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Oct 9, 2018 |
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Across the U.S., there’s a gap between the academic achievement of students living in poverty and those who have never lived in poverty. The latest Nation’s Report Card (2017 National Assessment of Education Progress – NAEP) shows flat trend lines for improvement. Now, the U.S. Department of Education is targeting the achievement gap through a family engagement initiative in 11 states. The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) will participate in three of the 11 grants, leading the creation of Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) in Arizona and Nebraska. It will partner with The Prichard Committee to create an SFEC in Kentucky.

NCFL’s research-based family engagement model has been proven to increase student attendance and academic success, create and improve family/school partnerships, and train educators to provide learning environments that support families’ goals.

“Family engagement is key to a student’s success,” said Sharon Darling, NCFL president and founder. “These high-impact programs will lead to incredible changes for all families, as well as their schools, communities, and states. When families are engaged and empowered in their children’s education, we see both parents and children better able to meet their potential. Real parent engagement can be a powerful tool in closing the achievement gap.”

The five-year federal grants will total $4.6 million in Arizona, nearly $4.6 million in Nebraska, and $5 million in Kentucky.

The Statewide Family Engagement Centers’ goals are:

  • Improve academic achievement for disadvantaged students;
  • Empower parents of those students with the information and tools to make good choices for their child’s education; and,
  • Train local and state education providers to administer high-quality family literacy and family engagement services.

Low-income students across the U.S. face significant barriers to school readiness and academic achievement. These factors may include lack of exposure to books and other key resources, difficulty speaking and understanding English, chronic absenteeism, and lower graduation rate. Consider the following statistics:

  • Research shows by age 3, children from low-income families are exposed to 30 million fewer words than children from high-income families.
  • More than 80 percent of low-income children are not proficient at grade-level reading by the time they enter third grade. Those who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely not to graduate high school.
  • The mother’s education is a primary indicator of a child’s academic success.

The SFEC programs will ensure our next generation has quality early education experiences, and that parents have the skills and resources to support their children to create a solid foundation for future learning.

The SFEC programs will give families access to digital resources to use at home as well as community family engagement activities. In addition, families in some communities will participate in an NCFL Family Learning model program. The program includes adult skill building, Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®, and Parent Time in which participants learn how to better support their children in and outside of school.

The SFEC programs will be funded by the federal grant 100 percent the first year. In the following four years, the federal grant will cover 85 percent of programming and the other 15 percent will be provided by non-governmental organizations.

Over the past 30 years, NCFL has broken generational cycles of poverty through family literacy programs across the U.S. A pioneer in family literacy, NCFL’s model programs have improved academic outcomes for children and fostered economic self-sufficiency in adults. Currently, NCFL is working with 330 partner sites in more than 150 communities in 39 states.


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website