Community Conversations

Community Conversation with parents from Clark Middle School (2015)

Community Conversation with parents from Clark Middle School (2015)

In May 2013, the 90% by 2020 partnership commissioned the Anchorage Youth Development Coalition(AYDC) to facilitate Community Conversations as a process for gathering community perspectives on issues related to educational success of children in Anchorage.  We wanted to capture key themes about challenges, solutions and aspirations for the future from a diverse cross-section of our community.  

Over the past two years, 294 youth and adults have taken part in 35 conversations across the city.  They have told us about barriers to attendance, what the community could do to improve graduation rates, how to help parents get their children ready for school, and the need for more supportive and positive adults and role models to help youth feel connected and valued.

The 90% by 2020 partnership networks and committees use this information alongside national research and local data to inform strategies, interventions and tactics.

Notes from winter 2016 conversations:

Conversation Themes

  • Better access to information
    There is a need for better community access to information about education in Anchorage: K-12 performance, ASD educational options, supports for students, post-secondary options and community learning programs.
  • Educational equality
    All families should have equal access to resources and supports that promote youth success, regardless of economic factors or where they live in the city.
  • Supportive Youth-Adult Relationships
    Positive relationships with adults at school are critical to students' academic success.  Youth want relationships with adults, including parents and teachers, to be more positive.  They want to know that they are respected and valued by teachers; they appreciate having their voices heard and their input included.
  • Teaching and learning styles
    Students need teachers who are available for additional academic support, who are responsive to different paces and learning styles, who incorporate hands-on, active and field-based lessons.  Students want relevant and engaging curriculum that connects academic learning to real-world applications and life outside of school.
  • Afterschool matters!
    Afterschool programs that connect students' passions and interests to academic content promote learning.  Students want greater access to safe and supportive programs in their neighborhoods.
  • Funding 
    We need well-funded schools where funding decisions are based on what's in the best interest of children.  The community is concerned about the impact of cutting teachers, programs and supports.
  • Social Norms
    Students are influenced by social norms - positive, supportive messages from the community and home give them more confidence that they can succeed.  Specifically, the message that ALL students, regardless of race or ethnicity or finances, have a strong chance to succeed and graduate.
  • Safe communities
    Having safe home and school environments are important - bullying, fighting, and drug/alcohol use all impact student learning.  Students need more stable lives outside of school where education is valued.
  • Role models
    Young children and youth need more supportive adults and positive role models, particularly men, in their lives.  We need to expand opportunities and access for adults to mentor and volunteer.
  • Early Childhood Education for all! 
    We need to challenge the barriers of income and single parenthood.  Universal preschool education would make it possible for more children to be ready for kindergarten and get a strong start.
  • Early learning resources for parents
    Many parents are not aware of what it takes to prepare kids to be ready for kindergarten.  We need to provide more information, resources and trainings for parents and to emphasize the value of preschool learning.

Conversation Groups

youth: AK Pride, Alaska Native Cultural Charter School, AYA POWER Teen Center, Clark Middle School, Covenant House, Highland Tech, Muldoon Boys and Girls Club, National Guard Child and Youth Program, Nine Star Education and Employment Services, Polynesian Association of Alaska Youth, Shiloh Community Development Youth Group, Shiloh Housing, Wendler Middle School, YWCA Alaska

adults:  Child care providers (organized by thread), CIRI staff, Clark Middle School Parents, UAF Cooperative Extension, Identity Inc., Kids' Corps Head Start Policy Council, Nine Star Education and Employment English language class, Polynesian Lions and Anchorage Lions

In a healthy community, interaction starts in the family, involves neighbors and reaches the entire community. The result is a healthy community in which everybody is engaged and participates.
I think it is important to build relationships. Strong relationships will lead to shared expectations in regards to community well-being and what we want for kids.