Keeping PACE & ESEA Reauthorization

“We must support families, communities, and schools working in partnership to deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.”482045From A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), 2010

Sounds great! But the Blueprint was written to fail. Parents became an afterthought, the funding was backwards, and privatization was stamped all over it. The plan designated formula funding for wants, experiments, and pushed a political, ideologically driven, education industry agenda while leaving student needs to be filled through competitive grants. And the time-proven, research-based, essence of the original ESEA was hidden behind verbiage sure to raise political conflict. Written to fail.

But, never mind. The Blueprint isn’t really a big obstacle because the real responsibility for ESEA reauthorization is in the hands of Congress. The best thing that could happen right now would be for the people in this country to decide if they agree or not with the proposals coming out of the House and Senate.

And we deserve to know if the president is clear in his own mind as to what principles he stands upon. When the law lands on his desk, by what standards will he judge it? He has given us mixed signals.

Does the Obama administration firmly believe that education is a “shared responsibility”? Will policy reflect that concept? Does the administration comprehend how parents, families, and communities were once central to federal education policy? Do they know how parents are treated in dysfunctional districts, the under-performing ones that they say they want to “turnaround”?

In education policy in general, we parents have not just been directed to the back of the bus, we’ve been shoved out the rear door and left on the curb.

The reality over the years has been that parental “involvement,” “engagement,” “participation” — whatever the flavor of the year happens to be — has been more of a sound bite than sound policy. In too many districts, No Child Left Behind’s parental participation requirement was implemented on paper only — schools meeting rule compliance without doing the right things.

Knowingly or not, President Obama clearly expressed a focus for ESEA reauthorization — to support partnerships that deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.

Then under the heading Rigorous and Fair Accountability and Support at Every Level (p9), the presidents’ Blueprint went on to state;

“States and districts also will collect other key information about teaching and learning conditions, including information on school climate such as student, teacher and school leader attendance; disciplinary incidents; or student, parent, or school staff surveys about their school experience.”

In those words, we have a new beginning for an accountability structure originally envisioned in Education Counts.

“The information system needed to develop education indicators should be organized around major issue areas of enduring educational importance.”

If parental, family, and community support for students isn’t of enduring educational importance, I don’t know what is.

So with a focus and a way to monitor improvement, all we need is a research-based proposal to finally make right the school improvement portion of ESEA to ensure it is truly inclusive of parents, families, and communities.

That’s where “Keeping PACE” comes in. The Keeping Parents and Communities Engaged (PACE) Act was sponsored in the 111th Congress (2009-2010) by former Senator Edward Kennedy. It was introduced into the Senate Education Committee and never went any further.

The problem with Keeping PACE as it was proposed is that, like the best ideas in the Obama Blueprint, it was a competitive grant proposal for something that impoverished communities badly need — it’s not a want; it’s not an experiment. It is a need. Parent and community engagement must be given the priority that only adequate and fair formula funding can do.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 5.11.23 PMWe have research-based best practices for family and community engagement. Research shows there is “…strong and steadily growing evidence that families can improve their children’s academic performance in school. Families also have a major impact on other key outcomes, such as attendance and behavior, that affect achievement.”

Fund what works!

The basic idea of Keeping PACE is this: Title I money is used to hire Parent and Community Outreach Coordinators to coordinate already existing community resources to support students, their schools, and their families making schools the centers of communities through education and services focused on a community’s identified needs.

“It isn’t just about more programs. It’s about leveraging existing resources to help students succeed in the classroom.”

“Wise use of existing community resources” was one of the basic foundational philosophies of the community education concept that was the essence of the 1965 ESEA.

Fund what works!

One of the faulty assumptions of No Child Left Behind is that struggling schools “just lack motivation” so they need punishment and competition to spur them to improve. Not true. They lack the resources to build a strong foundation for success. They lack the “capacity” to do their jobs.

Capacity building is any process that increases the capability of individuals to produce or perform; it enables all stakeholders to carry out their tasks to the best of their ability.”

To enable federal education law to support improvement in the struggling schools in this nation, we need publicly trained and educated leadership who understand the community education concept so they will work WITH families and communities. Plus, we need our U.S. Department of Education to disseminate information that has been researched with the utmost integrity so that it does NOT have to carry a disclaimer like this:

The expectation should be that all information disseminated by our government agencies is fully vetted and represents research of the utmost integrity.

The expectation should be that all information disseminated by our government agencies is fully vetted and represents research of the utmost integrity.

Bottom line, we need the big money out of education policy and we need to take “meaningful, practical” steps like Senator Obama suggested in 2008.

With a resurrected and improved Keeping PACE Act, a new emphasis on leadership training, and renewed prominence of dissemination of “research-based” best practices in community organizing for improvement, we can take a giant leap forward in building community partnerships that support and serve students.

We the People need to demand that Congress and President Obama make the most important student supports — parents, family, and community — a priority in ESEA reauthorization. Speak Up!

To the Success of The Education Movement

CHEERS!

CHEERS!

“What are the ingredients that any successful movement needs?” asked John Blake in his article Why some movements work and others wilt. Here are excerpts from the paper:

“Remember four rules:

1.  Don’t get seduced by spontaneity. Spontaneity is sexy. Yet spontaneity is overrated… Successful movements are built on years of planning, trial and error, honing strategies for change. A good movement should already have an organizational structure set up to take advantage of a spontaneous act that grips the public…William Barber’s advice for movement builders: Don’t wait for the right spark to organize. Do it now. ‘No matter where you are now, now is the time to build coalitions,’ Barber says. ‘You do it now because when the moment comes, the only thing that will be able to save you is to be together.’

2. Make policy, not noise. Successful movements just don’t take it to the streets. They elect candidates, pass laws, set up institutions to raise money, train people and produce leaders, observers say…. A successful movement is filled with people who know that it is wise at times to compromise…. Cast a vision of America that appeals to all types of people.

3. Redefine the meaning of punishment. The belief that modern Americans lack the right stuff to rise up is ‘hogwash.’… ‘As dark as things may seem at a given moment,’ Sam Pizzigati says, ‘things can change very rapidly when a social movement takes off.’… The redefinition goes like this: ‘No punishment anyone can lay on me can possibly be any worse than the punishment I lay on myself by conspiring in my own diminishment,’ says Parker Palmer.

4. Divide the elites. ‘Elites help movements when they feel their own interests are threatened,’ says Pizzigati.

There is one final lesson for anyone who wants to join a movement. Victory is fleeting and setbacks are inevitable. At times, it can seem like it was all a waste.”

Now knowing what makes movements successful, can those of us that fight for strengthening public schools by doing what is best for students see why the standards, testing, and accountability movement has come so far?

In The Crucial Voice I wrote, “The modern standards movement politically overpowered, but did not destroy, the modern community education movement.” And I will tell you that when I read that the Mott Foundation now supports the Common Core National Curriculum movement, my heart sank a bit because it was Charles S. Mott who originally supported Frank Manley in his efforts to develop and spread the community education concept — setbacks? Yes, a few.

“Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” — Abraham Lincoln

History Uncovered

        “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as the job gets done.”

The problem with this quote by Frank J. Manley is that his modesty left his concept vulnerable to corruptive and destructive influences.

With help from philanthropist Charles S. Mott, Manley fathered, fostered, and grew the Modern Community Education Concept that some trace back to John Dewey’s philosophy of community-centered schools.

Frank Manley believed “that basic human needs cannot wait — that our social institutions cannot compensate tomorrow for what they fail to do today.” He built a vehicle in which to spread his vision of individuals participating in solving the problems of their own communities using existing resources. That vehicle is the community education concept. It is a concept; not a program, not a one-time “fix” that can be provided for a school or community through a grant. It must be taught, practiced, and perpetuated.

As Manley saw it, community schools bring together the interrelationship of the elements for educational success (resources, people, activities, supports) and he could envision the necessity to bring all the community “forces” together to focus on community needs through involvement in the education of our youth as well as our youth being involved in helping their own community. It is the same basic philosophy that 4H is based on—learning by doing with well-trained guidance.

This is not a foreign concept; it is an American concept. And after 30 years of experience with its success, Mr. Manley brought the idea before the Office of Education in Washington D.C. Then in 1965, without credit being given to Frank Manley, Frank (Francis) Keppel served as the chief architect of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act whose foundation for strengthening and improving America’s schools was obviously the community schools concept.

Voices from the past...waiting to be rediscovered.

Voices from the past…waiting to be rediscovered.

This idea was free and was spread through public institutions of higher learning. What happened? Why hasn’t this vehicle taken us further down the road?

 

Part 4 of ten blogs on The Road to Educational Quality and Equality that started with The March Begins.

Still Searching for Solutions?

The importance of in-school and out-of-school factors on student achievement continues to be a point of debate just as it was back in the time when the 1966 Coleman Report was first interpreted, widely quoted, and used by people to justify their predetermined arguments.

Spurred on by this controversy, searching for answers, and increasingly convinced that “the characteristics of schools are an important determinant of academic achievement,” school effectiveness researchers in the 70’s and 80’s were studying schools where minority and low socioeconomic status students were achieving at higher rates than expected and the “achievement gap” was narrowing. These schools were labeled “effective” and researchers concluded that effective schools had “essential” characteristics common to all; they called them “correlates.”

The original work by Ron Edmonds and others stated the correlates as

1) the principal’s leadership and attention to the quality of instruction;
2) a pervasive and broadly understood instructional focus;
3) an orderly, safe climate conducive to teaching and learning;
4) teacher behaviors that convey the expectation that all students are expected to obtain at least minimal mastery; and
5) the use of measures of pupil achievement as the basis for program evaluation.”

Edmonds also noted that when it came to the common characteristics of the school improvement “programs” that were used in these schools, they all saw the local school as the focus of analysis and intervention; they all assumed all children to be educable; and all focused their design on more efficient use of existing resources.

In my research of the people who were influential in forming the prevailing philosophy of education reform leading up to Edmonds’ work, I concluded that “effective schools” were schools that were following the “community education concept.”

Search no further.

Search no further.

In-school, out-of-school, or a combo? Think about it.

 

 

Part 3 of ten blogs on The Road to Educational Quality and Equality that started with The March Begins.