GLC Logo

Mark R. Warren, (617) 287-6948,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Review finds faults in AEI "parent-organizing" report

Report reduces organizing to a set of tactics or practices

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Feb. 2, 2015) – A recent report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) presents findings on parent organizing within Education Reform Advocacy Organizations (ERAO), which emphasize standards, test-based accountability, teacher evaluation, tenure reform, and parent choice. The report examines how they are structured, recruitment and mobilization efforts, and challenges for sustaining parent engagement over time. A review of the report released today finds limitations to the research methods and that the report cannot be considered a reliable study of parent organizing in ERAOs.

Mark Warren, associate professor of public policy and public affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston, reviewed Turning Lightning into Electricity: Organizing Parents for Education Reform for the Think Twice think tank review project. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produced the review with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Turning Lightning into Electricity, written by Andrew P. Kelly, presents an inside look at several ERAOs to examine the issue of parent participation.  The report offers strategy for advocacy groups who support the ERAO agenda to compete at the grassroots level.

Warren, in his review, finds that the research methods employed are not adequately explained. Moreover, the research presented does not appear to be systematic or representative of ERAOs. He says: "the sample of ERAO groups is biased toward groups that more highly value long-lasting forms of parent engagement."

According to Warren, the report reduces organizing to a set of tactics to engage parents around an issue or agenda, rather than a democratic practice. "This approach undermines an understanding of community organizing as a profoundly democratic practice rooted in deeply held values of equity and social justice."

In his conclusion, however, Warren also notes that critics of ERAOs should not lightly dismiss parent participation in these groups and that at least some ERAO organizers seem highly committed to parent organizing as a key part of their agenda.

Read the full review at:

Find Turning Lightning into Electricity on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

Mark R. Warren is a sociologist concerned with the revitalization of American democratic and community life. He studies efforts to strengthen institutions that anchor low-income communities – schools, congregations and other community-based organizations – and to build broad-based alliances among these institutions and across race and social class.

- ### -

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at:

Follow us on Twitter at:

Find us on Facebook at: