By Sabina Simon, Intern at the Institute for Educational Leadership
While advocating can be immediately rewarding if your Representative or Senator takes your thoughts into account and immediately applies them to a bill or signs off on your legislation, it is more likely that you won’t see the immediate effects of your advocacy.
But don’t get discouraged! It is still important to meet with your member of Congress. That meeting can leave him or her with a lasting impression which you can build on with time.
To continue to inspire you to come out on Education Day, we have put together a list of 5 major reasons to advocate for the Community Schools Movement!
1. Build Awareness!
One of the many reasons to advocate is to spread the word about what community schools are capable of and to give others information that can help them begin to consider them as a viable option. Many Representatives and Senators are so busy on Capitol Hill or in your state capitol that they don’t often get the chance to go out in the field and see the great things you’re all doing in community schools. On Education Day, you have the opportunity to bring your insights as a community schools practitioner to them so they can learn first-hand the wonderful things you’re doing, and see the positive results your work has on outcomes for kids. Your bill might not get passed and your member of Congress might not support your cause immediately, but the idea has been brought to the table, ready to be expanded and built upon so that eventually it can be implemented.
2. Community Schools Are Effective
Remember, you are advocating because you believe in what the community school movement is capable of! For example:
- Hartford Community Schools (HCS) brought their Connecticut Mastery Test scores (CMT) in reading up from far below average to better than the citywide average within 2 years of implementation!
- City Connects in Boston, Massachusetts found that the community school strategy not only brought up the average reading scores for ELL students and others in reading and math, but also that it helped students build strong and lasting work habits and academic effort in elementary grades.
- After two years of being a community school, Bailey Elementary School in Providence, Rhode Island met AYP in math and reading for the first time in four years. Between 2007 and 2009, third graders in reading went from 27% to 41%; Fourth graders went from 28% to 59%; and, fifth graders went from 12% to 39%!
Remember your primary objective: BELIEVE IN YOUR CAUSE! Even if members of Congress do not support you immediately, these facts and figures will be difficult to ignore over the next few years.
3. Personalize Your Message So That You Can Get What You ACTUALLY Want
Advocating in person is a great way to make your voice heard over the din of education policymakers who have other agendas. When you come to the Hill or visit your state capitol representing a school of real students, you have the opportunity to tell your personal story with your own language that cannot be misinterpreted or skewed. Members of Congress identify strongly with personal contact, and they understand the importance of their constituency, especially when you go and meet with them personally.
4. Begin Learning the Dynamics of Policy and Rubbing Elbows
Advocacy is great for networking of all kinds, whether it be with state legislators, Representatives, Senators, staff members or even other members of the Community Schools movement! Going to the Hill or your state capitol and advocating is a great way to see and begin to understand firsthand the dynamics of the Hill, legislation, and our Congress. Networking and building this knowledge base is essential for working in education policy, and if you want your voice to be heard, there is no better time to start than now!
5. Education Day: A Chance to Show Our Solidarity!
The great thing about advocating with us on Education Day is that you WON’T BE ALONE! We will give you preparation, training, and all of the information you need to be able to get an appointment, make your message clear and compelling, and follow up with your member of Congress or state representative after the meeting. Being able to see everyone who is involved all together at one time will help solidify that you are doing the right thing.