What is alignment and how does it foster community support for real-world learning in Nashville?

Nashville Study Visit 2012 March Ford PAS Next Generation Learning

Sydney Rogers is the Executive Director of Alignment Nashville, a non-profit organization in Nashville that supports Metro Nashville Public Schools by bringing the energy and talents of community members and business into partnership with the local system. Rogers previously was the Vice President of Community and Economic Development at Nashville State Community College. In this guest blog post, she writes about the importance of community alignment in contributing to effective high school reform efforts. Rogers will be a featured panelist at the Nashville Study Visit March 8–9, 2012.

In most communities there are many people who are concerned about the condition of our public education system. They want to bring their time, talent, and resources to help improve our schools. In many cases people organize and create non-profit structures to accomplish this work, and Nashville has followed a similar pattern.

The Academies of Nashville program is a great example of how we have “aligned” our city's time, resources, and spirit of volunteerism. Hundreds of non-profits and businesses are actively helping students and teachers by brings both support and real-world context to learning. All of these organizations are all working toward the same goal: the wholesale transformation of our all of our zoned high schools. The work is structured and coordinated by various lead agencies. Before the Academies of Nashville, organizations connected with schools individually. While there was good work happening, these efforts were neither strategic nor coordinated.  For the most part, each organization worked alone or with one or two other organizations.

Now, Alignment committees composed of school district officials and community leaders provide structure for community engagement in education. These committees identify either a population group (pregnant/parenting teens, immigrants, dropouts, etc.) or an issue area (social-emotional learning, developing a college-bound culture, etc.) to focus their efforts. Next, the committees create an action plan and issue an invitation to the broader community to join in working toward a solution. This approach is a great improvement from just a few years ago, when each organization brought its own well-intentioned agenda to the schools.

Now, we have organizations working together toward the common goals and looking at the big picture together. By supporting the school district leaders and their strategies, we as a unified community are making tremendous strides toward building an excellent public education system in Nashville and making our city an amazing place to live. The Alignment process is the glue that keeps the work of our community organizations transparent, coordinated, strategic, and more significant than if each were working alone.