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Spring 2003 Vol. 10. No. 3 Focus on Standardized Tests

Guest opinions

Community organizing creates a new form of accountability

Test scores are just one tool to hold schools accountable

By by Eva Gold and Elaine Simon

In this model, parents and guardians, community members, students, educators, school and district administrators, city and state elected officials, and civic leaders can all be involved in determining how "success" is measured and working to ensure that schools are moving toward greater success. Because public accountability involves the participation of large numbers of people, it also has the potential to build political will for necessary changes in policies and funding.

Locally, parent, student, and community organizing groups are building public accountability to bring improvements to schools and also joining with advocacy and other groups in citywide coalitions, such as the recent campaign by Philadelphians United to Support Public Schools.

Although "public accountability" is not a widely understood concept, we feel that it is essential for improving urban public schools. Broad-scale, collective responsibility increases and diversifies the resources available for improving schools and also permits new voices to participate in defining when a school is "successful."


About the Author

Eva Gold and Elaine Simon are senior research associates at Research for Action.  The analysis on which this article is based is presented in the report series "Strong Neighborhoods, Strong Schools," available on the Cross City Campaign website,  The report includes five detailed case studies of community organizing groups from across the country.  Rachel Mausner assisted in the preparation of this article.

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