Stages of Development
NLCs develop over time, the NLC Stages of Development framework sets out a concept for schools to visualize their progress through four stages of development toward increasingly high levels of community engagement from exploring through to excelling. These stages of development and the suggestions for applying the results to a specific school are based on the work of the Children’s Aid Society of New York. They are modified, with permission, to better fit the BC school setting.
- NLC Stages of Development (PDF, 300KB)
- NLC Stages of Development (DOCX, 300KB)
- Please note – BC is not evaluating schools based on this criteria; the intent of this material is to assist schools in becoming Neighbourhood Learning Centres.
It is critical to note that, in practice, the four stages are not generally linear; various elements of the criteria may be at different stages at any given time. Furthermore, as circumstances change, a pattern of advance and retreat occurs. One might think of this as two steps forward, one step back. See illustration below:
This stage is marked by discontent with the ways that schools operate and by very grandiose thinking, tremendous optimism and magical thinking that if only X were in place, things would be significantly different. This should be encouraged because out of these dreams and desires a shared vision will emerge.
This period is marked by a commitment to jump in and do something. A decision has been made to commence the transformation by introducing some level of services, securing some funding and beginning to develop partnerships. Programs are designed in a strengths-based paradigm based on data from a formal or informal needs assessment. This period is like a roller coaster ride, marked by highs and lows, progress and frustration.
Success in this stage requires a commitment to the shared vision, clear goals, good communication processes, clarity of roles and responsibilities, responsiveness to the needs and regular celebration. This period lasts for about 2 years.
This period is marked by steady, intentional progress and the realization that this work requires a tremendous amount of effort. The vision becomes clearer to all; therefore, there is likely broader support for it. Service utilization increases as interventions become timelier, more relevant and of higher quality. Relationships between community organizations and the school are deepened. Administrative and program integration becomes more natural and community-based organizations may become involved in joint planning and funding.
Success in this stage requires keeping the vision and programs fresh, tending to relationships, increasing partnerships, continuing to demonstrate added value and attending to sustainability.
Quality programs are implemented that are fully integrated into the fabric of the school. The school culture focuses on addressing the needs of the whole child. Increased parent involvement empowers parents and school staff to become advocates of quality education. Strong relationships are established within the school, community and school district. The school values community program support staff as committed partners and leaders.
Success in this stage requires involvement in innovative programming, the development of youth leadership and the use of staff, parents and students to teach others to do this work.
Internet research and direct communication reveal that the Children’s Aid Society of New York is the original source of various documents that identify four stages in the development of community schools. References to the Children’s Aid Society’s stages of development appear in a variety of their text and PowerPoint documents. In addition, various other organizations (e.g., Coalition for Community Schools and the John W. Gardner Center at University of California, Davis) refer to the four stages developed by the Children’s Aid Society rather than creating other frameworks.
For the purposes of this project, the authors are satisfied that these stages adequately reflect the continuum of growth of schools with high community engagement in the BC setting. The tables on the following pages set out the four stages and nine key development criteria. We feel that these stages of development can be applied to Neighbourhood Learning Centres as they are implemented over the next few years. It is important to note that considerable research and analysis of community schools in BC is already available, particularly the Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports by Talbot and Associates (ACEbc, 2004, 2005).