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Element 6: Align Efforts to Hold Change

Change efforts are more likely to be effective and sustained when they operate within an aligned and coherent system. Work together with young people, families, and community partners to identify opportunities for alignment and coherence across policies, funding, communications, capacity building, data use, and goals. Practice participatory policymaking and budgeting to support the implementation and sustainability of community-generated change strategies.

Case Story:

Van Ness Elementary School

In 2015, community members helped drive the reopening of Van Ness Elementary in Washington D.C. Following a closure spanning 9 years, parents and caregivers advocated for a campus restart with a renewed commitment to well-being for children, families, and educators. In keeping with this commitment, school leader Cynthia Robinson-Rivers formed a partnership with the MedStar Georgetown Center for Wellbeing In School Environments (WISE), through which students and families have received mental health, behavior, and other therapeutic supports since 2016. A schoolwide wellness team also collaborates on team building opportunities and surveys staff about their wellness needs. In March 2020, staff responses indicated widespread interest in receiving voluntary, no-cost therapy sessions during the school day. Ms. Robinson-Rivers worked with WISE to restructure the partnership so that the campus could offer clinical support to teachers who expressed interest. Results from the district's Classroom Assessment Scoring System as well as anecdotal data indicates that these sessions were highly successful in supporting community well-being. Listen to this case story clip to hear Ms. Robinson-Rivers describe how she determined the need for realigning and shifting the school’s partnership to better support educator needs.

Reflection Pause

Alignment refers to all policies, practices, processes, and roles in a system working together in similar or consistent ways. Coherence refers to integration and interconnection between the parts of the system, in a way that mutually reinforces shared understanding and overall progress toward a clear vision and set of goals.

  • Are students, families, partners, and staff participating in shared decision-making about how resources are allocated to support community-defined priorities? How do you know?
  • Are policies, funding, partnerships, and other resources in your school or district aligned to support the implementation and sustainability of change ideas that have been identified by the community?
  • Are policies, practices, and funding aligned to support community engagement in your school or district? How do you know?

System Alignment Exercise

Identify 2-3 current community engagement initiatives in your school or district. Reflect on the extent to which these initiatives are aligned to your school or district’s vision, priorities, and goals.

Initiative (strategies, policies, programs) Alignment to Vision Alignment to Priorities and Goals

Adapted from Walrond, N. (2021). Serving the whole person: An alignment and coherence guide for local education agencies. WestEd. https://www.wested.org/resources/whole-person-alignment-andcoherence-guide-for-local-education-agencies

Resources to Explore

Valdez, A., Cerna, R., & Hashmi, S. (2023). Participatory systems change for equity: An inquiry guide for child-, youth-, and family-serving agencies. California Center for School Climate & Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety. WestEd.


Walrond, N., & Romer, N. (2021). Serving the whole person: An alignment and coherence guide for state education agencies. WestEd.


Walrond, N. (2021). Serving the whole person: An alignment and coherence guide for local education agencies. WestEd.

Beyond SEL. Intensive supports for educator well-being. WestEd. https://beyondsel.wested.org/audiocast/intensive-supports-for-educator-well-being/   

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