Dallas Schools Enlist ‘HIPPY' to Teach Parents at Home

A program aimed at helping parents be better prepared to work with their young students at home is catching on in the Dallas Independent School District.

According to district official Alan Cohen, executive director of early childhood education at DISD, only 38 percent of children show up for kindergarten ready to learn.

“The earlier we can catch children and work with families, the more society is going to benefit,” said Cohen.

That’s why DISD is aggressively using a program called HIPPY, which stands for “Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters.” HIPPY sends coaches into the homes of at-risk children between the ages of 3 and 5, and the coaches train the parents on how to teach their children skills such as reading, the alphabet and basic math.

“There’s no one that they want to please more than mom and dad,” said Cohen.

Numerous studies, including some done in Texas, show that HIPPY makes a big difference.

Children from families in the HIPPY program have higher school attendance, do better academically and have fewer behavior problems than children not involved in HIPPY, the studies show.

DISD believes so strongly in the approach that it has the largest HIPPY program in the United States. Hundreds of families in DISD participate in the program, totaling nearly 1,000 children.

HIPPY costs approximately $1,500 per student annually. While the DISD program is funded largely with federal and local tax money, private contributions also help cover the cost.

In 2013, the last year for which complete figures are available, HIPPY cost DISD $1.7 million. Cohen said it’s well worth it.

“It’s one of those investments that, frankly, for our community, is a no-brainer,” he said.

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