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Victory: Dept of Ed adds community-friendly language to Federal Grant Program

5 July 2011
The Federal School Improvement Grant program represents an opportunity to make dramatic change in the nation’s most struggling schools. Communities for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) believes that in order to be successful and sustainable, school transformation must be planned and carried out with the full participation and in- vestment of the school’s parents, students, and community, as well as the school’s leadership and staff.

That's why CEPS organizations have been working at the local and national level to
ensure that the parents, students, and community members who are affected by low performing schools have a say in fixing those schools. In 2010, CEPS developed metrics of parent, student, and community engagement to guide district and state implementation of School Improvement Grants.

Based on the recommendation of CEPS, the Department of Education has added new language, throughout the guidance to states for the second round of grants.

This language includes:

* Family and community engagement is a critical component of a successful intervention." Parents and community members should be included in the required consultation with stakeholders. A district could:

  • "hold community meetings to discuss the school intervention model it is considering implementing and the reasons it believes that the model is appropriate"
  • survey families and the community to gauge their needs;
  • or provide updates to families and the community about the application process and status of the [district's] application."

* "It is extremely important to engage families and the school community early in
the process of selecting the appropriate school improvement model, but doing so
is particularly important when considering school closure. It is critical that
[district] officials engage in an open dialogue with families and the school com-
munity early in the closure process to ensure that they understand the data and
reasons supporting the decision to close, have a voice in exploring quality op-
tions, and help plan a smooth transition for students and their families at the re-
ceiving schools."

* A new pre-implementation period before the start of the school year prioritizes
community engagement in designing interventions and preparing for full implementation. A district can:

  • "hold community meetings to review school performance, discuss the school intervention model to be implemented, and develop school imimprovement plans
  • survey students and parents to gauge their needs
  • communicate with parents and the community about school status, improvement plans, choice options, and local service providers
  • assist families in transitioning to new schools if their current school is implementing the closure model by providing counseling or holding meetings or open houses."

*Under the Transformation model, a district may conduct a "community-wide
assessment to identify the major factors that significantly affect the academic
achievement of students in the school, including an inventory of the resources
in the community that could be aligned, integrated and coordinated to address
these challenges."

These additions are a victory for CEPS and its member organizations, but we want to see even stronger language and requirements for true family and community engagement. CEPS will continue fighting in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country to ensure that parents, students, and community members have a seat at the table in the hard work of turning around our struggling schools.

Communities for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) is a coalition of 35 local, state and national parent, student, and community organizing groups. CEPS has launched a national campaign calling for dramatic action to improve low performing schools by emphasizing research-based education practices and parent, student , and community engagement.

For additional information, please contact Charese Jordan Moore, Director at or (202)464-7373 or check out the website at