Galvanize the strength of Arkansas communities to invest in their students, schools, and districts as drivers for economic growth.
Context and Arkansas Progress
Communities are a point of pride across the state. Generally, survey feedback indicates that people feel safe in their communities, know each other well, and engage with local schools. Many communities see their schools as the cultural center of the community, places they attended as children, places that hold fond memories, and places that are the home of award-winning sports teams. For others, schools represent the future – the opportunity to build the next generation of highly-skilled workers that will further economic prospects in the state.
Opportunities for Arkansas
Despite numerous anecdotes of community support, almost half of Arkansans surveyed identified a need for communities to support education more than they are today. Similarly, in community focus groups, participants acknowledged that the health of their schools and the health of their communities are linked and expressed a desire and need for more meaningful partnerships between the two. As such, Arkansas has the opportunity to harness the energy of its communities to drive further change, support for, and improvements in the school systems. Below are opportunities and initial recommendations for communities and those supporting them.
- A single entity or agency is needed to spearhead the process in each community and lead collaboration and coordination with schools.
- A successful change initiative will require support from government, business and industry, faith-based and other community groups as each group has its own strengths, areas of expertise, and assets it brings to the table.
- Community buy-in is critical, both at the beginning of an initiative and throughout the process to help develop, vet, and carry forward ideas.
- Engaging stakeholders will take a lot of work and may not always be in the form of a town hall meeting or broad survey. A comprehensive assessment of community needs, assets, and gaps is an effective starting point.
- Early successes are important to generate momentum and help show signs of progress that change is possible.