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History of Parent Engagement Institute

In 1995 the Logan Square Neighborhood Association developed a program in conjunction with principals and teachers whose purpose was to engage parents in the low-income, immigrant community of Logan Square, on the northwest side of Chicago, beyond the handful of parents that regularly volunteered at the schools.

Fresh from a strong organizing victory around overcrowding and building school annexes, school officials worked together with parent leaders and LSNA staff to develop a vision for community schools that included keeping the new building annexes open late after the school day for programming for families, and a Parent Mentor Program, which was a deliberate, systematic way of inviting less-engaged parents to participate in the school activities through a structured leadership and volunteer program.

The Parent Mentor Program started in four schools in 1995 and quickly spread to eight schools in the Logan Square neighborhood within the next few years. The Full Service Community School began the year after, in ’96, and was based on the tenets of student and parents taking the lead on identifying after school and evening programs that were desirable and necessary and also creating the community and political will to find the resources to bring to the school.

LSNA’s full service community school model, with the Parent Mentor Program as a central component, gained attention and interest throughout the city, with community organizations like the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) beginning the PMP and then CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan spreading the LSNA model to 100 schools throughout the district during his tenure at CPS.

In 2010 LSNA and SWOP began the Parent Engagement Institute to provide training, coaching and mentoring to spread the Parent Mentor Program model throughout the state. The Parent Engagement Institute continues its work within the state, while also offering community organizations and school districts throughout the country to learn about and implement the model.