Taking it to the White House for Excellent Public Schools
“Minute by minute, hour, by hour, we are the parents, we have the power!” That is what parents and community members from across the nation chanted on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 during the Communities for Excellent Public Schools Day of Action.
More than 175 people from across the nation came together in Washington DC to demand a new option for the interventions for our lowest performing schools under the School Improvement Grants on behalf of the Communities for Excellent Public Schools. Representing more than 400,000 people from across the US, we presented our Sustainable Success model to the White House, to the US Department of Education, and to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Coincidentally, on the same day, Senators Harkin and Enzi introduced a bill reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
During our town hall meeting, we heard different stories from around the nation. We heard about the problems existing in schools where parents and communities are shut out. One such example came from Charlotte, NC where the district did not meaningfully involve parents but instead resulted in conflict within the community and parents.
We also heard about the success that meaningful parent and community engagement had in schools such as those in Logan Square in Chicago, IL where every morning, 150 parents work with students at risk of failing. In Oakland, CA, the community was involved in the transformation plans of the school. Parents decided to make the school a 6-12 model and what the school uniform would be. Parents visited other schools in other districts to determine what they wanted their neighborhood school to look like. They were included in every decision and that made a distinct difference in how they viewed the school, themselves and their roles in the school.
CEPS and its member groups put forward a thorough description of a more demanding model to be included as a fifth option under the School Improvement Grants. The model, called Sustainable Success, is based on three fundamental principles:
It is necessary to have a collaborative and inclusive process that creates public accountability by engaging parents, students, educators, and communities in designing and implementing reforms.
Sustainable Success requires a focus on research-based strategies within the school, including a strong focus on instruction, college and career-ready curriculum for all students, a collaborative environment for high quality teaching, and a positive school climate for student learning.
Sustainable Success is only possible when students are provided wrap-around supports that ensure they are healthy, nurtured and ready to learn and thrive.
We made it clear to the representatives at the White House and the US Department of Education that the time to act in NOW. With our model, we also provided the regulatory language to make Sustainable Success the fifth option immediately.
Parents left the Hill energized that their hard work will produce good results. The fight to ensure that all of our children receive the quality education they need and deserve is far from over.