With a focus on the developing identity of each child, and continuous, collaborative development of practice amongst all adults engaged in the shared responsibility of raising successful children, the Alliance for Community Teachers and Schools (ACTS) offers urban schools opportunities to form genuine community around the collaborative enterprise of urban education.
Our work lies at the intersection of education reform and social justice. We facilitate the development of community teachers, community schools and communities of practice in a systemic response to the challenges of urban education.
A community teacher is an accomplished teacher who possesses and works to build on his/her contextualized knowledge of culture, community, and identity of children and families as the core of his/her teaching practice. Community teachers possess a “multicultural competence” that incorporates a deep and sophisticated understanding of race, racism and the contemporary contexts of schooling. They understand that, if they are to educate the “whole child,” they must commit to developing them socially, emotionally, cognitively, and culturally.
Community schools bring to life the cultural context for learning and development. They are places where families, school staff, young people, and community-based organizations work together to coordinate and integrate all of their programs. Community schools are centers of their neighborhoods, hubs of health, social, and learning resources for both children and adults, providing the foundation for healthy families and neighborhoods.
COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
A community of practice is a committed, democratic group of collaborative learners that have come together in genuine engagement in a shared purpose or aim. It is unique in three ways, all of which must be cultivated.
1) It is a group that sustains itself with group practices that ensure mutual engagement, understanding, and respect for diversity.
2) It is a group that is focused on joint productive work that is clear, agreed upon, and structured for mutual accountability.
3) it is a group that develops and shares a repertoire of resources, practices and processes that make them better at what they are doing.
THREE INTEGRATED PROGRAM AREAS
The Alliance seeks to employ these core concepts to transform practice in urban education. Over the coming year, ACTS will focus on the development of three program areas, while remaining responsive to others who bring forward projects that can be furthered and enriched by this work.
Community-Immersion Teacher Development Program
The Community-Immersion Teacher Development Program is an opportunity for teachers to work alongside community members and providers, guided by teacher educators who will provide the theoretical grounding, as well as an ongoing opportunity for reflection and self-cultivation. Participants will examine at the deepest level what their purpose is as an educator; how they can improve their communications, relationships, and teaching practices once informed by enhanced familiarity with the social context; etc. While adding value in community-based organizations, they will be exposed to the networks of mutual support, traditions and practices that make this community work.
Resiliency Project/Peace Schools Project
Staying true to our mission of changing lives and improving the prospects for children and youth, the Resiliency Project/Peace Schools Project envisions building an extended network of school communities that commit to becoming the kinds of environments that support children’s growth and thriving. In the face of overwhelming numbers of children and families who have experienced personal and community violence and trauma, the Resiliency Project would help schools to become Peace Schools, community schools that are committed to proven social, psychological, cultural and instructional practices that heal wounds and build resilience.
Freedom for Literacy, Literacy for Freedom Project
By working intensively with a staff circle of practice, ACTS engenders new skills in collaborative learning, data analysis, planning and curriculum development. Literacy teams meet weekly within their schools, with on-site coaching from an ACTS literacy specialist. Each school’s Literacy Representative meets regularly with other Lit Reps in a circle of practice, facilitated by ACTS leaders, to explore issues of child/adolescent identity development, the dynamics of communities of practice, and new, data-informed and culturally-grounded practices for literacy development school-wide.
We hope you will join us!