Two Connecticut College professors encouraged a New London parents’ group to remain active on Wednesday, saying collaborative local efforts are more effective than top-down education reform.
Associate Professor Sandy Grande, chair of the school’s Education Department, and Lauren Anderson, a visiting professor of education, spoke to New London Parent Advocates. The group has been active in opposing further flat funding for the New London Public Schools, holding roundtable discussions with the Board of Education and school administrators, and other efforts to be involved in school issues.
Grande said numerous factors and motivators lead into school reform, including some efforts by corporate interests to turn a profit. She said that as a result, top-down educational initiatives are less successful than grassroots partnerships among groups with the common goal of improving schools and student achievement.
“It’s complicated, and it’s bigger than any of us and all of us,” said Grande. “I think it helps us all move beyond to this place of collaboration.”
The meeting marked the first official forum put on by New London Parent Advocates, and Grande said she hoped it would be able to kick off a larger movement. She said several local organizations could possibly help with school-related efforts.
“Connecticut College, I would say we need to step up to the plate and get more involved, and we’re ready to do that,” said Grande.
The meeting included a brief video on an attempt to prevent the closing of North High School in Minneapolis, Minn. The ultimately successful effort resulted from several groups joining together for the common goal.
Anderson said such issues often act as catalysts to spur greater collaboration among groups, noting how it was the threat of the school closure that led to a more concentrated goal among numerous groups.
“Nobody could have told them what to do next,” she said. “They had to determine their common ground.”
Regina Nicholson, a member of New London Parent Advocates, said she formerly lived in Minneapolis and was inspired by the example.
"There's no reason why we, and those parents who couldn't be here tonight, couldn't make that kind of change," she said.
New London Parent Advocates will hold their next roundtable discussion with the Board of Education at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 14 at the Science and Technology Magnet High School. It will also hold a quarterly update meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Senior Center.