Organized Communities, Stronger Schools

Year of publication
2009
Publication
Annenberg Institute

After education organizing for school reform emerged in the early 1990s, organizers, researchers, and foundations began to debate the impact of community organizing on educational outcomes. With funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, AISR conducted a six-year research study – the first of its kind – to examine this question. The study looked at organizing efforts by residents of seven urban communities across the country to improve their public schools. We documented their organizing campaigns and measured the impact on three critical indictors of education reform: district-level policy, school-level capacity, and student outcomes.  

AISR developed a series of seven case studies based on this research. Each case documents the organizing efforts of a community group in a site and its effect on resource equity and district accountability for improved educational outcomes. In Oakland, Austin, and Miami, where the education reform strategy was in place for at least five years, we also examined trends in school capacity and student educational outcomes. In the other sites, where the reforms were either too new or not intensive enough to assess outcomes directly, we focused on documenting the group’s organizing efforts and examining preliminary indicators of impact.

The community organizing groups, the study sites, and some tangible results of their organizing are:

Austin Interfaith

BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS TO REINVENT SCHOOL CULTURE
Through the Alliance Schools network, the group created new parent and school leadership, brought new resources to the district, and improved student performance.
Summary, Austin case study

Chicago ACORN (work later led by Action Now)

RETHINKING THE TEACHER PIPELINE FOR AN URBAN PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM
Organizing led to a new statewide, cross-sector program to train community residents as teachers for hard-to-staff schools.
Summary, Chicago case study

Community Coalition (Los Angeles)

SECURING A COLLEGE PREP CURRICULUM FOR ALL STUDENTS
Youth-led organizing and a citywide coalition resulted in a new district resolution mandating a college preparatory curriculum for all high schools.
Summary, Los Angeles case study

Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project and Youth United for Change (Philadelphia)

KEEPING THE VOICES OF PARENTS AND STUDENTS AT THE FOREFRONT OF REFORM
Organizing won greater parental access to school information, and new small high schools showed gains in attendance and student college-going plans.
Summary, Philadelphia case study

Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and Sistas and Brothas United

IMPROVING SCHOOLS THROUGH YOUTH LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACTION
New school facilities and repairs relieved overcrowding and youth leaders collaborated with educators to open a new small high school with a youth leadership and community action model.
Summary, Northwest Bronx case study

Oakland Community Organizations

BUILDING A DISTRICTWIDE SMALL SCHOOLS MOVEMENT
Organizing led to the creation of forty-eight new small schools, which fundamentally transformed the district landscape.
Summary, Oakland case study

People Acting for Community Together (Miami)

BUILDING A CAMPAIGN FOR READING REFORM IN MIAMI
A new literacy program and extensive community engagement improved community–school relationships and helped to raise low reading achievement in twenty-seven elementary schools. 
Summary, Miami case study

Partners and Funders: 

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Suggested Citation:

(2009). Organized Communities, Stronger Schools. Annenberg Institute