Reform with Engagement


Michelle Rhee came out of the starting gate full speed ahead when she began as Chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS). Within her first year she closed 23 schools, fired almost half of DCPS’ principals, over 250 teachers and 500 teaching aides, allocated $200 million for school revitalization, and quadrupled funds for professional development. While her efforts have proven to bring about some change in schools operations, many stakeholders criticize Rhee for acting unilaterally.
Considering the wide ranging reforms that are supposed to take place, the budget for the upcoming school year is currently at the top of DCPS’ agenda. Since the District is facing a financial deficit, city officials intend to use money from the federal stimulus package for schools to free up local funds. In addition to that package, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education recently submitted an application to receive the federal government’s Race to the Top grant for states. Shortly, the government will open the application to districts. The Race to the Top fund is under section 14006 of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, totaling $4.3 billion. DC could receive between $20 to $75 million of that money . DCPS’ central office can and should use the application process as an opportunity to engage community stakeholders by considering their opinions on schools’ improvement. The Washington Post recently published an article stating that according to their polls, "Rhee's performance was viewed favorably by 59 percent of residents in January 2008, with 29 percent disapproving. Now, there is a near-even split: 43 percent approve of what she's doing, and 44 percent are dissatisfied. Those with children in D.C. public schools have nearly reversed their opinion of Rhee. Two years ago, 54 percent of those parents approved of her; now, 54 percent disapprove." 
From the beginning, DC VOICE has emphasized the power of public engagement when making decisions for DCPS, and we have maintained our commitment to involve all community members and stakeholders in the reform process. We make a point to share data collected in schools from teachers, students, principals, and staff, and we base our decisions to take action based on community responses. At town hall meetings parents, residents, faith and nonprofit organizations, administrators, teachers, and public officials are encouraged to participate in Q&As, small group discussions, and open forums.  Coming up in March, DC VOICE is holding a press conference in partnership with City Council to announce the introduction of the community schools legislation authored by DC VOICE. The legislation was created in response to our 2008 and 2009 Ready Schools and Ready Classrooms project data as well as 13 town hall meetings we held across the city as part of this initiative. DC VOICE anticipates that by the end of this month, DC City Council will have introduced legislation establishing a non-lapsing, segregated community schools investment fund with an initial investment of  between $1 and $1.5 million, based on DC VOICE data and DC VOICE staff and member drafted legislative recommendations.   
While established reforms have increased some aspects of school success in the last two years, change brought about recently has failed to incorporate the voices of all stakeholders. Reform that is not informed by community opinions undermines community authority, and is counterproductive to its empowerment. By borrowing the five rules of community engagement from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and fusing it with our own practices, DC VOICE hopes to influence change in stakeholder communication, for more positive interactions and outcomes in DC public schools.

Rule #1:   A public hearing is not a community conversation
Rule #2:  Talk with or share, do not “talk to” or tell
Rule #3:  “Releasing” information is not getting the word out; disseminate info.
Rule #4:  Seeking and finding common ground is not the same as seeking to protect political turf.
Rule #5:  Taking responsibility does not always mean asserting authority.
Rule #6:  Instead of influencing those who are not like-minded, understand.
Rule #7:  Change should not be influenced from the bottom up, but not the top down.
Rule #8:  Power over decision-making should not be based on establishing a hierarchy, but building a network of
Rule #9:  Supportive communication emphasizes the process not the products.
Rule #10: Engagement is the most significant component of public relations.

 - Excerpt from the Annenberg Institute on Public Engagement for Public Education, "Reasons for Hope Voices for Change." 

1 Comentário:

Anonymous said...

TAHNKS FOR YOUR SHARING~~~VERY NICE ........................................

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