The increasing diversity of diversity of America’s youth has also led to increasing gaps in achievement due to imbalances in community support and socio-economic pressures. While this is not new, new community support has arisen to meet the challenge. The National Education Association to organize creative and effective partnerships to provide the support which this demographic needs. The foundational work this initiative creates will strengthen legislative and community support for all students for the foreseeable future. There will likely be a point where minorities are no longer such, but become the majority. The sooner diversity is supported the stronger the next generation’s contribution will become.
The changing nature of American community has necessitated many changes to how students are taught. This is because in part, “Today, ethnic minority students comprise nearly 40 percent of the population in our nation's schools. During the next 20 years, that figure may well reach 50 percent” (National Education Association). Ethnic students may one day be the majority, but until then their minority status often leaves much to be desired from their education outcomes. Currently, “Substantial gaps in achievement exist. Many attend schools that face the greatest educational, economic, and social challenges” (National Education Association). This has required intervention to support this growing demographic.
The issues surrounding how and why these students find themselves marginalized are often cultural contextual. The National Education Association (NEA) has organized new partnerships to address:
• Adequate and equitable school funding
• Smaller classes
• Increased teacher diversity and salaries
• Improved curricula
• Better programs for English language learners
• Enhanced parental involvement as seen in priority schools. (National Education Association)
Such a complex and vast goal cannot be accomplished without major collaboration in the many areas which support all students. Any growth in support of this demographic will help ensure the sustainability of the schools for all students. Minority Community Outreach, organized by the NEA aims to:
•Strengthen relationships with current partners representing ethnic minority communities, and initiate new partnerships and/or projects around education and other issues of mutual interest.
• Establish partnerships with ethnic minority communities to develop strategies to close the gaps in student achievement.
• Develop and implement, in collaboration with community partners, an education campaign to challenge attacks on public education such as vouchers, privatization, and tuition tax credits.
• In collaboration with community partners, advocate for sound public policy at the state, local, and national levels to reduce class size; secure adequate wages for teachers and education support professionals; promote programs that assist disadvantaged and English language learners; and address other critical issues. (National Education Association)
As the model shows below, student achievement is supported by a complex web of factors which have to do with expectations, stress, parental involvement as well as community involvement. The NEA Minority Community Partnerships hopes to support each of these areas for the long term benefit of minority students, and the community they grow to support in turn.
The concept of strategic community partnerships not new, but the comprehensive approach the NEA is taking is innovative in its scope:
Through strategic partnerships, NEA aspires to develop and implement support, at every level (local, state, and national), for students in the public education system. We have many partners at the national level, and we seek to connect those partners to our affiliates in order to pursue Great Public Schools for Every Student as well as enhance the mutual capacity and advocacy effectiveness of our affiliates, members, and our partners. (NEA)
Such partnerships are supported the moment through their particular function, but also into longevity through advocacy. The substratum of support for the status quo in regard to minority students is supported in many levels of culture. The NEA Minority Community Organizing understands this, and “maintain[s] close working relationships with organizations at the national level that represent ethnic minority constituencies, civil rights organizations, and intergovernmental organizations to jointly advocate policy priorities that are of concern to NEA members and our partners” (NEA). In this change is reinforced through legislation which will enable real progress rather than backsliding.
The NEA Minority Community Organizing is always growing and expanding its partnerships and reach throughout the nation. For those organizations and schools who desire to support this movement, or receive grant support the process is:
• A State Affiliate can apply for a grant on behalf of multiple local affiliates, but there must be a clear budget and set of desired outcomes for each affiliate who will receive funding using any of the project funds.
• Each grant application can be awarded up to $50,000.
• prior year award recipients may submit a proposal for funding in this cycle. However, the proposal must demonstrate how the State/Local Affiliate will continue the work.
• Ideally, these grant awards will be used to support new member recruitment and retention, new teacher projects, actual issue organizing campaigns or efforts that are ongoing throughout the year to engage NEA Members and minority communities and/or partners. (NEA)
One effective minority partnership has been cultivated between the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the NEA. Hispanics are one of the largest growing demographics disenfranchised in the education and employment system. The partnership identified parental involvement as a chief focus for improving student’s experiences.
As a result of this partnership, our two organizations convened a national summit in October 2009, with over 70 attendees, including parents and providers from national and community-based organizations across the country. The attendees met to identify general practices for engaging minority parents; discussed the dynamics that hinder parent involvement; explored successful strategies that strengthen parent engagement for closing the achievement gap; and identified recommendations to improve local, state and national parental engagement policies. (NEA)
This meeting provided a platform to brainstorm ideas and to organize ways to adapt to challenges. The partnership identified many areas in which parents could improve their contribution to supporting minority students:
• Lack of Relationship Building Between and School Officials and Parents
• Lack of Trust in School Officials
• Parents’ and School Officials’ Beliefs and Assumptions Engender Fear and Mistrust
• Lack of Cultural Competency Creates Unwelcoming Environments for Ethnic Minority Parents
• Failure to Adjust to the Role of Parent Involvement in the 21st Century (NEA)
Addressing these and many other issues in the complex web of minority community organizing is ongoing. This summit emphasized, “Best practices include valuing the parental/family voice, hiring culturally competent staff, and providing in-service so that school staff can become skilled and culturally competent in working effectively with diverse parents/families” (NEA). Engaging parents must be balanced with honoring their own beliefs and cultures, and it is this delicate balance which must be nurtured.
Minorities are growing at an increasing rate, and their needs are the needs of the evolving community. The National Education Association is leading the initiative to make strategic partnerships at the community, educational, and legislative levels to bring balance to the needs of this diverse demographic. The support created today will be support received in the future by an empowered community.
1: Retrieved from: http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2849&context=open_access_etds
National Education Association. “Minority Community Organizing & Partnerships.” NEA.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/home/16276.htm
NEA. “Minority Community Organizing Partnership.” Nea.org, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.nea.org/assets/docs/MCOP%20Brochure%20Final%205282014.pdf
NEA. “FAQ’s for the 2016-2017 Minority Community Organizing & Partnerships grant application process.” NEA.org, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.nea.org/assets/docs/MCOP%20Partnership%20Funding%20FAQ%202016%202017%20Thulasi.pdf
NEA. “Minority Parent and Community Engagement.” Maldef.org, 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.maldef.org/assets/pdf/mco_maldef%20report_final.pdf
Pearson, Phillip Bruce. “The Impact of School-Level Factors on Minority Students'
Performance in AP Calculus.” [Thesis] Portland: Portland State University, 2014. Retrieved from: http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2849&context=open_access_etds