Dept of Ed Partners with NCFL to Encourage Family Involvement

The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) and the U.S. Department of Education today announced a partnership to advance family engagement in education across the country.

During the yearlong partnership, the Department and NCFL will jointly develop and implement strategies to raise the awareness and understanding of effective family and community engagement in education, including how teachers and families can better collaborate to improve student engagement and learning. This will include:

  • Convening community discussions on family engagement with educators, families and community leaders across the country.
  • Identifying and compiling promising practices and program examples for effective family engagement in education, so schools can employ leading practices that work.
  • Gathering feedback on family engagement frameworks from educators, parents, advocates, and others in the education community.
  • Developing and disseminating resource materials to support family and community engagement in education. An example includes NCFL’s Wonderopolis, an award-winning online learning community that engages classrooms and families in the wonder of discovery.

The partnership will extend the Department of Education’s efforts on family engagement and NCFL’s track record of more than 20 years of providing tools and resources for educators and parents to create engaging lifelong learning opportunities for the entire family.

“Increasing family engagement is key to improving schools and neighborhoods across the country. Parents who play an active role in their children’s education – at home, at school and in the community – have a tremendous impact on factors like school readiness, motivation to learn, and study skills, as well as on high school graduation rates and college preparedness,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We hope this partnership with NCFL will provide much needed support for efforts that will increase family and community engagement in local schools and prepare our children for lifelong success.”

“We see too many communities struggling with how to create meaningful and effective family engagement initiatives,” said Sharon Darling, NCFL president & founder. “Children need to learn in ways that are engaging and relevant to real-life situations, but educators and families tell us they need support to make this happen.

“Simultaneously, the nation’s policy-makers are awakening to the potential of learning beyond the school walls. Through years of experience and talking with parents across the country, we have the recipe for successful family engagement.”

Although no specific provisions have been earmarked for families speaking languages other than English, NCFL programs include the Toyota Family Literacy Program which serves English as a Second Language (ESL) families with children in elementary school, and the Family and Child Education program which serves Native American families with children from birth to grade three and is supported by the Bureau of Indian Education.

Recently, Carolyn Blocker, an educator from Long Beach, California with nearly 25 years of experience, received the NCFL’s 2013 Toyota Teacher of the Year award. Blocker has worked for the past seven years to improve the lives of more than 300 families as a parent education teacher at the Long Beach School for Adults. Blocker and her community's participants boast numerous achievements, including significant parent engagement and a 90 percent retention of families, despite facing hurdles ranging from economic challenges to language barriers.

Mary Ellen Lesniak, an English as a Second Language adult and family coordinator at the Tolton Center in Chicago, was named The Toyota Teacher of the Year runner-up. Lesniak will receive a $2,500 grant, which she plans to use to purchase iPads for her classroom, as well as a scholarship to attend the conference.

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