Teach Our Children (TOC) was fiscally sponsored by Third Sector New England, and sought to ensure that parents are truly involved with education policy and decision-making and rightfully acknowledged as critical participants in the success of their school system. TOC was founded in the spring of 2006 by three New Haven natives - 2 public school parents and a community organizer - and is now led by a core of 20 low and moderate income parents, with a growing membership of over 250.
TOC successfully amended Board of Education policy changes that threatened to limit parents’ and the public’s access to schools and ability to participate in school board meetings. TOC parents circulated flyers, emails and petitions; garnered press coverage; and met with other parents and allies, board members, representatives from the mayor’s and superintendent’s offices, and administrators to discuss alternative policy language.
Parents testified at a Board of Education meeting for over 2 hours - described by the board president as “a first since I’ve been on the board” - and as a result of these efforts, the Board of Education approved TOC’s alternative policy language.
Catalyzing Community Power
TOC sees a dynamic relationship between building the capacity of low and moderate income parents and fostering school improvement. By developing leaders, catalyzing community power and enhancing social capital through membership-based organizing, parent leaders help create public accountability. This leads to improvements in equity and school/community connections, which ultimately influence the quality of the curriculum and instruction and improve the climate of schools.
Teach Our Children’s 3 primary activities are Membership Development, Leadership Development, and Issue Campaign Development, ranging from door-to-door outreach to helping new members meet with funders.
Sustaining a Vision
TOC believes this approach will add value to other school improvement and parent involvement initiatives - including those internal to schools - by helping sustain an educational vision, maintain persistence, build political capital and will for action, and make real changes that reflect parents’ and community members’ concerns. This is supported by research showing that education organizing improves outcomes and transforms school systems - community organizing initiatives developed outside the traditional school system with the ultimate goal of working with schools can help make school improvement work.