Preliminary Evaluation of the Effects of Community Education Circles in the Lawrence Public Schools
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The CEC program aims to improve educational outcomes for students, to give their parents—many of whom are immigrants--a greater sense of belonging and engagement with their children’s school, and to enhance the cultural competency of teachers dealing with students and parents from diverse backgrounds. While there is anecdotal evidence that the CECs are fostering better family-school engagement, this paper is the first to evaluate formally the effects of the program. Our research strategy involves an intent-to-treat approach that compares the outcomes for those invited to participate in the CECs with members of a demographically similar control group who were not invited to participate in the program. We have conducted baseline and follow-up surveys of families in the intent-to-treat and control groups, and have supplemented that with administrative data on student achievement and characteristics obtained through an agreement with the Lawrence Public Schools. An earlier analysis of the baseline data identified patterns that may pose challenges to achieving the goals of the CECs. For example, parents who are not native English speakers—who form the majority of our parent population—may find it harder to be highly involved in their child’s learning compared with native English-speaking parents.
Our APPAM paper focuses on quantifying the extent to which the CECs had measurable effects on the outcomes of interest in the first year, including children’s school performance (test scores, attendance), parental involvement in their children’s education, parental satisfaction with their children’s school, and families’ employment and financial situations. The paper reports the results of a controlled difference-in-difference analysis of these outcomes between the intent-to-treat and control groups. In addition, we examine whether changes over time in family economic circumstances—within either the intent-to-treat group or the control group—affect how parents engage in their child’s learning, as well as whether participation in the CECs helps mitigate any negative effects on children’s educational outcomes associated with family economic stress.