Last year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million contribution to Newark schools, and made a public commitment to parent and community engagement. I’ve written a lot since that time about how that second part hasn’t worked out real well.
It’s great that they recognized the importance of speaking to parents. However but just sending out canvassers who have no relationship with the people they’re visiting and knocking on doors without making an appointment is the worst form of what is often called “slash and burn” community organizing. It can provide the illusion of two-way “conversation” but, in fact, just be a form of one-way “communication.” It can allow those who are organizing it to say they are just doing what the people want done, without really involving anyone other than the parents who agree with them. It is not the way any effective organizer would go about building long-term engagement.
However, it is an excellent way to provide the illusion of community buy-in if you already have a set plan you are going to implement, which is appears to be exactly the case.
Here are my choices for The Best Posts & Articles For Learning About Newark’s $100 Million From Facebook:
Yesterday, the Non-Profit Quarterly published Newark Parents Pushed Out of Decision Making on Zuckerberg Donation.
“Mayor Booker’s reform plan was presented fully formed, without involving parents” is a parent quote from NPR’s story, Fight Ensues Over Facebook Money for N.J. Schools.
USA Today published Newark school woes transcend money.
One of the consequences of poorly done efforts like Newark’s and the parent trigger strategy is that it begins to pit parent against parent.Check out Meeting about Newark superintendent search turns into shouting match over charter schools.
Since the donation announcement, I shared my skepticism about the extremely expensive (and, in my opinion, useless) effort undertaken in Newark to go door-to-door to ask residents what they think should be done about the schools. It was paid for by part of the $100 million donation by Facebook’s founder. New Jersey newspapers reported that — surprise, surprise — the school district already had a plan in place they were, and are, going to implement. And it doesn’t look pretty. Read: Broken promises: Newark school plan kept many in the dark.
A New Jersey newspaper subsequently reported more on the plan, which includes a massive expansion of charter schools. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“In an ideal world, you would want results of the community engagement process to drive the reform proposal, not the other way around,” said Paul Tractenberg, a law professor at Rutgers-Newark who is helping to conduct the community survey, due out in late March. “This report has formed a cloud over how all of this will play out.”
Dana Goldstein offers some good perspectives on Newark’s community outreach effort in her post, $1 Million Survey on Newark Public School Reform Proves Inconclusive.
Here’s how a Newark newspaper described the outreach project, “The effort has produced a mountain of survey answers so vague and simplistic that they are of little or no use” which is okay because it was just “meant to generate excitement in the city.”
PENewark outreach to reform Newark schools is a waste of time, money, critics say is another local newspaper article describing the outreach process used. Shockingly to me, Frederick Hess (with whom I don’t ordinarily agree), articulate my perspective exactly:
“Once he’s banged on every door and heard a litany of complaints, I’m not sure how that will position him to better transform the Newark schools,” Hess said of Booker. “If they want the community and parents engaged in an improvement process, asking people to fill out a questionnaire on their doorsteps isn’t the way to do it. This feels more like the census than community organizing.”
Feedback is welcome.
If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to my main blog for free, or subscribe to this one for free.
You might also want to explore the 780 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.