Education CAFE – Community Action Forums for Excellence
Educación CAFÉ – Foros de acción comunitaria en pro la excelencia
IDRA’s Education CAFE model is an innovation for school-family-community collaboration. Education CAFEs are based in a community organization rather than in a single school, and their sole purpose is to collaborate with schools to improve the success of students in the community.
Grounded in IDRA’s Family Leadership in Education framework, an Education CAFE is a parent group that is rooted in a community-based organization, rather than in a single school. And its sole purpose is to collaborate with schools to improve the success of students in the community.
The first Education CAFE (originally called “Comunitario PTAs”) are rooted in colonias (unincorporated communities) in south Texas. The new name, Education CAFE, emphasizes the diversity of communities who are engaged in impacting their public schools.
IDRA has transformed traditional parent involvement into a more effective vehicle for parents who have been previously excluded or underserved through a mutual school-home partnership in support of children’s academic and social success.
With the base of a community organization that already exists and that is committed to serving its community, the Education CAFE it cultivates has built-in sustainability. Through shared revolving leadership.
Based on this success, in late 2012, IDRA was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to expand development of and research IDRA’s model in five communities in South Texas, through the i3 Initiative. By the end of the grant period, there were eight Comunitarios who collaborated across communities on several education leadership projects, including new graduation requirements.
Today there are hundreds of Education CAFE families in mulitple areas working with school leaders to monitor the academic success of their children and other neighborhood children.
Texas Education CAFE Network
With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, IDRA is establishing a Texas Education CAFE Network of community-based family and educator groups that help inform public education policies and practices related to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. This is an expansion of the Education CAFE model (developed by IDRA in South Texas), to Dallas, Houston, El Paso and the Coastal Bend region. As ESSA allows for greater state and local flexibility with community input, Education CAFE’s will collaborate with districts, educators and school leaders to inform policy and practices. Education CAFEs will inform policy and practice targets by playing a key role in (1) ESSA-mandated early childhood education implementation plan; (2) Planning for equitable resource distribution in schools; and (3) Promoting college success as the primary focus of the ESSA provision for broader accountability measures for public schools.
Three components are central to the Education CAFE model
Community-based, Distributive Leadership – Education CAFEs are born in their communities. They must be connected to a local organization that commits to focus on education (among its other mission areas). Meetings are attended by parents, grandparents, students’ older siblings, neighbors and all who consider themselves custodians of children’s academic success and future. By rotating leadership roles, the Education CAFE is not dependent on a central charismatic leader and instead is based on a distributive leadership model.
School Partnerships – Education CAFE members come together and partner with schools in their neighborhood in order to ensure student success. Collaboration includes co-planning and sharing responsibility for outreach and ongoing activities that improve education in their neighborhood public schools.
Education Projects – Education CAFEs carry out education projects using actionable data. For example, they bring families together to examine education policies and their implications for children’s access to advanced placement, dual credit and pre-algebra courses; the state’s education budget; and college readiness strategies. They also meet with school administrators to talk about shared concerns. Some group projects have included campus visitations to introduce the new organization, open hearings with school board candidates, large public events to protest cuts to the state education budget, and surveys about how new graduation plans are being implemented and their impact on poor and minority students.
There are now hundreds of Education CAFE families working with school district leaders to monitor the academic success of their children and other neighborhood children.