The National School Boards Association (NSBA) blog has a post this week about a new report from a national public relations association that indicates strong school division communication efforts and parental involvement leads to better performing students. I almost stopped reading the post when I saw it was a PR association touting improved communications, but I clicked through to the press release because I am a strong believer that Albemarle County Public Schools and our parent/teacher organizations should be communicating effectively inside and outside our school community.
In fact, at tonight's School Board meeting, we will be passing our 2006-07 budget (leaders in Richmond, please go to school on that) and it will include significant investments in our new Community Engagement department which was started this year. The Community Engagement office is working on initiatives in the following areas:
- Internal/external communications
- Equity and Diversity
- Community/service learning initiatives for students
- School-community relations and engagement in our strategic plan
- Career and business partnerships
So back to the new white paper... Ironically, when you get to the PR Association's press release, you have to send them an e-mail asking for the 38 page white paper. I'll save you the trouble because the automatic e-mail reply gives you the "secret" link: http://www.nspra.org/WhitePaper.pdf
Some conclusions highlighted in their press release:
"The white paper, How Strong Communication Contributes to Student and School Success: Parent and Family Involvement, compiled and reviewed research investigating the links between school communication and the resulting parental and community involvement crucial to student achievement. A number of performance issues, the white paper reports, are linked to school communication and involvement, including:"
- Higher grade point averages and scores on standardized tests.
- More classes passed.
- Higher enrollment in more challenging academic classes.
- Better attendance.
- Improved behavior at home and at school.
Other key findings highlighted in the compiled study include:
- "Parents and principals cite lack of time as the most common barrier to increased involvement, but research identifies lack of planning for partnerships and lack of mutual understanding as the two greatest barriers to effective family involvement."
Based on my quick review of the white paper and footnotes, it looks like they have compiled and reviewed original research by others, but it is helpful to pull this together in a document and action plan. Albemarle County's recent focus groups, strategic planning, and communications initiatives have put us on a path that matches up well with the direction recommended in this report. Now we need to deliver.
"Communication is the foundation of effective partnerships. To build effective partnerships with families and the community that will enhance student achievement, schools must first talk to — and listen to — parents, community groups, business leaders and others with a stake in student learning. Any strategy must accommodate the diverse language, cultural needs, lifestyles and schedules of all parties. This means the school often must take the initiative in reaching out to its community and parents. Successful partnerships require sustained mutual collaboration and support — from school staffs and from families at home, at school and in the community. It requires a school environment that welcomes its partners and encourages them to raise questions and voice their concerns, as well as to participate appropriately in decision-making."