Joining Forces to Raise Student Achievement: Communities and Schools
One of the foundations of ASAI's work is bringing a schools, parents, business, local government and community organizations together to work collaboratively on the challenge of raising student achievement. By working together, these groups can surround students with consistent expectations for high achievement supported by strategies not only at school but also in the home and in the community.
If you are serving on your school's Community Council, here's how you can help as your school progresses through the Vision-to-Action process for school improvement:
Vision: Businesses representatives, local government officials and others involved in economic development can help educators understand the level of academic rigor that is required for success in a global economy. Specifically, what skills and knowledge in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) do future employees need? Educators hear about the need for academic rigor from "experts" at the state and national level and they read about academic rigor in journals. However, what really makes a difference is when local business men and women explain how the global economy has impacted their businesses and why they need the community's young people to achieve at a high level.
Academic Data Targets: While business commonly use performance data to inform decision-making, this is a new concept in education. You can help educators set rigorous data targets that are appropriate in a global economy in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math, and communitications. Just as important, you can help educators understand the value of using data to inform instructional decisions. Finally, business people can help educators understand the concept of quality. For example, a hospital must always strive for 100% of its operations to be successful while educators are sometimes satisfied if their achievement is simply above state average.
Areas of Concern: Areas of concern are the items within the school and the community that might interfere with learning. You can help your school by carefully analyzing the force field reports while asking two questions: 1) What areas are interfering with learning? 2) What areas can I or an organization in which I am involved do something about? Encourage the school to establish Areas of Concern in those area that concern you - especially the areas that you believe the community can tackle. Common concerns that can be addressed through various community strategies are 1) low expectations for academic achievement, 2) need for real-world applications for academic content, 3) need for additional student guidance. Of these three concerns, low expectations is the most critical because students rarely achievement above adult expectations and will often work hard to meet adult expectations. What can your community do to help create a culture of high academic expectations for all students and then actively convey concrete expectations to students?
Strategies: As the Community Council begins to discuss strategies, think about what you or an organization to which you belong could do. Strategies do not have to be full-blown programs. Many successful strategies are very simple in terms of implementation. The chairs for these strategies should be community people that are trained by the Strategy Chair Point Person to enter their strategy information into InSAI's online system. Community strategy chairs may choose to enter just the title and description, or the entire strategy plan including strategy performance data and an action plan.
Below are strategies that have been implemented in InSAI communities.
CONCERN - LOW EXPECATATIONS
- Faith-Based Organization: Leaders of all the communitiy's faith-based organizations talked to each of their parish's young people individually about the importance of Algebra.
- Extension Homemakers Club: With the help of Dollars for Scholars, members of a Purdue Extention Homemakers Club organized a community scholarship foundation and awarded small scholarships to 100% of the seniors planning to continue their education after high school. While their scholarhships were small, the message was "we expect you to go to college."
- Service Club: A local Kiwanis Club provided in-school tutors at an elementary school.
- Faith-Based Organization: A local faith-based organization provided after-school tutoring for an elementary school.
- Newspaper: A newspaper printed a series of weekly articles about the local high school's recent graduates who attended college and were successful in the workplace.
- Newspaper: A newspaper printed a weekly list of merit-based scholarships (conveying an expectation of college attendance).
- Service Club: A local service club created and distributed a "Parent Mentor List" including names and phone numbers of parents whose children had been to college who were willing to talk to other parents about the process of college admissions and financial aid.
- Economic Development Organization: An economic development organization developed a panel of business people who spoke at a faculty meeting about the level of economic rigor that students must possess to be successful in their businesses and in a global economy.
- Business: Members of a local business called targeted middle school students to encourage them to take a rigorous curriculum in high school and go to college.
- Business: Members of the business community used materials provided by the Indiana Core 40 Scholars Program to make a presentation to 8th graders about the global economy, importance of college, and specific Core 40 courses that they should take in ninth grade.
CONCERN - NEED FOR REAL-WORLD APPLICATIONS
- Business: Local manufacturing business volunteered to sit down with physics teachers to develop assignments that required students to apply academic content to real-world problems.
- Business: Businesses provided work-site experiences for students including walk-throughs for elementary students, job shadowing for middle-level students, and internships for high school students.
- Hospital: A local hospital donated materials that were going to be discarded (e.g. xray with the personal information removed) to the local school's science department.
CONCERN - NEED FOR ADDITIONAL STUDENT GUIDANCE
- Higher Education: Members of a college admissions office met individually with all juniors at a local high school who took the PSAT to discuss their results including 1) how to prepare fo the SAT, 2) what types of colleges might be good matches for the student, and 3) how to write an inquiry letter to a college requesting information.
- Higher Education: Admission representatives from apprenticeship programs, career colleges, 2-year colleges, and 4-year colleges met with students after they took a career interest inventory to discussion postsecondary opportunities related to the students' career interests.
- Chamber of Commerce: A local chamber of commerce conducted mock interviews with all freshmen during which they stressed the importance of math and science and encouraged postsecondary attendance.
- Mayor's Office: A mayor's office created a communitiy media campaign to encourage students to complete the FAFSA (form for financial aid).
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