Saturday, April 12, 2008

Stronger Communities = Stronger Schools

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform has released Organized Communities, Stronger Schools:

Data suggest that organizing is contributing to school-level improvements, particularly in the areas of school–community relationships, parent involvement and engagement, sense of school community and trust, teacher collegiality, and teacher morale. Successful organizing strategies contributed to increased student attendance, improved standardized-test-score performance, and higher graduation rates and college-going aspirations in several sites. Our findings suggest that organizing efforts are influencing policy and resource distribution at the system level. Officials, school administrators, and teachers in every site reported that community organizing influenced policy and resource decisions to increase equity and build capacity, particularly in historically low-performing schools.

Data indicate that participation in organizing efforts is increasing civic engagement, as well as knowledge and investment in education issues, among adult and youth community members. Young people reported that their involvement in organizing increased their motivation to succeed in school.

Our research suggests that organizing groups achieve these schooling and community impacts through a combination of system-level advocacy, school- or community-based activity, and strategic use of research and data. Continuous and consistent parent, youth, and community engagement produced through community organizing both generates and sustains these improvements.

Pretty interesting. Makes me wonder about the connections between the potential to explore community issue and advocacy through the arts and community-based theatre and other art forms. I think it is so important to build communities around our schools, and sometimes we see arts organizations functioning so far removed from the communities that they wish to reach.

I looked at the report's answer to "What is community organizing for school reform?" I've recently been exploring the possibility of using applied theatre to explore education reform and elevate the voices of students while connecting communities of students, teachers, and administrators.

What is community organizing for school reform?
  • involves youth, public school parents, and community residents and/or
  • builds power by mobilizing large numbers of people
  • focuses on accountability, equity, and quality
  • recruits and develops leadership as a core activity
  • uses direct action tactics to apply pressure on decision-makers
  • aims to transform power relations that produce failing schools in low- and
    moderate- income neighborhoods and communities of color

So, I'd now ask:

Can the arts mobilize large numbers of people, recruiting and developing leadership?
Can the arts explore the transformation of dominant power structures and explore new possibilities?
Can the arts involve students, parents, school administrators, and teachers, building community?

No comments: