evaluation to enhance understanding of the effects of adopting the AEO, including, especially, the effects on participation and administrative costs.
The panel’s recommendations also are designed to facilitate implementation of the AEO by removing specific barriers to its adoption. Because National School Lunch Program certification data are used to confer benefits for and administer other assistance and education programs, some districts have been reluctant to adopt existing special provisions that eliminate—for at least several years—the certification process and, thereby, certification data. These needs of other programs might also be a barrier to adoption of the AEO, which permanently ends the certification process. Therefore, the panel recommends that FNS, the U.S. Department of Education, and other federal, state, and local agencies agree to allow school districts to use data other than traditional National School Lunch Program certification data for individual and aggregate reporting of economically disadvantaged students under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as for other purposes.
In considering the AEO, some districts may wish to adopt it in a subset of schools with especially high concentrations of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals rather than districtwide. For such districts, the panel recommends that FNS and the Census Bureau agree on protocols and schedules for the exchange of school attendance area boundary information and the dissemination of ACS estimates, and that FNS provide technical assistance for the preparation of the geographic information needed by the Census Bureau.
Additional recommendations by the panel address activities to monitor and enhance the accuracy of the ACS eligibility estimates that would be used to implement the AEO. Specifically, the panel recommends collaboration among FNS, the U.S. Department of Education, and the broader education research community in monitoring the prevalence of school choice opportunities and evaluating the effects of such opportunities on the accuracy of ACS eligibility estimates; monitoring by FNS of the accuracy of ACS eligibility estimates, the accuracy of administrative certification estimates, and the accuracy and stability of differences between the ACS and administrative estimates; sponsorship of research to develop a statistical model that could be applied to all districts in adjusting for differences between ACS eligibility estimates and school meals program certification data; and collaboration between FNS and the Census Bureau to improve the methods for deriving ACS eligibility estimates, with a focus on methods for small-area model-based estimation.
Although these recommendations and those pertaining to technical assistance and related activities are appropriate for FNS to pursue if it chooses to implement the AEO, the panel developed other recommen-