Particularly in larger school districts such as ours, hiring a Strategic Partnership Coordinator is critical to developing relationships with community partners. Katie Bauer, our Strategic Partnerships Coordinator, explains her primary focus is “to pay attention to our partners and to figure out what their needs are as well as what our needs are and make the matches along the way.” This creates opportunities for new and more effective connections between businesses and classrooms.
Coordinators are responsible for leveraging grant resources and demonstrating that district partnerships are effective ways to improve business workforces. To help build capacity for the Real World learning program, we found it effective for our coordinator to have a counterpart at the Chamber of Commerce so that they can link the school district to other funding sources.
1. Look for grant opportunities within your county or consortium your district is affiliated with.
2. Have your Strategic Partnership Coordinator get a counterpart within the local community resource center, like the Chamber of Commerce.
3. Educate that community counterpart on what your plan is and how they can help.
Maintaining internal communication is just as important as communicating with outside stakeholders. This includes timelines, updates, and feedback with relevant district administrators. One way to facilitate this is to select a liason from the board who listens to concerns and comments from the RWL development team. Maintaining this communication allows the board to effectively manage a policy framework and get excited about teacher’s success stories.
We recommend building the language of RWL so that it is not surprising. Keith Koehne notes, “It’s easy for people from central office to come in with a lot of really good ideas and roll those out. And when they land at the teacher’s desk, there’s either confusion or frustration that they weren’t engaged in that process.” All stakeholders are hesitant to use new processes because they are concerned about their effectiveness. However, clear language, communication, and demonstration of RWL experiences is needed so that stakeholders at all levels embrace the program.
1. Provide clear expectations for what you hope this program will be, along with a timeline for when stakeholders can expect updates (we updated our board twice per year).
2. Consider having a point person from the board be a liaison.
3. Create clear language around RWL so that it does not get misinterpreted or create confusion.
Develop roles in order to increase communication and support teachers as they figure out how to implement their own Real World Learning experiences. Lindsay Ellis, our Digital Learning Specialist, has used her experience as a teacher to translate the goals of this program to other teachers. “I think [some] teachers are very nervous and focused on their curriculum,” Ellis shares. “If they do veer during that year, [teachers think] it’s going to have this huge negative impact– and they’re going to lose that year.”
Ellis collects first-hand concerns from teachers that she can share with administrators to help better inform implementation. This cheerleading role requires nurturing, empathy, and collaborating with teachers until they see how this is going to help them serve their students better. In our district, we’ve prioritized specialists with teaching backgrounds who are looking for career paths towards administrative roles.
1. This role needs to be filled by someone other than central office or administrator.
2. Specialists with teaching experience will help understand how RWL can better fit into normal instruction.
3. Publicize this role as a good training ground for those seeking to be an administrator one day.
Great ideas often fail because there is not adequate community buy-in... and teachers on the ground are no exception. While committing to Real World Learning sounds simple, the program has to be prioritized, otherwise it can negatively affect your outcomes and student’s RWL experiences will be low quality.
It is essential to work with your program collaborators. Coordinate monthly meetings so that you make sure that everyone is on the same page and you are creating a successful community engaged in improving your practices. Collect relevant data and prepare for meetings and be sure to organize your staff and presentations in between. Additionally, finding business liaisons in the district, who are as invested as your sponsors are, will help hold you accountable.
1. Make sure all stakeholders and collaborators are aware that RWL is a priority.
2. Find sponsors and grantees that are committed to your project.
3. Involve stakeholders in your district who will keep you honest to your goals and outcomes.
Securing the funds to assure that the program runs smoothly will increase RWL outcomes and reinforce the program mission. One way is to have your Strategic Partnerships Coordinator explain the return on investment to your school treasurer. Make it clear that investing in RWL experiences will better prepare students for the workforce and that businesses in turn will be more likely to want to hire students from the district. Simply put, investing in the students ultimately re-invests in the community.
In addition to local funding sources, investigate other sources that can be re-allocated for RWL. This can take the form of grants from government agencies or philanthropies. Ultimately, wherever you secure funds, consider prioritizing RWL in the budgeting proposals for your district.
1. Get the treasurer to buy in and see the return on investment for RWL.
2. Make RWL a priority by investigating how current and new resources can be allocated to the program.