Engaged Families, Effective Pre-K: State Policies that Bolster Student Success

Deborah Roderick Stark
November 1, 2010

Involving families in learning isn't just "a nice thing to do," it makes a real difference for children academically, socially and emotionally. Yet families are often overlooked as stakeholders in community and state-level partnerships.This report from Pre-K Now and the Pew Center on the States looks at what works when it comes to reaching out to families, and offers specific examples of effective state policies to ensure families are at the table when it comes to their children's learning and school readiness.

Early family engagement encourages families to act as advocates for
their children and foster a home environment that enhances learning, and
creates an ongoing comprehensive pathway for promoting long-term family
engagement. It offers tips on how to reach out to families.

Broader Partnerships.

The report identifies seven successful family engagement strategies. While some of the strategies were at the policy level, others were strategies that programs can implement. One of the policy level strategies was the appointment of a specialist in the state prekindergarten agency that is responsible for overseeing, supporting and expanding family engagement opportunities. States that have implemented this strategy have found that this type of leadership ensures that family engagement is comprehensive, coordinated and integrated across early childhood agencies and programs. Another strategy is to engage families in Early Childhood Advisory Councils, which ensures that parents have a voice in broader policy discussions. In Minnesota, the state statute requires that the governor appoint at least two parents to the State Advisory Council.

The program level strategies include a requirement for state-funded programs to develop, implement and monitor family engagement plans. For example, Wisconsin offered programs financial incentives in the form of higher reimbursements for programs that met a set amount of parent outreach hours. Kentucky mandated programs to develop opportunities for parents to volunteer in the classroom and receive parent training and education. Other strategies include developing a minimum number of home visits and in-person conferences as well as creating elementary school transition plans, which can support children’s transition while maintaining family engagement.

The report, written by Deborah Roderick Stark, also addresses how family engagement programs must ensure efforts to respect the linguistic and cultural diversity of the populations they serve.

For the full report, click the link below.