To support families, particularly those in low-income, ethnic and immigrant communities, to become involved in educational policymaking concerning their local schools.
Families Improving Education (FIE) is an initiative, launched in 2008, to build the capacity of organizations in the San Joaquin Valley along with Riverside and San Bernardino counties to engage parents, families and the public in educational decision making. Eleven community organizations in the San Joaquin Valley and the Riverside and San Bernardino counties received funding and technical support under this initiative.
The FIE initiative is administered by Families in Schools, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit founded in 2000 to involve parents and communities in their children’s education and to address policies and practices that improve K-12 education through parental involvement. As manager of the FIE initiative, Families In Schools makes grants to community organizations, conducts all-grantee trainings, and provides individualized technical assistance. More information about Families In Schools is available at www.familiesinschools.org.
The evaluation for Families Improving Education focused on the implementation of FIE over its first four years, assessing the short‐term impact on funded organizations, local school systems, and individual parents and community members. The key questions that guided this evaluation were developed jointly by program staff at the Irvine Foundation and Families in Schools. The evaluation was conducted by Harder+Company Community Research.
To assess how community engagement on education issues has changed in the locales involved, understand which elements of the FIE initiative led to increased community engagement and determine how the initiative spurred changes in education policies and practices.
This was a short-term retrospective evaluation launched in 2011 and concluding in 2012.
Families In Schools and the 11 community organizations are all part of this evaluation.
Harder+Company used a mixed-methods approach to this evaluation, including document review, site visits, surveys, focus groups and interviews. Community organizations, parents, policymakers and key stakeholders participated in the surveys, interviews and focus groups.
Evaluation of the initiative’s first four years showed that engaged parents can be influential advocates for education reform. Policymakers said that parents and grantee organizations gained respect as informed and credible partners when trained to use data and information about models and best practices. In many cases, these parents had a greater effect on policy decisions than other approaches. Evaluation also points to the value of cultivating internal champions among school board members and building regional networks so parents can coordinate advocacy efforts.