Recently, while attending the iNACOL Symposium in Nashville, Tennessee, there were several debates about educational innovation, including the role of technology, competency-based approaches and using data to help capture needs or improvements in our education methodologies. On one issue, everyone seemed to agree – our schools need your support.
It is always easier to think to that someone else is taking care of the problem. In his book, Influence, by Robert Cialdini, he points to a scary scenario where someone is in distress in a crowded or public space. Everyone seems to assume someone else is coming to the victim’s aid, calling 911 or assessing the situation. When no one is assigned to a task, it often goes undone.
For the sake of this piece, I’d like you to think ‘me/my support’ when you read “community” support. This is not an issue for someone else to solve – improving our educational systems is going to require all hands-on deck.
The good news is there is a strong desire by many to make a positive impact. While at iNACOL I was able to connect with several team members and schools connected to the XQ Initiative. When XQ, started by Laurene Powell Jobs and Russlynn Ali, conducted an open call for ideas to innovate our educational structures, they received over 700 applications many from non-educators.
Russlynn Ali explains, “One of the many things we learned from the Super School competition is that there’s enormous hunger among people around the country to get involved in improving their high schools and revitalizing their communities.”
Following the XQ Super School competition, XQ has turned their focus to community building and engagement. A year ago, they launched a program to help guide community members get more involved. This involvement can be participating in a community leadership role for a school board, volunteering to teach at a school, or joining a school program.
“We believe school boards are an incredible forum for civic engagement, and we want to make it easy for people to participate, from showing up to a school board meeting, to voting, to running for school board. A year ago, we launched an initial set of resources including a first-of-its-kind centralized database of all the filing information for the more than 13,000 school boards across the United States.” Russlynn shares with a smile.
Other ways one can make a positive imprint involves working directly with students. You do not need a teaching credential to foster positive results in your local schools. Tiger Ventures, an XQ Super School in Endicott, New York built a place they call Collabratory. “This is a place for the community to come and work together,” shares Suzanne McLeod, superintendent of Union-Endicott School District. Students are encouraged to participate in entrepreneurial ventures. Support from the local community is already embedded in the program.
Brooklyn Lab Charter High School, another XQ Super School in Brooklyn, New York is bringing school right into the heart of the professional center. Dr. Eric Tucker, executive director of Brooklyn Lab, says, “We built the school in a shared community space. Youth have a stake in the change. This can happen by increasing the student’s access to see what adult life has to offer.” The two founders of Brooklyn Lab, Erin Mote and Dr. Eric Tucker, both have experience in the private and nonprofit sector outside of education.
This is not to say that the only people providing solutions are from outside the system. Ideas should be encouraged from anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of our students. This is where they community can help. You can join a school board, volunteer in the classroom or even start your own school.
XQ is on a mission to mobilize communities to reimagine public high school. Russlynn is clear, “Equity is about doing all things necessary to ensure we achieve the outcomes we need. I hope we leave this conference thinking about equity both as an opportunity and as an obligation.”
If you have ideas that can strengthen our educational models, send XQ a note and share with the world how together we can foster an educational system that meets and exceeds all our expectations.