My friend has called me for advice about designing a program that will address what he perceives as a lack of family involvement in children's academic life. I have decided to write down and share an outline for him to consider so his program will be structured, effective, easily replicated and evaluated.
The first step for my friend is to determine the gap in services/resources. Some tips to determine the gap are:

• identify the people/clients that are involved;
• gather statistics/information about other programs (schools around the area);
• determine what the program will attempt to address or change with its creation; and
• make sure this problem can be addressed over a reasonable period of time (results will not occur overnight).

Once my friend has identified the gap in services for a targeted population, he can then start to design a program that will address the gap. He will want to make sure the program design will be effective by taking into consideration all of the variables involved with a successful program; he can utilize the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.E.R.” to assist him with a framework of his program design.

• “S” – Make sure he has a specific objective. Any program creator will have difficulties determining if he/she is reaching the program goals if the objectives are not concrete and observable. Additionally, it makes it easier for others to duplicate the program if the objectives are clear and specific.

• “M” – The program must be measurable to prove the program is achieving the objective(s), it will assist the designer to make necessary improvements; and it can be used to gain additional funding from his/her stakeholders.

• “A” – The goals of the program need to be acceptable to not only the designer, but by for the clients he/she is looking to assist and the community. A program involving children academics will need to be considered reasonable for the children, parents and the community or it will most likely fail because of non-support.

• “R”/ “T”- The program should have a realistic timeframe. In this case, my friend should examine the problem and the population he is addressing to determine a timeframe that is feasible for the targeted population and the staff presenting the program.

• “E” – The program should be flexible so it will be able to extend. A successful program will extend from what it is, as needs and social factors evolve so will a successful program.

• “R” – The program should be rewarding. The program creator, the people receiving the assistance/resources from the program, and the stakeholders should be able to see the benefits of the program. Benefits create additional motivation by staff, more involvement in the program from the targeted population because it is proven to be beneficial to those enrolled in the program, and worth the time and money the stakeholders are investing in the program.

Furthermore, I would tell my friend to look a bit closer at the program design by examining the system plan. There are four components in the system plan that wil assist in having a successful program.

First, a person should examine the inputs; this could be the child in the school, parents, volunteers, and teachers. Additionally, identifying the materials, facilities, and equipment needed to produce and maintain a successful program. Examples of inputs regarding my friends program: a brochure to give parents about the importance of being active in a child's academic life; a study guide for parents to assist them with their child's homework and/or arranging a room to have parent groups.

Secondly, the designer should focus the service they are looking to provide for a targeted population. This is called throughputs. The reason throughputs are an important part of a program design is that it spells out the services being provided and creates consistency to ensure everyone involved is receiving the same service. An example of this regarding my friends program, “To provide educational brochures to parents with kids in grades 6-12 regarding the importance of being active in the academic life of a child.” The method of intervention would be a parent group for those parents interested in ways they can become more active in their child's academic life.

My friend would then have to determine the third step. This is called the outputs. He would determine the units of service the program would provide. For example, if he was to hold an educational parent group: would the group meet for an hour (time units), would the group meet once a week (intermediate output) for a total of six weeks (final output). Additionally, will this service be limited just six weeks for the parents that completed the program, or would there be ongoing education/resources upon request.

Lastly, it is important to have outcome data. This will allow the designer to determine if changes need to be made for improvements to the program or if the program is being effective with the targeted population. My friend would need to determine if the children who have parents in the educational parent group have improved their grades because of their parent's involvement in this group. The results would not be overnight, but could be measured intermediately by looking at the homework assignments of those children with parent involvement to determine if they are academically doing better, or it could be measured at the end of the child's semester/quarter to determine a change in their grade point average. Additionally, a questionnaire could be sent to those parents involved with the parent group asking specific feedback concerning their child's changes concerning academics and/or if they have noticed changes in their parent/child relationship due to the increased involvement.

As noted, anytime one is looking to achieve a desired goal, it is important to have a direction. People can attain direction by having specific objectives. There are a number of objectives concerning getting parents more involved with children's academics. A couple of examples are:

(1) To distribute an educational brochure to 100 percent of the parents in Burnsville School District, with children in grades 6-12, by the first three months of the academic year of 2005. (Process objective)
(2) To increase the grade point average by 20 percent with the children that have a parent(s) participating in the educational parent group, six months after the parent(s) complete the six-week group.

In conclusion, if my friend chooses to follow this framework as he develops his program, he should achieve success in establishing a program that is structured, effective, easily duplicated, and able to be evaluated by himself or others.