Profiles of communities addressing education issues

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Students sitting in a classroomMontgomery County, Maryland: Although the Montgomery County School System has ample funding and excellent teachers, there is a huge gap in test scores between white students and students of color. In 2002, they decided to try a new approach. They began a concerted effort to implement structured conversations in schools about how race and ethnicity affect student achievement.

The dialogues have led to improved understanding and awareness, individual behavior changes, new and stronger relationships, and to institutional changes:

  • Teachers are developing awareness of how unintentional stereotyping affects their teaching, and are changing their behaviors.
  • Schools are offering new support systems in multiple languages to help parents from every background get involved.
  • Some schools developed new discipline plans to treat students of color fairly.

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People holding signs that say "How can we make Portsmouth the best place for everyone?"Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Residents of the small coastal city of Portsmouth decided to implement a dialogue program to address concerns around bullying and student behavior in the middle school.

Following the dialogues, schools noted an increase in awareness, and a decline in bullying. The program also did something equally important: it connected students, educators, and the community.

These first “Portsmouth Listens” talks sparked enthusiasm among community members.  Dialogues have continued in the Portsmouth education system for over a decade, tackling issues such as whether to relocate the middle school, how to handle unbalanced elementary school enrollment, and school budgeting.

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Two girls standing in front of a school busThe Arkansas School Boards Association (ASBA) has been running “study circles” allowing local residents to weigh in on educational decisions in their community since 1998. When an increase in sales tax to fund education put a strain on local residents and businesses, the ASBA organized dialogues so residents could offer recommendations to improve the tax system.

They have since expanded the program to include other topics around education such as student achievement, family involvement, early childhood care and education, and diversity. More than 6,000 people have participated from 90 sites across the state. Some accomplishments of the program include helping smaller schools consolidate, defining goals of parental involvement, and developing after school programs.

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These profiles are formatted as a two-page printable handout! Use it to inspire community members at your next meeting, or share it with potential funders to show them what's possible.

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January 21, 2014

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For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked with communities across the country to foster a healthy and vibrant democracy – one that is characterized by strong relationships across divides...

Dialogue to Change

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