Importance of the Community in School Improvement

  • Posted on: 19 August 2013
  • By: Tina McCoy

An esteemed colleague of mine often said, “Communities get the schools they deserve” (perhaps an indirect reference to the 1985 book by Diane Ravtich). In Turnaround Leadership, author Michael Fullan emphasizes the importance of the community in the context of school improvement, and offers a constructive approach to leveraging community support for schools. 

Deep and lasting school improvement, according to this book, cannot be achieved by shallow or reactive measures imposed upon schools.  Instead reform must be placed firmly in the context of social development and the greater community in which school systems exists.  Internal accountability and a collective vision are both essential for meaningful change that will help narrow or close the achievement gap for students. This book is a welcome respite from the daily grind of the high stakes testing era and the rhetoric of blame that often disparages the work of public school systems. 

Turnaround Leadership is a quick and inspirational read that can serve as springboard for fruitful discussions among school leaders.  Practical recommendations include building coalition in the community, maintaining a relentless focus on teacher and learning, and managing distractors in school systems.  Mr. Fullan advocates for a thoughtful and holistic approach to school improvement that emphasizes teacher education and the reprioritization of the duties of school principals.

Caveat: If you are contemplating using this book as a group read, be prepared to facilitate discussion positively so that your teachers or administrators don’t misconstrue Fullan’s ideas in order to blame the (potentially unsupportive) community or local societal challenges for the shortcomings of their schools.