Working Principles

June 12, 2006

Schools must empower students to be decision-makers in their own lives and to become active participants in our society by employing principles of Equity and Social Justice. We have adopted many of these principles (indicated with *) from Rethinking Schools: An Urban Educational Journal. Curriculum and Classroom Practice should be: 1. * Grounded in the lives of our students. Curriculum should be based on respect for students and rooted in their lives, needs, and experiences and should help students examine how their lives are connected with the broader society. 2. *Critical. Students should learn to "talk back" to the world. Curriculum and instruction should help students pose critical questions about society, examining popular culture, social structures, government actions, and school life, and should move outside the classroom to connect with real world problems. 3. *Multicultural, anti-racist pro-justice. A social justice curriculum includes the lives and perspectives of everyone in society, especially people who are marginalized. It should engage students in a critique of the roots of inequality. 4. *Participatory, experiential. Students should experience concepts first-hand, e.g., through projects, experiments, and role plays, and should have opportunities for democratic participation by questioning, challenging, making decisions and collectively solving problems. 5. *Hopeful, joyful, kind, visionary. Classrooms should make children feel emotionally and physically safe, significant and cared about, modeling the just and democratic society we envision. 6. *Activist. Children should come to see themselves as truth-tellers and change-makers. Teachers should encourage children to act on their consciences and should give students historical and contemporary examples of people from all cultures who act to make a difference and struggle for justice. 7. *Academically rigorous. Children should develop the tools to change the world and to maneuver in the one that exists. By speaking directly to the alienation so many students feel, teachers aim to inspire and motivate all students to levels of academic performance far greater than those measured by standardized tests or grades. 8. *Culturally and linguistically sensitive.As schools become increasingly diverse, teachers must listen to and learn from students and their families, and teachers need to call on culturally diverse colleagues and community resources for insights into the communities they serve. School-level Policy and Decision-making should support: 1. Collaborative and flexible curriculum. Curriculum decisions should be made collaboratively at the school level to shape a coherent curricular vision aligned with principles of equity and social justice. Within this framework, teachers should have the flexibility to use their expertise and judgment to develop appropriate curriculum for their classrooms. 2. Resources for thoughtful teaching. The school day must include time for teacher reflection, feedback, collaboration and research in preparation for teaching effective lessons. Good teachers are at the core of schooling and can only support students in their educational journeys when they have time to see students as individual beings. 3. Local, democratic decision-making. School policy decisions should be made locally and democratically. Teachers, students and families need to have a voice in school policies and procedures both locally and system- wide. 4. School must address the whole child. While broad social change is needed, immediately teachers need the support of trained professionals to address the social needs of students and their families. Students? safety and survival needs must be met in order for them to focus on rigorous academic work. 5. Multiple forms of academic assessment. Academic progress must be assessed in multiple ways which mirror the complexities of human beings. One standardized test does NOT summarize the academic progress of a student in a full year. Principles of School Reform: 1. *Public schools are responsible to the community, not to the marketplace. Education reform must be grounded in the democratic vision that all of society is responsible for educating the next generation and in the crucial role of public schools to help create a democratic, multi-cultural society. 2. *Schools must be actively multicultural and anti-racist, promoting social justice for all. In every aspect of school life, schools should actively combat racism and discrimination and prejudice based on gender, class, language, sexual orientation, and physical or emotional differences. Schools should make an all-out effort to end inequalities in achievement and should prepare students to transform social inequality and injustice. 3. *Curriculum must be geared to learning for life and the needs of a multicultural democracy. Curriculum reform is key to school reform. Curriculum should be based on principles of social justice (as outlined above). 4. *All children and all schools must receive adequate resources. Across the country there are huge inequalities in school resources. Money, well-spent, matters. Beyond equality in school funding, fairness means that some students deserve and need extra resources, particularly in communities with fewer financial and material resources and in schools that have been historically under-resourced. 5. *Reform must center on the classroom and the needs of children. The first criteria of reform is that it will improve teaching and learning for children in classrooms, particularly low-income students and student who have been marginalized because of race, ethnicity, or language. Standards should be geared toward high-quality and rigorous academics for all children, not on setting up systems of rewards and punishments that perpetuate existing social inequalities. 6. *Good teachers are essential to good schools. In addition to ensuring that all teachers are qualified and educated in the areas they teach, teachers need time for on-going professional development and collegial discussions. And all teachers need to be educated to be actively anti racist and to promote social justice. A particular focus should be on increasing the number of ethnically and racially diverse teachers and ensuring they have access to positions of leadership. 7. *Reform must involve collaboration among educators, parents, and the community. Reform must be based on mutual respect and collaboration among all those involved in public education. Because they have been traditionally marginalized in school reform efforts, parents, in particular, should be brought into the decision- making process at all levels. Collaboration and accountability should be reciprocal communities are responsible to provide schools with necessary resources and schools are responsible to the community at large, not just to the interests of the parents of individual schools. 8. *We must revitalize our urban communities, not just our schools. Joblessness, poverty, substance abuse, and sub-standard housing affect our schools, and massive and ongoing intervention is necessary to address these conditions. Schools can also be centers for community support and renewal by serving the entire community with a variety of recreational, educational, cultural, job training, and social service programs. Working together, schools, labor unions, community groups, religious congregations, and civic leaders can boldly address problems that are too large for any one group to solve on their own. *Adopted September 2000