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Public Agenda Writers Address Importance of Public Involvement in School Reform

Public Agenda’s Jean Johnson and Will Freidman have an article out in the new issue of The School Administrator. “Dear Public: Can We Talk?” is at:
www.aasa.org/publications/saarticledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=5211&snItemNumber=950. In the article, Jean Johnson, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Education Insights, and Will Freidman, Senior Vice President for Public Engagement, discuss the increasing importance of public engagement in school reform. While parents, educators, employers and the public may agree that education reform is important, research shows that different groups see things through very different lenses and often operate on surprisingly different wavelengths. And a lack of communication in a community can be serious enough to stall or derail progress. For example, they note:

–Parents may not be ready for change.
–Communication within schools and districts may be more wish than reality
–Districts and communities may not agree about where to put their money and what to do first

Jean Johnson and Will Friedman then outline an approach of authentic public engagement that can succeed in getting differing groups talking to each other and on the same page. Also featured in this article is an interview with Nebraska State Commissioner of Education Doug Christensen, who has successfully employed Public Agenda’s engagement strategies state-wide. Education Insights is a new Public Agenda initiative designed to partner with foundations, reform groups, education associations, and communities nationwide to address the problems of poor communication and lack of consensus hampering. For more information on Public Agenda’s work, visit www.publicagenda.org.

Amy Lang
Amy Lang is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia. She wrote her dissertation on British Columbia’s groundbreaking Citizens’ Assembly process, and is currently doing follow-up research on the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly.

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