world. As a result, the National Center was forced to scrutinize its replication model, its oversight role, and how the center could monitor and improve the quality of the program. Case number HKS 1850.0

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