Thursday, April 22, 2010

Community Schools Update

A couple weeks ago, Solynn and I were attended a Community Schools Forum in Philadelphia, put on by the Coalition for Community Schools. Despite a 3:30 a.m. arrival time due to an unexpected redirect of our flight, it was a great opportunity to learn more about national efforts. As we move further into this work it’s highly beneficial to see the experiences that have shaped other efforts across the country.

Several Seattle partners attended the conference representing community based organizations, the Alliance, and a couple district staff who were brought by external community partners.

At the heart of the community schools initiative is the goal of improving student academic success by addressing the many complex needs of our students and families. We had the opportunity to learn how other agencies have identified outcomes, engaged families, and built partnerships which are having a positive impact on students in their regions.

Here are just a few of the many themes that came out of the conference:

· Remember the importance of youth participating in the planning process

· Put the community back in community schools – start planning with community members and parents at the table from the beginning. Note: This summer, the Alliance’s community engagement effort will focus on this area, planning for a strong fall outreach to families and community partners.

· Remember the importance of data. This is about supporting students and what you count counts.

· Health is a very important component for a community schools effort

We’ve been talking about this for a while and the conversation is now moving forward. It isn’t just the Alliance that is working on this effort, but various organizations building a regional effort. Partners include universities, foundations, non-profits and civic leadership. These groups are learning from each other and moving our efforts forward in alignment rather than individual parallel efforts.

We are excited to be part of this process that hopes to build a safety net for all students and ensure that all have the opportunity to succeed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An Exciting Day

An exciting effort was launched today. The Alliance, in conjunction with 13 other community organizations and several community leaders, issued a joint statement advocating for specific changes to the Seattle Public Schools teacher contract, scheduled to be renegotiated beginning next week. This group, “Our Schools Coalition,” commissioned a citywide poll of Seattle taxpayers, public school parents and teachers. The survey demonstrated overwhelming support for the proposed changes.

Teacher quality is the single biggest point of leverage in the system. A great teacher is the single largest predictor of student success. A strong, vibrant teacher corps, where great teachers are acknowledged, rewarded and supported, will have a demonstrable, positive impact on student achievement.

Guided by a set of core principles that put student success and teacher support at the fore, Our Schools Coalition is advocating for increased teacher preparation and peer collaboration time as well as expanded mentoring and coaching programs. The group also proposes moving to a 4-tier teacher evaluation system, factoring student academic growth into teacher evaluations, and factoring performance into staffing decisions, including placement, transfers and layoffs. Finally, the coalition advocates opening up new career paths and compensation opportunities for teachers that go beyond seniority and credentialing, as well as opening up the teaching field to organizations such as Teach for America.

To view the statement, see the polling data, and sign on, go to

Sara Morris, President &CEO, AFE