PROVIDENCE – A new video produced by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform showcases organized Twin Cities parents working collaboratively with teachers to strengthen their schools, instead of pitting them as bitter enemies in an endless and unproductive blame game.
Entitled “Organized Parents, Organized Teachers,” the five-minute video () features Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), a Twin Cities-based parent and community organizing group that recently joined forces with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and other community and alumni organizations to prevent the closure of North High School.
The video will be publicly screened for the first time on Saturday, January 19 at a town hall meeting for local teachers and parents called “Let’s Dream Together Conversation,” organized by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT59).
“Our analysis of power in schools is that parents have some power, and teachers have some power, but if they work together, they have a lot of power to make positive changes,” said Steve Fletcher, NOC’s founding executive director. “We don’t see a path to sustained, long-term reforms that can turn around our schools and close the achievement gap without teachers at the center of that movement.”
In partnership with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Federations of Teachers, NOC also recently conducted a survey of Twin Cities parents, who overwhelmingly graded their children’s teachers very favorably, countering the seemingly universally held perception of K–12 instructor dissatisfaction. Instead, the majority of parents expressed their displeasure not with teachers but with class size, and underscored their desire to spend more time with their child’s teacher. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers incorporated the survey results in their contract negotiation and invited parents to the bargaining sessions, resulting in lower class size and funding for home visits by teachers.
“The Twin Cities experience isn’t an isolated example,” said Sara McAlister, senior research associate at Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform. “Organized parents and teachers are collaborating to improve schools throughout the country, ranging from the Bronx to Denver to Los Angeles. Instead of pointing fingers and alleging blame, these efforts are creating a cycle of involvement, improvement and renewed investment in our nation’s school systems.”
McAlister added that the video will be uploaded to YouTube, shown to community groups and parent organizations nationwide, and shared with education researchers, teachers’ unions, and reform support groups.
Within the last ten years, more and more evidence has emerged that effective parent and community involvement can positively impact school culture, working conditions, and student achievement. Parents, with the assistance of community organizations, can play an important role in initiating a culture shift that bridges cultural and racial differences and positively affects teacher quality and retention.
“In the context of shrinking education funding, stubborn opportunity and achievement gaps between low-income and wealthy children and between children of color and white youth, and the polarizing debate on school reform, community organizing offers a methodology for parents and community members to effect meaningful change for students who are typically under-served by our public schools,” stated Annenberg Institute Executive Director Warren Simmons. “Research has demonstrated that education organizing has increased equity, improved teachers’ working conditions, built stronger relationships between schools and families, and improved achievement and graduation rates.”
As authors Mark R. Warren and Karen L. Mapp noted in their 2011 book “A Match on Dry Grass, “Organizing groups help build a political constituency with the power to demand school improvement and hold systems accountable. Yet organizing groups do not just demand change; they also work to organize parents, young people, community residents, and educators to contribute to change efforts.”
NOC Education Committee Chair Victoria Balko added: "Every public school a child attends should be an excellent place for learning. NOC understands that for this to happen, parents and teachers have to work together, and we believe this model can create change nationwide."
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