For example, while I was working in Scotland, I had the opportunity to be part of a group called the Poverty Truth Commission. All parties involved in issues surrounding poverty were brought together in a joint effort between the city council and local non-profit agencies to come up with realistic solutions to problems related to poverty in Glasgow. The Poverty Truth Commission included families, individuals, and children living in poverty, the city council, the police, the National Health Service, the housing benefit office, various small non-profit groups, local churches, the job center, and many more partners. The central speakers and leaders of the group were those people living in poverty themselves, acknowledged as the ones who knew the most about the solutions that would work. The motto of the group was "Nothing about us, without us, is for us" and the meetings not only included the voices of those living in poverty at every juncture, but were led by them. The Poverty Truth Commission has been in existence now for over four years and has included more than 400 participants. It is working. It is breaking down barriers and empowering everyone involved.
In Scotland, this approach is called partnership working. Here in the States, a similar idea might be termed collective action. The Road Map Project is implementing one example of this. The idea behind the Road Map Project is to bring educators, parents, communities, and funders together to improve student achievement. It is acknowledging the idea that social issues cannot be addressed in isolation. If each partner stands to gain from the additional resources other partners bring, and from pooling ideas, knowledge and financial resources, then the partnership adds value for each participant.[i] Solutions become easier, cheaper, faster, and more effective. When there is a partnership between adults and children disadvantaged by poverty, and schools, it creates better solutions.
If we want to raise student achievement, we must work with the whole student and their whole set of circumstances. We have to address all aspects of that student's life that are affecting their ability to learn and succeed in school. We need to involve all relevant parties and work together to come up with workable solutions. If we remember to listen to the people who know best, the families and children living in poverty, they can be our guide. Adding this to the long list of factors to consider in student success might seem daunting, in fact, it might truly seem to be too hard, but we cannot let ourselves be okay with that. It might be "one more thing," but it has to be on the list of priorities.