Communities, Schools, and the Job Ahead

No institution is more central to a suburban neighborhood than the local school. People work and worship in different places, and many rarely venture beyond their property line except in a car. But they all walk their kids to the same bus stop in the morning, where they arrange car pools to pick the kids […]

Challenging Failing Schools

In the 1970s, the effective schools research movement demonstrated that urban schools are not automatically doomed to fail. Researchers identified schools serving disadvantaged students that produced academic achievement comparable to that in middle-class schools. The slogan, “All children can learn,” now an obligatory mantra for urban educators, was coined by effective schools researchers. But those […]

Lessons in Collaboration

Education has always been important to Americans. In every community, teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members work to give students the knowledge and skills necessary to be productive members of society. We expect public schools to level the playing field so that all young people will benefit from – and contribute to – expanding […]

Changing the Ground Rules

In March 1985, the principal of Dumas Elementary School, in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, recruited 120 parents for a breakfast to kick off a campaign to encourage children to read books on their own. Rather than being congratulated by the school district for such a successful outreach effort, she was reprimanded, because the large […]

Places To Learn

A parent from Brooklyn, New York complains, “How can they expect my child to concentrate when two classes with separate teachers are happening at the same time in the same classroom?” Another adds, “My daughter’s school is dreary and dilapidated, and I see it affecting her.” Complaints like these are far too common in cities […]

Parent Power!

Sacramento Area Congregations Together In the early 1990s, only one in 10 students in Sacramento, CA’s worst-performing elementary schools were reading at grade level. Parents and teachers were divided by what Sandy Smith, director of Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT), calls a “cycle of blame.” The teachers believed that the parents’ absence from school activities […]

Shelter Shorts

Government Does Many Things Well-But Not Housing   “Most people don’t believe government is capable of much more than delivering the mail,” says Paul C. Light, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for the Public Service in the Ford Foundation Report (Spring 2001). In response, his center has published Government’s 50 Great Endeavors of the […]

Patience and Politics

State education departments are always looking for ways to improve low-performing schools, and not always finding them. In 1992, the Texas Education Agency agreed to try something unusual – a proposal by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) to harness its community organizing skills in the cause of local school reform. Under the plan, the state […]

The Importance of Being Gracious

Maybe it’s the aftermath of the presidential election. Maybe it’s the disappearance of the dot.coms as the hot new source of funds. For some reason, my friends and I have been inundated with unbelievably poor fundraising solicitations over the last six months. Here is a small sampling of correspondence and phone messages from organizations I […]

Reform Welfare Reform

In 2002, TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) will be up for reauthorization. In preparation for the debate surrounding it, The National Coalition for the Homeless and the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, on behalf of the National Welfare Monitoring and Advocacy Partnership (NWMAP), have released Welfare to What? Part II: Laying […]