In Parents Own Words: Recent Family Engagement Trends from Parent Gauge

Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. Parents are one of Head Start’s most valuable resources and play a key role in providing safe and effective early childhood education. Each year Head Start programs nationwide spend more than ten thousand hours using Parent Gauge to talk to parents about their experience with Head Start. NHSA conducted a detailed analysis of the family engagement data from these conversations to understand how parents are doing, where they could use more support, and the extent to which Head Start is successfully engaging with them.

By the Numbers

Head Start and Early Head Start staff actively seek out and respond to community voices, strengths, and needs. They collaborate with families, community members, and other local agencies to identify common goals, align resources, and share data for continuous improvement and effective partnerships.

Throughout the 2021-2022 program year, staff at 69 Head Start programs conducted more than 40,000 interviews.
Parent Gauge was developed at the request of programs who were seeking a way to measure one of the most difficult components of their program practice: Parent, Family, and Community Engagement.

The programs that use Parent Gauge today demonstrate a strong commitment to data-informed decisionmaking, as the tool is a heavy lift, requiring staff to speak with families individually, rather than filling out a questionnaire or similar tool.

Report Highlights

  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Head Start programs were still strongly committed to building relationships with and supporting parents and guardians of enrolled children.
  • While trust in the American education system is fading, trust in Head Start remains high.
  • Parents feel somewhat connected to other parents. Strengthening these relationships could lessen absenteeism and promote at-home engagement
  • Head Start parents enter the program committed to their children’s learning. This commitment—as well as their knowledge and skills—grow throughout the year.

In the 2021 - 2022 Program Year...

Hours of interviews
Hours of conversation
between parent and staff using Parent Gauge.
Family Engagement

How does Parent Gauge track Family Engagement?

  • It measures the parent experience and the impact of engagement efforts across the seven family outcomes in the Office of Head Start’s PFCE Framework.
  • A staff member sits down with a family member of an enrolled child for a twenty-minute conversation made up of both open- and closed-ended questions.
  • The staff member goes through the tested and guided Paren Gauge questions in the tool, entering responses into the web-based platform.
  • Parent Gauge is the only family engagement tool that brings this level of conversation and connection between Head Start staff and parents, allowing programs to hear from parents in their own voice.