The position of the school is such that it requires complete collaboration between the family members, school personnel, community representatives and the students of the school through the formation of a Collaborative Action Team. Any progress in the development of the school requires the direct assistance from all these groups and the assistance from the group has to continue for a period of years for the school to really get into a better situation. The collaboration required from them is continuous adherence to the CAT process and attending the majority of the meetings and agree to continue the collaboration in the future. (Collaborative Action Team Process: Bringing home, school, community, and students together to improve results for children and families)
In earlier cases this process has been taken up in 23 project sites in the Southwestern Region and in those experiments, a number of specific targets were reached for both the students and their families. Improvements have taken place in the performance of students in terms of scores achieved, attendance recorded, and improvements in graduation and dropout rates. The full targets have not been realized and may take more time for achievement. Apart from time, the requirement is for attention and support for these schools but the structure of the existing system has to continue as also the collaboration between all the parties involved. (Collaborative Action Team Process: Bringing home, school, community, and students together to improve results for children and families)
Persons involved in change
In any action plan to improve a school, the main individuals involved are the students and it has to involve them into using community resources correctly. The entire issue of learning services and entrepreneurship involves the education of students in the situation of the community. The students have to learn academic, work, and citizenship skills as they exist among others. They can help the community health clinics or operate a local newspaper, retail shop or even construct some projects of value to the community. These are also activities which provide a lot of benefits to the students, school and the general community. These are however not possible in the general methods of school operations. This caution has already been sounded by Bruce Miler in 1995 -- "It needs to be kept in mind that the changes implied in building a community-school development project where students engage in community-based learning experiences are essentially questions about changing the way schools go about preparing rural youth for the future." (Adapting to Community-based Learning)
There are many reasons for finding out methods for the development of students and the first and foremost reason is probably the range of benefits that it provides to the individuals and the society as a whole. In our present system of economy, there are a lot of values which are attached to skilled individuals and this can be directly seen in the comparatively high value that the society and employers pay them in terms of their total earnings when they start work. They also generally have much better rates of employment than others who have not gone through school. These views and observations can in themselves justify a high expenditure on schooling, but there are other benefits which must also be recognized. When the members of a society are educated, they generally are healthier and remain healthier; they are also citizens who play a direct role in decisions about the government and also participate in the government; they are also individuals who are less likely to be involved in crime for their own livelihood, and in general, they are less likely to require public support for their livelihood. In addition, their methods of work will generally lead to better productivity and this in turn leads to better economic performance of the society. (Improving school performance while controlling costs)
In the beginning
The difficulties that the students and the employees of the school face is one of lack of self-esteem and one of the best methods for solving it would be to involve the students with activities of the society directly. This will bring them directly in touch with the outside, real world and instill changes in them with their learning through experiences. The society outside will also experience benefits through the work done by the students and thus the society will start valuing the school more. The entire process of service learning will help the individuals in the area where the students will serve, but, apart from that it will improve the self-esteem of the students, develop higher order thinking skills in them, make better use of their different capabilities, and give the students genuine learning experiences. These are also the general principles of education today. (Characteristics of Service Learning)
The projects for service learning can be viewed from different angles, but the general aim is to address them from the angle of helping the needs of the community which arise due to health, poverty, social issues or even the environment. An area which is suited to the locality can be chosen. There may also be community based activities in which the students do not have to come in direct touch with the others in society and this may be projects to document local history or culture through interviews, archival research, photography or any other methods. None of these activities provide any direct assistance to students or even any individuals outside, but help the community as a whole and build in them a sense of pride and develop a sense of identity.
In certain cases, even teaching other students, or even tutoring students of lower grades are viewed as service learning, as there is one group of students helping others. This may be required in this school as there is a shortage of teachers, and this causes difficulty in teaching some classes. The location of the service activity depends on the nature of the activity, and if it is student mentoring or peer tutoring, it can take place in the classes themselves. In other cases, the work involves going outside the school. Some activities may be occasional activities like a neighborhood cleanup. Other activities may be repeated. Here the activity chosen should bring the students in touch with the outside society, so that the value of the school is known to the locals. (Characteristics of Service Learning)
Major changes in activities recommended
It has been mentioned that there will be a CAT to guide all action that is taken, and it would be their responsibility to decide on what action is taken. The type of action to be taken has been recommended to be a process of service learning, but the nature of service that is to be taken up will have to be decided by the CAT, and no recommendation will be made from outside. The improvement to education of students is enormous and the students can get many types of authentic learning through service learning and these may be hands on, interdisciplinary, shift to an attitude of problem solving and critical thinking. These are directly grounded in the experience of students and relevant to their daily life and work. This is what the experts have been asking for and has been pointed out by the Carnegie Council on adolescent development as "Youth service can teach young people values for citizenship, including compassion, regard for human worth and dignity, tolerance and appreciation of human diversity, and a desire for social justice. Youth service also teaches students skills for work such as collaboration, problem solving, and conflict resolution." (Cautions and Concerns: Benefits of service learning)
Many organizations like the School at the Center project at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has been helping students through some projects. One is for students in two school districts who are studying methods for the residents of rural areas in the locality to save energy through the use of wind power and energy efficient buildings. Projects like this will help the school and the students become popular with the residents of the area.
Period required for implementation
The question of time that has to be looked at is not for the formation of the CAT. That can be done in an important meeting called for all the individuals involved, but the members of the CAT have to become comfortable in working with each other. What one has to look at is the entire system to reach the collaborative partnership to start taking effect and for it to start improving the students and their families in a way that can become visible. It requires a certain amount of collaboration and that does not happen immediately. When time will pass, it will be seen that collaboration will improve. In the entire process, it took roughly one school year for the team members to realize that significant progress had been made in the implementation of the CAT process and for short-term goals to be realized. (Collaborative Action Team Process: Bringing home, school, community, and students…