Refuting the Critics
Fed up with the ongoing and well-funded assault on schools boards, teachers, and public education, school officials are fighting mad and fighting back. Here’s a round-up of what’s happening, as well as tips to consider before launching similar efforts in your community and state.
NSBA's National Campaign is Standing Up for Public Education
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is now one of three celebrity spokespersons for NSBA’s National Campaign, along with television personality Montel Williams and educator Sal Khan. With public school critics launching a well-funded and sometimes draconian full-court press, the power of having Johnson and other successful public school graduates on your team is priceless.
Public Advocacy: Missouri's Bright Futures
Poverty now outstrips race as the best predictor of college attendance and completion. Bright Futures USA, a new non-profit organization started by Missouri’s Joplin Public Schools, plans to tackle poverty’s stranglehold on student achievement across the U.S.
Public Advocacy: Polling Parents
American public schools are consistently portrayed as in a constant state of crisis and failure. To combat this pervasive narrative, public school officials need to offer a compelling alternative – one that speaks to the real concerns many U.S. adults now have about choice, opportunity, competitiveness, and economic well-being.
Creating a Lasting Legacy
Created at a time when talking about values in public schools often sparked controversy and even derision, St. Louis’ CHARACTERplus program brought together school leaders, parents, teachers, principals, school volunteers, business representatives, and nonprofit leaders. The partnership has weathered 25 years, despite shifts in leadership, funding priorities, accountability mechanisms, partisan politics, and the recent recession.
Getting Better Media Coverage for Your Schools
The majority of American adults lack the close connections to public schools that having school-aged children brings. Terry Abbott, former chief of staff for former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, urges public school officials to start thinking about public relations as a perpetual political campaign. Here are his recommendations.
7 Ways to Promote Public Schools
Public school officials rank among the most trusted sources for news and information about public education. Despite gloomy reports about failing public schools, unwieldy bureaucracies, and inept school boards, most citizens want and need to hear more from the people they trust the most – and that means you.
Gauging Public Opinion of Your Schools
Once public opinion gels around a particular idea, position, value, or belief, it is notoriously difficult – but not impossible – to change it. Start your public opinion change process with research. Ideally, this means fielding phone polls annually. To dig underneath poll data, consider hosting focus groups to probe issues more deeply.
Schools Rebuilding Public Trust
Finding time to invest in relationship-building activities is challenging for school board members, superintendents, district leaders, and principals. Do it anyway. In bad times, leaders must fight the human instinct to hunker down and circle the wagons. Public problems require public solutions. School boards can play a pivotal role in this process.
Using Technology to Tell Your Story
Storytelling is different in the digital age. With smartphones, flip video cameras, and inexpensive software, it’s easier than ever to create compelling new stories and slide shows. Social media outlets offer unlimited – and free – publishing opportunities. The final product may not rival traditional broadcast news, but neither does the cost.
Schools Battle Hunger
Swept into children’s lives along with a rising tide of poverty that shows no signs of receding, hunger is haunting America’s classrooms. Linked to weakened immune systems, cognitive delays, anemia, slowed or abnormal growth, social-emotional concerns, and other challenges, hunger can devastate a child’s development and future life chances.
Public Information on School Construction
When school boards win voter support for a bond issue, it’s tempting to breathe a collective sigh of relief and move on to other pressing issues, but the real public information campaign is just beginning. Communicate less information more often, and do so in a simple, clean, clear, and compelling fashion.
School Communications Go Mobile
It’s time to go mobile. When it comes to Internet access, smartphones and mobile devices now outpace traditional PCs by a five-to-one ratio. Today’s on-the-go consumers use the mobile web daily and 25 percent are mobile only. For African-American and Latino parents, that percentage jumps to 38 percent.
The Battle for Public Education
In politics and propaganda, lies told often enough become the truth. Big lies – such as the canard that public schools are failing – often are the most believable. Relying on word-of-mouth and high levels of parent satisfaction, while still important, is not enough to win a marketing war.
Telling the Public About Public Schools
Campaign to keep public schools public – and local. Here are effective, low-cost ways you can remind your community to “stay local”: Work in public, and fight in private; focus on what matters; celebrate and recognize success; hit the speaker circuit; stay in touch; and, keep the public in public schools.
Boosting School Staff Morale
Teachers perform better when they feel appreciated for the work they do. Greater job satisfaction translates into higher levels of teacher optimism about what students can achieve, as well as more positive interactions between teachers and parents. Teacher expectations and parent engagement impact student learning. Addressing morale is important.
Top 10 List of Public Education Success
Policymakers and pundits have decried “our failing schools” so often it’s become an accepted truth. But the naysayers are wrong. It’s time that we recognize our accomplishments and give our public schools a collective pat on the back. Here is my personal Top 10 list of things we’re doing right.
Common Core Communications
Communications needs to be a vital part of any plan focused on helping key individuals and groups understand the Common Core, and the need to transform student expectations as well as teaching and learning. Creating awareness, influencing perceptions, and changing teacher, student, principal, and parent behavior takes time, resources, and careful planning.
The New Generation Gap in Schools
In the 2008 Presidential election, about 70 percent of voters did not have school-aged children. This mainstay constituency represents a shrinking demographic. This means public schools can do a great job of teaching students and communicating with parents, and still miss 70 percent of the people upon whose support they depend.
School Board Training
In today’s tough economy, every dollar counts, and public entities – including school boards – are under intense scrutiny. Before traveling to a state or national conference, review the program agenda and materials publicly, including registration costs and travel fees, and then highlight which sessions board representatives plan to attend and why.
Getting the Good News Out
Advocating for top-notch public schools for all children has never been tougher, or more important. With gaps between generations getting wider by nearly every measure imaginable, school officials need a new communications toolkit. This toolkit needs to start with a keen understanding of today’s generational politics and fractured electorates.