Guide to Quality: Even Start Family Literacy Program
Implementation and Continuous Improvement
Volume I, Revised
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Compensatory Education
Even Start Family Literacy Program
RMC Research Corporation
This draft guide has been submitted to U.S. Department of
Education for publication and is available for public use and may be copied and
disseminated. Use of the guide and its contents, in whole or in part, should be
cited as follows:
RMC Research Corporation. (2001, June). Guide to Quality:
Even Start Family Literacy Program, Volume I (revised). Manuscript submitted
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Susan B. Neuman
OFFICE OF COMPENSATORY EDUCATION
EVEN START FAMILY LITERACY PROGRAM
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Guide to Quality: Even Start Family Literacy Program, Volume I
Table of Contents
- Purpose and Development of the Guide 2
- Using the Guide for Continuous Program Improvement 4
- Even Start Program Snapshots 7
- Family Literacy Core Values 16
- Partnerships and Collaborations 18
- Program Leadership and Management 22
- Integration of Instruction Within Program Components 26
- Early Childhood Education for Preschool Children 39
- Adult Basic Education and Literacy 43
- Parent and Child Interactive Literacy Activities 52
- Home-Based Instruction 54
- Selected Definitions from Federal Legislation 61
- Even Start Family Literacy Program Statute 62
- Program Self-Assessment (not included in draft text version)
This Guide is a revised version of the original Guide to Quality,
published in 1995, and it includes new research and best practices from the
field of family literacy and programs throughout the country. The research
findings from the multiple fields that comprise family literacy are supported
and augmented by the first-hand experiences and knowledge of practitioners and
program administrators. This revised Volume I replaces the original Guide and
will have a companion guide, Volume II, that will cover additional topics and
program services (to be published in 2002).
Some of the highlights of the revised Volume I are:
- A new section on Program Leadership and Management.
- Separate treatment of Parenting Education and Parent-Child Interactive
- An enhanced focus on literacy (for example, Home Visiting has been changed
to Home-Based Instruction).
- An emphasis on program design and evaluation that leads to continuous
improvement of program services.
- An appendix containing the Even Start Family Literacy Program statute, and
references to legal requirements that apply to Even Start program
administration and services.
- New research references and resources.
Many people provided guidance and feedback throughout the writing of this
Guide. From the U.S. Department of Education, we would like to thank: Patricia
McKee, Doris Sligh, Tanielle Johnson and Laura Lazo (Even Start Program office);
DonnaMarie Marlow (Migrant Education); and Miriam Whitney (Office of the General
Counsel). We received invaluable comments and suggestions from Even Start state
coordinators and staff from agencies, such as Parents as Teachers, who
participated in focus groups. And special thanks goes to Diane D’Angelo of RMC
Research, who contributed greatly to the writing and review of the Guide.
We hope that the accumulated research, wisdom and practice contained in this
Guide help you to design and conduct programs that enable families to reach
their literacy and life goals, thereby improving the lives of those you touch by
helping them to realize their dreams for a better life.
M. Christine Dwyer
Teresa R. Sweeney
RMC Research Corporation
- Purpose and Development of the Guide 2
- Using the Guide for Continuous Program Improvement 4
- Even Start Program Snapshots 7
Purpose and Development of the Guide
Effective family literacy programs are an important part of President Bush’s
education agenda and pledge to "leave no child behind." The Guide
to Quality: Even Start Family Literacy Program Implementation and Continuous
Improvement, Volume I (Revised) covers what has been learned by Even Start
program staff in the field and research that informs practice from the last ten
years. The Guide describes characteristics of high quality, effective Even Start
programs, and is intended to be used for multiple purposes related to improving
program quality. This Guide: (1) serves as an outline of important program
characteristics and practices for implementing new and existing Even Start
programs; (2) provides a self-assessment tool that programs can use to identify
strengths and weaknesses, and areas for staff development and continuous program
improvement; (3) helps state personnel and peer review teams to improve programs
by identifying characteristics of quality programs, as well as noting
indications of possible problems; and (4) gives potential collaborators
information about Even Start goals.
The ultimate purpose of the Guide is to improve literacy and
self-sufficiency outcomes for Even Start families.
The statements of quality included here are intended as guidelines that can
be used to design effective family literacy programs based on research and best
practices. Scientifically-based research available from the fields of early
childhood education, literacy and parenting is reflected in this Guide. The U.S.
Department of Education (the Department) perceives the design of local programs
to be a matter of state and local discretion, once the statutory program
requirements are met. The quality statements are examples of approaches that
have led to successful outcomes; they are not program requirements. Even
well-managed and effective programs may not implement all the suggestions
included in this Guide. This Guide does not replace federal laws or program
guidance; programs must meet all of the requirements of the Even Start law, Part
B of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA), as reauthorized
and amended by the Literacy Involves Families Together (LIFT) Act of 2000 (see
The original and revised Guides were developed in response to requests from
Even Start state coordinators for a document they could use during project site
visits to engage staff in discussions about "what makes a quality family
literacy program." The process of development included input and review
from Even Start and other family literacy practitioners, Even Start state
coordinators and federal staff.
The Guide incorporates information from a variety of sources: (1) Even Start
national evaluation results; (2) research in fields related to Even Start,
specifically early childhood education, adult education, collaboration,
parenting education and home visiting; (3) the accumulated wisdom and practice
of family literacy program staff and administrators that has been shared through
conferences and site visits; (4) the theoretical base that has emerged for
family literacy led by the work of the National Center for Family Literacy; (5)
the work of other fields in developing indicators of quality, especially adult
education and the National Institute for Literacy; and (6) legal requirements in
the Even Start program legislation.
Even Start programs that serve special populations (for example, migrant or
English language learners) or operate in specialized contexts (for example,
isolated rural areas, homeless shelters or prisons) will need to adapt the
quality statements to their program circumstances. Some of the quality
statements may not apply or they may apply very differently to these programs.
The staff of programs serving special populations may need to consider cultural
and linguistic characteristics of their families and adjust services
Organization of the Guide
The statements of quality are presented within twelve major topic areas. In
practice, these areas are integrated so there are many interconnections across
- Each topic area begins with a statement of the primary goal or "challenge"
associated with that topic or program component. The challenge is followed
by an "Even Start Note," which contains information about
federal requirements or practices that are particular to Even Start
- Next, "quality considerations" are listed for each topic.
These are statements of conditions associated with high quality programs
based on evaluation, research, theory, best practices, and legal
- The quality considerations are followed by "signs of problems"
in each topic area. These are intended to be "red flags," and may
be used to prompt discussion or to facilitate program review and technical
- "Snapshot" descriptions of diverse family literacy
projects are included. These examples illustrate how the quality
considerations can be implemented, and are intended to give a picture of
program practices that may inspire staff as they design and modify their
- The Appendix contains the complete Even Start statute, including
amendments made by the Literacy Involves Families Together (LIFT) Act.
- References for major resource documents are included at the end of
- Finally, the quality considerations are provided in a workbook format as a
"self-assessment guide" for programs.
Using the Guide for Continuous Program Improvement
Lessons from the National Evaluations of Even Start
The purpose of the Even Start Family Literacy Program (Even Start) is to help
break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by improving educational opportunities
for the Nation’s low-income families through the integration of early
childhood education, adult literacy (adult basic education or English as a
Second Language), and parenting education in a unified family literacy program.
Under Even Start, Federal financial assistance has been provided since 1989 for
family-centered education projects to help parents gain the literacy and
parenting skills they need to become full partners in the education of their
young children (ages birth through seven), and to assist those children in
reaching their full potential as learners. The Department has conducted three
National Evaluations of Even Start, which have traced the growth, changes,
progress and trends among programs. There are direct connections between the
quality considerations suggested in this Guide and findings from the national
evaluations. Whether a program retains families, offers sufficient hours and
types of services, and collaborates with other agencies to meet families’
needs greatly affects the participation rates and success of family members. A
few highlights of the evaluation findings are:
- Intensity of Services affects Participation: In Adult, Parenting
and Early Childhood Education, greater hours of services offered correlate
with greater hours of participation.
Adult Education. When 16 or less hours of service are offered per
month, adults’ participation averages 100 hours per year. When 48 or more
hours of service are offered per month, adults’ participation averages 216
hours per year.
Parenting Education. When 8 or less hours of service are offered per
month, adults’ participation averages 29 hours per year. When 25 or more
hours of service are offered per month, adults’ participation averages 80
hours per year.
Early Childhood Education. When 24 or less hours of service are offered
per month, children’s participation averages 235 hours per year. When 80 or
more hours of service are offered per month, children’s participation
averages 410 hours per year.
When comparing the average
number of support services families receive to their hours of participation in
Adult, Parenting and Early Childhood Education, a greater number of support
services correlates with greater hours of participation.
- Support Services affect Participation:
Adult Education. When families receive no support services, adults’
average participation in adult education is 53 hours per year. When families
receive five to nine types of support services, adults’ average
participation in adult education is 215 hours per year.
Parenting Education. When families receive no support services,
adults’ average participation in parenting education is 17 hours per year.
When families receive five to nine types of support services, adults’
average participation in parenting education is 76 hours per year.
Early Childhood Education. When families receive no support services,
children’s average participation in early childhood education is 260 hours
per year. When families receive five to nine types of support services,
children’s average participation in early childhood education is 432 hours
- Length of Participation affects Goal Attainment: Families that
participate in Even Start for 12 months or more experience greater success in
achieving their goals. While 15% of families achieved their goals within four
to six months, 21% of families achieved their goals by remaining in the
program for seven to 12 months. However, the greatest gains were made by those
who participated for one and a half to two years -- 34% of those families
achieved their goals.
Another important finding relates to families’ involvement in the
above-mentioned services and in parent-child interactive literacy activities.
Overall, families in projects that dedicated significant amounts of time to
parents and children learning and playing together had measurable improvements
in their home environments compared to families in projects with considerably
less parent-child time. Some of the indicators of improved home environment
were: having more reading materials in the home; practicing positive
disciplinary approaches; and parents and children engaging in learning
activities related to daily events and routine family activities.
Even Start Services and Indicators of Program Quality
Family literacy programs are complex to implement because they rely on
cooperation among education and other community services, and require knowledge
of best practices in a number of fields. In 1995, the Department published the
first edition of the Guide to Quality to highlight the practices
associated with programs that produced positive outcomes for families. The
practices listed in the Guide to Quality came to be widely known in the
family literacy field as "program quality indicators."
In a move toward increasing the quality of all Even Start programs, Congress
amended Section 1210 of the Even Start law (Part B of Title I of the ESEA) in
1998 to require that all states develop "indicators of program
quality" based on the best available research and evaluation data. The
amendments also require States to use those indicators to monitor, evaluate and
improve the progress of Even Start projects. But some confusion was
introduced at the same time because Section 1210 uses the term "quality
indicators" in a new way, meaning indicators that describe
performance outcomes for adults and children. For example, required
indicator categories in the law include attainment of secondary diplomas or
equivalents and employment for adults, and progress on reading readiness skills
and school attendance for children. In addition to the required indicators for
participant outcomes, the law allows states to develop other participant and
program quality indicators. Program quality indicators that describe best
practices in the design and delivery of Even Start services are the
subject of this Guide.
Use of the Guide by state agencies
This revised edition of the Guide provides ideas for state agencies to
use in developing quality standards for Even Start program implementation to
supplement the required performance outcomes. States could select indicators of
quality from the Guide that they consider important enough to require of
all their programs. These may include: (1) expectations associated with staff
development and staff supervision; (2) the nature and frequency of home-based
instruction; (3) procedural requirements, such as exit and transition policies;
and (4) particular features of instructional approaches, such as explicit
teaching of phonological awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. States
are encouraged to focus local programs’ attention on best practices in order
to emphasize the quality of program delivery as well as program outcomes.
The quality considerations in this Guide are based on evaluation and research
findings, and the advice of expert theorists. When particular intensities or
ranges of behavior are suggested, they are grounded in evidence from research.
Individual states may choose to be more prescriptive than the Guide in their
setting of quality standards for programs. For example, a state may decide to
require programs to maintain particular staff-to-family ratios or provide a
specific number of service hours.
Use of the Guide by local programs
Local Even Start programs should consult their state’s plan for information
about the specific program standards and performance outcomes that apply to them.
The terms or phrases used to describe different types of expectations may vary
by state. States usually make distinctions in terminology between qualities of
program implementation (often called "quality indicators," the subject
of this Guide) and outcomes for participants (often called "performance
indicators"). In some cases, they are both called program quality
indicators or other similar terms. The purpose of using indicators to measure
program quality is more important than the terminology. Local program
administrators are encouraged to use the indicators in this Guide for reviewing
and assessing local program implementation, whether or not their state agency
requires them to measure program quality in a formal way.
Even Start Snapshots
Scenes in the Life of Even Start Programs
The following snapshots are based on examples from local Even
Start programs throughout the country, the Even Start National Evaluation, and
work of the National Center for Family Literacy and RMC Research Corporation.
Snapshot 1: Partnerships, Collaborations and Recruitment
Creating a vision and a plan »
An urban school district and a county non-profit family service agency are
partners on a successful Even Start proposal, and they are implementing the
plan together. The Even Start program is scheduled to open in a few months. Community
agencies representing a wide range of services – the housing authority,
Head Start, adult basic literacy – supported the proposal and wrote contracts
with the new Even Start entity. These contracts describe the services and
resources they will provide as part of their collaboration with the program. The
partners and collaborating agencies discussed their vision for the
program as part of writing the proposal, and the new Even Start director,
Angela, wants to get everyone back together as soon as possible to develop a
detailed first year plan based on this vision. She knows that she cannot assume
everyone has the same approach or agenda for the families they will serve, and
that all the agencies need to develop good working relationships for the
Even Start program to be successful.
When the school district and the family service agency were writing the
proposal, they asked some of the collaborators and local leaders if they would
serve on an advisory board. Angela is holding an "opening
celebration" for the Center, where her staff, advisory board members, and
staff from other programs will meet and get to know each other. Angela and the
partners will explain the purpose and services of Even Start, and outline
the types of support the new Center needs. In fact, one of the board members has
already donated office furniture. It is important that everyone involved can
articulate the vision and their commitment, and represent the program in their
personal and professional circles.
One collaboration challenge that Angela already anticipates is the
relationship with the Head Start program that operates in the local schools.
Angela sees no duplication of services and little competition for
families, but she wants to avoid any perception of real or imagined "turf
wars" between programs. There are a large number of families who need the
services of Even Start and Head Start, and collaborators have been chosen
because they can reach different target populations and serve different needs.
In fact, at the first planning meeting of collaborating agencies,
representatives made short presentations about each program’s mission,
services, eligibility, and client demographics and profile. One strategy
Angela is going to suggest at the next planning meeting is that they develop a joint
screening and intake tool. This will facilitate the referral of families to
appropriate agencies and ensure that they receive some services while waiting to
enroll in programs. The agencies have already implemented a tracking system
for referrals made among programs, so a common intake tool would enhance
cooperation and management of services to families.
The collaborating agencies have already started joint staff training.
The first steps were easy because agencies that already had scheduled training
shared that information. Also, the agencies’ staffs filled out surveys
concerning what topics they were interested in, what their subject and
training expertise were, and if they were willing to present cross-training
workshops. Some of the topics they said they would like to have training in
were: child development, literacy, nutrition, health issues, legal services, and
parenting education. The staffs of Even Start and Head Start have also decided
to hold a joint family day event, because they anticipate they may have
some families in common.
The partner agencies, advisory board members and Angela plan to have a retreat
at the end of the first program year. They will review the budget, program
records, and progress made during the first year. Some of the topics that staff
and board members have suggested for discussion are whether the recruitment and
intake processes are reaching the neediest families, and uncovering their social
service as well as literacy needs, and if there are sufficient services
available to meet the identified needs. They will also set goals for the
second year, and identify resources to support the long-term program plans.
Six months later, recruitment is underway »
Angela and her staff developed an annual recruitment plan using multiple
methods and resources. The plan includes: a highly visible media campaign
(for example, public service announcements, calendar of events, ads in
newspapers, flyers, brochures, posters); an open house twice a year; monthly
special events; participation in community events (for example, fairs,
neighborhood days); and a schedule for distributing materials through community
agencies and in neighborhoods. Recruitment materials are written in the
languages and at the literacy level of the families targeted by the program.
Neighborhood canvassing is done as often as possible; at a minimum, it is done
three times a year. Teams of staff members canvass neighborhoods with which they
are most familiar. Current Even Start participants are encouraged and
asked to join the recruiting teams. Canvassing is frequently done
door-to-door, particularly targeting homes with young children’s toys in the
yards and hallways. Staff also visit the local laundromats and convenience
stores to talk about Even Start and to leave brochures. Staff set recruitment
goals related to identifying families that are most in need based on profiles of
the community, which they get from local government and other agency annual
Calls are made to potential families, and are followed up with personal
visits whenever possible. Staff and parents complete a "screening
questionnaire" at home, which is intended to describe the family as well as
provide clues about their literacy skills. For instance, staff may ask the age
and educational level of all persons living in the home, what they enjoy doing
together in their leisure time, what activities the children do at home, if
there are special concerns about any family member, and what about the Even
Start program sounds important or appeals to the family. The staff select the families
most in need of Even Start services based on this screening tool. Staff need
to keep in mind the program’s limited resources and determine how they will
most effectively serve the families most in need. Staff will refer families to
other services in the community if Even Start has a waiting list. Staff review
the waiting list each month and stay in contact with the families by mail
and phone. Staff talk about the expectations of participants with each
family before they enroll in Even Start. In many cases, the staff provide some
type of support to the families until they can enroll, such as offering free
Each staff member must be able to articulate the purpose and services of Even
Start because recruitment is a continual process. To prepare, staff model
talking about Even Start to potential families and referring agencies during
staff meetings. Each staff member sets recruitment goals, such as number of
monthly contacts with families and agencies. Recruitment becomes a weekly agenda
item at staff meetings. Angela has hired bilingual staff to communicate with
Spanish-speaking families during recruitment and enrollment. Staff exhibit their
desire and need to be knowledgeable about community resources by serving
on other agencies’ committees and boards, which also increases the visibility
and outreach of the Even Start program. Many Even Start family events are
planned with and include families in other agencies, such as Head Start and the
YMCA. Resources and facilities are shared so that families learn about the other
services. Ongoing and continuous community outreach builds trust and relationships
with collaborating staff.
Snapshot 2: How Programs Structure Services for Families
Wanda begins with home-based instruction »
Wanda lives in a trailer at the end of a three-mile dirt road with her four
children. She dropped out of school when she was fifteen to have her first
child. Her two school-age children are enrolled in Title I programs and one
child has some hearing loss in the right ear. He is waiting to receive a hearing
aid. The youngest children are two and four years old. Wanda has a difficult
time helping her children with homework and often accuses the teachers of
asking her to do their work. Mona, the Even Start home instructor who works with
Wanda’s family, says there are not enough pots to catch the water dripping
from the ceiling when it rains. Wanda does the best she can, living far from
town with no car. Twice a month, her sister comes over to take the family to
town to buy supplies. The family’s main connection to the world is the
television and Wanda’s love of stories. She enjoys making up pretend tales to
entertain the children. She agreed to be part of a home-based Even Start program
because she gets lonely, and wants the children to "learn something"
and have a better life.
Mona decides to discuss Wanda and her family at the next staff meeting
so the team can help her plan an integrated approach to providing
services. During the staff discussion, it becomes very clear to Mona that Wanda’s
interests and needs are interrelated. Wanda’s desire to improve herself
and to help her children could be the catalyst for addressing many of the
concerns she has for her family. The staff recommend that Mona build the initial
adult literacy lessons upon Wanda’s interest in reading to her
children. She could write her "pretend" tales and practice reading
them to her children. The parent-child interaction time could include writing
down the children’s stories for school. The staff suggest that Mona talk to
Wanda about what to expect at parent-teacher conferences at school so that Wanda
will understand what her children are learning. Mona should use every
opportunity that arises to emphasize to Wanda the value of reading and
writing for herself and her children. Mona might ask Wanda what types of
learning activities she would like to do with her children, and she can suggest
things like a trip to the library if Wanda does not suggest it herself. Mona
hopes to transition Wanda into the Center to involve her in discussions with
peers about managing her children’s behavior, decreasing television viewing,
and other parenting issues. Mona also wants to get Wanda’s youngest children
involved in the early childhood education program at the Center. Wanda might
want to come to the Center’s classes after meeting other parents and seeing
first-hand what is available for her children there.
Mona began developing a family action plan with Wanda during the next
home visit. Wanda identified three goals she wanted for herself and her
children. As next steps, Mona and Wanda identified a long list of resources she
would need to accomplish her goals: money to buy a car, a driver’s license,
job training and a job, a library card, better reading skills, and the
self-confidence that she can do this. So Wanda began to prioritize the things
she needed to do first: learn to read better, explore job options, ask her
sister about watching the kids. Mona skillfully incorporated interactive
literacy and parenting activities that related to Wanda’s goals into the
weekly Even Start instructional home visits. She also guided her through
problem-solving exercises to explore solutions to some of her needs, such as
transportation and housing. Mona let Wanda use her laptop computer to practice
writing her stories and printing pages so the children could illustrate them.
Wanda was amazed how easy it was! Mona also suggested that Wanda call her church
or volunteer groups to ask about free transportation to the library and to the
school. To start her community outreach, Wanda decided to call the
welfare office to see if there were funds to evaluate her son’s hearing loss.
As she began to see evidence of her accomplishments, Wanda became very
excited about her future. She agreed to bring the children to the "Family
Fun Day" at the Center. Each child selected a favorite "homemade"
book to bring. They loved the attention and praise they received from everyone.
Claudet attends center-based adult literacy instruction »
An Even Start program in rural Pennsylvania offers the adult education
component both at the Even Start Center, located in the elementary school, and
through the home-based instruction program, which offers an individualized
adult learning curriculum. One of the students, Claudet, a married mother of
four, is finishing her second year with Even Start. She dropped out of school in
the tenth grade following the birth of her first child. Her main goal when she
enrolled in Even Start was to be able to read "chapter books," not
just picture books, to her children. She now has two children in grade school
and she wants to help them learn. She feels this will encourage them to finish
high school. She said she is embarrassed that she cannot read well,
especially when she is out in public. For example, she cannot read all the words
on food labels to buy "good" food for her children and feels
"ripped off" at fast food restaurants because she cannot figure out if
she gets the correct change. The friend who initially brought Claudet to Even
Start has already gotten her general equivalency diploma and is starting a job.
Claudet said she may want to get a job when her children are
older. She knows she does not have adequate skills to get a decent paying job
now. When she entered the program, her short term goals were to get a
library card so she could get books to practice reading to her children, learn
how to help her children with their homework, and improve her basic math skills.
Initially, Claudet received adult education instruction at home, but made
the choice to come to the Center with her two youngest children. One
incentive for this was that transportation was provided by Even Start.
Claudet admitted that she was afraid to come to the Center’s adult education
program, but decided to try it because "all the staff who have visited me
at home are so friendly and encouraging." She is finding that her children
love their classes at the Center, and that she can set up a class schedule
four days a week that is flexible and works around her family’s
schedule. She also likes that the staff remind her about special events and call
her if she misses classes because it shows they care.
Although the whole family enjoys the interactive literacy activities and
early childhood program, Claudet is afraid of being tested for her adult
education classes at the Center. She is comfortable with the parenting sessions,
since she feels she is a good parent and enjoys talking with the other mothers.
But school to her means reading textbooks, filling in workbooks and taking tests
– which she has never done well. To her surprise, the first thing Claudet and
her teacher did was to discuss what she wanted to learn and she completed a self-evaluation.
Eventually, she was tested on her literacy and math skills, but she was
comfortable with the teacher and understood the purpose of the testing so she
was less nervous and fearful. Claudet is surprised that she and the other
students read real life materials, like novels and magazines, and discuss
topics they want to learn about, such as budgeting, family health
concerns, and how to write a resume. She is amazed that she and the other
students have similar feelings and desires, and she is eager to talk about her
life experiences during class discussions. Claudet also enjoys listening to
the teacher read to the class and often takes a tape recorder home so that she
can listen to lessons on tape. She finds she learns better by listening
and is really pleased with the progress she has made. Claudet told the staff
that she feels her adult education teacher is very knowledgeable and
teaches the material in a way that she understands. Claudet was particularly
pleased to announce to the class that her husband just enrolled in the adult
education classes offered at night to get his GED because he saw how positive
she felt about Even Start.
Claudet is surprised by how much she likes computers. Her program has
partnered with another Even Start program in the state and Claudet has a pen pal
she keeps in touch with through e-mail. She is thrilled that she can take the
Center’s laptop home to do work with her children. She decided that getting a
job working with computers might be a good long-term goal. At the end of
her first year of classes, she received a Certificate of Improvement because she
has made significant progress toward completing a level in the adult
education course. Claudet constantly says, "This is not like going to
school. I feel good coming to my Even Start school." Because she feels
more confident about her skills, Claudet is volunteering in her oldest child’s
third grade classroom. She has already achieved one of her goals: learning how
to help her children with their schoolwork.
Luann and Hosea make progress »
Hosea and his mother will have many changes in their lives this fall. Hosea
will start kindergarten and his mother, Luann, will attend adult
education and parenting classes full-time at the Even Start center. They
have really enjoyed the visits from the home instructor, and Luann feels she
does many more literacy activities with Hosea on her own at home. But when they
discussed the topic of transition during parenting class last semester, Luann
was concerned and nervous about how both she and Hosea would adjust to being in
school all day and separated from each other. The Even Start staff assured her
that they helped families make changes like these, and that she would discuss transition
plans for herself and Hosea with a staff member. Even Start has a committee
that maintains contact with teachers, social workers, employers and others so
that staff and families have the information they need to plan smooth
transitions for family members. Talking about her concerns gave Luann
reassurance about Hosea beginning kindergarten, and she began to get excited
about spending more time at the Center for her adult studies and job training.
The Center already has several effective transition policies in place. For
instance, Even Start staff meet with the kindergarten teachers each
spring to discuss the children coming from the program and to focus on the needs
and abilities of each child. They also exchange ideas about what worked and did
not work programmatically for different children during the past year. They use
this opportunity to set up joint training in early childhood development
and curriculum planning for both staffs in the upcoming year.
Hosea was given the screening test for kindergarten at Even Start to see if
he had any disabilities that required attention. The staff explained all of
the services and special opportunities that the public schools offer for
children and families to Luann. Luann now feels that she could ask for
additional services for Hosea, if he needs them. Luann’s home instructor
encourages her to read books about going to school to Hosea, find or start a
playgroup during the summer, and to talk about and emphasize all the positive
things about school to prepare him. Hosea’s Even Start early childhood
teacher has already agreed to accompany Luann to the parent orientation at
the public school in a few weeks. Hosea and his friends from the Center who are
going to kindergarten together are scheduled to visit the kindergarten class with
their Even Start teacher.
Luann received a voucher for public transportation to visit Hosea’s
new kindergarten classroom. She was told that these vouchers are available for
any visits she would like to make to help out in the classroom during the school
year. The school mailed her an information packet, which was printed in both English
and Spanish. She was able to share it with Hosea’s grandmother who only
speaks and reads Spanish. At the parent orientation meeting, the teacher
explains the developmental nature of the kindergarten program to Luann. She
learns that a high level of parent involvement is welcomed and
encouraged, and that her opinion of how Hosea is doing is very valuable to the
teachers. There will be two scheduled parent-teacher conferences a year, and
frequent written correspondence and telephone contact with parents. Hosea’s
Even Start teacher tells Luann that she would be happy to review the materials
from school with her at any time. Luann will also visit Hosea each week in
kindergarten as part of the parent-child interaction time with Even
Start. She is very pleased about this.
As for her own "school schedule," Luann met with the adult
education coordinator to discuss and choose her classes. She plans to take a mix
of pre-GED classes and job training, to work toward her goal of being a teacher’s
aide. Maybe she can work in Hosea’s school one day. Luann arranged her
schedule at Even Start so she can accompany Hosea to school his first day.
Luann is feeling much better about their "transitions into the future"
Snapshot 3: Evaluation leads to Program Improvement
Evaluating participant outcomes and program services »
The topic of this monthly Even Start staff meeting is evaluation –
specifically, what the staff can do to improve services based on their
program’s evaluation data. The program director, Lynn, and her staff
are concerned about the unexpectedly disappointing results of their adult
learners’ TABE scores (Test of Adult Basic Skills) compared with other
programs in their state. They also compared the number of adult education hours
their program participants receive compared to national Even Start data, and
found that their participants receive fewer instructional hours than the average
hours for adults in other programs. So they decide to track content hours more
closely this year, which will require the cooperation of collaborating agencies.
The subject of collaborators brings up the whole issue of how well the
current relationships are working. The staff at this meeting are from the two
major Even Start partner agencies, which provide parenting and early childhood
services. Most of the adult education services are provided by a collaborating
agency. Lynn mentions that they need to expand their circle of collaborating
agencies because the current agencies do not have the funds or service
capability to handle the range of needs of enrolled families. The staff agree
that more collaborators are needed. However, some of them bring up problems
with current cross-agency coordination that they would like to discuss. The
examples given are: (1) efforts to share information about and stay in contact
with families are not reciprocated, and Even Start staff are not invited to
other agencies’ meetings; (2) referrals from one particular agency are usually
inappropriate, which suggests they do not understand the purpose of Even Start;
(3) parents have complained that the adult education instructors do not use
materials that relate to their goals or requests. Everyone agrees that these are
problems that need to be addressed before additional collaborators are sought.
Lynn suggests that they ask their independent evaluator, Jack, to include
this issue in his upcoming annual evaluation plan.
In the past, Jack has helped Lynn and the staff to assess the long-term
family outcomes of their participants and to clarify program direction. For
this year’s evaluation, Jack plans to: (1) assess the extent to which adults
in the Even Start program have met goals in their Family Action Plans; and (2)
examine parenting outcomes, such as changes in educational expectations of
children, parent-initiated contacts with schools, and understanding of children’s
curricula and instructional content. After discussing the history of and staff’s
concerns with the current collaborators, Jack summarizes what he hears as the
crux of the matter: the purpose of collaboration is to extend support
services to families to meet the goal of comprehensive services for families,
and the weaknesses in the current system are preventing this from happening.
Based on the problems the staff has described, Jack notes that some of their
basic criteria for successful collaborations are: regular communication,
knowledge of each other’s programs, and common philosophies and goals. Lynn
asks him to develop a plan to assess their collaboration efforts.
Over a five-month period, Jack works with the staff of all the key agencies
and gets their feedback on various aspects of collaboration. The guiding
questions for the collaboration evaluation are: (1) How well do current
collaborators understand the goals and operations of Even Start? (2) What are
collaborators’ degrees of satisfaction with their relationship with Even
Start? (3) How compatible are collaborators’ goals with Even Start goals? And
have the goals of different programs grown closer as a result of the
collaborative relationship? (4) What is needed to strengthen and improve
collaborative relationships? Jack uses various approaches and instruments to collect
evaluation data: focus groups, surveys, and follow-up interviews. The plan
also addressed how the findings and recommendations would be presented, and it
was agreed that Jack would make two presentations – one to the Even Start
staff, and one to the collaborators’ staffs. Then the administrators from each
agency will decide how they want to proceed.
Soon after receiving the evaluation report, Lynn meets with her colleagues
from the other agencies. Openly discussing the report and their individual
perspectives on program services and participants reveals that, philosophically,
they have similar hopes for family outcomes. But it is also
obvious that the approaches reflected in their program designs and curricula are
quite different, and most of the collaborators only concentrate on the family
member that is their direct recipient or client. The administrators draw some
immediate conclusions that echo the Even Start staff’s original concerns: (1)
the lack of knowledge and coordination among agencies is causing services to
conflict with each other and/or gaps in services, (2) families are not always
looked at holistically, so some staff are not familiar with whole families and
their goals and activities, and (3) both of these factors result in a lack of
appropriate and sufficient services being provided to families. The discussion
turns to how these problems can be improved. Numerous ideas and suggestions –
and, of course, potential obstacles or difficulties – are generated. Lynn
suggests they categorize the suggestions and issues into those that can be
addressed now and those that require some long-range planning. She would like to
end the meeting with some concrete action steps related to the short-term
solutions. Everyone agrees that the following immediate steps will be taken
to improve relationships and services: (1) They will schedule a joint staff
training day devoted to familiarizing everyone with each other’s mission,
program design and services, and client population. (2) The director and lead
instructors from the adult education provider will meet with Lynn and her key
staff to discuss how to improve the quantity and scheduling of adult education
hours, and how they can integrate their instruction better based on family and
adult learners’ goals. (3) The core collaborators will figure out a way to
exchange relevant participant information, and to share and create cross-agency
They have a lot of planning and work ahead of them to create a strong
collaborative system, but Lynn feels optimistic as she leaves the meeting
because she heard and saw her colleagues make the connection between the quality
of their services and the successful experiences of families – and that it
is mutually beneficial for everyone to work together on this. On that score, the
evaluation process has already proved its worth.
Family Literacy Core Values 16
- Partnerships and Collaborations 18
- Program Leadership and Management 22
- Integration of Instruction Within Program Components 26
- Early Childhood Education for Preschool Children 39
- Adult Basic Education and Literacy 43
- Parent and Child Interactive Literacy Activities 52
- Home-Based Instruction 54
Family Literacy Core Values: The Big Picture
This section begins with a brief discussion of seven essential values or
themes that distinguish high quality family literacy programs. These values
describe the "big picture" in Even Start. They are underlying
principles for the design of high quality family literacy programs. The
remainder of this section describes how these themes can be operationalized as
quality indicators within and across program components.
Focus on Literacy
The improvement of literacy skills of family members is the primary focus of
Even Start programs. Even Start programs target families who are most in need of
services based upon low income, low level of literacy and other need-related
factors, and who otherwise might not be reached or helped by other education
programs. Literacy acquisition encompasses the four domains of language
(reading, writing, speaking and listening) and numeracy. Literacy instruction
should be woven into the activities of all program components, and presented and
practiced in contexts that are meaningful to families’ lives and needs.
As the primary stakeholders in Even Start programs, families are full
partners in identifying their needs and priorities, shaping their goals,
and making decisions about plans to achieve those goals. Program design is based
on the needs, interests and goals of families. Even Start values the home
and family unit as the most influential learning environment. Successful
programs build on families’ strengths and celebrate their successes. Even
Start is a safe and supportive place for families to grow and develop.
Intensity and Duration of Services
Even Start programs have high expectations for family involvement and
commitment, and require that families participate fully in all program
components. Programs encourage families to attend regularly and to remain in the
program long enough to meet their long-term goals of academic improvement and
self-sufficiency. The program is designed to provide services of the requisite
intensity and duration to ensure that families can achieve such goals.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Successful Even Start programs fit services to families, not families to the
program. Program services are tailored to meet the needs of individual families,
both in content and the scheduling of services. Programs must remain flexible
enough to recognize and accommodate the diverse interests and changing needs of
families over time, including changes in support service needs (such as,
transportation, child care and work demands). Programs also must respond to
changing needs and populations in their communities.
Partnership of Families and Service Providers
Respect for the diverse languages, cultures, and life experiences of families
is apparent in all aspects of program practice. Staff members view themselves as
allies with other service providers in advocating for families within the larger
community. Even Start staff work with families and other service providers to
create and use social and resource support networks in the community.
Continuity of Messages and Services
Quality programs are characterized by research-based approaches, consistent
values and curricula that are compatible across Even Start components and
collaborating programs. The goal of Even Start programs is to provide seamless
services for families through the many transitions that families will experience
over time. To ensure continuity of services, Even Start administrators lead
efforts to institutionalize family-centered approaches within the larger
community of service providers.
New Roles and Relationships for Staff
Even Start programs require staff to operate in new ways and, thus, to
provide cross-disciplinary and cross-agency training opportunities to support
staff roles and responsibilities. The level of staff qualifications, experience
and ongoing professional development are integral to the quality of programs.
Staff from Even Start and collaborating agencies work together in the interests
of their client families. This focus requires different types of
relationships among service providers. Even Start places a high priority on
developing truly collaborative relationships with key agencies to ensure
comprehensive services for families.
Partnerships and Collaborations
Challenge: To develop a strong partnership to operate the Even Start
program and to form a network of service providers that, individually and
collectively, take responsibility for providing and strengthening family
Even Start Note: It is important to distinguish between the many formal
and informal agency relationships needed to implement a program, and the
partnership agreement that constitutes the "eligible entity"
that applies for an Even Start grant. Even Start programs apply for funding in
partnerships of at least two organizational entities: one or more local
educational agencies (LEAs) and one or more community-based organizations (CBOs),
public agencies (non-LEA), institutions of higher education, or public or
private nonprofit organizations of demonstrated quality. [Sections 1202(e)(1)
and 1203(b)(1), ESEA.] The partners assume responsibility for the program’s
compliance with legal requirements and proper use of federal funds, although
they might not have equal management responsibilities. One partner, or the
partnership as a whole, serves as the fiscal agent.
In this section, the following terms are used:
- The "partnership" and "partners" refer
to the entities that are the legal Even Start grant recipients.
- "Collaborators" refers to agencies with whom the
partnership has formal relationships for providing services.
- "Program" and "program staff" refer to
local Even Start programs and their staffs (this is true throughout the
See section on Program Leadership and Management for other indicators related
to Partnerships and Collaborations.
- The partners design the program together and periodically review
the effectiveness of strategies in meeting desired outcomes.
- The LEA takes an active role in the partnership,
meaning that the district’s central office staff and school principals are
knowledgeable about and supportive of Even Start’s goals and services. The
LEA values the role of Even Start in developing early reading skills; Even
Start staff are included in district professional development and as part of
the early reading team.
- The partnership develops relationships with a wide variety of
agencies. These relationships range in purpose from simple information
exchange and coordination, to joint referrals for services, to providing
core services on an ongoing basis. Throughout the life of the program, the
partnership expands the circle of relationships with other agencies to meet
the growing and changing needs of the program and families.
- Collaborations are formed with key agencies that provide
high-quality services which are directly related to Even Start’s core
program components. To fully sustain the literacy focus of the program, Even
Start collaborates with multiple providers of early childhood and adult
- The program has written agreements with collaborators
concerning the nature of the relationship and services to be rendered.
Agreements might include: description of services, staff roles and
designated contacts, fiscal arrangements and sources of funding, length of
agreement and options for renewal, and communication mechanisms and
expectations. The strongest relationships include clear benefits for both
collaborators and the Even Start program as a result of working together.
- Cooperative relationships are formed with agencies for referral,
coordination and external support services in fields such as health, housing,
social services, counseling, substance abuse, job training and placement, and
transportation. This includes programs funded by federal and state
legislation, such as Title I, Head Start, WIC (Women, Infants and Children),
TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), WIA (Workforce Investment Act,
which includes programs formerly funded by the Job Training Partnership Act),
REA (Reading Excellence Act), and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities
- The program builds on and does not duplicate high quality community
services that are meeting family needs. It does not build on low
quality or inappropriate services. It expands upon, improves and fills gaps
in services available from collaborators based on the needs of the families
- An administrative team of representatives from partner and
collaborating agencies meets regularly to ensure good communication and
coordination of services.
- The partners and collaborating agencies see collaboration as primarily beneficial
to families; there are secondary benefits to the agencies themselves.
They agree on mutual goals for families, including literacy goals.
- The partners create a governance or advisory board that
serves as a bridge and unifying force between the partners and
collaborators, and the program and the community. This is a group of
representatives from the partner agencies, collaborators and members of the
community (for example, local government, religious community). The board is
an informed, committed and objective group that provides advice and support
for the Even Start program and its long-range plan for sustainability past
the grant cycle.
- The program recognizes that staff time is required to attend to building
and maintaining collaborative relationships. Communication among
agency staffs is frequent and staff visit each others’ program
- Referrals for the program come from collaborators and other agencies.
Even Start families are also referred to collaborators for services. Even
Start staff stay in touch with other agencies about families they have
referred to ensure that they are participating and receiving adequate
- The program and collaborators share information about families to
improve and tailor services they receive. Confidentiality issues have been
addressed; programs know what information can and cannot be shared.
- The program and collaborators work together to minimize barriers to
participation in services. For example, the program and collaborators
standardize some of their procedures, including developing common
terminology and definitions of eligible clients.
- The program offers training as an incentive for collaborators. All
collaborators receive training in family literacy philosophy and approaches,
and collaborating staff train together when possible to build "buy
in" to Even Start approaches.
- Ownership in the relationship with collaborators is built at all
levels. Staff are well informed about the roles and missions of the
collaborators. Staff also know each others’ constraints. Staff express an
attitude of respect for collaborators and their contributions, and are
willing to work together to solve problems that arise.
- Some Even Start staff have "boundary-crossing" roles with
collaborating agencies; for example, adult education instructors work with
early childhood staff to plan home-based parent-child literacy activities.
- Collaborators have a role in identifying outcomes for local evaluation and
an interest in evaluation results. Collaborating agencies cooperate
with data collection, as needed. Even Start local evaluation addresses
successes of and improvements in collaborations.
- Families have a role in identifying possible collaborators. Families
are encouraged to select resources that are most appropriate for them.
- The partners assume joint responsibility for developing and implementing a
continuous improvement plan for program design and services.
- The partners assume joint responsibility for developing a long-range continuation
plan for the program by the second year of the grant cycle to ensure
continued funding after the grant ends.
Signs of Problems with Partnerships and Collaborations:
- The program fears loss of identity or threats of competition for resources
- There are obvious omissions of relationships with programs serving similar
- Even Start duplicates existing services in the community.
- Key staff of partners (for example, school principals) are not aware that
they are connected to Even Start or have little understanding of the
- Collaborations are limited to referral and access only (for example,
simple sharing of information).
- There are no changes in service delivery to families that are attributable
to the efforts of collaboration.
- Collaborators and Even Start staff do not understand each other’s
program goals and requirements.
- Collaborators often refer inappropriate families to Even Start.
- Partners and collaborators cite lack of common procedures, definitions and
regulations, and bureaucratic problems as primary barriers to working
- There is no evidence of resource sharing with collaborators.
- Partners are not clear about what each collaborating program offers.
Common goals have not been discussed. Collaborators and partners have
different goals for families.
- No cross-agency staff training has occurred.
- Collaborators have not altered the literacy level and content of their
materials for Even Start families.
- The majority of collaborators sever their relationship with the
program. Collaborators complain there are few benefits for their agencies
and clients or improvements in their services.
- There is no plan for continuation of the program beyond receipt of federal
Program Leadership and Management
Challenge: To provide leadership and direction for the Even Start
program, and to employ management strategies that ensure that the program
operates smoothly and can achieve its goals. The leadership maintains a vision
of improving literacy for children and adults, and ensures that this vision is
reflected in daily program practice.
Even Start Note: The Even Start partnership helps to define the
management structure of the program. A variety of administrative arrangements is
possible, including variations in the degree to which the program is directed by
an individual or by an administrative team, and the degree to which management
functions are distributed among staff members.
In this section, the following terms are used:
- The "partnership" and "partners" refer
to the entities that are the legal Even Start grant recipients.
- "Collaborators" refers to agencies with whom the
partnership has formal relationships for providing services.
- "Leadership" refers to the partners and any
administrators vested with the authority to shape, govern and direct the
program. This may include the influence of a governing or advisory board.
- "Program administrators" are Even Start staff who
are responsible for managing the program on a daily basis (the lead
administrator is often called the "coordinator"). "Program"
and "program staff" refer to local Even Start programs and
See sections on Partnerships and Collaborations and Staff Development for
other indicators related to Program Leadership and Management.
- The leadership has an articulated vision of family literacy for the
program and the role of the community in supporting this vision.
- Program administrators’ management styles foster shared decision-making
and team-building that involve partners, collaborators, staff, and parents.
Staff and program participants feel their ideas are listened to and valued.
- Program administrators implement a management and accountability system
that allows them to measure program effectiveness and outcomes.
- Program administrators have, at a minimum, Bachelor’s degrees and
professional experience in one or more of the Even Start component
areas of family literacy (for example, early childhood education, adult
education). Administrators have or obtain training in comprehensive family
literacy services and program management.
- Program administrators actively recruit staff with strong credentials
and experience in family literacy and related fields. High priority is placed
on candidates who have similar cultural and language backgrounds to the
majority of program participants. Instructional staff who are paid by Even
Start as of the year 2000 have or are working toward obtaining certification
or a college degree in fields related to early childhood, elementary or
secondary, or adult education by 2004. Instructional staff hired after
December 22, 2000 must have such a degree and/or certification.
- Paraprofessionals who provide support for academic instruction are
supervised by professional staff and have, at a minimum, a high school
diploma or its equivalent. Staff with Master’s degrees in early childhood
education are available to instructional staff for consultation.
- The program has a written staffing plan that includes job
descriptions and expectations for each position, including required
credentials or licenses, and desired personal qualities. The plan includes a
long-range view of staffing patterns to enhance consistency, continuity and
quality of services.
- There is a staff supervision and support plan that is understood by
all staff members. The plan includes policies for addressing staff concerns,
and a process for periodic reviews of job performance, salary and professional
development plans. Program administrators also support staff in setting
boundaries in relationships with families.
- The program complies with state and local licensure requirements for
staffing and physical program settings.
- The program has an orientation for all new staff that fully describes
family literacy and the goals, philosophy and operations of the program. The
orientation includes a summary of participating families’ strengths and
- Program administrators are attentive to the working conditions of
staff, recognizing the value of retaining qualified staff. Recognition of
staff’s expertise and appreciation for staff can be shown through: (1)
salary scales and equity (based on credentials and experience, comparable to
other professionals, and competitive with local salaries for similar work),
(2) benefits, (3) professional development opportunities, and (4)
- The leadership recognizes that maintaining high quality staff and services
requires sufficient monetary resources. Program administrators
establish and maintain an appropriate size caseload based on available
resources. To fully and intensively serve families’ needs, many Even Start
programs limit the number of participants to approximately 20 or fewer
families in small programs and 30 to 50 families in mid-size or large programs
at any given time (in other words, taking into account newly-enrolled and
- Program administrators manage budget resources on behalf of
the partnership, including preparing an annual realistic budget, approving
expenditures (and ensuring records are kept for both cash and matching
resources expenditures), monitoring the budget status monthly, and filing
necessary reports for continued federal funding.
- Partners and administrators explore ways to combine, expand and
allocate resources to improve the quality of the collaboration; for
example, sharing or co-funding staff positions, sharing space, materials and
equipment, applying for project grants as agency teams.
- Program administrators establish and maintain a system of internal
communication to ensure that staff, including staff of collaborating
agencies, and families are aware of program events, pertinent family literacy
news, and support services. Staff and parents feel they know what is going on
in the program, and what opportunities are available to them. A variety of
communication strategies is used, including regular meetings of staff and
collaborators, and postings of materials in accessible locations.
- Program administrators establish and maintain a system of external
communication designed to give the program visibility in the community
and to build support for the program. Examples of external communication
strategies include distributing a newsletter, participating in community
events, and public service announcements.
- Program administrators take responsibility for connecting the program
to the wider field of family literacy. For example, they participate in state
and national meetings and conferences related to family literacy and the
fields represented by Even Start, and take advantage of relevant information
and publications available from national organizations.
- The leadership seeks feedback from families and staff both formally
and informally. Program administrators provide opportunities for the
leadership to have direct contact with families and staff, observe program
activities, review progress data, and participate in the annual program
- The partnership ensures that the program has a data collection plan that
complies with state and federal reporting requirements, and takes
responsibility for the completeness and accuracy of information in reports.
- Partners and administrators work with an independent local evaluator
to design and conduct an annual program evaluation. The evaluation
tools and process are designed to allow for ongoing assessment of progress and
comparisons of progress over time. Staff and collaborators participate in
shaping the questions addressed in the evaluation, which should include a
means of evaluating the quality of collaborators’ services. The annual
evaluation, at a minimum, summarizes participant progress on desired outcomes
and addresses implementation and integration of program components, with
recommendations for improvement.
- Program administrators periodically engage staff and collaborators in
reflection on the effectiveness of the program model based upon data
from the project’s local evaluation, and development of new
strategies to achieve the desired outcomes for participants. There is special
attention to the quality and intensity of literacy instruction.
- The leadership has developed a realistic plan to sustain services
after the grant ends. The plan is developed with the governing or advisory
board and collaborators, and includes expanding connections and support in the
Signs of Problems with Program Leadership and Management:
- One of the partners has assumed all decision-making powers, including
those affecting program design, funding, and staff selection.
- The program adopts the existing power structure of the lead partner
agency, even if it does not serve the purposes of Even Start.
- "Silent" partners are involved in securing the program grant,
but not in the governance.
- Program administrators and/or staff lack experience with the target
- There is a high turnover of staff and participants, and staff experience
- Partners and collaborators are consistently late, default on, or provide
inaccurate reporting and financial data.
- Program administrators do not have control over the budget.
- Program expenditures are far behind schedule for estimated budget and work
plan, or the fiscal agent does not disburse funds in a timely fashion.
- The progress of participants cannot be assessed because collaborators do
not provide the necessary data.
- Staff have not observed collaborators’ programs so they have no
first-hand knowledge of the quality of those services.
- Program administrators take no responsibility for the quality of
- There is a lack of teamwork among staff or training in team building.
Staff see their roles as separate from each other – for example, an adult
basic education teacher does not think of him or herself as a family
- Staff do not believe that families can reach their goals and the program
can be successful in achieving planned outcomes.
- Staffing pattern has not changed in response to demographic changes in
families served, i.e., no staff members have language backgrounds similar to
the majority of participants.
- There is no connection between the program and local schools where Even
Start children attend school.
- The leadership and staff cannot articulate the vision of the program.
- The leadership has not promoted the program to the community-at-large and
made the case for family literacy as a means of creating overall societal
Integration of Instruction within PROGRAM Components
Challenge: To connect instruction within and across components through
meaningful and consistent program messages and planning, and to have service
providers work with the whole family, thereby providing an intensive experience
intended to change intergenerational patterns associated with low levels
Even Start Note: The Even Start legislation requires programs to provide
integrated family literacy services. [Section 1201, 1204, and 14101(15), ESEA.]
Integration is one of the most difficult concepts associated with family
literacy and holistic service approaches. It may include, but should not be
confused with, "thematic planning" -- choosing a topic to be taught in
all components and simply varying instruction per age group and skill level. The
purpose of integrating components is to ensure that families receive consistent
and reinforced messages about the value of education and learning from all
staff. Integration of instruction within and across components ensures that,
for each family member, learning in a variety of situations and mastery of new
information and skills is thorough and complete.
Even Start services are comprehensive, and the expectation is that all
participants will actively and consistently participate in all program
- Interactive literacy activities between parents and their children.
- Training for parents regarding how to be the primary teacher for their
children and full partners in the education of their children.
- Adult education and training that leads to personal growth and economic
- Age-appropriate education for children to prepare them for success in
school and in life.
Even Start program models vary widely. Most combine center-based and
home-based services, and research shows that predominantly home-based programs
are more effective when they have some center-based services. Some programs
combine the services of different providers and operate in various locations. In
other cases, a single provider offers all component services in a single
location. Single or adjacent location of services facilitates integration.
However, Even Start programs must build on existing high-quality educational
services, combining and enhancing them with other community services to meet
families’ needs. If component services are delivered by multiple providers at
various sites, integration is more difficult and will require greater planning
- All program components employ a holistic approach to serving families;
that is, activities and instructional plans are based on needs, goals and
interests of families rather than relying on packaged materials without
tailoring them to meet different, individualized needs.
- The program has identified common messages that are emphasized across
instructional components, for example: the value of education for
success in life, high expectations for families, the central role of the
parent in a child’s development, the importance of applying and transferring
skills, the identification of individual strengths, and the value of
experiential learning. Staff can articulate these common messages to each
other, to families, and to the community.
- Staff from all program components know all members of each family, and see
integration as an effective instructional strategy that is essential to
achieving the desired intensity of services for families.
- The program makes specific connections across program components,
- Family events and activities are inclusive of all family members (for
example, older children, grandparents).
- Home-based instruction provides an opportunity to practice what is
discussed during parenting education; in other words, it is a time for
active learning and application of new information. Parenting education
addresses issues that arise during home-based instruction and in families’
lives outside the program.
- Some adult literacy skills are taught in the context of early childhood
development, parenting education, and home visit activities.
- Home instructors meet regularly with center-based early childhood and
adult education staff to plan activities for families.
- Program leadership and collaborators foster and support integration of
components by providing adequate, paid planning time and joint staff
development. Cross-component staff teams meet regularly to
discuss and design integrated instructional plans.
- The program’s management structure is designed to facilitate integration
of components. An interdisciplinary approach is used to plan the
curriculum for each component, including making connections among themes,
content and instructional and learner strategies.
- The program continues to work on integration of services with local
schools when children are enrolled in elementary school.
Signs of Problems with Integration:
- Administrative activities and program schedule do not include regular
planning time for staff teams.
- Staff consider the Even Start team to include only those staff paid by
Even Start, and do not include other service providers (for example, adult
education staff) in curriculum planning and professional development.
- Staff do not view integration with other components as their job.
Individual staff prefer to follow their own curricular ideas and plans.
- Program staff define integration as simply having all program components
work on the same theme on the same day.
- One or more program components rely solely on commercial, packaged
materials without adapting them.
- Collaborators who provide direct services are not trained in family
- There have been no cross-training opportunities among different component
staff and agencies.
- Inter-visitations of classrooms by program staff are rare.
- Parents cannot describe the connections across information they learn in
different program components.
- Parents get different or mixed messages about the value of education and
the importance of their roles in shaping the learning environment at home
from different service providers.
Challenge: To reach and recruit those families most in need, specifically
low-income, disadvantaged families with low literacy skills, including those
with limited English proficiency.
Even Start Note: The Even Start program law requires programs to
identify, recruit and serve families with the greatest need for Even Start
services, as indicated by low income, level of literacy and English language
proficiency of the eligible parents. In competitions, priority is given to
projects planning to operate in areas with the highest concentrations of poverty
or in empowerment zones or enterprise communities. Other need-related indicators
also may be considered, such as disabling conditions, homelessness, or chronic
unemployment. [Section 1205(1) and (14), ESEA.] To be eligible, families must
have at least one eligible parent and one eligible child. Teen parents are
eligible to participate if: they are within the state’s compulsory attendance
age range; they are among those most in need and; the LEA provides or ensures
the required basic education component. Teen parents over the compulsory school
age range are eligible if they are attending school or qualify for services
under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act. [Section 1206(a)(1), ESEA.]
Programs are required to serve at least a three-year age range of children,
which may begin at birth and extend through age seven, and are encouraged to
serve the full eligible age range. Children over age seven may participate in
the program if the local project collaborates with a program under Title I, Part
A and Title I, Part A funds contribute to the cost of providing Even Start
services to those children, as long as the program continues to focus on
families with young children. [Section 1206(b)(3), ESEA.]
See section on Retention for other indicators related to Recruitment.
- Recruitment targets families who are most in need of literacy services
as determined by low income and low level of literacy, and other
need-based indicators. These are also families who do not have access to and
cannot afford services. For English language learners, eligibility should
also be determined by their literacy needs based on limited English
- The key message to target populations is that Even Start is a
family-centered, long-term, intensive program that focuses on literacy. Recruitment
messages also highlight what the program can do for the whole family,
and emphasize that program curricula and activities are based on family
members’ goals and needs.
- The program uses multiple methods and sources for recruitment,
including written materials, public service announcements, and personal
contacts made through a variety of strategies (for example, speaking at
community meetings, visiting schools, operating booths or tables at public
- Written materials are composed in the languages and literacy levels
of the populations that the program serves and is targeting. Visual design
includes graphics, large print and color to convey key messages. Materials
are distributed and posted in high visibility and high traffic
locations frequented by the target populations (for example, laundromats,
and grocery, convenience and department stores).
- Current and past program participants have an important and planned
role in recruiting parents, especially for making personal contacts.
- Recruitment strategies and messages reflect the cultural diversity
of the community and the target families. Recruitment methods take cultural
values and practices into account (for example, how and who in the family is
contacted, roles of different family members).
- Recruitment is proactive, especially in areas of high poverty. In
other words, likely participants are sought out and encouraged to enroll.
Repeated and varied types of contact are made to encourage participation, if
necessary. Programs recognize the preparation time it may take to recruit
some families, and the importance of using well-known community contacts and
leaders to talk with families.
- The program provides clear messages about expectations for participation
so parents have ample knowledge to help them make the commitment to enroll.
Anticipated barriers to the family’s full participation in the program are
addressed during the recruitment process (for example, transportation, child
care). Solutions to participation barriers are sought before the family
- The program has written policies for its selection criteria and process,
including how criteria are weighted and ranked, which are available to all
staff, parents, and collaborators. In addition to level of adult literacy,
family income, and employment status, criteria may include information
concerning family history, stresses and health, and other pressing family
needs, which may come from referring agencies.
- The pre-enrollment process is made as easy and
comfortable as possible for families (for example, information is gathered
in the home).
- The program conducts an orientation for pre-enrolled families to:
describe all program components and services, emphasize expectation of full
participation by family members, and elicit feedback and answer participants’
questions. The program has a policy concerning attendance/absences and
continuing eligibility, which is also covered during orientation.
- Programs that have waiting lists of families stay in contact with
them and have an auxiliary plan to provide partial services to family
members (for example, home-based instruction). If the waiting period is
lengthy, families are enrolled in programs with partner or collaborating
agencies so that they receive some services while waiting.
- Recruitment is everyone’s job. All program staff and
collaborators know the eligibility criteria and which populations are targeted
for the program, and receive some guidance or training in how to recruit
effectively. The program has reciprocal relationships with
collaborators and other agencies for recruitment and referral.
- Recruitment is ongoing. The program recognizes that different
levels of intensity for recruitment are required at different stages in
program development. The program monitors changes in community demographics,
unemployment rate and other factors, and reviews recruitment strategies
Signs of Problems with Recruitment:
- The program spends no resources on and does not have a recruitment plan.
- Staff describe most parents as people who "come to us," and see
no need to recruit.
- Selection criteria have been added to the federal and state requirements
that limit the eligibility of high-needs families.
- The program avoids active recruitment in high-poverty areas.
- Recruitment messages suggest that low literacy and inadequate parenting
skills are characteristics of a particular population, i.e., one ethnic or
- The recruitment process is formal and based on written applications; it
lacks a variety of strategies and use of personal contact.
- Recruitment is a one-time, annual event, rather than an ongoing process.
- The program does not use parents and collaborators in an active way for
- A profile of families in the program shows that those most in need have
not been recruited: (1) adults’ initial literacy skills and test scores
are high on the average for the area (for example, high school level and
above); (2) education and income statistics are high on the average for the
- In any 12-month period, the turnover of families in the program is over
- Families who drop out of the program say they were not aware of
expectations, and the requirement to participate in all program components
- Most English as a Second Language participants have the equivalent of a
high school diploma or higher education levels.
RETENTION OF FAMILIES
Challenge: To keep families participating in the program long enough for
them to achieve significant learning goals, make improvements in parenting
skills, and increase their economic self-sufficiency.
Even Start Note: The Even Start program is designed to facilitate the
development of significant literacy skills in families who are most in need of
literacy services and support. If goals related to literacy improvement are not
part of a family’s overall goals, it will be difficult to retain them in the
program and they may be better served in another type of program. Many Even
Start participants need to remain in the program for one to two years to make
substantial progress. Programs must encourage participating families to attend
regularly and to remain in the program a sufficient time to meet their goals.
[Section 1205(11), ESEA.]
Many of the indicators in other sections also relate to Retention.
- Enrolled families begin participation with a period of preparation.
This is, typically, a one to three month intake program with planned
activities that covers the following: program services, attendance and
continuing eligibility policies, family needs assessment, literacy skills
assessment, and goal setting. Through individual and group discussions,
staff and families identify: positive reasons for participation, barriers to
participation and solutions to barriers, expectations of each other, and
outcomes of participation. Families may observe the program in action to
gain familiarity and lessen any apprehension they may feel. It is essential
that families understand the level of commitment necessary to gain
benefits from the program. Programs may ask parents to sign "commitment
contracts" and to renew those contracts annually. The period of
preparation may also result in a family being referred to more appropriate
programs or services.
- The program has written policies concerning enrollment,
attendance and continuing eligibility that are designed to enhance
participation, and include strategies to deal with family crises and
barriers that affect participation. The program also recognizes that
"enrollment" may be defined differently in other programs
providing collaborating services (for example, Head Start, adult education).
- All families participate in all core components (adult, early
childhood and parenting education, and parent-child interactive literacy
activities) and in home-based literacy instruction. The program directly
addresses problems with participants who are frequently absent and/or
reluctant to participate in certain activities.
- The program has written exit policies that cover a variety of
circumstances, for example: attainment of goals or graduation from the
program, leave of absence (for example, for a family crisis or health
condition), chronic absenteeism, and unacceptable or disruptive personal
- The program provides and families participate in continuous services,
including some instructional services during the summer months, although the
format of services may change (for example, home-based instruction may
increase if center-based services are not operating for a period of time).
- Most families stay in the program long enough to meet significant goals
they have set. Staff work with families to set attainable, meaningful goals
for children and adults. Appropriate benchmarks of goal attainment and
improvement in literacy, parenting and self-sufficiency are
identified. Parents participate in identifying incentives and
recognition for their persistence and goal attainment, and successes are
- The program demonstrates respect for families by building on their
strengths and interests, recognizing family and cultural traditions and
values, and addressing families’ critical needs. Program staff or
adjunct staff reflect the ethnic diversity and language backgrounds
of the participating families.
- Improving the self-esteem of participants is recognized as
essential to motivation and persistence and is supported in the program,
especially through giving parents leadership roles and responsibility for
planning some program and peer activities.
- Staff address some of parents’ needs and interests by making
referrals to appropriate agencies and providing outside resources.
- The program structure, schedule and curricula encourage
individualization of services for families. For example, staff meet
regularly to discuss each family’s progress and needs and to adjust
services, as necessary. The program matches the level of service intensity
to the degree of family need.
- The delivery of program services is flexible and convenient
for families. Delivery strategies are adapted to meet changing family needs
on an on-going basis. For example, more home-based services might be
necessary for families with new babies, and parent and child literacy
activities may be conducted at home or in neighborhood clusters, as well as
in center-based settings. The program schedules activities during evenings
and weekends to accommodate working parents, and there is some redundancy or
repetition built into the schedule of offerings to enhance access.
- The program collaborates with local social service agencies to ensure that
Even Start participation is regarded as an eligible work and/or education
activity under welfare reform, to the extent possible within state
- The program sponsors activities for both parents and the whole family that
encourage social interaction and the formation of relationships among
participants, recognizing the importance of peer support.
- The program frequently showcases success of current and past program
participants and invites back successful graduates to motivate or
- The program demonstrates high expectations for the self-sufficiency
of families by giving parents responsibilities within the program or agency,
arranging job or volunteer opportunities at local businesses, schools and
community agencies, and using program graduates and other appropriate adults
as mentors for participants.
- The program maintains contact with families during
occasional or planned absences. If a participant is unexpectedly absent,
staff follow up to find out what happened. If a family drops out temporarily
for personal reasons, the program periodically contacts the family.
Home-based literacy instruction is increased and used to maintain continuity
during times when parents are not able to attend center-based programming.
- Services continue to be available to other eligible family members
when a child or parent completes the program, or when a family member is
temporarily absent from the program. A child or parent who completes the
program continues to participate in appropriate activities, such as parenting
education, until all family members are no longer eligible. If a whole family
is on a temporary leave of absence from the program, there is a plan for
transition back into the program when the family is ready to return.
- The program conducts ongoing assessment of its services (for
example, using local evaluation results) to determine patterns of retention
that will inform changes in service delivery to ensure that participant
needs are being addressed.
Signs of Problems with Retention:
- Family participation is uneven across the components (for example, some
parents may attend parent support groups regularly but not participate in
- There are a number of families on active lists who receive no services.
- Staff are not clear about the definition of enrollment or the enrollment
status of a number of families.
- The annual drop-out rate for newly-enrolled families is 50% or higher.
- Program loses participants over the summer months.
- There is little or no effort to contact families who have repeated
absences to find out what is happening.
- There are no policies or guidance on how to deal with families who do not
participate in all components or who attend the program sporadically.
- Parents are not achieving specific goals because goals are not clear,
goals are too ambitious or unrealistic, or program activities do not connect
- Parents have not developed close relationships with peers in the program.
Among both staff and families, a sense of community has not developed.
- The program is not meaningful to participants’ lives; they cannot
describe why they are participating.
- Program components have limited availability in terms of scheduled
- Support services (for example, transportation, child care, counseling) are
not available, limited or tenuous.
- Staff are not fully aware of families’ needs and interests.
- Program administrators and staff do not regularly re-examine or alter, as
necessary, the service delivery model in response to changes in welfare
reform legislation, local population and families’ needs, or data obtained
from the local evaluation.
Challenge: To improve the skills of Even Start staff and staff from
collaborating agencies to work effectively with participating families, and to
plan and execute research-based program activities that support the achievement
of family goals.
Even Start Note: Staff development is required by the Even Start
legislation, and is an important part of good program management and
improvement, and the delivery of high-quality services. The legislation requires
that staff whose salaries are paid partially or totally with Federal Even Start
funds have certain qualifications, including that the majority of instructional
staff have obtained an associate’s, bachelor’s or graduate degree in
appropriate fields and meet any applicable state qualifications by December 21,
2004. New instructional staff must meet these qualifications when hired.
[Section 1205(5), ESEA.] Through specialized training and the attainment of
degrees and certifications, Even Start staff should be able to ascend a career
ladder that is supported and recognized by the program.
See section on Program Leadership and Management for other indicators related
to Staff Development.
- Staff share certain characteristics: they are flexible team
players who see themselves as lifelong learners and advocates for the cause of
family literacy. They are capable and desirous of working with the
most-in-need families served by Even Start.
- Staff development is explicitly connected to the goals of Even
Start. The program provides training to all staff in the Even Start
family literacy model and family literacy philosophies.
- Staff development is systematic and ongoing. There is a
written plan that includes a budget and benchmarks for staff participation
and enhanced skills (for example, number of credit hours or workshops
offered, minimum number of hours of continuing education required,
attendance, percentage who receive certifications or degrees). The plan also
includes professional development goals for individual staff members and the
program as a whole.
- Staff development includes approaches grounded in research,
including scientifically-based reading research, and the application of
practices in real situations. Training activities build on the knowledge
and skills of participating staff.
- Staff identify training needs and are involved in planning
training. Training needs are also suggested by information gathered from
collaborating agencies, parents, evaluation results, community needs
assessments and legislative changes.
- The program itself is a learning environment. There is a continuous
sharing of knowledge and skills among staff, and there are opportunities to
reflect on the effectiveness of the Even Start program based on local
evaluation results and in the greater context of community needs.
Administrators and staff encourage a variety of learning approaches,
including self-directed and inquiry-based learning, mentoring, action
research, and peer modeling and coaching.
- Training for early childhood staff includes principles of child
development and curricular guidance in all domains, with special emphasis on
language development and early reading. Training for adult education
staff includes adult learning principles and teaching methods that address
basic literacy skills, learning disabilities and situated learning (in other
words, learning in context). Training for parenting education staff
includes principles of child development, interactive literacy development,
cultural diversity, and working with schools and community resources.
- Most staff development topics concern improving instruction or enhancing
relationships with families. To enhance relationships with families,
some staff activities address cultural issues and communication skills,
especially related to different beliefs, perceptions and attitudes among
staff and participants, and include discussions or workshops with parents.
Staff development includes attention to a strengths-based approach
to family development, focusing on identifying and building from what a
family does well.
- Staff development addresses ways to integrate instruction across
components, and includes cross-training in the disciplines
involved in Even Start programs (for example, adult educators are trained in
early childhood along with early childhood staff and vice versa).
Training also addresses team-building for staff, and cultural awareness and
family dynamics concerning participants.
- Some staff development activities are designed to motivate staff by
recognizing their contributions personally and professionally, and to
promote positive attitudes and teamwork.
- Trainers have appropriate knowledge and experience in the content
areas for which they are providing instruction. Content is current and based
on sound research and practice, including available scientifically-based
- Staff development includes participants from collaborating agencies,
including public school staff, and training takes place at multiple sites.
- The program provides incentives for participating in staff
development, including paid time, transportation as required, and
advancement potential. Scheduling permits all staff, including part-time
staff, to participate in staff development activities.
- Evaluations of staff development activities address benefits and
applications to practice, not simply satisfaction level.
Signs of Problems with Staff Development:
- Existing staff who are required to participate in certification and degree
programs are not doing so.
- New staff do not meet statutory qualification requirements.
- Attendance is chronically low at staff development activities.
- Staff development is not responsive to staff’s needs, and staff do not
see the connection between training activities and immediate or future
- Staff development activities are discrete and unconnected.
- There is no budget for staff development.
- Training is delivered predominantly through text or fact-based, large
- All staff development is conducted by program staff members, and does not
take advantage of outside experts and practitioners, and vice versa.
- Staff development is available for selected staff members only.
- Administrative staff do not participate in training.
- Scheduling does not allow all staff to attend.
- Staff from collaborating agencies do not participate in joint trainings
and learning activities.
- Evaluations of staff development activities are negative, but nothing is
done to change or improve them.
- There is no overall assessment of the effectiveness of staff development
- The staff development plan is not connected to program improvement goals.
Early Childhood Education for preschool children
Challenge: To provide a strong foundation for success in school for
children from the families enrolled in Even Start by enhancing their cognitive
and language development in developmentally appropriate settings.
Even Start Note: Families with children from age birth through seven are
eligible to participate in Even Start if a parent is eligible. [Section 1206,
ESEA.] After the youngest child reaches the age of eight, a family may
participate in Even Start for two more years until all participating parents are
no longer eligible for adult basic education services under the Adult Education
Act. [Section 1206(b), ESEA.] In addition, children over age seven may
participate in the program if the local project collaborates with a program
under Title I, Part A and Title I, Part A funds contribute to the cost of
providing Even Start services to those children, as long as the program
continues to focus on families with young children. [Section 1206(b)(3), ESEA.] All
children in Even Start, including school-age children, should receive literacy
services as long as they are eligible because children’s long-term success
depends on consistent support of their development. For school-age children,
this implies services that go beyond classroom participation.
This section refers specifically to program settings for children ages 3 to
5. Quality considerations for younger and older children will be addressed in
the second volume of the Guide to Quality.
- Early childhood instructors and paraprofessionals are well-qualified.
They are trained in: child development; child observation and assessment;
early literacy and language acquisition (including second language
acquisition); curricula, environments and materials for young children;
parent involvement; cultural diversity and special needs; and working with
other staff. Instructional staff and teaching assistants who are paid by
Even Start have or are working toward obtaining appropriate state certification
for early childhood or a college degree in fields related to early
childhood or elementary education. Paraprofessionals who provide support for
academic instruction are supervised by professional staff and have, at a
minimum, a high school diploma or its equivalent.
- Early childhood centers have received appropriate licensing from
- Children participate in sufficient hours of appropriate early
childhood education to produce learning outcomes, approximately 60 hours per
month for 3 to 5 year olds. This includes educational and child development
activities, such as instructional home visits and guided interaction between
parents and children.
- The physical environment is safe, clean, well-lighted, comfortable,
and age-appropriate in terms of furniture, equipment, materials, and access
to bathrooms and clean-up facilities. Space is arranged so that children can
work individually, in small groups, and as a whole group.
- The adult-child ratio allows for frequent interaction between
children and adults. Adult-child ratios are consistent with state licensing
standards, and allow each child to be known well by at least one adult.
Children have sustained relationships with primary teachers/caregivers. The
average tenure for staff is longer than one year.
- At least some staff speak the home language of most children.
- The early childhood program has the explicit goal of supporting all
domains of development for all children.
- The program’s curriculum is grounded in solid research, and staff
plan children’s activities using the theoretical framework upon which the
curriculum is based. The early childhood program has identified foundational
concepts and specific skills that all children should learn. The curriculum
allows children to work at different levels on different activities, is
designed to achieve long-range goals for children, and relates to local and
state school standards.
- Staff encourage direct, first-hand, interactive experiences
for learning. Staff recognize that children develop knowledge and skills
through active experiences and social interactions. The real world is the
subject of learning activities. Classroom activities are integrated and
interdisciplinary, building on children’s interests and knowledge.
- There are many opportunities for child-initiated learning. Children’s
play is respected by staff as legitimate learning time. Children participate
in planning their days and are aware of basic schedules and routines.
- The center or classroom environment is language-rich. Staff read to
children daily. Books and other reading and writing materials are abundant
and accessible. The staff demonstrate many ways to encourage children to
talk about their experiences and represent their ideas in stories and
pictures. Vocabulary development is part of all learning activities.
- Staff explicitly teach phonological awareness skills and frequently
make connections between speech and print. Staff use rhyming, poetry,
music and word play with sound clusters to build sensitivity to phonemic
patterns. Staff teach skills associated with conventions of print and
literacy (for example, bookhandling and following print on a page).
- Staff encourage development of reasoning and problem-solving by
providing challenging learning experiences, and through skillful questioning
and suggestions for furthering activities. Staff develop children’s
understanding of key vocabulary associated with sequencing, comparisons and
sorting, spatial relationships, and temporal relationships. Children have
opportunities to learn the functions and properties of objects, and classify
and group materials.
- The environment reflects the homes and lives of children in terms
of culture and language. Children’s work is displayed in classrooms.
- Staff use positive behavior management for discipline. Adults
involve children in the development of clear and consistent rules.
- Staff have frequent opportunities and time to plan together
and with staff of other Even Start components. At least weekly, staff have
an opportunity to discuss their observations of children’s development and
to seek guidance for instructional approaches.
- Teachers use a variety of assessment procedures that are embedded
in instruction, including observation, performance assessment, portfolios
and interviews. Teachers regularly observe children and record
observations for use in planning activities and assessing progress. Records
of progress and development are maintained on each child and regularly
shared with parents. Children are helped to understand their progress in
learning. The program has a process for referring children for screening and
- Children are relaxed and happy in the early childhood environment.
- The program matches expected participation to the needs and development of
the child, individualizing for each child. Staff have identified
activities for the development of individual children based on observations.
Staff provide opportunities for all children to succeed.
- Parents provide input on children’s readiness for various
activities and also observations of children’s progress. Parents are
involved in planning programs for children. Staff help parents understand how
home activities can reinforce and extend children’s learning.
Signs of Problems with Early Childhood Education for Preschool Children:
- Children are unhappy, unsure or tense.
- Staff are not aware of children’s previous or other current child care
arrangements or experiences.
- Classrooms are quiet. Children are not encouraged to talk with each other.
- Materials are minimal and/or inappropriate for the age range of children.
- Activities are limited to traditional school readiness or group
activities. All children are doing the same activities.
- Staff do not understand goals of family literacy or have not received
special training in family literacy.
- None of the staff have degrees or specialization in early childhood
- Staff have infrequent contact with parents, for example, less than once or
twice a month. Parents are not encouraged to visit the center or classrooms.
- Parents are not clear about what their children are experiencing and its
- Parents are not clear about their children’s progress.
- Staff rely on standardized assessments for gauging children’s progress.
- Staff do not base instruction on scientifically-based reading research and
rely solely on packaged materials. There is frequent use of worksheets.
- The classroom is dominated by commercial materials, rather than children’s
- There is no environmental print apparent in the classroom. There are no
materials for drawing and writing.
- Staff do not connect activities to developmental outcomes.
- All activities are initiated by the children or all activities are
structured by the teachers.
- There is frequent turnover or change of staff so that relationships with
children are not continuous.
- Physical space is arranged like an elementary classroom (in other words,
desks in rows).
- Accommodations are not made for children with disabilities and special
Adult Basic Education and Literacy
Challenge: To improve the self-sufficiency of families by enabling adults
to: identify their personal and educational needs; meet their goals related to
those needs; increase their English-language literacy levels; enhance skills and
opportunities related to employability; and improve their ability to be
advocates for and teachers of their children.
Even Start Note: Basic education and literacy instruction for parents
that leads to economic self-sufficiency is a core component of all Even Start
programs. [Sections 1205(4) and 14101(15), ESEA.] Teen parents are eligible to
participate in Even Start if they:
- are within the age of compulsory school attendance and the LEA provides or
ensures the availability of the basic education component;
- are attending secondary school; or
- participate in activities under the Adult Education and Family Literacy
Act [Section 1203(1)].
Parents are eligible to participate under the Adult Education and Family
Literacy Act if they:
- lack sufficient mastery of basic literacy skills to enable them to
function effectively in society;
- do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and have not achieved
an equivalent level of education; or
- are unable to speak, read or write the English language.
In order to provide sufficient services to meet participants’ needs and
goals and to avoid duplication, collaborations often include agencies that
provide tutoring, vocational and job training, and postsecondary education. By
necessity, adult basic education services are often delivered in various
settings and employ many different program models and approaches.
See sections on Recruitment and Retention for other indicators related to
Adult Basic Education and Literacy. Quality considerations for secondary adult
education and English as a Second Language services will be addressed in the
Guide to Quality, Volume II.
- The program recognizes that adults play multiple roles --
parent/family member, worker and citizen/community member – and that these
roles affect their participation in the program and the goals they set for
themselves as adult learners. Therefore, the program values a wide variety
of functional skills and academic goals (for example, reading to children,
getting a driver’s license, getting a job, obtaining a high school diploma
or its equivalent).
- Instructional staff who are paid by Even Start have or are working
toward obtaining certification or a college degree in fields related to
adult education or early childhood, elementary or secondary education. If
adult education staff are employed by a collaborating agency, Even Start
program administrators are involved in their selection whenever possible.
- Staff are knowledgeable about the characteristics of adult learners
(for example, they are self-directed, and desire instruction to be relevant
to their lives and have practical applications). Staff are knowledgeable
about learners’ cultures and languages, including the influence this has
on program participation and reactions to new information.
- Adult learners have short and long term goals for their
participation in education and training. The goals represent realistic
expectations and take into consideration previous education and work
experiences. These goals are expressed in a written plan and are measurable
or observable. Goals are revisited periodically and revised when necessary,
and progress toward goal attainment is assessed. Adults’ individual goals
shape the program and are directly and explicitly connected to instruction.
- Adults’ initial literacy skills are assessed using appropriate
instruments. The baseline for measuring improvement in literacy skills
is the level of literacy exhibited or documented upon program entry. Staff
are aware that testing during intake is not appropriate for some adult
learners and may postpone formal assessment until a later date.
- Intake procedures include some type of self-evaluation to elicit
personal attitudes, values and perceptions about learning and expectations
of the program, since these are important indicators of self-esteem,
motivation and persistence.
- Program staff work with learners to remove or reduce situational
and institutional participation barriers; for example, lack of
child care, transportation and support services, and the schedule and
variety of program services offered.
- Self-direction is supported and encouraged. Adult learners are
involved in making decisions about all aspects of the learning process, and
are given sufficient information about education services and options to make
- Academic content is taught within a functional context
appropriate to the lives of adult learners (for example, workplace, parenting,
and/or life skills). Content is integrated with other program components.
The adult education component includes competence in life skills, numeracy,
reading and language, and computer skills. Language literacy includes reading,
writing, speaking, and listening skills. Writing is incorporated into the
majority of learning activities, and learners who need explicit writing
instruction receive it.
- Instruction and learning activities explicitly build upon learners’
prior knowledge. Instruction emphasizes integration of new learning with
previous experiences and knowledge, and encourages application and transfer
of learning to daily life and new situations. Connections are made to
children’s instructional programs and to the activities of home-based
- A variety of instructional methods is used, including a balance of
individual and group activities. The instructional mix includes independent
study, small group instruction, computer-aided instruction, cooperative
learning, and individual tutoring.
- Adults in the lowest literacy levels participate in adult education
lessons or classes for at least 100 hours per year. This participation may be
a combination of tutoring, on-site classes, off-site classes, home-based and
computer-based instruction. Most adults make regular progress on formal and
informal literacy indicators (such as grade levels and life skills goals)
until they exit the program.
- Adults who enter the program at higher literacy levels who do not have
a high school diploma or equivalent, obtain a diploma or equivalent within two
years. Adults who obtain their high school diploma or equivalent while in the
program who are still eligible to participate based on their children’s
eligibility continue to pursue other goals, including employment, job training
or postsecondary education.
- A combination of formal and informal assessment methods is used to
identify ongoing needs and to measure progress. Post-testing is done after
50 to 70 hours of basic literacy instruction or at the end of specific
courses. Informal assessment is done regularly and frequently. Results are
discussed with learners and linked to learners’ goals and to instructional
plans. Ideally, assessments are carried out in the context of meaningful
tasks and are related to performance. Adults understand the purpose and
results of assessments, and can explain their own progress.
- Materials are appropriate for the range of literacy levels,
interests and goals of learners represented in the program. Materials are
culturally and linguistically appropriate, and reflect the context and needs
of learners’ lives. Materials include authentic items, such as newspapers,
standard forms, magazines, novels, workplace items, parenting information and
household and financial items (for example, correspondence and bills).
- The physical and emotional learning environment is suitable for and
respectful of adults; in other words, there is appropriate furniture and an
atmosphere of mutual trust and acceptance. Staff have good rapport with
learners and value their life experiences and ideas.
- Program design offers maximum flexibility for the adult learner
in terms of entry options, format, schedule and location. The program actively
encourages re-entry if absence from program occurs, and recognizes absences
due to unforeseeable problems (for example, job change or loss, family
- The program ensures that adequate adult education services
(approximately 60 hours per month) are provided by the program itself or
with collaborating programs. Instructional services are continuous,
including the summer months, although the format of services may
change in different program cycles.
- The program promotes advancement in learning beyond basic literacy. Job
readiness and career exploration are part of the curriculum. Staff are
knowledgeable about a range of options for participants to continue their
learning and/or obtain employment (for example, community college,
vocational programs, business contacts, and intern or training programs).
Staff develop transition plans with adult learners to meet their
goals, including long-term goals for self-sufficiency.
- Staff are knowledgeable about the educational uses and benefits of
technology. Staff ensure that adult learners have access to and
assistance in using computer-based instruction. Computer-based instruction
includes educational, commercial and web-based courses in academic subjects,
office and training applications, and general interest topics. Access may
include computers on-site, computers off-site (in public facilities and
collaborating agencies), and distance learning (web-based or via satellite).
- Staff are knowledgeable about learning disabilities and ensure that
the needs of adults with learning disabilities are met.
- Staff act as facilitators and resources. They also recognize
and promote learners as resources for each other. Staff model and encourage
problem-solving behaviors to help adults become more independent and
- Staff turnover is low. Learners generally have the same instructor for the
program year. If staff changes occur, program ensures continuity of
academic work and instructional methods.
- Staff participate in ongoing staff development, including training
specifically related to adult and family literacy. Adult education staff
from collaborating programs are invited and encouraged to attend
professional development activities. Staff maintain contact with
parenting and early childhood staff and exchange relevant information.
Ideally, they meet weekly to plan an integrated curriculum.
Signs of Problems with Adult Basic Education and Literacy:
- Adult education is not a fully-developed program component, and learning
activities occur only periodically; for example, as a by-product of
home-based instruction or parenting education.
- Adult education is regarded by learners and by collaborating staff as
simply a "fixed course," which is primarily workbook-based
or a commercial product.
- The program has a "one size fits all" mentality concerning adult
literacy and basic education services. Most activities do not directly or
clearly relate to individual adult learners’ goals and needs. The majority
of time is spent in whole group instruction or doing drill and practice
- Materials are limited in number and variety. For example, they are
predominantly prepared texts (basal readers and workbooks), cover a narrow
range of reading skills and topics, or are not representative of learners’
- Adult learners do not perceive and cannot describe the relevance of
instruction to their daily lives or to their goals.
- Adults learners do not have plans for continuing their education or job
training after leaving the Even Start program.
- Adult education staff from collaborating programs do not value the goals
of the Even Start program. Adult education staff do not participate in Even
Start staff development and planning activities.
- Adults who drop out of the program cite situational and institutional
participation barriers (for example, child care, program schedule, and
- Staff believe learners are not motivated. Staff do not believe it is their
job to improve learners’ motivation.
- Only a few adults who enter the program at the lowest literacy levels
progress to a functional level of literacy or to pre-GED (general
equivalency diploma) studies while in the program.
- Only a few adults who enter the program at higher literacy levels receive
their high school diploma or equivalent while in the program.
Challenge: To have a positive impact on the whole family by enhancing the
relationships between parents and children and the literacy value of family interactions.
Even Start Note: Parenting education is a core instructional component of
Even Start family literacy programs. [Sections 1205(4) and 14101(15), ESEA.] The
overall goal of parenting education is to strengthen parents’ support of their
young children’s literacy development and early school success. This program
component, and the home-based instruction component, include a wide array of
program activities designed to strengthen families’ support for their
young children’s educational success, including: literacy development of
parents and children through increasing the frequency and quality of literacy
activities in the home; facilitating children’s transition to school,
and the interactions of parents with schools and the wider community; and
improving parents’ understanding of child development.
Welfare reform requirements have had a significant impact on the amount of
time that adults can devote to education and family programs, and many parents
feel they must focus their energies on work preparedness. As a result, parents’
time constraints may affect the attention that Even Start programs pay to
parenting education. To address this challenge, it is crucial for programs to
continue to integrate parenting education with other program components.
See sections on Parent and Child Interactive Literacy Activities and
Home-Based Instruction for other indicators related to Parenting Education.
- The focus of parenting education is content that supports children’s
literacy development and early educational success. Programs have clear
goals and objectives for parenting education that are tied to literacy
- In order to produce substantial improvements in literacy outcomes for
children, parents participate intensively in parenting-related activities
(approximately 20 hours per month), and such activities are integrated with
other program components.
- Parenting education programs provide a balanced range of information
and skill-building opportunities to: engage parents in language-rich
parent-child interactions; provide supports for literacy in the family;
support parents in holding appropriate expectations of the child’s
learning and development; support parents in actively embracing the
parenting role; and build the capacity of parents to form and maintain
connections to the community and other resources.
- Parent-child interactive literacy activities are an integral part of
the program’s parenting education plan. The program provides regularly
scheduled opportunities for guided parent-child interactions, such as dialogic
reading, and using open-ended questions to prompt discussions and enrich
- There are a variety of ways that parents can participate in
parenting activities (such as individual coaching and mentoring, and group
activities), and staff use different approaches for presenting information
(such as discussions, readings, and use of media). Parents’ level and type
of participation is also based on family goals and parents’ literacy
- Reading by adults and by adults to children every day is encouraged.
There is an explicit intent to increase the amount of literacy activity in the
household. The program helps parents to learn about sources of books for
children and themselves, including becoming borrowers at public libraries. The
program provides specific opportunities for parents to improve their skills in
reading to and with their children, including direct instruction and staff
modeling on strategies for reading with children.
- Parenting education includes attention to family development
and family relationships. The parenting program includes attention to
increasing parents’ sense of efficacy (that is, their belief that
they can make a difference in their children’s lives).
- Parenting education builds on the interests and questions of parents,
and does not rely solely on scripted materials. Parents are actively
involved in the design and planning of parenting activities. Ongoing
assessments by parents are used to ensure responsiveness of activities to
parents’ interests and needs.
- All staff view parenting education as part of their job
responsibilities and receive training in parenting education as part of their
jobs. Training includes information about the development of language and
literacy, ways to support and enhance parents’ verbal interactions with
children, and strategies for explicit modeling, guided self-reflection, and
providing feedback to parents.
- Staff have an empathetic view of parents and the challenges they face.
Staff spend time developing relationships with parents but are
aware of appropriate boundaries. Staff supervision includes support for
helping staff set and maintain appropriate boundaries. Staff can distinguish
their own supportive behaviors that promote parents’ self-sufficiency from
behaviors that create dependency.
- Parenting education includes attention to beliefs and attitudes about
child-rearing in addition to dealing with positive behavior management.
The program presents clear values about the importance of attentive, warm
and flexible interactions between parents and children for children’s
development. The program provides guided opportunities for parents to solve
problems within the context of routine family events. The program is
sensitive to cultural differences in child rearing beliefs and techniques
but recognizes appropriate limits, especially related to child health and
- Although staff recognize the importance of addressing the
most pressing concerns of families, they also recognize their role is
not to be the sole provider of services. The program has collaborators
who provide support that families need beyond what Even Start can offer.
Collaborators might include counseling services, substance abuse treatment
and violence prevention programs, housing and food/nutrition services, and
legal assistance. The program works with collaborators to ensure that
families receive messages that are consistent with Even Start messages.
- Parent development and child development issues and questions are
addressed frequently and directly. The program affords opportunities for one-to-one
exchanges for dealing with parenting issues.
- Parenting education helps parents maintain home environments that
are supportive of children through the development of routines, use of
literacy in everyday activities, building coping strategies for adapting to
changes, and supporting physical and mental health.
- Activities are designed for easy transfer of learning to other
situations, including the home learning environment. Expectations for and
ideas about transfer of learning and practice are explicit, and teachers
follow up with parents individually.
- Parenting activities have literacy connections; in other words,
parenting education strengthens literacy experiences that occur within
routine family interactions. Parenting is integrated into the teaching of
- The program devises opportunities for the whole family to
participate in parenting activities. Special efforts are made to invite
other adults who are co-parenting children to parenting education activities
and family events.
- The materials used in parenting and parent-child activities are culturally
and linguistically relevant. Parent-child activities are carried
out in the dominant language of families.
- The program designs activities to strengthen partnerships between
parents and schools. Parents participate in a variety of school and
classroom activities, including attending parent-teacher conferences, volunteering,
governance, and home learning activities. Programs work with schools to find
opportunities for parents to become involved in school activities outside
traditional school hours.
- The program helps parents advocate for their children, including
how to obtain high quality services from public and private agencies (for
example, child care, educational evaluations).
Signs of Problems with Parenting Education:
- Staff do not believe that parents have existing skills and strengths upon
which to build.
- Parents are not involved in planning activities.
- Staff do not know individual families’ needs and interests.
- Most of parent education time is spent listening to presentations by
- Parenting education activities do not provide adequate opportunities for
parents to work with their own children.
- Staff do not model positive adult-child interactions.
- Parenting activities only include one family member; there are no special
activities designed to involve other family members.
- The program predominantly uses commercial materials for parenting
- Parenting activities are held sporadically.
- There has been no training for staff in parenting education.
- Parenting education programming does not provide adequate opportunities
for parents to work with their own children.
- Parenting education does not focus on literacy development.
- The content of parent training provided by collaborators differs from Even
Start core values.
- There is no debriefing time following parent-child activities.
Parent and child interactive literacy activities
Challenge: To increase parents’ knowledge of their children’s
development and learning, to build parents’ capacity to provide a stimulating
literacy environment in the home, and to enable them to be their children’s
Even Start Note: Although parent-child interactive literacy activities
are listed as a separate component within the definition of family literacy
services [Section 14101(15), ESEA], this required component is an integral part
of parenting education. Often referred to as PACT (parent and child time),
parent-child interactive literacy activities are discussed separately in this
Guide to highlight their importance, and to ensure that Even Start staff include
this component in program planning.
Parent-child time is the opportunity for parents to learn how their children
learn through one-to-one interaction and observation. By observing how their
children learn through playing and other activities, parents can monitor and
enhance their children’s development. During parent-child time, parents also
have an opportunity to practice parenting and behavior management strategies
they have learned about in parenting education. Parent-child time can be
implemented in a variety of ways: during home-based instruction, as part of the
daily early childhood classroom routine, or as part of organized family events.
The goal of all of these activities is to provide opportunities for parents to
engage in a literacy-based learning opportunity with their children.
See section on Home-Based Instruction for other indicators related to Parent
and Child Interactive Literacy Activities.
- Activities for parent-child time have a literacy focus. Special
attention is paid to activities that support children’s growth and
- Parent-child time and activities are designed to help each parent
learn more about his/her own child(ren) through both observation and
play. These interactions help parents to see their children as active
contributors to their own development and learning, form reasonable
expectations about their children’s abilities, and devise their own
challenging but achievable play/learning activities. Parents also
participate in discussions about these interactions with staff and other
parents, reflecting on what they learn about child development and how to
apply this knowledge to both center-based and home-based parent-child
- The program schedules regular opportunities for parent-child
interactive literacy activities. Formats are varied (for example, home-based
instruction, during the child’s classroom routines) to accommodate parents’
schedules and interests. Parents are involved in planning activities and
deciding whether they are child-directed or parent-directed.
- Parent-child activities are developmentally appropriate for the age
of the child. Activities are designed to ensure ease of transfer by parents
to the home setting.
- Parent-child activities encourage verbal interaction between
parents and their children, object manipulation and play, and engaging
children in problem-solving and decision-making. Parents and children
read stories together in an active and participatory manner. Activities
are fun and encourage involvement of both child and parent.
- The program provides opportunities for parents to increase their
observation skills and practice them in multiple contexts. Parents
have opportunities to try out learning activities with each other before
doing them with their children.
- Parent-child activities are culturally sensitive. Staff take time
to learn how parents and their children are comfortable learning together,
and work with parents to plan parent-child activities based on this
- Staff provide training and feedback for parents on how to initiate
parent-child learning activities on their own as part of everyday family
- Staff follow up with individual parents and provide additional information
and support to assist parents in transferring parent-child
activities into the home setting.
Signs of Problems with Parent and Child Interactive Literacy Activities:
- Parent-child time is only offered during the early childhood classroom day,
even though some parents do not have children present in the classroom.
- Staff consider parents to have participated in parent-child time, even when
they have not worked directly with their own child.
- Parents have no input concerning how parent-child time is designed.
- There is no specific preparation for parents prior to their engagement in
- Parent-child time is seen as an "add-on" to the program.
- Parent-child activities are overly complicated.
- Parents focus more on completing an activity during parent-child time than
on observing their children’s learning.
- Activities use expensive materials and/or objects not commonly found in the
home, making transfer of activities to the home difficult.
- Parent-child activities happen infrequently, less than once a week.
- Parent-child time is not provided for parents of school-aged children.
(formerly called Home Visiting)
Challenge: To build on existing family strengths, show respect for the
family’s culture, emphasize that the home is a child’s first and most
important learning environment, and demonstrate that learning occurs through
every day experiences. Home-based instruction increases the intensity and
individualization of program services, as well as increasing access to services
for some families.
Even Start Note: The Even Start statute requires local programs to
provide integrated instructional services to participating families through
home-based program services. [Section 1205(7), ESEA.] Home-based instruction is
intended primarily to advance the educational goals of the program; that is, the
goal of home-based instruction should be to strengthen the literacy skills of
parents and children. Social service support is provided primarily through
collaborators but, when necessary, Even Start funds can be used for such support
activities. Home instructional staff paid with Even Start funds must meet the
qualifications required by Even Start program law [Section 1205(5), ESEA], which
are referenced in the section on "Staff Development."
See section on Integration of Instruction within Program Components for other
indicators related to Home-Based Instruction.
- All families receive home visits with an instructional focus and
educational objectives. The number and duration of visits vary by
program model and family need. There is a clear rationale for the number of
instructional home visits per family that is related to family need and
- Program staff recognize that some families require a transition
period before instructional home visits begin. Some parents may be
uncomfortable allowing staff in their homes and may prefer to participate
in group activities first. Temporary alternate locations, such
as libraries, are identified if the family is uncomfortable with the visit
occurring in the home. Alternative settings should be familiar to and
comfortable for the family and allow for focused interaction.
- In unique cases when instructional home visits are not possible because of
special circumstances (for example, hostile family members, frequent
interruptions, or family is strongly opposed to visits in their home),
arrangements are made to meet at an alternative site.
- Instructional home visits are prearranged, planned and regularly scheduled.
Scheduling of visits depends on individual and family schedules. Home
instructors and families understand the importance of instructional home
visits and make the environment conducive to learning.
- Literacy is a primary focus of activities. The instructional home visit
is used as an opportunity for the parent and child to learn and play together,
and to see the home as the child’s "first classroom." Home
instructors support the development of literacy in the home by using materials
found in the home for learning activities, bringing books to share, and helping
parents to create "predictable" reading and play time for the child.
- Materials and approaches for the instructional home visit are tailored
for each family. Home instructors build upon and adapt to the family
environment, seeking transfer of home visit activities to daily interactions
between parent and child, and helping the family incorporate literacy into the
home environment. In center-based programs, the visit is an extension of
educational activities introduced in the center-based setting.
- Instructional home visits are an opportunity to demonstrate how to balance
attention to parent-child relationship building, child development,
and parents’ needs and interests.
- During the visit, staff help parents observe children and point out
developmental interpretations of children’s actions. Home instructors model
positive interactions and reinforcements.
- Parents have an active role in shaping the visit and in the debriefing
of the visit. The home instructor and the parent plan activities for the other
adults and children who are likely to be present during the instructional home
- The program places a high value on staff’s rapport with families
and families’ comfort with home instructors. Rapport with families in the
program is key for staff selection and supervision. Staff are assigned to the
same families over time whenever possible.
- Staff demonstrate sensitivity to family culture and respect family
boundaries. Ideally, they speak the first language of the family or involve
collaborators who share the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of families.
- The instructional home visit is linked to all other program
components, and supports retention of families in all components. School
and classroom personnel are included in some visits. Home instructors orient
other staff who accompany them on visits.
- Program staff view visits as an opportunity to identify the
need for other help and services. Home instructors receive training in
how to deal with issues that are apparent or may arise in the home setting,
such as physical abuse, substance abuse, and safety and health. The program
provides home instructors with backup support to link families to other
resources, and maintains formal relationships with appropriate agencies to help
families with multiple needs.
- Home instructors and other family workers have credentials that are
appropriate for their roles and comply with statutory requirements. Staff
development for home instructors includes team debriefing of their
instructional home visit experiences. For example, for twelve hours of direct
service, approximately one hour of supervision, coaching and mentoring is
provided, including structured discussions among staff.
- Home instructors are able to set boundaries for their roles in
working with families.
- The program documents instructional home visit objectives and strategies
systematically, and seeks information about the effectiveness of
instructional home visits in reaching family goals.
- The program coordinates instructional home visit activities with
other service providers who make home visits to the same families. While
Even Start staff may need to do separate visits, staff communicate with other
home visitors (for example, from Head Start or Home Start) and coordinate
visits when feasible. Home instructors inform other Even Start staff about
other services that families are receiving, including which other programs are
going into the home.
Signs of Problems with Home-Based Instruction:
- Home-based instruction does not occur or visits are infrequent, occurring
only once or twice a year with each family. Some families do not receive
instructional home visits.
- Parents are often not at home for scheduled visits.
- There is no attempt to create a learning environment for the instructional
home visit (for example, distractions are not dealt with, television set is
- The parent is a passive bystander during the visit.
- Home-based instruction only addresses singular issues (for example, child
development or adult literacy) and is not integrated with other
- Home-based activities are independent of activities in other components of
the program. Instructional home visits are considered an "add on"
rather than an integral part of the program.
- Staff are unsure of how to deal with problems that arise during visits.
- Staff do not feel comfortable in home settings.
- Staff or parents experience cultural or linguistic barriers.
- Home visits are focused on social service needs rather than being
instructional in nature.
- Home instructors are viewed as adjunct staff and are not included in
Challenge: To help families create long-term plans that encompass the
many transitions they will make as they reach their goals and undergo
substantial changes and improvements in their lives. Even Start’s goal is to
help families adjust to and be successful in different environments.
Even Start Note: Transition refers to continuity across many different
types of changes and movement that families will make – entering and exiting
Even Start, children moving from home to school, adults moving from home to
school or work, and program to program. The Even Start law requires programs to
promote the continuity of family literacy to ensure that individuals retain and
improve their educational outcomes. [Section 1205(13), ESEA.]
- The program recognizes that it can facilitate the horizontal
transitions (for example, between Even Start and Head Start or day care)
and vertical transitions (for example, between adult basic literacy
and GED classes or vocational training) that adults and children make.
- The program has policies and procedures for transitioning into Even
Start from other programs, in and out of levels within components, and out
of the program as a whole. Transitions out of Even Start are based on exit
criteria established by the program, which consider whether families are
truly still in need of Even Start services.
- Staff and parents prepare a transition plan for each family,
including timelines for anticipated changes and outcomes, and support needed
during transitions. Transition plans address how comprehensive services will
continue when service delivery mechanisms or eligibility change. Transition
activities include opportunities to gain familiarity with new settings and
- The program views family members as lifelong learners and full
members of the community, and looks for opportunities to engage them in
activities outside of the Even Start program to broaden their community
awareness and involvement.
- Staff development includes becoming familiar with the environments and
cultures of different settings (home, school, work and other programs) for the
purpose of helping family members successfully move between and among
different environments. Training addresses how to design activities for
families to help them deal with the environments they will enter.
- Staff of Even Start and collaborating agencies work together
to ease the transitions families make among agencies.
- The program prepares for transitions of children from preschool to
kindergarten or first grade in some specific ways:
- Transition plans are a topic within parenting classes and
home-based instruction, and staff suggest ways for parents to deal
with children’s anxieties.
- Staff tell parents about their legal rights and responsibilities
and encourage parental participation in school in a variety of ways.
- Early childhood program staff prepare children to deal with
changes through activities such as visitations, role playing, and
modeling new routines.
- Staff establish communication with next teachers to share
information about each child’s developmental progress and needs.
- Staff take a proactive role with school staff and staff
from other early childhood programs to help bridge cultural and
language differences, to help them gain an understanding of parents’
involvement, and to help them recognize strengths of families who
are economically or educationally disadvantaged.
- The program prepares for transitions of adults in some specific
- During class and topical workshops, time is spent on problem-based
learning related to handling real-life situations (for example, rehearsing
job interviews), discussing educational and training opportunities, and
accessing information and support services. These activities are designed
to increase participants’ belief in their ability to navigate and be
successful in making transitions.
- Adults who receive high school diplomas or their equivalent seek
additional education or training, or obtain employment. Staff stress the
need for adults to continue their education and to enhance their skills
related to career advancement and long-term personal success and
- The program maintains connections with employers, postsecondary
institutions and social service or other agencies to facilitate next steps
- Adults develop personal action plans that include timelines and
resources needed to attain goals.
- Children who enter school are successful. School staff see parents as
supportive of children’s learning and development. When children enter
school, participating families continue in Even Start.
- The program adjusts to personal family transitions (for example,
divorce, birth, relocation) that occur while families are enrolled in Even
Start, and adjusts program services to meet the needs of families during these
- Staff maintain an appropriate level of contact with family
members after they exit the program to support their transitions (for example,
parents who no longer need direct services may join a program-sponsored parent
Signs of Problems with Transitions:
- No time is devoted to creating transition plans on a program level or with
- Families drop out of the program at points of transition.
- Staff resent having to work with other programs or agencies.
- Staff expect transition planning to be initiated and performed by the
other programs or schools to which family members are going.
- Staff are not familiar with staff in other settings to which parents and
children are going, especially schools, and do not take an active
role in reaching out to service providers and teachers to maintain contact
- Transitions are seen as one-time events rather than as an ongoing process.
- Family members who no longer need program services do not transition out
of the program, or certain components, when it is appropriate.