Pete Stark’s wife to head national pre-K initiative

Pre-K Now — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds — has announced that Deborah Roderick Stark will lead “Engaged Families, Effective Pre-K,” which it described as “a new initiative to research best practices for engaging families in pre-k programs and to advance state policies that support those practices.”

Stark, 41, a San Lorenzo native with extensive experience in early-childhood education, is the wife of Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, with whom she has three children; she’s also a member of the First 5 Alameda County Commission.

Funded by the Picower Foundation, the new program aims to “highlight the fundamental role family involvement plays during the early learning years and the need for states to actively promote it,” according to a news release.

“Without a doubt, parent engagement in pre-k improves children’s successes in school and life,” Stark said in the release. “The pre-k years are not just the best time for teaching early learning skills; this is also the best time for educators to actively engage family members, reinforcing the notion that they are their child’s first and most important teachers.”

Engaged Families, Effective Pre-K will launch an 18-month listening tour involving families of 3- and 4-year-old children, in order to learn more about needs, opportunities and challenges faced during the early learning years. It’ll also convene a national panel of experts to review research on family engagement, identify promising practices and develop action steps that states can take to support meaningful family engagement in state-funded pre-k.

“When pre-k is done right, families benefit too, because from day one, they learn about the enduring role they’ll play in their child’s education,” Stark said.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Ms. Stark –
    I am both thrilled and relieved that a person with your visibility is going to focus on Parent Engagement. I have been a social worker for 30 years. I am the Director of a school readiness initiative called Success By 6 at United Way of South Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia. I have 6,600 children involved with the highly successful Raising A Reader program that is designed to engage families of all literacy levels with their children on a regular and freguent basis around books and discussion. Raising A Reader is based in San Mateo. And we are getting results – parents engaged with their children are the surest way to get children engaged. If parents are disinterested or unaware of their responsibilities or capabilites, then there is little an educated provider can do in the long run. We see gains in children for the first few years of school and then quickly fall behind their peers after third grade unless parents are engaged.

    I am also deeply involved in regional partnerships that focus on school readiness. However, I have been frustrated that the efforts underway focus entirely on childcare provider training and childcare facility upgrades. I have pushed and pushed for the focus to include parent education, training, and engagement. But the money has been for capital improvements, so that is where the parterships are going with their work.

    I applaud your focusing on parents as the research is very strong that the quality of parent engagement is the most telling indicator and long lasting element for academic success.

    Please include someone from the Harvard Family Research Project (Dr. Suzanne Bouffard is one researcher that I would recommend as a possibility) in your national effort. Also, “google” the POWERFUL research results from Hart & Risley called “The Early Catastrophe.” I have used this 6 page summary report with many audiences – parents, childcare providers, teachers, school boards, children’s hosptial’s board and CEO, Superintendents and corporate learders. It gets great responses.

    I remain firmly focused on parent engagement and fear that improvements in pre-K and childcare will fall flat if parents are not brought in to the picture.

    I wish you tremendous success in your efforts and would be pleased to forward “The Early Catastrophe” or anything from the Harvard Family Research Project to you.

    Good Luck. I will frequently “google” your name to see if you will be coming to southeastern Virginia or to see what you have accomplished.

    I would be happy to assist in your efforts in anyway possible.

    Sarah Bishop, MSW,
    Director, Success By 6 and Raising A Reader Coordinator
    2515 Walmer Ave
    Norfolk, VA 23513
    757-853-8500, ext. 120

  • Ms. Stark,
    I’m at the other end of the spectrum from Ms. Bishop, MSW, but no less passionate about literacy and children’s success in school. NapaLit, your literacy connection is a two-year old nonprofit in Napa County. Our family literacy program is Story Times & Books. This program’s mission is to support parents in their role as their child’s first teacher. To avoid transportation issues, we go to the community room or other such location,and read a story before which each child is given his/her own copy of a bilingual board book. Other materials and tools are given to the parents to assist them between our monthly story times. We recognize that more frequent story times would be better but are not in a position to do that yet. I’m glad to see what you are doing.
    Looking forward to seeing it soar!

    Roberta Goodin
    Executive Director/Founder
    NapaLit, your literacy connection
    PO Box 684
    Napa, CA 94559

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Look at how far we have gone backward. In the old days of 2008, people put their name & town on their comments. Now the comments are dominated by robotic snipers. It’s a good thing Old Pete has a wife skilled in changing diapers.