“Quality” Schools: Dialogue into Decision-Making?

The final report on DC’s “Quality Schools Conversations” records calls for two-way communications between citizens and the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME), to help repair “deep-seated distrust.” The report also notes that, “Despite this distrust and fatigue, there were calls to ‘maintain optimism for the future’ and to not give up on the importance and power of community voice and input on solutions.” The section on “process feedback” concludes with demands for action and public participation in decision-making.

How can school systems repair distrust and build community-driven action plans? Education Town Hall participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on this.

General Response

  • Has your community experienced serious distrust of its school system?
  • Are community voices heard in your area when decisions are made about schools and other education-related issues?
  • If so, please share some successes.
  • If not, please share thoughts on how distrust might be repaired and community voices heard.

DC Response

  • Were results of the summer Conversations relayed back to you?
  • Were “the ways in which the information has been used and acted upon” shared with you?
  • Were open questions from the summer conversations answered?
  • Have you and your community been heard regarding decision making?
  • How can “deep-seated distrust” between citizens and the Deputy Mayor for Education be repaired, at this point?
  • How can citizens demand a voice where that is (still) lacking?
  • (How) can adults help ensure that student voices are heard?

DC Quality Schools Reports

Public Agenda was hired, through a City Bridge grant, to conduct the “Quality Schools Conversations” for the District this past summer. The outside organization prepared Comprehensive Summary and Ward Level Summary reports. Although the DME had promised to share these with the public, as soon as possible and “by early fall,” the DME has not done so. (“By Christmas” was the last estimate — more on this situation.)

Repairing Deep-Seated Distrust

Follow up from the DME and continued two‐way communications are critical to repairing deep‐seated distrust ‐‐
There is a great deal of skepticism about the public engagement process (purpose, organization, the partners involved, the format) and how the information will or will not be used. The results of these conversations must be relayed back to participants and the broader community; the ways in which the information has been used and acted upon should be made explicit; and there should be a real effort to respond to open questions.
— DC Quality Schools Comprehensive Summary, p.5


Actions, Inclusion in Decision Making

Follow up conversations are needed, but they must result in actions
Community leaders and parents have said that there has already been a lot of talking and dialogue about community views on quality schools; where the community voice is lacking is in the decision‐making and actions that come out of all the dialogue. Many of the participants believed that there needed to be a stronger student voice in the community conversations as well as greater representation from parents.
— DC Quality Schools Comprehensive Summary, p.5


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