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Improving Education

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A Public Voice '00: Public Schools

Milton B. Hoffman Productions.

Each year, many public television stations around the nation air an hour-long program that features U.S. citizens deliberating in National Issues Forums around the nation. The programs also feature distinguished panels of nationally known political leaders, commentators and journalists meeting at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to reflect on what this 'public voice' may mean in setting direction for America. The topics are different each year.

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Conditions for Change: Georgians Talk About How to Improve Public Schools and Education

Prepared by The Harwood Group for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, 1994.

Conversations with Georgia residents reveals that improving public education is a top priority for Georgians across the state. Our experience suggests that to tap this desire and move ahead effectively, Georgians - and citizens everywhere who, like those in Georgia, want to improve their public schools - need to focus on seven key principles for building sustainable changes in education.

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Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century

Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; with Katie Clinton, Ravi Purushotma, Alice J. Robinson and Margaret Weigel. MacArthur Foundation, 2006.

This occasional paper on digital media and learning talks about how over half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one-third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced. In many cases, these teens are actively involved in what we are calling participatory cultures. A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another.

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Creating a Formula for Success in Low-Performing Schools

Public Agenda.

This Citizen ChoiceWork guide (and video) from Public Agenda was developed for community conversations, classrooms, study groups, and individuals. Too many schools have students who are just getting by, or failing to learn much at all. We look at four hypothetical school communities and their different approaches to boosting student achievement: set high expectations and hold schools accountable; increase resources for classroom essentials; increase parent and community involvement; and ensure effective leadership. Spanish language version available.

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Democratic Dilemmas: Joint Work, Education Politics, and Community Highly Recommended

Julie A. Marsh. SUNY Press (SUNY series, School Districts: Research, Policy, and Reform), 2007.

This 228-page book written by policy researcher Julie Marsh explores ways to engage citizens in the process of educational improvement. The book highlights the inherent tensions of deliberative democracy, competing notions of representation, limitations of current conceptions of educational accountability, and the foundational importance of trust to democracy and education reform. It further provides a framework for improving community-educator collaboration and lessons for policy and practice.

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Education Issue Guide

Public Agenda.

It's hard to find any American who isn't touched in some way by the public schools as a student, parent, taxpayer, employer, or any combination of the above. And by almost any measure, the schools are one of the public's top concerns. Test scores indicate the problems are not as bad as two decades ago, but even so public confidence in public schools has declined dramatically over the past 25 years. Public Agenda Issue Guides or “Citizen Choicework Guides” contain background information on the topic and present three different approaches to the issue for people to deliberate.

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Education Policy: Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth

Jason Cianciotto and Sean Cahill. The Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (, 2003.

This report provides a comprehensive overview of the school experiences of LGBT youth, and existing policy interventions aimed at making schools safe and affirming environments for all students. It also examines recent federal policy changes that complicate these efforts, and offers a research agenda to fill these gaps in our understanding of the experiences of LGBT youth and children of LGBT parents.

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Education: How Can Schools and Communities Work Together to Meet the Challenge? A Guide for Involving Community Members in Public Dialogue and Problem Solving (3rd Edition)

Study Circles Resource Center (SCRC), 1997.

A multiple-session discussion guide examining the challenges schools face and the ways in which citizens and educators can improve education.

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Education: How Do We Get The Results We Want?

National Issues Forums.

This booklet bypasses the familiar arguments about how to reform our schools, to focus on who can most effectively bring about the educational results we want. This nonpartisan guide is used for citizen deliberations in National Issues Forums.

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Effective Public Engagement

Steve Farkas. Public Agenda, 1993.

This 35-page report explores effective communication about proposals to set higher academic standards for students.

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Empowered Participation: Reinventing Urban Democracy

Archon Fung. Princeton University Press, 2004.

Every month in every neighborhood in Chicago, residents, teachers, school principals, and police officers gather to deliberate about how to improve their schools and make their streets safer. Residents of poor neighborhoods participate as much or more as those from wealthy ones. All voices are heard. Since the meetings began more than a dozen years ago, they have led not only to safer streets but also to surprising improvements in the city's schools. Chicago's police department and school system have become democratic urban institutions unlike any others in America. Empowered Participation is the compelling chronicle of this unprecedented transformation.

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Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change

Ira Shor. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Ira Shor is a pioneer in the field of critical education who for over twenty years has been experimenting with learning methods. His work creatively adapts the ideas of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire for North American classrooms. In Empowering Education Shor offers a comprehensive theory and practice for critical pedagogy.

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Ensuring School Safety Guide

Public Agenda.

Everyone wants schools that are safe, where students, teachers and support staff can concentrate on learning and not have to worry about crime and violence. In this community dialogue, you'll be asked to discuss your ideas on the best way to ensure that schools are safe places for children to learn and grow. Different approaches to school safety will have different benefits and different costs and challenges. To help you and your neighbors decide what is most important to you, Public Agenda presents in this Citizens ChoiceWork Guide three hypothetical school communities, each of which has approached the issue of school safety in a different way.

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ESR Journal: Educating for Democracy

Educators for Social Responsibility, 1992.

Filled with thoughtful articles on education for democracy, this volume offers insights and strategies that highlight what works and why. Articles address issues of democratic participation, diversity, the dynamics of power and empowerment, and more. Article authors include: Paul Martin Du Bois, Laurie Olsen, Seth Kreisberg, and Deborah First.

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Everybody Ready for School: How Can we Ensure High Quality Early Childhood Programs?

Public Agenda.

Many educators, parents and researchers agree that high quality "school readiness" programs can help youngsters be more successful later on in school and in life. But preschool programs vary widely in quality. How can we make sure that all preschool programs provide safe and enriching environments that do a good job preparing children for school? In other words, how can we make sure all preschool programs are of the highest possible quality? This Citizen ChoiceWork Guide (and video) from Public Agenda presents three approaches: fund programs more adequately and equitably; create standards and accountability; and give parents more choice. Available in video and print format.

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Hard Talk: Connecting Education with Our Community

Kettering Foundation, 1992.

This workbook outlines a four-step process that can help citizen groups explore how education relates to what they really want for their communities. The process is designed to lead to a new way of thinking and talking about education.

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Healing Racism: Education's Role

Nathan Rutstein and Michael Morgan. Whitcomb Publishing, 1996.

The book "Healing Racism: Education's Role" is a compilation of 16 articles written by noted experts on how to attack racism through classroom education, from elementary school to college campuses.

Helping All Students Succeed in a Diverse Society

Public Agenda.

Sometimes particular groups of students across a district are achieving at lower levels than others. In a society as diverse as ours, how can we best help all children succeed in school? This Citizen ChoiceWork Guide (and video) from Public Agenda examines three approaches: raise expectations, demand excellence of all students, and have higher standards for student achievement; increase parental and community involvement and help students with social problems that distract them from learning; and ensure a safe and respectful learning environment.

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Helping Every Student Succeed: Schools and Communities Working Together

Study Circles Resource Center (SCRC), 2002.

A four-session discussion guide to help schools and communities improve academic achievement for all students.

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Higher Education Issue Guide

Public Agenda.

Attending college has become part of the American dream, as much as owning a home or feeling secure in retirement. Getting a college degree, or at least some form of education after high school, is the surest way of entering (and remaining in) the middle class. But while the traditional picture of higher education is of the ivy-covered campus, the reality is much more diverse. Public Agenda Issue Guides or “Citizen Choicework Guides” contain background information on the topic and present three different approaches to the issue for people to deliberate.

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