NHSA is excited to be launching an important new Head Start Parent, Family and Community Engagement Study! This study, led by NORC at the University of Chicago with guidance from the National Head Start Association and Region V Head Start Association, will inform our national understanding of parent engagement and create a tool to help local programs collect better information from parents about their experiences.
We have long had a challenge in our work with children and families: we lack the tools we need to measure important aspects of our work to support continuous improvement and our commitment to excellence. In Head Start and Early Head Start, we frequently find ourselves measuring that which is easiest to measure, inputs and outputs, things like how many books were read and how many parents attended a meeting. What we need to do is determine how to measure that which is most important, outcomes and impacts for the children and families we serve – real changes in their learning and growth. This is especially challenging in work with parents and families.
The Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Study is creating a tool that will better enable you to measure family outcomes! We are launching this project to create a tool to assist local grantees both in informing their practice and in analyzing outcomes for individual families or across a program. When in place, it will also be valuable in demonstrating to funding sources and regulators that our work with families is a resounding success. The project is being conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, with guidance from NHSA and the Region V Head Start Association. It will meet the level of rigor of quality research with an independent scientific review panel and also provide a new tool for your use, in alignment with the Office of Head Start’s Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.
This project was launched by the Region V Head Start Association, who then quickly partnered with NHSA to procure funding and finalize the design. It is now fully funded independent of federal dollars, through contributions by the Rainin Foundation of Oakland California, the Ford Foundation, and the Region V Head Start Association. NHSA and the Region V Head Start Association continue to work with NORC to shape this project. 184 Head Start and EHS grantees and delegate agencies have been selected through a nation-wide stratified random sample for the first round of story gathering. If your program has been contacted about being part of the study, we strongly urge you to participate! The work done this year will support our whole field in years to come.
Our goal is to create a tool for local agency use that will enable you to perform simple structured interviews of parents regarding the impact of Head Start on their lives and the lives of their children. These interviews will then be transcribed and digitized. Once digitized, the computers at NORC will be able to give you private reports that will let you reflect on and plan your family services and professional development. It will also provide tangible proof of the value of our work with parents. Our hope is to have a tool available for your use in the fall of 2016. We think that this tool could be a game-changing advance in our efforts to measure and share our success in work with families. We are very excited and we hope you are too!