community organizing and school reform

The first of several posts on the book and conference, A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform, amplifying the work of Mark Warren documenting how community organizing can empower parents and children to change schools.

The homeschooling movement has shown that compulsory attendance laws began a process of disenfranchising parents from strong and meaningful involvement in their local schools. The deep inequalities in school funding, the frightening rise of zero tolerance and so-called theft of education crimes, the ongoing school-to-prison pipeline, and privatization of schools have made parental and community involvement more necessary than ever but finding the way to empower that movement and create change has been problematic. The groups and work documented in this remarkable book project show that real change can happen and is happening and as homeschooler, I think this work could have a wider impact than anyone expects. Changing schools will change communities.

Read how the book was created in a unique way that involved using the principles of community organizing and collaborative work. Or explore the wonderful graphic illustration for community organizing. NOTE: The videos are quite short and the radio interview is about 18 minutes. More about the book:
A Match On Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform » The Book: The persistent failure of public schooling in low-income communities constitutes one of our nation’s most pressing civil rights and social justice issues. Many school reformers recognize that poverty, racism, and a lack of power held by these communities undermine children’s education and development, but few know what to do about it. A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform argues that community organizing represents a fresh and promising approach to school reform as part of a broader agenda to build power for low-income communities and address the profound social inequalities that affect the education of children.
"Based on a comprehensive national study, the book presents rich and compelling case studies of prominent organizing efforts in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, San Jose, and the Mississippi Delta. The authors show how organizing groups build the participation and leadership of parents and students so they can become powerful actors in school improvement efforts. They also identify promising ways to overcome divisions and create the collaborations between educators and community residents required for deep and sustainable school reform. Identifying the key processes that create strong connections between schools and communities, Warren, Mapp, and their collaborators show how community organizing builds powerful relationships that lead to the transformational change necessary to advance educational equity and a robust democracy."
Listen to the interview on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC (if embedded player doesn't work, listen here, about 18 minutes.)  Interview with Mark Warren and Desiree Pilgrim Hunter, board president and leader of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, one of the organizations profiled in the book.

partial transcription (mine)
It was very difficult as a parent to figure out how ... all of a sudden, I'm in relationship with a lot of other parents ... and groups ... we were able to create campaigns .. and come up with platforms ... most parents ... don't know who the key decision maker is ... PTA ... have been reduced to being a fund-raising .... [Arnie Duncan says] The parent's role is to feed, clothe, shelter and help with the homework ....the stereotype is that parents don't care ... it is exactly the opposite ... when you go out talking to parents ... about education ... there is a movement ... parents are trying to find a way to have a meaningful say ... parent involvement vs. engagement .. .... [engaged parents] coming into the schools to contribute ... parent do open community learning centers ... start 'grow your own teacher' programs  where they themselves have a chance to become teachers in schools ... when you see that the homeschooling movement grew because the people were dissatisfied  ... and took control of it themselves ...  we have a school that has toxic poisons in it ... we brought the parents together, they organized themselves ....  parents have not been particularly welcome ...  

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