5/17/21 Seth E. Berg EA 748 - Moodle Post Paying Attention to Public Opinion Essential learning This chapter highlights the fact that education is an ever-changing field. A debate about what schools used to be is not as important as a dialogue about where schools are and what education leaders need to be doing today and into the future. Community members are becoming increasingly involved in the decision making that surrounds school development. For that reason, education leaders have to be adept at building authentic relationships with all stakeholders. Educators at all levels are becoming increasingly aware of, and concerned with, public opinion as it relates to student achievement and school success. In part, this awareness and concern relates to the public’s ability to access information and its consequent insistence on a comparative analysis of that information. People want to know how their students and schools are doing as compared to students and schools across the county and around the world. They want to have a voice in decisions that perpetuate their schools growth. Effective 21st Century education leaders attend to all stakeholders’ desire to have information and to be involved. They are skilled at leading through communication and relationship building to the extent that their communities are not misled by massive amounts of information without guidance and support. They have school-community relation plans in which community members not only receive information but also are empowered to provide authentic input. It is essential that school leadership understand public opinion. Many organizations conduct surveys that reveal important information about public perception on a large scale. Those data can be helpful to school leaders but cannot stand alone. Local data needs to be collected as well. Interestingly, polling typically shows that people have a higher opinion of their community school than they do about public education nationally. In fact, contrary to what some may believe, there are data to suggest that public perception of local school achievement is relatively high and that the general public supports more spending with regard to school improvement. When school leaders are aware of these opinions they are better equipped to make informed decisions. There are organizations that can help School Leaders conduct local polls and gather local data. In doing so, they are gathering useful information and giving their community a voice. Often times, discontent with public education arises out of misconceptions. Many people seem to think that the achievements of our nations schools have declined. However, data suggests just the opposite. Being aware of the misconceptions that influence a school community is the first step in creating an effective school-community relations plan. School-community relations don’t simply happen. Administrators who neglect to plan are likely to experience communication problems and discontent among stakeholders. Two essential aspects of a quality school-community relations plan are visibility and accessibility of administrators to the communities they serve. There are three kinds of schoolcommunity relations plans: “coordinated,” “centralized,” and “decentralized.” The main difference between the three is where the responsibility for development and implementation lies. In the end, building leadership is responsible for maintaining strong school-community relations regardless of the type of plan that is in place. Highlights Introduction (pg. 3-5) Schools and school communities are changing. “The involvement or stakeholders in school-related decisions is now an expectation.” “The trend in recent years has been for school leaders in all capacities to focus increased attention on their relationships with the many publics served by their schools.” Having greater access to information requires a greater focus on communication so that information is not misunderstood. “The active role of school administration requires leaders to listen and to inform.” In so much as each school belongs to each of its stakeholders, each of its stakeholders should have a voice its development. “What is needed is a school-community relations plan that is built on two way communication.” It’s crucial for school leaders to understand public perception before they are able to design and implement effective school-community relation plans. Trends in the Public’s Perception (pg. 5-11) Lots of data are collected by reputable organizations regarding public opinion of education on a national level. Data suggests that public opinion about the achievements of our education system as a whole has improved over the past several decades. “...the general public always looks more favorably on the schools in their local community than they do on the nation’s schools as a whole.” “Clearly, as polls regularly show, the public has some strong opinions about our nation’s schools, but their actual level of understanding regarding some hotbutton issues, clearly is lacking.” Polling data indicates that people are generally in favor of paying increased attention to and spending more money on the development of public education. “May people, be they parents, business leaders, or community neighbors want nothing more than to feel listened to.” School administrators should be following national sources of data along with collecting data. Effective administrators give a voice to their external and their internal stakeholders. Misconceptions Regarding Public Opinion (pg. 11-12) “By paying close attention to the public’s perception of schools and their effectiveness, leaders are able to deal more effectively with misconceptions when they arise.” “The evidence simply does not support the cry that American public education is declining. In fact, in many ways, the nation’s public schools have exceeded some of the goals they may have been founded for.” The Purpose of a plan (pg. 13-16) Effective planning is crucial for leadership at every level of education – from classroom management and instruction to community relations. According to Beach and Trent (2000) there are four essential characteristics of an effective school-community relation plan: Simplicity, Visibility, Accountability, and Brevity. An effective school-community relation plan has to have a solid structure and be adaptable. Visibility and accessibility are among the most important attributes of effective school leaders. “Just as a lack of visibility will hurt an administrator’s ability to relate to members of a school community, so too will it hurt the leader’s ability to be seen as an effective leader.” After building and implementing a school-community relation plan administrators should regularly check in on its effectiveness by using a “yardstick” that has been incorporated into the plan with careful thought about the intended outcomes. Three Kinds of Plans (pg. 16-19) A Coordinated Plan is influenced by collaborative efforts between central office administrators and local schools. A Centralized Plan is designed and communicated by central office administration. A Decentralized Plan is designed and communicated by school leadership. Application/ Implications One thing that resonated for me as I read this chapter is the idea of public perception through a lens misconception. As we continue moving toward interest and inquiry, critical thinking, collaboration, project based learning, technology integration, and other 21st century style instructional strategies, that cutting edge research suggests will help us support students on the road to college and career readiness, we’re repeatedly running into the challenge of low standardized test scores. Conversationally, community members seem to understand and support progressive learning; however, when scores show up in the media parents begin pressing teachers for the “drill and kill” instruction that many perceive to be the antidote. Effective school-community relation planning might help to alleviate some of the angst surrounding high stakes testing and perpetuation best practices in classroom instruction. Extending the Dialogue This chapter deals with the idea of public perception and how it effects the development of a school community. I work in a district where most stakeholders are very vocal and very involved. Of course, there are pros and cons to that involvement. We benefit greatly from strong educational values and multifaceted support but we spend a huge amount of time on school-home communication. To the group: How does community involvement (or a lack there of) effect your daily time management? If you could design an ideal community participation structure what would it look like? I know that both my district and my school send out surveys with multiple purposes over the course of the school year. I am not certain that the entire school community (teachers, parents, students, business leaders, etc.) is made aware of the results/outcomes. To the administrators in the group: Does your district/school have a school-community relation plan? If so, which type? Do leaders in your district effectively communicate results of data collection and consequent intentions to both your external and internal publics? It seems that everywhere I turn there is some media source dealing with the “failure” of the American education system. I understand that there are many factors contributing to our successes and failures but the generalizations and criticisms can sometimes become overwhelming. To the teachers in the group: Do you feel that the media is unfair in its representation of American public school teachers? If so, do you think that a quality school-community relation plan could make a difference in how stakeholders read that representation? Could it eventually change reporting of education issues all together? The chapter suggest that school leaders at all levels need to be keenly aware of public perception in order to affect positive change. Christy, as a school counselor I’m guessing that you have a unique insight about public perception. Are you able to/asked to use that insight to help give teachers and administrators a leg up on parent communication?