Schools can't educate on their own By GUEST COMMENTARY When it comes to making sure children get a good education, schools simply can't do it alone.
Education, at its best, is a team effort involving schools, communities, students and families.
Successful school-community partnerships look different in every community, depending on local interests, needs and resources. But drawing on the collective experience of schools and districts around the country, the South Dakota Education Association offers some suggestions for establishing and sustaining strong links between public schools and their communities:
Two-way communication between schools and communities is critical and should be geared to the various languages and cultures represented in the schools, as well as to the lifestyles and work schedules of school staff and volunteers.
Use as many communication channels as possible to reach community members — websites, radio announcements, local newspapers, open houses, church announcements, town hall meetings, etc.
Remember flexibility and
diversity are key
Recognize that effective community involvement in education may not necessarily require adults' presence at a workshop or meeting. The emphasis should be on helping children learn, whether that's in schools, homes, worksites, libraries or elsewhere in the community.
Invest in training
Effective partnerships are enhanced with professional development and training. Both staff and volunteers need the knowledge and skills to work with one another and with the larger community to support children's learning.
Common sources for training include local colleges and universities, neighboring school districts and state education agencies that provide funding and assistance in community involvement activities.
Evaluate your activities
Set goals and determine what all stakeholders — family, school staff and community members — want to accomplish. Developing a school-community partnership requires continued effort over time. Find ways to measure participation levels and satisfaction with school-related activities.
The ever-rising numbers of single-parent homes and homes with both parents working present new, but not impossible, challenges to schools seeking community partnerships.
To lay the foundation for a larger partnership effort, there are small steps educators and would-be partners can take to nurture a community's schools and its children. Here are a few easy ways anyone can help:
* Recruit friends, relatives, co-workers and community members to volunteer in schools.
* Tutor a child in an after-school/night-time tutorial center.
* Lead Saturday field trips with students.
* Offer to take care of a neighbor's child so parents can attend school activities.
* Help with weekend fund raising projects: car washes, bazaars, carnivals and barbecues.
* Organize Saturday work parties to beautify the schoolyard, plant shrubs or painting murals.
* Hold a potluck dinner to bring parents, students and school staff together.
The South Dakota Education Association is South Dakota's largest professional organization, representing more than 7,000 elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support personnel, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.