Our team spent over two years researching community engagement in schools, online education learning networks and trends in volunteerism. And throughout this process we listened to, surveyed and connected with thousands of educators, students, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and academics. It is clear from our research and our own personal experiences that we are failing too many youth, that our educators are as isolated as ever and that our education system is increasingly fragmented. Yet our 21st Century economy and future is being driven by networks, connectivity and collaborative, creative problem solving. In light of this disconnect, CommunityShare has chosen to address four key educational challenges:
- 40-60% of all U.S. students are chronically disengaged from school. Many studies attribute student disengagement to the lack of real-world relevance of classroom learning to students’ lives and experiences
- Students lack an understanding of real-world careers. Most students have very limited opportunities to learn about career pathways directly from professionals working in a diversity of fields
- Only 25% of students perceive that adults in their community value youth
- Teachers are isolated, spending only 3% of their day collaborating with adults. However, nearly 90% of teachers believe time for collaboration is crucial
Meanwhile teachers know and the research confirms that:
- Community connections and engagement are the hallmarks of successful career & STEM education programs
- Pairing academic studies with real-world examples and guest speakers in the classroom can increase student learning
- Exposure to new ideas and people leads to student engagement
Perhaps most importantly we know that educators in Southern Arizona want more community engagement!
Our survey of 9,000 teachers from over 250 schools in Southern AZ showed one clear result – teachers want more community support in the form of a one-stop, on-line network that would easily connect them to partners and resources in their local community.
- 84% of teachers wanted more community engagement
- Teachers rated 4.4 (out of 5) the likelihood of using an online network like CommunityShare
- The top two reasons teachers don’t bring more community partners into their classroom were 1) lack of time to contact and find them and 2) not being sure where to find them
Does CommunityShare already exist?
The few existing online networks for educators do not meet these needs, as they are discipline specific and do not provide information that is useful on a local level. The beauty of CS is that it reveals and connects the unique assets of a community, yet it can be replicated and adapted to any city or region in the US or even world.