District 518 may implement PIQE program

WORTHINGTON -- When District 518 set out a few years ago to establish after-school programming to promote academic achievement among the community's diverse populations, they learned the task wasn't as easy as it seemed.

WORTHINGTON -- When District 518 set out a few years ago to establish after-school programming to promote academic achievement among the community's diverse populations, they learned the task wasn't as easy as it seemed.

With language and cultural differences, it was quickly realized that in order to reach the students the district targeted for the programs, they first needed to reach the parents.

It was then that District 518 Community Education Director Jerry Fiola learned of California-based Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE -- pronounced P-K), an organization that developed the PIQE model to expand parent involvement in communities where low-income residents and diversity are present. PIQE was piloted in San Diego, Calif., in 1987, and designed for Latino parents, but has since been replicated for other language groups.

Within the past year, leaders from District 518 have visited PIQE twice in California, and for the second time in five months, PIQE representatives are in Worthington to implement the model within District 518. Their first visit was in March, when they helped establish a nine-week class of primarily Latino parents in Worthington. That class taught parents everything from home and school collaboration to the relationship between self-esteem and student achievement. Also covered was communication with the school district, economic standards, how the school system functions and the road to college. There were 87 parents who completed the program in May.

On Monday, Patricia Mayer-Ochoa, PIQE vice president, was in Worthington to meet with teachers during an in-service program at Prairie Elementary. Today, she will conduct sessions at the Worthington Middle School.


"Our goal is that every student has an option to go to college," said Ochoa, adding that PIQE has also developed models for early childhood and middle school-aged children. Worthington is the first school district in Minnesota to implement the PIQE model.

At the same time Ochoa was meeting with teachers in the district, PIQE president and CEO David Valladolid accompanied Fiola to local PIQE sponsors Swift & Co. and UFCW union leaders. They also visited with the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and Minnesota West Community and Technical College provost Dr. Diane Graber to garner support for the program's implementation.

The district's contract with PIQE is for one year, with the potential for expansion if funding is available. Fiola said training in the PIQE model was made possible through grants obtained from the Minnesota Community Foundation, Southwest Minnesota Foundation, several smaller grants and community donations. In order to maintain the model, more funding will be necessary in the future.

Ochoa's meeting with teachers Monday focused on research proving that involved parents have children who do better in school. With that information, she led a strategy session with teachers on what the school district can do to reach out to parents that essentially will build a school system whereby students and children become more involved.

"We have to bring the whole community in to support the children," Valladolid said, adding that school districts and parents have a shared goal -- to ensure children receive a quality education.

"We argue that education is the best anti-poverty and anti-crime program in the world," he said.

At Prairie Elementary, Ochoa and teachers focused on three specific categories -- creating a welcoming environment for parents, communicating better with parents and, specifically, conducting a family accelerated reading night to engage parents in school-centered activity.

"While we've been raising the bar of education for students, we want to make sure parents can assume a more active role," Fiola said. "We're trying to promote more activity of parents."

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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