How Community Engagement Helped Transform the Union City Public Schools

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Over the past three decades, reformers have championed approaches to improving schools that have included state takeovers, school closures, and firing teachers. Despite the prevalence of these policies, these reform efforts have failed to produce strong systems of public education. This article examines Union City schools in New Jersey (USA), a district that was on the verge of experiencing a state takeover for years of academic underperformance but that is now celebrated as an exemplary public school system that serves a predominantly Latino immigrant population. In this article, I argue that community engagement—particularly, the state engaging the local community—played an important role in the prevention of a takeover and the eventual process of improving the Union City schools. The results of the study show how states can help build strong systems of public education in cities throughout the country by committing to cultivating citizenship and promoting democratic participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-340
Number of pages11
JournalPeabody Journal of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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