About Us

The COPACS, Inc., mission, purpose and guiding principles represent and/or stand for a strong and  unwavering belief in the power of the U.S. public school system to educate   ---   all its   students --- without excuses.  

With this commitment in mind, COPACS' purpose seeks to build the capacity of parents and community stakeholders in advancing transparency and accountability in public school governance, discourse and decision-making tied to student achievement (rather than mere student progress without timelines).

This purpose underscores the importance of increasing, expanding and widening the awareness of equity and excellence concerns tied to states, districts and schools. From this perspective, parents and community stakeholders "(across races/ethnicities, gender, geographical regions, socioeconomic status and age groups) have opportunities to speak, act and/or serve on behalf of all children as truly, informed partners of the U.S. public school system. 

Operating from an empowerment model rather than a deficit model, we, of course, know and understand (from experience) that it takes a village (across races, ethnicities, gender, socioeconomic status and age groups) to raise a child. But --- we also know and understand that it takes a village to ensure --- year after year --- decade after decade --- that children are, indeed, attending schools where excellence and equity exist. 

This mission-driven purpose moves beyond mere awareness-building goals to knowledge-building goals focusing on the importance of "real" opportunity structures, processes and/or spaces for social inclusion or member's voice, agency and influence. These goals emphasize the need for parents and community stakeholders to gain access to timely, accurate, up-to-date information dissemination and knowledge utilization programming based on best practices and lessons learned from a wide range of experts on a regular basis. These goals also support a genuine, if not ethical attempt to strengthen real stakeholder choices --- by ensuring that parents and community stakeholders take part in school-based discussions before school governance decisions are made. This step should not be omitted for it allows all stakeholders to explain how their decisions will support positive student outcomes.  (*Starting with the passage of ESEA 1965 --- and beyond --- there are, of course, far too many examples , over the years, to list here of school officials ignoring federal mandates that focus  on the implementation of best practices tied to positive student outcomes. Also, consider Robert Kennedy's input on parent engagement in this same link or his "championing of equality for every American." )
 
This form of stakeholder engagement operates at the systemic level of analysis and does 
not limit parents and community stakeholders to  school-based (status quo) PR, fundraising or homework efforts, etc. This approach, instead, focuses on school effectiveness to ensure that
public school children are being taught research-based --- or rigorous, coherent and focused content aligned with high, quality research-based standards --- in classrooms led by effective teachers. These goals reinforce the necessity for parents and community stakeholders to understand what effective school leaders do to support all of their students and, in the process, high performing schools. 

There are, of course, many reasons for this direction . Instead of deepening democratic processes, many school officials have introduced new accountability challenges from the lowering of standards for children of color to "disproportionately" placing children of color in classrooms with ineffective teachers.  To address these concerns, COPACS (first) supports the building of an enabling environment and/or --- "the broader context" for the type of capacity development that "sets the stage" for participants to be a part of or exposed to  "federal/state/district/school goal setting opportunity structures and  processes (e.g. how decisions are made) --- before the fact (in order to connect the dots and  make sense of educational goals and plans).  

In other words, mere exposure to information (or attending information meetings) is not capacity development based on gold or evidenced-based standards or quality programming. Participants, therefore, must be prepared and supported through effective information dissemination efforts tied to knowledge utilization programming --- with identifiable best practices and lessons learned in mind based on learning theory goals. These goals must focus on student achievement or positive student outcomes without excuses. Effective design, implementation and evaluation strategies and insights must be a part of quality capacity development programming Why? Capacity development changes things since it “reconfigures the balance of influence and power” by ensuring that all stakeholders are able to contribute to discussions. This means that parents and community stakeholders must not only have access to information they must also understand how to use the information to make informed decisions pertaining to student achievement, a goal that encourages and allows a broader representation of the school community to create educational solutions.

COPACS mission, therefore, emphasizes the importance of a well informed and aware 
citizenry whose overall purpose is to deepen and advance transparency and accountability in public school governance, discourse and decision-making tied to student learning. It is a participatory approach that understands that stakeholders must sit at
the tables where the decisions tied to real educational solutions are determined at the federal, state, district and school levels if the public school system is to improve with all children in mind, not just some.

In other words, parents and community stakeholders must know and understand if  school leaders and teachers have the knowledge or the professional development training to distinguish between what works and what does not work in addressing school improvement efforts. They must know how best practices (and the strategies for their timely, successful implementation) are being discussed, monitored, tracked and accomplished, especially since compliance efforts have been weak for a very, very long time or since the enactment of ESEA 1965.

Why? Most states districts and schools still promote the views of special interest groups whose voices are "given more weight" and influence when it comes to public school solutions even though their expertise (alone) has led to more than 43, 000 failing schools --- or students who cannot compete on a global scale. Given these facts, authentic discourse with parents and community stakeholders must be more than a cosmetic gesture and, in turn, lead to greater transparency and accountability in school governance, discourse and decision-making tied to student achievement. In this sense, parents and community members are no longer the historical missing links in school-based initiatives they are instead true partners with school representatives in school reform efforts. 

These goals, of course, entail understanding the purpose of a true partnership, along with actionable steps, roles and implementation strategies that support school effectiveness, a purpose that not only distinguishes between a consulting role and a partnership role but a purpose with identifiable accomplishments based on equity and excellence. Unfortunately, these goals are almost nonexistent (even though school representatives say they are partners with parents and community stakeholders). If this were not so, the unfair distribution of productive, effective teachers in districts and between schools would be a thing of the past or the urgent need for timely, accurate and objective teacher evaluations would be tied to student achievement, etc. 

For this reason, our support for parents and community stakeholders always originates "from where they stand." This includes helping them to identify the processes for prioritizing, acknowledging and valuing their own voices in public school decision-making in contrast to the processes and structures that promote social exclusion or power imbalances in schools.  To this end, procedural fairness is recognized as a key foundational approach for determining true stakeholder engagement in which stakeholders have the opportunity to contribute to decision-making, including agenda setting based on issue formulation(s) and problem definition(s). From this research perspective, "fairness is a strong predictor of satisfaction with governmental decisions." This view recognizes that the public school system must always include as well as depend on or find its impetus from the input of parents and community stakeholders who should always expect their school-based experiences, goals, hopes and dreams for children to be recognized and lead to fairness and/or --- a world of possibilities rather than one where stereotypes are maintained or the views of school representatives are only recognized. 

(Please note that if school officials state that they have a policy in place that requires them to
conduct surveys in order to learn about the information needs of parents and community stakeholders, the survey's results are not valid or reliable --- if parents and community 
stakeholders were not involved in the development of the survey questions and the interpretation of the survey results. In other words, agenda items based on survey results should not be used as the basis for stakeholder engagement if they are not tied to valid or reliable surveys.)

This ongoing goal, at its root, is about social inclusion. We, therefore, believe that parent and community stakeholder engagement must be more than a mandate on paper or a discussion point without actionable steps that truly address equity and excellence in schools. For all intents and purposes based on lessons learned, this goal will always require strong parent and community stakeholder participation at the systemic level of analysis, along with a regular review of the actions of special interest groups who have, if the truth be told, contributed to the power imbalances that have led to U.S. public school inequities and inequalities.  

If parents and community members are to address this concern and become fully committed, effective advocates for high quality, equitable public school systems --- in which children are clearly their top priorities they must expect special interest groups, including lobbyists --- to
embrace a moral commitment for fair, inclusive partnerships and collaborations. These partnerships and collaborations must include transparency and accountability goals, which allow all stakeholders to join the conversations --- that lead to school effectiveness or that support school leaders and teachers in promoting student achievement. In other words, everyone , (students, parents, stakeholders, etc.) must support rules of engagement that rely on procedural fairness and, in the process, support the (development of) structures and processes that reinforce and strengthen a system where their voices count, too. 

Participatory democracy then is a key aspect of all of COPACS' programming. It creates the need for parents and community stakeholders to show up on behalf of public school children. It supports parents and community stakeholders in exercising their "right to know" about public school governance, including how “transparency and accountability are framed within public schools and what the mechanisms are for ensuring that resources and funds reach students." It builds the foundation for parents and community stakeholders to contribute to school-based discussions as well as paves the way for an ongoing culture of inquiry to exist that leads to the best educational solutions for all students.

As a result, each newly registered member will find a wide range of opportunities, information and resources for capacity development on our website that can assist them as stakeholders in
learning about best practices or lessons learned tied to high performing schools. With this goal in mind, they will, as members, find that they have become informed supporters of successful public schools --- from the classroom to overall school governance.
 
 

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David Landers