The organizations in the study were selected because of their long-term commitment to education organizing, their consistent activity across the past half-decade, and the visibility they have achieved within their districts for their school reform organizing. Below are summaries of the education initiatives of the eight organizations in the study.
These sites are:
- Austin Interfaith (Austin, TX) became involved in education issues through its support of a local bond package in 1990. In 1992, Austin Interfaith’s statewide network, the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation, won a commitment from the state to create the Alliance Schools Network, and to provide funding for professional development, parent leadership training and after-school programs. Since then, Austin Interfaith has worked with sixteen high-poverty low-performing schools in the Austin Independent School District to help them implement new academic enrichment programs, teacher professional development and parent leadership training, and health services.
- Chicago ACORN (Chicago, IL) began its education organizing following the passage of the 1988 Chicago School Governance Reform Act, which created new parent-majority councils. ACORN helped parents get elected to local school councils and provided training for local school council members. To increase the number of highly qualified teachers in underserved neighborhoods, in 2001 Chicago ACORN initiated a campaign that resulted in a statewide “Grow Your Own” initiative to recruit and prepare teachers for hard-to-staff schools. Note: In early 2008, the staff and board of Chicago ACORN left the organization to form a new organization, Action Now, that is continuing the organizing campaigns it initiated while affiliated with ACORN.
- Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention & Treatment (Los Angeles, CA) was founded in 1990 to improve social and economic conditions in South Los Angeles. In 1997, the organization and its youth organizing arm, South Central Youth Empowered thru Action, began organizing high school youth to improve neighborhood high schools. Major campaigns include: winning passage of a bond act to bring more facilities resources to South LA schools and increasing access to the college preparatory curriculum.
- Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project (Philadelphia, PA) began working in schools in 1993 to recruit community residents into neighborhood improvement efforts. The organization developed school-based campaigns in five high-poverty elementary schools on a variety of issues, including access to full-day kindergarten and improved reading instruction. District-level campaigns include demanding greater parental access to school information and fighting for equity in school funding. Youth United for Change, a youth affiliate of EPOP, formed in 1993 to improve high school education in Philadelphia. School-based chapters of YUC have won facilities repairs, improved testing practices, expanded youth voice in school improvement planning, and increased access to college counseling in local high schools. In 2002, YUC launched a campaign to transform large failing high schools into campuses of small schools.
- Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (Milwaukee, WI) began organizing for school improvement in 1992. Major campaigns have included: increasing funding for early grade class size reduction, reducing student mobility, and improving student access to school nurses. Note: Though MICAH was included in the initial study report, they did not participate in the study across the full six years. They have not been included in subsequent analyses.
- Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (Bronx, NY) initiated an education committee in 1995. Initial campaigns focused on alleviating school overcrowding through facilities improvements and securing funding for new school construction. Sistas and Brothas United, the youth organizing arm for NWBCCC, began as a youth committee in 1999, and became an affiliate in 2000. Major adult and youth campaigns include: addressing school facilities and overcrowding, promoting school safety improvements, expanding student access to guidance and college counseling, and increasing school funding. In 2005, SBU opened a new small high school, the Leadership Institute, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education.
- Oakland Community Organizations (Oakland, CA) began organizing to address school safety in 1989. Early campaigns focused on creating drug-free school zones, and expanding school-to-work and class size reduction programs. In 1998, OCO formed an alliance with the Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools to develop and advocate for a district-wide strategy of new small autonomous schools, ultimately leading to the adoption of a new small schools policy. As of Fall 2007, the district had opened 48 new small schools.
- People Acting for Community Together (Miami, FL) began organizing for school reform in 1995. Since then, PACT has led campaigns to improve schooling outcomes in low-performing, high-poverty elementary schools in the Miami Dade County Public Schools. The organization’s most high-profile campaign brought Direct Instruction into 27 low-performing elementary schools in the district between 1997 and 2005.
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has funded the education organizing work of these eight organizations across the time frame of our study.