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Getting to Outcomes: A User's Guide to a Revised Indicators Framework for Education Organizing

January 1, 2013

Research for Action (RFA) has been among those engaged in education organizing research and has drawn on its previous efforts–as well as the knowledge built by community organizing groups and other researchers–to create this User's Guide. The Indicators Framework can serve as a tool to help education organizing groups engage in self-reflection and evaluation of their efforts. Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER) commissioned RFA to update its theory of change, developed in partnership with CPER in 2002. The theory of change explains how education organizing works to strengthen communities and improve schools. Accompanying this theory of change was a set of indicators that could be used to assess the outcomes of the organizing process. This updated Indicators Framework reflects the adaptations education organizing groups are making in response to the new education realities, and to over a decade of experience working to change schools in low-income neighborhoods.

Transition to High School: School 'Choice' and Freshman Year in Philadelphia

February 1, 2010

The School District of Philadelphia's tiered system of selective, nonselective, and charter high schools, and the process for high school choice, has created real variation in the degree to which high schools can successfully meet the needs of ninth graders. Research has shown that the ninth grade year is critical in determining a student's likelihood of graduating from high school. This mixed-methods study examines the transition to high school in Philadelphia, which we define as including the eighth grade high school selection process and students' experience in their ninth grade year. In our analysis of eighth grade applications to district-managed high schools for the 2007-08 school year, we found that most District eighth graders participated in the high school selection process, but fewer than half of them were admitted and enrolled in any of their chosen schools. Further, comparing across types of high schools, we found first, that the choice process contributes to system stratification, with low-income students, Black and Latino students, students who need special supports, and boys concentrated in nonselective neighborhood high schools and Whites, Asians, and girls concentrated in special admission high schools. Second, we learned that the choice process creates distinct challenges to the neighborhood schools' ability to support ninth graders. Enrollment at neighborhood high schools does not settle until the school selection process settles in late summer, and then continues to shift through the fall due to geographic mobility and returns from the juvenile justice system or other schools. Late enrollments undercut the ability of the neighborhood high schools to prepare for incoming classes, and contribute to changes in course schedules and teacher assignments after the school year begins, which cost important instructional time. Finally, we found that despite widespread acknowledgement of the importance of the freshman year, competing district agendas often mean it is not a priority in district and school planning. Freshman year interventions are often implemented piecemeal, without the professional support teachers need to adopt new practices, and without the assessments needed to know if they are effective. We argue that if low-performing neighborhood high schools are going to "turn around" or improve, it will require not only building school capacity but also implementing changes to the broader systems of district policy and practice in which these schools function, including the high school selection process.

A Philadelphia Story: Building Civic Capacity for School Reform in a Privatizing System

December 15, 2007

Following the 2001 state takeover of the School District of Philadelphia, a new governance structure was established and an ambitious set of reforms went into effect, generating renewed public confidence in the district. Despite this, maintaining reform momentum continues to be difficult in Philadelphia. This can be traced to on-going challenges to civic capacity around education. Defined by Stone et al (2001), civic capacity involves collaboration and mobilization of the city's civic and community sectors to pursue the collective good of educational improvement. Using interviews conducted with over 65 local civic actors and district administrators, and case studies of local organizations involved with education, the authors examine civic capacity in the context of Philadelphia. The authors find that while many individuals and organizations are actively involved with the schools, there are several factors that present unique challenges to the development of civic capacity in Philadelphia. Despite these challenges, the authors conclude that there are many reasons to be optimistic and offer several recommendations for generating civic capacity -- the kind that creates and sustains genuine educational change.

Clients, Consumers, or Collaborators? Parents and their Roles in School Reform During Children Achieving, 1995-2000

August 1, 2001

The Children Achieving reform plan envisioned parents as critical players in school reform, a vision that freshly emphasized the need to transform relations between local schools and parents and communities. This vision represented a departure from the passive view of parents as clients and consumers to an active view of them as collaborators with education professionals in shaping children's school experience. This report provides an overview of the many roles Children Achieving envisioned for parents between 1995- 2000, with particular attention to their role as education leaders and collaborators with teachers and principals in school reform.