At KnowledgeWorks, we believe a community-wide vision for teaching and learning, and constant stakeholder communication around that vision, is the cornerstone of a personalized, competency-based system. While I have done a lot of research on the powerful role vision and communication play in improving outcomes for all learners, I have never experienced it firsthand the way our teaching and learning experts partnering with schools get to.
Where I have experienced it is in my role as a parent of two elementary school students at Highland Elementary School, part of the Hamilton City School District. Highland uses what I call “the new traditional” way of communicating with parents – Facebook, Twitter, etc. These are great for when I’m checking if there is a snow day or I want to see a picture of Bow Tie Tuesday but it’s difficult to communicate a strategic vision in 280 characters.
For this reason, the leaders at Highland have created several different opportunities for parents and community members to get involved, including the Highland Community Council. This group is made up of community members, business leaders, parents and teachers and collectively helps set the vision for the school. In addition to giving input on the vision, this group is charged with setting goals, like raising kindergarten readiness, and participating in events, like Kindergarten Readiness Night, that move Highland closer to that vision.
The interesting thing about our family’s experience at Highland is that I never wanted it. Not there. We tried several different times to find other educational opportunities for our kids. Once it became clear that wouldn’t work, we accepted that we would have to send our kids to Highland. But ultimately, I’m glad it worked out that way. Not only are our kids receiving a great education thanks to the teachers in our school, but we have also found a home at Highland and are committed, because of things like the Community Council, to seeing it succeed.
As a researcher, I can give you all of the benefits of co-creating a vision for your school and sharing that experience with the broader community. As a parent, I can tell you that this is an absolute necessity to earn the trust and support of your parents and community.