Supporting Authentic Community Engagement in Tennessee
January 25, 2019

An innovative initiative in Memphis is helping empower community members to engage with the school design process.

The Tennessee Charter School Center established the Community Launch Fellowship with the primary goal of increasing civic participation in school accountability. Over the course of six months, 20 community members from across Memphis learned about school quality factors, explored school models, completed site visits, and finally followed an inquiry process to select their ideal school.

According to TCSC, the fellowship model could be replicated across the country as long as each community asks locally relevant questions to inform the components in their school quality rubric. The different modules in the fellowship programming prioritized the following five guiding principles:

  • Use an inquiry approach built on Fellows’ knowledge and values.
  • Use an active, flexible, community learning approach.
  • Make explicit the policies and assumed knowledge regarding school policies, development, and accountability—and the history of Black education in the U.S. and Memphis.
  • Build networks among Fellows and other community leaders.
  • Give parents the actual decision making power.

According to one fellowship participant, the diverse combination of community members helped create a “very powerful” experience.

“I think a fellowship like this could make a huge impact…for every student whether they’re in a charter school or whether they’re in a district school, and to help bridge the gap for parents to understand what is a charter school and how can that charter school help your child be successful or get to the future that you envision for them.”

Interested in learning more about Community Launch? Please reach out for a connection to TCSC advocates.

Christina Dobratz

Christina is PIE Network's Manager, Communications & Policy  

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