Community Involvement in
Using the tools of politics, marketing, and communications,
education reformers can build the public support needed to
sustain their efforts to improve public education. These tools
- Polls and focus groups to listen to the public, the
- Brochures, newsletters, videos, radio and TV spots, web
pages and other mechanisms to publicize messages.
- Community organizations for involving parents and other
- Public relations and media relations (though districts
often mistake these relatively limited tools as the whole
- Strategic planning, to ensure all activities work well
together and support priorities.
- Constant measurement and feedback to make sure your
efforts are getting results.
Use the following five basic guidelines
for effective public engagement:
- Make communications a priority, factor it into
your work from the very start. (Companies like
Proctor and Gamble spend up to 35% of their
annual budgets on this kind of work, car
companies about 30%, and service companies about
- Get the substance right. Walk the talk.
- Make it real, concrete and visible. Personalize
the improvements. Publicize student work that
embodies the changes.
- Stress benefits. Understand where your audience
is coming from and appeal to it.
- Talk about your work in terms that your audience
can relate to.
Building Public Confidence
In order to build public confidence, a school district decided
to reach out to the surrounding community for help in planning
the future directions of the district. The district wanted to do
- Connect with all community members.
- Gather community perceptions about district issues.
- Use collected data to reexamine their long-term goals and
The district accomplished its mission by working through the
stages listed below:
Stage 1: Comprehensive Public Input Process
- Collect suggestions and ideas from a "community
- Use input to help define district-wide goals and increase
- Develop quality indicators for each goal.
- Use quality indicators to define specific performance
outcomes with annual targets.
Stage 2: Create Performance Benchmark Question Pool
- Define performance outcomes.
- Help in collection of baseline performance data.
- Involve community in refining the final draft (focus
group composed of administrators, parents, and community
Stage 3: Recruit Response Groups
- Invite randomly selected parents and community members
(Key Communicator Response Group, Employee Response
Group, Student Response Group).
- Extend an open invitation to any community members who
wanted to provide feedback.
You can use technologies such as automatic phone
questionnaires, phone-in questionnaires, web page questionnaires,
and advanced technologies to further this process.
For example, you can conduct an OutCall ™ of 50-100
respondents, consisting, for example, of PTA presidents, some
staff, service club presidents, church leaders, business leaders,
etc. The purpose is to:
- Easily gather direct, unfiltered feedback from a diverse
segment of the community about critical issues facing the
- Ascertain the impact of front-page news
stories about specific events.
- Provide information to a group of people of influence
- Acquire some hard perception data, prior to embarking on
a specific course of action.
The benefits of doing this are that you can:
- Balance pressure from a single interest group with
immediate feedback from several different perspectives.
- Find out what various stakeholder groups know and want to
know about a school issue before election.
- Build confidence in your schools.
- Improve staff relations.
- Improve accountability (institutional and individual)
- Use the information to help prioritize budget expenses.
- Gauge your community against national surveys by asking
the same questions as those included in Phi Delta
Kappa/Gallup and Public Agenda polls.
- Voice Poll is a telephone-based solution that
automates the survey process - all you need to do
is read your questions into the phone.
- Group Interactive Feedback Technology (GIFTÔ ) allows feedback to be
collected instantly in meetings of any
size, from a few dozen to a few thousand.
- Voicepoll.netÔ is a
survey utility designed for use on the Internet
and is an easy way to gather feedback from
Internet users in your community.
- A-Plus Communications Inc.
- 3030 Clarendon Boulevard
- Suite 260
- Arlington, VA 22201
- 524-7325 Fax (703) 528-9692
- National School Public Relations Association
- 1501 Lee Highway, Suite 201
- Arlington, VA 22209-1100
- (703) 528-5840
- Fax (703) 528-7017