Tools, Tips & How-To Guides

Books We’re Reading Now

  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education” by the eminent education historian Diane Ravitch, should be basic reading for everyone who cares about what is going on in our schools today
  • Dave F. Brown, Why America’s Public Schools are the Best Place for Kids: Reality vs. Negative Perceptions (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012). [Dr. Brown is an education researcher here in PA.]
  • Pencils Down: Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools, edited by Wayne Au and Melissa Bollow Tempel (Rethinking Schools Ltd., 2012).

Local Organizations Working on Public Education

  • A+Schools: working for equity in Pittsburgh Public schools
  • PIIN (Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network): large congregation based coalition with a focus on equity in education
  • T.E.A.C.H. (Tell Everyone All Cuts Hurt): a grassroots group of teachers, students, parents and community members fighting for public education in the Steel Valley
  • PURE Reform: organized in 2008 by parents to discuss Pittsburgh’s reform plans
  • FUSE: Wilkinsburg after school program with a focus on literacy and student-advocacy
  • Youth Media Advocacy Project: Carlow University students partner with local High School students in issues of education policy
  • Hear Me: a media advocacy project of Carnegie Mellon University amplifying kids’ own voices

Pennsylvania Organizations Working on Public Education

National Organizations Working on Public Education

  • Network for Public Education: A significant new national group founded by Diane Ravitch and other leaders that can endorse candidates.
  • Parents Across America: A national parent advocacy organization linking parent organizers across the country; great stories of parent advocacy successes.
  • Diane Ravitch: The eminent education historian manages this blog which provides a platform for an incredible national conversation about real education reform.
  • @ the Chalk Face: a blog run educators Shaun Johnson and Tim Slekar (both Pittsburgh natives!). They also write regularly for the Huffington Post and have a blog talkradio show.
  • Schools Matter: a national blog with several contributors looking at public education policy

Related Organizations and Issues (with thanks to Parents United)

School funding

  • National Report Card: Is School Funding Fair?“: A state by state report card on school funding ranking states by funding level, funding distribution, state efforts, and public school coverage. Where do you think PA lands?
  • School Finance 101: A smart, funny and data driven blog by Dr. Bruce Baker at Rutgers University which breaks down school finance issues. Education’s Nate Silver?


  • Stan Karp: The Corporate Reform Agenda: What do we mean when we talk about a “corporate reform” agenda vs. an educational agenda? Rethinking Schools’ Stan Karp breaks down the policies and proposals of corporate reformers driving failed educational experiments and undermining public education.
  • A Parent’s Guide to the Broad Academy: A incisive look at the Broad Academy and its graduates, who are superintendents at many large urban districts. Philadelphia’s last three superintendents have all graduated from or lectured at the Broad Academy.

School closings & improving school buildings

  • 21st Century Schools Fund: A website devoted to helping parents and communities build campaigns to rethink underutilized buildings and create options for modernizing school facilities. Includes manuals, tool kits and lots of resources. Read quotes from 21st Century Schools Fund President Mary Filardo and Parents United founder Cecelia Thompson to see just how different the vision is around school facilities in this Notebook news story.

Curriculum and quality instruction

  • National Opportunity to Learn Campaign: An organization devoted to helping schools figure out the supports needed to ensure every child has access to a quality education.
  • Rethinking Schools: A national social justice teaching journal and publisher of critical teaching and learning.
  • Zinn Education Project: A wonderful website devoted to exploring a diverse multicultural people’s history of the U.S. in the vein of historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States


  • FairTest: A preeminent site for the negative impact of high stakes testing on student achievement and learning. Full of data, studies and advocacy ideas.
  • United Opt Out: a national grassroots movement aimed at stopping high-stakes-testing and corporate-based education “reforms”

School Climate and Safety

  • Dignity in Schools Campaign: Seeks alternatives to push-out, zero tolerance and other policies contributing to the school to prison pipeline.

Class size

  • Class Size Matters: A clearinghouse of information on the importance of lower class sizes. Although it focuses specifically on New York City, it contains lots of information, data and advocacy ideas on class size issues.