Viewer’s Guide

Parent Power Viewer’s Guide 2

Written and edited by Norm Fruchter and O’rya Hyde-Keller Designed by Carole Jeung and Haewon Kim Cover photo by Jason Masten Interior photos by Jason Matsen and Jose Gonzalez

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform is a national policy-research and reform-support organization, affiliated with Brown University, which focuses on improving conditions and outcomes for all students in urban public schools, particularly those serving disadvantaged children. The Institute’s vision is the transformation of traditional school systems into “smart education systems” that develop and integrate high-quality learning opportunities in all areas of students’ lives—at school, at home, and in the community. For more information, visit

Produced in collaboration with Active Voice. Special thanks to Ellen Schneider, founder and executive director, and Dina de Veer, story and policy coordinator. For more information on Active Voice, visit

©2011 Annenberg Institute for School Reform


Viewer’s Guide

When I think of things around me, it makes me sad, and I want to cry. But then I stop, and it gets me angry, and that’s what brings about the change. – Carol Boyd, Parent Leader

Table of Contents
3 4 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 A Message from the Filmmakers New York City Parent Organizing Strategies Engage key neighborhood organizations Effectively utilize research and data Appropriately navigate the collaboration/confrontation dynamic Build local and citywide coalitions Build effective organizational structures and cultures Develop relationships with the teachers union Enlist intermediary support Frequently Asked Questions About the Center for Education Organizing

A Message from the Filmmakers
Parent Power chronicles fifteen years of parent organizing to improve public schools across New York City. These efforts were supported by organizers and researchers from the 1 Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s Community Organizing and Engagement division, who together with New York City parent leaders created this film. The organizing portrayed in Parent Power is motivated by the following beliefs: that preserving and strengthening public education is essential to making our nation more equitable and democratic; that the communities most affected by the current economic downturn—low-income and working-class urban neighborhoods—also consistently suffer the chronic failures of public education; and that these communities, and the teachers who work in their schools, are the constituencies with the potential power to demand, support, and sustain the scale of education reform necessary to effectively address these challenges. This Viewer’s Guide is designed to enhance your use of Parent Power in your education organizing, whether you employ the film for large-scale inspirational screenings, in strategy sessions with your organizers and leaders, as an introduction to education organizing when you are initiating new efforts, or in whatever other ways you find the film useful. The first section on New York City organizing strategies describes the approaches that guided successful parent organizing in New York City and is accompanied by key questions to consider when formulating your own organizing strategies and goals. The next section answers frequently asked questions that may arise when you screen the film. The final section presents information about the Center for Education Organizing, a new unit of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform that encourages, supports, and links education organizers across the nation. For help in planning an effective small-group or community screening, please see our screening toolkit, which you can download at: We made Parent Power to provide an inspiring example of successful education organizing. We hope this guide will help you generate actionable discussion about Parent Power and build campaigns that improve the schools serving your neighborhoods and your children.

Frequently Used Acronyms in

Parent Power
PAC: Parent Action Committee CEJ: The New York City Coalition for Educational Justice NSA: New Settlement Apartments CC9: Community Collaborative to Improve District 9 Schools PS 64: Public School 64 IESP: New York University Institute for Education and Social Policy, the intermediary that initially supported the organizing the film chronicles. AISR: The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, a national policy-research and reform support organization. CO&E: Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s Community Organizing and Engagement division, the group that replaced IESP and provided much of the support for the organizing the film portrays.

The organizing staff was originally part of the New York University Institute for Education and Social Policy, but disaffiliated from NYU in 2006 and joined the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Parent Power Viewer’s Guide


New York City Parent Organizing Strategies
Seven key strategies guided the New York City education organizing chronicled in Parent Power. While education organizing in your communities will often confront unique situations that require different approaches, the following strategies employed in New York City may prove helpful to you.

Ana Maria Archila, Co-director, Make the Road Ana Maria founded and led the Latin American Integration Center for many years until it merged with Make the Road, a tri-borough immigrant organizing and service center. “The organizations that came together to create CEJ had real alignment in terms of who should be the drivers of change in communities: ordinary people who know the real problems and ordinary people who actually have ideas about what the solutions should look like.”

Engage key neighborhood organizations
I met an organizer from the New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee who, I recall, just had pit bull persistence. She would not go away. ‘You need to come to this meeting. We need your input. This affects you.’ So, finally, I went. And the rest has been history. – Carol Boyd, Parent Leader

Successful parent organizing depends on mobilizing local support for schooling improvement. The organizing chronicled in Parent Power began with efforts to encourage local communitybased organizations (CBOs) to take on education organizing as part of their neighborhood work (see sidebar for more on CBOs). In parent organizing efforts in other cities, that local base may be religious congregations or neighborhood action groups supported by dues-paying residents. Essentially, all organizing begins with targeting and attempting to mobilize specific local constituencies. There were several reasons why CBOs were appropriate organizations to spur education reform in New York City. Because CBOs are politically and formally independent of local school systems and city governments, they can hire and fund organizers to help parents improve their local schools without facing the constraining pressures that principals and administrators often exert on parent-teacher associations. Moreover, many CBOs have long reputations for neighborhood service; webs of relationships with community residents, leaders, and elected officials; and networks of connection with other neighborhood institutions to draw on. They also have an existing infrastructure—offices, meeting spaces, telephones, and computers—which can help to enable and support parent organizing. Therefore, the New York City organizing strategy focused on convincing local CBOs, such as the New Settlement Apartments, to undertake education organizing to improve their local schools as a necessary component of their commitments to revitalizing their neighborhoods. New Settlement Apartments’ vision, for example, was not simply to rebuild Mt. Eden’s destroyed housing, but to restore “the social fabric of the neighborhood.” Organizing for high-quality neighborhood schools fit well with this mission.

What is a community-based organization (CBO)? These nonprofits provide services and supports for local neighborhoods. They are usually directed by local activists and guided by a board of local residents. Funding for CBO work comes from a variety of city, state, and federal grants, and many CBOs have developed fund-raising strategies to secure significant nonprofit and private donations as well. CBOs support their neighborhoods by developing, rehabilitating, and managing local affordable housing; implementing neighborhood redevelopment projects; offering health services, employment counseling, youth recreation, and educational and social programs for young people, including after-school programs; and organizing residents to improve a wide range of local conditions.

Can you identify CBOs or other civic or service groups in your neighborhoods that might be prepared to take on education organizing? How can you identify groups you don’t already know about that might support education organizing?



Effectively utilize research and data
When we looked at the statistics, only one out of three kids was reading at grade level. Seeing those numbers and understanding those statistics was a real wake-up moment. – Ana Maria Archila, Co-Director, Make the Road, a tri-borough immigrant organizing group

The goals and outcomes of education are complex and often contested, and the work of schools and districts is often mystified by practitioner jargon. Research about what improves student and school performance, as well as data about student demographics and school- and district-level student academic outcomes, helps parent organizing groups shift their focus from the individual needs of children and parents to the systemic failures of schools and districts. NSA’s PAC quickly discovered that the use of research and data is critical to successful education organizing. When, for example, IESP staff provided the PAC with the data that 83 percent of PS 64’s students couldn’t read adequately, the resulting discussions surfaced members’ previously silent fear that the school’s poor outcomes were caused by individual parents’ deficiencies. “I think our biggest focus was getting the parents to understand it wasn’t their fault,” a PAC member recalled. “But if almost all the school’s students were reading so poorly, we decided it can’t all be on us, it’s got to be the school’s fault.” IESP staffers made another critical research contribution to the PAC’s work by identifying an elementary school whose student demographics were very similar to PS 64’s, but whose new principal had significantly improved the school’s outcomes in a very short time. As a PAC leader observes in the film, “We knew what a bad school looked like, but we didn’t know what a good school looked like.” Through a visit to that school arranged by IESP staff, the PAC analyzed several components of an effective school, and decided that PS 64’s principal was incapable of developing those successful components. This realization led to the decision to launch a campaign to replace the principal.
Esperanza Vazquez, Parent Leader Esperanza is a long-term PAC member who helped to found both CC9 and CEJ. She has one child in the New York City school system and lives in the Mt. Eden section of the Bronx. “Tener una educación de excelencia, que no es solamente para unos—que la educación buena no solamente sea para unos cuantos niños, que la educación sea buena para todos.” [ “To have an excellent education—that is not only for a few children. Education should be good for all children.” ]

Does your group have the capacity to assess school and system data from your district, city, or state education agencies? If not, can you identify university-based or nonprofit research centers that might help you gather and analyze relevant date to produce the research you need? (See the section on intermediary organizations for more information on this.)

Parent Power Viewer’s Guide



Appropriately manage the collaboration/ confrontation dynamic
Public school officials took over our meeting. And when they took over our meeting, it no longer became our meeting. It became their meeting. They made us out to be bad parents. And I think that was a turning point for me, because after that, I vowed that I was going to learn as much as I can. – Cynthia Cummings, PAC Leader

Zakiyah Ansari, Parent Leader Zakiyah lives in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood, and her eight children all attend or attended the city’s public schools. She helped found both the Brooklyn Education Collaborative and CEJ and currently works as an organizer for CEJ and the Alliance for Quality Education. “These are our kids. You can’t keep telling us you can’t do things. We’re not going to take it anymore. We know that it can be done. We know it’s done in other schools. Why isn’t it done in our communities?”

Finding the appropriate balance between confrontational and collaborative strategies bedevils many education organizing groups. Directly confronting school officials with parent demands for schooling improvement is often necessary but can also so antagonize the targeted administrators that they refuse to engage. Similarly, collaboration between organized parent groups and school officials is critical to schooling improvement but can easily become administration controlled and carried out for form’s sake if the threat of confrontation is not maintained. Figuring out when and how to collaborate and when and how to confront proved crucial to the organizing efforts in New York City. The PAC began its organizing hoping to collaborate with local school officials. When the PAC presented their research findings to the PS 64 principal and the local superintendent, for example, members were expecting an acknowledgement of the school’s problems and an agreement to work together to improve the school’s outcomes. Instead the PAC’s concerns were dismissed by the principal and the local district’s superintendent. This dismissal initially intimidated the PAC, but the parents regrouped and escalated their strategy—from efforts at collaboration to direct and dramatic confrontation. The PAC staged demonstrations at district school board meetings, used their research findings to highlight PS 64’s failure and demand improvement, engaged local and citywide media to amplify their message, and ultimately took their demands to the citywide school board and the city’s schools chancellor. The PAC’s strategic escalation succeeded in replacing PS 64’s principal and projecting the need to improve the district’s struggling schools onto a citywide school reform agenda. In this case, confrontation proved necessary when collaboration was rejected by schooling administrators. But collaboration can often yield successful outcomes when contending parties are willing to engage. CC9’s founding groups stressed the importance of collaborating not only with local schools and school districts, but also with the citywide school system leadership and the teachers union. As the film shows, those collaborations produced the Lead Teacher Program as a pilot in ten District 9 schools. Similarly, CEJ worked hard to develop collaborations with the school system’s middle grades improvement efforts.

Has your group encountered situations in which you’ve struggled to manage the collaboration/confrontation dynamic? What did you do? What was the result? Are there ways you can manage this dynamic more effectively or differently in the future?



Build local and citywide coalitions
A bunch of parents limited to one school district was not enough… if we were going to truly have a lasting impact on reforming and transforming public education in the city of New York, we were going to have to get more like-minded people onboard with us. – Carol Boyd, Parent Leader

Local, districtwide, and eventually citywide coalitions built by neighborhood groups often prove necessary to build the scale of parent power required to leverage significant reform. New York City school system’s scale and complexity, with more than a million students in 1,600 schools, presents an enormous challenge to local education organizing. The PAC quickly discovered that the New York City schools chancellor—the system’s superintendent—had the power to remove ineffective principals and could intervene to improve failing districts. But the PAC also discovered that a parent organizing group focused on one neighborhood elementary school could not mobilize sufficient power to influence the actions of district- or systemwide administrators. Because the PAC was unable to develop sufficient power to win its demands for local school improvement, the group decided to develop a larger effort to advance its demands and helped to form CC9—the Community Collaborative to Improve District 9 Schools. Similarly, when CC9’s efforts failed to maintain community participation in the expansion of the Lead Teacher Program, the coalition decided to form a citywide organization, the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, or CEJ, to leverage the organizing power of groups across four of the city’s five boroughs.

Jack Doyle, Executive Director, New Settlement Apartments Jack has headed NSA for the past fifteen years and was also the board chair of the New York City Coalition for the Homeless. Currently, under his guidance, NSA is developing a K–12 public school in the Mt. Eden section of the Bronx. “The organizations each brought to CC9 roots in the community, resources— be they financial resources, staff resources, physical space for meetings—and relationships, relationships with people, whether they were neighborhood residents or representatives who were in elected office. Each of the organizations began to identify leaders and members and build a base.”

Do your education organizing groups have sufficient power to change citywide education policies or influence citywide administrators to make the improvements your neighborhood schools need? If not, could similar organizing groups across your city collaborate to develop more powerful coalitions?

Parent Power Viewer’s Guide



Build effective organizational structures and cultures
The thing that was different about CEJ is that, because there was so much effort put into making sure that people had time to learn about each other and about the issues that we were working on, there was just a huge amount of human capital that we didn’t have before. – Ana Maria Archila, Co-Director, Make the Road

Building cultures of collaboration and respect requires carefully defining members’ expectations of educational change and developing clear guidelines for how to work together to create and sustain organizations that build the power necessary to leverage reform. Because the PAC was originally formed by the parents of one neighborhood after-school program, it had a simple organizational structure. But as the need developed for larger parent organizations like CC9 and CEJ, which include member groups from neighborhoods throughout New York City, the groups had to develop more complex structures for decision making, representation, organizing, and fundraising (see sidebar for more on how these structures work). The Parent Power sequence describing CEJ’s initial retreat suggests some of the components of CEJ’s structure and internal culture. The organization’s steering committee involves parent leaders not only from different organizations but from different cultures as well. The steering committee bridges language differences by providing simultaneous translation at all its meetings, as well as food, childcare, and transportation. Intensive planning for meetings involves members in extensive telephone conferences to construct agendas, specify critical issues for discussion, and define strategic alternatives. All decisions are made by member consensus, usually at the monthly Saturday steering committee meeting, and the leadership and facilitation of those meetings and other gatherings are rotated across the membership. Steering committee members and other parent leaders also participate in frequent workshops focused on flashpoint issues such as teacher evaluation, seniority, school closings, college access, and city and state testing results. Through frequent meetings, as well as workshops, conferences, and retreats, CEJ maintains a network of relationships and bonds among its members that supports constantly expanding levels of knowledge, leadership capacity, and organizing experience in a process of continuously enriching human capital formation.

The Organizational Structure of CC9 and CEJ Both CC9 and CEJ were coalitions of CBO groups composed of local school parents and community activists. The structure of these coalitions maximized parent participation and decision making to drive coalition policy, strategy, and implementation. Governing structures featured a coalition-wide steering committee, composed of parent leaders from each member group, which met monthly as the predominant decision-making body. An executive directors forum, meeting every two months, helped develop political strategy and ensure cross-agency cooperation. 2 CO&E staff coordinated the new coalitions, provided strategic support to their campaigns, supported and trained the coalitions’ organizers and leaders, supplied policy and data analysis, and raised the funding necessary to support the coalitions.

How does your group’s internal structure maximize parental leadership and decision making? How does your group hold its members accountable? If you are planning to build a larger coalition, what structures will you develop to help maintain your effectiveness? How will you build the internal communications and nurture the ongoing relationships necessary to maintain a collaborative organizational culture?


By 2006, the IESP organizing staff had disaffiliated from NYU and become the Community Organizing and Engagement division of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, or CO&E.



Develop relationships with the teachers union
In New York City, there’s a history of distrust and separation between parents and teachers. We had to figure out a way to try to soften the relationship between parents and teachers, but also not give up our power, parents’ power. – Ocynthia Williams, Parent Leader
Union-Community Tensions in New York City In New York City, the enduring hostility from the late 1960s Ocean Hill/Brownsville conflict, which pitted neighborhood-based, predominantly black and Latino advocates of community control of schooling against the predominantly white teachers union, divided parents and teachers for many years. Moreover, race and class differences separating parents and teachers were often intensified by charges from parents in poor neighborhoods that too many teachers harbored “the soft bigotry of low expectations” for their children. Many teachers, in turn, felt unfairly attacked and denigrated when parents challenged schooling quality and teaching practice. Finally, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the city’s teachers union, was a political powerhouse at both city and state levels since its founding in the early 1960s. Community groups contemplating joint action with the UFT often doubted whether the teachers union would value a community alliance enough to treat a local group with parity and respect.

In most U.S. cities, a local affiliate of the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers represents the school system’s teachers. Although urban parents and teachers presumably share an overarching commitment to the successful education of the city’s children, collaborative efforts between parents and teachers to improve urban education have been exceedingly difficult to achieve. Before CC9’s organizing efforts began, community collaborations with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the city’s teachers union, to improve public schooling were quite rare. But CC9 was determined to build a relationship with the UFT precisely because of the union’s political power. The CC9 parent leaders believed that if they could partner with the union in mutually beneficial school reform projects, the power of such a community-union alliance would maximize the potential for the reforms’ success. So CC9 initiated a series of discussions with the UFT’s leadership and local district staff to explore a possible union commitment to supporting CC9’s reform efforts. The union’s leadership, meanwhile, had become convinced that the UFT needed to develop strategic, trust-based relationships with community groups, not only to end the polarization generated by previous conflicts (see sidebar), but also to counter the increasing portrayals of teachers unions as resistant to educational reform. Because a new and powerful national wave of education reformers, as well as charter advocates and privatization proponents, were increasingly portraying teachers unions as defendants of traditional practices in poorly performing urban districts, it was important for the New York City teachers union, the nation’s largest, to collaborate with community groups in significant reform efforts.

In what ways have you worked with your local teachers union? How open do they seem to collaborating with you on school improvement or district reform projects? What common educational ground do you share?

Parent Power Viewer’s Guide


How Can Intermediary Organizations Support Parent Organizers? Intermediary organizations can help support education organizing groups in ways that go far beyond research and data provision. Both IESP and AISR, for example, provided trainings on a wide range of education issues to organizers and leaders of individual groups and coalitions. Both intermediaries also offered strategic support for group campaigns, helped with media contacts to ensure local and citywide publicity, linked individual groups and coalitions to elected leaders and education reform experts, and helped groups raise the funding necessary to support and sustain their organizing.

Enlist intermediary support
The staff at Annenberg really understood their role as being primarily oriented to support the leadership of the parents that were coming together. And it did that by providing really good research. – Ana Maria Archila, Co-Director, Make the Road

Given the critical role of research and data provision in education organizing, an institution that can provide such research while valuing and respecting community organizations and parent leadership can be quite helpful. Education organizing groups that lack the capacity to access and analyze research and data should consider exploring relationships with university-based research centers or nonprofit research groups that might provide the necessary data or the other supports that CO&E provided to the parent organizing groups and coalitions in Parent Power (see sidebar for more on these supports). The relationship between the PAC and the intermediary that began as IESP and became a unit of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform started when Jack Doyle, the executive director of NSA, contacted IESP to arrange a series of workshops about parents’ rights for the parent members of an NSA after-school program. After the workshop series concluded, the parents formed the PAC, and IESP staffers agreed to support the PAC’s development with additional workshops on education issues, as well as with research, data, and other tools for the PAC’s organizing. Thus a fifteen-year relationship was initiated, in which IESP, and then CO&E, staffers have supported parent training, research and data provision, strategy development, retreat facilitation, organizer training, and fundraising.

What supports, such as research, data, strategy, and fundraising, does your organization need? Can you identify local university or nonprofit education research groups that might provide those supports?

Parent Power Timeline

Parents in an after-school program run by the New Settlement Apartments (NSA), a neighborhood housing organization, form the Parent Action Committee (PAC) to improve PS 64, the local elementary school.

The principal of PS 64 is removed after a PAC organizing campaign puts the spotlight on the school’s “persistent educational failure” and the principal fights publicly with one of his teachers. The PAC works with the new principal to improve the school, but the school makes little progress.

After failing to convince the district superintendent and the chancellor to improve District 9’s schools, the PAC helps to form the Community Collaborative to Improve District 9 Schools, or CC9.

CC9, working with local teachers and administrators, the teachers union, and systemwide school officials, develops the Lead Teacher Program to reduce new teacher attrition and improve the quality of teaching in ten District 9 schools.


Frequently Asked Questions
Why build a base of activist parents through a CBO rather than a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Association (PA), the traditional parental school-based group in most communities? Without the independence and financial support to sustain organizing (and organizers), most PTAs and PAs, however well intentioned, become appendages of the school administration incapable of mounting independent school improvement efforts. IESP organizing staff had spent years attempting to help PA groups across the city improve their local schools, but such efforts had rarely succeeded. IESP staff concluded that PAs and PTAs were unlikely to mobilize or wield the power necessary to generate significant school change. PTAs and PAs are essentially volunteer groups, without the resources to hire organizers or sustain organizing to build the power necessary to help change low-performing schools. Moreover, PTA and PA membership is often controlled, coerced, or intimidated by school principals or administrative leadership who perceive PTAs and PAs as a schooling auxiliary whose work is fundraising, supporting school events, or chaperoning school trips rather than working for school improvement. What are the key roles of education organizers? Education organizers carry out critical organizational tasks—the most important is doing the outreach necessary to build and sustain the organization’s base. Organizers identify members with leadership capacity and support their development through coaching, prepping (comprehensive preparations for meetings with schooling officials and other public events), and one-on-one analytic conversations. They coordinate group meetings, strategy sessions, and ongoing campaigns. The PAC’s organizing over the fifteen years that Parent Power chronicles, as well as the work of the other groups highlighted in the film, would have proved impossible without the ability to hire, train, and sustain parent organizers. Almost twenty organizers appear in Parent Power, but because their work is direct, unobtrusive, and mostly behind the scenes, their appearances are fleeting. The organizers’ work is critical to sustaining activist groups and advancing their work. How can groups identify institutions that might provide research and data support? Identifying local groups to provide research and data is a key challenge. Groups seeking such support might first approach their local university’s education school or department, since those entities often house research institutes that regularly acquire and analyze city and state education data. Moreover, such institutes often house faculty members with the skills necessary to carry out the kinds of data analysis organizing groups need. If local higher education institutions have neither the research capacity nor the faculty with the necessary skills and experience,

Victoria Bousquet, Parent Leader Victoria was part of the United Federation of Teachers Brooklyn Parent Outreach Committee and helped to found the Brooklyn Education Collaborative and CEJ. She has two children in the city school system and lives in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood. “The school system, as it stands, was designed over 100 years ago, at a time when we as a people of color were not expected to get any type of education. Equal opportunity to succeed in college and career is the racial and economic issue of today.”

The Lead Teacher Program is approved, piloted, and funded by the school system and implemented by a unique collaboration of local administrators and teachers, the teachers union, and CC9 parents.

Despite an independent evaluation documenting the critical role of parents and community in the Lead Teacher Program’s success, the Chancellor implements the program systemwide but eliminates its parent and community components.

The PAC and the other CC9 member groups, along with the Brooklyn Education Collaborative and the Brooklyn/Queens Education Collaborative, form the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ).

2006 –2007
CEJ launches its Middle School Improvement Campaign and with the speaker of the New York City Council, organizes and participates in the Council’s Middle School Task Force.

Parent Power Viewer’s Guide


local education advocacy or school reform nonprofit groups may be able to provide some of the required resources. It is critical, of course, that all potential intermediary organizations have the experience and the capacity to work effectively with parent and neighborhood activists. How is the coalition’s funding raised and allocated? By 2010, CEJ’s budget, including funding for the member organizations, CO&E staff, and organizing expenses, totaled a little more than $1 million annually, primarily raised from local and national foundations. The CO&E staff do most of CEJ’s fundraising by soliciting foundation support and developing and drafting funding proposals. One of the member CBOs acts as the coalition’s fiscal agent. The coalition allocates funds to member groups according to each group’s organizing capacity. CEJ’s three tiers of funding, for example, provide grants to member groups based on their differential capacity for turn-out, political influence, and parent leadership roles. Groups with consistently large membership turn-out that also effectively leverage the power of elected officials receive higher allocations than groups with more limited mobilizing and political capacity. Coalition-wide accountability committees approve allocations to member groups and assess the performance of each member group in terms of continuation of their allocations. What are some ways to build a successful collaboration with the teachers union? There are many ways to initiate a collaboration with the teachers union, but success depends on starting from shared interests. CC9 and the UFT, for example, shared an interest in improving the quality of city teaching. CC9 built on that shared interest through intensive negotiations with the union’s leadership, and by developing a trust-based relationship between the CC9 coordinator and the union’s district leader. To expand that relationship to CC9 parent leaders and organizers and the union’s school-based leaders, intensive discussions focused on shared issues such as how to respond to threatened budget cuts and how to improve traffic safety around schools. Through extended conversations at school-based meetings, shared dinners, and other events linking parent leaders and union representatives, more complex issues, such as how to improve teaching quality, were explored. The idea for the Lead Teacher Program developed from those discussions. What sustains the film’s parent leaders across many years of organizing? The film’s parent leaders say that the intensity of their commitment to improving the city’s schools, not only for their own children but for all the city’s students, keeps them active. The bonds they’ve built with other members of the groups and coalitions also provide key supports. The leaders indicate that the arc of their own development is crucial; they note how their strategic capacities and leadership skills have grown, and how they continue to perceive new challenges as their organizations expand and change. Finally, they see the results of their work in the development of new educational opportunities for their children.

Ocynthia Williams, Parent Leader Ocynthia was a leading member of the Highbridge Community Life Center, and her six children all attend or attended the city’s public schools. She helped to found both CC9 and CEJ and is currently an organizer for the Abyssinian Development Corporation in Harlem. “They took the whole community involvement piece out of the expansion of the Lead Teacher Program, which the evaluators felt was a huge part of why it was successful. It was us who brought all of them to the table, to help develop the program. The program was a success. Why in the world would the Department of Education and the mayor’s office expand the program without including our input?”

The school system initiates its Campaign for Middle School Success, incorporating CEJ’s improvement initiatives and appointing CEJ members to the Campaign’s advisory committee.

CEJ launches its College Prep, Not Just Test Prep campaign to improve the city’s schools so that every student graduates high school prepared to succeed in college.

CEJ’s third annual Martin Luther King Day rally at the Abyssinian Baptist Church introduces a K–12 reform platform designed to ensure that the city school system prepares all its students for success in college and/or careers.


About AISR’s Center for Education Organizing
The Center for Education Organizing supports local and national demands for educational justice in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. The Center integrates the expertise of a university-based research center, years of on-the-ground experience supporting education organizing, and a longstanding reputation as a convener of education stakeholders. Center staff provide research, policy analysis, and training to help individual groups and national networks do education reform. The Center also facilitates alliance-building among education organizing groups and with other stakeholders such as civil rights and advocacy organizations, teachers unions, academics, and education researchers. Because parents, teachers, and students have such critical stakes in improving urban public education, building effective collaborations between community groups and teachers unions, and between youth organizers and other stakeholders, are cornerstones of our work. Our support is always tailored to local needs. The supports we can provide include: Training Developing workshops, presentations, or webinars for adult and youth leaders and/or organizers on education policy issues and specific education organizing contexts. Research and Policy Analysis Monitoring and analyzing federal education policy, as well as key issues in states and districts, to inform local work and to identify key directions in national education debates. Quickly distilling research or education data to inform adult and youth organizing campaigns. Alliance-Building Encouraging and facilitating collaboration between community groups and teachers unions and between youth organizers and other stakeholders. Connecting groups working on similar issues and hosting virtual and face-to-face meetings for leaders to learn with and from each other. Helping to connect communities with research and policy experts, civil rights organizations, reform support organizations, and others who can assist them with their organizing work. Building the Field Disseminating knowledge of successful organizing strategies. Initiating and supporting national conversations on strategies and next steps in building a stronger movement for educational justice. CONTACT The Center for Education Organizing welcomes a discussion with you about your organization’s needs and how our range of capabilities can help you achieve your school reform objectives. Email: Phone: (212) 328-9280 Web:

Parent Power Viewer’s Guide


Pedro Noguera, New York University “Research demonstrates that schools improve when parents and communities are engaged and apply constructive pressure for change. Parent Power shows how New York City parents generated significant schooling change across 15 years of organizing efforts. At a time when so many policy-makers focus narrowly on technical solutions to the challenges facing urban schools, Parent Power shows that a more inclusive and dynamic approach can bring improvement.” Charles M. Payne, University of Chicago “Parent Power is about parent ingenuity, persistence, and capacity to outlast a bureaucracy that tried to quash parents’ organizing energy. New York City’s school reform is frequently touted as the result of top-down mandates, but Parent Power shows how thousands of parents mobilized to generate important policy and practice changes. These parents set out to make schools better not only for their children, but for all the city’s children, and they succeeded.” Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers “Children are the real winners when their parents and teachers work together to improve their schools. Parent Power is a terrific story of courage, persistence, and collaboration among parents, community groups, and the teachers union that produced significant school reform for thousands of New York City’s children.”


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