Community, collaboration, and relationships have become more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the country, many school districts have embraced this opportunity to rethink how to engage with families and the surrounding community.
We know that family and community engagement is critical for lasting improvement in schools and school systems; it is linked to improved school readiness, higher grades, and increased likelihood of high school graduation, among other positive effects. With strong leadership that treats families, caregivers, and community organizations as full and authentic partners in student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, school systems have found new ways to help ensure their children are well.
Since last summer, TNTP has had the privilege to partner with four diverse school districts—Richland Parish, Louisiana; Hamilton County, Tennessee; Hartford, Connecticut; and Collier County, Florida—as they prioritized authentic community engagement. This work is being highlighted in Rising Together: How Four Districts are Building Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a report featuring work of each district and their communities in case studies that highlights their successes.
The districts rested their work on TNTP’s four pillars of community engagement:
Shared Vision – Communities and school systems must first work closely together to shape a common vision for student success and make sure that everyone—from teachers to parents to community leaders—have a role to play in that vision.
Intentional Culture and Diversity – To build trust—especially in communities that have experienced divestment—schools must address implicit and explicit bias, understand the unique context and assets of specific communities, and encourage the sharing of diverse perspectives.
Authentic Collaboration – Families and community organizations are critical to student success. Schools need to share data and resources that can help families and community organizations better support student learning outside of school.
360-Degree Communication – Sharing information regularly and transparently is critical, but it’s not enough. Schools must create meaningful opportunities for all voices to be heard, and families and communities need to know the role their feedback played in decision-making.
In the coming weeks, TNTP will be hosting a series of webinars entitled: Rising Together: Building Community in Your District building on this report, designed to give school and district leaders actionable insights and strategies to engage families in their communities.