accountable, or to ensure that the needs of newcomer students are ..... The campaign developed numerous strategies for engaging New York city and state.
The Donors' Education Collaborative: Strategies for Systemic School Reform Janice Hirota, Robin Jacobowitz, Prudence Brown
Chapin Hall Center for Children University of Chicago 1313 East 60th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 10 Rockefeller Plaza, Room 620 New York, New York 10020
Chapin Hall Working Paper CB-28
© 2000, Chapin Hall Center for Children
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Over the past five years, the Chapin Hall evaluation team has had the opportunity to learn from the efforts of four different collaboratives working for constructive reform of public education in New York City. We want to thank the project staff members and participants who willingly shared with us their many experiences of and rich insights into school reform work. We also appreciate the thoughtful comments of the many other interviewees who spent time with us. Project staff, state and city agency staff, policymakers, and advocates all helped broaden our sense of the history, political context, and complexity of school reform efforts and education issues. Our work would not have been possible without the support and interest of the Donors' Education Collaborative members, especially the members of the Evaluation Committee who sharpened our analyses with their stimulating questions and feedback. We also thank Norma Rollins, DEC administrative consultant, whose knowledgeable counsel, commitment to make the initiative work, and adept management skills were invaluable. At Chapin Hall, Jeff Hackett provided editorial and publication support with skill, patience, and timeliness.
CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY............................................................................................................................... VII BACKGROUND ............................................................................................................................................. VII IMPACT OF THE DEC INITIATIVE.............................................................................................................. VII LESSONS LEARNED...................................................................................................................................... IX Constituency Building................................................................................................................................... ix Systemic School Reform................................................................................................................................. x Implementation of the DEC Initiative ............................................................................................................ xi CONCLUSION................................................................................................................................................. XI INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................................................1 THE DONORS’ EDUCATION COLLABORATIVE INITIATIVE...................................................................1 EVALUATION OF THE DEC INITIATIVE ......................................................................................................2 IMPACT OF THE DEC INITIATIVE ................................................................................................................3 FOUR-YEAR SUMMARY OVERVIEWS OF DEC PROJECTS .......................................................................4 Equity Reform Project ...................................................................................................................................4 Metro Industrial Areas Foundation................................................................................................................6 Parent Organizing Consortium......................................................................................................................8 Transforming Education for New York’s Newest ............................................................................................9 SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS OF THE DEC INITIATIVE ................................................................................... 12 DEC Contributed a Voice in Targeted Policy Debates.................................................................................. 12 DEC Strengthened the Institutional Groundwork for Reform ........................................................................ 13 DEC Raised the Visibility of Education Issues.............................................................................................. 14 DEC Promoted the Legitimacy of Stakeholder Groups ................................................................................. 15 DEC Helped Prepare Organizations to Take the Next Step........................................................................... 15 LESSONS LEARNED........................................................................................................................................ 15 CONSTITUENCY BUILDING........................................................................................................................ 16 SYSTEMIC SCHOOL REFORM..................................................................................................................... 20 IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DEC INITIATIVE .......................................................................................... 26 CONCLUSION................................................................................................................................................... 28 APPENDIX A: MEMBERS OF THE DONORS' EDUCATION COLLABORATIVE ................................... 31 APPENDIX B: PARTIAL LIST OF INTERVIEWEES.................................................................................... 32 APPENDIX C: TYPES OF INTERVIEWS....................................................................................................... 35 APPENDIX D: YEAR-BY-YEAR PROJECT SUMMARIES........................................................................... 36 EQUITY REFORM PROJECT ........................................................................................................................ 36 METRO INDUSTRIAL AREAS FOUNDATION............................................................................................ 42 PARENT ORGANIZING CONSORTIUM....................................................................................................... 47 TRANSFORMING EDUCATION FOR NEW YORK'S NEWEST .................................................................. 52
DONORS' EDUCATION COLLABORATIVE: STRATEGIES FOR SYSTEMIC SCHOOL REFORM EXECUTIVE SUMMARY BACKGROUND The Donors' Education Collaborative (DEC) initiative assumes that collaborating groups working to build constituencies, formulate policy, and advocate for change have significant potential to effect reform of the New York City public school system. Since mid-1996, DEC has supported four projects that represent a wide range of experience and vision of systemic school reform, and that utilize the initiative components—constituency building, policy formation, and advocacy—in differing ways. Through these projects, DEC has sought to build informed, broadbased constituencies advocating to improve public education for all children in New York City. The DEC projects, which have just completed their fourth year of work, are: • • • •
Equity Reform Project (ERP) Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF) Parent Organizing Consortium (POC) Transforming Education for New York’s Newest (NYN).
DEC initially planned to end the initiative after four years of implementation, and this year marks the end of the full evaluation effort. Strong funder interest and a sense that the projects are on the brink of systemic impact has, however, allowed the extension of the initiative for an additional two years, with continued support for all but one of the original projects as well as new support for two additional projects. The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago has evaluated the implementation of the DEC initiative from the planning period efforts of nine preliminary sites (1 December 1995-30 June 1996) and continuing through four years of implementation of the selected projects (1 July 1996-30 June 2000). This final evaluation report provides summary overviews of the progress of each project during the full span of implementation, assessing each project's path of development, including major turning points, achievements, and challenges. IMPACT OF THE DEC INITIATIVE Since their start in mid-1996, the DEC projects have been seen increasingly as vital participants in the education arena. Projects have gained visibility and credibility on education issues among a range of audiences, and staff and participants are acting in multiple education policy forums at the state, city, neighborhood, and federal levels. Throughout, strategies have become increasingly sophisticated, and project staff and participants have been able to work cooperatively with a growing number of organizational associates, generate media attention, develop politically savvy tactics meant to link policy development and policy implementation, vii
and interact constructively with school system administrators, elected officials, and other policymakers. Overall, projects have made significant progress toward—and in some instances achieved—interim outcomes during the four years of implementation. Most important, their achievements and ongoing work continue to link logically with and further their long-term systemic change goals: to create a citywide group of parents to whom public officials feel accountable, or to ensure that the needs of newcomer students are appropriately met, or to create an effective, broad-based movement that will ultimately result in the opportunity for all children in New York state to receive a sound basic education, or to provide parents of students in chronically failing schools with viable educational options. In accordance with one of the major emphases of the initiative, DEC projects have begun to have policy impact, and appear to be on the verge of attaining serious influence in New York City education policy discussions. After four years of implementation, however, such impact remains relatively modest and, in some instances, is more suggestive than substantive. Rather than specific policy results, the effect to date of DEC work is best seen in the developing foundation for education policy reform in New York City, in the increasing number and kinds of constituencies engaged in advocating for quality and equitable public education, and in the growing place of these constituencies in policy debates. Such underpinnings are critical for stakeholder-driven systemic reform. After four years, the DEC projects together have had a number of cumulative effects: •
DEC contributed a voice in targeted policy debates. In a number of instances, DEC projects have influenced the direction and outcomes of specific policy debates, or have helped define the direction and shape of specific policy conversations.
DEC strengthened the institutional groundwork for reform. Participation in the initiative has enlarged and strengthened the base of organizational participants in school reform advocacy. A strong and persisting institutional infrastructure for reform is especially vital given the unstable nature of the school bureaucracy, with often-transient top administrators and changing agendas.
DEC raised the visibility of education issues. DEC projects helped raise the visibility of a range of education policy issues at local, city, and state levels through such public venues as press conferences, actions, open forums, trainings, reports, and testimony. The issues included equitable financing of public education, school construction and facilities, overcrowding, implementation of standards, translation of school materials for nonEnglish-speaking parents, and administrative accountability.
DEC promoted the legitimacy of stakeholder groups. DEC projects fostered the legitimacy of stakeholder groups who have often not been involved in education policy conversations nor taken into account by policymakers. These constituencies included parents with children in chronically low-achieving schools, immigrant and English viii
Language Learner populations, teachers, students, social service providers, and other non-education organizations. •
DEC helped prepare organizations to take the next step. Several DEC projects are moving onto new stages in their work, persevering toward their long-range goals, but with increasingly sophisticated strategies, new and reinforced alliances, and growing legitimacy within education policy forums. In mid-2000, some of the projects are also becoming involved in a statewide collaborative effort that will work to raise the level of public funding for public education across the state.
LESSONS LEARNED The work of the evaluation team during the planning period and four years of implementation of the DEC initiative provides the basis for the following “lessons learned” about the strategies, challenges, and conduct of school reform efforts. The lessons pay special attention to the initiative’s main thrust to achieve systemic reform through collaborative efforts at constituency building and policy work. Constituency Building Effective Constituency Building for Systemic Reform Can Involve Basic Cultural Shifts, Helping to Lay the Groundwork for Fundamental Change Systemic reform of a primary institutional sector such as the public schools often involves transformation of stakeholders’ basic assumptions, expectations, and roles. DEC projects worked to make key stakeholders in public education—including parents, students, teachers, and other community members—into active, knowledgeable participants in education reform. For example, projects' constituency-building efforts aimed to create basic shifts by changing the ways parents are involved in schools, building the knowledge and skills of previously silent constituencies, such as poor, immigrant, or non-English speaking stakeholders, engaging community-based organizations and institutions that have not been involved in education issues, especially at the policy level, and making arcane policy issues, such as public school financing and school construction, more widely accessible. In a broad sense, such changes entail new perspectives on the relationship between communities and schools. Constituency building helps develop the groundwork for systemic reform of public schools. Reform efforts often find that the social foundations for their proposed work do not exist. In order to be successful, such efforts must undertake more fundamental tasks than anticipated, fostering the relationships and building the capacity required for reform. Effective Efforts to Build Constituency Must Be Able to Frame Issues in Ways That Link Constituents to Each Other, Local Efforts to Systemic Perspectives, and Concerns to Action Reform efforts with a significant constituency-building focus must develop effective strategies to build their constituencies in an ongoing way while also supporting the steady ix
involvement of current participants and making progress with substantive policy interests. Across differences in constituency-building goals and strategies, each of the DEC projects faced challenges in trying to replenish and enlarge the number of participants and broaden constituencies, while also continuing to engage current participants. These efforts often demanded intensive staff time and effort. Reform efforts aiming to bring together grassroots constituency building and policy reform must be able to link local concerns with systemic issues and to reflect systemic issues in local work. This can require intensive effort to build community capacity. Parents and other community stakeholders often come to school reform work through school- and even classroomlevel issues. Training is central to developing the capacity to move from local to policy issues, from incremental modification to systemic reform. Such training and capacity building can be especially challenging given the complexity of school and education issues, the political nature of education policy debates, and the bureaucratic intricacy of the school system. Reform efforts must be able to provide constituencies with mechanisms and arenas that foster the practice of meaningful participation. It is not enough for projects to engage and train parents and other community stakeholders. Projects must have the capacity to develop feasible mechanisms and arenas—such as regular project meetings, work groups, action research teams, interaction with policymakers—through which constituencies can act together in meaningful ways toward comprehensible goals. Reform efforts must be able to communicate effectively with their constituencies. The complexity of school system and education issues may demand not only the provision of data, but also the development of ways to make data accessible. Systemic School Reform Efforts to Effect Systemic School Reform Can Involve Shaping the Terms of a Policy Debate, Becoming a Legitimate Voice in Policy Decisions, Promoting Credible Interventions, and Bringing New Constituencies to the Discussion A critical strategy for creating a climate for policy change is to help frame the issue. There are basic—often unspoken and unchallenged—assumptions that set the context and terms of any schooling debate, defining the questions that are given credence and priority, the groups that are seen as legitimate participants, and the responses that are deemed viable. A reform effort that grasps how such assumptions operate, discerns the existing terms of specific debates, and devises strategies that aim to use or alter those terms may influence not only particular policy reforms but the foundation for larger discussions as well. The presence of political will is a vital factor in creating policy change. Deep and enduring reform requires the political or institutional will to identify a problem and conceptualize, implement, and institutionalize its solution. Such will to act most often requires the push and support of outsiders. DEC projects used several overlapping and mutually supportive strategies to develop political will, such as building visible constituencies to x
legitimize a reform effort, generating media attention, and developing access to and credibility with policymakers and senior school system administrators. Success of a School Reform Effort Depends on Strategic Positioning Within the Political and Bureaucratic Landscape Transform demand into a plan and process for systemic change. Although systemic critiques may be useful in pointing out areas of need, policymakers look for allies that can suggest fruitful remedies and constructive plans. Take into account the complexity of the school system. Efforts to reform the New York City school system must deal with a huge and complex bureaucracy that includes the central school board, Board of Education administration, school districts, schools, and programs. A grasp of the system’s complexity strengthens a project’s ability to act strategically. This means, for example, developing strategies that recognize both the entrenched character of the school system as well as its unstable nature, and utilizing the tension inherent in working with system insiders while maintaining an outsider stance Implementation of the DEC Initiative In addition to lessons learned about constituency building and working to effect systemic school reform, the experiences of the four projects provide the bases for lessons relating to the structure and implementation of the DEC initiative. Effective Collaboration Requires a Fit Across Partners’ Styles of Work, Definitions of the Project, and the Ability to Complement Each Others’ Strengths in Meeting Project Demands. It Also Requires That Partners See a Value in Collaborating and Are Willing to Drive the Effort The experiences of the DEC projects suggest that collaborative efforts have a better chance at success if they are driven by partner choice, come at an appropriate time in the project, and are rooted in a clear grasp of project goals, key strategies, and an appraisal of what is necessary in order to implement those strategies. Initiative-Sponsored Technical Assistance Is Effective When Projects Play a Significant Role in Defining the Purpose, Timing, and Strategies of Such Support When project staff members hold the decision-making power of how and when to call upon technical assistance, they are in charge of the relationship and can use such assistance to project-defined ends. CONCLUSION The DEC projects envisioned different goals and defined the initiative components-constituency building, policy formulation, and advocacy--in distinct ways. Yet for all project strategies, the building of constituencies formed a linchpin both to developing the groundwork xi
for systemic reform and to establishing an authoritative, substantive presence within the education policy arena. DEC projects worked in numerous ways to engage a range of audiences and to create arenas and mechanisms enabling stakeholders to become active, purposeful participants seeking to effect education reform. At the same time, the presence of visible, engaged constituents provided the reform efforts with legitimacy and force. After four years of implementation, it is clear that the DEC projects have carved a place for themselves in the education reform conversation. Beyond particular accomplishments, projects' efforts to build a citywide movement of parents, legitimize the participation of new constituents, move strategically within bureaucratic and political terrains, create relationships with key public and private officials, and push the public school system to be responsive to the needs of parents and students have primed the education arena for systemic change. The projects are now poised to move their work to the next level and to effect systemic reform through concrete policy change. The challenge will be to capitalize on the potential they have created. As they persevere in their work, with or without DEC funding, the projects will have to work with deliberation in order to sustain their efforts, as well as their organizations, amidst the ever-changing education landscape.
INTRODUCTION The Donors’ Education Collaborative (DEC) aims to build informed, permanent constituencies that will promote quality and equitable public education for all New York City children. To this end, DEC has supported, since mid-1996, four projects that reflect its guiding assumption: collaborating groups working to foster engaged publics, formulate policy, and advocate for change have significant potential to effect constructive reform of the city’s public school system. The four projects are: •
Equity Reform Project
Metro Industrial Areas Foundation1
Parent Organizing Consortium
Transforming Education for New York’s Newest.
The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago has evaluated the implementation of the DEC initiative from its start, beginning with the planning period efforts of nine preliminary sites (1 December 1995-30 June 1996) and continuing through four years of implementation (1 July 1996-30 June 2000). This final evaluation report examines the progress of the projects over the full four-year span of implementation. Such a retrospective vantage point allows an assessment of each project’s path of development, including major turning points, achievements, and challenges, as well as a compilation of cross-cutting lessons based on four years of project experience. The report begins with brief descriptions of the four projects that comprise the DEC initiative and of the evaluation effort. Based on summary overviews of each project’s development, the next section assesses each project’s progress as well as the cumulative impacts of the initiative as a whole. The report then takes up lessons learned during the four-year period of implementation and concludes with a brief look at next steps. THE DONORS’ EDUCATION COLLABORATIVE INITIATIVE The Donors’ Education Collaborative (DEC)—composed of a wide range of private and corporate New York City funders—was founded in 1995 as a five-year collaborative grantmaking effort. Through its initiative, DEC members aim to bring about systemic reform of the New York City public school system and the development of permanent, broad-based constituencies to advocate for such reform. The collaborative framework, which joins member interests, expertise, and resources, heightens the potential for policy impact and social change in an institutional arena that has long resisted reform efforts. At the start of the DEC initiative, the
Initially, the Public Education Association (PEA) and Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF) were the collaborating partners in this project. In Year 3, PEA ceased to exist as an independent organization. Some PEA staff joined Metro IAF, continuing to work on the DEC project as members of this organization.
collaborative had seventeen funder members; in mid-2000, there are twenty-one members,2 with new members continuing to join even in the fourth year of initiative implementation. The four DEC projects represent a wide range of approaches, areas of concern, experience, and visions of school system reform. Each defined and utilized the initiative components—constituency building, policy formation, and advocacy—in differing ways. Two of the projects, the Parents Organizing Consortium (POC) and Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF), focused on developing and legitimating the role of parents in influencing education policy. The Equity Reform Project (ERP) strove to engage broad public sectors in developing a reform proposal that would ensure a sound basic education for all children in New York state. New York’s Newest (NYN) worked to improve the education of the growing population of immigrant students in New York City. The range of policy concerns across the projects included school facilities and overcrowding, equitable financing of public education, administrative accountability, bilingual education, and implementation of standards regulations. DEC initially planned to end the initiative with the completion of the fourth year of implementation, and this year marks the end of the full evaluation effort. Strong funder interest and a sense that the projects are on the brink of systemic impact has, however, allowed the extension of the initiative for an additional two years, with continued support for all but one of the original projects as well as new support for two additional projects. EVALUATION OF THE DEC INITIATIVE Throughout the four years of implementation, the Chapin Hall evaluation of the DEC initiative has aimed to understand the structure and dynamics of each project, to assess its progress, effectiveness, and systemic impacts, and to use the comparative perspective provided by the four projects together to develop cross-cutting themes and lessons learned. At the start of implementation and of each subsequent year, evaluation team members and project staff worked together to develop and update evaluation frameworks that were both project-specific and reflected the initiative-wide emphasis on constituency building, policy formation, and advocacy. This meant articulating project goals, strategies, outcomes, and the assumed links between planned actions and expected results, with the yearly updates reflecting project progress as well as developments in strategies and goals. Each year, DEC members reviewed and accepted projects’ frameworks. Through this process, project staff, funders, and evaluation team members understood and agreed upon the assessment measures for each year’s project work. Throughout the initiative, these site-developed frameworks provided the lens through which the researchers sought to track operational progress, assess outcomes and thereby the feasibility and relative value of project strategies, and test the underlying assumptions about how and why change happens. The evaluation draws on a number of data sources for its assessments, including project self-monitoring data, project-generated materials, Minutes of Action taken at Board of Education 2
See Appendix A for a list of current DEC members.
Calendar Meetings, reports of the New York State Fiscal Committees on the Executive Budget, media coverage, and fieldwork, such as attendance at project, DEC, and cluster meetings, and participation at project events and activities. Interviews comprised a core data collection strategy. Over the four years, the evaluation team conducted a variety of interviews, which are described in Appendix C.3 Taken together, interviews with external respondents both provide external assessments of the work of the DEC projects and help locate the projects within a broader perspective on how change happens in the school system. The interviews are also a source of data that complement and validate (or not) the observations of the evaluation team and those of the grantees about project progress. The evaluation team used a number of sources to compile a list of potential outside interviewees. Although not exhaustive, the list began—within the limits of evaluation resources—to represent the various perspectives and groups of actors involved in implementing and in responding to efforts to reform public education. Project staff suggested people who had either worked with the project or who might provide an external perspective on the work and broader impact of the project. Some DEC members also made suggestions, especially for panel members and interviewees who were among the projects’ target audiences. The names of potential interviewees also emerged from press coverage and from project activities. The analysis of these data taken together provide the basis for the assessment of the cumulative significant impacts of the DEC initiative, discussed below, and for the examination of lessons gained over four years of implementation, presented in the following section. IMPACT OF THE DEC INITIATIVE Since their start in mid-1996, the DEC projects are seen increasingly as vital participants in the education arena. Projects have gained visibility and credibility on education issues among a range of audiences, and staff and participants are acting in multiple education policy forums at the state, city, neighborhood, and federal levels. Throughout, strategies have become increasingly sophisticated, and project staff members and participants have been able to work cooperatively with a growing number of organizational associates, generate media attention, develop politically savvy tactics meant to link policy development and policy implementation, and interact constructively with school system administrators, elected officials, and other policymakers. Overall, projects have made significant progress toward—and in some instances achieved—interim outcomes during the four years of implementation. Most important, their interim achievements and ongoing work continue to link logically with and further their longterm systemic change goals: to create a citywide group of parents to whom public officials feel accountable, or to ensure that the needs of newcomer students are appropriately met, or to create an effective, broad-based movement that will ultimately result in the opportunity for all New York state public school students to receive a sound basic education, or to provide parents of 3
For a partial list of interviewees, see Appendix B. For a chart indicating the kinds, purposes, and formats of the various interviews, see Appendix C.
students in chronically failing schools with viable educational options. The projects appear to be on the verge of significant achievements and of attaining serious influence in New York City education policy discussions. It is important to note, however, the difficulty in asserting any direct, causal link between the work of a project and a particular policy outcome. Policy is made and negotiated within highly political and politicized contexts—fraught with trade-offs, budgetary issues, pedagogic philosophies, the often short-term interests of policymakers, the national mood, and the hotbutton concerns of the day. Policy debates around a pivotal institutional sector such as education always involve multiple key players who often represent differing viewpoints and constituencies. Certainly one can identify groups advocating for or against particular policies, and even those that have an impact on policy outcomes, but within such an environment, it is most often a congruence of many factors that effect policy change. The following section of the report provides summaries of the four years of implementation in each of the sites, and then highlights the most significant impacts of the DEC initiative as a whole. FOUR-YEAR SUMMARY OVERVIEWS OF DEC PROJECTS These project-by-project summaries provide brief overviews of each project's goals, strategies, collaborative effort, and achievements during the four years of implementation. They provide a context for the assessments of the major initiative impacts, as well as the lessons learned discussed in the report's third section. Extended year-by-year descriptions of the development of each project are in Appendix D; these descriptions, which provide the data on which the summary overviews are based, are in turn drawn from the yearly evaluation reports. Equity Reform Project Overview The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), the Educational Priorities Panel (EPP), the League of Women Voters New York (LWV), the Urban League of New York City, and the State Communities Aid Association (SCAA) came together to build a constituency for school finance reform in New York State. CFE's 1995 school finance litigation against the State of New York and the Court of Appeals' decision to leave open for further development the definition of elements of a "sound basic education"—the state's constitutional guarantee of adequate education for all students—formed the basis for the Equity Reform Project (ERP). After four years of work, ERP had developed a legislative and judicial reform proposal, a diverse New York city and state constituency for school finance reform, and a definition of adequate education that informed the litigation that was already underway. Systemic Reform Goals and Strategy ERP sought to use DEC funding to support a public engagement campaign that would complement the litigation, which was already in progress and not funded by DEC. The public 4
engagement campaign would build a broad-based constituency for fiscal reform and help develop a community-supported remedy for achieving that reform—elements that CFE discovered had facilitated the successful implementation of favorable court decisions in other states. The campaign developed numerous strategies for engaging New York city and state stakeholders in conversations about reforming the state's school funding formula generally and more specifically, in the development of a fiscal reform proposal. These strategies included the development and implementation of forums in New York City and across the state, surveys that encouraged New York City teachers and community members to talk about the conditions of their schools, and a web site and e-mail distribution list that provided updates on the litigation. Collaboration Differences in organizational goals and working styles made the initial stages of collaboration difficult. The ERP partners ultimately managed their inter-relationships by dividing responsibility for particular aspects of the work: CFE, SCAA, and LWV worked together on forums aimed at engaging institutional entities, such as businesses and school board associations, while EPP and the Urban League worked on engaging more grassroots constituencies, such as parents and low-income and minority communities. This division of work among member organizations helped the project avoid complications often associated with collaboration. However, it also meant that ERP never developed an identity separate from the individual organizations. Achievements Through the successful implementation of its public engagement plan, ERP met many of its intended outcomes, including the engagement of a broad range of stakeholders. The project’s initial strategy of using ERP-organized local and regional forums did not, however, reach key constituents, such as parents, teachers, and low-income communities, and the project had to spend considerable time working to reach these stakeholders. In later years, the project extended its reach by tapping more effectively into SCAA’s network and revising its engagement strategy to include regional forums sponsored by local community-based organizations. In addition, the project developed a variety of engagement tools. CFE developed a high school curriculum that brought students into the courtroom to observe the school finance litigation, and a survey that asked teachers and community groups to compare their school’s conditions to the characteristics of a sound basic education. EPP invented a game to explain simply and graphically the relationship between state and local funding of public schools and created a video depicting disparities between well-funded and poorly-funded districts. These efforts allowed the successful engagement of a wide range of state and local education and non-education organizations, particularly business and human services, as well as a more grassroots constituency, in developing the reform proposal and in the conversation about school finance equity more generally. Despite the engagement of these constituents, ERP faced challenges in sustaining the involvement of several important stakeholders in upstate regions, particularly parents, teachers, 5
and low-income communities. Likewise, the reform proposal itself did not become a unifying tool in the way it was initially conceived. Nevertheless, ERP's public engagement campaign was recognized as an important effort in the school reform arena; it received extensive coverage in print, radio, and televised media, and key officials from the public and private sectors actively sought out the project. Several other organizations incorporated fiscal reform issues into their agendas for the first time, and one state-level organization developed its own proposal for reformed funding. By the end of Year 4, the Alliance for Quality Education (the Alliance, formerly the Statewide Schools Coalition), which is seeking in part to use the CFE litigation as leverage for pressuring public officials to implement a finance reform remedy, was formed. ERP sees the Alliance as one avenue for the future involvement of its constituents. Metro Industrial Areas Foundation Overview The Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF) and the Public Education Association (PEA) joined to develop a broad-based parent organization to work for policy change in public education in New York City. The collaboration between Metro IAF and PEA was designed to capitalize on each organization’s strength: PEA’s research and policy formation capacity and Metro IAF’s constituency-building and community organizing experience. Project work among affiliates was initially concentrated in the South Bronx and East New York, but then expanded to include East Harlem, Lower Manhattan, Sunset Park, Harlem, Queens, and the Upper Westside. Toward the end of the project, several affiliates in upper Manhattan merged into one and a small group in East Brooklyn was subsumed within a nearby larger affiliate. After four years, the project had secured audiences with key public officials, released three policy reports, developed a team of 15 parent leaders who became Metro IAF’s public face around education issues, and developed a term that became widely used to refer to geographic clusters of chronically failing schools in NYC. Systemic Reform Goals and Strategy Metro IAF/PEA aimed for policy reforms in public education that would: provide parents of students in failing schools with viable educational options; ensure that organized parents had a meaningful role in their children’s schools and education; and create a professional ethic in New York City schools that supported parental involvement. The effort focused in years 1 and 2 on accountability and charter schools and, in years 3 and 4, expanded to include afterschool programs, school facilities, bilingual education, and teacher quality. The project’s strategy involved intensive organizing of parents at the local level with the thought of ultimately joining local concerns in a citywide agenda. Metro IAF/PEA also planned to raise awareness about its issues and apply pressure on public officials through the publication of policy reports and the convening of press conferences. In addition, the project sought to create tools for the continuing recruitment and training of parents, such as a training curriculum 6
and a School for Parent Leaders, thereby freeing organizers to focus on nurturing the local work and extending it to the city level. Finally, Metro IAF/PEA planned to create a parent center that, through a link to Teachers College, would train teachers to foster parent-friendly school environments. Collaboration The joining of two very different organizations with different expectations resulted, early on, in a disjointed collaboration that hindered the project’s ability to implement its strategy for effecting policy change. In the first two years, there was a disconnect between two fundamental project components—the local organizing and the proposed training tools—resulting in tensions about the development of these tools. For example, Metro IAF expressed a reluctance to having its training—which is relational and individualistic—codified in a curriculum, even though such a curriculum had been part of the project’s original plan. During the latter half of the initiative, the collaborating organizations developed greater synergy between their different skills and styles, enabling the project to operate more effectively. Shortly afterwards, in Year 3, PEA merged with another organization; two PEA senior staff members then joined Metro IAF, thereby transferring PEA’s research and policy expertise to Metro IAF. Coordinating the policy research and organizing efforts through one organization helped the project synchronize these two components. Achievements Although individual IAF affiliates made progress in achieving some local policy changes, Metro IAF did not reach most of its project goals. The project’s initial efforts to create a citywide team did not succeed, leading to a revision of project strategy; affiliates focused extensively on local organizing and spent extra time building the bases that the project hoped would ultimately support citywide work. In addition, as a result of early difficulties in the collaboration, the project did not follow through on its idea to create a parent center, and the training tools evolved to fit Metro IAF’s established mode of operation, rather than becoming new vehicles for training. The implementation of Metro IAF’s organizing strategy, which draws on the strength of community institutions, was not as effective for this particular project's work in the New York City education arena. As a result, the project had difficulty maintaining parent participation in affiliate work and hiring and retaining parents as organizers. The emphasis on affiliate work did result in specific local policy changes, however. In Community School District 4, East Harlem Partnership for Change parents worked out a codification of district practice for allocating seats to neighborhood children in the district's best schools, and East Brooklyn Churches developed a unique partnership with Community School District 23 that was lauded by Board of Education officials. In the last year and a half of the project, its citywide work began to develop. A team of parent leaders met with, and got parts of Metro IAF’s agenda endorsed by, influential public and private officials. By the end of Year 4, these endorsements had not been translated into action. The project has plans to bring the chancellor, the mayor, and a prominent business leader together in a work session on September 21 to develop concrete steps for addressing components of Metro IAF’s agenda. More generally, 7
the project helped shape the public discussion of failing schools; its term educational dead zones became part of the language used to describe the concentration of these schools in low-income neighborhoods. Parent Organizing Consortium Overview Through the Parent Organizing Consortium (POC), a number of New York City-based organizations joined to build a citywide association of grassroots groups. POC sought to harness and leverage the combined strength of individual community-based groups to cultivate strong, parent-generated demand for education reform. As the POC, these groups worked to bring parental voices into educational debates and decision-making by exerting pressure on public officials and politicians through strategically designed direct actions and campaigns. Over the course of the DEC initiative, POC increased its access to key public officials at the city and state levels, moved the NYC Board of Education to pursue alternate methods for constructing and financing new schools, influenced the placement of new schools and facilities repair in the board’s 1999 Capital Plan, and established itself—and thus parents—as a legitimate player in the school reform arena. Systemic Reform Goals and Strategy POC’s policy agenda over the past four years included issues of school construction and facilities, overcrowding, class-size reduction, low-performing schools, and the lack of adequate textbooks. Its strategy was to increase the strength of member organizations, and thus POC, through leadership development and policy analysis at the local and citywide levels, and then to use their combined strength to pressure public officials. POC envisioned working with the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU and the Howard Samuels Center at the City University of New York (CUNY) in developing its policy agenda. Collaboration POC began its work with eight member organizations. In the early stages of the collaboration, POC had difficulty integrating groups’ diverse goals, objectives, and working styles—particularly with service providing groups—into its organizing mission. POC also struggled with tensions around creating a new consortium that capitalized on, without taxing, the strength of individual organizations. Member organizations were initially suspect of a centralized entity and protective of their individual identities, agendas, and leaders. Of the original eight groups, only half remained through the entire four years; by mid-2000, POC was comprised of five members, all community-organizing organizations. As POC developed, member organizations grew increasingly to trust one another, as well as POC as a centralized entity. For example, two of NYC’s largest organizing groups worked together for the first time, and three POC member organizations joined to create an institute for organizer training, thus addressing the shared difficulty of recruiting and training organizers. The increased trust and collaboration among all members helped the consortium clarify its 8
objectives and organizing philosophy, making it more thoughtful about recruiting and integrating new members, as well as sustaining the involvement of current members. Although this was in moments a painful and difficult evolution, POC emerged a strong, united, and independent entity with its own structure and its own rules. Achievements Pooling the strength of several established organizations, building local leadership, and exerting pressure on public officials proved to be effective strategies for POC. Its work reflected the local expertise, strategies, and sophistication of its members. The consortium also demonstrated the ability to incorporate complicated analyses of its issues into its agenda and to exert multiple points of pressure at multiple political levels. For example, each POC group conducted an audit of facilities conditions, overcrowding, and potential building sites in its local community school district. POC then used this information to form the basis of a joint agenda with city, state, and federal policy components. Several of the schools and community school districts that POC identified were included in the NYC Board of Education’s version of the 1999 Capital Plan, although this version was not the one ultimately implemented by the board. POC’s difficulty in integrating and sustaining the involvement of organizations with different agendas and organizing philosophies limited its capacity to represent parents in all areas of the city. Although the consortium successfully integrated one new member, POC did not focus on expanding its catchment area and abandoned its attempt to organize a parents group in Queens after several months. Still, at the end of the fourth year, POC had begun to initiate relationships with four small parent-organizing groups. POC did not pursue a relationship with CUNY. Nevertheless, as the DEC initiative progressed, POC’s agenda became more focused and its demands were increasingly paired with detailed and specific solutions. This helped to establish POC, and parents, as legitimate players in the school reform arena. Several public officials sought the consortium’s participation in, or opinion about, particular events in the education arena, and the collaboration was asked to join other citywide efforts. POC issues received considerable media attention and parents from POC member organizations were quoted in newspaper articles. POC also played a central role in a citywide movement to develop alternate methods for constructing and financing the building of new schools. This latter effort resulted in a commitment from the Board of Education to pursue new avenues to undertake such work. Ultimately, POC became the New York City parent-organizing arm of the statewide Alliance for Quality Education. Transforming Education for New York’s Newest Overview Transforming Education for New York’s Newest (NYN) joined the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Advocates for Children (AFC) in an effort to improve public education for the growing population of immigrant students in New York City. Working in two 9
community school districts, the project began with a focus on developing specific tools to support educators, immigrant students, and parents. The long-term aim was to translate these tools into a model for citywide adoption. Midway through the four years of implementation, the project shifted its focus to informing and shaping policy debates on such issues as bilingual education and performance standards as they affect English Language Learners (ELLs). After four years, NYN has gained credibility and legitimacy with city and state policymakers, developed an institutionalized relationship with the NYC Board of Education, and provided entree into education policy debates for NYIC member organizations and their local immigrant constituencies. Systemic Reform Goals and Strategy Initially, NYN defined its role as convener and catalyst for systemic reform, drawing together key institutional and community stakeholders to help develop and implement tools, including an in-service professional development module, community school district resource directories, parent guide and training curriculum, student guides, and policies and practices to reform assessment and placement of newcomer students. Such work was meant in part to establish the legitimacy of the project and more broadly of the New York Immigration Coalition in the education policy arena. In several instances, however, tool plans became increasingly complex as staff recognized the need to involve key groups, take into account existing resources and programs, fulfill institutional requirements, and when feasible, meet expressed local needs. Project staff came to realize that their original conception of creating tools and presenting them for implementation was not always viable. Two years into the project, NYN fundamentally shifted its strategy to aggressive advocacy on education and newcomer student issues at the state and city levels. In years 3 and 4, this was largely to raise ELL issues in the state-level debate on creating and implementing performance standards, and issues of translation and interpretation at the city level. This approach more closely aligned the project with NYIC’s work in other policy areas. In addition, NYIC worked to inform and engage its member organizations in education reform, a challenging task at times because many coalition members are service providers without experience in education issues. The project, with the support of the Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP), also offered ways for coalition members to train and organize staff and parents around school reform issues. Collaboration NYN brought together two organizations with differing yet eventually complementary strengths. It took time and effort, however, before the partners determined how to work productively together. Over the four years, NYIC and AFC moved from a highly collaborative, integrated approach to one in which NYIC took the lead role and AFC worked as a subcontractor. This reshaping coincided with a basic shift in project strategies and the departure from AFC of its executive director. Ultimately, the partners built a mutually beneficial relationship, in which the experience and contacts of AFC in education deepened and expanded NYIC’s perspective and knowledge, informing its strategies on a range of education issues. 10
Conversely, work with NYIC strengthened and clarified AFC’s interest in immigrant and ELL students, leading to new staff hires and efforts focused on this population sector. Achievements The project's achievements fall into four intersecting areas. First, NYIC has moved with growing confidence, legitimacy, and credibility into a leadership role in speaking on education policy issues as they affect immigrant and ELL students. The coalition has become a major source for information, analysis, and recommendations at state and city levels, dealing with the Regents, NY State Department of Education, NYC Board of Education, City Council, and other policymakers. The project advocated for the restoration of $11 million for bilingual technical assistance, an action supported by the NYS Assembly, and gained the creation of a Regents advisory committee to review “safety net options” for ELL students. In the city, NYIC, as a member of the Chancellor’s Action Group, was instrumental in creating the Immigrant Education Issues Work Group, co-chaired by NYIC and Board of Education staff. 4 The group, which currently provides a platform for the project's policy work in the city, formulated a plan for the bureaucratic infrastructure to coordinate and support a translation policy that, in late June, was being prepared for presentation to the chancellor. The plan lays the foundation for the group's next step: creation of the policy itself. With the change in board administration, however, the influence of the work group is not yet clear. Second, NYIC made a breakthrough in gaining the support of its board for advocacy around education and school issues, providing the project with a formal basis for its policy efforts. The project created a means for coalition members and their local immigrant constituencies to enter education policy debates for the first time. NYN, with IESP support, also offered assistance to NYIC members interested in training and organizing parents and staff around school issues. Only one organization actually began organizing sessions, attracting about 15 parents. A major obstacle has been the lack of members’ organizational capacity to take on organizing efforts. Third, NYN produced a number of tools, some of which, especially the parent guide and student guides, have been widely distributed. The project translated key school documents into six major languages for the two target community school districts and produced several informational press releases. In addition, in Year 3, NYIC issued its report Immigrant and Refugee Students: How the New York City School System Fails Them and How To Make It Work. At the same time, there has been no dissemination of or follow-up for the project’s policy memoranda on pre-service training of teachers and on assessment of immigrant students. In Year 3, the coalition rechanneled its efforts on its community resource directories into a citywide directory to be produced by the Action Group; in late Year 4, this directory has not yet appeared. The project is not pursuing creation of its planned in-service professional development module.
In late spring, 2000, the new chancellor created the Chancellor's Advocacy Task Force and dissolved the Action Group. NYIC is a member of the new task force; the Immigrant Education Issues Work Group continues unchanged.
Fourth, NYIC began establishing a presence on education within national networks. For example, the National Council of La Raza provided some financial support to create a formal relationship with NYIC and gain its involvement in developing a national agenda on education. SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS OF THE DEC INITIATIVE In accordance with one of the major emphases of the DEC initiative, DEC projects have begun to have policy impacts, examples of which are discussed below. After four years of implementation, however, such impact remains relatively modest and, in some instances, is more suggestive than substantive. Rather than specific policy results, the effect to date of DEC work is best seen in the developing foundation for education policy reform in New York City, in the increasing number and kinds of constituencies engaged in advocating for quality and equitable public education, and in the growing place of these constituencies in policy debates. Such underpinnings are critical for stakeholder-driven systemic reform. After four years of implementation, the DEC projects together have had a number of cumulative effects: DEC Contributed a Voice in Targeted Policy Debates In a number of instances, DEC projects have had policy impact, influencing the direction and outcomes of specific policy debates. For example: •
The NYC Board of Education’s proposed 1999 Capital Plan, although not implemented, included new seats and schools in local community school districts covered by Parent Organizing Consortium member organizations; moreover, the New York City class-size reduction plan for 1999 prioritized low-performing schools. These were both highlighted issues on POC’s policy agenda.
New York's Newest’s efforts resulted in the formation of a Regents advisory committee to study alternative assessment strategies for English Language Learners (ELLs), of which the New York Immigration Coalition was a member. The committee recommended an alternative assessment policy that was strongly supported by NYIC, but the Regents rejected the recommendation. As the implementation of standards in the form of high-stakes testing for students moves forward, and the issues inevitably heat up, NYIC believes the discussion will reopen and that the coalition, and by extension its member organizations, will have a place at this policy table.
At the local school level, the East Harlem Partnership for Change, an Industrial Areas Foundation affiliate, negotiated with Community School District 4 to codify its practice of prioritizing neighborhood children for assignment to the district’s best schools, as well as enhance dissemination of information about those schools to the East Harlem community.
In other instances, projects have helped define the direction and shape of specific policy conversations, for example: 12
Equity Reform Project’s public engagement work has gained stakeholder involvement in defining and supporting a sound basic education for all children in the state, a concept that project staff expect ultimately will be implemented.
POC, as a member of the School Construction Working Group, helped develop and propose a non-profit leasing model as an alternative to the construction of school facilities. This plan gained the support of Board of Education administrators and is under legal review to determine its feasibility.
Metro IAF’s use of the term educational dead zones has become a frequently used phrase to emphasize the geographic clustering of chronically low-performing schools in low-income neighborhoods.
NYN’s work to highlight the consequences of implementation of high stakes testing for immigrant and ELL students has gained state-level attention among the state Board of Regents and state education department administrators.
DEC Strengthened the Institutional Groundwork for Reform The unstable nature of the school bureaucracy—with often-transient top administrators and changing agendas—highlights the importance of a strong and persisting institutional infrastructure for reform. Participation in the DEC initiative has enlarged and strengthened the base of organizational participants in school reform advocacy in several ways, including the following: •
In some instances, the initiative provided the means for organizations to develop and sponsor their first education reform agendas, broadening the range of involved stakeholders. In the first year of the project, Metro IAF adopted education as a citywide policy issue, and throughout implementation a growing number of IAF affiliates have included education in their local organizing work. Using its DEC project to open the way, NYIC fashioned its first agenda for education policy work— gaining its board’s approval—and engaged several member organizations in educating and constituency building around school issues. For many NYIC members, including many community-based service providers, this was a first foray into education policy debates. Although several of the ERP and POC partners already had strong education agendas before DEC, these projects propelled other partners, such as the NYC Urban League and State Communities Aid Association (ERP partners) and Community Action Project and South Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (POC members), into education policy work.
Many partnering organizations in DEC projects developed new skills, thereby enlarging the capacity of the school reform community. ERP created and implemented public engagement strategies and sharpened its abilities to reach out to 13
the media. POC and its member organizations generated ways to couple local and citywide events, making tangible the often elusive relationship between local and systemic change. NYN intentionally set out to grasp the intricate social and political landscape of both education reform and city governance as a foundation for strategically entering city public school debates. With the departure of the chancellor, Metro IAF mapped a strategy for furthering relationships with policymakers who would have a say in the selection of the incoming chancellor, looking for ways to develop leverage in a situation of shifting power. •
DEC projects attained new or increased levels of visibility and legitimacy in education policy arenas. By the end of the four years, for example, policymakers, elected officials, journalists, school system administrators, and others recognized and utilized projects as resources on education issues.
Partnering organizations in some projects developed strong collaborative ties, including between NYIC and Advocates for Children, and among the consortium members of POC. For example, three POC member organizations joined to create the Training Institute for Careers in Organizing, a center for recruiting and training organizers. Such ties have allowed partners to share experience and knowledge, brainstorm strategies, leverage each other’s contacts and networks, and strengthen efforts in the DEC and other education undertakings.
Several DEC projects fostered and reinforced ties with other reform-oriented groups, at times breaking new ground in terms of joint effort. For example, NYIC participated in the Community Schools Connection group and joined the Chancellor’s Action Group, eventually co-chairing, with Board of Education staff, the Immigrant Education Issues Work Group. SCAA and Education Priorities Panel introduced Campaign for Fiscal Equity into a statewide collaboration focused on funding for prekindergarten programs and class-size reduction issues. In partnership with the NYC Bar Association, the NYC Partnership, the Board of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, and the Institute for Education and Social Policy, POC developed a citywide agenda for school construction and then co-sponsored a forum to publicize that agenda.
The development of the Donors’ Education Collaborative itself has provided a means of joining interest, expertise, and resources. DEC funders generally believe that the collaborative provided a useful vehicle for channeling support to new collaborative projects that would not have been funded had DEC not been formed.
DEC Raised the Visibility of Education Issues DEC projects helped raise the visibility of a range of education policy issues at local, city, and state levels through a number of public venues, such as press conferences, actions, open forums, trainings, reports, and testimony. The issues included equitable financing of public 14
education, school construction and facilities, overcrowding, implementation of standards, translation of school materials for non-English-speaking parents, and administrative accountability. DEC Promoted the Legitimacy of Stakeholder Groups DEC projects fostered the legitimacy of stakeholder groups who have often not been involved in education policy conversations nor taken into account by policymakers. These constituencies included parents with children in chronically low-achieving schools, immigrant and English Language Learner populations, teachers, students, social service providers, and other non-education organizations. This occurred in a number of ways: •
Projects worked with these constituencies to heighten their awareness of and involvement in education and school system policy issues.
Projects worked with policymakers, elected officials, school system administrators, and others to educate them on the needs and concerns of at times seemingly invisible constituencies, raising, for example, the consequences for these constituencies of proposed policy changes.
DEC Helped Prepare Organizations to Take the Next Step Several DEC projects are moving onto new stages in their work, persevering toward their long-range goals, but with increasingly sophisticated strategies, new and reinforced alliances, and growing legitimacy within education policy forums. At the end of the fourth year of implementation, several DEC projects are also becoming involved in a statewide collaborative effort that will work to raise the level of public funding for public education across the state. The involvement of DEC projects in this collaborative provides them with a means to move to the next level in their work—collaborating with new organizational players, including many that have not been deeply involved in DEC work to date; operating regularly in a statewide effort; and working on a range of issues. LESSONS LEARNED The work of the evaluation team during the planning period and four years of implementation of the DEC initiative provides the basis for the following “lessons learned” about systemic reform of the public school system. During this time, the researchers observed project activity and interviewed project staff members, participants, members of projects’ target audiences, and knowledgeable observers of the New York City public school system. These data allowed the evaluation team to track and assess projects’ progress; the data also permitted the gleaning of initiative-wide lessons and insights about the strategies, challenges, and conduct of school reform efforts. For clarity, the lessons below are generally articulated as single strategies. In practice, of course, the most successful implementation depended on the ability of projects to utilize combinations of strategies. The lessons pay special attention to the initiative’s main thrust to achieve systemic reform through collaborative efforts at constituency building and policy work. 15
CONSTITUENCY BUILDING Effective Constituency Building for Systemic Reform Can Involve Basic Cultural Shifts, Helping to Lay the Groundwork for Fundamental Change Systemic reform of a primary institutional sector such as the public schools often involves transformation of stakeholders’ basic assumptions, expectations, and roles. DEC projects worked to make key stakeholders in public education--including parents, students, teachers, and other community members--into active, knowledgeable participants in education reform. For example, projects' constituency-building efforts aimed to create basic shifts by changing the ways parents are involved in schools, building the knowledge and skills of previously silent constituencies, such as poor, immigrant, or non-English-speaking stakeholders, engaging community-based organizations and institutions that have not been involved in education issues, especially at the policy level, and making arcane policy issues, such as public school financing and school construction, more widely accessible. In a broad sense, such changes entail new perspectives on the relationship between communities and schools, part of what a state-level official calls "sustained cultural shifts". Programs without long-term continuity are unlikely to foster the radical shifts in ways constituencies define their goals for the school system, their roles in achieving change, and their relationships with each other that are necessary underpinnings for deep and enduring school reform. Constituency building helps develop the groundwork for systemic reform of public schools. Reform efforts often find that such bases for their proposed work as shared expectations or community capacity do not exist. In order to be successful, then, reform efforts must undertake more fundamental tasks than anticipated, fostering the relationships and building the capacity required for systemic reform. Among DEC projects, these constituency-building tasks included the following: •
Foster common expectations for constituency involvement across the range of education stakeholders. It is not enough that parents become engaged in school reform efforts because they alone cannot effect change; key stakeholders must be able to work cooperatively. For example, a state-level administrator points out that working with only one side of the educator-parent equation is not enough: “We’ve found that the schools do not necessarily welcome trained parents. These are parents now who are able to go into schools and ask staff questions about outcomes—they know what to ask—who are able to interpret statistics. There has been resistance.” In an effort to alter the equation, a Metro Industrial Areas Foundation affiliate negotiated working relationships with two superintendents in East Brooklyn to change the roles and interactions of parents, teachers, and administrators. The Parents Organizing Consortium intentionally trained parents so they could talk about complex education issues in meetings with federal, state, and local policymakers, thereby creating a dynamic in which public officials had to respond to parents.
Create and support basic working relationships among key groups in order to move the work forward. Transforming Education for New York's Newest, for example, found it had to develop linkages between community school district administrators and union professional development staff before it could begin its substantive focus on professional development for teachers working with newcomer and English Language Learner students. In some instances, the Institute for Education and Social Policy helped foster such relationships by, for example, bringing together, in the School Construction Working Group, community development corporations, with their knowledge of construction, and POC, with their advocacy for facilities construction and repair.
Build capacity for organizing, policy, and advocacy work in community-based organizations. Thus, larger organizations in POC have helped smaller members build their capacity to engage in school reform at a citywide level while still maintaining their local work. In a similar effort, New York Immigration Coalition, with the technical assistance of IESP, supports NYN’s work with a few coalition members to begin building organizing capacity around education issues.
Effective Efforts to Build Constituency Must be Able to Frame Issues in Ways that Link Constituents to Each Other, Local Efforts to Systemic Perspectives, and Concerns to Action Reform efforts with a significant constituency-building focus must develop effective strategies to build their constituencies in an ongoing way while also supporting the steady involvement of existing participants and making progress with substantive policy interests. There are differences in constituency-building goals and strategies across the DEC projects depending, for example, on whether the work focuses primarily on an issue, such as reform of the state funding formula, or whether it aims for knowledgeable and skilled community stakeholders who can take on education issues more generally. However, across project types, each of the DEC projects faced challenges in trying to replenish a turnover of participants, enlarge the number of participants, and extend and broaden constituencies while continuing to engage current participants. These efforts often demanded intensive staff time and effort. Each of the DEC projects used different strategies to meet these constituency-building demands, and in all four projects, the strategies related directly to the structure of the project and its relationship to the partner organizations. •
As a consortium of community-based organizations, POC intentionally relied on and helped support the local constituency-building efforts of its members, but generally did no direct grassroots organizing itself. This allowed project staff to concentrate on providing assistance to consortium members, building consortium-level relationships, policy concerns, and endeavors. When POC did engage in direct organizing in Year 3, the effort faltered and was soon abandoned. 17
PEA/Metro IAF’s initial proposal included strategies to help meet the ongoing demands of constituency building, such as developing a training curriculum. These strategies generally did not mesh well with IAF’s organizing emphasis on the primacy of local engagement. The project relied on lead organizers to help develop and engage parents in citywide work, as well as engage, train, and retain parent involvement at the local level. However, when citywide efforts stalled during the middle years of the project, IAF focused its organizing work at the affiliate level. This local focus severely restricted the project’s ability to work at the city level until late in Year 3, when efforts resumed to build a citywide parent strategy team.
Equity Reform Project focused on developing and conducting forums to engage New York City and regional constituencies in shaping the fiscal reform proposal. As the project proceeded, however, it faced the challenge of retaining groups’ continuing involvement, especially since there was little for participants to do between forum meetings. The project’s community mobilizing effort, although useful in disseminating information, encountered the same engagement hurdles. ERP used newsletters, e-mail updates, its web site, presentations, teacher and parent surveys, and other means to help meet this challenge, but to a great extent, it was the pending Campaign for Fiscal Equity litigation that lent immediacy to the state funding issue.
NYIC developed strategies that both helped meet the challenge of ongoing constituency building and broadened the reach of the project itself. First, the coalition created ways simultaneously to present education policy issues at the community level, engage member organizations in those issues, and provide support for members to build their own constituencies. The coalition did this by integrating the project’s focus on education into other NYIC efforts. For example, the coalition developed education workshops to be put into action by member organizations within their own communities as part of the coalition’s “200,000 in 2000" voter registration campaign. Second, the project drew on technical assistance from IESP to help build organizational and local community capacity to advocate on education issues. Thus, IESP provided training to Head Start staff and parents of the Catholic Charities Community Center of Western Queens. In this instance, DEC-supported technical assistance meshed with project needs, supported constituency building, and broadened the scope of the project.
Reform efforts aiming to bring together grassroots constituency building and policy reform must be able to link local concerns with systemic issues and to reflect systemic issues in local work. This can require intensive effort to build community capacity. Parents and other community stakeholders often come to school reform work through school- and even classroomlevel issues. Training is central to developing the capacity to move from local to policy issues, from incremental modification to systemic reform. An advocate says, for example, “Parents can affect the accountability conversation by going to school board meetings and asking questions 18
and making it clear that they want good schools for their children. The problem is that they need to know how to ask those questions and how to present themselves.” Such training and capacity building can be especially challenging given the complexity of school and education issues, the political nature of education policy debates, and the bureaucratic intricacy of the school system. Among DEC projects, “training” covered a range of efforts, including providing substantive information about education and school system issues, building skills to articulate, advocate, and negotiate policy positions, and developing ways for parents to utilize their knowledge and skills. Stakeholder constituencies, many without experience in education policy, began tackling issues—locally and citywide—as diverse as school facilities construction, implementation of new standards, and allocation of state financing of public schools. For example, POC member organizations conducted work within their communities to identify local schools with facilities needs and potential sites for new construction. Collectively, these data became the foundation of POC’s citywide effort to secure more facilities funding in the 1999 Capital Plan. Reform efforts must be able to provide constituencies with mechanisms and arenas that foster the practice of meaningful participation. It is not enough for projects to engage and train parents and other community stakeholders. Projects must have the capacity to develop feasible mechanisms and arenas—such as regular project meetings, work groups, action research teams, interaction with policymakers—through which constituencies can act together in meaningful ways toward comprehensible goals. For example, NYN’s education roundtables during NYIC Albany advocacy days allow parents and other community stakeholders to interact with elected officials and their staffs; POC developed actions and meetings with policymakers, often building on previous endeavors and fostering a sense of continuity and logic to its plans. Through its forums, ERP provided parents, educators, community-based organizations, business, social service agencies, and others with an entree into policy conversations on the state funding formula. At the same time, the very lack of mechanisms for participation highlights their importance. Some ERP participants voiced frustration that the project's meetings and forums did not lead to action or clear constituency roles. Similarly, NYN’s initial work with teachers allowed them to voice their job concerns and dilemmas, but provided no follow-up for continued dialogue or action. Reform efforts must be able to communicate effectively with their constituencies. The level of complexity of school system and education issues may demand not only the provision of data, but also the development of more accessible means of conveying the data. In order to make the intricacies of state financing of public education accessible to ordinary residents, ERP created the state funding game. Along a different vein, NYN developed informational press releases and a parent guide and student guides in six languages in order to reach growing populations of immigrant students and their families.
SYSTEMIC SCHOOL REFORM Efforts to Effect Systemic School Reform Can Involve Shaping the Terms of a Policy Debate, Becoming a Legitimate Voice in Policy Decisions, Promoting Credible Interventions, and Bringing New Constituencies to the Discussion A critical strategy for creating a climate for policy change is to help frame the issue. A long-time advocate in the public school arena employs the useful image of “scaffolding” to refer to the underlying assumptions and expectations that identify, define, and prioritize issues within the public arena. Scaffolding refers to basic—often unspoken and unchallenged—assumptions that set the context and terms of any schooling debate, defining the questions that are given credence and priority, the groups that are seen as legitimate participants, and the responses that are deemed viable. A reform effort that grasps how such assumptions operate, discerns the existing terms of specific debates, and devises strategies that aim to use or alter those terms may influence not only particular policy reforms but the foundation for larger discussions as well. Some DEC projects worked to redefine the terms of policy debates. These include POC’s success in altering ideas about how schools are constructed and financed, NYN’s state-level efforts to reshape the conversation on standards to include ELL issues (and more broadly, to focus on the capacity of the school system to meet ELL needs), IAF’s use of the educational dead zones phrase to highlight the geographic clustering of chronically failing schools that create K-12 corridors of poor public education options for students in high poverty neighborhoods, and ERP’s bid (at the state, New York City, and local levels across the state) to redefine the finance debate to include issues of accountability and opportunity to learn. The presence of political will is a vital factor in creating policy change. At some point in successful school reform efforts, there must be a constructive dynamic between those outsiders calling for reform and those within the institution. Deep and enduring reform requires the political or institutional will to identify a problem and conceptualize, implement, and institutionalize its solution. Such will to act most often requires the push and support of outsiders. A state-level administrator says, for example, “The will of the institution is not only created by the institution itself, but institutions are heavily influenced by outside entities. In such a dynamic and politically complex arena such as school reform, it’s actually unlikely that an education institution could advocate for a particular agenda without outside support. Institutions need outsiders.” DEC projects have used several overlapping and mutually supportive strategies to develop political will, including the following: •
Build visible constituencies to legitimize a reform effort. All DEC projects recognize the importance of building leverage through the development of identifiable, concrete constituencies, whether comprised largely of existing organizations (the focus of the work of ERP and NYN) or of individual parents (Metro IAF and POC). A city-level official summarizes what project staff know: “People don’t take organizations 20
seriously that are without constituencies, but if they have real constituencies then they come with credibility because they represent real people.” In part, the presence of such constituencies works to create and support the political or institutional will necessary for reform. Projects make these constituencies visible in many ways, including education roundtables in Albany, New York City and regional forums, press conferences, and actions at the NYC Board of Education and city hall. •
Generate media attention. The media play an important role in defining public discourse and behavior, constructing “the terms in which education is popularly talked about.” At the same time, the media often do not play their role well or responsibly, highlighting the sensational or problematic, neglecting complex or substantial issues. The challenge is to find ways to use the media effectively. Among the DEC projects, the most ambitious and successful strategy to use the media to help shape public dialogue has been ERP’s cultivation of New York City and upstate media in order to leverage its public forums into coverage of education finance and school reform issues. The strategy aimed to inform the public, generate support, keep these complex issues alive as the public school finance litigation went to trial, and help spotlight the trial itself. IAF also worked to generate media coverage, gaining meetings with editorial boards at the New York Times and Newsday to discuss its reform agenda.
Develop access to and credibility with policymakers and senior school system administrators. Over the past four years, the DEC projects have gained increasing legitimacy with policymakers, speaking with and for their constituencies. For example, IAF has been able to meet with a growing range of city-level education and political officials, including community school district superintendents, borough presidents, school board members, and the mayor. NYN is seen increasingly as a valid speaker for immigrant and ELL students and families, and has become a cochair of the Chancellor’s Immigrant Education Issues Work Group. A number of public officials, such as school board members, have sought the perspective of POC on particular issues such as school construction.
The Success of a School Reform Effort Depends on Strategic Positioning within the Political and Bureaucratic Landscape Transform demand into a plan and process for systemic change. Although systemic critiques may be useful in pointing out areas of need, policymakers look for allies that can suggest fruitful remedies and constructive plans. A city-level official argues that reform efforts must suggest “specific action rather than philosophical agendas.” But too often, groups issue “global reports” that may have good ideas but “don’t go anywhere” or “come forth with ideas rather than specific plans, but the system doesn’t have the capacity to develop those plans.” An advocate adds: “It isn’t enough for parent groups to mobilize to make demands, but they must know how to turn demand into intervention.” For example, when POC adopted Northwest 21
Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition's turnkey approach to the school construction issue, member groups talked with banks, community development corporations, and architects— institutions and people with potential roles in putting the approach into practice—to work through implementation details. This is an instance of turning demand into a potential intervention, one that has generated serious attention among policymakers at the Board of Education. The creation of an intervention is the basis of ERP’s strategy to develop a definition of a “sound basic education” and the reform proposal to guide its implementation. NYN has developed a twin strategy to create policy and to fund its implementation. As co-chair of the Immigrant Education Issues Work Group, NYIC is overseeing the group’s development of a school systemwide policy on translation and interpretation. At the same time, NYIC is working with the Black and Latino Caucus of the City Council to support a request for funding implementation by the Board of Education of such a policy. Recognize and take advantage of the shifting nature of public debate, while also maintaining overall goals. In order to gain and retain visibility in the public arena, a school reform effort must be able to relate its interests to larger conversations on education issues. This requires not only alertness to policy debates, but also a grasp of the extended meanings of one’s own issue and the ability to position or reposition one’s issue strategically. One state-level administrator says, “Any initiative [that gets put before the legislature] can take [ongoing reform] work off track, like the move to change graduation requirements. We had to be able to show that the work with failing schools was laying the groundwork for getting students to be able to meet graduation requirements; we had to be able to keep the issue of [low-performing schools] in front of the legislators.” Among the DEC groups, POC has been working to link the issue of building new facilities in particular community school districts with the national discussion on class size; NYN has raised the newcomer perspective, particularly around English Language Learner issues, in the state-level decision making on standards; and ERP has linked finance equity with the Regents’ focus on standards. The work of DEC projects ultimately demands the strategic merging of two perspectives: (1) maintenance of larger systemic goals and analyses, including a grasp of the bureaucratic and political landscapes, and (2) creation of immediate, often more local strategies to develop alliances, frame issues, and identify and use points of leverage to move forward with policy aims. In such work, the continuity of aims is important. A longer-term framework provides the opportunity for constituencies to see how local efforts link together, to build on past activities, and to grasp connections between local and systemic issues. Thus, POC’s use of facilities issues throughout the four years of the project provided a policy arena with immediate local relevance and visibility, and allowed consortium members to join local efforts to the project’s work at the city, state, and national levels. The facilities focus also provided a concrete bridge to such issues as overcrowding and class size. Take into account the complexity of the school system. Efforts to reform the New York City school system must deal with a huge and complex bureaucracy that includes the central school board, Board of Education administration, community school districts, schools, and programs. A grasp of the system’s complexity strengthens a project’s ability to act strategically. 22
The system is not of one piece. The school system is comprised of multiple components with multiple “tops and bottoms,” different arenas that bring together different policy interests, areas of influence, and bureaucratic hierarchies. Reform efforts that grasp the structure of decision making within the system are able to present issues to those who actually have the power to act on them. DEC projects reflected this understanding in a variety of ways. NYN staff analyzed the structure of city-level decision making around public education policy, a new arena for NYIC, and began work first with the chancellor’s office and then with members of the City Council. In its work to reduce class size, POC targeted the state legislature for increased funding and the Board of Education for adoption of specific plans.
The system potentially has multiple “outsiders.” The line dividing system insiders from outsiders shifts over time and from issue to issue; an institutional player that is considered an insider at one point may become an outsider at another. At any given moment, depending on the issue, political alignments, national events, or other factors, “outsiders” pressing for change in the New York City public school system may include established, powerful agents in the education arena, including the teachers union, state Regents, state education department, legislators, statewide organizations, and others. Reform efforts that can identify and build working relationships with such groups based on the particular issue at hand can increase their credibility, visibility, and leverage. Among DEC projects, this strategy can be seen in IAF’s meeting with the New York City Partnership in an effort to engage business in education reform, NYIC’s work with the Regents, ERP’s work with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and with statewide organizations, and POC’s joint effort with the NYC Bar Association, UFT, and others.
Take into account both the entrenched character of the school system as well as its unstable nature. Reform efforts must develop strategies that recognize and deal with both the instability at the top of the administrative hierarchy and the relative stability of the permanent core staff. As in other modern bureaucracies, the public school system has a core staff, sometimes referred to as “the permanent government,” that includes many long-term employees who carry out classroom, administrative, and program responsibilities. These employees often understand the operations of the school bureaucracy, carry institutional memory, and know both how to facilitate and block progress. At the same time, the school system is marked by an inherent instability. There is a natural progression as students move through and out of the system, as well as mobility within community school districts and high rates of immigration. Major administrative players—including the chancellor, chancellor appointees, and elected officials— also come and go. A state-level administrator regards systemic instability as “a tremendous barrier to reform.” One aspect of this barrier is the inherent conflict between short-term versus long-term perspectives, between “the people in the administration [who] are interested in what 23
changes can be made right now" and those interested in reform for the long run. A grasp of this tension helps frame the negotiations necessary with policymakers and at times highlights the valuable leverage available through, for example, visible constituencies. When top Board of Education administrators were leaving the school system, POC often couched its demands in terms of “this is one thing you can do before you leave.” DEC projects developed strategies, discussed below, to deal with the stability and/or instability of the system; at times projects were even able to turn this systemic tension to their advantage. •
Make connections with the stable core of the system. From early on, some DEC projects intentionally fostered relationships with core staff such as community school district superintendents, middle-level district administrators, chancellor office staff, and others. ERP worked to engage the stakeholder group of teachers and principals in defining a “sound basic education” and developing the reform proposal.
Develop a sphere of influence outside the school system. When the New York City chancellorship was in flux and the office was held by an interim appointee, IAF deliberately sought meetings with borough presidents, school board members, the head of a business membership organization, and others with responsibility or influence in selecting the next regular chancellor.
Carve a unique niche. Establishing a niche in terms of constituency, issue, geographic coverage, or position increases the odds that the project will not lose legitimacy or status with changes in the political context. For example, NYIC became co-chair of the Chancellor’s Immigrant Education Issues Work Group just as the chancellor left office. Before the appointment of the new chancellor, the project used the committee as a platform to work on translation and interpretation issues, but perhaps more important, to institutionalize the standing of such a committee and to further establish itself as a legitimate voice for immigrant and ELL students on educational matters. In terms of policy change, ERP worked within the legal system, and in this sense was operating beyond the politics of central school administration. At the same time, perhaps appreciating the vagaries and longevity of litigation as well as the critical role of central administration when it comes to implementation, the project joined with the new statewide Alliance for Quality Education to bolster the primacy and visibility of school finance issues. Both POC and Metro IAF recognized the lack of a strong citywide means to bring parent voices and participation to the education policy arena, and became determined to fill that gap.
Take the opportunity to act as a continuous voice for reform. Some interviewees argue that the instability of the system actually provides an opening for reform efforts to act as steady voices pushing specific agendas. A state-level administrator says, “These organizations tend to have longer term investments and agendas, and might be 24
able to be—or help promote—the stability and continuity of a reform agenda. Community institutions have the potential to operate in this way.” Certainly, the substantive continuity of several DEC efforts, such as ERP’s focus on finance reform, POC’s emphasis on facilities, and NYIC’s insistence on the legitimacy of ELL issues has rooted each project in a political identity. In addition, the ability of each project to grasp and develop their issues in a variety of ways has allowed each not only to weather political and administrative disruptions, but to bring their issues to larger public arenas. One mechanism that may help foster the leveraging of reform efforts’ enduring presence is a network of organizations that has the ability to respond in a timely way to education and school system concerns. Some DEC project partners envision a loose network in which organizations would not necessarily work together on a regular basis, but could join forces when needed. Such a network would include not only those already involved in education, but community-based organizations, service providers, organizations focused on youth and families, and others that do not now speak out on these issues, but whose constituencies are directly affected by education decisions. In many ways, such an organizational network would reflect DEC’s interest in creating an informed and permanent constituency for quality and equitable education. Utilize the tension inherent in working with system insiders while maintaining an outsider stance. Although outside pressure is a critical component of school reform, outside pressure alone has not—and will not—effect school system reform. At some point, outsiders and insiders must work together to change the system. All of the DEC projects have worked with insiders, using a range and mix of strategies. •
Working within the system. During years 3 and 4 of the project, NYN utilized traditional education efforts to inform the decision-making process of the Regents and legislators in Albany. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, NYIC actively participated in two Board of Education committees on education matters; and in an effort to build relationships with the City Council, NYIC began in Year 4 to work with the Black and Latino Caucus. In these and other endeavors, NYN has heightened the visibility of NYIC on education matters and applied outside pressure, while simultaneously working with members of several different systems. IAF’s focus on the local affiliate level led in some instances to negotiations and cooperative working relationships with local school district superintendents. For example, in Community School District 4, East Harlem Partnership for Change worked with the district to develop an enhanced process for disseminating information in the community about some of New York City's top performing public schools.
Fostering relationships with top school system administrators and officials. ERP worked with the chancellor’s office, overcoming initial suspicion and wariness, and enlisted school board and state-level officials to provide public support for school 25
finance reform at ERP’s New York City forums. POC developed a close working relationship with upper echelon Board of Education officials, particularly on school facilities issues. One administrator voiced his appreciation of this relationship, reflecting perhaps the desire of at least some within the system to find ways to work with concerned outsiders: “I am an admirer of groups like MOM and NWBCCC [Mothers on the Move and Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition]. If I know you are always my opponent or always my friend, I can dismiss you. What’s useful is if we can move back and forth. Both sides can hold out for collaboration knowing that there is a threat of confrontation. We have a pact that we will try to share agendas and try to find common interests around which we can mobilize power.” Such mobilization of power reflects a recognition by administrators who would undertake reform efforts that they need allies who can help provide the leverage and legitimacy needed to create change effectively in a highly bureaucratized and political environment. A city-level administrator says, “This is my theory of institutional change—the squeeze play from below and above. The forces from below are necessary to combat the wholesale resistance from bureaucratic leadership, but it’s too hard without some power from above. This is what is needed to move policy change in a bureaucracy.” An advocate provides a similar analysis: “One issue is that at times both the administration and parents are frustrated by the core of the system—it is essentially a civil service core—that stays on . . . .They do what they want to do and often are resistant to change. . . . What has to happen is for the top and the bottom to work together to push in the same direction. This is slow, frustrating work.” IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DEC INITIATIVE In addition to lessons learned about constituency building and working to effect systemic school reform, the experiences and efforts of the four projects provide the bases for lessons relating to the structure and implementation of the DEC initiative. Effective Collaboration Requires a Fit across Partners’ Styles of Work, Definitions of the Project, and the Ability to Complement Each Others’ Strengths in Meeting Project Demands. It also Requires that Partners See a Value in Collaborating and Are Willing to Make the Effort The DEC initiative requires project capacity to identify and research a vital policy area, formulate policy, build constituency, and advocate for systemic public school change. Such an encompassing framework suggests an approach that draws on the expertise of multiple organizations, and in fact the initiative called for proposals based on collaborative work among partnering groups. In the course of implementing their proposals, project partners developed functioning— at times multifaceted—working relationships. But in all instances, partners encountered obstacles to their collaborations. Each project eventually developed its own way of resolving these obstacles, but such resolutions often took time and effort. The NYN partners, for example, 26
tried to create an integrated approach to the project work but after two years of effort, they changed the structure of their relationship. One partner undertook the lead role in the project, while the second partner subcontracted to perform specified project tasks. ERP maintained the formal structure of a collaborative, but ultimately developed separate tracks of work; subgroups of partners took on responsibility for one or the other track, with little cross-track interaction. During the first two years of the PEA/IAF Metro project, organizing and policy formation efforts were not smoothly joined, perhaps in part because of organizational differences. The demise of PEA as an independent organization led to the incorporation of key PEA staff into IAF, resulting in a more fully realized integration of project work. Finally, some member organizations left the POC when it became apparent that they did not share similar goals as or could not meet the requirements of the consortium. The experiences of the DEC projects suggest that collaborative efforts have a better chance at success if they are driven by partner choice, come at an appropriate time in the project, and are rooted in a clear grasp of project goals, key strategies, and an appraisal of what is necessary in order to implement those strategies. This knowledge is basic for assessing the necessary organizational resources and capacities for effective implementation. It also helps create project recognition of the value of collaborating—a time and energy intensive process even under the best of circumstances—and helps define criterion against which to identify potential partners. Initiative-Sponsored Technical Assistance is Effective when Projects Play a Significant Role in Defining the Purpose, Timing, and Strategies of Such Support The Institute for Education and Social Policy played a useful role in offering a range of assistance for DEC projects. IESP also recognized that any project must want assistance before such assistance can be most effective. DEC supported such a “project-friendly” stance both by not requiring projects to work with IESP and by supporting IESP’s work with non-DEC efforts under the DEC grant. As it happens, three DEC projects utilized IESP assistance, each defining its own course of action. POC, which had worked previously with IESP, used Institute staff as a sounding board, relied on Institute data on school facilities, and participated in the Institutesponsored Good Schools Campaign, the School Facilities Forum, and the School Construction Working Group. NYN drew on the Institute for assistance with parent organizing. Institute staff co-chaired parent organizing meetings with interested NYIC organizational members and eventually began a series of parent organizing workshops for Head Start parents and staff of the Catholic Charities Community Center of Western Queens. ERP used IESP’s experience with survey construction and analysis when the project instituted its “Making the Grade” survey of teachers and parents. In all of these instances, projects decided how and when to call upon Institute assistance. This decision-making power put project staff in charge of the relationship, allowing them to use such assistance to project-defined ends. IESP’s capacity to provide a range of resources, of course, allowed it to meet needs—not always articulated by projects themselves—for arenas 27
within which to interact with other reform efforts, assistance in parent organizing, meeting facilitation, data, and support in creating and analyzing survey tools. CONCLUSION The DEC projects envisioned different goals and defined the initiative components— constituency building, policy formulation, and advocacy—in distinct ways. Yet for all project strategies—and the underlying conceptions of how change happens—the effort to build constituencies formed a linchpin both for developing the groundwork for systemic reform and for establishing an authoritative, substantive presence within the arena of education policy. All DEC projects faced the difficult challenge of finding ways both to link the personal concerns of stakeholders with broader systemic issues and to bring individuals together in collective action. DEC projects sought to raise personal cares to systemic perspectives in a variety of ways, engaging parents in local training sessions, structuring research action teams, developing accessible sources of information, and conducting surveys among community members. Projects also worked to develop mechanisms and arenas for joint action to enable stakeholders to become active, purposeful participants in school reform work. In these ways, constituency building is a vital component of the groundwork for systemic reform. At the same time, the presence of visible, engaged constituents affords legitimacy and strength to reform efforts themselves. In aiming for systemic reform, knowledgeable constituents provide impetus for action in the larger policy arena. After four years of implementation, it is clear that the DEC projects have carved a place for themselves in the education reform conversation. Beyond particular accomplishments, projects' efforts to build a citywide movement of parents, legitimize the participation of new constituents, move strategically within bureaucratic and political terrains, create relationships with key public and private officials, and push the public school system to be responsive to the needs of parents and students have primed the education arena for systemic change. The DEC projects are now poised to move their work to the next level and to effect systemic reform through concrete policy change. In the coming year, the Parent Organizing Consortium will expand its membership into new areas of the city, continue to monitor the implementation of class-size reduction, and persist in working with the NYC Board of Education to pursue new methods of school construction. New York's Newest will seek to solidify further its relationships with the Regents, State Department of Education, Board of Education, and other policymakers, engage and build capacity in community-based organizations to do policy work, and work to formulate, fund, and implement a translation and interpretation policy. In late September, Metro Industrial Areas Foundation will bring together Chancellor Levy, Mayor Giuliani, and Robert Kiley, head of the New York City Partnership, to craft an action plan for addressing bilingual education. The Equity Reform Project will use policy research and public engagement to leverage legislative action around the anticipated favorable decision in CFE v. State. DEC projects’ participation in the emerging statewide Alliance for Quality Education offers an additional vehicle for escalating project impact on the education arena. 28
The challenge for the DEC projects in the coming years will be to capitalize on the potential they have created. As they persevere in their work, with or without DEC funding, the projects will have to work with deliberation in order to sustain their efforts, as well as their organizations, amidst the ever-changing education landscape.
APPENDIX A: MEMBERS OF THE DONORS' EDUCATION COLLABORATIVE Booth Ferris Foundation Robert Sterling Clark Foundation Deutsche Bank The Ford Foundation The Greenwall Foundation The Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation The Edward W. Hazen Foundation J. P. Morgan Charitable Trust The New York Community Trust New York Foundation The Pinkerton Foundation Charles H. Revson Foundation Rockefeller Brothers Fund Rockefeller Foundation Caroline and Sigmund Schott Foundation Nate B. and Frances Spingold Foundation Clement and Jessie Stone Foundation Surdna Foundation, Inc. The Travelers Foundation H. Van Ameringen Foundation Anonymous Donor
APPENDIX B: PARTIAL LIST OF INTERVIEWEES (Titles following names are those at the time of interview.) Steve Allinger, Intergovernmental Affairs, NYC Board of Education * Peter Appleby, staff, NYS Senate Education Committee * Camille Armando, Deputy Superintendent, Community School District 4 Carol Baker, Bank Street College of Education Lisa Bang-Jensen, Inside Albany * Alex Bears, Bank Street College of Education Chung-Hwa Chang, National Association of Korean American Service and Education Centers Helen Chin, Teacher Center, Community School District 24 Michelle Contrati, Teacher Center, Community School District 25 Jocelyn Dax, Education staff, NYS Ways and Means Committee Rose Diamond, Senior Director, Office of Capital Planning & Development, Division of School Facilities, NYC Board of Education Helaine Doran, Senior Policy Analyst for Education, Office of the Public Advocate for the City of New York Yvette Fields, Long Island Urban League Dana Fiordaliso, Staff Assistant, US Senator Ted Kennedy Will Freedman, Public Agenda * Sherry Giles, consultant, Public Education Association * Francine Goldstein, Student Support Services, NYC Board of Education Lois Harr, NWBCCC * Ayo Harrington, Special Assistant for Education, NYS Assemblyman Steve Sanders 32
Bruce Irushalmi, Special Projects Coordinator, Community School District 10 * Jackie Kamin, Co-Chair, Chancellor's Parent Advising Council Steve Kaufman, Chief of Staff, NYS Assemblyman Steve Sanders Sandra Lerner, NYC Board of Education Linda Levine, Bank Street College of Education Bob Lowery, NYS Teachers Union Leslie Mantrone, Director, Westchester Center for School/Community Partnership Susan Mattei, NYC Public Advocates Office Ellen McHugh, Parent to Parent Lauri Mei, Division of Assessment and Accountability, NYC Board of Education Andrea Miller, Media Strategies, Inc. Sabina Miller, staff, Community School District 24 Lauri Nikloski, Westchester Gannet Elizabeth O'Raffity, Parent Coordinator, Community School District 24 Danica Petroshius, Chief Education Advisor, US Senator Ted Kennedy Louise Raymond, Queens Borough President's Office Peter Rivera, NYS Assemblyman Mark Robinson, Queens Borough President's Office Mary Scherer, Brooklyn Borough President's Office Laura Sribnick, Manhattan Borough President's Office Howard Tames, Human Resources, NYC Board of Education Jean Thomases, Coordinator, Community School Connections * 33
Rita Wade, Program Manager, Office of Business and Community Relations, NYC Board of Education Doreen Williams, Special Assistant for Legislative Affairs for NYC, Governor's Office Steve Williams, NYS School Boards Association Patricia Zedelis, School Facilities, NYC Board of Education Members of the eight-person panel are listed below. Sheila Evans-Traunumn, Associate Commissioner, State Education Department, Office of School and Community Services* Seymour Fleigel, President, Center for Educational Innovation* Norm Fruchter, Director, Institute for Education and Social Policy, New York University* Harold Levy, Director, Global Compliance, Citigroup, New York State Regent* Roger Maldonado, Esq., Partner at Balber Pickard Battistoni Maldonado & Van Der Tuin, Plaintiffs’ Counsel, Jose P. Case* David Sherman, Vice President, Educational Programs, United Federation of Teachers, NY, NY* Tom Sobol, Christian A. Johnson Professor of Outstanding Educational Practice, Teachers College and Former New York State Commissioner of Education* Harry Spence, Deputy Chancellor for Operations, NYC Board of Education * Interviewed two or more times
APPENDIX C: TYPES OF INTERVIEWS Respondents Respondent Type Respondents closest to the project, such as project staff, representatives from partnering agencies, and participants—for example, parents or forum sponsors—who were directly engaged in project efforts. Respondents with a tangential or occasional relationship to a project, but who may also have been directly affected by it, such as journalists or community school district staff or borough president’s office staff involved with one aspect of a project. Respondents with no direct link with the projects, but who may be part of the larger audience that the projects hoped to influence, such as Board of Education administrators or New York State legislative staff. Members of an eight-person panel of knowledgeable, critical observers of NYC public schools. With the advice of DEC, panelists were selected because of their extensive knowledge about the public school system, experience with policy and systems reform, varying institutional and constituency perspectives, and deep professional experience with education and the school system.
Purpose of the Interview These interviews aimed to elicit participants’ assumptions, expectations, and assessments of their work and progress.
These interviewees had at least some sense of the project and could also give a broader perspective of its activities and impacts.
Form of the Interview These were generally in-person and on-site interviews; more informal interaction also occurred at project meetings, actions, and events. In most cases, evaluation team members met regularly with these respondents over the four years. These were generally telephone interviews.
Interviews here aimed to elicit outside assessments of projects’ impacts.
These were generally telephone interviews.
These interviews contributed to a broader examination of the question: What works to create systemic change of the NYC public school system?
These were in-person interviews.
APPENDIX D: YEAR-BY-YEAR PROJECT SUMMARIES EQUITY REFORM PROJECT Project Goals The Equity Reform Project (ERP) is a collaborative effort among the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), the Educational Priorities Panel (EPP), the League of Women Voters New York (LWV), the Urban League of New York City, and the State Communities Aid Association (SCAA). ERP worked to engage a broad spectrum of education stakeholders to create a citizens’ mandate in New York state for school finance reform linked to a finance equity suit brought by CFE against the state. The project strategy incorporated two congruent strands: first, the development of a draft parallel judicial and legislative reform proposal that specified the fiscal and educational reforms necessary to secure a sound basic education and second, the implementation of a public engagement process to ensure that the proposal reflected community needs and garnered a wide base of political support. Year 1, 1996-1997 Organizational Themes CFE assumed the role of lead organization and fiscal agent of ERP, with EPP also taking on a major role. The Urban League, LWV, and SCAA took less central roles. At the start, ERP partners spent considerable time reconciling differing working styles, assumptions about the project, and organizational goals. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Creating tools for public engagement. Early on, ERP partners had to determine how to garner public support for complex judicial and legislative reform, and how to engage an upstate constituency that was likely to mistrust NYC-based school finance litigation. ERP partners worked with Public Agenda to find ways to make its issues more accessible and spent time developing tools to engage its constituencies. EPP created a video that showed disparities between well-funded and poorly-funded districts and a “state funding game” that provided basic information on school funding in New York state. ERP started developing a press kit and a public information strategy for its future work with DEC's communications technical assistance provider, Douglas Gould and Company. Implementing public engagement. Project partners began the engagement process by developing and implementing three forums in New York City. At the start, the project deliberately targeted community organizations, assuming that these organizations would bring constituencies of parents and other community stakeholders. However, this method was not effective in reaching parents, particularly from low-income and minority communities, and ERP revised its approach to attract parents through faith-based organizations. In addition, the partners broadened the engagement process to include professional educators, recognizing that teachers 36
and administrators would have ultimate responsibility for implementing any legislated reforms. Soliciting community input before opening the conversation to teachers allowed community stakeholders to establish the framework within which educational professionals would work, thereby intentionally reversing the usual paradigm. Despite efforts to expand participation, ERP still had difficulty engaging businesses, faith communities, and parents, particularly those from low-income and minority communities. The Urban League tried to encourage staff at other New York state Urban League affiliates to take on finance equity issues, but soon realized that it needed the support of each affiliate’s CEO before the work could begin. In addition, the NYC Board of Education was concerned that ERP’s agenda might derail the Chancellor’s education plan and was reluctant to support either the litigation or the public engagement process. Developing the reform proposal. The forums were also designed to elicit ideas for a reformed funding system. Participants developed a draft of the reform proposal through a freeflow exchange of ideas, a change from the original idea that CFE would draft a proposal and then integrate participants’ reactions. Ultimately, the reform proposal had three components: principles for fair funding, principles for accountability, and a definition of a sound basic education. Because ERP partners could not reach complete consensus about the content of the proposal, the project reconsidered its original plan to endorse jointly a single proposal. This was a slight setback since CFE had hoped that ERP partners' unanimous support for one proposal would leverage endorsements from outside organizations. In addition, during the course of the year, it became apparent that although forum participants generally agreed on the proposal’s reform principles, they disagreed about the potential application of those principles. Year 2, 1997-1998 Organizational Themes ERP continued to experience growing pains at the beginning of Year 2. The SCAA staff liaison to the project relocated to Colorado, resulting in a long-distance relationship that made it difficult for SCAA to play an integral role in the project. CFE frustrated other ERP collaborators by initiating a partnership with a statewide organization without first consulting them. By the end of the year, however, the partners started working more collaboratively; there were more official ERP meetings and greater joint planning of New York city and statewide forums. Participation in ERP continued to influence the internal development of the partner organizations. Parents at the Long Island Urban League formed their own school finance parent action team. More centrally, CFE, which had been created to pursue the litigation, began to consider its responsibility once the case was over, perhaps in monitoring the implementation of a remedy.
Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Implementing public engagement. ERP convened six regional forums and LWV convened ten local forums around the state to discuss the trial and the reform proposal that had been developed the previous year. In New York City, ERP convened four forums, one each for parents, teachers, administrators, and students, in order to sustain Year 1 efforts and to engage these difficult-to-reach constituencies. The project also convened two culminating conferences, one in Albany and one in New York City. Participation in the forums was inconsistent. Some drew large audiences, others did not. Moreover, despite specific plans to target education, civic, business, and faith-based organizations, these groups were not well represented at most forums. This was due, in part, to the decreased participation of SCAA, which had been ERP’s connection to statewide and noneducation-related organizations. ERP did build new relationships with several statewide organizations, as well as strategic connections with critical players in New York City. For example, the Educational Conference Board, an umbrella group of statewide education groups, discussed ERP’s public engagement process and the litigation, wrote to the legislature and the Regents, and published reports about school finance. In New York City, ERP and the Board of Education began to work together; the board solicited CFE’s help in preparing for depositions related to the litigation, and the Board of Education’s director of operations spoke at an ERP convening. With the assistance of Douglas Gould and Company, ERP focused on generating media attention for the issue of school finance generally and for the upcoming CFE trial more specifically. ERP deliberately built relationships with upstate media in the hopes of securing coverage when the case went to trial. Developing the reform proposal. ERP continued to incorporate input from the forums into the reform proposal. As the project recognized the difficulty of obtaining endorsements for the entire proposal, even from ERP partner organizations, it considered allowing organizations to endorse individual proposal components instead. The project finally decided to keep the process open into Year 3, continuing to use the development of the proposal as an engagement tool and soliciting input from communities that were not yet participating, such as local business councils and faith-based organizations. Year 3, 1998-1999 Organizational Themes In Year 3, the partners managed the collaboration by dividing the engagement work into two complementary but separate strands: community mobilization (conducted by EPP and the Urban League) and public engagement (conducted by CFE, SCAA, and LWV). This division of labor, and thus member organizations, allowed the partners to focus on specific pieces of work. Although the partners found this arrangement comfortable, it was more problematic for the 38
collaboration as a whole. Outsiders often attributed the collaboration’s work to one or another partner and were not aware of ERP as a collaborative entity. Also during this year, SCAA appointed an Albany-based staff member as liaison to ERP, fostering a more integrated role for the association and increasing the project’s access to noneducation-related and statewide organizations. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Creating tools for public engagement. In Year 3, ERP faced the growing challenge of sustaining participants’ engagement. The project continued to use the reform proposal as a tool for engagement, and CFE developed the "Making the Grade" survey, which asked New York City teachers and parents to compare the conditions of their schools to the elements of a sound basic education. Additional engagement efforts included newsletters, e-mail updates, and EPP’s video and funding game. CFE and EPP developed web sites to support ERP’s outreach. The Urban League of New York City also revised its outreach strategy and worked with Urban League CEOs in the Big Five Cities (Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, and Syracuse) as well as other affiliates to create organizational buy-in and encourage participation. Although this strategy increased participation, it still did not result in forums in each of the Big Five Cities. The state Urban League affiliates did, however, develop a joint policy statement in support of school finance reform. The community mobilization and the public engagement efforts received considerable print and electronic media attention both upstate and in New York City. Implementing public engagement. ERP sought to increase local ownership and engagement by working with local groups to coordinate and convene their own forums. The upstate community mobilization work focused on grassroots organizations and minority and lowincome communities, and the upstate public engagement work focused on a wide range of education, health, parent, business, and community groups. Together these strategies resulted in a higher level and degree of community engagement, particularly among business and faithbased organizations. The community mobilization and the public engagement work also had New York City components. Through community mobilization, EPP and the Urban League conducted presentations at 45 local, district, and citywide meetings. The New York City public engagement work used the "Making the Grade" survey as the focal point for local organizing. CFE coordinated this effort, which included presentations at 16 local and citywide meetings and the dissemination of "Making the Grade" survey forms to 550 schools. CFE released the report Running on Empty, based on survey results, at the project’s culminating citywide conference. Key public officials spoke at CFE conferences and in one instance, a state-level official contacted CFE and asked to be featured as a speaker.
Developing the reform proposal. The upstate public engagement conversations in Year 3 focused on the accountability principles. The Fiscal Policy Institute developed a report that explored the economic and tax implications of the fiscal components of the proposal. ERP decided not to seek formal endorsements of the reform proposal, leaving the process for finalizing the proposal unclear. Year 4, 1999-2000 Organizational Themes The collaboration encountered further organizational difficulties in Year 4. Because of the intensive time demands of CFE’s litigation, which finally went to trial early in the project year, regular ERP meetings were supplanted by randomly scheduled conference calls. There was less frequent communication between the public engagement and community mobilization components of the work, which led, in two instances, to disjointed public engagement and community mobilization forums. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Creating tools for public engagement. ERP met the challenge of developing new constituencies while also sustaining the involvement of current ones by creating new tools for engagement. CFE organized a march and rally to mark the opening day of the trial. In addition, it created a unique strategy for engaging students in the conversation about school finance reform. As part of the New York City public engagement, CFE developed a four-day curriculum for high school students, focusing on issues of civic duty, judicial process, constitutionality, and educational equity; the curriculum culminated in a morning spent observing proceedings in the CFE trial and talking with the lawyers and witnesses. Forty-six classes, with 1200 students, utilized the curriculum. The community mobilization and public engagement forums were structured differently in this year, focusing on the trial and the impact of potential remedies on particular stakeholders. In an effort to explore the uses and lessons of joining litigation and public engagement in public school reform, CFE convened a conference of school finance reform experts from around the country. Implementing public engagement. The upstate public engagement work in Year 4 focused more on sustaining involvement than on bringing in new constituencies. Because the trial monopolized much of CFE’s time, it could not expend the level of effort it had in previous years. This resulted in smaller forums with, in one case, an audience that was interested in hearing about a local fiscal equity lawsuit rather than CFE’s statewide suit. Along the same lines, the upstate community mobilization forums fell short of the project’s goals in terms of the number of forums and diversity of participants. Nevertheless, ERP did convene seven forums as well as a briefing for Albany-based statewide organizations. The briefing, co-sponsored by the Business Council, attracted 60 business, health, human services, and school board organizations. In addition, EPP published a report about a specific funding mechanism that penalized high 40
minority districts, and created an informal coalition of legislators to eliminate that mechanism. Although this effort was not successful, EPP alerted legislators to this issue. The project had more success with its New York City public engagement and community mobilization efforts. The public engagement work included the curriculum for students described above, and the community mobilization work reached over 2,000 public school advocates, teachers, and parents. EPP worked with the Manhattan Borough President’s office to shape its annual Parent Empowerment Conference around issues of school finance, and the chair of CFE was chosen as the keynote speaker for that conference. However, although the Urban League convened a meeting of CEOs of non-education-related organizations, it did not follow up on plans to reconvene the group, and thus lost an opportunity to involve a new sector. Media proved another route to engagement in Year 4. ERP saw the press as a critical component of the engagement process and sought and gained additional sources of funding to support its outreach to media. The litigation received extensive media coverage in New York City and across the state, and the public engagement process received coverage from local newspapers and radio in areas that hosted regional forums. In New York City, ERP appointed 30 “community ambassadors” who were responsible for representing their communities’ views in the press. EPP’s Listen to the Children video was broadcast on 16 upstate cable stations. Developing the reform proposal. Although it remains to be seen whether the court will accept ERP’s reform proposal as a remedy in the case, it is clear that the engagement process and the proposal have had some impact. The reform proposal was finalized and released as the Blueprint for Better Schools, with the names of organizations that had participated in the proposal development process listed on the back page. The Central New York School Boards Association drafted a proposal for finance reform that included elements of ERP’s fair funding principles. In addition, the publicly-generated definition of a sound basic education was critical in shaping the litigation strategy and pushed CFE to argue for a more rigorous definition than it might have otherwise. The new statewide Alliance for Quality Education views the trial and the time between a court decision and future appeals as a window for intense advocacy efforts to pressure the legislature to implement a remedy even without a higher-level court's final decision. Elements of a sound basic education are incorporated into the Alliance’s agenda.
METRO INDUSTRIAL AREAS FOUNDATION Project Goals The collaboration between Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and the Public Education Association (PEA) aimed for systemic policy reforms in New York City public education that would provide parents of students in chronically failing schools (Schools Under Registration Review or SURR) with viable educational options; ensure that organized parents have a meaningful role in their children’s schools and education; and create a professional ethic in New York City schools that supports parental involvement. The project’s initial policy focus included accountability for superintendents and principals and charter school legislation. In years 3 and 4, this focus broadened to include after-school programs, school construction, bilingual education, and teacher quality. The project’s strategy involved intensive organizing of parents at the local level with the thought of ultimately joining local concerns in a citywide agenda. Parents would also be involved at the city level, researching policy issues and shaping the project’s policy direction. The project also sought to create tools, specifically a training curriculum and a School for Parent Leaders, for the ongoing recruitment and training of parents. These tools would free organizers to focus on nurturing the local work and extending it to the city level. Finally, Metro IAF/PEA planned to create a Parent Center that, through a link to Teachers College, would train teachers to foster parent-friendly school environments. Year 1, 1996-1997 Organizational Themes The project’s collaboration was based on a mutual respect for each organization’s expertise, and thus the work of the project fell easily into two seemingly complementary strands. Metro IAF was responsible for organizing at the local level, recruiting a constituency, and developing local leadership through its affiliates, particularly those in East Brooklyn and the South Bronx. PEA, acting as an education advisor, was responsible for conducting policy research and guiding the project’s policy agenda. However, separating the work in this way resulted in a lack of synergy and fit between the policy and organizing components of the project. The project also had difficulty hiring and retaining parent organizers to assist lead organizers at the affiliate level. For Metro IAF, participation in the project was the second time—after its successful citywide campaign to advocate for the living wage—that the organization advanced a citywide reform agenda for local action. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. Metro IAF/PEA began Year 1 with a policy focus on the state's chronically failing (SURR) schools. Local organizing through IAF affiliates surfaced specific parental concerns, which were then incorporated into PEA’s research and crafted into a reform agenda. Metro IAF/PEA adopted charter schools and accountability, specifically the implementation of the school system’s new governance law, as the domains for its policy work. 42
The project intended to raise its policy agenda to the city level through the publication of policy reports and the convening of press conferences and public assemblies. Toward this end, PEA published Futures Denied, a report about SURR schools. The collaboration conducted an outdoor press conference across the street from the NYC Board of Education offices to release the report and draw attention to this issue. Organizing parents locally and citywide. Metro IAF/PEA sought to build strong bases of parent leaders at the affiliate level through extensive local recruitment and training. The project used IAF’s traditional model of organizing: individual or “one-on-one” meetings, local group or “house” meetings, and trainings on relational power, the concept of self-interest, and power analyses of the education system. In addition to identifying policy issues for action, affiliate organizing aimed to build the local leadership that would ultimately move the project’s citywide agenda. To carry the work of the affiliates to the city level, the project conducted a citywide training for parent leaders. However, the project had difficulty creating a meaningful link between local concerns and citywide issues. It also could not sustain parent involvement in the education strategy team—a team of parents and organizers, drawn from each affiliate, with responsibility for driving the citywide work. The collaboration eventually decided to focus on building strong parent bases through local organizing before moving to a city level. Year 2, 1997-1998 Organizational Themes The division of labor between policy research and local organizing continued into Year 2 in an attempt to allow each partner to work to its own strengths, while simultaneously complementing the work of the other organization. Although this was a mutually agreeable approach, the two organizations worked along parallel tracks rather than as closely collaborating partners. This dynamic created tensions in some instances. For example, as PEA was completing the curriculum, Metro IAF expressed a reluctance to having its training—which is relational and individualistic—codified in a document. This tension exposed a gap in communication and expectations between PEA and Metro IAF. IAF affiliates in Harlem, East Harlem, Brooklyn, and Lower Manhattan began work on education issues in their communities; work continued in the East Brooklyn and South Bronx affiliates. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. The project continued its policy focus on accountability and charter schools. Its work on accountability focused on principal tenure and accountability for front-line administrators. Linked to accountability, the project coined the term educational dead zones to describe the concentration of low-performing schools in particular geographic areas of the city. This term became widely used in education policy conversations. At the same time, the project's plan for work on charter schools was more nebulous and not a central part of the joint effort. 43
Although issues of accountability and charter schools pervaded the school reform arena during this time, Metro IAF/PEA did not connect with other efforts or conversations. Organizing parents locally and citywide. In Year 2, the project conducted several citywide events, including two press conferences and one public assembly, to draw attention to its issues and apply pressure on public officials. The project also convened a citywide training for 120 parent leaders and re-initiated meetings of the education strategy team. Raising local work to the city level remained a challenge, however, and efforts to develop the education strategy team were not sustained. At the local level, organizing and sustaining the engagement of parents was difficult. The implementation of Metro IAF's organizing strategy, which draws on the strength of community institutions, was not as effective for this particular project in its organizing in the New York City education arena. Thus the collaboration continued its efforts to develop local bases through its regular means of organizing; affiliates conducted numerous one-on-one and house meetings, and developed parent monitoring teams that identified school and district anchors for the project’s accountability focus. The emphasis on local organizing fit with IAF’s philosophy that a move to the city level could not be rushed; the momentum of many local parent organizations must drive any citywide movement. School for Parent Leaders/curriculum. The project’s ideas for institutionalizing parent training underwent substantial changes in Year 2. Internal miscommunication about the curriculum—specifically regarding the codification of IAF’s training process—delayed the completion of this document and caused PEA to refocus the curriculum from training to policy information. Also during Year 2, the project’s link to Teachers College ended when the consultant writing the curriculum left that institution. The termination of this relationship affected plans for the School for Parent Leaders and the Parent Center. The project began to reformulate the School for Parent Leaders as a series of training sessions to be offered at different locations around the city; the Parent Center was dropped altogether. Year 3, 1998-1999 Organizational Themes In Year 3, Metro IAF hired a lead organizer to work with several affiliates and to coordinate its citywide education work. This allowed for more central coordination of IAF affiliates’ work. Metro IAF took over the coordination of the project. Toward the end of the implementation year, the structure of the collaboration changed dramatically. PEA merged with another New York City education organization, and two of PEA’s senior staff joined Metro IAF. In this transition, PEA’s consulting on research and policy matters was transformed to an in-house Metro IAF function. This fostered a greater synergy between the formerly separate components of the project. The IAF affiliate in Queens expanded 44
its agenda to include education issues, and the affiliates in Harlem and Lower Manhattan became more active in the education arena. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. At the behest of the National IAF, Metro IAF’s policy agenda expanded to include after-school programs and school construction. With this expansion, the project was unable to develop fully its work in any one area. Nevertheless, the project conducted four press conferences and released two reports, State of the Schools and Success and Failure in NYC Public Schools, about the dismal state of education in New York City. Although accountability issues received significant attention and action in Year 3, it is difficult to determine the project’s impact on policy change in this area. However, the project’s term educational dead zones remained part of the conversations surrounding the implementation of new accountability policies. Although charter school legislation was enacted in this year, the project was not an active player in its passage. Organizing parents locally and citywide. The project made progress in developing its citywide work in Year 3. In addition to conducting its regular trainings and assemblies for affiliate membership, the project convened four meetings of the education strategy team and created a plan for sustaining the group through the summer and into the following year. Metro IAF/PEA also secured meetings with several key education and city-level officials, including members of the NYC Board of Education and the mayor. Even with greater involvement in city-level work, the project maintained its focus at the local level. In this year, Metro IAF affiliates enjoyed considerable success. East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC) initiated a partnership with superintendents in two community school districts to work with designated school principals to organize parents in those schools. City education officials lauded this partnership as a unique school improvement strategy. East Harlem Partnership for Change (EHPC) worked with the superintendent in Community School District 4 to increase the access of eligible, local students to the district’s top performing schools. In spite of this progress, the project still had difficulty engaging and sustaining the involvement of parents in its education work. School for Parent Leaders/curriculum. The training curriculum, which was finalized in Year 3, was used to develop the program for the first session of the School for Parent Leaders, to take place early in Year 4. In addition, IAF organizers began to use the curriculum writer as a resource for information on specific policy issues that surfaced in their local organizing. Although the revised curriculum proved to be a useful resource, it did not become the tool for institutionalizing organizing and training as originally envisioned.
Year 4, 1999-2000 Organizational Themes The merging of PEA’s and IAF’s skills into one organization contributed to a greater synergy between the policy and organizing elements of the project in Year 4. Along the same lines, there was a greater connection between local concerns and the project’s citywide issues. Three upper Manhattan affiliates merged to create Upper Manhattan Together (UMT) and a small affiliate in East New York was subsumed within EBC. In joining these affiliates, IAF sought to integrate common issues across affiliates and to create a stronger, more united presence in these neighborhoods. With this shift, Metro IAF lost two staff organizers at the affiliate level. At the same time, the project hired an administrative staff person to assist at Metro IAF. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. In Year 4, the project expanded its agenda to include bilingual education and teacher quality. The change in leadership at the NYC Board of Education and the appointment of an interim chancellor prompted IAF to focus on building relationships with leaders in the public and private sectors. Toward this end, the project met with officials, some with influence over choosing the next chancellor, to generate buy-in for its policy agenda. Parent leaders and project staff met with key leaders in the public and private sector regarding Metro IAF’s education agenda. Organizing parents locally and citywide. Metro IAF’s citywide work played a more central role in the overall project in Year 4. Metro IAF met with editorial boards of the New York Times and Newsday to talk about the project’s policy focus. The education strategy team, composed of 15 parent leaders, met every six weeks in Year 4. This group represented the project in meetings with public officials and conducted research actions to inform the project’s policy direction. Although organizing continued at the local level, the project still had difficulty sustaining the engagement of parents. One affiliate’s work, mentioned earlier, to create partnerships with superintendents in two community school districts was actually sustained in only one school in one of the districts, and a fledgling parent group at another affiliate retrenched within itself after internal difficulties and decided to work on its own. On the other hand, a few affiliates did experience some local successes; EHPC convinced Community School District 4 to improve its plan for disseminating information to the community about its top performing schools and to codify a previously informal policy giving admission priority to local students. Parents at UMT worked successfully with the superintendent, police, and parks department to improve safety conditions and increase police presence in a park adjacent to a school.
School for Parent Leaders/curriculum. The first session of the School for Parent Leaders was convened early in Year 4 and drew 150 parent leaders, most from East New York. The project did not convene follow-up trainings originally planned for September and October. PARENT ORGANIZING CONSORTIUM Project Goals Through the Parent Organizing Consortium (POC), several New York City-based organizations have come together to build a citywide association of grassroots organizations. By bringing their individual communities and agendas to the table, these groups are working to cultivate strong, parent-generated demand for education reform and to bring parental voices into educational debates and decision-making. POC’s policy agenda over the last four years has included issues of school construction and facilities repair, the lack of adequate textbooks, overcrowding, and class-size reduction. In pursuing these issues, POC has worked at the city, state, and federal levels. Year 1, 1996-1997 Organizational Themes POC’s first year collaborating members were Accion Latina, ACORN, Community Action Project (CAP), Jackie Robinson Center, Mothers on the Move (MOM), the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), South Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, and People About Changing Education (PACE).5 The coming together of these groups with diverse histories, capacities, and organizing philosophies—in some cases, service missions—created several challenges as POC members struggled to develop relationships with one another. Originally, POC was to distribute DEC funds equally among the groups, but after a difficult meeting, the groups agreed that the larger, more experienced, organizing organizations would receive more funding than the smaller ones. Three of the smaller organizations, Accion Latina, PACE, and the Jackie Robinson Center, left the POC because of differences in organizational mission, organizing philosophy, and an inability to commit to required levels of participation. POC also faced challenges as member organizations sought to establish the consortium as a citywide collaboration. The groups, many of which had long prided themselves on being community-based, struggled with issues of centralization, particularly how to contribute to a citywide effort without sacrificing their individual agendas and leadership strength. To address this concern, members deliberately designed an organizational structure that decentralized decision-making and required consensus. Ultimately, the groups decided to staff POC with a part-time organizer who would help facilitate decision-making but have no decision-making 5
Although PACE was a member of POC, DEC funding did not go to this organization.
power. Members retained control over all decisions, including fiscal, policy, and administrative matters. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. In Year 1, POC focused on school construction and repairs, leasing, and textbooks. Specifically, POC sought the enforcement of existing policy and the promotion of new policies and financing procedures regarding school conditions and the distribution of textbooks. Since its work varied in scope from a local focus on a particular school to a districtwide focus, POC targeted both district and city-level officials. The consortium demonstrated an impressive access to public officials early on; specific activities included public meetings with several key Board of Education officials, including the chancellor, and an action at the board. POC’s work resulted in needs assessments and the allocation of additional textbook funding for some schools in some POC members’ community school districts; an agreement to reinstate construction costs for a particular school in the capital budget; and an accelerated timeline for completing repairs in particular schools. POC could not gain commitments regarding new school construction in some POC community school districts nor compel the board to conduct a systemwide textbook audit. External collaboration. POC worked with NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy on policy research and data analysis, but did not pursue the planned relationship with the City University of New York. Year 2, 1997-1998 Organizational Themes ACORN, CAP, MOM, NWBCCC, and the South Brooklyn Community Development Corporation comprised POC membership in Year 2. In the middle of Year 2, the POC converted the coordinator position from half- to full-time. This allowed for greater central coordination, more efficient dissemination of materials to members, better coordination of POC meetings and actions, and increased focus on developing member organizations’ internal capacity. Funding was distributed more equally among member organizations. POC members still struggled to define their roles and responsibilities with regard to the collaboration. Differing organizational capacities and agendas caused tension among member groups, which ultimately led to reflection about the purpose and agenda of POC and about members’ responsibilities to the consortium. The groups resolved this tension by adjusting POC’s policy focus to incorporate the needs of all members and by creating an accountability plan for member group participation in POC. Although this process was difficult and painful, it ultimately increased trust among the members.
At the same time, participation in POC helped to build the capacity of individual member organizations. One of the younger, smaller members helped another local group gain access to Board of Education officials. NWBCCC, MOM, and ACORN created a center for recruiting and training community organizers. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. The Year 2 policy focus emphasized class-size reduction and overcrowding, which POC addressed by targeting issues of school construction and repairs, leasing, and teacher recruitment. POC members coordinated their local actions to correspond with this agenda; member organizations launched POC’s overcrowding and class-size reduction campaigns by conducting local actions on the same day. Members also conducted individual actions to collect local information to inform POC’s overcrowding and teacher recruitment positions. POC met with city-level officials about teacher recruitment and conducted actions regarding teacher recruitment and the allocation of the 1998 budget surplus. Also in this year, POC’s actions moved to the state level through meetings with key state leadership about classsize reduction and school facilities. In response to the governor’s veto of class-size reduction and school construction funding, POC conducted several surprise actions targeting the governor. These resulted in meetings with staff from the governor’s office. Year 3, 1998-1999 Organizational Themes The POC collaboration expanded to include Action for Community Empowerment (ACE), and Cypress Hills Action for Education (CHAFE) joined POC in connection with its school construction campaign. By the end of Year 3, however, both ACE and South Brooklyn Community Development Corporation had left the collaboration. These and other previous departures, and the successful addition of CHAFE, led POC to create a new system for bringing on new organizations. A new organization would join on a trial basis in order to ascertain whether its capacity, mission, and organizing style were compatible with POC’s. Trust and collaboration among member organizations were enhanced in Year 3. When speaking at a Board of Education meeting, member groups presented their own demands as well as those shared by POC. In some instances, member groups “borrowed” off the relationships of other members, using one another’s positive relationships with public officials to leverage meetings with those officials. Internally, members gave the POC coordinator full latitude to hire a new staff person, requiring only final approval of the candidate. In addition, members allocated more funding to the centralized effort. POC attempted to expand its catchment area to Queens, but this work was slow, timeconsuming, and focused on engaging parents around school-level issues. The attempt was abandoned when the staff person in charge left POC. 49
Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. POC’s policy work in Year 3 focused on school construction, facilities repair, and increasing city and state funding for class-size reduction. The work targeted New York City’s Capital Plan for school construction, New York City’s plan for phasing in class-size reduction, reform of the School Construction Authority, and new mechanisms for funding school construction as well as full funding for the state’s class-size reduction mandate. Member organizations conducted local work around the Capital Plan by assessing their community school district’s needs, matching those needs to proposed repairs and construction, and identifying potential solutions. This information was compiled into a plan that was presented to the deputy chancellor for operations. POC as a whole met with Board of Education officials several times about the Capital Plan and to demand that low-performing schools received priority in the city’s class-size reduction plan. In addition to identifying sites for construction and developing new methods for funding that construction, POC was a member of two citywide coalitions designed to address these issues. The Board of Education’s proposed Capital Plan did include new seats and schools in POC community school districts. Likewise, the New York City class-size reduction plan prioritized low-performing schools. In addition, POC member organizations met separately with state officials and made two trips to Albany to advocate for the reinstatement of class-size reduction funding and the implementation of alternate methods for school construction. Several members also went to Washington, DC, to meet with key Democratic and Republican leadership regarding federal school construction legislation. POC’s growing legitimacy as a player in New York City school reform was evident in its changing relationships with key education stakeholders. Several public officials and journalists sought POC’s participation in, or opinion about, a particular event or occurrence in the education arena. Key city and state education stakeholders invited POC to speak in various venues. POC also strategically developed new relationships; in one instance, the consortium accepted an invitation to testify at a Board of Education meeting even though it came at a particularly busy time. Media was present at all of POC’s actions and the consortium received coverage through many different venues, including evening news, New York City and local newspapers, and various radio and cable stations. Despite this attention, POC as an organization was rarely identified in the coverage. POC developed and distributed its own press kit.
Year 4, 1999-2000 Organizational Themes Membership in POC remained constant throughout Year 4. Although this stability contributed to the consortium’s strength, the concentration of membership in the Bronx and Brooklyn limited POC’s ability to represent parent voices on a citywide basis. After reveling in this year of stable membership, POC re-engaged the idea of introducing new organizations into the consortium, and in late spring, initiated relationships with four smaller parent-organizing organizations. Internally, POC members continued to work well together. Member organizations decided to abandon their once-a-month meeting schedule for one that was less rigid, a shift that was possible because of the level of comfort and trust among member organizations. Externally, POC increased the range of groups with which it collaborated. In addition to working with groups that share its philosophical and political orientations, POC also worked with organizations that have different styles and political leanings, such as labor unions, business groups, and advocacy organizations. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Policy. In Year 4, POC focused its policy work on the implementation of New York City’s class-size reduction initiative, with member organizations surveying implementation in their community school districts and then combining their findings into one unified document. POC released its Emergency Classroom and School Construction Plan, which contained demands about the financing and construction of new school buildings as well as class-size reduction. POC presented this plan to the Board of Education’s deputy chancellor for operations at two separate meetings. The consortium also conducted a press conference to pressure the chancellor to implement the class-size reduction mandate. POC continued its work with the School Construction Working Group and its work at the federal level with the National People’s Action. The Board of Education agreed to pursue several components of POC’s Emergency Classroom and School Construction Plan, specifically to investigate the feasibility of using a turnkey model to construct new schools and to pressure the state to advance the city school construction funding through securitization. POC was unable to persuade the Board of Education to prioritize the reduction of class size first in overcrowded, low-performing schools, instead of other more severely overcrowded—but higher performing—schools. During the spring, POC dedicated considerable time to the development and coordination of the new Alliance for Quality Education (formerly known as the Statewide Schools Coalition). The Alliance is comprised of community organizations, labor unions, advocacy groups, and parent and teacher organizations that have joined to advocate for increased state funding for public schools. As a founding member, POC saw the Alliance as an opportunity to penetrate the 51
state level. POC brought the parent voice to this coalition and ultimately became its New York City parent-organizing arm. As part of the Alliance, POC helped to coordinate a kick-off meeting for participants from around the state, and also played a central role in organizing New York City’s first Alliance kick-off rally. TRANSFORMING EDUCATION FOR NEW YORK'S NEWEST Project Goals Transforming Education for New York’s Newest (NYN) aims to improve the quality of education for the growing number of immigrant students in New York City public schools. The project began with a focus on developing specific tools through work in community school districts (CSDs) 24 and 25 in Queens. The long-term aim was to translate these tools into a model for citywide adoption. Midway through the four-year project, NYN shifted its strategies to advocacy at the state and city levels, working to inform and help shape public policy debates on such issues as bilingual education and performance standards as they affect English Language Learners (ELLs). Throughout, NYN has maintained a focus on three substantive areas: staff development and training, transitional services for immigrant students, and parent involvement. NYN joined the efforts of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella organization whose more than 200 member groups cut across the broad range of immigrant populations in New York City, and of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), an organization working to secure quality and equal public education services for those children at greatest risk for school-based discrimination and/or academic failure. During NYN’s first two years, NYIC and AFC were partners; then NYIC became lead for the project, with AFC participating as a subcontractor. Year 1, 1996-1997 Organizational Development NYIC and AFC created a highly collaborative approach to project work. Although one or the other organization took the lead for each of the tools, a discussion-and-review process at every stage aimed to integrate both their perspectives into each product and to ensure a high degree of shared learning and responsibility. But the approach also demanded strong coordination. Staffing issues complicated the process; AFC hired its first project manager midway into the year, only to repeat the job search when the person left a few months later. By mid-1997, the partners recognized that such close collaboration was neither feasible nor efficient, and began planning to allocate full responsibility for each tool or product to one or the other of the groups. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Engaging constituencies. Given NYIC’s self-perceived need to establish visibility and legitimacy in the education policy arena, much of the first year effort focused on building working relationships with a variety of potential partners. Through this process, NYN staff realized the need to involve key constituencies, especially educators and parents, more directly in 52
the project than initially planned. This meant expending even greater effort to identify, recruit, and engage stakeholders as well as rethinking their role in the project. As the work proceeded, project staff realized that the original conception of creating tools and presenting them for implementation was not viable. Project advisory board. Early on, NYN created a 40-member project advisory board with representation from immigrant community groups, graduate schools of education, community school district superintendents, the business community, community institutions, particular high schools, the Board of Education, parent associations, and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). During the first year, NYN convened the board twice. One significant result was project staff’s realization that participants had a greater grasp of immigrant issues than originally assumed; moreover, various community and school district resources, such as summer literacy programs, were already in place. The project had to rethink some of its initial ideas, taking into account and finding ways to build upon and expand this knowledge and ongoing work. Institutional connections. NYN staff also focused considerable attention on creating, building, and sustaining working relationships with key institutional partners, including the UFT, central school administration, superintendents and their staffs in CSDs 24 and 25, and two targeted schools in each of these districts. Building such relationships often proved to be complicated and time-consuming work, with NYN trying to establish itself as a resource for— and not a rival to—local efforts. Project staff also strove to develop working relationships among various stakeholder institutions, such as the teachers union, community school districts, and local school boards—links that the project had assumed already existed. Community links. NYN aimed to involve organizational representatives of immigrant communities at all levels of its work. Although the project encountered early hitches, it developed working relationships with some local groups in the targeted community school districts. However, the goal of mobilizing grassroots involvement through local communitybased organizations was more elusive; few parents attended project meetings held in targeted communities. Therefore, the project sponsored six outreach meetings (covering seven languages), each hosted by a local organization and run with translators. Attendance at most of these was sparse. Developing tools. NYN worked to establish the community, institutional, and research bases for developing tools in each of the project’s substantive areas, including an in-service professional development module, community school district resource directories, parent guide, parent training curriculum, student guides, and policies and practices to reform assessment of newcomer students. Media work. With the assistance of Douglas Gould and Company, NYN began developing informational press releases on school programs to reach immigrant communities through ethnic and mainstream media. For the first year, the releases were in English because 53
translation costs were greater than anticipated and it proved infeasible to rely on voluntary translation support through community groups or other resources. Year 2, 1997-1998 Organizational Development In Year 2, full responsibility for each project product was allocated to one partner or the other. NYIC and AFC worked largely independently of each other, although each maintained involvement in both targeted community school districts and in all of the project’s substantive areas. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Engaging constituencies. NYN’s self-defined role as convener and catalyst required ongoing support of working relationships with key institutional partners. The project built on these links to further tool creation, especially around in-service professional development. However, the project advisory board did not meet; in addition, the project did not focus on fostering links with community and parent groups. Developing tools. The project achieved significant benchmarks in developing tools and analyses, although the parent guide (English-language version) and several press releases were the only products finished and disseminated during the year. In several instances, project plans became more complex as staff recognized the need to involve key groups, take into account existing resources and programs, fulfill institutional requirements, and when feasible, meet expressed local needs. Work on the in-service professional development module illustrates some of these challenges. NYIC project staff implemented a multi-stepped development process: getting target community school district superintendents to name four schools to work with the project; conducting focus groups with teachers and administrators; managing a literature search for effective strategies; and surveying staff in the target schools. When it became apparent that one module could not meet the varied needs and priorities of participating groups, the project created a committee to prepare materials based on the data, which selected teacher-training experts would then use to devise various modules. In terms of other tools, NYIC completed drafts of the student guides and district resource directories. AFC produced the parent guide and policy memoranda on pre-service training of teachers and on assessment practices and needs of immigrant students. The research for and scope of these latter two pieces were more limited than originally planned, and there was no dissemination or follow-up strategy. The project translated key documents into six major languages for each target community school district, but made little progress with communitybased organizations in those districts to engage and train parents on school issues.
Year 3, 1998-1999 Organizational Development Revised management structure. The partners reshaped the management structure of the project. NYIC took the lead role, with AFC working as a subcontractor. This change coincided with the departure from AFC of its executive director. A greater number of NYIC staff with varied expertise worked on NYN, making education and school system issues part of the core work of the coalition. In mid-year, with the arrival of the new AFC director, the partners began building a mutually beneficial relationship in which NYIC’s focus on immigrant students and links with community groups complemented AFC's experience with education issues and the New York City school system. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Changing strategies. NYN fundamentally shifted its strategy to advocacy on education and newcomer student issues at the state and city levels. In Year 3, this was primarily to raise English Language Learner (ELL) issues in the state-level debate on creating and implementing performance standards. This advocacy approach more closely aligned the project with NYIC’s work in other policy areas, and strengthened the place of the organization in the education policy arena. NYN’s policy interests continued to focus on supports for educators, students, and parents. Engaging constituencies. NYIC worked to inform and engage its member organizations in education and school issues, with varying levels of success. In a breakthrough, the NYIC board agreed to include education issues in its annual legislative and budget agenda, providing NYN with a formal foundation for its policy efforts. NYN, with the support of the Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP), continued to offer ways for NYIC member organizations to engage in staff training and parent organizing around school reform; three to five members took exploratory steps in this direction. However, it was unclear whether interested members actually had the capacity to undertake such work; many operated with only one or two staff members. State-level advocacy. NYIC gained credibility to speak on education issues vis-a-vis ELLs and newcomer students, and became a major source for information, analysis, and recommendations on standards and their impact on ELLs for the Regents and other policymakers. NYN advocated for the restoration of $11 million for bilingual technical assistance, an action supported by the State Assembly. The project was successful in advocating for the creation of a Regents advisory committee to review “safety net options” for ELL students facing standards testing; the committee, whose members included NYIC, was convened in the late spring. City-level advocacy. At the city level, NYN focused on building a presence in city education arenas, developing relationships, participating in the Chancellor’s Action Group, and other efforts to lay a foundation for future policy work. 55
Education report. NYIC’s report Immigrant and Refugee Students: How the New York City School System Fails Them and How To Make It Work reflected its ability to critique the system as well as make recommendations for change. Coming at the end of the year, and well after the establishment of NYN’s focus on ELL issues and standards, the report did not play its projected role as a frame for the project’s policy work. However, NYN presented the report at a well-attended press conference in mid-June, receiving media attention for its advocacy work in the New York Times and on the television station New York 1. Developing tools. NYN continued this work, with varying progress. Student guides neared completion, with some language versions scheduled for summer release. NYIC rechanneled its work on the community resource directories, contributing instead to the development of a citywide directory under the auspices of the Chancellor’s Action Group. The project made no progress on the in-service professional development module. Year 4, 1999-2000 Organizational Development The mutually beneficial relationship between NYIC and AFC continued to grow. Overall, the experience and contacts of AFC in education deepened and expanded NYIC’s perspective and knowledge, particularly—in relationship to ELL and newcomer students—on such issues as special education, social promotion, access to gifted and talented programs, and alternative assessment. Conversely, work with NYIC strengthened and helped define AFC’s interest in immigrant and ELL students, leading to new staff hires and efforts focused on this population sector. Programmatic Themes and Benchmarks of Progress Engaging constituencies. NYIC extended engagement of its board and membership in education and school issues. Education issues were again part of NYIC’s annual legislative and budget agenda. Perhaps more telling, education reform became part of the core issues woven into the broad range of the coalition’s work. For example, education reform was a featured topic for the community forums component of NYIC’s major "200,000 in 2000" voter registration campaign, along with such topics as immigration policy, health care, and housing. Such integration helped strengthen the relevancy of NYIC’s policy interests for its member organizations and their local immigrant constituencies; at the same time, it broadened the stakeholder base of those familiar with and concerned about education reform. NYN continued to work with IESP to assist NYIC members that wanted to train and organize parents and staff around education and school issues. Only one organization, however, actually began organizing sessions, attracting about 15 parents. The major obstacle was the lack of members’ organizational capacity to take on organizing efforts; NYIC began looking for resources to support interested organizations in such work. At the end of the year, it was unclear whether and how NYN would continue this involvement in parent training and organizing. 56
State-level advocacy. NYN continued an aggressive advocacy approach, especially on standards and ELLs, with the Regents and New York State Education Department. The Regents advisory committee reviewing safety net options for ELLs recommended an alternative assessment policy, a stance strongly supported by NYIC. Although the Regents rejected the recommendation, NYIC believes the discussion will reopen as standards are implemented in the form of high-stakes testing for students, providing a further platform for policy work. City-level advocacy. In Year 4, NYN focused attention on establishing a more visible, active, and credible presence at the city level for its education policy work. As a member of the Chancellor’s Action Group, NYIC pushed for the creation of a work group on immigrants (to parallel the established work groups on faith-based organizations and community-based organizations). As a result, the Immigrant Education Issues Work Group first met in late 1999, co-chaired by the NYIC and Board of Education staff. The group, including several NYIC member organizations, developed a plan for coordinating and supporting a systemwide translation policy, which in late June was being prepared for presentation to the chancellor. The plan lays the foundation for the group's next step: creation of the policy itself. The translation effort was actually a two-pronged strategy that reflected considerable advocacy sophistication. In addition to its work with the Work Group described above, NYIC also strove to gain the support of the Black and Latino Caucus of the City Council for a variety of NYIC-developed budget proposals, including one that, if passed, would fund system-wide implementation of a translation policy. In this way, NYIC aimed to join policy formulation and implementation support, as well as raise its profile within municipal political circles and reinforce its working relationship with the Board of Education. Developing a national voice. NYIC began establishing a presence on education matters within national networks. For example, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) provided some financial support to create a formal relationship with NYIC and gain its involvement in developing a national agenda on education. In early July, NYN is making a presentation on its DEC work at NCLR's national conference. Developing tools. NYIC completed lower- and middle-school student guides in five languages. These guides and AFC’s parent guide were widely distributed at such venues as Open School nights and NYIC’s “200,000 in 2000” education forums. The project decided not to pursue development of an in-service professional development module, asking DEC to release this funding to other project efforts.