My Best Posts On “Conditional Cash Transfers”

Conditional Cash Transfers are payments made to families to encourage them to do things like go to doctor appointments, and to children for increased school attendance and higher standardized test scores, and have been in the news lately.

I’ve published a number of posts about them, and I thought readers might find it helpful if I brought them all together:

Politico Asks:”Can You Fight Poverty by Paying Kids to Go to School?” The Answer Is “No”

Will This Report Put “The Nail In The Coffin” Of Conditional Cash Transfers?

Conditional Cash Transfers, Parents, And Schools

New Study Shows That Paying Families To “Engage” In Schools Doesn’t Work

I’m adding this post to my collection of other “Best” lists on parent engagement.

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Useful Follow-Up Article On White House Family Engagement Conference

I’ve previously posted about the recent White House conference on family engagement (see “White House Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement” Was Held Today).

Carla Thompson from the Kellogg Foundation, who sponsored the conference, just published a piece at The Huffington Post about it.

Check out Family Engagement: The Top of Everyone’s Back-to-School Checklist.

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Politico Asks:”Can You Fight Poverty by Paying Kids to Go to School?” The Answer Is “No”

I’ve previously published several posts on this blog about the concept of Conditional Cash Transfers, which are basically programs that provide money to low-income families to “incentivize” certain behaviors.

As I shared in those previous posts, I’m all for getting more money into the hands of low-income people and, though I think there are more effective ways to combat poverty, who am I to criticize strategies that result in more cash for them? However, one thing the research has been pretty clear about is that these kinds of programs have no positive effect on actions related to education and, in fact, can have the opposite results.

Now, Politico has published a lengthy article about another experiment that is making the same mistake.

Check out their piece, Can You Fight Poverty by Paying Kids to Go to School?, as well as my previous posts on the topic.

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Ridiculous British Policy Of Punishing Parents For Student Vacations Continues — 64,000 Fines Issued

I’ve previously published a number of posts about the ridiculous British policy of punishing parents for taking their students on vacation during the school year.

Here are two new resources:

Number of parents fined for term-time holidays soars by 70 per cent is from The Telegraph.

School holiday fines in England ‘unfair’, say parents is from The BBC.

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“More Denver Public School teachers reaching out through home visits”

More Denver Public School teachers reaching out through home visits is the headline of a recent article in the Denver Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the past few years, kindergarten teacher Kori Leaman-Miller can’t think of any student who cried on their first day of school.

She hadn’t given it much thought, but officials who are growing home-visit programs in school districts say it may not be accidental.

Leaman-Miller is among more than 800 teachers in Denver Public Schools who visit students at home in an effort to reach out with resources, and to create a connection with children and their parents.

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“L.A. literacy program unites families, boosts kids’ reading skills”

L.A. literacy program unites families, boosts kids’ reading skills is the headline of an article in today’s Los Angeles Times.

Here’s an excerpt:

The program, which has operated for nearly 20 years, brings families together for reading lessons, adult education opportunities and parenting techniques. The program aims to provide parents with the skills and knowledge to be successful at school, work and home.

“There’s a saying that if a mother builds her literacy, it builds the literacy of the whole family,” said Sharon Polkinghorn, who has been the Shenandoah Street Elementary School coordinator for six years. She added that families welcome the chance to be together.

“In a big family or a small apartment, they may not have the chance to have that parent-child one-on-one time.”

Polkinghorn said one of the most satisfying outcomes is the relationships built among the families, which have different cultural and religious backgrounds, coming from such countries as Mexico and Egypt.

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Parent Group Organizes In Chicago

In These Times has just published an article headlined ‘Bad Ass Moms’ Defend Chicago Public Schools.

Here’s an excerpt:

Though there are a number of parent organizations fighting for educational justice in the city—including Parents 4 Teachers (P4T) and More Than a Score (MTS), whose membership overlaps with BAM’s—BAM concentrates on a breadth of issues rather than advocacy around any one particular topic, such as layoffs (P4T) or over-testing (MTS).

United behind the idea that all schools should be great schools, not just the ones their kids attend or the ones the Board of Education deems worthy of saving, BAM activists say they want to amplify the voices of working-class families whose schools are being defunded, over-tested and disproportionately closed by the city’s so-called education reformers.

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“More Schools Open Their Doors to the Whole Community”

More Schools Open Their Doors to the Whole Community is a Wall Street Journal article about…community schools.

Here’s an excerpt:

WYOMING, Mich.—On a recent weekday here, a steady stream of people dropped by one central location for food stamps, family counseling and job ideas—their local school.

While instruction has ended for the summer, these classrooms remain open as part of a wider trend around the country of “community schools,” where public and private groups bring services closer to students and residents year round and, in some cases, help boost student performance.

With backing at local, state and federal levels, the decades-old idea for improving schools and neighborhoods is gaining ground despite some funding uncertainties and doubts about community schools’ success.

The largest coordinator of such programs, Communities in Schools, saw a 6% increase in its reach in the 2012-13 school year, covering schools with a total of more than 1.3 million students in 26 states.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Community Schools.

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“D.C. charter school educates parents alongside children”

D.C. charter school educates parents alongside children is a Washington Post article that appeared a few days ago.

Here’s an excerpt:

The District’s Briya Public Charter School enrolls parents and young children together in the same school, a novel effort to improve children’s prospects by building the skills of those who are closest to them. It’s an approach that an increasing number of researchers and philanthropists are promoting across the country as experts worry that investments in early childhood education or school improvement can only go so far.

“We spend a lot of money on poor children in our schools,” said Sharon Darling, president of the National Center for Families Learning. “But in reality, there are no poor children. They live with poor parents, and they are poor because they have poor skills. You can’t keep putting a Band-Aid on one part of the equation.”

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“Center gets students and parents on track for college”

The Sacramento Bee published this somewhat interesting article, titled Center gets students and parents on track for college.

Here’s how it begins:

Jeremie Elkins wants to be a lawyer. Katrina George plans to be a teacher, and Domonique Craig has set her sights on business studies. All are taking part in the College Bound Babies program at Twin Rivers Housing Complex, but they aren’t students.

The three parents help out at the kindergarten-preparation program every day as a requirement for their child’s attendance. They say their involvement has fostered a sense of community at the low-income public housing complex and has inspired them to continue their own education.

“A lot of families here are struggling,” Elkins said. “A lot don’t know where to go with life.”

The nonprofit Roberts Family Development Center launched the program last year with hopes of getting parents more involved with their children’s education – and getting them to take a good look at their own lives at the same time.


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“White House Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement” Was Held Today

I had previously posted about the Kellogg Foundation-sponsored White House Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement, and it was held today.

I’d be interested in hearing a report from anyone who attended.

Here’s the information I have about it so far:

White House symposium focuses on family engagement appeared in The Washington Post, but says surprisingly little about what actually happened at the event.

The Kellogg Foundation put-out a press release
this morning about the event. The most interesting info in it is a summary about a poll they had taken of parents. Here are some results:

The event also dovetails with the release of a recent public opinion poll, commissioned by the Kellogg Foundation*, of 1,000 parents nationwide, which found that 96 percent of parents believe they play a role in ensuring their child has a quality education, but that teachers (73 percent), principals (58 percent) and local officials (46 percent) also have meaningful roles. Among other findings:

U.S. parents believe that involvement in their child’s education is most critical between birth and pre-school (42 percent). That percentage increases among African American and Hispanic parents to 51 and 47 percent, respectively.

Ten percent of all parents, rising to 18 percent of Hispanic parents, say they are actively involved in their children’s education, but do not feel welcome to participate. However, the majority of parents (82 percent) do say they are actively involved and feel welcome.

Forty-six percent of U.S. parents report that lack of time is an obstacle that may prevent them from fully engaging in their child’s education. Nearly 1 in 5 reports that a lack of understanding of what their child is learning also serves as a significant barrier facing diverse and low-income families.

Apparently, they invited one of the co-authors
of the very unhelpful book, Broken Compass, to speak (see The Best Commentaries On The “Broken Compass” Parent Involvement Book). I hope they had other people there to set the record straight.

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“Stop blaming black parents for underachieving kids”

Andre M. Perry makes some thoughtful points in this Washington Post piece, Stop blaming black parents for underachieving kids.

Here’s an excerpt:

Clearly, there is widespread belief that black parents don’t value education. The default opinion has become “it’s the parents” — not the governance, the curriculum, the instruction, the policy, nor the lack of resources — that create problems in urban schools. That’s wrong. Everyday actions continuously contradict the idea that low-income black families don’t care about their children’s schooling, with parents battling against limited resources to access better educations than their circumstances would otherwise afford their children.

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“Home Visits Lifted Up as Best Practice by U.S. Department of Education”

I’ve written a lot about the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project, including our school’s — and my — active involvement in it (see The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits).

I’ve also posted about the U.S Department of Education’s “Parent and Community Engagement Framework,” which they released in April and which talks about home visits (see Department of Education Releases New Parent and Community Engagement Framework).

The Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project has just issued a press release talking about the framework and, though it’s a bit late, it does say some useful things about parent engagement and home visits.

So, I’ve decided to reprint it here:

Local Grassroots Effort Highlighted in National Education Policy
Home Visits Lifted Up as Best Practice by U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An elementary school in crisis that was trained by the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project (PTHVP) has been recognized as a best practice in the U.S. Department of Education’s report “Partners in Education: Dual Capacity Framework for Family Engagement.” The document, meant to guide policy and funding priorities, explains the characteristics of “high-impact” family and community engagement that makes the most difference to student performance.

The findings were researched and written by Dr. Karen Mapp, a Harvard University expert on family engagement, and her Harvard colleague Paul Kuttner, a researcher and author focused on community-based school reform.

The much-anticipated report has emerged at a time when the practice of home visits is expanding: PTHVP, originally a grass roots organization in Sacramento, has now set up a national office which supports local affiliates in 15 states.

The report is also timely for experts in family engagement who are themselves engaged in debate. Books such as “Broken Compass: Parental Involvement with Children’s Education” by Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris have inspired the media to issue provocative headlines, such as “Parental Involvement Is Overrated” in a New York Times (April 13, 2014). In engagement efforts, the definition of parental involvement varies widely. In some programs, it has a social service bent, where adults are enticed to learn parenting skills with a free dinner, or giveaways of diapers or toys. Another family engagement approach is academic. If parents can be taught classroom subjects like long division, say theorists, they can help their children be more successful.

So what, according to the report, makes a program “high-impact?”

First of all, activities must be relational. Trust and respect must be established between a school and its community before any progress can be made. Barriers to this relationship may include the fact that the school staff is different ethnically and/or culturally from their students’ community, and all parties may have had negative experiences or associations from the past. PTHVP trains participants to identify and reflect upon their previous assumptions. Once they connect with a shared vision, their hopes and dreams for their children, teachers and families have a common language and action plan for the child’s success.

Secondly, programs must have “dual capacity building” outcomes. This means that the program raises the competence, and confidence, in everyone involved (teachers, families, students) instead of knowledge being transmitted in only one direction. For example, at PTHVP, evaluations show that home visits result in improved academic performance and positive behavior in children. But the benefits don’t just go one way: teachers and family members experience transformation as well. Parents and guardians report more trust and collaboration with the teacher, which often leads to increased involvement in the school. And they feel better equipped to help their child achieve their goals. For teachers, they report a deeper knowledge of their student’s lives, which helps them differentiate curriculum and make the classroom more relevant. Teachers also report that doing home visits teaches them to leave negative assumptions behind, and see families as essential partners in their mission to teach. Despite the extra effort, teachers credit home visits with more rewards and less burnout.

In addition, the researchers find that the highest impact engagement methods are collaborative. Strong, sustainable efforts that stand the test of time are supported by more than one agency. This aspect is also relevant to the PTHVP model. In fact, the project was born as a collaboration between a community organizing group, ACT, the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), and the local teachers union, CTA. The unusual coalition focused on building trust between teachers and parents, and developed a model that endured and was replicated in districts across the US, each with their own collaboration of local stakeholders.

And lastly, family engagement activities must be linked to learning in order to have the highest impact. In the home visit model, the first visit to a family home is an opportunity to make a personal connection, and the second visit is used to discuss how to support the child with academic enrichment. PTHVP has also teamed with Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT), pioneered by Maria Paredes and WestEd, and has collected data that shows that when academic parent teacher meetings are preceded by home visits, both attendance and performance rises dramatically.

Looking for examples of programs that built trust and increased capacity in families and schools at the same time, the authors lift up the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project (PTHVP) method of home visits in the first of three case studies in the DOE report, which chronicles the turnaround of Stanton Elementary School in Southeast Washington DC.

In 2010, Stanton Elementary was in crisis, and the district brought in new administration, teachers, and a myriad of reforms to turn around what was the lowest performing school in the district. Traditional strategies such as improved instruction and a new behavior management system were implemented, along with traditional engagement activities such as bake sales, dances, and parent teacher conferences, which were poorly attended. Things actually got worse: a year later, test scores were down, and suspensions were up.

Then in the summer of 2011, a partnership between local Flamboyan Foundation and DC Public Schools brought PTHVP in to train the staff to do home visits. And this, say Stanton teachers and parents, is what made the difference. The staff did 450 visits during the 2011–2012 school year, and followed the visits with 30 APTT meetings for families. By the end of the 2012 school year, the report states, Stanton increased their math scores more than 18% and reading scores by more than 9%. And both staff and families reported a transformation in the culture of the school, crediting the relationships established by the visits.

Engagement programs across the country, with their diverse goals and strategies, have some self-reflection in store. How close does their program come to the DOE’s recommended framework? Do they build capacity in both families and schools? Do they mutually build trust and respect? And are they linked to learning? How will our answers to the above questions change our ideas of what is effective family engagement? Will it change what we fund and what we do? With time and funds in short supply, schools and districts, as well as parents and communities, must address these questions in light of the research.

For more information

Partners in Education: The Dual Capacity Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships at the Department of Education,

The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project

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“Federal Data-Privacy Guidelines Urge Better Communication With Parents”

Federal Data-Privacy Guidelines Urge Better Communication With Parents is a new post over at Education Week.

Here’s how it begins:

The tug-of-war over student data privacy continues.

Friday, the U.S. Department of Education released new, non-binding guidance containing suggestions for schools and districts to better inform parents about how their children’s sensitive educational data is being used.

Some privacy advocates, however, were less than enthusiastic.

You might also be interested in The Best Posts On The inBloom Data Fiasco.

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