This unique and inspiring documentary follows five immigrant mothers who became involved in an effort to start a new small school for their children, and later became researchers and videographers to document their journey. Their stories are set in the context of a city-wide school reform and community organizing movement in Oakland, California.
The small-schools movement began as an effort to improve education in Oakland’s flatlands, where the majority of immigrants live, by creating new small autonomous schools and involving parents and community members as leaders in reform. The video explores parent participation in the reform through the eyes of the five parent researchers, and reveals unexpected lessons about the barriers to community participation. The video also chronicles the personal transformation of each of the mothers as they evolved into vocal advocates and skilled educational researchers, and the impact that their research had on the new small school.
The video thus tells two intersecting stories as one: the story of the parent researchers in Madres Unidas, and the story of the new small school they helped found. In elaborating on the process undertaken by the women, the video shows how the experience of engaging in research was tremendously empowering and transforming for them.
The video itself not only generates new knowledge about school reform, but the process of making it also leaves a group of Latina mothers with new powers to act. In the end, the video is a strong testament to the value of participatory research as an alternative method that expands the possibilities for democratic participation and social change.
“Madres Unidas” will generate discussion in a variety of courses in sociology, ethnic studies, social psychology, education, Hispanic-American studies, cultural anthropology, and women’s studies. It was produced by Andrea Dyrness.
"A wonderful resource for scholars and students wishing to think differently about educational and social science research methods and wanting to embrace the challenge of involving community members as equal partners, rather than ´subjects,´ in research. The video eloquently reveals the central article of faith underlying popular education and participatory research: that ordinary people can come to understand and take action to solve the problems they are confronted with in their communities. The video demonstrates this process in rich detail in the context of public school reform. I believe it is the best and most in-depth video of popular education/participatory research unfolding in action currently available." – John Hurst, Prof. of Education, Univ. of California, Berkeley
"I definitely plan on using this video for the graduate students in our School Psychology Program and School Counseling Program. It will be extremely valuable in demonstrating an actual process of how to involve a linguistically diverse group of parents in participatory action research. It also emphasizes the valuable impact it had on empowering the parents to be true collaborators in the evaluation process and highlights how the teachers valued the parents´ input. I could see this video being used to help all educators, administrators, teachers, and support staff learn how to truly collaborate with, and involve all parents in, the development and evaluation of school programs." — Bonnie S. Ho, Assoc. Prof. of Educational Psychology, California State Univ., Hayward
"A most welcome addition to my repertoire of media teaching resources on Urban Education. The video brings a set of voices not often heard in urban school reform — those of Latina immigrant mothers — to bear on complex processes of change in small schools reform, research methods, school decision-making, and parent-school relations. I can see this video being useful for all of the students who come through my courses — some preparing to become elementary, middle and high school teachers, some seeking administrative credentials, and others pursuing their doctorate — and for everyone who cares about urban education. Highly recommended!" — Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, Asst. Prof., Social and Cultural Studies, Graduate School of Education, Univ. of California, Berkeley
Andrea Dyrness, the producer //Madres Unidas,// has published a new book chronicling the events documented in the film. The book title is //Mothers United: An Immigrant Struggle for Socially Just Education.// The book is published by the University of Minnesota Press. For more information on the book or to order a copy, go to: www.upress.umn.edu/Books/D/dyrness_mothers.html.