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Changing Lives and Trajectories for Working Parents and their Families

What if in one year’s time, after offering a unique benefit to your employees, you could share the following stories?

  • An hourly employee who is also a husband and father of three young children, received a promotion because he took a class on his own dime to improve his English language skills. In addition to his own economic mobility, he became a more engaged parent in his children’s school, in particular for his youngest who is being evaluated for special education support. In addition, he and his wife became first-time home buyers and took important steps to expose their family to new opportunities outside the existing small bubble of their neighborhood like swim lessons and visits to local cultural institutions.
  • Through exposure and new learning experiences, the daughter of an employee who had never had the opportunity to access arts programming previously, gained knowledge and confidence in the arts and put together a stellar application to the Denver School of the Arts, a highly selective school with a rigorous admissions process. And she was accepted!
  • A single mom with a high school diploma, working in central transport, was so inspired by her son’s journey to apply for and choose a college that she decided to look into post-secondary opportunities for herself and do this alongside her son while still employed.
  • A nurse manager went from being overwhelmed and struggling with her daughter’s ADHD diagnosis to feeling confident in her ability to support and advocate for her daughter within and beyond school.

reschool learner network connects employers with familiesThese are real stories stemming from a year-long partnership between ReSchool Colorado and two Colorado-based employers: Saint Joseph Hospital (SCL Health) and Embassy Suites Denver Downtown (Sage Hospitality).  A select number of employees across these two employers chose to participate in a pilot benefit program provided by ReSchool’s Learner Advocate Network. Learner advocates work directly with families to understand their unique context, identify learning goals and aspirations, build relationships and support networks, and increase their capacity to access quality learning within and beyond school.

The Learner Advocate Network concept stems from ReSchool’s work in various communities for the past five years to uncover the challenges and opportunities families face navigating the complexity of education and child care systems, and how families experience the intersections of those systems with the rest of their lives.

ReSchool reached out to employers as partners because we noticed an emerging theme: working parents across the socioeconomic spectrum were struggling to balance the demands of their jobs with their needs and desires for their children’s care and learning.

ReSchool Learner Advocate Network Pilot

Learner advocates spent about one day a week on site at the employer

  • Advocates and employees interacted by phone/text in between sessions
  • Employees spent an average of 3 hours a month with ReSchool
  • In addition to providing support to help parents navigate the system, advocates get to know get to know the employees’ children and support the entire family in making educational decisions anchored in goals, aspirations and learning styles.

The pilot cohort included 20 parents/employees, who collectively had 40 children

  • 10 children 0-3 years old
  • 24 children 4-13 years old
  • 6 children 14-18 years old

Working parents participated from several departments across the hotel and hospital:

  • Nutrition & Food Services: 3
  • Environmental Services: 4
  • Central Transport: 5
  • Engineering: 2
  • Housekeeping 2
  • Nursing 3
  • Lab: 1

ReSchool provided over $10,000 in scholarships over the course of the year that families used to support their choice of learning experiences during school breaks, after school, and summer.

Four Takeaways from the Pilot:

  1. Anchoring Learner Advocates in the workplace shows strong potential for employer cost savings and improved employee satisfaction.
    Early cost modeling and behaviors among those who participated in the pilot point to the potential for significant cost savings to the employer, due to higher employee satisfaction and interest in staying employed at the company.
  2. Parents are learners too.
    Parents have their own aspirations for continuing education and career advancement, making the Learner Advocate Network model a natural two-generation approach. As parents build their capacity and confidence to navigate their kids’ learning, they become more active consumers of the system for themselves.
  3. Working parents across income levels struggle to coordinate school and childcare for their children. These stresses can negatively impact employment and job performance.
    While parents in low-wage positions face specific challenges related to the unpredictability and inflexibility of their shift schedules, parents in managerial positions also felt the pinch of limited time with their kids, and similarly struggled with navigating school choice, child care, and transportation. When these challenges become chronic, attrition occurs.
  4. Summer learning is a particular a pain point for working parents.
    Parents want their kids to have fun in the summer, and most parents need some sort of summer childcare. However, many are overwhelmed by the burden of finding, paying for, and transporting their kids to these opportunities. In response to this challenge, ReSchool launched Blueprint4SummerCO, a free, mobile-friendly website that puts thousands of summer offerings at the fingertips of families. Using this website and our scholarship fund, Learner Advocates built the capacity of employees to access information about and plan for summer earlier (instead of waiting until school gets out). This resulted in working parents who are more prepared for summer than ever before and less stressed about the impact of summer on their jobs.

What’s Next

The Learner Advocate Network is a critical element of ReSchool’s larger vision to close opportunity gaps through a more expansive system of education in Colorado that leverages assets and resources more purposefully around the needs of families. ReSchool has explicitly chosen to focus on parents and kids (instead of on schools and districts) in order to develop people’s capacity to get what they want and need from the systems that exist–and to have the ability to shift gears with confidence as the system shifts directions.

  • With this in mind, in order to reach more families, ReSchool is expanding the Learner Advocate Network from 20 to 100+ families over the next 18 months in partnership with local employers and community-based organizations.
  • Blueprint4SummerCO will expand its reach to provide a growing number of metro-area families with access to free, user friendly information about summer learning. Learning occurs everywhere, and the learning youth need for success in today’s world often happens outside of school. So, a modernized system of education must level the playing field so all kids can access meaningful learning opportunities—anyplace, anywhere.

If you have questions or want to learn more about ReSchool, please visit our website at www.reschoolcolorado.org or email us at info@reschool.co.

Amy Anderson

Executive Director
ReSchool Colorado

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