NEPC Review: Turning Lightning into Electricity: Organizing Parents for Education Reform (American Enterprise Institute, )
This report presents the findings of research on parent organizing within what the report calls Education Reform Advocacy Organizations (ERAO), such as Stand for Children and Parent Revolution. The ERAO agendas focus on standards, test-based accountability, teacher tenure reform, and parent choice. The report recognizes that ERAOs are often criticized as astroturf organizations that mobilize parents behind their agendas instead of building authentic parent power; it then presents some evidence that many groups are committed to long-lasting parent engagement, and it reports on the community organizing practices they use to build parent leadership. Unfortunately, the report’s presentation of research methods is so weak that the research cannot be relied upon without a better idea of the rigor or lack of rigor of its approach. The findings may be valid for the groups studied, but the selection is biased towards ERAOs that work to build sustainable forms of parent participation; it is unclear if those groups are representative of the broader field of ERAOs. While the report suggests some community organizing strategies can be used to advance the ERAO version of education reform, this approach undermines an understanding of community organizing as a democratic practice through which organizations and agendas emerge out of the concerns and through the actions of indigenous community leaders working to build a more inclusive public democracy.