Beyond Achievement: 4 More Reasons to Engage

Shonagh MacRae

In our last blog post we discussed what leaders thought about engagement and student achievement. This week, we’re looking at other important reasons why leaders engage their communities. Here are the top four that came out of the Education Leadership ThoughtExchange we hosted with NCERT this fall.

1. To inform the vision and direction of school districts

The broader discussion started with the idea that engagement leads to schools that are representative of and informed by the people they serve. And, for 12 leaders, enabling the community to inform the vision and direction of school districts through engagement was a top priority.

I am all for increased community engagement. Our schools belong to the community, and they simply must have input in order to guide us in the right direction. We are a key institution in our democracy, and need to continuously involve community in that process.

-Actual participant thought, Education Leadership ThoughtExchange

2. To increase change readiness and buy-in

Once the community has informed the direction, getting parents and community members on board makes successful implementation of leadership decisions easier. According to 20 leaders, engagement increases change readiness and buy-in.

Community engagement is key to sustained successful implementation. Without authentic and significant engagement, lasting change does not happen. Engaging folks before a decision is made leads to better decisions and reduced community push back. Different perspectives are understood and many times can be addressed as part of the solution.

-Actual participant thought, Education Leadership ThoughtExchange

3. To advocate for schools

Engagement as advocacy – both to parent groups and as part of the larger political process – emerged as another priority in the ThoughtExchange. In fact, 16 leaders valued engagement as a way to tell their authentic story to parents.

Community engagement is critical to the success of public education. If, as school officials, we do not engage the community to share the truth about our schools, they are going to be influenced by others. We must be our own best advocates with our parents and community if we hope to continue to have the opportunity to educate.

-Actual participant thought, Education Leadership ThoughtExchange

4. To advocate for policy change

Meanwhile, 18 leaders focused on relationships with the community as a way to shift education policy and advocate for students.

Strong relationships with our business community are vital to our survival. They can either be our strongest proponent or opponent and often have the political and economic power to advocate for meaningful changes in our educational systems at the state and national levels.

-Actual participant thought, Education Leadership ThoughtExchange

The leadership perspectives found in this ThoughtExchange see engagement in the big picture. It is used to create a community vision of education, to bring about change, and to advocate on both the local and national levels.

What are your thoughts? Has engagement helped you make education more representative? Have you used engagement as an effective vehicle for advocacy?

Share your perspectives by commenting below, or email us with your ideas for blog posts that could further this discussion.

About the Author

Shonagh MacRae

Shonagh is our Director of Discover and describes herself as continually curious about people. This curiosity led her to a Master’s in Organizational Psychology where she learned a whole lot about how humans interact in groups and how to support them. Shonagh has also spent a lot of time in her community supporting at-risk populations. This work further honed her ability to connect with a broad range of personalities. When she’s not working with ThoughtExchange, Shonagh is most often found out in the garden with her hands in the soil.