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Analyzing Parent Narratives to Create Parent Gauge™

A person holds a baby while an older child play behind them
Helping Head Start build a tool to assess parent, family, and community engagement
  • Client
    National Head Start Association, Ford Foundation, Rainin Foundation, Region V Head Start Association
  • Dates
    2015 - 2019

Parent Gauge™ is a web-based tool that allows local Head Start and Early Head Start programs easily access parent narratives about their families’ experiences with the program, helping providers obtain useful information for program evaluation and improvement. NORC played a crucial role in the creation of this tool. In collaboration with the National Head Start Association and Region V Head Start Association, we analyzed original narratives in which parents described their parent, family, and community engagement experiences within a framework outlined by the Office of Head Start. 

The project started with 147 grantees from across the country collecting almost 700 parent narratives. Data scientists at NORC then used natural language processing and unsupervised machine learning methods such as topic modeling to analyze these narratives. Computer-aided natural language processing allowed for an unconstrained examination of common themes, keywords, and phrases among large sets of unstructured text. Its application to parent report narratives provided unique insights about how parents described their experiences with Head Start.

Further analysis cross-walked the results of the narrative analysis with the Parent, Family, and Community Experience Framework and an extensive literature review. Combining this analysis with qualitative coding of a subset of interviews enabled NORC to identify (from the parent narratives) and validate (from the framework) the most important themes. By sampling a variety of agencies across all 12 Head Start regions, the collected data represented a diverse range of experiences and perspectives, assuring that the insights were applicable to Head Start outcomes nationally.

Parent Gauge™ consists of an interview with closed-ended questions that can be viewed immediately in quantitative reports as well as open-ended questions with the ability to upload audio files or fields to transcribe what is discussed in the interview.

Learn More About the Study

For more information about the Parent Gauge™ and how it works:

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