Social Action and Inner-City High School Students by ta92939


									Social Action and Inner-City
High School Students: Collective
Action as a Required Class

    Schools require students to learn skills to
     empower them as individuals, but not skills to
     empower them as collectives.

    Research on youth organizing focuses almost
     entirely on out-of-school efforts conducted
     with self-selected students.
What is “Public
   Engages high school students in “public
    work” to foster community change and
    democratic citizenship.

   Developed by Harry Boyte and colleagues at
    University of Minnesota

   Activities usually take place after-school

   Students meet once a week with college
    student coach.
What is Public Achievement? II

   Past PA efforts have

       Rebuilt playgrounds.

       Contested school and city policies.

       Created dramas about current issues.

   Efforts in the past that threatened the status
    quo of schools have been expelled.
What is PA? III
   Draws from theories of community organizing
    and community development.

   Less conflictual in its presentation than most
    out-of-school youth organizing efforts.

   Nonetheless, the basic model resembles that
    of youth organizers
PA vs. Service Learning
   Service Learning

       Generally serves the less fortunate (“clients”)

       Usually a “helping” rather than collaborative social
        action model

       While a few advanced efforts engage in
        collaborative “research” or “community
        development” service learning rarely confronts
        inequality and oppression directly.
Public Achievement Charter High
School (PACHS)
   Founded in 2004

   Approx. Enrollments
       Year 0 (2004): 66 students, grades 9-10
       Year 1 (2005): 80 students, grades 9-11
       Year 2 (2006): 100 students, grades 9-12

   Student Body Characteristics
       90% African American Students
       85% Free and Reduced Lunch
       1/3 “Special Education”—2nd Highest in District.
PACHS Pedagogy
   School was founded by PA organization in
    part to provide in-school context for PA

   PA participation required to graduate.

   No formal classes.

   Students learn through individually designed

   Every student has a computer.
Why is Unique School Like
PACHS Relevant More Broadly?
   Only non-traditional schools like PACHS are
    likely embrace social action as a required
    part of their curriculum.

   PACHS’s student characteristics are
    reflective of other schools in impoverished
    inner-city districts.

   Few students joined school out of desire to
    participate in social action. Most were signed
    up by parents.
Data Collection
   All group sessions were audiotaped if students gave

   Fieldnotes were written up from audiotapes, with
    individually identifiable contributions removed.

   Focus of study is on groups as collective units and
    not on growth of individual students.

   No data was collected that didn’t emerge from
    ongoing teaching activities (e.g., no individual
    interviews with students).
History of the PA Research
   In the first year (Year 0: 2004) Schutz was
    given permission to observe PA in PACHS

   Given the challenges the school faced during
    its first year, Schutz decided not to do any
    formal research.

   Schutz volunteered in different capacities at
    the school, visiting one day a week.
End of Year 0 Evaluation
    At the end of Year 0, Schutz interviewed
    seven PA groups.

   PACHS students showed little knowledge

       of what they were supposed to be learning

       of what they were supposed to accomplish in PA
        besides “helping the community.”
End of Year 0 Evaluation II
   Some groups hadn’t moved to any action.

   Completed Actions in 2004 Included
       a one-day cleanup at the lake and
       a mural to beautify PACHS

   Actions were not linked to any coherent
    understanding of a social change or power
    Hypothesis: Limitations of Year 0

   Schutz hypothesized that PA had failed to
    teach students coherent lessons about social
    action because coaches failed

       To teach students social action concepts and

       To help students understand how particular
        “actions” might actually affect the causes of
Year 1 (2005) Research Project
   Schutz agreed to recruit graduate students to
    coach and collect data on PA groups

   During Year 1, Schutz and 10 graduate
    students coached 10 different groups of 6-7
    HS students.

   Researchers coached for Fall semester, and
    analyzed data together during Spring
Summer Preparation for Year 1:
PACHS Faculty

     Schutz met throughout the summer with
      PACHS faculty to

         Frame process for individual student projects

         Link individual project procedures to procedures
          for developing PA projects

         Determine which key concepts from PA were
          most important for students to learn at the
A Streamlined Model of PA
   Schutz and the faculty agreed that the
    established PA model was too complex.

   The group ranked the importance of key
    concepts and created a graphic organizer.

   The group focused on one key ability
       Determining cause and effect relationships
        through a “bubble map” process.
 Original PA List of Core

1.   Public Work   6.    Free Spaces
2.   Politics      7.    Interests
3.   Citizenship   8.    Diversity
4.   Democracy     9.    Power
5.   Freedom       10.   Accountability/
Focusing on a Few Concepts

       Democracy           Power


       Diversity      Accountability/
Key Conceptual Tool:
Bubble Map
  Boring Teachers             Low Test Scores

                                 Can’t Go
Lack of Funding     TRUANCY      to College

     Staying Up
                              Police Give Fines
      Too Late
Preparation for Year 1: UWM
Graduate Students
   Schutz met 5 times during the summer with
    graduate student coaches. Workshops
    focused on
       Strategies and theories of community organizing

       Discussions of the conceptual tools and concepts
        developed with PACHS faculty

       Preparation for first meetings with students
Pedagogical Goals for Year 1

1.       To more closely follow the recommended
         PA process of analysis and research prior
         to action focusing students on

          The CAUSES of social challenges and

          The WORKINGS of systems of power.
Pedagogical Goals for Year 1
2.       Coaches were encouraged to

         SLOW student movement to action

         Facilitate student RESEARCH through weekly

         Provide tools to analyze RELATIONSHIPS
          between cause and effect.
Start of Year 1: 1-2 Hour All-
School Workshops/Discussions
 1.   What is PA?

 2.   What is Community? What Would You Like to
      Change in Your Community?

 3.   Introduction to Bubble Maps (Cause/Effect).

 4.   Discuss “Causes” and “Effects” of Specific

 5.   Topics Convention: Brainstorm Topics. Each
      Student Ranks Interest.
How did the Workshops Go?
   PACHS facilitators struggled in all-school
    sessions to keep student attention.

   Practice sessions with bubble-map went well,
    but success was limited otherwise.

   The Topics Convention, was rushed
       Students were tired and resistant
       Resulting topics were broad and vague: e.g.,
        Foster Care, Police Brutality, Teen Pregnancy.
What Happened in PA Groups?
I. Finding a Topic.
       Students arrived with little understanding of
        what PA was supposed to be.

       Weeks were spent talking about vague and
        broad topics with little movement.
         Students sometimes declared they didn’t like
          their topic but refused to change.
         Early excitement turned to frustration.

       Sense of Hopelessness Emerged Among
        Students (and Coaches).
         What can a small group of kids really do?
II. Learning Concepts and
   A focus on concepts and skills was largely
    abandoned in the struggle to find coherent

   The bubble map tool often just made topics
    more complicated and difficult to deal with.
III. Completing “Work”
   Assignments (“homework”) were almost
    never completed
                  EVEN THOUGH
   Students Showed Capacity for Sophisticated
    Analyses of Power and Community.
   Significant “work” was often done during
    meetings if a project was decided on.
IV. What Did Groups Accomplish?

   Only about half of the groups completed any
    coherent project at all.

   Completed and planned projects
       Looked like service learning
       Embodied little analysis of power.

    Projects: Bake sale, mentoring children, poster with
      a safe-sex slogan, a job board, a bracelet &
      brochure on police brutality
Regrouping: What Went
I.   Coach Roles: Caught Between Facilitation
     and Direction
     Groups either floated or were overly driven
     by coaches. (See Kirchner, in press)

II. Coaches and Students Felt Hopeless
    How can a small group of high school
    students have an authentic impact on
I. Rethinking Coach & Student Roles

 1.       Coaches needed to find a better balance
          between facilitator and director roles.

 2.       With students, we needed to honor
           Their extensive local knowledge
           Their sophisticated analyses of social power
           Their distaste for “school” learning (e.g., textual
            research and “homework.”)
           Their preference for active and oral learning
II. Rethinking Topic/Project Selection

  1. Students needed more time to understand
    and commit to different topics prior to entry
    into PA groups.

  2. Students and coaches needed “doable”
    options from the beginning to avoid
    directionless dialogue and hopelessness.
III. Plans to Support PA
1.   Add weekly seminar at PACHS attended by
     all students to introduce students to history,
     concepts, and skills of organizing

2.   Link each PA project to an existing
     community organization for resources,
     project support, collaboration, and
     community base.
The Catch-22 of Hopelessness
If people feel they don’t have the power to
change a bad situation, then they do not think
about it.

Why start figuring out how you are going to
spend a million dollars if you do not have a
million dollars . . . ?

[Only when change seems possible do
people] begin to think and ask questions about
how to make the changes.
  --Saul Alinsky (1977, p. 105)
General Youth Organizing/PA Model

               Student Topic
                  Research               Specific
      +                                   Project
   Concepts    Skill Develop                  +
                                        Power Analysis

                               Action       Plan

              General Model:
“Topic + Conceptual  Research  Planning”
Evolution of PA Model
                     Student Local Knowledge
                          Coach Provided
  Doable                      Information             Plan
   Project                        +
                    Interactive Data Collection

                                                  Move to Action

Note that the focus here is on action, with conceptual issues
emerging through ongoing engagement.
Year 2 Changes: Workshops
1.       Focused pre-PA workshops entirely on
         topic selection with

          An introductory presentation about other
           students engaging in actions (videos)

          Topic brainstorming sessions

          An ”Action Fair” where students attended
           presentations about pre-selected projects with
           “doable” efforts.
Year 2 Changes: Relations with
Organizations, Coach Roles, and
Weekly Seminar
2.   Pursued relationships with community
     organizations to support student projects

3.   Focused summer workshops with coaches
     on discussions of coach roles

4.   Planned weekly seminar on history and
     concepts of social action for all students at
Students: Experts & Leaders     Coach: Positive Authority

          RULES                  Boundaries for Safety
                                Options, not directives
  Clear expectations of       Clear expectations of group
     group and coach                    and coach
       Their Rules            Help Ss enforce their rules

          IDEAS                    Summarize/reframe
 Questions not answers            Ss ideas for them
  Ss take responsibility         Provide resources
  Accountability to group,         “Jump starting”
     not only coach            (when group starts to falter)
 A conversational style        Give and receive respect
  (speaking “with” not “at”)      (address disrespect)
I. What Happened In Year 2?
(6 Groups)
   Students arrived in groups with better sense
    of why they were coming to PA

   Much less directionless dialogue in groups

   Groups moved more quickly to interactive
    data collection (surveys, interviews, tours)

   Planned weekly seminar did not happen.
II. What Happened in Year 2?
   Students remained much more engaged in
    projects with higher attendance.

   Support from outside organizations was
    limited and often lacking.

   All groups adapted their projects from the
    plan they were originally provided (they took
III. What Happened in Year 2?
   Projects looked less like service learning:
       Voter registration project
       Discussion with police and on radio show about
        youth issues
       A mural project to express youth desires for social
        change “Liberty for All but Not for Us?”
       Video/Skit to show other youth how to interact
        with police
       A presentation of survey data to another school
        about why students don’t come to school
 Key Issue:
 PA at PACHS is Still Pre-Political
       Student Projects at PACHS Lack Two Key
       Aspects of Authentic Power Organizing
  1.     Recruitment of constituents and allies for
         collective power

  2.     Development of ongoing organization/group with
         identity to carry reputation and developing power.

NOTE: The PA manual stresses the importance of #1,
   and out of school youth organizing seems usually to
   include at least #1 and often #2.
Plans for Year 3
1.   Move out into community settings more
     quickly, even if not directly related to specific
     topic (tours, interviews, etc.) to spark student
     interest and ideas.

2.   Add weekly seminar at PACHS on history,
     skills, and concepts of organizing

3.   Examine ways to link projects to
Youth Organizing Manuals With
“Topic + Conceptual 
Research  Planning” Model
   Checkoway, B. (1996). Young People Creating Community
   Dingerson, L. & Hoy, S. H. (2001). Co/Motion Guide to Youth-led
    Social Change.
   Harmony VISTA. (2005). Empowering Youth for School and
    Community Change.
   Hildreth, R. et. al. (1998). Building Worlds, Transforming Lives,
    Making History: A Guide to Public Achievement.
   Lewis, B. (1998) The Kid’s Guide to Social Action.
   Youth on Board. (2004). Steps to Organize and Advocate for

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