The central product from this national research study is the book A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform, from Oxford University Press. Purchase the book through the links to the right.
The persistent failure of public schooling in low-income communities constitutes one of our nation’s most pressing civil rights and social justice issues. Many school reformers recognize that poverty, racism, and a lack of power held by these communities undermine children’s education and development, but few know what to do about it. A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform argues that community organizing represents a fresh and promising approach to school reform as part of a broader agenda to build power for low-income communities and address the profound social inequalities that affect the education of children.
Based on a comprehensive national study, the book presents rich and compelling case studies of prominent organizing efforts in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, San Jose, and the Mississippi Delta. The authors show how organizing groups build the participation and leadership of parents and students so they can become powerful actors in school improvement efforts. They also identify promising ways to overcome divisions and create the collaborations between educators and community residents required for deep and sustainable school reform. Identifying the key processes that create strong connections between schools and communities, Warren, Mapp, and their collaborators show how community organizing builds powerful relationships that lead to the transformational change necessary to advance educational equity and a robust democracy.
“Civil rights activists in the 1960s insisted in the face of terror and death that national citizenship granted in the 14th Amendment meant something. That seminal work inspired organizing groups, active agents in an historic and on-going process, to bond with and bridge across racial, faith, gender, immigrant, and youth communities to reshape the narrative about the promise of citizenship. A Match on Dry Grass draws on these organizing traditions in the work to right ‘the wrong this day done’ in the nation’s public schools. All of us doing that work will benefit from reading this book.”
— Robert Moses, Founder of the Algebra Project
“This is an important book for anyone interested in fundamental and sustainable school reform. Community organizing as described in A Match on Dry Grass creates new relationships, new community leadership, and new political power focused on doing what is right for kids. These are potent sources of support for true systemic change and an essential dimension to transforming our schools for the long haul.”
— Andres A. Alonso, Chief Executive Officer, Baltimore City Public Schools
“In a context of top-down school reform preoccupied with changing administrative policies, the stories of bottom-up, community organizing initiatives in A Match on Dry Grass read like a breath of fresh air. Who better to spearhead educational reform than the young people, parents, teachers, and neighborhood residents who are committed to bringing about change in their communities? Simultaneously analytical yet full of practical organizing techniques, this important volume offers a provocative mosaic of not only what is possible, but what people are actually doing. A Match on Dry Grass’s on-the-ground view of community organizing for school reform is must reading for those who see how important quality public education is for building a strong democracy.”
— Patricia Hill Collins, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland
“For too long we have been waiting for Presidents, Governors and other self-declared superheroes to save our schools while overlooking the power and potential of local communities. This detailed study on community organizing for educational change in school districts and communities throughout the United States serves as a poignant lesson to those who are genuinely concerned about promoting educational change and a powerful reminder of what is possible when those with the most at stake take action to compel schools to improve.”
— Pedro A. Noguera, Professor of Education, New York University
“A Match on Dry Grass locates the problems of public education as residing squarely in unequal power relations in a socially and economically stratified society. The diverse and engaging accounts of successful organizing efforts show that relational power develops where community organizing becomes a way of life without which sustained progressive educational change is neither possible nor desirable. This book is a treasure that I plan to reference again and again.”
— Angela Valenzuela, Professor of Educational Policy and Planning, University of Texas-Austin, and author of Subtractive Schooling and Leaving Children Behind