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Engaging the Community to Build Future Momentum

“Our aim was to create a real conversation between parents and schools.” (Karen Perry)

Overview

Challenge: How to build momentum for change across the entire community.

Context: Deliberate and thoughtful community engagement can be a powerful lever to “move slow to move fast.” District leaders in Henry County, GA, have been deliberate about helping schools engage parents and community members. This includes:

Action Steps:

Involving parents in decision-making

Henry County school redesign teams are required to have both student and parent representation. These teams lead the school’s application to join a redesign cohort as well as participate in producing videos that explain each school’s approach. Schools also need to produce evidence of parent support (for example, a letter from the school’s PTAO confirming that they were aware of and supported the school’s transition to a personalized model).

Creating an open and transparent flow of communication

Henry County has established a range of pathways to engage and communicate with parents in a consistent way. Personalized Learning Coordinator Karen Perry explains that by better understanding what parents cared about and taking the time to communicate accordingly, the district would set itself up to eventually accelerate its scale efforts. This included:

  • Surveying parents across the district to understand 1) perceptions of personalized learning and 2) ideas for what skills students should be cultivating
  • Hosting open house evenings for parents that invited them to create their own “portrait of a graduate” and see how these portraits connected with the district’s personalized learning strategy
  • Hosting school exhibition nights where students could show their work and parents could offer input and feedback to the schools
  • Sending out regular newsletters showing specific examples of what students were working on at different schools

Finally, one personalized learning school presented at every board study session to publicly share their journey to personalized learning, successes, struggles, and requests for ongoing support. This raised awareness about personalized learning with both the board and with the general public.

Additional examples:

Trailblazer Elementary School in Colorado Springs School District 11 also offers a good example of gaining momentum through community engagement. By hosting “seeing is believing” tours, the school invites parents and other community members to engage with the rationale and goals of personalization. Trailblazer also developed a communications plan focused on creating transparency and good dialogue with the community.