Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program Report to Congress: State Implementation Progress, SY 2014-15
This report responds to the requirement of PL 110-246 to assess the effectiveness of state and local efforts to directly certify children for free school meals. Direct certification is a process conducted by the states and by local educational agencies to certify eligible children for free meals without the need for household applications.
This report uses statistical modeling techniques to assess the relationship between direct certification performance and specific State practices, seeking best practices and providing recommendations for States to use when developing their Continuous Improvement Plans.
The purpose of this study is to describe current methods of direct certification used by State and local agencies and challenges facing States and local education agencies in attaining high matching rates. In addition, the analysis of unmatched records provides a better understanding of the categorically eligible children who are not matched in the direct certification process and identifies potential matching process improvements that might increase the number of matched children. This study includes analysis of data drawn from a National Survey of Direct Certification Practices and case studies of seven States for School Year 2012-2013.
The NSLP offers free and reduced-price school meals to students from eligible households. Households with incomes at or below 130 percent of poverty are eligible for free meals, and households with incomes between 131 percent and 185 percent of poverty are eligible for reduced-price meals. Traditionally, to receive these benefits, households had to complete and submit application forms to schools or be directly certified. Direct certification, on the other hand, is a method of eligibility determination that does not require families to complete school meal applications. Instead, school officials use documentation from the local or state welfare agency that indicates that a household participates in AFDC or food stamps as the basis for certifying students for free school meals.