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ERIC Number: ED529276
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 44
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
What's Trust Got to Do with It? A Communications and Engagement Guide for School Leaders Tackling the Problem of Persistently Failing Schools
Johnson, Jean
Public Agenda
The rationale for taking bold action on the nation's persistently failing schools can be summed up in one dramatic and disturbing statistic: half of the young Americans who drop out of high school attend just 12 percent of the nation's schools. Ending the cycle of failure at schools is a daunting challenge and a surprisingly controversial one. There is an intense expert debate on which kinds of reform are most likely to be successful and an uneven track record for even the most earnest attempts at school turnarounds. In many instances, school leaders seem trapped between two undesirable options. They can back away from serious reform to mollify protesting parents, students, teachers, and community residents. That often means students continue attending deeply dysfunctional schools that rob them of their future. Or, leaders can push changes through despite broad opposition. The risk here is that reforms may not be sustained because they are not accepted or well-understood. Even with strong support from governors, mayors, and other key leaders, forging ahead in the face of widespread resistance can damage trust and cohesion and leave superintendents and principals working with alienated, suspicious parents, teachers, and students. That makes a tough challenge even more difficult, and in most cases, it's not the best starting point for long-term success. This paper is an effort to help school leaders and reformers find a third path. The goal is to aid leaders in understanding and anticipating negative community reactions to bold school turnaround proposals. With a more complete, nuanced appreciation of "where communities are coming from"--and by applying well-tested communications and engagement strategies--leaders may be able to avoid the most pernicious and negative forms of public opposition. In this case, forewarned is forearmed. The report draws on three strands of information: (1) An assessment of parents' views on school turnarounds; (2) Public Agenda's reservoir of opinion research and engagement work; and (3) Advice from communications and engagement experts. A complete summary of the background research can be found on page 35. (Contains 5 tables and 23 footnotes.) [This report was written with Jon Rochkind, Michael Remaley and Jeremiah Hess. For a review of this report, see ED529296.]
Public Agenda. 6 East 39th Street, New York, NY 10016. Tel: 212-686-6610; Fax: 212-889-3461; Web site:
Publication Type: Guides - Non-Classroom; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: Administrators
Language: English
Sponsor: Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation; Joyce Foundation; Skillman Foundation
Authoring Institution: Public Agenda
Identifiers - Location: Colorado; District of Columbia; Illinois; Michigan