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Book Review

A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools

In the foreword to this book, Jean Anyon of the Graduate Center, City University of New York, writes: “Among the problems contributing to the failure of so many urban schools are not only an unjust political economy, but an educational culture that too often disrespects children, parents, and communities…. With the publication of A Cord of Three Strands, Soo Hong at last offers us a remedy.

“Hong’s book draws on the work involved in a Chicago community’s twenty-year effort to improve education in the local schools. During a time when the attempt to improve educational achievement has typically taken the form of school closure, student displacement, and the shift of control to private financial backers, this community in Chicago—and the organizing group representing it—discovered that a powerful tool for increasing achievement was improvement in the school culture. They found that to energize students and teachers fully to the education process it was necessary to engage parents and other members of the community as partners. In the Logan Square neighborhood that the book describes, parents and families were ultimately welcomed into the schools not only as volunteers, but as engaged equals—and ultimately as partners in creating change. With parents and other community members fully engaged in daily life in the school, the interactions, the expectations, the attitudes, and the mores guiding educator and student behavior changed over time from disaffection and disregard to a culture marked by care, respect, and trust. As the school culture became more nurturing, student academic achievement grew.”

Anyon ends her foreword with this: “I have long argued that it is unlikely that significant improvement in urban schools can be sustained without increased opportunities in the political economy for both student graduates and families. Hong demonstrates in this important book that significant change in schools may be dependent upon change that is cultural as well.”