SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) is a parent-focused program for families of three- and four-year-old children. SPARK focuses on strengthening the areas that help children succeed in school: math, early literacy, fine and gross motor skills, and social-emotional development. SPARK is highly effective at cultivating school readiness, increasing parent engagement in children’s learning, and setting children up for lifelong success. 

The details: Each SPARK family is assigned a specially trained professional, known as a parent partner, who visits the home one to two times a month to conduct lessons and activities. Every SPARK lesson is based on state standards and is designed to prepare the child for school. At every visit, the family receives a book, activities, and supplies to keep the learning going in between visits. 

Using results from assessments conducted during intake, the parent partner and parent collaborate to create a learning plan tailored to the individual child’s needs. That learning plan is revisited every nine weeks to ensure progress and to tailor the program to the individual child’s needs. 

Parent Engagement is the Key: SPARK parent partners work hard to cultivate parent engagement, because when a parent is engaged in a child’s learning, it has a significantly positive effect. The parent partner’s job is not to teach the child, but rather to model strategies that help the parent to become the child’s lifelong learning advocate. The lessons and materials given to SPARK families consistently reinforce this message. 

SPARK Program Goals: 

  • Goal 1. Strengthen Parent Engagement: The independent evaluation results consistently show that when the parent is more engaged, the child scores higher on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, which is administered at the beginning of the kindergarten year.
  • Goal 2. Cultivate School Readiness: SPARK sets children up for success by strengthening each child’s math, early literacy, and fine and gross motor skills, and social-emotional development. When a child has challenges that might prevent readiness, SPARK’s responsive services team helps to address them.

  • Goal 3. Ensure Smooth Transitions Into School: SPARK collaborates closely with schools to help children experience smooth transitions into kindergarten. Before the school year begins, SPARK parent partners meet with kindergarten teachers to provide assessment results and discuss each child’s progress and challenges. This helps schools tailor their planning for and placement of individual children. SPARK parent partners are also present in schools during the first week of kindergarten. Over many years, we have learned that this makes a significant difference; children feel more relaxed and open to school when a familiar person is there to offer support.