Monday, March 30, 2009

Inquiry Topic

Topic of Inquiry
The inner city environment constantly struggles to survive. Non-profit community organizations work hard to assist poor and working class families by focusing on hunger, housing, and health care. While all are essential and deserving of attention, they typically overshadow education. Dangerous neighborhoods and stressful lives take students’ focus away from school. When children have to worry about survival, school is just another burden. Quality education is dependent upon students who are focused and motivated to learn. A strong educational system is essential to community development, whether it be providing afterschool enrichment, parental support, or adult education. “What sense does it make to try to reform urban schools while the communities around them stagnate or collapse? Conversely, can community-building and development efforts succeed in revitalizing inner city neighborhoods if the public schools within them continue to fail their students?” (Warren 133) A strong, partnership between a school and its community must exist if urban areas hope to improve and succeed.

I seek to better understand the relationship between schools and communities in Newark, NJ and the efforts being made to improve quality of life and education. I will achieve this by gathering information from journal articles, surveying an area of Newark within the Central Ward, observing a successful school-community environment, interviewing a former student of the Newark public school system and, hopefully, a Newark administrator and/or a professor experienced in urban policy reform, as well as administering a brief questionnaire to Newarkers with hopes of learning more about individual views of the community with regards to education.
Below are questions that will guide my research, initially
Once the location is established: What is the current state of the community? What is the current relationship between school and the community? What are different efforts being made to combine efforts of communities and schools? Which has more motivation to assist the other? When combining forces, who initiates, who “runs programs,” who takes responsibility to oversee success/progress? What role do administrators play in urban education/community improvement? What role do teachers play in urban education/community improvement? How can community initiative improve educational success, and vice versa? What are different approaches that have been taken to improve life? What are the collective goals of a community-school relationship? How are schools reaching out to the community? What incentives are necessary to or have been successful in increasing community involvement? Why have the successful programs been successful? What are some of the innovative strategies/ideas/plans in place now? What do they require? How realistic are they in a typical community? How easy is it to receive donations from foundation/non-profit organizations? How are organizations incorporating education into social reform/community improvement? How often is education included in major social reform projects? Why have struggling schools failed? What trends continue to fail?

Possible interviews – with possible questions
Ms. Jacquelyn Hartsfield, Principal of Quitman Street Community School
What initiatives were taken to develop a strong, successful relationship between community and school?
How can other schools duplicate your success?
What were some “bumps in the road?”
What was necessary to overcome?
How did you attract members of the community to contribute?
Giselle Role, former Newark public school student
How/where did you grow up (family life, economically, socially)?
What were your experiences as a student in Newark? (names of schools, locations, types of schools, quality)
Were there any signs of a community-school partnership?
Differences among school type (Magnet schools, charter schools, community schools)? (funding, involvement, opportunity)
Norman Glickman, Rutgers University Urban Policy Researcher
How do Urban Policy reformers view education when setting priorities in a community?
What strides have been made in urban policy reform with regard to education?
Which policies have been successful?
What are the biggest obstacles experienced while trying to improve the community?

Public Questionnaire (subject to change)
What is the relationship between your community and its schools?
Does the community offer any programs or services through the public schools?
What changes would you like to see in terms of community and/or education development?
How can the community and its school work together to produce mutual benefits?


  1. I have to agree with you when you say that dangers in the neighborhood or home like can take a toll on a student's schoolwork. In researching my community inquiry project, I found many instances of immigrant students coming to this country from places where mere survival was their daily goal. Things like school skills fall to the wayside when extreme poverty or political turmoil are taken into account. I would love to know what sorts of community programs you've found to improve a student's schooling experience.

  2. I have to agree that a dangerous neighborhood that places survival at the top of a student's list of priorities would be a bad learning environment. Stress makes it difficult to learn and concentrate, and fear is intense stress. I agree that something should be done with the communities as well, not just the schools.