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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Heather Weiss

In this issue, we return to a topic that was featured in one of our earliest issues of The Evaluation Exchange—the evaluation of school-linked services. School-linked services are emerging as a promising approach to address the increasingly complex problems facing children and families. Situated in a natural community locus, the school, these programs share a holistic, ecological view of the child and attempt to operationalize this philosophy by linking a wide array of preventive services for children and their families.

We know, however, that our understanding of these programs is far from complete. We do not yet understand which school-linked service interventions work and which do not. We know that these programs must be accountable, but defining to whom and for what they are to be accountable is difficult. We know that these programs have substantial governance implications but are unsure as to whether new collaborative arrangements can work. Finally, we seek to expand these interventions if they prove successful but are unsure about the conditions necessary to ensure long-term viability.

As practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and evaluators of school-linked services, we have our work cut out for us. In this issue, we carry on the dialogue about school-linked services and offer a variety of perspectives. In our lead article, we discuss some of the considerations and best practices related to evaluating school-linked services, based on the insights of nine evaluators of school-linked services programs. Our two “Promising Practices” articles move us from the practice of evaluation to the practicality of evaluation. Mary Wagner and Shari Golan, evaluators of the California Healthy Start Initiative, write about their efforts to increase the use of evaluative information at local sites. Alfredo Tijerina, a project coordinator for the Houston-based School of the Future, discusses how he has found evaluative information useful in his work. In our “Questions and Answers” section, we speak with Cheryl Mitchell about Vermont's efforts to integrate educational and social services at the state and local levels. Two evaluations are featured in our “Evaluations to Watch” section. The first is the evaluation of the multisite New Jersey School-Based Youth Services Program being conducted by the Academy for Educational Development. The second is an evaluation of the Gardner Extended Services School in Boston that will be conducted by evaluators at Boston College. The “Beyond Basic Training” section highlights two forthcoming training programs. Our “New and Noteworthy” and “Electronic Mailbox” sections provide current information on publications and Internet sites that can help inform our practice. Finally, in our “Spotlight” section Richard Brandon and Andrew Gordon describe how they are evaluating the effectiveness of communications strategies aimed at strengthening the linkage between public opinion and public policy. HFRP researcher Diane Schilder discusses HFRP's research on results-based accountability efforts and Karen Horsch examines research results in preparing teachers in family involvement.

In closing, we would like to thank the many people who contributed to this issue. Their insights and experiences have increased our understanding of the range and complexity of issues facing evaluators today, and we hope that our readers will find the same.

Heather B. Weiss, Ed.D.
Founder & Director
Harvard Family Research Project

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project