Academic journal article School Community Journal

The Story of an Urban Learning Community

Academic journal article School Community Journal

The Story of an Urban Learning Community

Article excerpt


This article is a case study of a highly effective school leader in an urban city in Connecticut who has created a successful learning community. Through a one-year study, which involved interviews and observations on a regular basis, the author ascertained the leadership practices and patterns of this leader that have led to a successful learning community where teachers, staff, parents, and children are valued and treated with respect, and children are achieving academically.

The article provides a description of the school and the school's leader. Through qualitative analysis themes emerged that served as the paradigm from which the school operates. The article gives examples of activities and programs and provides excerpts from direct quotes taken from teachers, staff, and parents that give evidence to their success as a learning community.

Key Words: learning community, leader, parent involvement, caring, collaborative, parents and education, community


Creating a learning community requires establishing relationships among teachers, students, parents, and administrators who work together on shared values, purposes, and commitments. Additionally, these shared values, purposes, and commitments must bond with the community. This image suggests a different type of leadership than what exists in schools today (Cantania, 2001; DePree, 1989; Sergiovanni, 1992). In effective learning communities, leadership is shared. It is no longer the role of one person, but acquires a broadened definition that includes teachers, parents, and members of the entire educational community. Effective learning communities are successful in meeting the needs of the students, involving the parents in the educational process, and empowering the teachers as an integral part of the school community (Chamberlin, 2001; Villani & Atkins, 2000).

The Annenberg Institute at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island has been doing research since 1995 with thousands of educators around the country to determine which schools are effective learning communities and why. Their results to date demonstrate that the most effective learning communities are schools where every member in the community has the responsibility and authority to take on leadership roles. These schools have embraced the concept of a learning community and have developed a collective vision, shared values and priorities, and strong accountability procedures to meet the vision and values that have been established. The core to the success of these learning communities is the leader. The common leadership strategies they have found to be most effective include: developing a shared vision, determining clear priorities, linking schools to the community, promoting professional development, providing a strong accountability system, and reorganizing the school structure (Neuman & Fisher, 2000).

The two most critical strategies from the list above in developing successful learning communities appear to be the development of partnerships with parents and the local school community and reorganizing the school structure. The Annenberg Institute found that the creation of these partnerships meant schools operated as an integral part of their community. In fact, schools need to become the center of the community by utilizing the knowledge and skills of community members, involving community members in the decision making process, eliciting feedback, creating successful partnerships, and welcoming the community into the school (Neuman & Fisher, 2000)

It appears that researchers and educators have begun to realize that improving student learning and achievement requires creating learning communities. However, according to the Annenberg Institute, the major ingredient is effective leadership, a leadership where the leader has vision, passion, strength, knowledge, commitment, and heart. The leader accomplishes this by framing the learning community as a collaborative sharing of all people involved. …

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