Organizing to Improve Schools

On Friday, I saw the much-discussed “Waiting for Superman”  It’s a compelling and heart-wrenching tale of real kids, most trapped in impoverished neighborhoods, with local public schools that seem to offer only devastating outcomes.   The film touches on many of the factors that inhibit school success, – bloated centralized administration, a major shift in future employment opportunities, competing mandates, poverty, teacher quality, and inadequate facilities.  Yet the oversimplified conclusion that we can fix our education system if we “Demand Great Teachers” fell flat.

So, what would I have concluded?  The path I find most promising is through community organizing.  Yup, the grassroots, door-to-door, get informed, understand the issue, do the hard work to bring people together, collaborate, problem-solve and take action to implement solutions.  That’s just what some communities are doing.  Check out the results of CC9, the Community Collaboration for District 9 Schools in the South Bronx.

So how do parents lead the way?  The NYC Coalition for Education Justice outlines steps to take in their “Make All Schools Great Schools” campaign. Their platform:

  1. Add More Time to the School Day and Year (30% more at low performing schools)
  2. Provide a Well-Rounded, College-Preparatory Curriculum for all Students
  3. Attract, Train and Keep the Best Teachers and Principals
  4. Provide Strong, Comprehensive Supports for Every Child
  5. Put the Parents Back in Public Education

Read more

So I guess my simplistic solution is “We are Superman.”  Or as my good buddy Kate refers to her role as a parent leader “We are SuperFriends.”  So, be a SuperFriend.  Empower families, teachers and communities to come together to create the schools we need.


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