Engaging the Community In Creating A Vision for 21st Century Learning

This was the title of a presentation I gave at the recent VSBA/VSA Fall conference in October 2012.  I was honored to have David Warlick, the conference keynote presenter, in the audience.  He wrote up some notes from my presentation and had some nice things to say about it on his blog.  His comments underscored for me how unique Vermont is in many ways.  I am very proud to be a Vermont educational leader.

As way of further explanation, I thought I would highlight some of the ideas behind my presentation and provide some of the materials I referenced in digital format.  The process of engaging communities to develop a future orientation and to express that orientation as Ends policies is based on Policy Governance, a model of governance developed by John Carver.  To get a sense of the process I created, check out the following documents developed for the Dorset School District:

  • a script for a public engagement event;
  • flyer developed by the Chair of the Dorset School Board advertising the process;
  • a handout given to the participants; and
  • a blog developed by the Board members to organize the videos and the process.  Scroll down to the first blog posts to get a sense of the event in chronological order.

During the process we discussed education not schooling.  This is an important distinction because I find focusing on education opens up the conversation to future possibilities, whereas focusing on schooling brings people back to their own experiences and limits the basis for a common dialogue.  This distinction between education vs. schooling conforms to the Policy Governance concept of Ends vs. Means with schooling being the primary Means by which a community’s educational Ends are obtained.  The primary purpose of this process was to get clear on the desired Ends since so many of our available Means (e.g. technology, the Internet, networks, etc.) are changing rapidly and are fundamentally different than the educational means available to previous generations.

The process was designed to connect Boards (and their communities) to the work we are doing in our schools around personalizing learning.  This work is fairly innovative, and like most innovations requires discipline.  I believe public accountability is a vital component of disciplining educational innovation, and I believe this accountability should be pointed back to local communities, taxpayers, and parents, not to the federal government.  Here is a draft Ends policy produced by our administrative team as an example.

The data gathered from the Dorset process was very similar to the data gathered from the processes in our other communities.  Interestingly,  no parent or participant from any of the community engagement processes expressed an interest in improving test scores on standardized tests as a desired End for a student’s education.

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