Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
For youth-serving organizations — including schools and school districts — to effectively support family and community engagement, the support of federal, state, tribal, and local policymakers is needed.1
- Create infrastructure for leadership: Ensure the appropriate systems are in place to develop, implement, and coordinate the key components of family and community engagement. Provide adequate staffing to support these systems. Strategically allocate funds to ensure sufficient oversight, capacity building, and quality control to support effective policies and practices.
- Build capacity through collaboration: Seek the support of other organizations to facilitate sharing research and best practices, to coordinate family and community engagement with other initiatives, and to reduce duplication and maximize efficiency.
- Ensure reporting, learning, and accountability: Increase the use of proactive monitoring and evaluation to ensure compliance with family and community engagement policies across the organization.
Evaluation and Measurement
As policymakers and program administrators work to enhance the quality of programs, evaluation and measurement of outcomes is increasingly important. Many issues must be addressed when developing family and community engagement measurement:2
- Conceptual issues: These relate to the validity of the core constructs that the tool is intended to measure:
- Defining objective, behaviorally anchored indicators
- Sensitivity of indicators despite heterogeneity in the characteristics of high-quality relationships
- Selecting indicators that can be universally applied across diverse settings
- Measurement issues: These focus on what decisions need to be made to collect reliable and valid data:
- Determining the unit of analysis
- Sampling decisions
- Timing of assessment
- Designing items to capture well-distributed responses
- Logistical issues: These refer to the ease with which the measure can be administered and analyzed:
- Scheduling observations
- Gathering data without intruding upon personal interactions
While parents expect schools and districts to put their children’s well-being first, including expectations of privacy and confidentiality and adequate protection of personal information, parents also expect openness and transparency about the data practices of schools and districts. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act allows parents to evaluate whether the protections in place meet those expectations. The U.S. Department of Education encourages schools and districts to take a proactive approach in communicating with parents what student information they collect, why they collect it, how they use it, and to whom they disclose it.
Family Engagement Inventory
The Family Engagement Inventory (FEI) is a free, interactive website designed to familiarize professionals in child welfare, juvenile justice, behavioral health, early childhood education, and education with family engagement, as defined and implemented across these fields of practice. The site aggregates knowledge in a way that helps professionals in multidisciplinary exploration of family engagement. FEI helps practitioners, managers, and system leaders understand the commonalities and differences in family engagement across the disciplines to support collaboration among the multiple systems that often work with the same families. FEI is a product of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is a service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Family Policy Compliance Office
The U.S. Department of Education’s Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) administers two federal laws that provide parents and students with certain privacy rights: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. FPCO also administers the provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. FPCO’s website is aimed at parents, eligible students, and school officials and provides resources and information about the federal laws that it administers. The website includes links to regulations, guidance documents, policy letters, topic briefs, webinars, videos, and frequently asked questions.
Making the Connection: Sharing Information and Data While Protecting Privacy of Youth
In this webinar from the Federal Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, presenters share information about federal efforts to encourage greater cross-system coordination, promising state-level practices around data sharing, and a successful collaborative partnership.
Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA), 2005-2018
This project supports the provision of expert consultation, assessment, and analysis in child care and early education policy and research to the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. The related website provides literature reviews, measures compendia, meeting summaries, briefing papers, webinars, research briefs, and briefs that translate research to policy and practice.
Privacy Technical Assistance Center
The U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center is a “one-stop” resource for education stakeholders to learn about data privacy, confidentiality, and security practices related to student data. The website provides timely information and updated guidance through training materials and opportunities to receive direct assistance.
School Turnaround Learning Community
The U.S. Department of Education’s School Turnaround Learning Community provides support to state, district, and school leaders who are working to turn around the nation’s lowest-achieving schools. The website offers resources and tools that enable users to share school turnaround practices and lessons learned, including those focused on family and community engagement, to strengthen teaching and learning for all schools.
Seeing Is Believing: Promising Practices for How School Districts Promote Family Engagement (PDF, 16 pages)
This policy brief from the Harvard Family Research Project and the National Parent-Teacher Association examines the role of school districts in promoting family engagement. The brief spotlights how six school districts have used innovative strategies to create and sustain family engagement “systems at work,” identifies three core components of these successful systems, and outlines key policy recommendations.
Transparency Best Practices for Schools and Districts (PDF, 7 pages)
The U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center offers this guidance for schools and districts on how to keep parents and students better informed about what types of student data are collected and how such data are used.
Other Resources on this Topic
Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).