Matching Schools with Communities: The Achievement Advisory Council

By Margo Roen

The task at hand is daunting, yet must be achievable—the Achievement School District (ASD) is charged with turning around underperforming schools, moving them from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in five years.  While we are accountable for achieving these academic results, there is another form of accountability we hold sacred—our accountability to the community.

The Achievement Advisory Council (AAC), a new team of committed Memphians with deep community connections and experiences, is our partner in this community involvement.  The AAC is an entity created and supported by the ASD, yet they operate separately (i.e. they are not employees of the ASD).  The AAC members are aligned in beliefs—they know all students can achieve at high levels regardless of income or race, they see a need to do things differently in underperforming public schools so that they better prepare students, and they see a bright future for Memphis, one where every student is guaranteed a seat in a high-performing school.   Our beliefs are united, but our roles in communities differ.

The AAC is responsible for helping match the charter school operators with communities that are open to change.   To help the AAC prepare to lead in this community involvement work, they recently travelled to New Orleans to visit high quality charter turnaround schools, meet with stakeholders involved in the transformation, and practice skills with 4.0 schools.  The team’s take-aways from the trip highlight both the opportunity for innovation and the importance of involving a broad range of community members in the transformation process.

Returning from this trip, the AAC is uniquely positioned and prepared to hold community dialogues, involving a variety of community stakeholders (parents, students, alumni groups, nonprofits, business owners, etc.) in conversations about the community’s schools and vision for their students.  They are a new entity, and their success in gaining community input is dependent on their process, which they are currently developing.   The AAC’s task is also daunting, but their work is a critical next step in making the best decisions for kids.

Stay tuned for updates about 1) how the AAC is involving the community, 2) when and where they will be holding meetings, and 3) other ways you can get involved in supporting the community engagement and involvement work.

Read more about the AAC.