This is the fifth article in the series Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders.
Why Engage the Community?
District leaders offer many reasons for engaging the community early on in the process of converting to competency education.
- Nurturing Consensus and Leadership: Communities need to be given time to understand the new structure and why it is important. The greater the number of people in the community who are knowledgeable about the process, the more they can help others to understand.
- Contributing Valuable Perspectives: Members of the community will bring ideas to the table that educators might not necessarily include. They will bring their values and perspectives to create a richer conversation.
- Re-Aligning Roles: Engaging community members will shake up the bureaucratic dynamics that have come to shape how educators often interact with families and community members.
- Re-Building Respect and Trust: Community engagement can help to overcome mistrust and build the mutual respect that is needed to create a culture of learning. In most districts, there are segments of the community that have either had bad experiences in school or have historically been underserved and disrespected by school systems. Districts must create a space for people to talk about what they want for their children, have honest conversations about the current academic achievement levels and graduation rates, and share their fears.
- Sustaining Change: Community engagement is an essential ingredient for staying the course when unanticipated consequences of implementation arise and when district leadership changes.
- Unlearning Old Routines and Practices: Districts and schools will receive feedback on what has not been working in their previous community engagement strategies and can begin to co-design new strategies with the community.
There is an additional reason that community engagement is needed in the process of converting to competency education: to build respectful relationships with students. In order to foster strong relationships, school personnel need to have a sense of the culture and experiences that shape their students’ lives. In competency education, valuing the insight and perspectives of the community has to come first. In fact, the most successful district conversions to date begin the process with strong community involvement. (more…)