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Getting Buy In: Communication is Key

States have reported mixed experiences when rolling out Common Core curricula and online testing, from New York’s opt-out pushback to Massachusetts’s reportedly positive experience field-testing online PARCC tests. At Learning First Alliance’s recent annual Leadership Council Meeting in Washington, DC, school leaders from districts, state DOEs, school boards, and the business community gathered to discuss what went right and what went wrong when rolling out Common Core curriculum and online testing in various states. Whether it's Common Core or a 1:1 program, the follows tips can be used to garner community support for a variety of initiative roll-outs:

  1. Establish internal communications support. Often districts and state agencies work in silos. Make the rollout a community-wide initiative and keep the conversation focused on that initiative.
  2. Involve your local business community in the conversation. Turn to your local and national chambers of commerce and educate them about the importance of career and college readiness. “The school conversation has changed from ‘graduating students’ to ‘preparing students to be college and career ready.’ This is a mindset change for a lot of counselors, teachers, and administrators,” says David Adkisson, President & CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Train your teachers and principals to be leaders. In Kentucky, for example, the state chamber of commerce matched business sponsors to building leaders to fund leadership training for 58 principals.
  4. Take it on the road. Meet with community groups like rotary clubs to explain the value of your initiative to businesses and communities. Introduce your initiative in layperson terms; avoid “inside baseball” terminology in your presentations. Show the community best practice videos from the classrooms and have your students and teachers present when they can.
  5. Be clear on your strategic mission and goals.
  6. Prepare parents. Most change brings learning curves, and parents should be prepared ahead of time for these learning curves. For example, new tests may bring an initial drop in test scores; a 1:1 rollout may experience some initial training hiccups. Communicating these expectations ahead of time may help ease concerns during the initiative roll out. Let parents know that achieving success takes time.
  7. Communicate: constant, meaningful communication with your school communities during both good and challenging times is the key to a successful rollout of any initiative.