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CCVLC Teachers/ Paolo Freire Posters
Digging Deeper: Chapter 11
The Community: Engaging with Families and Neighborhoods

Further Reading

  • James Comer, professor of psychiatry in the Yale Medical School, has written a number of books and articles about the Comer School Development Program, a particular model for engaging community members, business leaders, school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents in creating school communities that promote children’s development and learning. Comer’s latest book about the project is Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s World (New Haven, CT: Yale Press, 2004).
  • Joyce L. Epstein is the director of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University. Through the Network, Epstein and colleagues conduct and disseminate research; they also provide resources for developing knowledge and practices that support educators, parents, and community members in working together to improve schools, strengthen families, and enhance student learning.
  • Pedro Noguera is a professor in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. Noguera’s research focuses on how communities, schools, teachers and students, respond to social and economic forces within the urban environment.  He also leads projects aimed at promoting collaboration among education stakeholders and transforming struggling schools in urban centers nationwide. His latest book is City Schools and the American Dream: A Blueprint for Reforming City Schools (New York: Teachers College Press, 2003).
  • In Learning Power: Organizing for Education And Justice, Jeannie Oakes, John Rogers and Martin Lipton present the voices, images, and actions of young people, teachers, parents and community organizations who are organizing to fight for better schools in low-income communities. Critiquing the prevailing logic of American schooling, the authors offer an alternative logic based on justice and participatory democracy. Drawing on examples from organizing effort in urban Los Angeles, they make the case that grassroots public activism informed by social inquiry presents the best way to realize Brown v. Board of Education’s promise of “education on equal terms.”
  • Dennis Shirley is associate dean and a professor of Teacher Education at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. His books, including Community Organizing for Urban School Reform (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997) and Valley Interfaith and School Reform Organizing for Power in South Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002) explore the powerful role that community organizing and grassroots activism can play in advancing educational equity and, in turn, the role that neighborhood schools can play in supporting community engagement and academic achievement.
  • Mark Warren is a professor in the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Warren’s projects focus on parent and community involvement in schools, but in ways that go “beyond the traditional notion of the PTA bake sale.” Warren’s books, including Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), report on prominent community organizing efforts.

Websites to Peruse

  • Give Kids Good Schools is a project of the Public Education Network, which seeks to build public demand and mobilize resources to provide quality public education for all children. Resources on the website include ways for parents and community members to take actions for better schools, including influencing federal policy through online actions, public forums, writing letters to the editor, and more. The site also provides examples of activist community groups around the country and lists of resources that individual parents can use as they try to work constructively with their schools to ensure that their child is getting the best education possible.
  • New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy, directed by Professor Norm Fruchter, conducts research, evaluation, policy studies and technical assistance aimed at strengthening public education, particularly in urban communities. The Institute’s website has a number of very informative reports, scholarly publications, policy briefs, and newsletters featuring information about the role of community-based parent and student groups in school reform.
  • Parents for Public Schools is a national organization of community-based chapters working in public schools through broad-based coalitions of parents. Invigorated by its diverse membership, PPS mounts proactive campaigns to help public schools attract all families in a community by making sure all schools effectively serve all children. Parents for Public Schools is online at .
  • The Right Question Project, Inc. (RQP), a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed, field-tested, refined, and shared a different strategy that assists parents and local advocacy groups to learn the skill in formulating questions that focus their advocacy efforts with public institutions. The Right Question Project believes that its strategy—now used in many communities— helps low- and moderate-income people in their encounters with the various outposts of government (including public schools, welfare agencies, the health care system, housing programs, homeless shelters, job training centers, and many other publicly supported agencies, programs, and institutions) in ways that traditional parent involvement does not.
  • The Harvard Family Research Project focuses on early childhood education, family and community support in education, and out-of-school time (OST) programming. The website includes links to their many publications as well as other resources, such as archived webinars and “cases” that teachers can read and discuss together. Via the website you can also join the Family Involvement Network of Educators, a community of educators striving to strengthen family-school-community relationships.

Classroom Resources

  • Beyond the Bakesale: The Essential Guide to Family/School Partnerships (New York: The New Press, 2007), by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies is a practical guide for educators who aim to create true partnerships with students’ families. Chapters end with checklists to assess how you and your school are faring in terms of creating family/school partnerships. Checklists include, “How family-friendly is your school?” and “How well is your school bridging racial, class, and cultural differences?”
  • JoBeth Allen’s Creating Welcoming Schools: A Practical Guide to Home-School Partnerships with Diverse Families (New York: Teachers College Press, 2007) is another book for educators about partnering with families to improve student learning. The book consists of many practical suggestions to get to know and build relationships with families, such as writing cultural memoirs, collaboratively documenting local knowledge and knowledge sources, and engaging in genuine dialogue with students’ families.
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