[education reform advocacy organization] leaders are increasingly realizing that the successful enactment, implementation, and protection of the education policy reforms on their agenda—and public perception of the agenda’s legitimacy—necessitates the development of a new, more active approach to parental engagement. This new approach will need to build a permanent, coordinated network of organizations engaged in the type of grassroots parent organizing that can create a lasting social movement behind reform.
The above quote comes from a guest Education Week commentary titled Not Your Parents PTA, and demonstrates why their efforts are doomed to fail.
Speaking as someone who spent nineteen years as a community organizer before becoming a teacher ten years ago, I can tell you that organizations that have long-term success don’t begin with an agenda other than one promoting leadership development and wanting to get people who have not been involved in public life previously engaged in it now. Other than the basic tenets of wanting to be inclusive and recognizing the importance of compromise, organizations that develop long-term power have those goals of wanting to develop leaders, building “relational” power, and being diverse. They don’t start with a school reform agenda that they want new people to support — or, for that matter, a housing agenda, a jobs agenda, or any one particular issue agenda.
I am happy that these school reform groups haven’t yet figured this out, and hope they never will….