Led by two parent organizers — one inNew York Cityand one inChicago— this group says it's parents, not the unions, not the CEOs, and not even many of the academics, who have the right idea of how to improve public schools.
"There's a complete disconnect between what we're being told by the politicians and the businesspeople about what we should want schools to do, and what parents want schools to do," the executive director of the Chicago-based Parents United for Responsible Education, Julie Woestehoff, said. "But frankly what parents want schools to do is better for their children. They know best."
In hope of narrowing the gap, Ms. Woestehoff's group is issuing a several-page manifesto outlining its ideas for how to improve schools. Among the top suggestions of the document, titled "Common Sense Educational Reforms," are easing overcrowding; lowering class sizes; offering a more well-rounded curriculum, and increasing parental involvement.
The letter is co-authored by the executive director of the New York City-based advocacy group Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson, and has 75 signatures.
The prescriptions sharply contradict ideas recommended by two major groups this summer that were themselves at odds.
One of those groups, led byChancellor Joel Klein, recommended tough accountability standards that would lead to the firing of bad teachers and the closing of failing schools; the other, called the Broader, Bolder Agenda, argued that accountability alone cannot dissolve the achievement gap — that additional investments in improving health care and after-school programs are required to do so.
The parents criticize both groups. They dismiss Mr. Klein's as offering only a beefed-up version of President Bush's unpopular No Child Left Behind law. Mr. Klein's prescriptions are "NCLB on steroids," the parents' letter says.
They also reject charter schools, which are embraced by Mr. Klein and his supporters as a means of giving opportunities to poor children. The Common Sense group says charter schools actually further exacerbate income disparities by admitting only children who can do well at their schools and leaving the rest to flounder. . . .