Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to stop preaching to the choir and get heard.

We need to shift the public narrative from "a broken system dominated by uninformed, uninvolved parents and lazy teachers who complain about being held accountable" to one of active, educated and angry parents who support teachers and neighborhood public schools, and who don't want Arne Duncan telling us what we need to do.

And for the record, I not only believe that teachers are amazing hard-working, innovative and compassionate people who are making a huge difference in the lives of my children and children everywhere, I know for a fact — because I've looked at the actual numbers, reports and data — that the meme of America's broken educational system is just not true. Urban "failing schools" are the consequence of how our society neglects the medical needs of low-income toddlers. Most parents think that their neighborhood school is doing a great job, even in New York City.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled in an NY1-Marist survey released last week said they disapproved of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s management of the school system. But public school parents appear to be drawing a line between his performance and their affection for their local schools, Dr. Miringoff said. In the poll released Monday, 53 percent of public school parents gave their local schools either excellent or good marks.

And the numbers are even higher for schools in small towns, suburbs, and rural areas.

What Parent Can Do:

1) Go public with your news. And make sure it’s news. Do something newsworthy and local. An example: Parents and teachers from our local elementary school are holding a "teach-in" next week at Wegmans. Teachers bringing all the work that they normally do after school so that the public can see what teachers do after the bell rings. Parents will be there writing letters to lawmakers demanding that the proposed budget cuts be restored. We are sending out press releases this week.

2) Write an Op-Ed column for your local paper.

Absolutely no more than 500 words.

Short paragraphs with lots of white space.

A) Start with a very short introduction that describes your issue using action words and images. Do not go into a long story. Save it for later.

B) Clearly state your main point: Parents need to boycott testing, or Legislators must not cut funding, or Arne Duncan (or whomever) must go. Whatever it is, be very clear.

C) Quote your experts. List the heavy hitters who support you. Professors, doctors, psychologists, even government agencies all carry more weight. Cite the evidence, not just opinions.

D) Then go into your argument explaining why you are doing what you are doing. This is the place for opinions, details, tugging the heartstrings.

E) Contact information: Where people can go for more information or to get more involved.

Please feel free to use my Op-Ed as a template, changing the details to fit your town or issue. http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/11/2575400/pssas-put-burden-on-schools-students.html

Once your column is published, start to link it everywhere, especially on Facebook and Twitter. Get all your friends to “Like” it. The media looks for columns that get a lot of hits. I am still getting interview requests based on the column I wrote a month ago. It’s like Emily’s list and early money. Long before the first vote is ever cast, the media begins to set the narrative based on who has raised the most money. This is a great time to push the narrative that parents are angry and teachers aren’t being allowed to teach, with the Michelle Rhee cheating scandal and Obama's recent anti-testing remarks.

3) Send a letter to Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager. His job right now is to mend fence with the grassroots. We are the grassroots. It doesn't matter if you support Obama or not. What matters is that Obama is the only one who can fire Duncan, and Duncan and his crew need to go. It might be a long shot, but if we don't try then we will fail for sure.

Be critical of Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and Bill Gates, but don’t attack Obama. We must support him in changing course while saving face. He's now on record as questioning the value of standardized tests. But let Messina know that Obama cannot count on your enthusiastic grassroots support until he separates himself from those like Arne Duncan, who do not support or respect parents.

Keep the letter short.

Jim Messina

Obama Re-election Headquarters

One Prudential Plaza

130 E Randolph St

Chicago, IL 60601

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