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Action Step and Orientation

L6. Facilitate communication between school and community to support literacy.

In this lesson, you and your campus-based leadership team will learn how you can facilitate communication between the school and community programs to support literacy.

Part 1 provides information about developing and maintaining an outreach system for reporting campus and community programs and services that support the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction.

Part 2 has suggestions on how to involve parents and families and the community in partnerships that develop literacy.

To get started, download the Implementation Guide for this component and refer to the Action Step for this lesson. Review the Implementation Indicators for each level of implementation and note the Sample Evidence listed at the bottom of the chart.

Part 1—Outreach System for Programs and Services That Support the Data-Informed Plan for Improving Literacy Instruction

Per the TSLP, you and your team should establish and maintain an outreach system for communicating the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction. This outreach system has the following purposes:

  • To communicate to parents, students, teachers, and other community stakeholders the programs and services that support the goals of the plan
  • To communicate the progress and successes in meeting the goals of the plan
  • To promote awareness and information sharing among the district, campus, and community stakeholders

Let's look at what campus efforts are needed for this Action Step.

Planning and Initial Implementation

To begin, you and your team should solicit input from a variety of stakeholders in the planning of an outreach system. One way to do this is to schedule a focus group with key stakeholders. This stakeholder group may include parents of culturally and linguistically diverse students, teachers from different subjects and programs, campus and district personnel serving special populations, and community members with a vested interest in literacy. Your team can use input from this broad and representative group to ensure that the outreach system you develop meets a wide range of needs within your school and community. As you develop a system for facilitating communication between school and community, you may need to begin by planning professional development for staff and informational sessions for students, parents, and other community members.

At this stage, you will also want to learn as much as you can about the families served by your campus, including home languages, availability for face-to-face interactions and meetings, and community and cultural practices. You will want to share this information with staff so that your system for communication is responsive to the particular needs of students’ families. Next, you might implement a plan for providing updates and feedback on your campus’s efforts to improve literacy.

Full Implementation and Sustainability

At this stage, your campus will have a strong system in place for facilitating school-community communication that was developed with stakeholder input. Families and community members will receive information through various means to inform them of programs and services that are in place to support the goals of the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction. They will also receive updates on the progress toward reaching these goals in formats that are accessible to families. At the highest level, this regular communication will have been ongoing for over a year and will promote two-way sharing between the school and the community, students, and parents and families.

Let's see how two schools begin the process of developing an outreach system to communicate the programs and services in their data-informed plans.

Scenario 1: The campus-based leadership team members at X High School have identified their level of implementation for Action Step L6 at Level A, Planning Implementation. While they have separate parent involvement and community outreach activities occurring, they do not have a system for providing information and updates about the literacy efforts outlined in their data-informed plan.

To develop this system, team members make plans to put together a focus group that includes representative stakeholders from the community. They also contact school and district personnel with diverse roles and expertise. A diverse focus group enables team members to address the needs of their unique student population. Some of the people who serve on the focus group include

  • special education teachers and their district coordinator;
  • teachers of English learners (ELs) and district EL support personnel;
  • career and technology education personnel;
  • counselors;
  • a parent involvement/community liaison;
  • student government leaders;
  • community college and university admissions and student support personnel;
  • community business organizations; and
  • district coordinators for other special populations (migrant, advanced academics, etc.)

Based on the input of these contacts, the campus-based leadership team recruits a diverse and representative membership and plans the first focus group meeting. The team arranges to have interpreters present for focus group members who use sign language or a language other than English. The team organizes an agenda to solicit input about the key elements of the outreach system. One team member secures a meeting space and arranges for focus group members to be notified.

On the day of the focus group meeting, the principal welcomes and thanks everyone who is participating in the focus group. The members of the campus-based leadership team take turns leading each section of the agenda. First, they explain the purpose of the focus group and then provide an overview of the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction. One team member reviews the format and explains what each section means. Those leading the group are conscious about using concrete and straightforward language (e.g., not heavy with education jargon) when communicating the goals of the plan and purpose of the focus group. They want to ensure that all group members feel comfortable to speak honestly and to ask questions.

The focus group is guided by the following questions:

  • What content should be communicated about the programs and services of the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction?
  • What method(s) should be used to communicate this information?
  • What timeline should be implemented for the outreach system?

Many focus group members indicate an interest in better understanding the response to intervention (RTI) framework and what it means for students. The team recorder notes the interest, and the principal assures the group that the leadership team will communicate information about RTI on a regular basis. At the end of the session, the campus-based leadership team briefly reviews the input from the broad spectrum of members in the focus group. The team plans to meet again the following week to discuss the input more in depth and to begin developing the outreach plan.

The leadership team at Y High School took a different approach. Because this is a small campus within a small district, the team sought to connect with other campuses in the district to pool outreach efforts.

Scenario 2: Y ISD has one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools that work with five early childhood centers serving students from age 0 to school entry. At a principals' meeting at the district office, discussion turns to the district-wide literacy initiatives and how to effectively communicate the programs and services to parents and families. The principals decide to convene a meeting of their campus-based leadership teams to work together to develop an outreach plan that is coordinated across age and grade levels.

At the meeting, the campus-based leadership teams brainstorm existing parent and community connections and communication efforts. Their list includes the following:

  • Newsletters (campus and district)
  • Parent-teacher meeting nights
  • Press releases to local news outlets
  • Family literacy events held at local libraries in partnership with early childhood providers
  • Campus and district websites
  • Events held by the migrant department and the bilingual/ESL department (during semesters and summers)

The campus-based leadership teams also notice that parents and families are included in several ongoing programs or activities, such as the following:

  • In-school reading assistance
  • Parent-Teacher Association
  • Band and athletics booster programs

The campus-based leadership teams decide to integrate their literacy outreach efforts with these existing efforts. Each leadership team will work with the district-level personnel in charge of these programs to include information about literacy goals and services taking place at their campus. The teams plan to meet again to look at how specific programs—like family literacy events—can be expanded and cross-promoted to address literacy at all age and grade levels.

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TO LEARN MORE: These documents and resources may help guide you and your team in developing and maintaining an outreach system:

Questions for Planning an Outreach System for the Data-Informed Plan” has a series of questions to answer when creating a focus group and designing an outreach system.

Agenda for Outreach Focus Group” has a sample meeting agenda.

Getting Parents Involved in Schools” describes challenges and solutions related to parent involvement in schools.

Parent Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Response to Intervention from the Center on Response to Intervention provides information to help families understand RTI.

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NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in developing an outreach system for reporting programs and services that support the goals of your data-informed plan, you may want to consider some of the following actions:

  • Identify existing parent, student, and community activities and connections that might provide input or support for the outreach system.
  • Gather input from a broad representative group of stakeholders.
  • Develop a plan for communicating the programs and services that support the data-informed plan.
  • Provide regular updates and feedback opportunities for community stakeholders to communicate progress and successes toward the goals of the data-informed plan.

Part 2—Partnerships to Support Literacy

In 2001, the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory published a report explaining how families connect with schools. The report indicated that schools and families connect in some of the following ways:

  • Through practices that support the development of literacy (e.g., providing literacy materials in the home, reading with and to children in the home)
  • Through discussions and interactions about issues related to academics, including how parents advise students when making academic decisions
  • By empowering parents to make decisions for school reform and by working with parents as resources for change
  • By providing information to parents about state standards, assessments, and student achievement

When schools initiate efforts to establish collaborative partnerships, achievements for all students can improve. By keeping parents and families informed about individual student and school-wide academic progress, your campus creates opportunities to communicate the goals and actions steps of the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction. In the same 2001 report, the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory suggests that schools and communities collaborate in the following ways:

  • Create partnerships where schools and universities provide resources and a deeper knowledge base (e.g., professional development, skill-specific learning)
  • Establish direct support systems from individual community members (e.g., business partners, church members, retired professionals) to students
  • Plan opportunities for informal teaching and learning with educational organizations including libraries, businesses, and museums
  • Establish opportunities for community participation in school decision making (e.g., campus-based decision team, campus-based leadership team, PTA/PTO)

Remember that your outreach system will be most effective when it achieves real partnerships that are mutually supportive. The school communicates a view of parents and families as valuable collaborators in students’ academic achievement, inviting them to provide input and participate in the school’s improvement efforts. In turn, the school establishes a system for effectively communicating to parents and families as action items are created and progress is made toward educational improvement.

Assignment

L6. Facilitate communication between school and community to support literacy.

With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step L6 in the TSLP Implementation Status Ratings document and then respond to the four questions in the assignment.

TSLP Implementation Status Ratings 6-12

In completing your assignment with your team, the following resources and information from this lesson’s content may be useful to you:

  • Refer to Part 1 for characteristics of developing and maintaining an outreach system that supports the goals of the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction.
  • Refer to Part 2 for suggestions on how to involve parents and families and the community.

Next Steps also contains suggestions that your campus may want to consider when you focus your efforts on this Action Step.

To record your responses, go to the Assignment template for this lesson and follow the instructions.

Completion

Follow instructions provided by your school or district.

Reference

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. (2001). Emerging issues in school, family, & community connections. Retrieved from http://www.sedl.org/pubs/fam32.