Debra Thrower on Working with Low-income Families

My name is Debra Thrower, and I am a social worker and a former university administrator. I have served as the Project Director for federally funded, community and faith-based after-school programs. Additionally, I have external evaluation experience, as well as meta-evaluation experience.  I would like to share what I have learned and monitored over a period of years for current and future evaluators.

Are evaluation centers really collaborating with low-income communities in hope of closing the academic achievement gap? In order to address the question fairly, evaluators would first have to be knowledgeable of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and its goals.  Funding opportunities are available to the following eligible applicants;  1) School districts, 2) Educational consortia, 3) Non-profit agencies, 4) City or county government agencies, 5) Faith-based organizations, 6) Institutions of higher education, and 6) For-profit organizations. These funds are available through the state department of education systems.

Hot Tip: I highly recommend that the evaluator(s) be involved during the outset of the Pre-K-12 educational program initiative for low-income communities.

Hot Tip: Be aware that many programs are limited to no more than 5% of the total funding for evaluation efforts.  While program evaluators are welcomed, there may be a program evaluation unit, as well as a compliance unit, which are both separate from the tasks of the program evaluator(s) or local evaluator(s).

Hot Tip: During the evaluation outline to funding source(s), pay close attention to actual participants through well-designed focus groups or other means in order to properly represent students and their families.

Through advanced technology and other collaborative efforts, our systemic structures have greatly improved. However, our abilities to connect on a human level with students and their families in hopes of closing the academic achievement gap remains to be a problem in our society.

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