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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Community Engagement as an Impetus for School Reform

Teachers and school administrators have to realize that in order for reform to pay dividends, it must be fully embraced by the local district and community. One of the biggest impediments to school reform is the failure to create an environment that nurtures and sustains school improvement. Districts must show fidelity to school reform as if it were a symbiotic relationship. Effecting change in the behavior of teachers and administrators, while necessary, is inadequate. All stakeholders have to be fully committed to making school reform a community effort. Not all community members have to agree with proposed or recently implemented reforms, but they have to be reasonable and adult enough to agree that something needs to change to improve education in the community. In the case of districts where students are struggling, most detractors change their minds once they realize that conflict will not be beneficial to student learning. Ultimately, no one in the community wants to see American children fail.

Schools will change only if the vision of school reform and improvement is alluring enough to entice the buy in of the majority of teachers and other staff.  They have to recognize that success is possible. Schools needing effective change must have leaders who can motivate and inspire the teachers to implement instructional school reforms with confidence and diligence. The result will be a cadre of educators diligently working to reach their potential, and in turn fostering the academic achievement of their students. Educators should not have to be bribed into working harder in order to facilitate reforms that benefit students; rather, if educators are enticed by a provocative reform plan and a strong and knowledgeable reform leader, they should become passionate enough to successfully implement the reform

Whenever educational reform is attempted, the community should be educated concerning the problems facing the school district and the solutions proposed by school leaders to ameliorate them. When a community is kept in the loop and made an integral part of the reform process, community members begin to take ownership. A cadre of committed community members can provide important input into the needs and desires of the community. All communities have needs for enhancements, and whenever possible, schools should help students improve the community in which they live. Most civic-minded citizens know they have the right to participate in the educational process, and they will do everything legally and politically to exercise their rights. Without a school-community partnership, it will be difficult or impossible for genuine school reform to take place. In some respects, community members are the investors and stockholders of schools. After all, the community’s tax dollars pay the teachers, administrators, and staff’s salary.

Tagline- Matthew Lynch is an Assistant professor of Education at Widener University. He can be contacted at

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