Coalition for Community Schools - Because Every Child Deserves Every Chance

Stage 6: Milestone 3

Stage 1 | Stage 2 | Stage 3 | Stage 4 | Stage 5 | Stage 6

MILESTONES:

COLLECT DATA TO ASSESS PROGRESS USE DATA TO STRENGTHEN THE INITIATIVE PUBLICIZE PROGRESS EXPAND ROLLOUT PREPARATION AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM SCAN


STAGE 6: CONTINUE IMPROVEMENT AND EXPANSION
Milestone #3: Publicize Progress 


Some things to think about:

Call attention to positive trends. While scale-up efforts are unlikely to achieve significant changes in standardized test scores or other long-term measures in the first year or two of operation, do not make excuses. Instead, at the initiative and site levels, make sure that the community sees what you are accomplishing. Seek out partners with marketing and public relations expertise to convert initial data into a few simple charts that show movement in the right direction. Use the information in community engagement efforts as well as internally to remind teachers, students, and families that they are participating in change.

Develop a coordinated campaign. Consider developing a working group with marketing expertise to launch a comprehensive communication strategy, building on Stage 1’s logo and "brand awareness" work. Traditionally, communication campaigns include a variety of methods, including speaker bureaus, brochures, videos, and media coverage. More recently, initiatives incorporate social networking techniques—free, online methods to build awareness and support. Ask parents, community partners, residents, and especially students the best way to communicate to a broad audience in your community.
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COMMUNICATION POWER

Communication power means being able to tell your story in a compelling and forceful way.

  • In Providence, Rhode Island, FSCS staff developed a variety of easy-to-understand graphs and charts to show clear evidence of the positive relationship between its focus on family engagement strategies, a decline in chronic absenteeism, and various measures of increased parent capacity to support children’s academic success. In addition, findings highlighted "what went right" such as effective recruitment and strong parent participation and pointed to "what needs to change," including greater family awareness of available resources, improved recognition and the need to communicate in several formats and reinforce key messages.
  • In the Greater Lehigh Valley’s COMPASS initiative, an end-of-year Community School report card is developed by the site-based leadership team (composed of the community school coordinator, lead partner, principal, and other partners) from each COMPASS Community School. The data provide information on the number of students in before-school, after-school, and summer school activities; adults in adult education; and more. The report card also measures how well the initiative provided services to the highest-need students and families, including the number of programs/strategies connected to the academic curriculum, programs targeted to students performing below grade level, and more.

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Communicate effectively. Whether your large-scale communication strategy is "old school" or online, makes sure to:

  • Define your audience. Whom are you interested in targeting? Older community residents? Families without children? Homeowners? People who speak English as a second language? Partner organizations can share access to their e-mail list serves to target groups potentially interested in community schools. Identify online social networks that appeal to your target audience(s). Examine sites such as Facebook; Gather.com; LinkedIn; and others for chat rooms where people talk about education, family, and community challenges.
  • Craft a take-away message that is short, clear, and memorable. Partners with communication expertise can help initiatives design and produce video messages and manage feedback. One suggestion is to give community school students or family members disposable cameras or camcorders to take pictures of their world and what is important to them—in their communities and in their community school. The common themes that emerge can be distilled into a powerful message.


 

The Most Effective Messages*

  • Tell a story. People are wired to learn through stories. When people listen to a story, they use their ears, eyes, and heart.** Community schools are full of stories. Which story best describes the evolution of your community schools strategy?
  • Provoke emotion. Make sure that your message speaks to the heart. What does it make your listener feel? Curiosity, surprise, compassion, outrage, delight? Messages that provoke a strong response in the emotional center of the brain are perceived as important and remembered. They also help initiate action.
  • Keep it short and simple. Less is more. Know the message you want to convey and the emotion you want to provoke. How can you do that as simply as possible? Look for design help from local arts groups and universities. Consider "serializing" a story message. Provide a compelling beginning to pique interest; the rest is follow-up.
  • Make it easy to find and share. Technically, your message should be easy to open and share with others. Include instructions for downloading and uploading information. Find ways to motivate people to forward your message to others in their network. Something as simple and straight forward as "If you care, please forward!" can work.
  • Encourage back-talk. Input and participation are your goals. Provide easy links to sites where people can make comments about what they have seen and communicate with other people. Include sites such as Twitter that invite short responses, along with blogs that allow for commentary and reflection. Show your audience what other people are doing in their communities and how to initiate similar activities.
  • Feedback fast. Let people know you’re listening to what they have to say; find ways to build on your basic message. Share some of the comments you pull from their input. Follow up with "behind the scenes" photos and videos that help people see what went into crafting your first message. For example, include a series of portraits of individual community school participants with simple, relevant quotes. Assess progress toward desired results on a regular basis.

*Adapted from Ralph F. Wilson, "The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing in Web-Marketing Today, February 1, 2005, http://www.wilsonweb.com/wmt5/viral-principles.htm; also Thomas Baekdal, "Seven Tricks to Viral Web Marketing," November 23, 2006, www.BAEKDAL.com/articles/Branding/viral-marketing-tricks.

**"The Oldest Art Helps New Science," in The MITRE Digest, May 2002. www.mitre.org/news/digest/archives/2002/storytelling.html. MITRE is a federally- funded research and development center with expertise in systems engineering, IT, management modernization, and information visualization.
 

 


  • Involve community school students and families as much as possible. Developing a large-scale communication strategy should be part of—not separate from—the real-world, hands-on learning and relationship building that are at the core of community schools. Initiatives need to tap the knowledge, insight, and enthusiasm of their students in order to tell stories that ring true while helping students connect their classroom experience to opportunities for improving a range of literacy and critical thinking skills. In addition, communication strategies should provide students with a chance to practice new skills in, for example, web site design and maintenance.
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Guide Home - IntroductionPart I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Appendix - Tools

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