NAFSCE Members, Partners and Stakeholders,
Last week we let you know that the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging feedback pertaining to the Statewide Family Engagement Center program, which will fund statewide organizations to build capacity for and advance high-impact family engagement.
NAFSCE's response to the Department's request is below.
We strongly encourage each of you to take just a few minutes to provide comments to the Department. A strong response from the family engagement community will demonstrate our committed support for the advancement of effective, evidence-based, sustainable family engagement programming. If the Department sees a clear direction provided through like-minded feedback, it will be more likely to embrace the suggestions provided.
Please feel free to copy any language from the NAFSCE response that resonates with you, or responds to an area that is particularly important to you. We hope to make it as easy as possible for you to participate in this very important exercise of our democracy.
Thank you again for your commitment to advancing family engagement as an essential strategy for improving children's learning and advancing equity.
NAFSCE Executive Director
NAFSCE Response to the U.S. Department of Education Request for Comments on Statewide Family Engagement Center Program
Submitted May 7, 2018
The National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE) is appreciative of the opportunity to provide feedback on the implementation planning for Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs). Securing feedback from the field for this important program is an essential step in the future success of these centers. NAFSCE was established in 2014 as the only professional association solely focused on advancing high-impact, culturally responsive family, school and community engagement (FSCE) to promote child development, improve student achievement and support school improvement. We envision a world where FSCE is universally practiced as an essential strategy for improving children's learning and advancing equity.
NAFSCE believes that well-defined and specific requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions are essential to ensuring that funded applications will effectively advance high-impact family, school, and community engagement in the greatest number of communities possible. Therefore, our comments focus on suggestions for specific criteria to be demonstrated by applicants, as well as the definitions that should be used to evaluate the applicant's ability to meet such criteria.
We strongly recommend that the Department rely on and provide applicants reference to NAFSCE's established definition of high-impact family engagement as well as the U.S. Department of Education's evidence-based Dual Capacity Framework for Family-School Partnerships.
Specific suggestions based on the legislation are provided below:
SEC. 4502 (1) NAFSCE suggests that language be used to clarify that funding is for SFECs to (1) build capacity for high-impact family and community engagement that is linked to learning and supports child development, student achievement, and school improvement. As stated, the language leaves too much ambiguity as to the purpose of the program. To guide design and program development, a definition or guidelines for what constitutes high-impact family engagement should be provided to grant seekers. We recommend that funded programs should be required to support family engagement that is systemic, incorporating family engagement strategies across all learning goals, and integrated into the fabric of school operations and culture including educator professional development and evaluation.
SEC. 4502 (b) MINIMUM AWARD: NAFSCE suggests a cap of $1,000,000 per grant to ensure that a minimum of ten grant awards will be made (with the maximum awards being 20). We also suggest that higher amounts of funding not to exceed the proposed cap be considered for proposals that include multiple states. This encourages organizations with capacity in multiple states to implement services within their geographic region, increasing the total number of states that may receive services, and supporting efficiency in administration to maximize programmatic impact.
SEC. 4502 (c) MATCHING FUNDS FOR GRANT RENEWAL: In order to better determine an organization's capacity to effectively implement the grant and execute a program of sufficient size, scope, and quality to be effective, we suggest specifying a minimum level of expected matching funds and/or in-kind support at 15%. Such a requirement would support awards to applicants with established family engagement organizational capacity. These experienced applicants are more likely to successfully achieve desired programmatic outcomes and enable grant initiatives totaling a minimum of $575,000 ($500,000 award and $75,000, matching).
SEC. 4503 (2): NAFSCE believes that committed and demonstrated support from State Education Agency (SEA) leadership will be crucial to the success of the SFECs. Therefore, we suggest that this language be strengthened to require evidence of that SEA commitment, including past progress made in advancing family engagement policy and practice, demonstrated SEA involvement in program planning, and a sign-off requirement of the SEA Chief directly to the US Department of Education as evidence of SEA commitment to advance this grant initiative.
SEC. 4503 (B) (4): Being more deliberate in defining what "effective" experience includes could strengthen this language. We suggest requiring applicants to demonstrate their experience in providing training, support and implementation expertise addressing high-impact family engagement. This specificity is more likely to ensure family engagement programs and services are linked to learning, measured by child development milestones, student achievement and/or school improvement and foster equitable educational outcomes. To ensure that programs will include a focus on advancing equity, applicants should demonstrate their experience working in urban and rural Title I communities with culturally, racially and linguistically diverse students and families. We also suggest that priority is given to not-for-profit family engagement organizations that already have a demonstrated statewide or multi-state presence.
SEC. 4503 (G): In order to ensure that family engagement is addressed at all stages of child development, we suggest adding language that clarifies the need for the program to have a birth through grade 12 approach to family engagement. To clarify the specific types of educational programs being addressed, we suggest changing "evidence-based parent education programs" to "evidence-based parenting education programs and family engagement in education programs." The term "parenting education programs" speaks to education focusing on the activity of parenting versus generalized education for parents. Adding "family engagement in education programs" maintains the focus on family engagement.
SEC. 4503 (J): Applicants should demonstrate their ability to reach and engage families not previously engaged with their child's school. "Sufficient outreach" is not effective if it does not result in more vulnerable families becoming more engaged as educational partners in supporting improved learning.
SEC. 4503 (K): This language can be strengthened to specify that the applicant should be able to demonstrate experience in implementing culturally responsive family engagement. There cannot be a commitment to advancing equity and opportunity for all students otherwise. This will define the expected outcome of such outreach.
Evaluation: We believe that specific program evaluation requirements should focus on outcomes versus solely outputs to ensure that programs are proven to be effective in advancing high-impact family, school, and community engagement. Outcome-based evaluation will also improve opportunities for these programs to be sustainable and scalable, greatly expanding the potential impact of this funding. Therefore we suggest that a minimum of 5% of funds granted should be dedicated to evaluation. Additionally, we suggest that grant applicants submit a theory of change and logic model to show the ultimate impact of this work in advancing statewide family engagement policy and practice.
Provide your comments to the Department of Education here.