• by Felix Montes Ph.D.• IDRA Newsletter • January 2014 •

In an impact evaluation of the AVANCE Parent-Child Education Program (PCEP), IDRA found that AVANCE family’s students had a lower high school attrition rate than the rest of Hispanic students in Texas. The AVANCE attrition rate was 10.5 percent, compared to 33 percent for Hispanic students in Texas reported by the 2012-13 IDRA Texas public school attrition study (Johnson, 2013). Moreover, the AVANCE attrition rate (10.5 percent) was lower than the 25 percent Texas attrition rate for all students.

AVANCE is a non-profit parent-child education and family support organization that provides innovative education and family support services to predominantly Hispanic families in disadvantaged communities. AVANCE PCEP is a two-generation program that seeks to advance young mothers and their infants, zero to 3 years of age, so that mothers increase their knowledge and confidence about their child-rearing skills and in their own achievement, and their infants attain optimal development and are ready for school.

About 4,000 young (below 30 years old), minority (98 percent Hispanic), economically distressed (37.1 percent earn less than $20,000 per year), and under-educated (60.8 percent did not complete high school) mothers constituted the PCEP target population for the evaluation AVANCE asked IDRA to conduct. AVANCE’s catalytic support placed on mothers and their children is corroborated by a body of research that demonstrates the connection between maternal education and child outcomes (Magnuson & McGroder, 2003). Other research supporting AVANCE’s focus underscored the fact that one in five children in the United States lives in poverty, while more than two in five are low income (Redd, et al., 2011). Today, many women have become primary breadwinners for their families, supplying at least a quarter of the family’s earnings (Boushey & O’Leary, 2009).

The evaluation involved telephone and face-to-face interviews with a sample of 199 mothers who graduated from the program between 1999 and 2006 and who mirrored the socio-economic, ethnic and educational characteristics of the PCEP target population from where it was selected. The evaluation was designed to address the following overarching question: How does the AVANCE PCEP affect two-generation (parent/child) behavior change in the areas of education and socio-economic status?

The findings show that participating in AVANCE had a positive long-term effect on mothers and children. The 199 mothers had 637 children, who have grown to their adolescent years at the time of the interviews. More than 93 percent of the mothers indicated that their children were school-ready when entering school and they (91 percent) credited AVANCE with helping them get their children ready for school.

Not only were these children attending school at a higher rate, but 87.8 percent of the mothers reported that they were doing above average (good) or excellent (top of the class). Nearly 80 percent (79.4 percent) reported that their children received awards from the school, such as honor roll, perfect attendance, and good citizenship. And most (75.8 percent) reported that their children were actively involved in extra-curricular activities at their schools, including athletics; school band, choir and orchestra; and academic and science clubs.

How could these mothers overcome the great barriers and challenges represented by their socio-economic and educational situation and demonstrate such resilience and determination for the future of their children? Most of them (88.1 percent) reported that AVANCE helped them build their self-esteem and supported them furthering their education. The number of mothers with higher education degrees increased from six to 19, an improvement of 216.7 percent. They improved their education in proportion to their initial attainment. Most mothers (59.1 percent) who were below high school before their participation in AVANCE completed a GED certificate; on the other hand, most mothers (56.3 percent) with a high school diploma before participating in AVANCE, completed a higher education degree. In addition, AVANCE provided important practical activities to help mothers with the education of their children. Two of these activities were toy-making classes and field trips. Most mothers (95.3 percent) made the toys they used to instill in their children important concepts about the world, their sensory perception as well as their feelings. They (63.4 percent) also participated in field trips that acquainted them with community resources they used to improve themselves and their children.

Another way AVANCE supported these mothers was through improving their chances of finding a job, through the development of important skills, including working with others, better communication, and setting and achieving goals. At the time of their graduation from AVANCE, more mothers were employed (29.5 percent) than when they entered AVANCE (17.1 percent); their employment quality was also higher – 17.6 percent of the mothers’ employment was full time after leaving AVANCE, compared to 6.2 percent at the time of seeking its services. The general trend toward employment improvement continued long after mothers graduated from the AVANCE program. At the time of the interviews, the employed proportion had increased to 38.8 percent (compared to 29.5 percent when they graduated from AVANCE). This is particularly remarkable, given the worsening national economic conditions during those years.

Although prior studies of the AVANCE model have been conducted (see for example, Johnson & Walker, 1995), this is the first to follow participants 10 years after their graduation from AVANCE. It demonstrated that families in challenging socio-economic conditions can effectively help their children’s succeed in school, when the appropriate support is provided.


Boushey, Heather, & Ann O’Leary (eds.). The Shriver Report – A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (Washington, D.C.: Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, October 2009).

Johnson, D.L., & Todd B. Walker. Final Report of an Evaluation of the AVANCE Parent Education and Family Support Program (San Antonio, Texas: AVANCE, Inc., 1995).

Johnson, R.L. Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2012-13: Overall Attrition Rates Take Another Step Forward (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, October 2013).

Magnuson, Katherine A., & Sharon M. McGroder. The Effect of Increases in Welfare Mothers’ Education on their Young Children’s Academic and Behavioral Outcomes (University of Wisconsin, Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Paper.Evanston, Ill.: >Joint Center for Poverty Research, Northwestern University, 2003).

Redd, Zakia, & Tahilin Sanchez Karver, David Murphey, Kristin Anderson Moore, Dylan Knewstub. “Two-Generations in Poverty: Status and Trends among Parents and Children in the United States 2000-2010,” Child Trends Research Brief (Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, November 2011).

Felix Montes, Ph.D., is an education associate in IDRA Support Services. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at feedback@idra.org.

[©2014, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2014 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]