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THE PEOPLE’S LOBBY Create Communities of Learners The question of education reform hits every Texas familywhether they live in a property-poor district or a wealthy school district. The simple fact is that our education system is not serving our children. And in not serving our children, it is not serving the possibility for the economic well-being of the entire state as we enter the 21st century. A vast majority of the people and communities in the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Network are saddled with inadequate school funding. But that is not a condition peculiar to the IAF Network. According to the state comptroller, 68 percent of all Texas school districts have below-average wealth. Sixty percent of our schoolchildren, over 1.8 million students, go to school in those districts. With school district property wealth as the chief determinant of education spending, that does not bode well for our future. It does not bode well for Joe Robledo of Edinburg, who wants to see his five daughters really learn, go on to college and become productive, fulfilled members of society. It does not bode well for the parents of students at Morningside Middle School in Fort Worth. So they decided to do something about it. Along with their counterparts in other parts of the state, Morningside parents have worked in the organizations of the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Network to develop a comprehensive program for restructuring Texas public education so that their children will be prepared for the pluralistic, dynamically changing society of the 21st century. Central to this program is the concept of schools as communities of learners. In order to create these communities of learners, state government first has to be willing to invest in its students to ensure equity and adequacy in the funding of schools. .It must guarantee that all Texas schoolchildren have access to talented teachers in reduced student/teacher ratios so that the assembly-line methods of teaching are replaced by the give-and-take of a student-teacher relationship. It must ensure that all Texas schoolchildren have access to enriched co This publication Is available \\ is ‘simians Iran University Microfilms International. Call lollfros 000-321.3044. Or mail inquiry to: University Microfilms internaional. 300 rth &we Mad. Aaa Arbor. MI W t O& curricular activities, to committed administrators, to safe and adequate school environments and to the tools and resources now enjoyed only by students in wealthy school districts. It must include special programs for children with special needs. To this end, the Texas IAF Network supports efforts to restructure funding to provide equalized access to revenues for all students. But adequate funding for education is just the starting point for education reform. It is necessary, but not sufficient to produce a new standard of education for the New Texas. With funding in place, our system of education has to undergo a dramatic overhaul. The goal has to be to educate our young people for a future that will make increasing demands upon their minds, their creativity, and their ability to adapt to change. Our goal is to see to it that all Texas schoolchildren graduate from high school not just with basic literacy and numeracy skills, but with a proven ability as problem solvers, as people who can teach and re-teach themselves, and as people who can work collaboratively. Under a new education policy, that is how schools be judged. They should be accountable not for their input, but for the students they create. This will mean that schools should have greater flexibility in addressing the learning challenges set before them. Rather than judging schools by their ability to run through the entire spectrum of essential elements, they should be judged by their ability to meet the special learning needs of their students. This means that teachers should have the resources and flexibility to call upon a number of teaching approaches, including teamteaching, peer tutoring, teacher mentoring, collaborative learning, and self-paced learning. It means schools should be given the option of subdividing into smaller communities of learners, forming several schools within a common campus. And above all, it means that parents, teachers and administrators be empowered to work together to create the community they think best addresses the educational needs of their children. This includes the possibilities for site-based management and decisionmaking within a school on substantive issues. As parents, teachers, and administrators begin to take on a new roles in the school, the school and the entire community become energized. In many poor neighborhoods this is crucial to improving education. Schools can become community centers, providing some social services and support for low-income families. Many can also provide classes in adult education, literacy, and English-as-a-Second-Language, which not only serve the parent, but allow that parent to become an important factor in his or her child’s education. The school becomes a community of learners that includes the schoolchildren, their parents, teachers, administrators, and possibly other members of the community. There are several successful models. For the past four years, the Allied Communities of Tarrant has worked with the principal and teachers of Morningside Middle School in Fort Worth to build a strong parent-empowerment program. The effort has centered on community involvement, building strong relationships among parents, teachers, and administrators, and the support for a strong teacher-leadership team. As a result of this infusion of community support, the performance of students at the Morningside Middle School on standardized tests rose over three years from the lowest test scores in the district to third among all middle schools. Where before only one-third of the school’s students passed all parts of the state’s TEAMS test, 89 percent passed all sections after three years. Where half of all students had failed at least one subject, only 6 percent failed last year. Police calls for the school fell from two or three per day to virtually none. Where there was no parent involvement three years ago, parents now fill 25 key advisory roles within the school. In San Antonio, Communities Organized Alliance instituted the San Antonio Education Partnership, a coalition of local school districts, universities, and businesses that have created scholarship and job opportunities for graduating seniors. Their work raised the aspirations of recent high school graduates in the program. In participating schools, the number of seniors maintaining a least a B average soared from 19 percent to 61 percent and those graduating jumped from 81 percent to 92 percent. This program can become a model for a public/private partnership statewide. When students are provided with hope for their future in combination with the skills needed to meet the demands of the future, their individual potential and the potential for the future of this state is boundless. Millions of Texans, like Joe Robledo of Valley Interfaith, have great hopes for their children. They need the state to invest new money and create new perspectives for the education of their children so that those hopes can be realized. ANDY SERABIA Andy Serabia was the first president of COPS \(Communities Organized for Public cation issues for the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Network, a statewide organization of community-based advocacy groups. 10 FEBRUARY 8, 1991