Education and nonprofit leaders working on ways to enhance collaboration, help students succeed
Dr. Gene Sharratt has earned a well-deserved reputation in North Central Washington and across the state as a visionary thinker in education and community building. If there’s one mantra that Sharratt consistently preaches, it’s that collaboration is crucial and that we are “better together” rather than working in isolation.
Last week, Sharratt facilitated a brainstorming session between educational leaders in the valley and nonprofit executives who are doing related work that could be leveraged by schools to help students succeed. The conversation was convened by the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. Executive Director Beth Stipe and board member Mark Spurgeon, a retired educator, spoke about the opportunity to work together as a community to solve educational challenges.
Collaborations are already happening and provide a model that schools and nonprofits can learn from.
Folks from several local school districts, including Eastmont, Wenatchee, Cashmere, Cascade and the North Central Educational Service District sat down with innovative leaders representing the North Central Regional Library, the YMCA, Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center, Wenatchee River Institute and others to talk about what schools need as well as the programs nonprofits are doing that might be leveraged.
For example, the YMCA is doing critical work providing child care in collaboration with Wenatchee, Eastmont and Cascade school districts. The Wenatchee River Institute has innovative programs that connect kids to nature and provide hands-on science education.
This was just the beginning of a conversation that I hope will bear fruit with further creative solutions that can help more of our kids succeed in school and in life.
The brutal reality is that students in our schools experiencing poverty, homelessness and who are minorities are consistently being left behind. That is unacceptable and we now have indisputable evidence that those achievement gaps are being bridged by innovative schools.
Sharratt, in his work for the Center for Educational Effectiveness, helped guide a breakthrough study that identified 38 schools in our state that are achieving success in solving that puzzle.
Here are some of the key findings of the study. Schools that achieve success with these students do the following: They:
- Create an equity-based, student-centered culture of learning. An equity approach focuses on the whole child – what they need to develop as humans rather than providing each student with the exact same experience.
- Embrace the strengths of diverse students’ cultures and experiences.
- Integrate relevant and family-engaged education into K-12 schooling.
- Develop leadership around equity-based teams.
- Eliminate deficit-based vocabulary. Language matters and so rather than calling kids homeless they choose to talk about students experiencing homelessness, for example.
- Foster community-based partnerships.
- Commit to develop positive teacher-to-student learning relationships.
The successful schools are letting students play leadership roles in providing an equity education and the style of leadership is almost exclusively servant-based. Top-down leaders are not successful in driving these types of innovations.
We have outstanding schools in North Central Washington that were identified in the study, including Brewster High School and middle school, Bridgeport High School, Warden High School and the elementary schools in Ephrata. A number of NCW districts were close to making the list of outstanding schools.
Sharratt cited the example of Highline School District that has developed a promise to guide their actions: “Every student in Highline School District is known by name, strength and need, and graduates prepared for the future they choose.” That’s a powerful guiding philosophy.
The study Sharratt cited is proof positive that we can help all kids succeed and if we’re going to do that, an equity-based approach driven by servant leadership and a healthy dose of community partnerships are essential.
It was encouraging to see the rich conversation at the meeting and the seeds being planted will create new opportunities for our communities to be active participants in fostering student success.
Here are some key links to the Outlier Study by the Center for Educational Effectiveness” For the press release, visit https://www.effectiveness.org/s/CEEBMGF-Press_Release.pdf
For the full report, visit https://www.effectiveness.org/s/CEE-Outlier-Study-Final-Report.pdf
For the brief, visit https://www.effectiveness.org/s/CEE-Outlier-Brief.pdf
For the full list of schools, visit http://www.effectiveness.org/s/CEEBMGF-Study-School-List.pdf