Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) recently joined with Communities for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), a new national coalition of community-based organizations composed of parents and students in low-income communities from across the country, to unveil a new comprehensive plan for successful, sustainable reform of the nation’s chronically underperforming schools and a report on schools that are eligible for federal turnaround intervention.
With the release of the coalition’s Sustainable School Transformation Plan and the report, “Our Communities Left Behind,” NOC members called for replacing the Administration’s proposals with the coalition’s research-based best practices to help transform underperforming schools in the Twin Cities.
CEPS released the plan and report on Wednesday, July 28, in Washington, DC, during an open congressional briefing with members of Congress, parents, students and education experts. NOC and CEPS are leading the charge for more parent and community involvement in the Administration’s plan for improving the country’s struggling schools.
The SIG program, utilizes strategies developed under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), to provide four options for using federal dollars to intervene in struggling schools: 1) fire school’s principals and all of its teachers; 2) convert school to a charter or hand over the school to outside management; 3) close the school; 4) replace school’s principal and “transform” the school.
According to members of CEPS, the best way to ensure accountability for real education reform is to engage parents and community members in the development and implementation of policies and to use research-based best practices focused on effective educational strategies. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan’s recent commitment to bring communities to the decision-making table indicated that parents and community members will have some input in which one of four intervention models will be imposed on their schools; however, it does not give them the opportunity to propose alternative intervention models and there are no guidelines to ensure parent and community involvement is meaningful.
“I’m glad the administration has made education reform a priority. Our schools need big changes,” said Rekoe Howard, a parent from St. Paul and a member of NOC. “But this one-size-fits-all approach is disruptive, and it’s not helping where our kids really need help. They focus on who’s running the schools, when in fact we need to be focusing on what’s going on inside our schools.”
Analysis of the new database of SIG-eligible schools found that Black, Hispanic and low-income students are disproportionally served by these schools. Nationally, 81 percent of students in SIG-eligible schools are students of color – the largest proportions being black students (44 percent) followed by Hispanic students (32 percent).
Similarly, low-income students are over-represented in SIG-eligible schools. Nationally, 69 percent of students in SIG-eligible schools are poor (defined by eligibility for free and reduced price lunch) compared to 43 percent of students attending the rest of the schools in the nation.
While every state has SIG-eligible schools, 61 percent of the students attending these schools are concentrated in just nine states: Mississippi, Massachusetts, Texas, Michigan, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California. More than one million students currently attend schools that are likely to face mandatory “turnarounds” and many of these schools will be shut down.
Locally, 10,814 students are attending the 34 schools facing turnaround in Minnesota. Nine of the 34 schools (26%) are concentrated within a roughly two-mile radius in and around North Minneapolis.
“Research shows that long-term investments in developing an expert teaching force, a strong and relevant curriculum, and a collaborative culture both within a school and with the community, are essential elements for a serious effort at school transformation,” said Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University. “This well-researched report deserves consideration by policy makers.”
In the Sustainable School Transformation Plan, CEPS provides the Administration with recommendations to ensure success for the more than 2,000 schools eligible for the SIG program.
“We’re calling on our Congressional representatives to face the facts and eliminate the Administration’s four reform measures that are based on tried and failed NCLB policies and replace them with those laid out in the Sustainable School Transformation Plan, “said Sunday Alabi, NOC Board Chair. The full plan is available at: www.mnnoc.org/schoolreport.pdf
Communities for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) is a national coalition of 20 community-based organizations composed of parents and students in low-income communities.
MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) is a multi-issue, member-led nonprofit organization committed to building power in low-income communities in the Twin Cities through community organizing.