Communities Hold the Key to Reinventing Education

In my opinion, it is an amazing time to be alive; what we can accomplish today and the opportunities we have as individuals seem limitless. As someone who works in education, the pressure we own to prepare our students for this world has hit warp speed. Educators feel an undeniable force to produce a different type of student while reducing whole group instruction and moving to a more personalized approach. What’s challenging about this change is that our schedules haven’t changed, many of our parents’ views of how instruction should be delivered haven’t changed, and in the US overall, the focus on test scores hasn’t changed. So, what do we do? Consider widening the circle and working with our community toward a common goal, such as striving to co-create a community of innovation leveraging the time, talents, and resources inside and outside of our schools.

Getting Started

High Aims, a collaborative group of leaders across southern Ohio, helps pull districts together maximizing the collective knowledge, insights, and experience to help all districts engage and inspire high performing learners. Mary Jo, the Executive Chair believes in crowdsourcing ideas for meeting district needs, so during a High Aims Planning Committee led by Natasha Adams, we brainstormed how High Aims can meet my aims, satisfying the needs of each district. The need to engage our communities to shift the educational experience surfaced in every group. Mary Jo and Natasha immediately thought of Tim Kubik from Project ARC. ARC stands for authentic, relevant, and complex – three words that succinctly point to what all learners need. By the time our next High Aims meeting convened, Community Asset Mapping with Tim Kubik had found its way onto our calendars.

Community Asset Mapping

Tim Kubik

The first Community Asset Mapping session, attended by 12 of 26 High Aims districts, was facilitated by Tim Kubik, Dayna Laur, and Jill Clayton. The experience was INCREDIBLE, time flew, the content was on point resulting in the Project ARC team passionately accomplishing their mission of co-creating relevant and authentic experiences that foster complex learning for educators and students. Over the course of two days, we worked in mixed groups and with our district team building an understanding of the value of involving the community, establishing methods for engaging them and finally, establishing our next steps. I appreciated the structure and delivery of content as “sit and get” didn’t exist making the experience memorable, thought-provoking, and inspiring. Another benefit of the overall organization of our two-day experience stemmed from district-to-district collaboration and gaining insights from our neighboring districts; something we all covet but rarely have the opportunity to experience.

According to Kubik, and Project ARC, a Community Asset Map should consider six types of assets in the community:

  1. Gifts, talents, and skills of the residents
  2. Network of relationships, connected gifts or “associations”
  3. Institutions and professional entities
  4. Physical assets, such as land, property, buildings, and equipment
  5. Economic assets, such as the productive work of individuals, consumer spending power, and local businesses
  6. The culture of stories of your community.

Through our Community Asset Training, Tim, Dana, and Jill pointed us to two resources that hold great promise for moving our work:

  1. Eleven Essential Steps to Building Mentoring Partnerships with Companies
  2. Designing Community Partnerships to Expand Student Learning – Toolkit!
    1. Refine your school’s expanded learning time vision.
    2. Hire a community partner coordinator.
    3. Find community partners and volunteers — recruiting the right people.
    4. Secure the relationships.
    5. Recruit volunteers.
    6. Onboard your community partners and volunteers.
    7. Continually communicate with all stakeholders.

Community Asset Mapping

Mason City Schools’ sound bite crafted during our two-day session:

Engaging our community is vital to personalizing the experience for all learners. We will co-construct a system that leads to a community of innovation led by difference makers.

Next Steps

Thankfully, High Aims secured virtual coaching with Project ARC to keep us moving. As with any professional learning, ongoing support is an essential ingredient for success; we’re excited to continue our work building on the experience of Tim and his team.

In America, we can no longer work siloed and decide within our school walls, how we can prepare students for their future. Our communities hold the key.