Community organizing at a neighborhood high school: Promises and dilemmas in building parent-educator partnerships and collaborations

S. Eva Gold, University of Pennsylvania


Nationally and in Philadelphia, urban school reform embraces the need for revised relations among families, communities and schools. Current conceptualizations of the relation among them is as overlapping and interactive with parents, community and educators being “partners” or “collaborators” in the education of children. Too often, however, reform treats forming partnerships and collaborations as something that will come naturally; reform designs overlook the challenges and tensions of creating new kinds of power relationships, often doubly complicated in urban schools by presumptions of deficit of low-income urban families and communities. This study, utilizing qualitative research methods, examines the social processes set in motion at one school site by a community organizing initiative that was part of reform in Philadelphia for the purpose of transforming parent, community, educator relations. The research, situated inside the community organizing, revealed the meanings and purposes of a group of low-income minority parents for their participation in their children's school experience, a point of view often underrepresented in the literature on parent-educator relations. It analyzes the ways in which the parent group was successful (and not), through a planned organizing campaign around an issue that concerned them, in creating a discursive space for themselves within the institutional discourse of the school, thus constituting themselves as partners and collaborators with educators. The research also showed that the community organizing, positioned at the intersection of families and schools, was a setting for purposeful literacy and learning, and one in which the knowledge parents have of their community was a valued asset. The often “hidden” community knowledge and literacies of urban parents, as well as their relational practices, present rich, but often unexplored areas for parent-educator collaboration. The illumination of these unanticipated areas for partnership shows urban parents to be constitutive of social and cultural assets, and not deficits, to the school experience of urban youth.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Educational sociology|School administration

Recommended Citation

Gold, S. Eva, "Community organizing at a neighborhood high school: Promises and dilemmas in building parent-educator partnerships and collaborations" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9937726.