Local Organizing and School Reform

A colleague sent me this article about a new Parents group that is organizing and strategizing for taking back policy power from the foundations and corporate reformers who are basically conducting experiments on the nation’s kids under the disguise of “reform.”

I thought I’d share some of it with you. I encourage you to read the rest:

“Parents are a sleeping giant,” nationally known education commentator Diane Ravitch said at the event. “If the sleeping giant awakens, we can take back education.”

“Parents Across America is an opportunity to use our collective voices on a national level,” said founding member Karran Harper Royal, a New Orleans parent activist, “to inform the policies that drive the decisionmaking in our each of our communities and nationwide. We will no longer allow our children to be subject to large-scale experimentation in the name of supposed ‘innovation,’ without our consent, when we know these policies have no backing in research or experience.”

At the forum, held at PS 89 in New York City’s Tribeca, Ravitch – author of the best-selling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” – warned in her keynote speech about the harm done by excessive reliance on standardized tests, privatization through charter school expansion, and the growing influence of wealthy private foundations on education policies. Those forces, Ravitch said, are undermining education and failing the children who are most in need.

It also reminded me of a report I read a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t know what to do with, about the power of community organizing for reformist movements that suggested most educational reforms fail at least in part because of the lack of community organizing and involvement and that the best kinds of reforms are those that genuinely engage with and enlist the ideas of the community being affected by the reform.

This is the report and this is how it was described on the Public Education Network Newsblast:

A new report from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) looks at the growing body of literature on community organizing to understand how it fits into systemic education reform. While many reforms are innovative, they often fail to take root due to lack of trust, understanding, or cultural relevance to the community targeted by the reform. The high turnover of reformers (superintendents, principals, or outside organizations) in high-need schools and districts is another major cause of reform failure. Reforms also fail because they do not address extreme inequities in resources and empowerment between poor communities and their more privileged counterparts. The research shows that community organizing for school reform has the potential to create equitable changes in schools and districts, develop innovative education solutions that reflect the knowledge of underserved communities, and build the long-term social capital of underserved communities both to support schools and districts and to hold them accountable for improving achievement. In addition to reviewing the literature, AISR staff also compiled a directory of 50 community organizations involved in New England education reform. Strong networks exist at the city, regional, and national level, and many community organizations with strong capacity in organizing and engagement are considering education work as a next step.

I read the second article on the same exact day that the single graduation (during the 16th week (also finals week) of the semester) was announced. Draw your own conclusions about what I thought as I read it.

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