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Stage 5: Milestone 2

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MILESTONES:
ALIGN PRINCIPLES, PRACTICE, AND POLICIES INITIATE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

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STAGE 5: IMPLEMENT SYSTEMICALLY
Milestone #2: Initiate Professional Development and Technical Assistance 

Some things to think about:

Site practitioners need to apply community schools principles to every aspect of their work. As rollout continues, it is likely that assumptions and behaviors that run counter to community schools principles will emerge, along with gaps in expertise. Left unaddressed, these issues can affect implementation. To deal with problems before they reach a crisis, it is essential to deliver technical assistance at the school site while embedding the community school vision in professional development programs for principals, teachers, and other school staff.

Use professional development and technical assistance resources earlier rather than later. Professional development activities can assist classroom teachers and principals, mid-level administrators such as instructional supervisors and curriculum developers, and policymakers in achieving the following:

  • An improved understanding and application of community schools principles as related to methods of teaching and learning
  • Developing a closer connection between the schools curricula and community school programs and services
  • Building capacity in areas such as evaluation, community building, and finance

Embedding the community schools vision and practice into principal and teacher preparation is a particularly challenging task for local initiatives, but it is nonetheless essential to developing a pipeline of practitioners skilled in implementing the community schools strategy. More opportunities for such preparation may be opening up as schools of education consider clinical approaches to principal and teacher preparation. Community schools coordinators must also participate regularly in professional development.
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BUILDING CAPACITY IN LEAD AGENCIES

In the Greater Lehigh Valley, the United Way’s role as intermediary has evolved as the initiative has expanded. Says Marci Ronald, who recently directed the COMPASS initiative for the United Way, "We’re providing not just the funding, but also the training and technical support that’s necessary to get it done. Doing both can be a tricky dance."

The COMPASS model calls for a lead agency to partner with a school, hire a community schools coordinator, provide key resources and services, and manage daily operations. One evolving challenge has been the selection of agencies capable of taking on the work of the lead agency— —or grooming agencies for that role. When one lead agency did not have in place the systems needed to write a short-term contract to hire new staff under a mini-grant, the United Way stepped in and hired the person directly. In another case, a lead agency prohibited staff from driving parents to appointments and other events, citing insurance limitations. With the United Way’s input, the school principal identified and agreed to use discretionary funds to provide transportation.

Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) can also help by spelling out the various roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the United Way, the school district, and the lead agency. When problems arise, the MOA provides a starting point for respectful but candid conversation that leads to the identification of needed changes and the offer of coaching. Eventually, a formal and streamlined approach to technical assistance will assess strengths in key areas and then deliver assistance before problems arise.

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Co-construct professional development and technical assistance.
Technical assistance that calls for experts to tell participants what they ought to know likely will be less effective than developing a plan "co-constructed" by both parties. Work and learning should meet local needs and build ownership, reflecting the collaborative nature of community schools.

Build helping networks within and across school sites. In well-developed community schools, new practitioners may be paired with seasoned staff members who serve as coaches and mentors. Web site contact and periodic meetings can foster peer-to-peer relationships across sites and spur improvements that do not depend on formally scheduled professional development activities. It is useful to consider:

  • Connecting new and experienced schools in order to build a peer learning community, especially through a principals’ forum that can explore the impacts of different leadership styles on community schools
  • Providing secure "chat rooms" for practitioners—without supervisors’ participation—for discussions about progress and obstacles, issues, and solutions within and across sites and initiatives
  • With permission, summarizing and archiving concerns and suggestions and communicating issues, as needed, to policymakers for their action
  • Organizing webinars on issues identified by sites


Schedule early to become part of the school’s core mission. Even a small amount of release time for educators and the staff of community partners can help targeted individuals benefit from field trips, classroom observations, and joint planning sessions. Before school schedules fill up, site team members can offer to support school improvement planning by:

  • Requesting and locking in specific blocks of time for professional development
  • Participating on school curriculum and planning teams
  • Assisting in developing all-school professional development activities
  • Seeking funds from schools and community partners early in the school year so that cross-site teams may attend regional, state, and national conferences
  • Enabling teams to work together in advance of conferences to improve conference learning and strengthen cross-site implementation
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CONNECTING COMMUNITY SCHOOLS TO THE CURRICULUM

In Providence, Rhode Island, the Full-Service Community School (FSCS) initiative has developed a planning tool called an "integration grid" to ensure that after-school and wraparound activities support the school’s instructional focus. Each month, classroom teachers identify one or more targeted learning objectives based on the state’s common core standards. FSCS staff then develop a program plan for the entire month that aligns and supports the standards in the following areas: academic enrichment, family literacy, behavioral supports, health and wellness, family engagement, and early childhood.

 

 


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