WASHINGTON -- An innovative school reform experiment aimed at the lowest performing schools in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and St. Louis was launched in Washington yesterday. The Ford Foundation is providing a $500,000 grant to help support labor-management partnerships with local school personnel, parents and a host of education associations. The alliance is being formed at a time when the public is impatient with school reforms and some mayors have taken over failing schools, as recently occurred in Detroit.
"Intervening in a school district is a big issue. We think local people can do a better job of taking care of their schools than a government take over," said Harold Seamon, Deputy Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
"This is unique because it brings together all the adults that have leadership roles in education," said Joe Aguerreberre, Program Officer for the Ford Foundation. "We know what works. Now we need to work collaboratively," he added.
The project will encourage participating schools to create a coalition of all the adults that come in contact with the education system. Each school would have a broad based advisory committee that includes a Board of Education representative, superintendent, union leaders, school support staff, and teachers and others. The diverse participants will then choose a reform curriculum for their school and work together to implement it.
Lisa Kaboolean, of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University will lead training seminars for participants and will evaluate the five-city program.
Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said this is the first time that all the national players have been brought together to help people at the local level. "This is something new," Feldman explained,"all the participants are in agreement on what works and what are proven programs. This consensus hadn't existed before."
The project is sponsored by the State and Local Government Labor-Management Committee, made up of 29 national unions, public employer organizations, and education groups. The national partners include: the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, National School Boards Association, and Service Employees International Union.
The school districts were chosen because they met criteria that included desire to participate, size, capacity, location and presence of a collective bargaining relationship for the labor-management teams.