Roots of Engagement in Baton Rouge: How Community Is Shaping the Growth of New School Options

April 2016

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Typical community engagement efforts around school reform initiatives might include holding meetings with residents, community groups, and families to solicit buy-in for plans and changes already well underway. The deeper work of building relationships over time with the intended beneficiaries of reforms has been largely bypassed in favor of urgency, often resulting in a legacy of bitterness and mistrust around how reforms played out.

In this paper, CRPE profiles New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR), a nonprofit organization working to create high-quality new public charter and private school options, primarily in neighborhoods with failing or low-performing schools. NSBR is embedding community engagement in everything from vetting and recruiting school operators, to building a local pipeline of teachers who look like the students they serve, to striving to deliver what the community itself defines as an “excellent” school. Despite an undisputed sense of urgency on behalf of students, NSBR is taking the time to forge relationships from the neighborhood on up, recognizing that schools are not just places where students are educated and outcomes earned, but places that play a role in the neighborhood economy and community life.