WSU gets grant to grow family engagement in education

By Lindsey Smith, College of Education intern

Jennifer-LeBeau-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Education is important from a young age, and one Washington State University researcher is looking to make it a family affair.

Clinical assistant professor Jennifer LeBeau has been awarded the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant by the U.S. Department of Education. The five year, $1.3 million grant will be used to create before- and after-school services for children and evening programs for adults and families of the Grand Coulee Dam School District in Coulee Dam, Wash.

Jennifer LeBeau. (Photo by C. Brandon Chapman, WSU College of Education)

“This particular grant affords the children the opportunity to work with their families and community to make this a holistic approach to increasing their engagement and success,” LeBeau said.

The grant has three goals: increase student academic achievement, especially in math and science; increase positive student behavior; increase family engagement in children’s education, “and that’s where the before- and after-school programming comes in,” she said.

Focus on Native American communities

The project will focus on families from the school district, which covers six towns in five counties where more than 55 percent are of American Indian descent. Many of the children fall below average in state and local education testing.

The grant will foster a partnership between the district and Wenatchee Valley College. The college will offer extended computer lab hours, dual-credit courses in the afternoon and evening and, overall, more challenging local educational opportunities.

The school district has been the recipient of past 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, LeBeau said, but this one specifically has a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus and will incorporate more hands-on and project-based activities.

Guiding the path to success

Throughout the project, LeBeau will work behind the scenes to offer external assessment.

“I am the evaluator, so my role is to provide information to the project team about what’s working well and what needs improvement. That will be used to help guide their activities on a yearly basis,” she said. “I’ll also look at the end of the project to determine its impact.”

She is partnering with WSU Spokane education researcher Sylvia Oliver and Mary Schilling of the Grand Coulee school district.

LeBeau graduated from WSU’s higher education administration program in 2012 and is in her third year of teaching educational psychology. She is a research associate in the WSU Learning & Performance Research Center, working as an external evaluator on issues mainly concerning STEM education and student success.


Jenny LeBeau, WSU College of Education, 509-335-8412,