Tools for Action
Engaging Community for Mutual Gain
Often, the voices of community members and parents are not heard when important educational decisions are being made. They are made to feel inadequate and unwelcome in many school settings, especially those whose culture, home language or economic status is not mainstream. But effective community engagement builds partnerships based on respect and a shared goal of academic success for every child. It depends on the meaningful integration of community members and parents into the decision-making processes of schools.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – IDRA is providing technical assistance in a New Mexico school district to create and implement an equity action plan called the “Multicultural Framework” to eliminate or reduce inequities in the entire process of education in the system of 138 schools. The process involves training all campus principals and all heads of departments, divisions and organizational operations on the framework followed by its actual integration into the “education plans for student success” for each campus. The anticipated outcome is increased success for all students regardless of race, gender, national origin, economic level or disability through elimination of education practices that deny access or discriminate and restrict opportunity for students because of the diverse characteristics.
Conducting research – IDRA has been commissioned by San Antonio College (SAC), one of five community colleges in the Alamo Community College District (ACCD) to conduct a research study to describe the first-year experience for first time college students at the college. The guiding research questions are based on the philosophical tenet that first-time college students have resources and assets that have yet to be tapped, and institutions of higher education need to adapt, align and coordinate their programs and services to ensure access and success for these students. The study will provide quantitative and qualitative analyses to inform a comprehensive, integrated approach for this student population that results in increased institutional persistence, such as increased retention and graduation rates.
Informing policy – IDRA is a founding member of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Public Education, a San Antonio-based coalition of community organizations and individuals who support the use of public money for neighborhood public schools and who oppose any effort to divert public tax funds to subsidize private education. The group is dedicated to improving neighborhood public schools by helping to channel the community’s support for public education. This spring, the coalition organized a letter-writing campaign in the San Antonio area and collected more than 2,000 letters expressing their support of public education to state leaders.
Engaging communities – IDRA conducted its WOW! Workshop on Workshops training for Houston Independent School District’s Parent Teacher Association and Parent Teacher Organization leaders. This leadership training provided comprehensive, in-depth learning opportunities for leaders that build on the strength and knowledge each person brings, while developing new and effective strategies for engagement that focus on student success and creating family-friendly schools.
What You Can Do
Get informed. See the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 18th annual Kids Count Data Book released in July. The new data book is a national and state-by-state report that includes information and statistical trends on the conditions of the country’s children and families. Go to: http://www.aecf.org/.
Get involved. The Harvard Family Research Project has launched a new concept called complementary learning based on the belief that “for children and youth to be successful, there must be an array of learning supports around them.” More information on complementary learning and key linkages are available on the HFRP web site: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/hfrp/.
Get results. Communities for Public Education Reform is a coalition of grassroots education organizing groups and national and local funders that seeks to improve education for students by giving community residents a stronger voice in shaping the policies that affect their public schools. CPER-funded groups will work to address a number of issues community members deem critical, including insufficient and inequitable funding for schools serving low-income students of color, inadequate and outdated school facilities, high school dropout rates, the lack of highly qualified and culturally competent teachers, and insufficient services for immigrant and special education students. Keep an eye out for more information to participate or get ideas by visiting the Ford Foundation’s web site (http://www.fordfound.org/).