Academic journal article School Community Journal

Recognizing Community Voice and a Youth-Led School-Community Partnership in the School Climate Improvement Process

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Recognizing Community Voice and a Youth-Led School-Community Partnership in the School Climate Improvement Process

Article excerpt

Abstract

A growing body of school improvement research suggests that engaging all members of the school community, including community members and leaders, provides an essential foundation to successful school improvement efforts. School climate surveys to date tend to recognize student, parent/guardian, and school personnel voice but not the voice of community members. The Community Scale and the youth-led School-Community Partnership Process acknowledges the perceptions of community members and the importance of school-community partnership. This process engages secondary students to be active co-learners and co-leaders. The Community Scale is a short survey that asks community members about their perception of the school climate, the level of school-community partnership, and the extent to which they would be interested in learning about and supporting the school's improvement goals. In the School-Community Partnership Process, students are involved in administering this survey to various sectors of the larger school community. The results are then used to develop partnerships between community organizations and the school. This paper details one school's experience piloting the Community Scale and School-Community Partnership Process. The aim of this study was to better understand community members' perceptions of school climate and their level of interest in working with schools to improve it.

Key Words: school climate, school-community partnerships, Community Scale, community voice, youth leadership, high school students, improvement

Introduction

Students in K-12 schools and their teachers need parents/guardians and even community members to be partners in the process of supporting students' healthy development and capacity to learn socially, emotionally, and civically as well as intellectually (Fullan, 2011; Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies, 2007; Patrikakou, Weissberg, Redding, & Walberg, 2005). School leaders generally appreciate that school-community partnerships provide an essential foundation for school life and student learning, but this is rarely a central goal for improvement efforts today (Epstein et al., 2008). School-community partnerships tend to be talked about more than practiced in American K-12 public education for many reasons. Often, the importance of establishing school- community partnerships is overlooked, as district leaders and principals are faced with enormous pressure to meet academic standards (Renée & McAlister, 2011). Many school leaders are unclear about how to practically achieve this goal (Cohen, 2014). More importantly, school leaders are unclear about how to foster a long-lasting relationship with the community.

School climate reform has been described as a process that ideally engages the "whole village" to support the "whole child" (Cohen, 2011). School climate evaluations allow principals to let students, parents, and school personnel know that their perception of the school's strengths and needs and their goals for the school are valued. A growing body of school improvement research suggests that engaging all members of the community to be intrinsically motivated co-learners and co-leaders creates the essential foundation for successful school improvement efforts (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010; Fullan, 2011, 2014; Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010; Tucker, 2011). School climate survey evaluations serve as an engagement strategy as well as a means of establishing baseline and outcome measures of a school's strengths and needs: socially, emotionally, civically, and intellectually (Cohen, 2012).

Current school climate surveys identify student, parent/guardian, and school personnel voice but not the voice of community members. The Community Scale and School-Community Partnership Process recognize the perspective of community members by seeking their outlook on school-community partnership and on school climate with the goal of using these results to spark development of such partnerships. …

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