New York State Even Start Family Literacy


Online Guide for Administrators


Program Design and Delivery - Questions and Answers


(Updated April 2005)

Q2-1: How do I plan for high quality components?

The Guide to Quality: Even Start Family Literacy Program Implementation and Continuous Improvement (Guide to Quality) addresses each of the components of Even Start Family Literacy, as well as home visits dedicated to integrated instruction. For each section, "quality considerations" are presented. These are statements of conditions associated with high-quality programs based on evaluation, research, theory, best practices, and legal requirements.

In addition to the guidance offered by the above, administrators should also consider the following:

Age-appropriate education: The overarching goal of Even Start Family Literacy is that all children who participate in the program will meet or exceed the New York State Learning Standards. To do so:

  • Children must receive high-quality instruction from certified staff.

  • The program must build a close collaboration with the schools attended by participating children. For school-age children, supplemental instruction provided by Even Start Family Literacy should be designed in consultation with classroom teachers. 

  • The PreSchool Language Scale (PLS-4) is administered to all participating children, age six months to kindergarten entry. Programs are encouraged to use additional informal assessments to inform instruction. 

  • The program should follow established guidelines for developing high-quality education for three- and four-year-old children. New York State developed an early childhood framework entitled Moving Toward and Identifying High-Quality Pre-School Experiences for Even Start Family Literacy Children in New York State

For more information:

Moving Toward and Identifying High-Quality Pre-School Experiences for Even Start Family Literacy Children in New York State

Adult Basic Education and Literacy: As noted in the Guide for Managers of Adult Education Programs, certain principles guide effective adult education programs. Namely, these programs:

  • involve learners in program planning and implementation 

  • draw upon learners' experiences as a resource

  • create a climate that encourages and support learning

  • foster a spirit of collaboration

  • encourage self-directed learning

  • use small group activities to enhance learning

  • provide adequate support services. 

In providing instruction to adults, remember that adult learners want to know what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how they are going to use it. Answers to these questions often determine the extent to which adult learners value the education they receive and their willingness to continue with the program. 

New York State Even Start Family Literacy requires that all participating adults be tested as they enter the program and after every 100 hours of instruction. The Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE) are used with English speaking adults and the Best Plus is used with those learning English. Such testing should be supplemented by teacher observation and other informal assessments. Any and all assessment should be used to inform instruction that follows a scope and sequence of learning experiences.

For more information:

Guide for Managers of Adult Education Programs

Parenting Education: Even Start Family Literacy partnerships deliver parenting education that focuses on the role of parents in their children's language and literacy development. Parents who receive this instruction:

  • strive to be the primary teachers for their children and to become full partners in educating their children

  • can assist their children in reaching their full potential as learners, in both the home and school settings.

Parenting education includes direct instruction, time to practice skills, and feedback on skill mastery and general comfort level with the learned information. Instruction should center on the parenting behaviors that research shows are particularly vital to the development of language and literacy in children during the first eight years of their lives. The key behaviors are:

  • warm, sensitive, and responsive parenting
  • having appropriate expectations for children's learning and development
  • providing predictable settings and routines
  • guiding children in problem solving
  • providing supports for literacy in the home
  • facilitating quality language interactions with children
  • facilitating shared book reading with children.

The degree to which parents understand and practice these behaviors directly impacts the language/literacy outcomes of their children. The key parenting behaviors are explained in great detail in the Parenting Education training. 

New York State developed Parenting Education to provide the research, content knowledge, and tools necessary for delivering parenting education that focuses on the role of parents in children's language and literacy development. Family educators are strongly encouraged to complete this training.

The parenting skills of adults participating in New York State Even Start Family Literacy are evaluated upon enrollment in the program, and every six months thereafter. This evaluation is conducted through administration of the Parent Education Profile (PEP). The PEP focuses on the parent's role in children's literacy development and academic success. It assists parent educators in observing how parents' skills are improving and in planning instruction based on these observations. PEP scores are submitted as part of ES-Star data. 

Parenting Education includes a module on administering the PEP. 

For more information:


Parenting Education

Interactive Literacy between Parents and their Children: This component of Even Start Family Literacy allows parents an opportunity to practice newly acquired skills with their child while the parent educator serves as a coach or facilitator. It is important for parents to be comfortable enough with the skill to use it repeatedly when the parent educator is not present.


Q2-2: Do Even Start Family Literacy programs directly provide all instructional services?

No. Although some programs do directly provide the majority of services to their clients, Even Start Family Literacy programs are required to coordinate with other relevant federal and state programs that provide services to parents and their children. These include, but are not limited to, programs assisted under:

  • other parts of Title I and other programs under No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

  • NYS Experimental and Universal Pre-K 

  • Head Start

  • Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (Adult Education and Family Literacy Act)

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs

  • volunteer literacy programs.

For more information:

Examples from local programs


Q2-3: How are families prepared to participate in the program?


Prior to enrolling a family into Even Start Family Literacy, there is a period of orientation and preparation. During this time, programs ensure that Even Start Family Literacy is a "good fit" for the family. The program shares its goals and expectations with the family and asks the family to do the same, if possible. The program may extend invitations to the family to participate in one or some of its activities. When appropriate, participants administer various tests, such as PLS, Best Plus, and the TABE to obtain a sense of the participant's skill level. If the scores do not fit within Even Start Family Literacy criteria or if the family's goals do not fit Even Start Family Literacy services, the program makes referrals to more appropriate agencies or programs.

For more information:

Example from local program (1)

Example from local program (2)



Q2-4: What strategies can programs use to retain families and encourage participation?


Programs must accommodate participants' work schedules and other responsibilities, providing support when it is unavailable from other sources but necessary for participation. Such support may include:

  • scheduling and locating services that allow joint participation by parents and children

  • providing early childhood education to children during the hours parents are involved in the program

  • arranging transportation, when necessary, to allow parents and their children to participate. 

For more information:

Example from local program (1)

Example from local program (2)



Q2-5: How do I assess where parents are in terms of supporting their children's literacy and language development?


The Parent Education Profile (PEP) is a formal tool that assesses a parent's role in children's literacy development and academic success through four scales:
I. Parent's Support for Children's Learning in the Home Environment
II. Parent's Role in Interactive Literacy Activities
III. Parent's Role in Supporting Child's Learning in Formal Educational Settings
IV. Taking on the Parenting Role

The PEP assessment is based on observations of a parent over time. It is important for the family educator to have a good sense of consistent parenting behavior within the family before administering the PEP. It should be administered when the parent and family educator feel comfortable with one another - typically within three months. The results of the assessment will help the educator design instruction for the parent.

Training on the Parent Education Profile is offered as a component of Parenting  Education training.

For more information:


Parenting Education

Q2-6: How long is a program year?


According to Even Start Family Literacy Statute Section 1235(8), each program shall "operate on a year-round basis, including the provision of some program services, including instructional and enrichment services, during the summer months." The summer months provide wonderful opportunity for creative programming, such as new collaborators, literacy-centered family fun at a local zoo, or a summer camp for adults and children.

Q2-7: Is there a minimum number of families my program must serve?

To receive funding at the maximum grant level, programs should serve at least 25 families in all core components each month. It is important to recognize that life circumstances force families to transition out of programs, so continuous recruitment and maintaining a client base of 30 -35 families is recommended. 

Q2-8: How do I ensure the safety of my staff when they make home visits?


Safety is critical. You and your staff must develop specific safety procedures according to the scope and nature of your particular program. It may help to speak to staff of similar Even Start Family Literacy programs. Create a safety plan that works for your program, but more importantly, be sure that all staff members understand and consistently adhere to that plan.


For more information:

Examples from local programs


Q2-9: What does "significant intensity and duration of services" mean?


National evaluations of Even Start Family Literacy have found a high correlation between intensity of services, duration of program participation, and participant achievement. In short, the more hours of quality instruction received by participants, the more likely they are to make significant achievements in learner outcomes. 

The table below presents the federal recommendations for the minimum monthly number of hours of instruction for Even Start Family Literacy programs.



Hours of Instruction

per Month

Ages 0 - 2.11


Age 3 & 4


Age 5

20 if Even Start is supplemental; 

60 if not

Age 6 and up

20 of supplemental instruction

Adult Education


Parent Education/

Interactive Literacy


Even Start Family Literacy programs should also provide continuity of services for sufficient periods of time to allow families to achieve their educational goals. According to the federal statute, families can participate until their goals are met or their youngest child reaches ten years old (whichever occurs first).

For more information:

Statute, Section 1236


Q2-10: Can we make changes to the delivery and design of services described in the original grant proposal?


Yes. The focus of Even Start Family Literacy is on meeting the literacy needs of low literacy families. Each partnership is responsible for designing and delivering the four components of Even Start Family Literacy in a manner that meets those needs. Upon receiving a grant, a program agrees to follow the plan set forth in the grant proposal. However, changes can and should be made in order to serve families more efficiently. For example, a program can change the times and places of service delivery, revise staffing configurations and schedules, and reach out to new constituencies. It cannot change partners during a four-year grant cycle and it cannot change the population it agreed to serve.

Major changes should be based on careful analysis of program data and supported by the local evaluation. A description of proposed changes should be included in the Documentation for Continued Funding submitted to the State Education Department on July 15 of each year. 

If the program has concerns about whether the proposed changes are allowable, the partners should contact the Even Start Family Literacy State Coordinator before initiating a reorganization. 




Q2-11: How do I ensure that planning that takes place at staff meetings is implemented?


As a starting point, staff must be invested in the goals of both the program and the participating families. Educators need to understand the four components of Even Start Family Literacy and the importance of literacy-focused instruction. Regular, ongoing professional development, and staff-wide or one-on-one follow-up to professional development, helps ensure staff are on track. 

Joint planning and detailed lesson plans can assist staff in designing high-quality lessons tailored to participant needs. Utilize the strengths of your staff, and enlist staff members to present concepts or model activities that you know are on target. A visit to, or mentoring from, another program can also be helpful to staff.

Observation of home visits offers an opportunity to see planning in action. After a visit, the observer reviews with the educator what took place - strengths as well as areas of concern. This review should include time for discussion about, and reflection on, the experience.


Q2-12: A family wants to enroll in our program. They are poor, largely homebound, and have several pre-school aged children. The parent wants to get her GED but has been unable to due to lack of support. When we TABE her, she scored above 9.0 in both math and reading. Is there any way we can enroll this family?

For a program to remain in compliance, 95 percent of its families enrolled in a given program year must meet the New York State guidelines for low literacy. This means that, for native English speakers, the participating parent must score below 9.0 in math, reading, or both as measured by the TABE. 


In the case of this question, if the program elects to enroll this family, it must, in order to remain in compliance, enroll a minimum of 19 additional families that do meet the guidelines for low literacy. 

Q2-13: Where can I access information on developing appropriate curricula for children in preschool through grade three?

The NYS Even Start Literacy Workgroup has developed a website to assist Even Start programs in developing appropriate literacy curricula for preschool through grade three. The site articulates literacy attributes (what we expect children to be able to do and know in reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and representing, as well as in general background knowledge). It also presents what are called "non-negotiable instructional contributions" (what research and best practices recommend that every teacher, home educator, and parent provide by way of instruction and experiences to meet the attributes). For each non-negotiable, the website suggests appropriate activities and experiences in three age groups--preschool, aged 3-5 not yet in K; K-1; and grades 2-3.

The Glossary includes literacy terms referred to in the website. It also includes definitions of approaches to literacy instruction and definitions of terms and strategies that are commonly found in schools. It was hoped that the glossary would enable Even Start Family Literacy staff who are not literacy educators to become familiar with the vocabulary of literacy education, more comfortable with and conversant with teachers in the school, and better able to explain the school literacy program to parents.

The Bibliography is drawn from recommendations from experts in the field of literacy and early childhood and recommendations from members of the Literacy Workgroup and the family educators with whom they work. These are books that family educators have found useful. Books are grouped by topic and by title. The annotations give a sense of the intended audience for the book. Most of the books have suggestions that can be translated into classroom strategies and or activities which a family educator can use one-on-one with a child. Titles will be added to the bibliography monthly. New additions will be sent out via the Even Start listserv.

Finally, it provides viewable and downloadable resources, including documents/reports from the New York State Education Department, New York State Even Start, professional organizations (e.g., NAEYC, IRA), and the Literacy Workgroup itself (e.g., workshops, presentations, instructional materials).

Everything on this website supports Even Start Family Literacy goals, as well as the New York State English Language Arts Learning Standards. In addition, this website is aligned with professional organizations standards (e.g., NAEYC, NCTE, IRA) and literacy expectations of No Child Left Behind. The recommendations for best practices are "curriculum-neutral," which means that they can be used successfully within any commercial or mandated literacy curriculum.

To access the website, please go to this url:

Jane Hogan, the Literacy Research to Practice Specialist at the Eastern Demonstration site is also available to do workshops for regions and programs who would like staff development in Literacy. Topics can be tailored to specific needs, topics, and age groups. Sample topics include: Emergent Literacy, Supporting Success in Kindergarten, Reading Informational Texts, Comprehension Development; Developing Phonological Skills, Using ChildrenÂ’s Literature to Develop Literacy, Dialogic Reading, and Linking Reading and Writing. Contact Jane Hogan at or (585) 243-5352 to discuss staff development options.


Q2-14: Where can I access information on aligning parenting education with children's education?


Making Connections: Aligning Parenting Education with Children's Education provides an overview of the seven key parenting behaviors and presents a framework for designing instruction that supports children's school success. This paper provides the structure for a brief professional development opportunity. This document may be accessed at


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