The purpose of this school-community needs assessment is the determination of strengths and weaknesses in meeting the needs of Skyline High School and its community within Dallas. In order to better understand these needs various background materials, such as the 2013-14 report card by the Texas Education Agency (2014), news releases from Issaquah School District and interviews and casual conversation was used. The data regarding school performance was often quoted by all stakeholder groups, including student representatives. The news release was mentioned in an interview with community leader Brandy Smith.
There are three main stakeholder groups who were within the scope of analysis of this needs assessment. These were parents, staff and students. The infrastructure for relationships includes the parent-teacher organization, the school administration, and student government.
One perceived need of all groups was funding, particularly since the school did not have access to the same expenditures per student identified at the district or state level (Texas Education Agency, 2014). This problem was seen as an underlying issue that resulted in weakening of school performance. While the Skyline High School met all required educational standards in recent assessments, all parties felt that higher performance was possible with additional funding to ensure access to the technology and other resources (Smith, 2014).
Another perceived need was continuing the rate of improving results for areas such as the STAAR readiness standard and the rate of students exceeding the standard. The mathematics STAAR readiness standard was an extremely poor result, and both parents and teachers felt that a new approach was required in order to better engage students to increase their capacity in this subject (Smith, 2015). In many cases parents in particular felt that many of the results for Skyline High School, such as poor performance in mathematics, was in part caused by a lack of sufficient motivation on the part of teaching staff, whereas teaching staff felt that they did not have the supports necessary to raise the standard in math as the foundations of the curriculum from previous grades needed to be better reinforced. In this area the different groups had a different emphasis. Students who were asked about mathematics reported that they simply did not like it very much and found it hard.
The collaboration process is both formal and informal. Various decision makers will consult with the people that they represent, often through casual conversation but also using formal instruments such as surveys. These are supplemented by meetings for discussions on specific issues between the impacted groups. This includes various events and meetings.
The community organizations had a different emphasis, and were more likely to support graduating students in post-secondary endeavors or recognize students who had excelled. The parents and teachers on the other hand were more concerned about those students who were not succeeding and were therefore at risk of not completing high school. This area therefore represented a possible area of collaboration. While support for students who have done well is well appreciated in by students and their families, more students will succeed if the community and parents work together to ensure a higher rate of meeting standards in math and sciences and remedial supports for those students who are having difficulty keeping up with the curriculum. Currently most financial resources which were directed at the Skyline High School community were directed to post-secondary education, rather than the high school itself. In the future various methods of collaborative fundraising partnerships could provide additional resources.
Community leaders can provide insight into the needs of schools and their communities as well as points of common interest and how collaboration can assist in meeting shared goals. A community leader who is passionate about education in the community is Issaquah Women’s Club member Brandy Smith. Ms. Smith pointed to many examples of the collaborative nature of the relationship between Skyline High School and the community, pointing me to the $3 million dollars provided in student scholarships to the graduating class by various local groups and organizations (Issaquah School District, 2015). Ms. Smith pointed out that there was a strong shared bond between the different stakeholder groups, because of a real pride in community. The state of the community was therefore reflected within the school community, and this underlines the importance of the relationship between them (Smith, 2015).
With regard to the emphasis on post-secondary education rather than supporting the school, Smith pointed out that this was an important incentive and motivator for many students to do well in high school, because they knew that they would be recognized and assisted by the community (Smith, 2015). She added that it was still important to keep to a “no child left behind” mentality, and that future discussions could explore possible ways of raising funds or finding resources together. The organizations had considerable experience in non-profit fundraising, and they could assist in many ways, however it would be important to first ensure that the administration was on board (Smith, 2015). Smith also advised that providing funds for a school required compliance with policies of the school district as well as the state education agency, and this could be complicated.
Skyline High School has a strong commitment to collaboration between the various stakeholder groups and this has created good relationships and willingness to work together. Despite this, they many great challenges to overcome with regard to lobbying for increased funding and finding additional funding sources, as well as finding a new approach to subjects in which student performance is not meeting the STAAR standard, such as mathematics. By working together and better understanding each other’s needs, the best potential outcome is assured.
- Issaquah School District. (2015). Skyline High School Students Awarded More than $3M in Scholarships this Year! [News Release]. Retrieved from: http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/news/releases/2015/05/15/skyline-high-school-students-awarded-more-than-$3m-in-scholarships-this-year!
- Texas Education Agency. (2014). 2013-14 School Report Card SKYLINE H S (057905025). Retrieved from: http://www.dallasisd.org/cms/lib/TX01001475/Centricity/Domain/396/c057905025.pdf