Soliciting Input for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers

[Note: The comment period has expired and comments have been closed.]

The United States Department of Education (Department) recognizes that family engagement in school is an important component of student success. As schools improve their efforts to engage families, we know that some schools, districts and states may need additional support and technical assistance. Through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, Congress has authorized funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers Program.  Title IV, Part E, Sections 4501 – 4506 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, is intended to provide financial support to organizations to provide technical assistance and training to State educational agencies and local educational agencies in the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement.  The Secretary is authorized to award grants to statewide organizations (or consortia of such organizations) to establish statewide family engagement centers that (1) carry out parent education, and family engagement in education; or (2) provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to State educational agencies and local educational agencies, schools, organizations that support family-school partnerships, and other organizations that carry out such programs.

Because the Department is very interested in your input, we are posting the legislation as part of this blog post.  We encourage all interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments pertaining to the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program in the comments section below.  This document will be posted for public comments until 5:00 PM EDT on Friday May 11, 2018, at which time the response section will be closed and we will begin considering input received as we develop the requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions.  Though the Department will not respond to comments, the Department will read and consider all comments in finalizing the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program and competition design.  In early summer, we will publish a notice inviting applications in the Federal Register.

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The fine print

Please understand that posts must be related to the new competition and program, and should be as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. ED will not respond to individual posts, and these posts may or may not be reflected in the policies and requirements of the program. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to support family engagement in student learning. We look forward to hearing from you.

Department of Education’s linking policy

Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement

 

TITLE IV, PART E—FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN EDUCATION PROGRAMS

 

SEC. 4501. (20 U.S.C. 7241) PURPOSES.

The purposes of this part are the following:

(1) To provide financial support to organizations to provide technical assistance and training to State educational agencies and local educational agencies in the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement.

(2) To assist State educational agencies, local educational agencies, community-based organizations, schools, and educators in strengthening partnerships among parents, teachers, school leaders, administrators, and other school personnel in meeting the educational needs of children and fostering greater parental engagement.

(3) To support State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, educators, and parents in developing and strengthening the relationship between parents and their children’s school in order to further the developmental progress of children.

(4) To coordinate activities funded under this part with parent involvement initiatives funded under section 1116 and other provisions of this Act.

(5) To assist the Secretary, State educational agencies, and local educational agencies in the coordination and integration of Federal, State, and local services and programs to engage families in education.

 

SEC. 4502. (20 U.S.C. 7242) GRANTS AUTHORIZED.

(a) STATEWIDE FAMILY ENGAGEMENT CENTERS.—From the amount appropriated under section 4506 and not reserved under subsection (d), the Secretary is authorized to award grants for each fiscal year to statewide organizations (or consortia of such organizations), to establish statewide family engagement centers that—

(1) carry out parent education, and family engagement in education, programs; or

(2) provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools identified by State educational agencies and local educational agencies, organizations that support family-school partnerships, and other organizations that carry out such programs.

(b) MINIMUM AWARD.—In awarding grants under this section, the Secretary shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a grant is awarded for a statewide family engagement center in an amount not less than $500,000.

(c) MATCHING FUNDS FOR GRANT RENEWAL.—Each organization or consortium receiving assistance under this part shall demonstrate that, for each fiscal year after the first fiscal year for which the organization or consortium is receiving such assistance, a portion of the services provided by the organization or consortium is supported through non-Federal contributions, which may be in cash or in-kind.

(d) TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE.—The Secretary shall reserve not more than 2 percent of the funds appropriated under section 4506 to carry out this part to provide technical assistance, by competitive grant or contract, for the establishment, development, and coordination of statewide family engagement centers.

 

SEC. 4503. (20 U.S.C. 7243) APPLICATIONS.

(a) SUBMISSIONS.—Each statewide organization, or a consortium of such organizations, that desires a grant under this part shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time and in such manner as the Secretary may require, which shall include the information described in subsection (b).

(b) CONTENTS.—Each application submitted under subsection (a) shall include, at a minimum, the following:

(1) A description of the applicant’s approach to family engagement in education.

(2) A description of how the State educational agency and any partner organization will support the statewide family engagement center that will be operated by the applicant including a description of the State educational agency and any partner organization’s commitment of such support.

(3) A description of the applicant’s plan for building a statewide infrastructure for family engagement in education, that includes—

(A) management and governance;

(B) statewide leadership; or

(C) systemic services for family engagement in education.

(4) A description of the applicant’s demonstrated experience in providing training, information, and support to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, educators, parents, and organizations on family engagement in education policies and practices that are effective for parents (including low-income parents) and families, parents of English learners, minorities, students with disabilities, homeless children and youth, children and youth in foster care, and migrant students, including evaluation results, reporting, or other data exhibiting such demonstrated experience.

(5) A description of the steps the applicant will take to target services to low-income students and parents.

(6) An assurance that the applicant will—

(A) establish a special advisory committee, the membership of which includes—

(i) parents, who shall constitute a majority of the members of the special advisory committee;

(ii) representatives of education professionals with expertise in improving services for disadvantaged children;

(iii) representatives of local elementary schools and secondary schools, including students;

(iv) representatives of the business community; and

(v) representatives of State educational agencies and local educational agencies;

(B) use not less than 65 percent of the funds received under this part in each fiscal year to serve local educational agencies, schools, and community-based organizations that serve high concentrations of disadvantaged students, including students who are English learners, minorities, students with disabilities, homeless children and youth, children and youth in foster care, and migrant students;

(C) operate a statewide family engagement center of sufficient size, scope, and quality to ensure that the center is adequate to serve the State educational agency, local educational agencies, and community-based organizations;

(D) ensure that the statewide family engagement center will retain staff with the requisite training and experience to serve parents in the State;

(E) serve urban, suburban, and rural local educational agencies and schools;

(F) work with—

(i) other statewide family engagement centers assisted under this part; and

(ii) parent training and information centers and community parent resource centers assisted under sections 671 and 672 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1471; 1472);

(G) use not less than 30 percent of the funds received under this part for each fiscal year to establish or expand technical assistance for evidence-based parent education programs;

(H) provide assistance to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and community-based organizations that support family members in supporting student academic achievement;

(I) work with State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, educators, and parents to determine parental needs and the best means for delivery of services to address such needs;

(J) conduct sufficient outreach to assist parents, including parents who the applicant may have a difficult time engaging with a school or local educational agency; and

(K) conduct outreach to low-income students and parents, including low-income students and parents who are not proficient in English.

(7) An assurance that the applicant will conduct training programs in the community to improve adult literacy, including financial literacy.

(c) PRIORITY.—In awarding grants for activities described in this part, the Secretary shall give priority to statewide family engagement centers that will use funds under section 4504 for evidence- based activities, which, for the purposes of this part is defined as activities meeting the requirements of section 8101(21)(A)(i).

 

SEC. 4504. (20 U.S.C. 7244) USES OF FUNDS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Each statewide organization or consortium receiving a grant under this part shall use the grant funds, based on the needs determined under section 4503(b)(6)(I), to provide training and technical assistance to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and organizations that support family-school partnerships, and activities, services, and training for local educational agencies, school leaders, educators, and parents—

(1) to assist parents in participating effectively in their children’s education and to help their children meet challenging State academic standards, such as by assisting parents—

(A) to engage in activities that will improve student academic achievement, including understanding how parents can support learning in the classroom with activities at home and in after school and extracurricular programs;

(B) to communicate effectively with their children, teachers, school leaders, counselors, administrators, and other school personnel;

(C) to become active participants in the development, implementation, and review of school-parent compacts, family engagement in education policies, and school planning and improvement;

(D) to participate in the design and provision of assistance to students who are not making academic progress;

(E) to participate in State and local decisionmaking;

(F) to train other parents; and

(G) in learning and using technology applied in their children’s education;

(2) to develop and implement, in partnership with the State educational agency, statewide family engagement in education policy and systemic initiatives that will provide for a continuum of services to remove barriers for family engagement in education and support school reform efforts; and

(3) to develop and implement parental involvement policies under this Act.

(b) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a statewide family engagement center from—

(1) having its employees or agents meet with a parent at a site that is not on school grounds; or

(2) working with another agency that serves children.

(c) PARENTAL RIGHTS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of this section—

(1) no person (including a parent who educates a child at home, a public school parent, or a private school parent) shall be required to participate in any program of parent education or developmental screening under this section; and

(2) no program or center assisted under this section shall take any action that infringes in any manner on the right of parents to direct the education of their children.

 

SEC. 4505. (20 U.S.C. 7245) FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN INDIAN SCHOOLS.

The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, shall establish, or enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with, local tribes, tribal organizations, or Indian nonprofit parent organizations to establish and operate family engagement centers.

 

SEC. 4506. (20 U.S.C. 7246) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this part $10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2017 through 2020.

90 Comments

  1. Oklahoma PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Oklahoma PTA acknowledges that for the first time K-12 education law is requiring that family support be at the table in the development and implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act. This unique opportunity allows us, the consumers of our nation’s public education system, to begin to hold states and districts accountable for student’s educational experience.

    For over 96 years, Oklahoma PTA continues to be:

    • Powerful voice for all children;
    • Relevant resource for parents; and
    • Strong advocate for public education.

    Oklahoma has experienced unprecedented cuts to education since 2008. Our PTA’s across the state work diligently to implement programs and activities that will enhance student’s academic experiences along with achieving strong partnerships among, families, teachers, site staff, and administrators.

    Our PTAs have access to ready-made, easy-to-use programs with proven success records, along with serving both rural and urban areas, and Public/Charter schools.
    Oklahoma PTA has been a strong advocate for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers from the very beginning. We know the impact that this could be for all students.

    Oklahoma PTA welcomes the opportunity to provide input as an interested party and or recipient to the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program and competitive design.

  2. TW’s Ministry recommendation for Family Engagement Initiatives :
    • Common Practice:

    There is a certain percentage of parent{s} who is only concern with their adolescent {children and/or teen} going to school to learn the basic academic principals to survive when their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen.

    Family Engagement Initiatives means to equip, educate and empower the parent{s} to move from common practice beliefs for their adolescent {children and/or teen} education survival before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen to a Common Purpose belief system for education.

    U.S. Dept of Education, School Districts, Schools, Communities, Churches, Congregations, Clergy and Christians will all need to work as a partner is practicing authentic Family Engagement to move parent{s} from Common Practice educational beliefs to Common Purpose educational belief system before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen.

    TW’s Ministry recommendation for Family Engagement Initiatives :
    • Common Purpose:

    There is a certain percentage of parent{s} who is only concern with their adolescent {children and/or teen} going to school to learn satisfactory academic principals to survive when their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen.

    Family Engagement Initiatives means to encourage, enlight and edify the parent{s} to move from common purpose beliefs for their adolescent {children and/or teen} education survival before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen to a Common Pursuit belief system for education.

    U.S. Dept of Education, School Districts, Schools, Communities, Churches, Congregations, Clergy and Christians will all need to work as a partner is practicing authentic Family Engagement to move parent{s} from Common Purpose educational beliefs to Common Pursuit educational belief system before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen.

    TW’s Ministry recommendation for Family Engagement Initiatives :
    • Common Pursuit:

    There is a certain percentage of parent{s} who is only concern with their adolescent {children and/or teen} going to school to learn great academic principals to survive when their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen to attend Technical School, Trade School, Traditional Beauty/Barber School and/or College
    Family Engagement Initiatives means to prompt, push and persuade the parent{s} to move from common pursuit beliefs for their adolescent {children and/or teen} education survival before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen to a Common Position belief system for education.

    U.S. Dept of Education, School Districts, Schools, Communities, Churches, Congregations, Clergy and Christians will all need to work as a partner is practicing authentic Family Engagement to move parent{s} from Common Pursuit educational beliefs to Common Position educational belief system before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen.

    TW’s Ministry recommendation for Family Engagement Initiatives :
    • Common Position:

    There is a certain percentage of parent{s} who is only concern with their adolescent {children and/or teen} going to school to learn excellent academic principals to survive when their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen to complete Collage, University and/or Higher Learning Degree achievements.

    Family Engagement Initiatives means to show, share and sequence the parent{s} to move from common position beliefs for their adolescent {children and/or teen} education survival before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen to a Family Engagement belief system:

    My adolescent {children and/or teen} in the schools building is not going to be the only one to have a desire for excellent academic principals. Because I’m going to lead Family Engagement meetings because I have the time and resources to assist parent{s} who does not.
    U.S. Dept of Education, School Districts, Schools, Communities, Churches, Congregations, Clergy and Christians will all need to work as a partner is practicing authentic Family Engagement to move parent{s} from Common Position educational beliefs to Family Engagement educational belief system before their adolescent {children and/or teen} reaches the age 18 teen.

  3. I am writing on behalf of Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), an evidence-based home visiting program that works with parents to prepare their 3-5 year old children for success in school. HIPPY appreciates the opportunity to comment in advance of the issuance of a grant announcement for Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs), which were authorized in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

    In our work with families, we recognize that positioning parents as their child’s first and most important teacher has lasting effects in school. By engaging parents in weekly one-on-one interactions over the course of one or two preschool school years, HIPPY teaches parents critical skills they need in order to be active participants in their child’s education.

    The adjustment to kindergarten – for both parents and child – sets the stage for the future. Children with higher attendance as kindergarteners are more likely to continue that pattern throughout their school years. Likewise, parents who are comfortable with school terminology and expectations are more likely to attend parent-teacher conferences and help his or her child with homework.

    We urge the Department to include in its funding opportunity announcement language that recognizes the importance of parent engagement in the years before kindergarten. Active parent engagement is an ongoing process, not one that begins abruptly at the beginning of elementary school. Successful applicants should be required to show a continuum of support that begins with early learners.

    The SFEC statute states that successful applicants must either carry out parent education and family engagement in education programs, or they must conduct comprehensive training and technical assistance to State education agencies, local education agencies, and other organizations. The T/TA requirement is critical to helping spread best practices farther than the grant could otherwise reach, but it is also broad in scope. These two provisions fall on opposite sides of the same coin, and they should be treated as such. We urge you to strongly recommend that applicants demonstrate seamless collaborations and build upon the individual strengths of each organization: successful practitioners of family engagement strategies, as well as statewide comprehensive training and technical assistance.

  4. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving appreciates the opportunity to comment on USDOE planning toward the highest quality implementation of Statewide Family Engagement Centers. An impressive body of research conclusively indicates that family engagement is critically important to student achievement. Many public and private funders also have recommended and increasingly require engagement as a condition for funding while most schools and school districts also have made efforts to comply with these policies. Effective implementation of engagement strategies however, often is contingent upon the availability of complementary supports to help educators and their partners to develop the particular skills, knowledge and disposition essential to progress from intention to true inclusion.

    The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving highly recommends use of the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, developed by Dr. Karen Mapp of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and previously released by the USDOE as a resource in the development of Statewide Family Engagement Centers. The Framework is a downloadable, shareable model that schools and school districts can use to build the kind of effective, mutually rewarding engagement that enables them not only to develop optimal educational resources but also to function as centers of community-building. It is of utmost important that schools establish a culture and practices that genuinely honor and respect the knowledge that families bring to school improvement.

    The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving also believes that well-defined and specific requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions are essential to ensuring that funded family resource centers effectively advance family, school, and community engagement. In particular, we would underscore the importance of family and community engagement that is linked to learning and supports child development, student achievement, and school improvement.

    We recommend that funded programs be required to support family engagement systemically, incorporating engagement in all district and school improvement strategies, school operations and educators’ professional development and evaluation.

    The research indicates that committed and demonstrated support from State Education Agency (SEA) leadership is crucial to the success of the SFECs. Consequently, the USDOE in its review of applications should seek evidence of that commitment, including past progress in advancing family engagement policy and practice.

    It is recommended that applicants be required to demonstrate their experience in providing training, support and implementation expertise promoting high-impact family engagement strategies that are linked to learning and measurable in keeping with schools and school districts’ child development, student achievement and/or school improvement goals and desired 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.

    To ensure that family engagement is addressed at all stages of child development, we suggest adding language that clarifies the need for funded centers to have a birth through grade 12 approach to family engagement.

    Applicants should demonstrate their ability to reach families not previously engaged with their child’s school.

    Program evaluation should focus on outcomes versus outputs to ensure that programs are proven effective in advancing high-impact family, school, and community engagement. Outcome-based evaluation will also improve opportunities for these programs to be both sustainable and scalable, expanding the potential impact of this funding.

    Lastly, we suggest that grant applicants submit a theory of change and logic model to show the ultimate impact of their work in advancing family engagement policy and practice.

    The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations. We work with donors, nonprofits and community leaders to put resources into action for Greater Hartford.
    For 90 years, we have advanced equity and opportunity throughout a 29-town region. Our education investments focus on the importance of family, school and community partnership- building in promoting children’s optimal educational and developmental outcomes. For more information, contact Sara A. Sneed, Director of Education Investments with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

  5. POWER-PAC- Illinois Statement on Statewide Family Engagement Centers – 5.8.18

    POWER-PAC- Illinois, a statewide organization of low-income parents of color who have united to make their communities, state and nation better for all families and children, appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback on the implementation planning for Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs). We have hundreds of active parent leaders in the state of Illinois and are also members of the United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN), a non-partisan national network of parent leaders from across the country who are passionate about improving the systems that affect children and families. UPLAN represents 30 different state and local level organizations that reach over 700,000 families each year.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) highlights the need for stakeholder engagement in decisions that affect the education of children. POWER-PAC-Illinois believes that the Department of Education’s (US ED’s) implementation of the Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) program should reflect that commitment to bringing the voices of parents to the design and roll-out of any family engagement effort. We point to Section 4504, parts a1C, a1D, and a1E of Title IV of ESSA. This part of the statute requires SFECs to promote families’ roles in systems leadership, program design, and decision-making.

    POWER-PAC – Illinois members know firsthand that when parents bring their real-world perspectives to the policy-making table, the outcomes for children improve. We ask US ED to apply ESSA’s demands for community and family leadership to the SFEC program. Applicants should be required to show how they will bring parents’ voices and expertise to all aspects of their work. Grantees should be required to demonstrate authentic family leadership of their program as part of their evaluation and commitment to equity.

    Additionally, we are concerned about the impact of the FY 2018 appropriations amount on the SFECs’ abilities to live up to their potential. With a minimum grant amount of $500,000 and only $10 million to spend, each SFEC could lack the resources needed to meet its goals. Furthermore, there will likely be many students whose states don’t have access to any of the supports that SFECs bring. As a national organization with members across the country, UPLAN calls on US ED to design the SFEC program for FY 2018 to strategically position it for greater funding in FY 19 and beyond. The immediate plans for SFECs must have sustainability and growth of the program in mind in order for all children to have what they need to succeed.

    Moreover in SEC. 4503 (G), we suggest adding language that clarifies the need for the program to have a birth through grade 12 approach to family engagement and leadership to ensure that family engagement is addressed at all stages of child development. 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 and leadership 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 and leadership in education programs” maintains the focus on family engagement.

    And in 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.

    Lastly, as the SFEC program develops, POWER-PAC – Illinois, along with UPLAN believes that US ED would greatly benefit from a Parent and Family Advisory Council to advise the Department on the best strategies for ensuring impact and sustainability of the program. Parents are the experts on the systemic change and program innovation required for effective family engagement. Connecting parents to all levels of leadership in relation to SFECs – local, state, and federal – is the best way to ensure the program’s success.

  6. Because early childhood is a time when children learn most rapidly and when parents and families are first involved in their child’s education, it is imperative that entities that are awarded federal Family Engagement Center Grants have experience working with early learning programs that have demonstrated effective, evidence-based family engagement or include partners who have done so. This background is necessary whether the grantee provides family engagement in education programs or provides technical assistance on family engagement to state educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), and others.

    In this context, the Department should prioritize Family Engagement Center applicants that have Head Start experience or include Head Start programs as partners in providing family engagement services and technical assistance to SEAs and LEAs. First, family engagement is a cornerstone of Head Start, which has been a leader in authentic family engagement for more than 50 years, as required by the national Head Start Program Performance Standards. Second, Head Start programs are natural partners with public schools and are increasingly recognized as such by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For example, in the 2015 ESEA reauthorization by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), LEAs are now required to develop coordination agreements with Head Start, including in the area of parent engagement. This requirement parallels a similar federal statutory provision in the federal Head Start Act. In addition, ESSA’s authorization of the new Preschool Development Grant (PDG) program specifically acknowledges Head Start as an important component of a mixed delivery system that is central to the PDG awards.

    The Department should emphasize Head Start and other quality early learning experiences in considering Family Engagement Center applicants based on other provisions of the statute. For example, Sec 4503(b)(3) of ESEA requires grantees to demonstrate how they will build a statewide infrastructure and systemic services for family engagement in education. Because of this requirement, it is critical that the Department prioritize Family Engagement Center applicants that cover the entire education spectrum beginning in early childhood, along with a proven record of supporting young children and families’ transition to early elementary school. Another example of the need for Head Start and other quality early education providers to be prioritized among grantees is specified in the Uses of Funds Section (4504(a)(1)). This section requires grantees to assist parents with their participation in their children’s education by helping their children meet challenging standards and by removing barriers to family engagement in education. High-quality early learning programs, such as Head Start, are where much of this work begins and constitutes the foundation for successful family engagement later in a student’s academic career.

  7. On behalf of Missouri PTA and our 44,000 PTA members, we appreciate the opportunity to provide input as an interested party on the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program and competition design as authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

    We urge this program to be identified as a single state program rather than a multi-state grant. Every state is unique, we feel to lump states together would not allow these centers to truly operate in areas that would be beneficial to each state unique needs. This is not a one size fits all program but rather 50 unique locations each with their own issues.

    Thank you!

  8. As the Education Investments Officer at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving I appreciate the opportunity to offer some thoughts derived through our leadership and support of family, school and community partnership practices in schools and communities in our region. Our education investment approach is research-based and centered around the work of Karen Mapp, Tony Bryk and Neal Halfon. Requiring statewide centers to reflect best practices from the field in their design and implementation will promote quality and collaboration. Including parent, teacher and student voices in the development of centers is imperative for inclusivity. Centers should be able to articulate how they plan to ensure all staff and affiliates are trauma-informed. It is important to be sensitive to the different aspects of engagement that surface in the varying geographic locations that are served. There is a great deal of capacity building required at both the state and local level to do engagement well. It would be helpful to consider the role of philanthropy in this and how that sector can support beyond the match grants. The Hartford Foundation has coupled financial investment with capacity building and policy work in the family, school and community partnership arena. Lastly, what can be done to ensure these centers will exist beyond 2020?

  9. The United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN) is a non-partisan national network of parent leaders and organizations who are passionate about improving systems and policies that affect children and families. We represent 31 different state, regional, and local level parent leadership organizations that reach well over 700,000 families each year.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) highlights the need for stakeholder engagement in decisions that affect the education of children. UPLAN believes that the Department of Education’s (US ED’s) implementation of the Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) program must reflect a commitment to bringing the voices of parents to the design, roll-out, and evaluation of any family engagement effort. We point to Section 4504, part a1C, a1D, and a1E of Title IV of ESSA. This part of the statute requires SFECs to promote families’ roles in systems leadership, program design, and decision-making.

    UPLAN members know firsthand that when parents bring their real-world perspectives to the policy-making table, outcomes for children improve. We ask US ED to apply ESSA’s demands for community and family leadership to the SFEC program. For example, applicants should be required to show how they will bring parents’ voices and expertise to all aspects of their work. Grantees should also be required to demonstrate authentic family leadership of their program as part of their evaluation and commitment to equity.

    As another pathway of promotion of families’ roles, UPLAN believes that US ED would greatly benefit from a Parent and Family Advisory Council (Council). We believe the Council can advise US ED on the best strategies for ensuring impact and sustainability of the SFEC program. Parents are the experts on the systemic change and program innovation required for effective family engagement. This can also demonstrate another strategy of US ED’s commitment to connecting parents to all levels of leadership in relation to SFEC – local, state and federal – as this is the best way to ensure the program’s success.

    Lastly, UPLAN is concerned about the impact of the FY 2018 appropriations amount on the SFECs’ abilities to live up to their potential. With a minimum grant amount of $500,000 and only $10 million to spend, each SFEC could potentially lack the resources needed to meet its goals. Furthermore, we anticipate that many students live in states that won’t have access to any of the supports that SFECs bring. As a national network that connects to over 700,000 families across the country through our member organizations, UPLAN calls on US ED to design the SFEC program for FY 2018 to strategically position it for greater funding in FY 2019 and beyond. The immediate plans for SFECs must have sustainability and growth of the program in mind in order for all children to have what they need to succeed.

  10. Family engagement in education is crucial to maximizing the success of all our children. The establishment of statewide family education centers would help facilitate authentic family engagement. These centers should however be mandated to contract with their parent information centers (PTIs), who already exist in every state and are funded through IDEA Part D. These parent-led organizations have track records for helping families of children with disabilities by providing support, training and resources. PTIs also teach parents how to be equal and collaborative partners with school professionals around the education of their children. Well-informed parents are essential for true family engagement to happen.

  11. Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program. As Director of the Arkansas Head Start-State Collaboration Office, I focus on implementing systemic parent, family, and community initiatives across Arkansas. Arkansas currently has a state Family Engagement Guide fand framework or supporting children from birth-to-grade five and is working on birth-to-grade 12 family engagement standards. In addition, the Arkansas Fatherhood and Family Initiative is working to reverse the absentee father effect in the state by training fathers and mentoring young fathers to be engaged with their child(ren).

    In providing guidance to statewide organizations or statewide consortia who may apply for the funding, it will be important to emphasize that organizations engaged in supporting the families of children before they enter school should be included in the consortium. The legislative language focuses heavily on schools, but family engagement practices and families’ connections to education start well before kindergarten entry. Equally important, the application guidance should encourage the inclusion of organizations in the application that have specific expertise in engaging fathers. Positive father involvement has been shown to lead to better emotional, social, behavioral, and academic outcomes for students. As such, engaging fathers should be an important part of this work.

    Finally, we appreciate the legislation’s focus both on minority students and families in rural areas. Family engagement is an important part of promoting racial equity. Families of minority students face numerous hurdles to academic achievement and it is important that family engagement initiatives be both linguistically and culturally appropriate. In addition, families in rural areas face specific access issues related to geographic isolation that need to be addressed. Children and families face a number of additional risk factors that compound those typically associated with poverty. Geographic and access-related challenges place stress on schools and social service providers and the children and families they serve. Although poor children in rural areas often are referred to as the “forgotten poor,” these children must also be the focus of family engagement initiatives funded as part of this program.

  12. Thirty years ago my wife worked with the educators and parents in our school district to establish a Community Parent Center. You can find out more about the Bellmore-Merrick Community Parent Center here: http://communityparentcenter.org/ It’s about time we have Family Engagement Centers in all communities. We (educators, parents and community) all as a team need to find the best ways to facilitate the best learning for each child.

  13. Please accept my appreciation for giving the public the opportunity to provide feedback on the crucial issue of providing additional support to the parents and family of our communities. As we struggle to provide resources and support to families of our students, many times we fall prey to economic downturns and budget cuts to our programs during the times our community needs us the most.

    I agree with the NAFSCE , “…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.” The NAFSCE can offer much guidance in the way this initiative can be disseminated. Training and continual guidance is the key to make this a successful program along with the flexibility that will allow states to be innovated and they address the specific needs of their families.

    Therefore, a clear purpose statement is needed within SEC. 4502 (1) with guidance on the utilization of these funds.
    By providing well-defined goals and objectives as to what is expected, it will displace misinterpretation and provide a better probability that efforts will be evidenced based and sustainable. I would recommend that clear and specific objectives for training and professional development are included for all participants as they serve families.

  14. In the yeas since our family engagement centers closed, Arizona had hit an all time high with community apathy only to be smacked in the face with the #RedForEd movement and subsequent teacher walk-outs. We had taken our eye off the ball because government and policies are complicated (almost purposely) and we allowed our elected officials to run the ball any way they wanted. Statewide family engagement centers would have been incredibly useful to help families feel part of the process in our public schools. Its very possibly we could have avoided a state-wide teacher walk-out because families would have been more engaged and knowledgeable so that they could address the needs of their schools and could have been electing people who would do the will of the people and not the will of dark money, a cloud that has hung over our state for years. Our families were much more engaged when we had Statewide Family Engagement Centers in the past. I hope to see the return quickly because as 50th in the nation, our schools need all the help we can give.

  15. Parent engagement and empowerment is an essential piece of education for every child. I support the funding of statewide family education centers. However, I would add that these centers be mandated to contract with their parent information centers, who are funded through IDEA Part D. Every state already has such centers who are cutrently working with parents, of children with disabilities, in providing training, resources, information and leadership to parents around positive school engagement and getting students needs met. These centers can easily assist the SFEC’s and by working together will create a powerful network for parents within each state.

  16. Folks have been serving families for years and are so far removed from the families they serve. If you want to see this really work start giving these grants to grassroots organizations. Or have these larger Non profits partner with folks who are out here “REALLY” doing the work.

  17. On behalf of National PTA and our nearly 4 million PTA members, we appreciate the opportunity to provide input as an interested party on the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program and competition design as authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (P.L. 114-95) (ESSA) and appropriated by Congress through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-141). For over 120 years, National PTA—the oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association in the United States with congresses in all 50 states; Washington, DC; U.S. Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico and Europe—has been a strong advocate and a reputable resource for empowering all families to actively engage in their child’s education.

    National PTA would like comment on the follow five areas regarding the SFEC program and competition design:

    Definition of a statewide organization and eligibility
    National PTA urges the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to clearly define a statewide organization as a non-profit entity under Internal Revenue Code (IRS) or a consortium of non-profit statewide organizations for this grant competition. We also encourage ED to ensure that selected grantees have significant experience and a demonstrated body of work with parents and families in the state in which the center will operate.

    The statute is very clear that the focus of the SFECs is on statewide support in a single state. National PTA supports Congress’ intent for this program to be a statewide infrastructure, and we are opposed to any efforts in this grant application that would encourage a regional approach to family engagement programming, services and capacity building. A regional approach goes against the intent of the law and will compromise the ability of centers to meet program objectives.

    Grant focus
    ESSA calls for SFECs to offer “dual capacity” programs—that is, those that provide both direct parent and family training and work deeply with SEAs and LEAs to build capacity and systemic approaches to family engagement in education. While the statute states that the Secretary is authorized to award grants to eligible entities that provide either focus, as outlined in Section 4502(a)(1) and (2), such an approach would be short sighted and fail to effectively produce the results envisioned by Congress and ED through the program’s implementation.

    For this reason, National PTA urges ED to fund grant applications that serve both purposes—direct services to parents and families and support and training to SEAs, LEAs, schools and other organizations that support family-school partnerships. National PTA believes that both purposes must be a part of any effective approach to family engagement. A SFEC that provides both direct services to parents and families and also builds capacity among SEAs, LEAs, schools and educators to engage parents and families will have greater effectiveness, sustainability and reach throughout their state versus a SFEC that solely focuses on either programming for parents and families or capacity building at the SEA and LEA levels to engage families.

    For example, in the most recent data available from the Kansas Parent Information Resource Center (KPIRC), the center provided training, coaching, and/or resources to 159 districts out of 286 in the state. As a result of this support, educators developed skills to engage families, self-assessed their family engagement practices, and collected data from families to better understand their schools’ strengths and areas for improvement. Furthermore, KPIRC directly trained 6,296 parents and families on family literacy, the summer slide and how to better support their child’s learning in the classroom. KPIRC was originally funded through the previous parent center program, the Parent Information and Resource Centers (PIRC) program, authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act prior to the passage of ESSA. Since its inception, KPIRC has focused on a multifaceted approach to support family engagement from providing direct services to parents and families, working with state and local-level agencies to support family engagement, and offering professional development to school districts and educators on evidence-based and effective family engagement strategies and practices. Because of their multilayered approach, the Kansas State Department of Education ensured that the program continued to provide valuable trainings, resources and information despite the lapse in federal funding in FY10. Through the FY18 SFEC grant competition, National PTA would like to see the successes of KPIRC replicated in future parent centers.

    Grant amount and number
    When grants where last awarded in FY10 under the PIRC program, the largest award amount to a single grantee was $1.58 million. We urge ED to make sure that grant awards are sufficient to match the needs and scope of qualified applications to reach all families and parents throughout their state. If the grantees are underfunded, the SFECs will not have the resources to be successful and provide the dual capacity support to parents and families and education entities. We also urge ED not to underfund grantees in attempt to award a greater number of grants.

    Data and evaluation
    It is National PTA’s belief that the effectiveness, sustainability and scalability of the SFEC program will hinge on solid data and unified evaluation metrics. We want to avoid simple “headcounts” while also ensuring that the outcomes in the notice are feasible for grantees to evaluate.

    A unified evaluation is important to demonstrate how program funds are being used and the effectiveness of services and supports provided. Below are several recommendations regarding data collection for and evaluation of the program:

    1) The evaluation should be unified so that all SFECs are collecting consistent data that can be aggregated across projects.
    2) The data should be collected and compiled annually.
    3) The evaluation data should demonstrate total number of parents, education professionals and others served by the SFEC, broken down by demographics.
    4) The evaluation should measure outcomes and impact of the services and support provided.
    5) The unified evaluation data requirements should reflect the variety of SFEC services that different programs may provide but not be so specific that they become overly cumbersome. (SFECs will still need to complete annual continuation reports that document progress on their grant-specific objectives)

    National PTA seeks to have the SFEC program expanded to more states as evidenced-based outcomes and evaluations demonstrate the impact the program has on student outcomes.

    Competitive Priorities
    National PTA is particularly pleased that the Secretary prioritized family engagement in education in her final discretionary grant priorities in Priority 9(b)—Building greater effective family engagement in their students’ education—which the SFEC program meets. While we recognize and respect the Secretary’s authority to add other priorities to any discretionary grant program, the SFEC program already demands a significant amount of assurances and uses of funds for each grantee. We urge ED to be extremely cautious when considering adding any other priorities so that the operation of the program becomes too burdensome. As you know, the statute requires that each center use grant funds based on a needs assessment (Section 4503(b)(6)(I)) which will allow each center to prioritize and effectively service and train the relevant stakeholders in their state.

  18. I recommend including quality school-based and school-integrated mentoring programs because they are an evidence-based strategy that can promote successful family engagement and offer a low-cost, sustainable, and systemic family engagement solution that places mentors in the lives of students who are at risk for chronic absence. Chronic absenteeism affects students at every grade level and presents barriers for academic success and keeping students on a path to graduation. In Rhode Island, MENTOR Rhode Island works to serve a network of 60 mentoring organizations through collaboration, training and support among mentoring agencies. This infrastructure, which has already been created allows us to conduct outreach throughout the state, liaison with schools and train mentors and school administrators using strategies that engage families and can create substantial long-term partnerships between families, schools and community organizations.

    • I love this appoach. A mentor program incorporated into this “Family Engagement Center” for the students of these families, might provide a greater potential of engagement and forward movement of the child struggling.

  19. I suggest adding language that clarifies the need for the program to have a birth through grade 12 approach to family engagement. Too often, family engagement is targeted only to early grades and schools are let off the hook for not engaging the families of adolescent students.

  20. I own a website [redacted] which is all about “community engagement” between schools and their community. Content created by students (or faculty) is published on a school “channel” on our network of high schools. We are a free platform for schools to utilize. Allow parents to connect with “what’s up” at the school, enable them to engage in conversation that will resonate with their child.

    [redacted] currently is a social ed-tech platform that creates ‘future-ready’ students, The platform is a safe, bully-free, educational and engaging space for content to be created, curated, shared and consumed – in the classroom and beyond. [redacted] is a true peer-to-peer learning environment, at the same time, lends itself to showcase “tax dollars at work” to their respective communities.
    School’s are 100% in control of content that displays on their school channel.

    Apply grant support to small business (like ours) that struggles to expand into schools. It’s hard to introduce our free platform that not only helps connect communities to schools, but also provides opportunity to participating students.

  21. As a former and current PIRC Director, I have seen the value in establishing a Statewide Family Engagement Center (SFEC) that partners with their State Department of Education. When the federal PIRC grant ended in 2011, the KSDE continued to support KPIRC as the statewide Technical Assistance Center for family engagement. KPIRC collaborates with KSDE to ensure that family engagement is included in each of the KSBE outcomes while providing Technical Assistance to LEA’s, schools and other community based organizations. KPIRC also provides parent education from birth to grade 12 to assist parents in participating effectively in their children’s education. It is my belief that to truly be a statewide family engagement organization, each SFEC must demonstrate a strong partnership with their SEA. If a true partnership does not exist with the SEA, the reach of the SFEC’s systemic initiatives will be limited and possibly in conflict with the SEA. It is also my belief that SFECs should serve both SEAs, LEAs, schools, community organizations and families in order to build capacity of both families and educators. Because of the partnership with KSDE, KPIRC has seen family engagement become part of the new statewide accreditation system (2017). Family engagement is also included in each of the five state board outcomes: 1) Kindergarten Readiness, 2) Social-Emotional Growth, 3)Individual Plans of Study, 4) High School Graduation Rates, and 5) Post Secondary Completion. This statewide reach of family engagement was made possible b/c of the authentic KSDE and KPIRC partnership. I would like to see as many states as possible receive this grant in order to adequately operate a SFEC of sufficient size, scope, and quality to truly function statewide. I do believe a cap should be put on the maximum amount that can be requested.

  22. Familly Engagement isn’t optional! Funding for these state agencies shouldn’t be allocated to only a few of the states. Each state needs this level of support to build capacity for students, families, and staff members. Creating these agencies and providing limited resources to implement the necessary strategies do no more than create frustrations and additional barriers to resources and strategies for schools and families. We need a way to ensure that all families have access despite their geographic locations, social economic status, and race. We can also not excluded students and families with special learning needs.

    Agencies that have plans to cross these barriers should be given preference.

  23. I strongly encourage that the organizations also work with teacher education programs to incorporate family engagement training into teacher education programs. And teacher training must be available locally to rural school districts, otherwise these schools will opt out of the training. Principals should be required to have family engagement training first and then consider how training can best be rolled out in their district.

  24. 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.

  25. I have struggled this year with Parent/Family Engagement. Our district struggles financially, our teachers struggle financially, our parents struggle financially. I have reached out to state and local resources for training to enhance our family/parent engagement for our teacher to no avail. I have created a Parent advisory committee as a means of reaching more parents and to identify/solve involvement barriers. We absolutely need to have a team who can breath new life into the “parent engagement” ideas! This team would either travel and give Parent/Family Engagement PD’s for schools or train RESA staff so that they can meet the needs of schools, especially the schools located in rural, underserved areas!

  26. It goes without saying that engaging parents enhances the education of children on multiple levels. I agree that starting before students enter the classroom is best and using nonprofits that already have proven success should be an option. Additionally, too often it is the mother that is the sole engaged parent. Many urban schools have put extra effort towards engaging dads, with highly successful outcomes.

  27. Family Centers that can provide Technical Assistants to SEA and LEA may be valuable, but only if they are experts that know and follow best practices. My questions, concerns:
    1. How will SEA and LEAs have input into what agency gets the funding? Will an organization/agency applying have to have letters of commitment from SEAs and LEAs to receive funding — I hope so. If a center’s philosophy is not in line with an LEA and they are training parents this would be a major conflict and would be a deterrent to progress on moving family engagement forward at the local level (where it needs to be).
    2. Family Engagement is critical for student success and it has to be engagement with the school. How will a family center help with these efforts?
    3. Who will decide who gets funded?
    4. Will there be enough money for a center in every State?
    5. One center may not have the capacity to serve large States with all the requirements put forth.
    6. Since engagement should and needs to be at the school site how will training parents from a “center” help? Work with school on how to better engage families is more critical.

    There are already national organizations that can serve this role in a much better way that a local organization that will ‘pop-up’ because they see funding potentials. Give the funding to a national organization that has a history of working with LEAs or SEAs on family engagement best practices, such as the Institute of Education Leadership, to establish family centers either regionally or in individual states.

  28. As it applies to “SEC. 4505. (20 U.S.C. 7245) FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN INDIAN SCHOOLS,” the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Education should take into consideration that the Bureau of Indian Education is not structured geographically similar to other State Education Agencies. Clarification should be made as to whether SFEC contracts and/or cooperative agreements through this section will be to aid the BIE as a whole, or if the catchment area is bound to a singular State. Clarification should also be made as to the process for obtaining a cooperative agreement/contract and how it differs from the grants through the Department of Education itself.

  29. The degree to which schools and educators understand and approach family engagement makes a big difference on families’ ability to support student grade level learning goals. A great deal of research, including teacher surveys, reveal that educators need and want to be better prepared to engage families, and these skills are not provided to them by most teacher/administrator preparation programs. In my view, funds would be well utilized by providing professional learning opportunities and technical assistance to teachers and administrators. New knowledge and skills would improve how teachers and other educators build and sustain partnerships with families that are focused on students’ success with learning. I am suggesting that we use research and evidence -based practices to professionalize home and school partnerships. Many systems and practices in schools can be updated and optimized to better serve the needs of teachers and families. Commonly, family engagement services/departments function separately from curriculum and instruction, these efforts are fundamentally the same, and they can be an integrated and consolidated effort that works to improve learning and achievement.
    Families are always going to do the best they can with what they know, to support the personal and academic success of their children. But well designed opportunities to partners with teachers, schools and community organizations can bolster their access to information, tools and resources.

  30. Family Engagement in schools and support of their children’s development starts before kindergarten. To increase the chance of continued involvement and student success throughout the child’s education, it would be wise to connect with the supports families seek/use while a child is participating in an early childhood setting/or if the family is participating in community/faith based parenting support activities (ex. child care center, family child care home, drop in playgroups, cared for from a friend, family, or neighbor, or meet ups organized by family resource sites, etc.).

    I suggest that a criteria for applications is that applicants must also link to formal and informal systems of support for families while children are ages 0-5 and that can show linkages or a continuum of support, training, handoffs to elementary, etc. By doing so, you build the capacity, skill sets, kknowledge and connections of families to formal K-12 system, you build upon the confidence and opportunity of the parent and caregivers to be involved at a time that matters most (as young as possible), and helps them build their habit and expectation of engagement later and throughout the child’s life. Lastly, it maximizes existing investments that states may have in supporting child development, and by introducting or building the bridge to kindergarten so that states reap the benefits of the support given previously (ex. through Head Start, child care development block grant funds, or local and state child care initiatives)

    • I agree, Strengthening Families provides parenting information on building resilience. Programs for parents of young children are so important.

  31. Fostering Family Engagement-advancing learner achievemnt through the funding of state family teaching and learning centers is a requisite for parent-family sufficiency and student social, emotional and academic growth. Building and strenghtening parent-family leadership, educator, administrator and advocate collaborations is essential.
    The fundamentals: thinking, literacy and language development- foundation for learning now and tomorrow address the data supported need for parent-family sufficiency, readiness for successful schooling, preparing all learners to become contributing citizens and living globally.
    Family Centers offering the evidence based need for the fundamentals development support parents-families as they work to understand more about “how to’ boost the social, emotional and academic growth of their learners and increase their need for sufficiency and address the goals and objectives of ESSA.

  32. I am pleased the Department of Education soliciting input from stakeholders on the statewide family engagement centers. Centers such as these can be critical in assisting state agencies, organizations, districts and schools in providing high quality professional learning to support children and families.

  33. To establish Family Engagement Centers to be successful in the work of equity and quality programing their are established models to follow. The model of multi-service centers which provide families with workshops and resources in education, health care, and mental health as well as opportunities to volunteer and engage in leadership training has shown greater parent and family engagement This model can be expanded to more rural areas by having branch centers which are supported by the main center staff.

  34. If the United States Department of Education TRULY recognizes that family engagement in schools is an important component of student success, they would offer this funding to ALL states, not only 20. Small states like Vermont could do a LOT of this important work for 250,000 annually, which is 50% of the current base funding of 500,000. I recommend making the base funding award smaller, and funding more states. Thank you.

  35. Parents need training on how to advocate for early screening especially in the areas of reading difficulty. More resources are needed to provide assistance in educating parents on learning disabilities and how to work with schools to ensure evidenced based strategies are in used in schools.

    • Maureen, I agree. Programs such as Learn the Signs. Act Early from the Center for Disease Control Prevention and Help Me Grow should be a great partner in each state.

  36. Please develop and create systemic & effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement. Parents need training on how to advocate for early screening especially in the areas of reading difficulty.

  37. For the purposes of any awards under this legislation, it is recommended that the applicants/awardees include evidence of the “(F) work with—(ii) parent training and information centers and community parent resource centers assisted under sections 671 and 672 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1471; 1472)” and that this evidence must be through memoranda of agreement (MOAs) and/or subcontracts with parent training and information centers and/or community parent resource centers from the state to be served. These subcontracts or MOAs must include substantive funded activities that contribute to the projects’ goals and objectives relating to providing information and training for SEA and LEA staff on effective engagement of families of students with disabilities and for development activities for families of students with disabilities to be partners in their children’s schools’ improvement and their children’s development.

    These Parent Centers have extensive demonstrated expertise in reaching and serving families (of children with and without disabilities) despite shrinking resources. SFEC applicants must be required to budget for Parent Center(s) for that state to be funded partners in the SFEC, as well as being represented on the Special Advisory Committee.

    • Agreed, well-said! It is critical that IDEA-supported parent training and information centers and/or community parent resource centers work with new SFECs!

  38. All 50 States in their RTIs require that parents and school staff are educated on visual impairments and other symptoms that can result from Traumatic Brain Injury and of the potential educational impact of untreated TBI to improve identification of the 25% of students who are visually impaired and of undiagnosed concussions.

    Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs more frequently in school-aged children than it is being diagnosed because TBI symptoms overlap with symptoms of other disabilities including emotional disability and learning disability as defined by the IDEA.

    According to research about 180 per 100,000 children under age 15 experience TBIs and of that number, 5% to 8% experience severe TBIs.

    TBIs can result in dizziness, poor nearsighted adjustment, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, and/or poor convergence or coordinated eye movement. TBI and subsequent visual impairments can be a detriment to a child’s health, education, safety, and quality of life.

    Early detection of a TBI may initiate a child receiving intervention therapies, such as visual, vestibular, and cognitive rehabilitation, that can assist them in overcoming obstacles.

    Development of and mandate a Return to Learn protocol that addresses the visual impairment aspect of concussions.

  39. I work with ELL families and wish there was a way to teach English to the parents at a time and place that is convenient for them.
    The system educates the students; they learn and become fluent in English. We arrange interpreters for families for events like Parent Teacher Conferences, Open Houses and information sessions. My frustration comes from working with families, who have had children in our school for years, who still need an interpreter after all that time.
    The majority of the English learning opportunities offered to them are at times & locations which are NOT AT ALL compatible with their schedules. They want to learn English as they know it is another way they can help their children to succeed but also need to work (often multiple jobs) to provide for their families.
    I understand this is a difficult problem to solve but believe it is worth the investment.

    • This is an important point. This problem is being exacerbated by threats of ICE enforcement activities that families believe are tracking the places where they would usually gather. Not sure how this can be addressed in this priority. But it is definitely something that those of us who have had past success and are now struggling to reach these families will continue to come up with strategies to overcome this latest barrier.

    • I believe in unity. If the parent is not fluent in English that is a barrier from home to school which sometimes is an obstacle that becomes a traditional barrier because no one takes the time to address the needs of home. When we arrive at bridging the gap we can move forward. Yes, it’s an individual choice to learn, but when one is willing we take action. “Education is a journey worth the travel” -Lillian HowellBell

  40. Engaging parents/communities in a manner that will positively impact student outcomes takes more than funds, it takes tenacity, consistency, and intentionality. Parents/communities have a desire to partake in their child’s academic careers however, some are neither equipped nor invited to participate in the process. Language from the State as well as the USDOE must be very direct; not should and may statements but more MUST statements. Having “MUST” statements will force districts/schools to be more inclusive of all stakeholders.

  41. As a parent of three (now adult) differently-abled children, I think it is key that these centers be totally independent of state government and the school system. “The System,” as it were, taught us carefully that they were not to be trusted and that they did not have our children’s best interest at heart. That may seem harsh, but I assure you it was true of our experience.
    At $500,000 per center, there is funding here for only five programs. As an education-based non-profit administrator, I can say without reservation that this work can be done for much less. At half a million per, an organization could and should serve multiple states.
    Finally, look to organizations that already do family engagement. There are experts in our midst.

    • At $10,000,000, it looks like as many as 20 SFECs could be funded. I agree that there should be some preference for organizations “already do family engagement” and not organizations who can write a great grant but don’t have a real track record or real connections to families and communities.

  42. I believe that grants should also go to non profits who already do work like family engagement in the communities they serve. Not all non profits are state wide in Baltimore we have a non profit called evel8. They provide opportunities for parents to be empowered, engaged, and provide resources if we need anything. There is no point of reinventing the wheel. If there are non profits doing the work I think they should be able to apply for the grant as well.

    • Agree. In demonstrating that “(B) use not less than 65 percent of the funds received under this part in each fiscal year to serve local educational agencies, schools, and community-based organizations that serve high concentrations of disadvantaged students, including students who are English learners, minorities, students with disabilities, homeless children and youth, children and youth in foster care, and migrant students;” SFECs should engage with the local non-profits rather than coming in and “reinventing the wheel” without any real local understanding.

  43. Families need ease of access for information, and knowledgeable, friendly, trustworthy people who can help us synthesize this information. We have so many resources that go unused, and events that have a lack of attendance. Based on my experiences, families struggle to attend events due to barriers in transportation (limitations of vehicles or funds to pay to attend the event), time/food (events not scheduling based on the needs of the families/not providing food), child care (not present on site or funds available to help pay a sitter) and/or the families may not know about the event/program (marketing support would help). Without addressing those barriers, many families will be unable or unwilling to participate. Also, the work with the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework by the Center for the Study of Social Policy shows an excellent pathway to improved outcomes for both children and families. Training and support for professionals in positions supporting families is an integral component to shift perspectives on partnering and engaging families.

  44. It will be critical that the State Level support and buy in is there. Districts take their lead from the state. If the state embraces and says this is important than districts will seek opportunity to engage in this work.

  45. Student Success is far more attainable with Parents engaged in their children’s education. Therefore, we need to empower parents by educating them in the educational requirements and their significance in the success of their child. (Graduation requirements, standardized testing, credit accruement, dual enrollment, etc.) If we empower parents with these tools, they will feel more comfortable attending parent meetings, academic and discipline appointments as well as knowing how to ask the appropriate questions. It is up to Principals to take on that role and roll out the red carpet for our parents. If they follow this advice, they will have parents as their biggest advocates. It really works!

  46. The “MATCHING FUNDS FOR GRANT RENEWAL” may well eliminate the elsewhere-mentioned Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers from participation in this as a competitor. I would suggest revisiting this as these organizations have much of the existing infrastructure necessary for the long term viability of this project.

  47. My suggestion would be to create a pathway for parents to learn to read. Several parents in my area are functionally illiterate. They do not read to their children or promote reading because they themselves struggle to read. The result is that the children come to Pre-k or kindergarten missing exposure to foundational skills to promote reading success and access to curriculum.

    • 100% agree with this comment. For students who come to school w/ inherent risk factors like lack of exposure, states and districts must provide inservice teachers w/ the PD they need to teach early foundational reading skills like phonological awareness and phonics. At-risk and struggling students need to be taught these skills to access the English language or they will walk in their parent’s footsteps.

    • As a member of several advocacy branches associated with my school district, so often I hear people wanting to connect with the information they need but have barriers. Years ago I had barriers that made it quite difficult to make a couple meetings a month, so I prioritized overcoming those barriers. I encourage education institutions to prioritize reading attainment this continues to be a challenge for me as a dyslexic adult. It’s a shame the current state of literacy prioritization, some of us don’t pick it up by osmosis. Otherwise perhaps getting events to school level more often, and less resistance to supporting students.

      As a child my parents read to me, and it didn’t prevent me from being dyslexic. Statements that tend to enable blaming, either parents or educators, is never going to help “family engagement”. We have to move beyond the easier emotional response if there is to be useful “engagement”

  48. My suggestion is to increase the number of appropriate books families have in their homes. Create opportunities for parents to learn how to select books for their children, taking interest and reading level into account. Additionally, create family reading libraries where parents also learn how to read various genres of books to their children and how to help their children with comprehension beyond the basic superficial questions.

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