Parent Gauge™
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Parent Gauge™

Training Staff to Better Measure the Needs of Families from At-Risk Backgrounds

Using technology to lighten the load of Head Start practitioners

By Victoria Jones, Senior Manager of Data

50,000! That’s how many interviews with Head Start families that have been conducted using the Parent Gauge tool. With two full years of implementation under our belts, the Head Start community has learned a lot about successfully using the Parent Gauge tool.

One of the themes that has emerged from users across the country is the importance of staff buy-in and training. The programs that have had the most success — and those that find that Parent Gauge lightens the load rather than adds to it — have all dedicated significant time to getting their staff on board and training them on how to best use the tool. Not only does this improve the quality of the information gained through the Parent Gauge interviews, but it makes staff eager to use the tool when they understand how beneficial these conversations will be.

We know how valuable it is to learn from your peers, so we have gathered three quick tips to help you train your staff and get them on board.

Three Quick Tips for Parent Gauge Staff Training

1. Review the “Interviewing Skills for Excellence” Video

Want to watch the video? Log in to the Parent Gauge system, click on the “Guide” tab, and it will be the very first link you see.

Dr. Tim Nolan, a Head Start Executive Director, and one of the research assistants who helped us pilot the Parent Gauge instrument produced an amazing video that is available to all Parent Gauge users. You are able to watch as they interview two current Head Start parents (one in English, one in Spanish) and add their commentary on best practices that can facilitate the interviews. We’ve heard that this video is a huge help to staff because it shows them what it looks like to use the Parent Gauge tool, and it includes specific examples about how to set the stage and engage with parents for maximum success.

Many programs do a technical training of the Parent Gauge tool first, via a live webinar or one of our previously recorded sessions, and then follow up with the “Interviewing Skills for Excellence” video, but we’ve heard of programs having great success showing this video first. That way, staff will see how Parent Gauge isn’t a survey tool, but a guided interview. By the end, they’ll be saying, “I want to have parent interactions like that!” Once it’s time for the technical training, staff will already have a strong background in what the interaction should look like, and this context will make the technical training flow smoothly.

2. Participate in a Parent Gauge Training Webinar

The Parent Gauge team conducts regular staff training sessions where we will introduce the tool and walk through the mechanics of using the actual online system. While you can ask staff to attend the webinar individually, we recommend gathering your team together in one room to participate in a live webinar as a group, where they will have an opportunity to ask questions of the Parent Gauge team and of each other as they lay out a plan to implement this, themselves.

3. Have Staff Role-Play the Interview Process

After staff members have been trained on using the Parent Gauge system, but before they go out in the field to conduct interviews, one idea that works well is to have a role play session! You can bring staff together and have them practice interviews in pairs. Your subscription allows you to create test interviews that can be deleted by the administrators later, so this activity gives each staff member the opportunity to conduct the interview and the opportunity to feel what it’s like to be in the parent’s seat. By the end of the role-playing session, staff will be so much more comfortable with both the technical process and the type of interaction that Parent Gauge thrives on, making for better data collection and a better experience and relationship between staff and parents.

Are you a current user with additional tips to share or a potential user who wants to learn more? The Parent Gauge team is ready and waiting for you. Email us at

Victoria Jones is NHSA’s Senior Manager of Data. Victoria supports the Head Start field’s efforts to advance child and family outcomes by helping Head Start programs move towards a culture of continuous quality improvement. Her portfolio includes leading the Data Design Initiative, working on the Parent Gauge team, and contributing to other projects that directly support



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National Head Start Association

NHSA is a nonprofit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life.