We support learning across a lifetime. From early care for infants and toddlers through college access and success and workforce training, our innovative approaches and methodologies address critical questions and improve the quality of educational programs. Our 30+ years of program and policy work has built a portfolio of evidence-based solutions that can be applied to new challenges as the education landscape continues to evolve.
We understand the educational priorities of government agencies and the full range of stakeholders active within the education sector. Our highly nuanced and specialized support is strengthened by close working relationships with key people in the field. Our agile approach allows for timely, often immediate, assistance to our clients.
Designed to improve quality, drive outcomes, and increase accountability, ICF’s education services make real improvements and demonstrate quantifiable results. Our roster of successful projects spans community-based organizations to national initiatives—from the training and technical assistance that is enhancing outcomes and building organizational capacity in 40% of all Head Start and Early Head Start programs to the nearly 49,000 military families who have found high-quality child care through our work on militarychildcare.com. Our program evaluations—like the ongoing seven-year assessment of the Texas GEAR UP program’s impact on post secondary education readiness or the formative evaluation of NAF’s Future Ready Labs innovative student internship model—provide real-time input on implementation and key insights around outcomes.
We combine state-of-the-art methodologies with a deep understanding of the most pressing education challenges to give clients the insights they need to turn research into practice, driving improved efficacy and sustainability of educational programs nationwide.
State Early Childhood Systems
In America, most states have a least four different agencies administering various aspects of their early care and education services for children from birth to age five and their families. States are engaged in efforts to improve these services through effective and coordinated service management and delivery, often referred to as “systems building.” State systems building includes an examination of the needs of children within the context of family and community and must recognize the multifaceted and interconnected functions, processes, and content areas that impact child and family outcomes.
Systems-building efforts are influenced by the political, fiscal, and public engagement context as well. While much has been written about models, approaches, and design of systems, the work remains complex, the processes dynamic, and the structural alignment ever-changing. Challenges for state policymakers and legislators in their systems-building efforts include:
- Bridging the differences between child care, early learning, work supports, and parent empowerment
- Aligning services and programs to ease family participation and improve outcomes
- Prioritizing “at-risk” children versus serving all families
- Linking quality improvement efforts with professional development systems and support
ICF approaches systems building as a way of thinking, rather than a series of step-by-step actions that lead to a single, static, guaranteed outcome. We understand that systems evolve over time through evaluation processes that examine operational objectives, performance measures, changes in the target population, and the impact of the system itself on child and family outcomes.
Improved Care and Education from Birth to Age Five
ICF provides expertise in all sectors of early childhood education (ECE) consulting—from federally subsidized to state-subsidized pre-K and Head Start programs—as well as experience with all sizes of organizations, including community-based and federal programs. Our experience with funding dynamics spans local, state, and federal sources of ECE funding for programs including school readiness and child care quality improvements. This breadth of experience offers clients a unique advantage in the industry, enabling them to provide more coordinated and collaborative service delivery and to address the goals of President Obama's Early Learning Initiative.
We understand the challenges unique to early learning programs, including the need to streamline and leverage disparate funding streams and to ensure fewer redundancies and more funds allocated to improving quality of care. Our proven Research and Evaluation and Training and Technical Assistance services help our clients meet specific needs while addressing common ECE challenges. For clients looking for a cost-effective, out-of-the-box approach, the Early Education Institute offers a unique solution for turnkey program implementation.
With a geographically dispersed staff of experts, ICF offers a deep pool of knowledge, working where our clients work to understand the needs unique to their local organizations. In addition, ICF's emerging presence in the international educational arena provides our domestic clients with global perspectives and adds to the breadth and depth of our experience and knowledge.
Improving Educational Outcomes for Young People & Adults
ICF supports the improvement of youth and adult education through research, evaluation, technical assistance, and training. Our expertise spans elementary, secondary, postsecondary, and adult education and focuses on critical issues such as education reform and improvement; career pathways; college and career readiness; and student, education institution, and intervention program outcomes.
As a trusted partner to our clients-—government at all levels and the wider array of organizations within the education sector ICF recognizes that their stakeholders, including students, parents, educators, researchers, and policymakers-—are our clients, too. ICF's approach is to improve the skills and knowledge of clients while building their capacity to meet future challenges.
ICF is a producer of research that meets rigorous methodological standards and has an extensive history of large scale evaluation of education initiatives, including randomized control trials, quasi-experimental studies, and mixed methods. Examining complex research questions, ICF researchers look for evidence-based answers that translate quickly into improved practice.
Combining proficiency in research and evaluation with expertise in technical assistance enables ICF to guide clients from research through to practical applications. As true partners to our clients, ICF considers their concerns and customizes technical assistance plans, implementation, and evaluations to achieve the outcomes they seek and the capacity to sustain their work.
Education Connections Newsletter Series
- January 2018 Evaluation of capacity building technical assistance
Capacity Building Center for States, interview with Caitlin Howley
- December 2017 Presentations at American Evaluation Association
Evaluating college access programs, a capacity building practice model, evaluation by service providers
- November 2017 Presentations at American Evaluation Association and Virginia Education Research Association conferences
- September 2017 International education, evaluation, market research
U.S. Department of State, the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Education, USAID, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, interview with Helene Jennings
- August 2017 Partnering with private as well as public organizations
College Possible peer coaching, NAF career-themed academy, interview with Jing Sun
- April 2017 Conducting research that illuminates adult education and employment pathways
- March 2017 Evaluating student achievement, college access, and career pathways programs
- February 2017 Partnerships with states
- January 2017 Monitoring and support to state charter school offices
- December 2016 Collaborating with state agencies
- November 2016 Transforming early learning through technical assistance
- October 2016 Contributing to career pathways and career and technical education
- September 2016 Building capacity with agencies
- August 2016 Conducting technical assistance, surveys and evaluation for states
- July 2016 Conducting evaluation and surveys for States
- June 2016 Employing data in education
Professional Development for Child Care Providers & Teachers
As many states across America pass legislation that mandates more rigorous standards for educational programs, requirements for professional development are gaining increased importance. These requirements confirm that comprehensive, targeted professional development is fundamental to the effectiveness and success of educational programs for learners of all ages.
ICF is committed to ensuring high-quality care and education for learners by advancing the professional development of those working in the education field. For those in the early education field, we provide training, technical assistance, and a suite of tailored services designed to help programs meet mandated requirements and demonstrate accountability to funding sources.
Our end-to end services are research based and culturally relevant, incorporating the principles of adult learning theory. The ICF Early Education Institute™ offers customized trainings, workshops, tools, and resources that focus on vital program areas. Within the K-12 arena, ICF works with clients to conduct formative and summative evaluations of teacher professional development programs. Our evaluations are tailored to provide practical feedback with the aim of improving professional development programs and teacher performance.
Education in the Appalachian States
ICF is embedded in the Appalachian region, with offices in North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. We understand the diversity, uniqueness, and cultural and economic complexity of the area, including issues such as the significance of community development to rural places, the effect of "brain drain" on Appalachian communities, and the advantages and challenges wrought by the region’s history. Like many of our Appalachian clients, our attachment to the area nurtures our commitment to providing high-quality services that improve quality of life in the region.
ICF evaluation, research, and technical assistance services in the Appalachian region are tailored to client needs and are responsive to local and regional contexts. Our experts have a wide range of knowledge, skills, and methods with which to serve the Appalachian area, including:
- Research and Evaluation
- Randomized control trials
- Implementation evaluation
- Survey research
- Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA)
- Innovative approaches to T/TA (i.e., Executive coaching)
- Technology-assisted T/TA
- T/TA forecasting, tracking, and trend analysis
- Evaluation of T/TA impact
- Community Engagement
- Research and evaluation
- Stakeholder inclusion in program design and evaluation
- Community development
- Supporting Learning Across a Lifetime
- Adult education
- Workforce development
- Leadership development
- Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable Populations
- Dropout prevention
- Child welfare
- Justice programs and victims’ services
Technical Assistance and Support to Tribal Communities
Ensuring that American Indian and Alaska Native communities have access to high quality technical assistance is critical in meeting the specific needs of tribal communities. Equally important, yet challenging, is the ability to provide culturally appropriate services that are respectful of tribal histories, sovereignty, and the traditional beliefs of tribal populations.
The unique qualities of tribal communities are often the same characteristics that demonstrate the need for intense solutions designed to meet the tribes’ challenges. Often geographically isolated, or in extreme rural environments with extremely high poverty rates, low literacy and educational skills, and high alcoholism and suicide rates, tribal communities require technical assistance approaches that recognize their complexities when designing solutions to address these challenges.
ICF has significant, highly specialized expertise in supporting tribal communities in the areas of early education, Head Start, child care, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), family welfare, health, mental health and suicide prevention, and Native American housing and community development. Our in-depth tribal knowledge, combined with our wide range of subject matter expertise, allow us to provide high-quality, respectful, and culturally relevant technical support to American Indian and Alaska Native communities that helps them to grow educationally, physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
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