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Public Engagement

Informing and Engaging Legislators, the Education Policy Community and the Public

Creating Momentum for Change

The Riley Institute’s study on public education provided us with the data and the potential to dramatically improve education in South Carolina. Given the high levels of consensus we found among business leaders, educators, parents, students, and members of school boards, and given the passion for education reform in South Carolina, the logical next step was to inform and engage the public and key legislators in building support and momentum for education and funding reform. This process includes face-to-face briefings with individual legislative and business leaders, more general information sessions for groups, the development of networks of advocates around the study, publication of editorial and op-ed pieces in opinion making newspapers and journals, and the development of a dynamic website detailing the study. By informing and engaging the public and building support and momentum around study findings, our data can have substantial impact on education policy legislation.

One example of the impact these briefings and information sessions are making in South Carolina is a meeting held in Barnwell, South Carolina in the fall of 2008, facilitated by the United Way of Barnwell.  Eighty education stakeholders in Barnwell, including parents, a school superintendent, faith-based leaders, educators and other concerned citizens, gathered for a presentation on the results of the Riley Institute study and to focus particularly on early childhood education, an area of primary concern for Barnwell’s future. Community members engaged in passionate discussions on funding sources, ideas for programs that do not require additional funding, apathy, and the necessity of a clear vision. Following this meeting, community leaders used the data and discussion to guide two additional strategic planning sessions for early childhood education in Barnwell.

Establishing Key Partnerships

As the original study has gained recognition and prominence throughout South Carolina, the Riley Institute has been approached by several organizations with the goal of partnership for the advancement of the issues that emerged from the study. Several partnerships have been established with organizations whose missions distinctly align with the findings of the Riley Institute study.

An example of these partnerships is our work with Inside Out Centers for Learning (IOCL).  As state education leaders began to extend their visions for reshaping teacher preparation, reimagining teaching roles, and transforming schools into genuine learning organizations, they proposed a learning center that includes concepts such as student progression based on skill mastery (no grade levels); flexible schedules for both teachers and students; personalized instruction designed by Instructional Guides; medical, dental and mental health needs coordinated by a Life Coach; and fluid movement of services in and outside the center. 

“The IOCL model gives traction to big ideas that best fit the digital learner of today and tomorrow. Even in the wake of an economic downturn, the message that children deserve a better education continues to be spoken by supporters and non-supporters of public education. South Carolina's IOCL is a first of a kind. It promises to change the landscape of public education in our state as well as be a national model for duplication.” – Joanne Avery, Deputy Superintendent, Anderson 4; Co-Chair South Carolina National Coalition for Teaching and America’s Future.