At KnowledgeWorks, when you hear us talk about those we serve, you will rarely hear us mention a school district. To us, a school district is a collection of buildings. We don’t serve buildings. We serve learners. And teachers. And leaders. And community members. And business partners. And institutions of higher education. In short, we serve learning communities. And learning communities extend further than the reaches of a school district.
Each district should cultivate partnerships with business, community, and higher education constituents in their communities (including local and county government, recreation, juvenile justice, faith-based, etc.). These entities should be involved in creating a district vision and strategic plan that is aligned with a broader economic and workforce development plan for the community. All aspects of teaching and learning within the district (curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, etc.) should be aligned to this vision. In addition, these partners should assist with creating various learning opportunities (internships, mentor programs, work-based experiences, service learning, etc.) and publish a list of these opportunities for all learners.
By bringing these partners in on the front end of a learning community’s planning processes, you can create a much more robust plan for supporting learners’ needs while also supporting the needs of the community partners you’re working with.
The added benefit of including community partners in the initial stages of visioning is that it becomes harder for community members to throw stones at a glass house they helped build. Further, as one of our board members reminded me in a recent conversation, “Maybe, just maybe, if you’re bringing community members in to help with planning, you won’t be building a glass house in the first place.”
Another advantage of cultivating an inclusive learning community is that, often, you can leverage the assets that community partners bring to the table. Whether it’s hosting a literacy workshop in a church’s basement, a local community college ensuring the newly designed K-12 competencies align with their admission standards or a business leader offering extended learning opportunities to students, partners bring an array of resources than can do nothing but benefit the learning community.