I just finished reviewing the Notice of Proposed Rule Making for the revised Head Start Program Performance Standards.* I was on a mission — to highlight all the shortcomings I could find in the family engagement language. I could barely find any!
Sure, there were a few places where the standards should have referenced the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework (I commented on that), but overall, I was pleased. Head Start has got family engagement down pat.
The standards focus on engaging families in child screenings and assessments, sharing data with parents, and providing professional development for staff on family and community engagement expectations. Just as important, the standards call for programs to support the home language of the child while also building competency in English, testing children in their home language, and communicating with parents in the home language, too. And that’s not all — many other requirements reflect what we know about what young children and their families need and deserve to be ready for school.
Codifying family engagement in the Head Start Program Performance Standards is just one of the many investments the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made to move family engagement from rhetoric to action. HHS committed millions of dollars both to create the family engagement framework and develop tools that programs can use to implement the framework in their program. Not only are these being used by Early Head Start and Head Start programs across the country, but they also are influencing practices in other early learning settings.
I only wish that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) were making the same level of commitment to its Framework, Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, issued in 2014. USDE should invest now in developing resources to help SEAs and LEAs transform family engagement practices, not just in Title 1, but across all categorical programs.
Deborah Roderick Stark
Principal, Deborah Roderick Stark and Associates
Secretary of the Board, NAFSCE