A new policy guide, developed by nine national education organizations, explores the many roles school board members can play in ensuring that every student in their district receives a comprehensive, high-quality education. The report, Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success, offers policy recommendations and highlights districts around the nation that have embraced a “whole-child” method of teaching and learning that engages community members to meet students where they are emotionally, physically, and academically to ensure that every student is prepared to succeed.
“Today half of our children in public school are poor. At the same time, many schools lack the resources to help meet the needs of children who are struggling,” said Francine Lawrence, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. “The American Federation of Teachers believes in an approach that helps to address the needs of the whole child by collaborating with community partners to focus on academic as well as social, emotional, and health needs.”
The report presents a framework for student-centered supports aimed at keeping at-risk students in the classroom and on a path to success by engaging the community in their educational journey. Through collaborating with community members, organizations, and businesses, districts can narrow achievement and opportunity gaps by leveling the field for all students.
The primary means of achieving whole-child success in school is through Personal Opportunity Plans (POP), the report finds. These student-centered and -directed plans are designed to help every student meet his or her academic, social, emotional, and college and career potential, while also preparing them for success in life. These plans are derived from school-community partnerships and serve as a vehicle for staff, teachers, and outside partners to collaborate to support each student.
Educators, families, and community play a role in supporting a student’s POP. Teachers use this plan as a vehicle for personalizing learning to meet the student’s needs. Parents engage with teachers more frequently and build a stronger relationship with the school system. Community partners link the student to businesses, youth organizations, and colleges to enhance student exploration of college- and career-based opportunities.
The report highlights multiple school districts and classrooms that are engaging the community school method to improve student learning and outcomes. For example, Roy Clark Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is part of the Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative (TACSI), which personalizes learning and develops student supports such as monthly well-being reviews and individualized learning plans.
Finally, the report gives practical guidance to school board members on what they need to know to transition to student-centered environments. The guide breaks down four key areas for board members to assess in their own district—school capacity, climate, community, and cohesion—with specific recommendations and questions in each one. Primarily, school board members need to know the needs of their students and the resources of the district and community, the report notes.
“Partnerships, Not Pushouts lays the groundwork for policy recommendations, including using community school resource coordinators to facilitate the development of Personal Opportunity Plans for each student. It also outlines how to implement whole-child strategies to ensure all children can succeed,” Lawrence said.
The report was developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education, American Federation of Teachers, CASEL, Coalition for Community Schools, National Education Association, National School Boards Association, Opportunity Action, Opportunity to Learn Campaign, and the Rural School and Community Trust.
Read the full report at http://www.otlcampaign.org/sites/default/files/2014-122_POPGuide_DIGITAL.PDF.