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Panel 2: How can federal, state, and local stakeholders leverage existing and emerging legislation and programs to create systemic family engagement?
Panelists representing federal, state, and local agencies agreed that better coordination of family engagement efforts is needed both within and across different levels of the system; federal agencies, in particular, need to do more to coordinate their efforts to work with and engage families.
It is also vital to blend funds to help facilitate cross-agency and cross-level efforts to create more systemic and integrated family engagement strategies. Jacqueline Jones, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Early Learning at USDE, noted that the upcoming reauthorization discussions for programs such as NCLB-ESEA, Head Start, and IDEA provide ideal opportunities for stakeholders to come together and promote blended funding and other collaborative mechanisms that would allow for more systemic family engagement.
As these programs are reauthorized, it is critical that the family engagement provisions within them become more robust and meaningful. Too often, the family engagement components of federal programs have been reduced to lists of activities to check off rather than real changes in how schools and families partner with one another. Federal programs should require comprehensive family engagement planning with measurable outcomes.
When designing grant competitions that include family engagement components, federal agencies need to provide clear expectations for how states, districts, and schools should engage families as part of their programmatic initiatives. This clarity helps move family engagement from the periphery to the center of proposed education reform plans, as applicants are required to engage families in meaningful ways as an integral part of their grant proposals.