May 5, 2010
Contact: Sandra Abrevaya|
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This week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Education Department's proposal to double the amount of federal dollars set aside for family involvement. The Department also proposed allowing states to use federal funds to hold a competition to generate the best local ideas on family involvement.
"Parents will always be a child's first and most important teacher," said Duncan. "And parenting is the most important job that every parent takes on. This week we are proposing to step up our efforts at the federal level to empower parents to do even more for our students."
Under current law, districts are required to use 1 percent of federal Title I dollars to carry out family engagement activities. This week, the Department proposed doubling funding for family engagement from 1 percent to 2 percent of Title I dollarsfor a total of roughly $270 millionand asking districts to use these funds in a more systemic and comprehensive way. The Department has also proposed an optional Family Engagement and Responsibility Fund that states can create with the use of $145 million in existing Title I funds. The fund would be used to create a state-led competition that would support outstanding local family involvement programs.
Yesterday, Secretary Duncan delivered this news as part of his keynote address at the first annual Mom Congress on Education and Learning Conference hosted by Parenting magazine and Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies. In the speech, the Secretary not only asked for parents to do more but for the Department to do better. "Yet the department has done a mediocre job of supporting parental engagement. We have been too concerned with monitoring for complianceand not concerned enough with improving student learning and boosting meaningful family engagement. Part of the problem has been the parade of parental involvement policies in the last half-century. At various times, Congress and the department have promoted parent advisory council meetings, volunteering in school, school-parent compacts, and helping children learn at home. Yet these and other policies have rarely been shown to move the needle on student achievement. It is well-documentedand plain common sensethat parental involvement in a child's education boosts student learning and improves both behavior and attendance. We know that children with parents who are engaged in their education are less likely to drop out."
In the speech, Duncan also stressed that the best ideas are often found at the local level. "There is surprisingly little research, however, to show what works and doesn't work in family engagement programs to accelerate student learning. Yet there are many promising programs across the country. In Springdale, Ark., the National Council for Family Literacy is funding a family literacy program, primarily for Latino and immigrants parents in eight schools. Parents spend two hours a week in class with their child learning model literacy practices for use at home. The reading scores of both children and their parents have risen significantly as a result. In Chicago, the Comer School Development Program has boosted reading and math test scores, using parent involvement as a core tenet. Other cities like New York and Boston, as well as states like Florida, are empowering parents with information about their child's school and education as never before. New York is holding monthly Parent Academies on Saturday for parents. They provide childcare, easy bus and subway accessand translation services in an array of languages, including Haitian Creole, Urdu, and American Sign Language. With the benefits of data transparency, parents in Florida can determine not only if graduates of their local high school are going on to colleges and jobs, but how their college and job market performance compares to that of other high schools in the state."
Both the $270 million in family engagement funding and the optional $145 million for a state-led competition are intended to support best practices at the local level. A complete version of Secretary Duncan's remarks can be found here: http://www2.ed.gov/news/speeches/2010/05/05032010.html.
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