Skip to content

EDKP: “Communities Working for Better Schools” Review

June 4, 2008

Communities Working for Better Schools

This article is basically the conference proceedings for a conference called “Communities Working for Better Schools,” which was held in 1997, so the text is somewhat old, but it doesn’t seem outdated in the sense that its content would no longer be useful or relevant for people interested in enhancing the school-family-community bond. Really, if the authors didn’t reference the 1990s throughout the text, it likely could have been written last year, because policies like state governments declaring schools “academically bankrupt” and taking them over were really the building blocks of what would later become No Child Left Behind. So, even having been written in the pre-NCLB era, this work can still have impact.

In terms of the actual content of the article, as someone coming primarily from the world of higher education, I was immediately struck by the way in which this article was calling for schools to basically be what higher education scholars call “engaged institutions,” i.e. institutions that are deeply committed to and connected with their local peoples and environments, usually in a way that acknowledges and works to address equity issues both within the institution and within the community. In particular, I would point to the clear list of recommendations at the end of the document (beginning on p. 23). These provide a handful of points that need to be addressed in order to facilitate positive school-family-community connections around school improvement/reform and I would be incredibly intrigued to see whether or not there are similar issues in university-community partnerships as well. The conference sounds like it was an amazing space for knowledge-sharing, knowledge-gathering, and knowledge-synthesis, not to mention the networking and skill-building opportunities afforded to participants.

With regard to the strengths and weaknesses of the text itself, I found that it was very good at presenting snapshots of programs that worked as well as how and why they worked, which would definitely be useful for others attempting to develop campaigns and programs along related paths. However, there are two areas in which I feel the document could improve, specifically the discussion of race and class and the chapter on community capacity-building.

I certainly support the notion that race and class need to be brought to the forefront and acknowledged as serious issues within the world of education, and school reform particularly, but most of the discussion presented here was about issues faced and brainstormed ideas for what needed to be done. I would have loved to see this section present cases (like the earlier program snapshots) where race and class were addressed in some way through school-community reform projects. By only discussing the problems and possible solutions without presenting concrete examples of projects that have worked, the text almost, by default, implies that there weren’t/aren’t any, which I hope isn’t the case, but if that is the case, it might have been best to state that upfront as the reason why everything was more based on problems and ideas in that chapter.

Similarly, the chapter on improving community capacity was one page long and really just gave half-sentence summaries of a few of the workshops that were presented to participants. I think it would have been immensely worthwhile to include descriptions of even just one exercise from a handful of workshops, so that readers could actually learn something about capacity-building from the text instead of just learning that other people got to learn about capacity-building. Including these examples would have made the document longer, certainly, but I think it would have enhanced the already useful nature of the text a good deal and it would have ensured that the capacity-building section matched the depth of the program-successes section.

Overall, despite its age, this was definitely a worthwhile read, both as a summary of a positive experience in the school-family-community reform network and as a resource for supporting related work, but there are a few points that I hope the authors have addressed in other articles since publishing this one. 4/5 stars.

~ALJ

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: