Community Family & School Engagement

BUILDING AND ENHANCING A CULTURE OF EDUCATION IN MISSISSIPPI

It takes outstanding leadership to attract and encourage an outstanding teaching staff. The truly exceptional schools are led by exceptional principals who understand teaching and learning and know-how to help teachers improve. CEI will provide leadership development in models that can be taken to scale across the state of Mississippi.

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GOAL

The goals of the Community Engagement program area are to:

(1) increase parent, student, family, and community engagement in education within and outside of school in order to increase the quality of education outcomes for all children, and

(2) reduce the level of risk facing vulnerable children and families across Center communities so that children can focus on achieving academic and life success.


Programming Highlights

Education Scorecards

The Community Engagement Team’s newest project is the Education Scorecard Pilot Project which kicked off with a crowd-source fundraising campaign to develop and distribute scorecards throughout the Mississippi Delta. The Education Scorecards seek to provide easily understandable data to parents, families, and communities, so that they can advocate for what is best for their children’s education

SYNOPSIS
The Center for Education Innovation has developed and piloted a one-page, easy to understand Education Scorecard that has been field tested and has received great reviews (and tweaks) from Delta parents, students, and community members. The Scorecards take publicly available data from multiple websites, spreadsheets, PDFs, and other sources and highlight key information that parents are asking for about their children’s schools and districts. The Education Scorecards are being developed and distributed for all 32 school districts in the 17 Delta Counties during the pilot project so that parents and communities can advocate for what is best for their children based on real data. Based on feedback and additional funding, the Scorecards will be taken state-wide with the new accountability data later this year.

BACKGROUND
Transparency is fundamental to ensuring excellent education quality and true parent/community involvement in advocating for what is best for children. Unfortunately, education data can be hard to find and even harder to understand as data is reported out in multiple inaccessible places, in non-user friendly formats, and in confusing reports.Parents and community members are left to make choices for their children without a comprehensive picture of their school’s performance. Additionally, the lack of specific data destroys the ability of families and communities to advocate for excellence in their local schools. Scorecards will provide transparency on school performance and allow parents and community members to have a clearer picture of strengths, weaknesses, needs, and opportunities of the school environment. This information will allow for, promote, and encourage positive engagement with school officials, as well as provide meaningful opportunities for parents to provide positive support for their children.

THE EDUCATION SCORECARD PILOT PROJECT
In order to address the transparency challenge, the Center for Education Innovation has developed and piloted a one-page, easy to understand Education Scorecard that has been field tested and has received great reviews (and tweaks) from Delta parents, students, and community members. The Education Scorecards will be developed and distributed for all 32 school districts in the 17 Delta Counties during the pilot project so that parents and communities can advocate for what is best for their children based on real data.

As the Scorecards are disseminated, the Center will collect feedback from various constituent groups and will incorporate suggestions and changes into the Scorecards before the eventual state-wide release with the 2012-2013 accountability data.

SCORECARD SPECIFICS
Education Scorecards take already public data from many spreadsheets, multiple online sources, and hard to read existing accountability reports and put them into a one page, color-coded, people friendly paper that parents and community members can easily understand. The Scorecards do NOT advocate for any particular reform, change, or stance, but simply lay out data in an easy to read manner so that parents, families, and communities can make informed decisions. Data on the Education Scorecard includes school/district performance and accountability ratings, high school graduation rate, school enrollment, ACT performance, and state testing outcomes

SNAPSHOT OF EDUCATION SCORECARD PILOT PROJECT SERVICE AREA:
Delta Counties: Washington, DeSoto, Humphreys, Carroll, Issaquena, Panola, Quitman, Bolivar, Coahoma, Leflore, Sunflower, Sharkey, Tunica, Tallahatchie,
Holmes, Yazoo, and Warren.
Total Population Impacted: 525,000
Student Population K-12: 95,633
Age Zero to 12th grade Population: ~127,500

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
Below are links to the Education Scorecards for each of the schools in the pilot project. As they are developed they will be posted for your viewing
pleasure in addition to being distributed in hard copy. You can be a part of getting this important easy-to-read information to parents and community
members by:

View Education Scorecards Here

P-16 COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT
The Center for Education believes that communities are not only a vital part of solutions but are a key source for solutions to our greatest educational challenges. Recognizing the importance of community engagement in solutions development, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) developed requirements around the creation of P-16 Community Engagement Councils in all districts with an accountability rating below a “C.” The Councils are charged with (1) helping to develop a strategic direction for educational success in local schools and (2) recommending policy changes and additions that will move all children towards school success. The Center for Education Innovation has embraced MDE’s support for positive community engagement in developing solutions by creating trainings and materials that support the establishment and continued success of P-16 Councils.

OFFERING
CEI has a robust P-16 Community Engagement Council development and workshop offering for all school districts. For P-16 Councils to function properly, council members need to have a working knowledge of organization structures as well as education terminology and the education system. CEI provides sessions tailored to the needs of each P-16 Council that prepare P-16 Council members for their important policy recommendation work.

For districts that are just developing P-16 Councils, CEI has developed a user friendly toolkit and provides onsite facilitation support through the stages of P-16 Council development following the latest MDE guidelines. Skilled facilitators guide communities and their school districts through the process of initiating, electing, and kicking off their P-16 Council work. Once the council is established, CEI provides in depth support for council members to help them grow and develop their policy recommendation skills. Please see below for additional information about workshops and professional development for council members.

For districts with existing P-16 Councils, CEI has developed a workshop series for P-16 Council members to guide them through the by-law development process, goal setting, reading and interpreting academic data, how to develop policy recommendations, and more. Each workshop is tailored to the specific knowledge needs of the P-16 Council and CEI facilitators will work with your council to determine the exact need.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
Community members and school employees play a significant role in ensuring that districts are in compliance with P-16 Council requirements and use the councils to generate positive solutions and ideas for children. Below are some ways that you can get involved:

1. If your local school district and/or school is below a “C” accountability rating and has a functioning P-16 Council ask your principal or other school administrators about how you can get involved. P-16s need all the support they can get to generate new, positive solutions!
2. If no P-16 Council exists for your below “C” rated district or school, put your Superintendent and/or principal in touch with CEI and we can help develop guide them through the development and training process.

Contact the Center for more information on how CEI can support your children through P-16 Community Engagement Council training.

DASH (Duncan, Alligator, Shelby + HOPE) Coalition

The Center for Education Innovation’s DASH Coalition Program seeks to build a model of successful cross-community collaboration around improving education and life outcomes for all residents in small-rural communities.

VISION
DASH Coalition Vision Statement: Duncan, Alligator, and Shelby will become communities united with small town values where people want to live and prosper.

SYNOPSIS
The DASH Coalition is a unique CEI-cross-community partnership in northern Bolivar County in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. For over 3 years, the Center for Education Innovation has worked to develop a unique collaboration between the communities of Duncan, Alligator, and Shelby, all served by the North Bolivar School District in an effort to improve educational and life outcomes for all community members. Ultimately, CEI believes that the DASH Coalition model addresses many of the key challenges facing small-rural communities and will become a model for collaborative community success for small towns across America.

DASH SPECIFIC
DASH is comprised of approximately 30 core members and a mailing list of over 110 residents. The Coalition is organized into four committees:
Education, Economic Development & Housing, Health & Safety, and Leadership. Each committee tackles key issues that the community identified within a larger community strategic planning process. The committees each develop and conduct low to no-budget projects and activities that bring positive change to the communities and assist in grant writing to bring additional monies to help support their goals. Committees are comprised of individuals across the three communities with the notion that joining forces will help all three communities achieve successes that would be substantially more difficult if done alone.

Below are a few highlights of the DASH Coalitions successes over the years:

1. Education Awareness & Community Participation Projects— The DASH Education Committee has spearheaded a variety of impressive projects to help involve parents and community members in positively supporting local schools. A sample of their successes includes:

Public Notification: Developing “School Board Meeting Tonight” signs to put up around all three communities to notify and encourage residents to attend school board meetings and stay informed.

Teacher Appreciation: The Education Committee not only sponsored multiple banquets to show support for the hard work of local teachers but also created appreciation bags with the support of local and regional businesses and community members for all new teachers.

Adopt-A-Classroom Program: The Education Committee garnered sponsors from across the region and partnered with the local elementary school (Brooks Elementary School) to provide name placards and room numbers for all classrooms. The belief is that teachers will feel more appreciated if their name is formally on the door like other professionals and will continue to deliver excellent instruction to children. In addition to the adoption donation, adopters will be engaging with teachers to help out by volunteering and helping children succeed.

P-16 Council Initiation: Although the North Bolivar P-16 Council is an independent organization and NOT a part of the DASH coalition the initiation process of the P-16 Council was done by the DASH Education Committee. Through facilitation by The Center for Education Innovation, the Education Committee worked with the school district to develop a P-16 Council that helps bring positive community voice and ideas for improving the educational experience for all children in the district.

2. Health & Safety Community Projects— The DASH Health & Safety Committee is split up into three sub Health Councils that conduct tspecific programs and projects within each of the DASH communities. A sample of their successes includes:

Health Policy Changes—Policy changes are often a critical first step towards ensuring better health in communities. Through the local health councils and often with technical assistance from other entities such as the Mississippi Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi, many town/city policies have been changed to support positive health choices. Policy changes that have taken place so far :

  • Smoke-free Ordinances for public places in Duncan and Alligator,
  • A Healthy Employee Policy in Duncan that allows Duncan Town employees to exercise during the day, and
  • A Complete Streets Policy in Duncan that ensures that future housing developments and road improvements consider mechanisms for ensuring ease of use by pedestrians and bicyclists.

Community Cleanups: The DASH Health & Safety Committee has led substantial community cleanups and cleanliness programs in each community. The Health Councils have held large-scale annual cleanups in addition to smaller targeted community cleanups. The Duncan Health Council also established an “Adopt-A-Street” program in which each of the town’s churches adopted key streets to keep clean.

Duncan Walking Trail: A key area of health that Duncan residents highlighted as needing Duncan had never had a safe walking area for exercise. City streets often lacked sidewalks, thus forcing people to walk in the narrow streets while dodging oncoming traffic. Through a partnership between the Duncan Health Council (a part of the DASH Health & Safety Committee), CEI, the Dreyfus Health Foundation, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, Duncan was able to develop a first-ever walking trail in their downtown area for use by all residents.

Alligator Community Center: The Alligator Health Council decided, through its Mayors Health Council to transform an unused city garage into a first-ever community center that residents could use for a variety of programming ranging from health and education to social gatherings. With substantial financial and technical assistance from CEI, initial seed money from the Dreyfus Health Foundation, and significant volunteer help from residents, Alligator’s dream became a reality. The new Alligator Community Center boasts a bathroom, kitchen (which allowed Alligator to host a first-ever Summer Feeding Program), spacious multi-purpose programming room, a community library, and a computer with internet access (courtesy of the North Bolivar School District)

Duncan Healthy Hometown Award: Through the great work of Duncan’s Health Council and an active partnership with CEI, the Town of Duncan was awarded the Healthy Hometown Award from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation in 2012. The $25,000 award is currently being used towards developing lighting for the downtown walking trail, develop a children’s playground in downtown Duncan, establish community-wide safety signage and crosswalks at key intersections, provide for exercise equipment, and much more to support health among Duncan residents.

Child Nutrition Projects: Through a partnership with the Dreyfus Health Foundation and the completion of a Problem Solving for Better Health (PSBH) Workshop, the Shelby Health Council developed the Shelby’s Health Matters child nutrition project that targeted kids at Brooks Elementary School and Shelby Middle School with fun facts, information, and new fruits for kids to try. Kids were able to have Kiwis, Strawberries, and many other nutritious fruits while learning about the importance of eating fruits to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Coming Soon..: Equipment for a new children’s playground in Shelby, Mississippi
Neighborhood Watch groups in Shelby and Alligator
Continued Health Programming!

3. Leadership Projects— The DASH Leadership Committee has worked on many substantive programs aimed at supporting the development of community
members and creating \spaces for community members to talk about important issues.

Seniors’ Day Out: The Leadership Committee in partnership with CEI developed a bi-monthly program targeting senior adults that brings senior adults out to learn about critical topics around education, health, and well-being. Since senior adults play a crucial role in the community and often act as guardians for small children, educating them about key issues like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is imperative. Seniors’ Day Out programming also helps develop a community among senior adults that may otherwise be homebound.

Faith-based Partnership: The Leadership Committee is also responsible for outreach to the faith community leadership in the DASH communities. It held a Ministers Breakfast to bring together leaders in conversation about community change and what is being done to help move the community forward, especially among youth.

4. Economic Development & Housing Projects— The DASH Economic Development & Housing Committee has worked diligently to begin work on opportunities for increasing community economic growth and bringing more people to Duncan, Alligator, and Shelby.

Community Entrance Signs: The Economic Development & Housing Committee partnered with the Health Councils to develop welcome signs for Duncan and Alligator, Mississippi. The unique welcome signs were both located on Highway 61 to help welcome
travelers and bring attention to what each community offers.

Transportation Hub Project: The Economic Development & Housing Committee began the process of developing local transportation hubs where community residents could access reliable transportation to jobs and educational opportunities in larger towns.
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