The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Real partnerships include having a voice

I was unfortunately not able to attend the recent education summit hosted by The News-Press in Southwest Florida, but I'm finding the materials they've published from the event to be fascinating. I have not found newspapers generally interested in promoting outside-the-system solutions, but these folks have clearly identified the need for the community to play a significant role in turning things around.

My concern with this, as with improvement efforts elsewhere, is the way in which the community is asked to help. All too often, the community becomes one more "pocket" for schools to dip into; they get no say in setting the goals or identifying how to reach them, they're just asked to support what the schools have decided they'll do. That's fine to an extent, but if you look at education as the News-Press has framed it, our schools are designed to produce outcomes that are important to the community; the community should therefore have a say in what those outcomes are and how they are achieved.

If we say that workforce preparedness is important, then we cannot limit the community's role to supplemental activities like scholarships and internships; they must have a say in what workforce preparedness looks like and in building the path for students to get there. That means building real (not tangential) partnerships, including getting involved in designing and delivering instruction. It works in career and technical education, where industry helps define success and informs instruction; why can't it work outside of the CTE silo with the entire student population?

The bottom line: if K-12 education is going to remain relevant and ultimately succeed, it's only going to happen through real, hands-on community engagement, and not solely through gifting disguised as partnerships.

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