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Exciting February Events

Published Feb 03, 2017

NAFSCE pairs nationally recognized experts with practitioners to present breakthrough information that summarizes recent research and share effective practices.  We hope you’ll join us for one of our February programs. If you missed our January Capacity Building Webinar, please see below for links to the presentation slides and video recording of the session.

Tuesday, February 7, 2pm ET
MEMBERS-ONLY Community of Practice Online Meeting

NAFSCE members will be the first to hear about a new online community being launched by Dr. Joni Samples, Chief Academic Officer of Family Friendly Schools. Dr. Samples is a sought-after presenter, trainer, author and publisher in the field of family engagement.

After Dr. Sample’s remarks, there will be plenty of time for general discussion. Share some of your own best practices or ask your colleagues for assistance on a sticky issue. It’s like open mic night (well, afternoon) for NAFSCE members.

If you are not yet a NAFSCE member but would like to attend this session, please email Keami Harris, Director of Capacity Building Programs at or call (703) 739-1358.

Thursday, February 22, 2pm ET
Sharing Effective Practices Online Meeting (Open to All)

NAFSCE’s featured program for February will focus on Fatherhood Initiatives. Research shows that children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, and exhibit positive social behaviors compared to children with uninvolved fathers. Join us as we learn about some of the most effective fatherhood programs at work in the field today. Share what you’re doing in your own community and find out what’s working for your colleagues across the country. This interactive session will have plenty of time for dialogue among participants. Register today!

Featured Presenter: Kenneth Braswell, Executive DirectorFathers Incorporated.

With more than 25 years of community development experience, Kenneth Braswell is the Executive Director of Fathers incorporated, a not-for-profit organization that serves as a leader in the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood.

Look for details about additional featured presenters in next week’s NAFSCE News, on our website and on Twitter and Facebook.

PAST SESSION ARCHIVE: NAFSCE Capacity Building Webinar: How States Promote Equity in Education
January 25, 2017

Powerpoint Slides:
Video Recording:
Audio Recording:

Become a NAFSCE Member
Our monthly programs are just one of the ways NAFSCE helps family engagement practitioners learn about, share and develop high-impact practices that promote children’s development and advance achievement. Find out more about our programs and become a member today!


Last Address from John King as Secretary of Education

Published Jan 20, 2017


I want to share the last address from Secretary of Education, John King. This address is inspiring to say the least, and entirely aligned with the mission of NAFSCE. I’m not thrilled that he didn’t have more of a focus on families, but his perspective on equity is right on target. The address is long but worth the read!

Best regards,

Vito Borrello

A Dispatch From the Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary
America has the right to a great public education
By John B. King Jr.-January 17, 2017

Education is a ladder. Rung by rung, it helps people reach places that would otherwise be an impossible climb.

It is not enough for those already prosperous to prosper. All Americans must have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in our nation’s growth, if it is to succeed. That has always been so but is even truer today, at a time when the fastest-growing occupations require education beyond high school.

And that is why now is the time for champions of public education to set aside the policy differences that have divided us over the past two decades and move forward, together, to defend and extend this fundamental American institution.

We don’t have to agree on every strategy or tactic. We won’t. But we can stop wasting energy on false dichotomies and disparaging rhetoric. We can stop questioning our natural allies’ intentions and fight side by side for the belief that every student in America has the right to a great public education.

The passage just over a year ago of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, provides us an opportunity to begin our work together.

The top-down, one-size-fits-all approach of the No Child Left Behind law was a blunt tool, ill-suited to a task that called for nuance. ESSA, on the other hand, empowers local leaders to develop strategies that address their unique needs. But that doesn’t mean every district should go it alone without guardrails for protecting students’ civil rights, guidelines for implementing the law, or the good ideas forged and shown to work by others.

ESSA also calls for states to continue making college-and-career readiness their goal. We must be united in fighting efforts to water down those expectations and undercut progress when the work gets hard.

Just as important, we must invest in schools and teachers so they can help students meet those standards. Even successful strategies will fail without the funds to back them up—especially in schools and neighborhoods where change is most needed. Money is never the only answer, but it pays for science labs and school counselors, repairs leaky roofs, and makes high-quality preschool possible. Yet, in districts all across the country, students who need the most get the least. Federal funds can help, so we must put in place rules to ensure that those most in need get the help they deserve. However, even a modest proposal to do so has faced fierce opposition inside the beltway from many who ostensibly share the same values about education and equity.

“It’s not liberty when the happenstance of birth binds a child to a life of limited possibilities.”

We also must have the courage to hold ourselves accountable for students’ success. Without accountability, standards are meaningless and equity is a charade.
But accountability doesn’t force us to embrace “test and punish” policies based on redundant or poor-quality assessments; nor does it require us to simply “wish and hope,” with no tests and little insight into how, or whether, our children are learning.

We should make sure tests are better, fairer, and fewer, as President Barack Obama has called for. And we should help states develop accountability systems that are rich and varied—including measures such as chronic absenteeism, access to and success in advanced courses, and approaches to discipline that help students improve their behavior and achievement.
Let’s also set aside the false debate between allowing public charter schools and supporting traditional public schools. Our primary concern shouldn’t be the management structure of schools; it should be whether they serve all students well. We must demand that charter authorizers set a high bar for granting a charter, rigorously monitor academic and operational performance, and close charter schools that fail their students. At the same time, we must insist that district schools also provide a high-quality, well-rounded education for all their students.

And we must get beyond either exalting teachers as heroes who can single-handedly solve all education problems or castigating them for failing to do so. We should instead recognize that teaching is an incredibly difficult job, requiring dozens of decisions every hour. We can invest in teachers’ preparation and development at the same time that we welcome their expertise and leadership on the challenges they face and the issues that affect their students.

Teachers need more resources and the higher pay they surely deserve, particularly those serving the highest-need students. They also need the space and opportunity—the clinically rich preparation, the collaboration time, and the career pathways—to do what they joined the profession to do: help all children reach their full potential.

Finally, we must recognize that the growing diversity of our people is an asset, not a liability, and support diverse schools. Diversity helps more children succeed, broadens their perspectives, and prepares them for the global workforce. I am convinced the growing conflicts in this country over race, religion, and language would be profoundly reduced if our children learned and played alongside classmates who are different from themselves and if they encountered diverse teachers and leaders in their schools.

The light of opportunity shines more brightly and more widely today than it did eight years ago. Thanks to the hard work of teachers, leaders, students, families, policymakers, and advocates, the high school graduation rate is 83 percent, an all-time high; achievement gaps are closing; and the most recent college graduating class was the largest and most diverse in history.

But, too many students still don’t finish high school, and when they do, too many aren’t ready for college. The relationship between poverty and educational achievement in the United States is among the strongest in the world. This destroys hope. But we can restore hope by working to ensure all young people are well-prepared to complete a postsecondary degree or training program.

Some will argue equity conflicts with liberty. But it’s not liberty when the happenstance of birth binds a child to a life of limited possibilities. True liberty is being able to take our lives as far as our drive and talent allow.

The Pledge of Allegiance affirms that liberty and justice for all is an enduring and dual birthright. Preserving that birthright requires advocates of public education—including teachers, parents, business leaders, elected officials, and union leaders—to all be a part of the solution.

We must all press ahead, firm in the knowledge that when we pull others up, they do not pull us down. When the light of opportunity shines on those who lack it, it does not dim for those already in its glow.

Mobilizing Leadership to Support Family Engagement

Published Sep 15, 2016

by Lacy Wood

We have long recognized the critical importance of strong leadership in education.  Having an influential, supportive leader can make or break many initiatives, including those to engage families. Working to support family engagement over the years, I have seen that family engagement initiatives are successful only when they have buy-in and support from leadership.

Although many leaders mention the importance of families to children’s learning, there is still a persistent implementation gap. Acknowledging that it’s important is not the same as taking the time to implement effective strategies. Why is this the case?  Why don’t we address family engagement with the same level of urgency and careful attention that we do other areas of educational practice?

Yes, family engagement can be time consuming, challenging, and imprecise. Because it has been a low priority, resources are scarce. Only rarely do new teachers and educators have the opportunity to learn and study family engagement in their preservice programs. These are a few of many reasons why family engagement does not draw the attention and support that other essential elements of school reform receive. Yet decades of research demonstrates that when teachers engage families in purposeful and meaningful ways to support their child’s education, the benefits for students and schools can be both strong and sustained.

We must not only call on top leaders to support programs, policies, and funding so that engagement programs can be successful; we also need to grow new leaders in our field.

Building those important infrastructure supports for our family engagement programs is just as important as it is for other areas of education and school improvement. Creating staff positions dedicated to family engagement and providing necessary supports and resources to grow them into leaders can be key to the success of engagement programs.

All too often, the responsibility for family engagement is lumped in with other unrelated assignments, or handed off to a low-level staff member buried in the federal programs office. Having at least one dedicated and highly placed family engagement professional in each state, district, and school is critical to creating sustained programs. We need to provide supports to grow these staff into leaders that can advocate for programs and bring in resources.

I chair a leadership collaborative of state education agency (SEA) family engagement leaders across the United States. The Family Engagement State Leaders Network was established to build the capacity of state-level leaders so they can support, scale-up, and sustain statewide family engagement initiatives. We just held our annual meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, in conjunction with IEL’s National Family and Community Engagement Conference.

After working with these state leaders for several years, it is heartening to see how far some of these states have advanced meaningful, high-impact family engagement. I credit this work to these SEA leaders. They work tirelessly, often with only a small portion of their job dedicated to family engagement and cobbled-together budgets, to make these initiatives successful.

One aspect of their leadership really stands out: they are adept at finding and sharing funds and resources across multiple programs and funding streams to support statewide family engagement initiatives.  As they leverage this funding, they are also modeling ways districts can blend these resources for their schools.

For example, several states have moved ahead to revitalize family engagement in Title I schools by paying close attention to the law, which requires that school staff and parents share the responsibility for improving children’s learning and must have regular, meaningful, two-way communication. Several have also created state policy frameworks for family engagement that apply to all education programs, drawing on the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships released by the U.S. Department of Education in 2014.

Their leadership is changing practice in districts and schools across the country. What is your state doing to advance high-impact family engagement? Contact me to see if your state education agency is represented in our Family Engagement State Leaders Network.

Lacy Wood – principal TA consultant, American Institutes for Research, and NAFSCE Board Member

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