Meeting District Needs

Institute: Federal Policy Based on Competition Misses ‘Authentic Community Engagement’

By Michele Molnar — May 15, 2013 2 min read

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform, at Brown University, on Wednesday released a commentary on urban education critiquing the “top down” federal policy that forces schools and school districts to compete against one another, rather than finding collaborative solutions from a “bottom up” approach.

The institute’s paper argues that the current model based on competition has been ineffective in addressing inequities in education.

Instead, “democratically engaging parents and residents in low-income communities of color can build the power and public will necessary to improve struggling schools and hold public institutions accountable for better-quality services,” the report states.

“The current federal education transformation policy impacting schools across the country was developed and implemented with little input from community stakeholders,” write Richard Gray, director of the institute’s Community Organizing and Engagement, and Sara McAlister, senior research associate. “This top-down approach impeded the development of a sense of ownership and sustained support from key stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, business leaders, and other community members for the transformation process.”

In “How Federal Policy Can Encourage Authentic Community Engagement,” the authors favor the “Sustainable School Transformation” model created by the Communities for Excellent Public Schools, a group dedicated to the preservation and betterment of public schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. The institute identifies the core elements of this model as:

  • A strong focus on school culture, curriculum, and staffing;
  • Using education reform models that are research-based and have a demonstrated record of success in the field; and,
  • Collaboration with families, communities, and local stakeholders to foster shared ownership and accountability.

The authors also posit that the U.S. Department of Education should move forward with a new framework for family engagement, based on recommendations in a draft report the department released in December 2012. Prepared by Karen L. Mapp, a family engagement expert, lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and director of its education policy and management program, the “new framework would provide an excellent basis for recasting family and community engagement as a core priority in federal school turnaround policies,” the institute’s commentary says.

Read the institute’s full commentary here.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Meeting District Needs Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories you may have missed.
8 min read
Meeting District Needs Coronavirus Squeezes Supply of Chromebooks, iPads, and Other Digital Learning Devices
School districts are competing against each other for purchases of digital devices as remote learning expands to schools across the country.
7 min read
The New York City school system has been handing out laptops and other digital devices for students to use at home. Recently, it moved quickly to purchase 300,000 new iPads for remote learning.
The New York City school system has been handing out laptops and other digital devices for students to use at home. Recently, it moved quickly to purchase 300,000 new iPads for remote learning.
AP Photo/John Minchillo
Meeting District Needs Commentary Open Educational Resources Fill Gap for Underserved Students
The NAACP advocates the use of OER as a way to equalize learning resources at scale for all students, write Lisa Petrides and Barbara Dezmon.
Lisa Petrides & Barbara Dezmon
6 min read
Open Educational Resources Fill Gap for Underserved Students In the wake of NAACP’s endorsement of OER, states have a responsibility to address resource inequality, write Lisa Petrides and Barbara Dezmon
Meeting District Needs 'Red Flags' to Look for When Evaluating Personalized Learning Products
Educators are asking tougher questions to sort the real personalized learning potential from the empty promises of some ed-tech products and services.
6 min read
Buzzwords in the Marketplace
Buzzwords in the Marketplace
Education Week