Citywide Parent Summit & Survey

Citywide parent survey results were released today, the efforts of a coalition of groups who wanted to find out what parents actually know about schools -- and what to do about it. I'd love to see the methods and numbers, but it's an interesting project and maybe you'll learn some things reading the press release below.

Were you at the summit -- what was it like?

What do you think are the things most parents don't know about?

What do you think are the most critical things parents should know about their schools?

Convened by

Target Area DevCorp and the following members:

Action Now

Albany Park Neighborhood Council (APNC)

Ambassadors For Christ Church

Association of Howe Elementary School Parents

Coalition of African Arab Asian European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois (CAAAELII)

Disciples for Christ

Enlace Chicago

Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization (MAGIC)

New Birth Christian Center

Organization of the NorthEast (ONE)

People's Community Development Association

West Town Leadership United (WTLU)

Target Area DevCorp

1542 West 79th Street

Chicago, IL 60620

773.651.6470

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Laurie R. Glenn

Phone: 773.252.8672 ext. 301

Mobile: 773.704.7246

E-mail: lrglenn@thinkincstrategy.com

Mike Doyle

Mobile: 773.294.8035

E-mail: mdoyle@thinkincstrategy.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2009

PRESS RELEASE

CHICAGO PARENTS CRITICALLY UNDERINFORMED ABOUT

PUBLIC EDUCATION PROBLEMS ACCORDING TO NEW SURVEY

Results released today at a Citywide Education Summit

to discuss solutions to ongoing parental knowledge gap

CHICAGO––According to the results of a citywide survey released today, the parents of Illinois and Chicago public school students are poorly informed about the real problems and challenges faced by local students. The survey report, Parent Perceptions, Student Realities in Chicago Schools, released by the Citywide Education Organizing Campaign (the Campaign), a coalition of 13 community groups convened by Target Area DevCorp, explores ways to better engage parents in decisions regarding public education.

"It is imperative that parents play a leadership role in serious reform efforts affecting public education in Illinois," said Rev. Patricia Watkins, Executive Director of Target Area DevCorp. "In order to perform well, parents need accurate, timely information from unbiased sources. Unfortunately, the Campaign research suggests many parents are not being given all the information they need to make informed decisions about the educational futures of their children. We must unite ourselves now and create a remedy that speaks to this important matter because the price of ignorance on this issue is too high."

A PRESSING NEED TO BETTER ENGAGE WITH PARENTS

Most of the information parents receive about ongoing school issues comes from unofficial sources, leaving them with an incomplete view of the real education needs of local students and disempowering them from participating in district-level decision-making regarding significant school changes. In response to this problem, in 2008 the Campaign launched a strategic Citywide Learning & Action Initiativeto raise awareness about current education challenges in Chicago and groom parent and student leaders to engage in a dynamic, forward-looking discussion about the next wave of Illinois school reform.

Working in 44 Chicago community areas and six near suburbs, Campaign organizers launched a door-to-door Citywide Education Surveyof almost 1,400 parents to probe attitudes regarding public education, and convened 25 follow-up Community Focus Groups, with 200 interested parents, students, and community members to discuss current research on Illinois and Chicago public schools.

Campaign organizers were surprised to discover that parents’ perceptions largely did not reflect the current realities prevalent in the public education system. Although survey respondents were positive about certain education issues, focus group participants – who received a detailed research brief regarding crises in education – were far less optimistic regarding the potential for students to thrive academically, graduate college, and go on to successful jobs.

The Campaign found the following attitudes prevalent among Chicago parents:

Parental Knowledge Gaps:

* Tremendous lack of awareness regarding the troubled state of public education in Chicago, including systemic problems like current low academic performance levels, graduation rates, and post-graduation college achievement levels.

* Lack of knowledge regarding potential school closures and student transfers, and a feeling that existing transfers are not going well for students.

* Lack of knowledge about charter schools, including how they are funded, and who can attend them.

* Violence is not diminishing in and around local schools, and that schools rarely inform parents about such problems.

Need for Improvement:

* Public officials and local school districts to concentrate on the adequate preparation of students for successful adult lives, including improving schools and developing first-class high schools in every neighborhood.

* Schools could do better, notably through promoting the holistic development of students from early age through college, and recruiting and retaining more highly qualified teachers.

* Numerous other improvements include better community support systems, tutoring, elementary education, parental participation, teacher aides, truancy officers, after-school programs, and college-prep opportunities.

"As the Campaign's findings show, Illinois parents are worried that our local schools will fail our children," said Audrey Donaldson, Leadership Coach of the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). "We have an opportunity today to make sure that does not happen."

IMPROVEMENTS SOUGHT ON MANY FRONTS

Time and again, Campaign organizers discovered Chicago parents did not have an accurate understanding of current education problems and challenges – but once they learned of these issues, parents wanted to enter the education debate.

In order to mend this critical gap between parent perception and student reality, the Campaign strongly recommends that schools give parents more abundant, timely, and accurate information regarding education issues, school closings and transfers, public safety, and charter schools, and offer parents more opportunities to volunteer and discuss decisions affecting public schools.

The Campaign also believes improvements are needed in school and community support structures, college preparation, and strategies to re-engage dropouts.

"Information access is key," said Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, President of Enlace Chicago, a Campaign member. "Parents need to be kept well-informed by official sources and offered many opportunities to participate in the daily life of local schools."

A CITYWIDE EDUCATION SUMMIT TO FOSTER DEBATE

The Campaign's report was released today at an invitation-only Citywide Education Summitheld at the Ukrainian Cultural Center on the Near Northwest Side of Chicago before an audience of 400 education, civic, and foundation leaders, parents, and students.

Summit participants included Advance Illinois President Robin Steans, Target Area DevCorp Executive Director and PRISE Reform Convener Rev. Patricia Watkins, Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago Executive Vice-President Dea Meyer, Grow Your Own Illinois Executive Director Anne Hallett, Enlace Chicago President Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Academy for Urban School Leadership Leadership Coach Audrey Donaldson, Action Now Lead Organizer Madeline Talbott,and Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN) Executive Director Rami Nashashibi.

The Campaign and member organizations hope that today's findings and discussion will serve to advance debate and foster a citywide consensus regarding solutions to local public-education challenges with multiple civic, business, philanthropic, and governmental partners.

"Right now we are at a crossroad with public education in Chicago," said Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, a Campaign member. "We're here to ensure the road we go down as stewards of our children's future leads to their lifelong success. They deserve no less of us."

The Citywide Education Organizing Campaign was convened by TARGET Area DevCorp and 12 partner organizations around a strategic Citywide Learning & Action Initiative to engage Chicago-area parents in advocacy and action aime

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