NEPC Review: What’s Trust Got to Do With It? (Public Agenda, December 2011)
This report offers recommendations for building community support for federal school turnaround approaches, particularly in communities that oppose these approaches. Parents, the report concludes, want improvement but cherish their local schools and distrust the turnaround options mandated from above by higher levels of government. Thus, community members rise up in anger when their school faces closure, conversion to a charter school, breaking up, or forced replacement of staff. Arguing that this resistance is due in large part to parents not understanding how bad their schools are, the report proposes that by engaging the public constructively and using eight communication strategies, parents will react more positively towards imposed turnaround approaches. The report does not address the body of research that shows school turnarounds to be generally unsuccessful. Further, even though parents in the study raise concerns that their schools are under-resourced and face significant social problems, the report fails to address these issues. By diverting attention from the real problems correctly identified by the parents and by possibly disrupting ongoing reforms, this communication strategy holds little promise for actually improving education and could prove harmful.