Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Pink, William

Second Advisor

Scanlan, Martin

Third Advisor

Snell, Jeffrey






Lawrence P. Pesch

Marquette University, 2014

This case study focuses on the way a neighborhood association connects schools to broad change in an urban neighborhood of a large Midwestern city. The first section provides a review of the literature on community involvement in school and neighborhood reform. It reviews the historical origins of the current school-community relationship, the reasons behind the movement to increase community involvement, the diversity of understandings about the nature of community participation, the processes used to improve the capacity of both the school and the community to act as effective partners, and the different programs organizations use to participate in the school improvement process.

The second section is a qualitative case study on the programs and processes the neighborhood association uses to revitalize one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Believing strongly in the need to think holistically about neighborhood improvement, the neighborhood association engages a diversity of stakeholders in creating a comprehensive plan to address social and physical conditions. The plan encompasses the areas of academic achievement, housing, healthy eating, commercial development, crime, health and wellness, jobs, and family and youth.

Local schools are active participants in creating the holistic plan for broad revitalization. The neighborhood association considers schools an on-going partner in carrying out initiatives tied to academic achievement. Building a higher level school-community relationship challenges historical traditions of school resistance to meaningful involvement with community groups working to improve schools. The study focuses on the way the neighborhood association works to connect two public schools to the academic achievement piece of the comprehensive neighborhood revitalization plan.

This study finds high levels of school participation in the process of plan creation, but patterns of school behavior and current demands on time continue to be obstacles to on-going participation in neighborhood association-led change. The study also finds that neighborhood association-led initiatives in areas outside the four walls of the school have improved surrounding conditions, but these improvements have not yet significantly impacted the performance of neighborhood public schools.

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