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By Rich Bagin, APR, Executive Director, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

Most people outside of our profession do not fully grasp how busy school leaders are during the summer. Whether it is preparing your facilities for the new year, juggling last-minute staffing changes, upgrading tech applications, getting instructional materials and furniture where they belong, or planning professional development of all sorts for your instructional staff, you’ve got your hands full.

But for many school leaders, early summer is a good time for a bit of retrospection. And, take it from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), summer can be good time to assess what went well and what went wrong in communication and engagement during the past school year.

  • So just how did the roll-out of your brand of Common Core go with your system?
  • And how then are you going to approach releasing the first round of assessments this upcoming year?
  • Are you ready for increasing requests to opt-out of testing? ...

Parent engagement and community engagement have been trending in education lingo for some time, but what do these really mean for school districts? 

Parent engagement strategies are designed to go beyond the required parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, and seminars and events that public schools have used for decades to draw in families and community members. Now, we are happy to see that a few school districts and states are trying to encourage longer-term strategies that are directly tied to student learning, Education Week reports.

These school leaders see that parents who are aware of what’s going on in their child’s school and get involved in working toward academic goals will help their child succeed academically. But it also helps draw needed support for public education from parents and the community. ...

Let’s talk frankly.  Most relationships between the school systems and their communities are dysfunctional - like a bad marriage.  Each has suffered deeply crushed expectations.  If each party were to write a letter to each other trying to save the relationship, letters might read like this:

Dear School:

I am writing this letter to you because I care about you.  I believe every child has to be given access to a quality education--no matter what form--as long as its quality meets the needs of kids and prepares them to be productive citizens.  I’m deeply disappointed in our relationship.  Time and time again you have asked for support and whenever I could, I have provided it whether it was money, mentors, internships, volunteers, speakers and even helping out at school events.  You promised that this is what you needed to be healthy and that kids would benefit.  ...

As California’s ABC Unified School District begins weaving the Common Core State Standards into its classroom curriculum, high school teacher Richard Saldana says the district has learned that cooperation and coordination among all staff is key to helping the standards meet their potential.

The school district regularly brings together teachers, principals and other staff to discuss implementation, then they use those sessions to speak with a unified voice to stakeholders such as the school board and parents.

“We do our best to bring as many stakeholders together as we can, starting with the teachers in the district,” says Saldana, who is the social studies chair at Artesia High School and a member of the district’s executive committee thatguides CCSS implementation. “And we believe that's essential because the teachers are the ones that are using the curriculum with the students.”

Saldana and other teachers quickly noticed that the new standards are much more rigorous, but he feels that once implementation takes hold, the CCSS will ultimately improve his students’ learning. ...

By Melanie Zinn, Owner, Director and Lead Teacher of a Licensed Home Child Care Program in Vermont*

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the early childhood education work force that the American Federation of Teachers is running in honor of Worthy Wage Day, celebrated this year on Friday, May 1. View the other posts in the series here.

We attribute many stereotypes to “those in need”: jobless, maybe homeless, lazy, struggling, etc. I would be surprised if a tidy-looking, professional person was the image that popped into your head at the mention of this phrase. However, the reality of many early educators is just that: In need. I am one of those in need, and I never thought I’d be able to actually admit it.

What could we possibly be in need of, you might ask? The picture of an educator can also be so stereotypical! A woman, right? And one in professional attire, who only has to work like 6 hours a day, who doesn’t even have the children in their classroom the entire time due to library and gym, etc., who has summers off and let’s face it, doesn’t really deserve to earn as much a doctor or lawyer or engineer, right? Oh, so wrong! ...

Joplin, Missouri, is a town in transition. After it was ravaged by a tornado three years ago, leaders have worked to rebuild the core of the town and its school district. Many of the 10,000 students’ families are struggling with poverty and economic hardships, and Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff has been charged with not only managing the district’s rebuilding but also the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

District officials saw the Common Core as an opportunity to bring relevant experiences for a global economy to Joplin schools, and they were concerned that student achievement had plateaued. With the town’s rebuilding, Dr. Huff worked hard to engage the community, including parents, social service agencies, and the business and faith communities, in conversations about its schools and improving student achievement.

Not surprisingly, residents of this conservative area were skeptical of the Common Core, seeing it as an unnecessary federal interference. Yet Joplin school officials have successfully implemented the standards without backlash and even persuaded some of their critics to embrace the standards. ...

The Learning First Alliance’s Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign shares success stories and resources with educators, parents and community leaders across the country to help them better understand and implement the Common Core State Standards in their local schools. LFA Executive Director Cheryl Scott Williams recently spoke with Discovery Education about the purpose of the Get It Right campaign and how LFA took on Common Core as an initiative.

“Get It Right is our way of saying we believe a strong public education system works toward high standards for all children,” she told Discovery Education Senior Vice President Scott Kinney during the interview. “It’s a complicated business educating all children to high standards. ‘Get It Right’ says let’s step back, let’s give our professionals time to learn, to develop new approaches, collaborate, have the resources and support to get it right, and implement Common Core with fidelity.” ...

Montel WilliamsRadio and TV personality Montel Williams is promoting the good work of public education through the National School Boards Association’s “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” campaign. And he wants all educators to join him to “stand up, step up, and speak up for public schools.”

Williams recently energized an audience of thousands of school board members and other educators at NSBA’s 75th annual conference in Nashville. He also is featured in new Stand Up 4 Public Schools digital ads as a spokesman for the national campaign.

Sporting a bright red “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” badge, Williams delivered – “shot gunned,” as he put it – his assertion that school board members must spread the word about issues such as how U.S. public schools graduated a record 82 percent of high school seniors last year, including more than 140,000 minorities. ...

By Heather Naviasky, Program Associate, Coalition for Community Schools

Twice in the last several months, schools have received attention because of their strong academic performance. But in telling their stories, the Education Trust (in the case of Menlo Park Elementary a "dispelling the myth school" in Portland, OR) and the Washington Post (in the case of Carlin Springs Elementary in Arlington, VA) focused only on academic improvements, overlooking the role of educators and their community partners in ensuring that low-income children also have the opportunities and supports they need to thrive. Last month we at the Coalition for Community Schools expanded on the success of Menlo Park Elementary; this month, we dive deeper into Carlin Springs.

On January 10, 2015, the Washington Post highlighted how Carlin Springs Elementary was raising test scores. It focused on how "teaching to the test" and test prep created double digit test score gains for the school. Once again, while they zoomed in on one area of achievement, the Post did not capture other dimensions of the school’s improvement strategy ...

By Anita Merina, National Education Association (NEA)

More than 45 million participants are expected to join the National Education Association’s 18th annual Read Across America Day celebration this year on Monday, March 2.  Here’s a rundown on activities taking place and ways you can help us spread the word about the nation’s largest reading event. Visit readacrossamerica.org to share your events and see what’s happening around the country and you’ll find free downloadable materials and activities at www.nea.org/readacross.

Cat-a-Van Reading Tour 2015:  NEA’s RAA Cat-A-Van hits the road this year from March 2 through March 6 and will visit California, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.  Visit www.nea.org/readacross for more information and a list of cities and participating schools. ...

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