Communicating School Redesign

“Communicating School Redesign” is a unique college course. The purpose of this course is to introduce an approach to communications called “strategic framing” that is grounded in research about how Americans—adults and youth—think about education. It will provide participants with alternative ways of communicating that have been shown to be very effective in securing public understanding and support for change. Additionally, the course will promote the development of responsive facilitation skills which will provide participants with a powerful means to implement this dialogue-for-change approach.

The course is being offered through a partnership between the Vermont Agency of Education and Up For Learning along with two accredited colleges – Saint Michael’s College, which is providing 3 graduate credits to the adult participants, and Vermont Community College, which is providing Dual Enrollment credit to the student participants. Six Vermont schools received support through a VT Agency of Education grant to enroll in the course. Harwood Union is one of the six participating schools. We have enrolled three adults and four students.

The basic conceptual frameworks for 1) strategic framing, 2) responsive facilitation and 3) youth-adult partnerships will be explored through both didactic and experiential means. The primary content focus will be effectively communicating the Vermont Agency of Education’s Act 77 priority areas (personalized learning plans and flexible pathways), along with proficiency-based graduation requirements.  The adults and youth participating in this course believe in providing all students with the diverse learning opportunities outlined in ACT 77.  They also believe all students should be equipped with the knowledge and skills required to have a satisfying and fulfilling life as well as to be able to contribute to their community so it too can flourish. The participants believe ACT 77 can help fulfill this promise.  They know though that it means “doing school” somewhat differently.  And after a hundred years of “doing school” in relatively the same way, this group is aware of the challenge before them; that is of communicating “different” in ways that all stakeholders will understand and embrace.

Our first assignment is to conduct research; that is to collect quantitative and qualitative data that will inform our strategic frame. To this end, adult – student teams will be conducting interviews with a variety of stakeholders and disseminating a survey to all faculty/staff, students and members of the community over the next month.  The survey is electronic and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.  We would like as many people as possible from our six sending towns to complete the survey.  The more information we have, the better we will do in creating a communication frame that supports community understanding and engages them in a productive dialogue toward school redesign.  The link to the survey will be available the last week in October and the first week in November.  It will be posted on our website and hopefully in the local newspapers.  If community members would like to take the survey, they can also contact the school and we will send the link directly to their email address.  The survey is completely private.  We will not be collecting names and or addresses.

For more information, contact Amy Rex (arex@wwsu.org); Ellen Berrings (eberrings@wwsu.org) or Marcus Grace (mgrace@wwsu.org).  You may also call 882-1142 to speak directly with one of them.

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