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Strong Neighborhoods, Strong Schools: Case Study: New York ACORN

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a nation-wide, multi-issue organization composed of neighborhood-based chapters that organize communities to advance the interests of low- and moderate-income families. Its areas of emphasis include affordable housing, living wages, community reinvestment, and improved public education. New York ACORN, founded in 1981, has members residing in half of the New York City’s 32 community school districts. In 1988, NY ACORN established a Schools Office to advance the organization’s education goals, both through work at the community level and also through participation in citywide and statewide coalitions aiming to influence city and state education policy. NY ACORN’s organizing strategies have been shaped by the serious inequities in educational opportunities available to low-income communities of color and by opportunities to increase equity through the establishment of new, autonomous community-based schools. This report looks at the accomplishments of NY ACORN in the indicator areas of equity, leadership development, community power, and high quality curriculum and instruction. Major accomplishments include: the publication of a series of studies exposing inequities in students’ access to magnet and other gifted programs, higher level coursework, and experienced, highly qualified teaching staff; helping to bring about changes in the school system and at the state level to begin addressing many of those inequities; and establishing the ACORN Community High School and supporting improved curriculum and facilities in two other community high schools.