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Program Seeks to Close AZ Students' 'Achievement Gap'

A new program aims to get low-income Arizona families more involved in their children's education. (Twenty20)
A new program aims to get low-income Arizona families more involved in their children's education. (Twenty20)
March 29, 2019

PHOENIX, Ariz. – A new grant program aims to close the "achievement gap" for low-income Arizona students by getting their families involved in their education.

The goal is to break the generational cycle of poverty by improving a child's academic outcomes. The five-year program will establish Statewide Family Engagement Centers where parents can become more involved and empowered in their children's education.

Kendra Smiley, Arizona family engagement director for the National Center for Families Learning, says the program is being implemented incrementally.

"In each one of the schools, they will be recruiting a total of 25 families,” says Smiley. “And then as we roll into year two, we'll bring three more on. So, by the end of the five-year grant, we will have created five centers throughout the state of Arizona."

Smiley says the Statewide Family Engagement Centers' goals are to improve academic achievement for disadvantaged students and give parents the tools to make good choices for their child's education. In addition, the program aims to train local and state educators to administer high-quality family literacy and engagement services.

Smiley says the program is targeting 11 key states, including Arizona, where achievement based on standardized tests is trending flat. She says low-income students face significant barriers to school readiness and academic achievement, and that parental involvement can reverse that trend.

"Parents will be asked to commit to a total of 10 hours per week,” says Smiley. “It will provide the parents the opportunity to engage in parent-child time that they will have the opportunity to learn together with their child."

The program is administered through a U.S. Department of Education grant. Arizona is funded at $4.6 million over a five-year period.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ