The Coalition for Community Schools has identified six keys to community engagement that should serve as a guide for school leaders when engaging school families.
- Know where you’re going. Create a vision of what your school should look like and develop a plan for how to get there. Begin by seeking input from school staff, families, partners and community residents. Any vision must incorporate the diverse interests of all members of the school and community. Make sure that the vision’s goals and objectives are broadly owned.
- Share leadership. Invite those partners from the community who share your school’s vision to also share resources, expertise and accountability for targeted objectives. Work deliberately with staff, families and the community to reach established goals.
- Reach out. Learn about the community and become a visible presence in it. Listen to what families say they want — not just what others think they need. Respond honestly. Make changes that advance the school’s vision.
- Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Acknowledge and address issues of race and class and define diversity as a strength. Create opportunities for honest conversations about differences from the earliest stages of vision building. Distinguish between assumptions and facts.
- Tell your school’s story. Know how to make your school’s vision come alive. Use stories and data to engage all kinds of community groups in conversations about why public education matters and what they can do to help. Create the political will to support school efforts.
- Stay on course. Only engage in partnerships that are demonstrably aligned with your school’s vision, goals and objectives. Regularly assess your progress. Focus on long-term sustainability.
The full report, Community and Family Engagement – Principals Share What Works, contains information regarding these six keys and more.