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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

California Parent Trigger

You have GOT to learn about this.

There is a new law in California that allows the families of students at failing schools to demand school reform at their children's school and to take a direct hand in that reform.

It's called the Parent Trigger and it is the most amazing and wonderful thing I can imagine.

Go to this web site: www.parentrevolution.org, watch the video and learn more about it.

Then let's think of how we can get a law like this here in Washington.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really? A brief look at the site makes it look like parents are being used to push the reform agenda.

A skeptic

seattle said...
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seattle said...

Oh my freaking god. I love this. I can't stop daydreaming about what this could look like for parents in Seattle.

And, to anonymous, yes this could push reform forward, but the only way that could happen would be is if 51% of the families believe that reform is what's best for their school. Parents are in control, not politicians, not the superintendent or school board, not private corporations, not Gates or Broad. Just parents. And if 51% of parents think a charter or a change in leadership and staff is best for their school, then who are we to say they are wrong. It's THEIR school, THEIR kids, and THEIR community. We have to trust that parents, the only people who will always have the best interest of their children at heart, know what would work best for them.

uxolo said...

Every point already exists as federal law. That's what AYP is about. The only difference is the law in California regarding the gathering of a petition with 51% signatures. It is all about No Child Left Behind and using Race to the Top to "get reform."

Melissa Westbrook said...

I need to read the whole thing; it's a little squishy in parts. (Like what if you had a charter school that bribed a few parents to push their charter at a school where many parents were unhappy?) I do like that there are smaller things that can be done. Hmmm.

seattle said...
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seattle said...

"Every point already exists as federal law. That's what AYP is about. The only difference is the law in California regarding the gathering of a petition with 51% signatures. "

The petition is everything.

AYP is a benchmark. As it stands now, if a school continues not to meet AYP, after a certain point school districts are forced to restructure the school. The district does not have to consult or involve the community at all. The district gets to decide what the restructure will look like. They decide if they should close the school, bring in a charter, fire staff. Not the families. Not the community. And that is a HUGE difference.

The Trigger Law puts the decision making power in the hands of the community.

I don't know how anyone could argue against giving the power to the community???

Anonymous said...

I would certainly argue against giving the power to the community. What do they know about education? They only know about their own kids, and they aren't all that informed.

Skeptical

Charlie Mas said...

This would allow families at schools to bypass the District's unresponsive bureaucracy to demand the sort of reform that they want.

It doesn't have to be a charter - here in Washington it couldn't be.

It doesn't have to be "turnaround" with the mass firing of staff.

It doesn't even have to be that completely undefined "transformation" option - but think of the dark days at Rainier Beach when the community wanted to replace the principal and the District refused to do it.

One of the options is negotiated small changes.

A community could negotiate for a language immersion program, for a Montessori program, for an A.L.O., for Singapore math, for more art and music, for less art and music, for the removal of specific teachers, for any number of needed changes that they aren't getting from the school or the District.

Charlie Mas said...

Before you worry too much about mob rule, consider how difficult it would be to get 51% of the community at an under-performing school to sign a petition.

The issue would have to be pretty dire.

Bird said...

And there's the Parent Revolution, which has more political clout and some financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli Broad foundations, among others.

...lifted from this site

Lori said...

I don't know a lot about charter schools, but I do find it curious that the Board of Directors for this organization includes a real estate attorney, a "real estate entrepreneur and investment expert," and a "lifetime entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in the mortgage quality control and compliance industry."

I know that one of the risks of starting a charter school de novo is buying or leasing a building, so obviously, converting an existing school facility into a charter school takes away that risk. But does the charter school have to lease the school from the school district? Does the district ever sell a school to the charter organization? How is there money to be made in this endeavor?

I'm just curious why this board has several people with real estate backgrounds so involved. I'm not usually one to buy into conspiracy theories, but something about this is intriguing.

Anonymous said...

It would be pretty easy, however, to have mob rule in an uppity neighborhood. Let's kick out all the disabled kids, or ELL kids, or irritating minorities, so that we could get our great XYZ program in there that excludes them. (isn't that the problem with charters) In California 51% can ask for a KIPP down the street to take over there school? What happens to the students the KIPP won't serve? Who wants 50 different math programs? No, the right to pick your math program isn't going to be legislated. Even in California, there were only 4 large reform choices a parent mob could instigate. Frankly, it sounds like a huge rush towards charters, more than anything else.

Still Skeptical

seattle said...
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suep. said...

Hold on, everyone. Though it may on the surface sound like an empowering idea for parents, I've heard it may well be used as A Skeptic surmised.

A so-called parent 'revolt' that can be co-opted by those who want to privatize our schools.

For starters, consider the origins of the idea of the "parent trigger." (See: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2010/02/parent-revolution-and-green-dot-too.html)

One of the main people pushing it, Ben Austin, is a charters guy (affiliated with Green Dot) posing as an L.A. Public Schools Parent, when in fact he isn't.

From a reliable source in California:

"Ben Austin is the director of Parent Revolution, an "astroturf" (fake grassroots) organization created by charter operators, led by the Green Dot charters. He is newly a member of the California state Board of Education (appointed by fervent charter backer Arnold Schwarzenegger). Austin has no actual background or involvement in schools and is purely a hired gun, BTW.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-austin/the-wait-is-over_1_b_736874.html


Also, the term "revolution" has become another code word for ed reform that leads to public school privatization. Such proponents who are also using that latest jargon include the League of Education Voters here in Seattle.

Look at who LEV (funded by Gates) is bringing to Seattle for its new "Voices from the Revolution" speaker series next week. (See: http://www.educationvoters.org/revolution/speakers/)

Every one of these guys are charter operators or "teacher effectiveness" proponents (which in reformspeak means anti-union, and pro-alternative credentialing for teachers):

Richard Barth, CEO – KIPP Foundation (a charter franchise that is affiliated with the Broad Foundation, like Goodloe-Johnson; Barth is also married to Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, which Goodloe-Johnson wants to clandestinely? bring to Seattle; Kopp is also affiliated with Broad. All rather incestuous.)

Timothy Daly, President – The New Teacher Project (created by the soon to be ex-D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who is also affiliated with Broad. This enterprise trains people in its Teaching Fellows™ programs, and appears to be anti-union. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2009/06/new-teacher-project-and-new-democrats.html)

Steve Barr, Founder & Emeritus Chair – Green Dot Public Schools (a charter franchise based in LA and supported by L.A. billionaire Eli Broad.)

This "revolution" leads to privatization. There is absolutely nothing revolutionary about private profiteers wanting to get their hands on yet another sector of our society. Count me out of this "revolution."

I'm also not that fond of the term "trigger." Sounds like people are putting a gun to someone's head.

Here's more informed info on Ben Austin and Green Dot:
Caroline Grannan, one of the founders of Parents Across America, has analyzed Green
Dot’s results. Based on the API, the California Department of Education’s accountability system, the Green Dot schools have mediocre results, and all but one had worse results than the supposedly “failing” LA public schools that Green Dot ran campaigns to take over, through the “parent trigger” measure, led by their fake grassroots organization, Parent Revolution. (The Parent Revolution is run by Ben Austin, an attorney
who works for the city of LA,
http://rdsathene.blogspot.com/2009/07/ben-austin-six-figure-salary-man-green.html lives in Beverly Hills, http://www.dailynews.com/opinions/ci_13185224 , has no school age children, is paid $100,000 as a part-time consultant to Green Dot, and yet regularly claims to be a typical, aggrieved LA public school parent. http://dailycensored.com/2010/04/24/political-patronage-for-green-dot-public-schools-chief-propagandist/. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2010/02/parent-revolution-and-green-dot-too.html


--sue p.

Bird said...

And, if indeed, you do not think parents are capable of deciding for themselves what is best for their community, then who should decide for them?

Back before I had kids I voted against charters in Washington. This was the general argument. Charters will survive or fail based on whether parents want to attend them. Isn't that the best kind of accountability? Who else should decide but the parents? So the argument went.

I rejected it at the time because schools need to be accountable to more than just the parents. If you want that, go form a private school.

But if you want my money, you have to be accountable to me as well, the taxpayer. I don't want to pay for just any crazy junk that a group of parents pulls together. If I'm paying, I get a say.

seattle said...
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Maureen said...

But think about a parent trigger in the absence of legal charters. Could this idea be reimagined and co-opted for Washington State?

seattle said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Skeptical, I would argue that parents who do a lot at their child's school know that school better than most people at district headquarters. I absolutely think they have valuable input.

Charters can't exclude anyone in their charter BUT they can write their program so those services are not among the ones they offer.

"I know that one of the risks of starting a charter school de novo is buying or leasing a building, so obviously, converting an existing school facility into a charter school takes away that risk. But does the charter school have to lease the school from the school district? Does the district ever sell a school to the charter organization? How is there money to be made in this endeavor?"

Good catch, Lori. (1) It depends on the charter law. The charter probably would have access to an empty school building to lease but they also would be eligible for any capital renovation/maintenance money.

Next week, LEV is having a forum with a bunch of charter guys. One is from Green Dot. Go look up Green Dot and they have some other group that just looks for real estate.

Like healthcare, education is one of the last places to try to privatize and make money.

Bird said...

Bird, yes, we voted on the Charter school bill, and I agree with you, that is something every tax payer should get a say in. But you have absolutely no say in the day to day operations of SPS. You get no say in how SPS decides to restructure RBHS. None. You had no say in the SE initiative. Or the creation of STEM. Or in the NSAP. Or in cutting transportation. Or, or, or, or.

That's not strictly true. Sure, it's hard for me as an individual to have an impact on the day to day operations, but I do have a say. I elect the school board. If parents bring in a private organization to run a school, I'll truly have no say over who runs that organization.

Also the district's workings are exposed to the public. I can request documents via public disclosure laws. The district is audited by the state. There's public oversight of the inner workings of the school district.

Would that be true for a charter that parents vote in? I doubt it. As I understand it, NY schools are struggling with this now. The charters are exempted from a lot of the laws that provide for transparency in other public schools.

Bird said...

That they can just come in and pull the wool over parents eyes, and get 51% of the community to sign their petition? Do you think parents are just a bunch of blind mice waiting to be led astray, and that they are simply not capable of deciding for themselves what is best for their community?

I dunno. My schools PTA voted to support the upcoming levy after a ten minute presentation from a SchoolsFirst representative. No time devoted to the other side. No discussion. No debate. No consideration.

I'd like to think a decision to take up a charter would be more well considered, but, of course, parents can make mistakes particularly when there are some people who stand to profit enormously who are pushing for a point of view.

In general, I have a lot of faith in parents. I'm continually surprised at how little parent input the schools and the district take.

Nevertheless, very large structural changes to a school need to have oversight that extends beyond the families in the school. It needs to include taxpayers, community members, families with children who don't now but soon will be attending the school, etc. These are public schools. They serve the public, not just the parents.

If you want to have complete parental control, that's a choice available to you, outside of the public schools.

Maureen said...

Nevertheless, very large structural changes to a school need to have oversight that extends beyond the families in the school. It needs to include taxpayers, community members, families with children who don't now but soon will be attending the school, etc. These are public schools. They serve the public, not just the parents.


Excellent point Bird.

uxolo said...

Anonymom, Garfield did submit a petition about Marine Biology.

And we could have community control. Changing our system by creating Local School Councils would be one way to design the change that seems to be needed now more than ever. This city could manage it easily.

Bird said...

And we could have community control. Changing our system by creating Local School Councils would be one way to design the change that seems to be needed now more than ever. This city could manage it easily.

I'm a new parent to SPS and this is the first year I'm actually paying some attention to the PTA, instead of just giving them money.

I've been impressed that there are lots of committees for lots of things going on at the school, but nowPTA committee devoted to working on improving academics. Parents just leave that to the district and the staff.

I've also noted in touring schools at SPS that lots of things in schools are better than when I was kid. Folks may disagree, but there are tons of cool programs for field trips, art, music, technology etc that are funded by PTA's.

When I was a kid, we rarely went on field trips, and we had none of these specialized instructors for PE, art, music, technology etc. I thought "This is great!" But I also noticed that the quality of the core academics was notably worse than when I was a kid. So school programs parents provide and fund much better, school programs parents get no say in, much worse.

I do think the acacdemics would be better if parents had a seat at the table. As with all things related to school governance, however, parents should not wait to be invited. There's no reason that parents can't form a group to study and improve academics at a school. It's unlikely that SPS would invite them to do this.

I especially think of this as being useful at the high school level. PTA's should have committees dedicated to pushing for better academics or for defending currently working classes and programs.

Maybe they have these things somewhere. Or maybe this is a completely naive idea. I'm a newbie. Let me know how I'm wrong.

uxolo said...

Bird,
There's something called a BLT, Building Leadership Team. I think that's what needs to be replaced with the Local School Council model.

I don't know exactly how it functions - except that it has some authority over instructional and budget issues and meets during the day without much advertisement.

Bird said...

I've heard of the BLT, but I didn't realize it dealt specifically with academics. I thought the BLT's mainly dealt with issues surrounding budgeting and facilities.

I could stand to learn some more about them. Looks like there is actually a document detailing them and why they were created.


Looks like they were an outgrowth of site based management. Is site based management still a principle SPS holds to?

In 1998, the Seattle Education Association (SEA) (the Collective Bargaining Unit) and Seattle
Public Schools (SPS) negotiated the concept of Building Leadership Teams into the site-based
decision-making portion of the contract. As SEA and SPS approached the next negotiation
period, it was clear that while schools had been given the power to make site-based decisions,
teams did not always have the skills to effectively work together towards the goal of increased
academic achievement for all their students.

Seattle Shadow School Board said...

Bird raised the idea of parents forming their own curricum committee. Such a project would be appropriate for S3B (Seattle Shadow School Board) to take on.

S3B's role could be to facilitate bringing parents and experts together to form a study group, with the expectation that the study group would write recommendations to be sent to the School Board.

It is nearing time for the District to revisit the middle school math curriculum. Thus it is a good time to form a district-independent adoption committee for middle school math.

Please contact S3B at

seattleshadowschoolboard@gmail.com

if you like this idea.

If there is enough interest, then
S3B might consider taking this up as a project. Please also indicate if you would like to participate in committee work, should a committee be formed.

The First Arnold said...

Any thoughts as to whether or not Charter movement would be slowed down if Levy isn't passed?

How would funds for Charter movement be procured?

Considering economy, could state funds be procured?

Skeptical about this ad.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arnold, what funds are you referencing?

Charters generally get the same money as any other school. It is up to them to get their own building (unless there are available buildings within the district). So for SPS, if we are reopening schools AND having to provide for charter funding, then ALL schools will get less.

What has to happen first is some legislator drawing up a bill to allow charters. (I have no doubt that someone is as we speak.) I think there are some usual suspects but it would have to be narrow charter legislation to start if they are to overcome past pushback.

I would think most legislators would not be interested at this point simply because it would mean that their districts would have their money spread out over even more schools.

But the ed "revolution" is on a roll so who knows?

I don't think a levy failure would have any impact on charter legislation. I do think a levy failure would be a HUGE splash of cold water in the faces of the Board and weaken Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's stranglehold on their ability to say no.

Noam said...

The law in THIS state requires a bunch of collaborative steps at failing schools that SSD ignores NOW, how would more laws to trample help?

Whats needed is real leadership and REAL accountablity rather than this boorish sense of entitlement on the part of what should be public servants.

Dorothy Neville said...

What I think Arnold is asking, is given that Washington makes voters fund significant aspect of public schools with local levy money, where would the money come from for charters? Would the regular operating levy get split or would there be two levies or would something else occur?

As for this particular supplemental levy, if enough people vote NO, then that could be a sign that voters are willing to consider the merits of each levy individually and there might be a harder time getting levy money for charter schools. In that case, where would funds come from? Seattle Schools gets a quarter of its operating budget from the regular operating levy? So how would charters manage?

Maybe that's not Arnold's question. But I wonder about it myself. The folks who want to bring charters to Washington, how are they expecting to fund them?

seattle citizen said...

This "parentrevolution" thing is obviously just a push by the few people in the "ed reform" or "ed revolution" industry to continue to push through changes they see as a) helpful to education; or b) profitable, take your choice.

Has anyone noticed how very small the actual number of people is i these various groups? How many people comment on LEV website? (or are in LEV's good graces and are allowed to comment?) How many people are in OSC? 30 people that are the heads of community groups or are ed-reformers or politicians; maybe a thousand people in the various groups represented...out of 500,000 people in Seattle?

My point is that Green Dot, in the instance of "parentrevolution," along with its partners in crime (evidently represented by a lot or realtors down there.....hmmm...) has the ear of politicians and is enacting change withour a lot of people even knowing anything about the issues.

THIS is the "revolution": A small group of flappers and other wonks and money changers shaking hands with politicos, making deals using their gathered base (mainly minority groups) as payback - "We're Our Schools Coalition - change the laws and we'll give you votes!"

Yes, their IS a revolution, but it is not "of the people" as it is portrayed. It is of Green Dot, realtors, and politicians eager for votes.

The thing to do is let the politicians know that there are many, many more people out there who are wise to this game, and we'll be voting them out come this November, or next.

seattle said...

So SC are you saying that the community is not swift enough, capable of, or informed well enough, to make their own decisions as to what should happen to their schools? You think that charters will lure parents like little blind mice and thus parents should not be trusted to make their own decisions? Is that it?

Under what reasoning would you take away the communities right to decide what happens to THEIR schools?

seattle citizen said...

anonymom, the schools belong to the whole city. They are not the property of the neighborhood. They are accountable to every citizen of the city.

As was noted earlier, people are easily swayed. Particularly these days, with talk-radio and flaming, little consensus, little reasoned discussion...

No offense, but asking me, "are you saying that the community is not swift enough, capable of, or informed well enough, to make their own decisions as to what should happen to their schools?" is one of these rhetorical tools: "You think people are dumb?! Everybody! look at SC, he thinks everyone is dumb!"

Of course, I don't think that at all. But as was noted earlier, whole PTSAs are led to endorse stuff without reasoned discussion; the education of their children is a flash-point, an emotional subject; it's easy to convince people, for instance, that "whole schools are failing" etc.

So yes, I think people can be misled. This has always been the problem with majority rule - what if the majority is wrong?

In this case, I see an astroturf attempt to wrestle schools away from their foundations as public institutions and privatize them. Charlie is right that there could be GOOD ways to allow more community voice (not just parents: what about others in the community who have an interest in their schools?) But that's not what I see this thing as. The chairman of the board of parentrevolution is Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot charter schools. I mean, seriously: that doesn't raise flags?

seattle citizen said...

Come to think of it, why IS it only the parents who get to sign the petition to restructure a school? What about all the other people in the neighborhood? Don't they get a say?

That tells me that the "revolution" is merely playing on the emotional chords of parents - they have little interest in other stakeholders because those other stakeholders might not be so easily swayed by the "We have to make the school what we want it to be for OUR chidlren" exhortation. The schools are, or should be, what we want for everybody, not just the parents' children but for the whole community. And as I said in the last comment, since these are Seattle Public Schools (in our case) they are institutions that are part of the whole city, not just neighborhood property to be reconfigured to the whim of this year's parent/guadians.

The First Arnold said...

"What I think Arnold is asking, is given that Washington makes voters fund significant aspect of public schools with local levy money, where would the money come from for charters.".

Yes, this reflects part of my thought process.

I really don't think our schools can sustain any further cuts without grave outcomes. How can we afford Charters?

I'm highly suspicious that there some high profile individuals looking at ways to finance Charters in this state.

Also, the Washington State Supreme Court will be hearing about the State's "Paramount" duty to "Amply" fund education this winter. Additional funding might become available.

If the Supplemental Levy fails- part of Seattle's Ed Reform initiatives will fail to materialize i.e. merit pay, computer infrastructure linking MAP tests to teacher performance, etc.

If the Levy fails, I wonder if it will signal Seattle citizens are not in favor of financing Ed Reform.

I find myself linking Ed Reform Initiatives & Charter schools- my thinking may be off.

I've also wondered if the next Operation Levy will be larger to attempt finance Charters.

I'm with Melissa- I suspect a particular Legislator may be attempting to influence the Charter movement- as we speak.

The First Arnold said...

Anonymom- My experience has shown most parents are not well informed about SPS's Strategic Initiates. I suspect when funds will shift out of their child's school to HQ, they will become involved...not before when it really counts.

seattle citizen said...

First Arnold,
Absolutely. There has apparently been a movement among high-level politicos and some high-level business people to fundamentally restructure the entire education system. It's been in play for a couple of decades, ever since people figured out that there is this massive institution that has lots and lots of money attached to it...The movement is privatization, based on the principal that the free market is more efficient than public entities, and hey, the free market pays some great salaries and profits to those who can grab a chunk.

This movement is fed by an earnest desire for change - many students AREN'T successful.

So the discussion is carefully directed at changing the schools - don't talk about WHY some students aren't doing well, just point at the schools and blame them - it's the teachers! Yeah! This conveniently sets up a market for...a free market of education.

Of course, it's all based on the "achievement gap," where some populations, grouped by category (which I think is inaccurate and, maybe, perpetuates racist ideologies), aren't doing well.

So: If it's the teachers and the school's fault, and if the victims are the poor and children of color, then somehow teachers and schools are thereby racist, right? I mean, if the acheievement gap is the teacher's fault, it must be, since, whites and wealthier (and some minorities, such as "Asians") are doing better. It must be, in this view, that the teachers are either racist, and not treating some populations fairly, or that they are merely teaching in "white ways" that don't help some populations.

Nobody says this, but it's inherent in the argument, and it's very unfair and doesn't address the root causes of the lack of success: poverty, lack of enrichment, dislocation, inattention, absenteeism...

But it's okay, in this free-market restructuring, because of course ALL parents and guardians will take advantage of "choice" and of knowing who the "good" teachers are and the "bad" teachers, and of course all parent/guardians surely know what's best in a school...so ALL students will succeed if we merely open the market and get rid of those lousy, racist, euro-centric teachers.

Bah. You bet there are legislators and business people who believe this, high-level, mid-level and low level. If they are not actually devious and trying to profit, they are, in the case of the politicos, responding to what they perceive as a united voice from their base, particularly a base that promises votes. Race has played a part in politics for decades, and continues to do so.

One has merely to look at the Our Schools Coalition website and note who it is (right side): Tim Burgess (and now a couple of other council members) a few business organizations, a couple of other astro-turf "coalitions" (Alliance for Education, League of Education Voters) and a whole bunch of minority groups.

It's understandable that people who have been oppressed want power, but this sort of dealing with the devil to get it is not helpful. It's tempting to become powerful by being part of a "movement," and their might even be some money or power in it...but in the long run it is destructive of the institution of public education: It sells it to the money men.

Chris S. said...

Hmmm, Arnold are you maybe thinking I-1098 money will be used to fund charters? I voted for it anyway, but am aware I will have to continue to fight for its proper use. I-728 passed once - can we do it again?

And SC responded pretty well but when Anonymom said ...the community is not swift enough, capable of, or informed well enough, to make their own decisions as to what should happen to their schools? You think that charters will lure parents like little blind mice and thus parents should not be trusted to make their own decisions? I thought, well, Gates, Broad, LEV, KIPP & GreenDot are banking on it! Witness KJs visit to SE Seattle. OMG bball player!!! I don't necessarily think parents are dumb, but many many, including the well-off and well educated, are amazingly (to me) uninformed, and charterites are very skilled and very careful to use language one would have to be un-American to disagree with.

Charlie Mas said...

It can't be astroturf if they have a majority of the school community with them. That requires the active consent of the community and makes it authentic.

Yes, the community can be misled, but let's not presume that there won't be passionate opposition to any such effort. It is significantly more difficult to mislead the community when there's active opposition.

Those worried about the school community getting something they don't want should consider how that differs from the current situation.

Those worried about the broader community getting something they don't want should consider how that differs from the current situation.

Let's remember this: the District's primary flaw - the dysfunction at the root of all of their other failures - is their complete lack of response to the needs of the community they ostensibly serve. This sort of law would either bypass the District's unresponsive attitude or would inspire the District to become more responsive. Either way, we will get schools to become more responsive to the needs of the students.

This will, of course, play holy hell with centralized decision-making, but only at failing schools. Schools that aren't "failing" are not subject to the Parent Trigger law.

Chris S. said...

Also note the communities targeted for reform DO get smart after a while - it was NOT the rich white people who just voted Fenty and Rhee off the island in DC.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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The First Arnold said...

Charlie, No, I don't mean I-1098.

Unlike any other state in the union, Washington State Constitution specifies education is the state's "highest priority" because is our country's great equalizer. The Washington State constitution goes on to say that it is the State's "Paramount Duty" to "amply" fund education.

Thus, schools should not have to pass Levies to fund education.

In our case, the state has unlawfully met its obligation to fund education.

So when the legislature passes the ability for schools to pass Levies, they are not fulfilling the it's duty to "amply" fund education.

This case will be heard in the Washington State Supreme Court this winter. I am sure there will debate around the word "ample".

seattle said...

"So yes, I think people can be misled."

Why is it SC that when someone considers charters you brush them off as being uninformed, or easily misled? Why do you believe that only people that buy into your anti charter movement are enlightened? That is utterly insulting. And so very arrogant of you to not consider any points of view but your own - to think that your position is the only possible right position, and everyone else is just to dumb to figure it out.

But I guess you have to protect your job at all costs, huh.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, my understanding of charter law is that charters get the same funding per pupil as any other school. As well, they get levy funds. However, charter law varies from state to state and in some states charters are overseen by districts and therefore, would get levy funds. If the charters have some other entity like a Board of Education overseeing them, maybe not.


A lot of reasons why good charters work really can depend on the state charter law.

seattle said...

"they are institutions that are part of the whole city, not just neighborhood property to be reconfigured to the whim of this year's parent/guadians."

Yes, lets not give parents any power. We should continue to leave reconfiguring to the whim of the superintendent right. Like her baby, STEM. That cost the district an exorbitant amount of money and won't serve the current students of Cleveland. Never mind that nobody asked for it.

And that lovely Environmental science K-8 program at Jane Addams that parents didn't ask for and didn't want. The whim of the parents was for a traditional 6-8 middle school. They could see the over crowding coming from a mile away. Now two years later we have a half full, under enrolled Jane Addams in a severely over crowded cluster. And the super is now faced with, drum roll please, not enough middle school seats in the cluster and possibly, another drum roll please, reconfiguring JA into a middle school.

Yes, best not to listen to the whim of the parents.

How's that working for you?

seattle citizen said...

Anonymom, as long as you want to continue to direct your comments at me, rather than the points...I didn't say my posiiton is the right one. I said people can be misled. Of course I'm anti-charter - as I've stated many times, the "charter movement" is NOT, in my opinion, good for public education. The parentrevolution people make a big deal about there being four "choices" for restructuring a school, but of course Steve Barr, their chairman and the founder of Green Dot hopes they will go with the charter option, Green Dot maybe?

Their website makes a big deal of being "pro teacher" but has the usual "reform" talking pints that lead to...the free market.

You're free to disagree with me, anonymom, but don't be "insulted"; I don't think you're dumb, I just think you don't address the debate, you merely accues me of being arrogant (okay, I am sometimes, but so what? I'm debating - I argue my points...can't you?)

"Protecting my job"? THAT is an insult. How dare you accuse me of merely caring about my job and not about the education of children? A typical reform talking point - ooh, those teachers, uncaring, merely interested in their paycheck. THAT'S an insult.

seattle citizen said...

I didn't say parents shouldn't be listened to. Can you please refrain from twisting my words for, oh, just a millisecond?

Many people advocated for a environmentally themed program at Jane Addams. Where have you been? Yes, many advocated for a trad K-8, also. So who won that one? Which group of parents in that neighborhood got what they wanted?

seattle citizen said...

Your argument about the NE actually points to the necessity of whole-district planning - the district has to meet the needs of ALL the students in the NE quadrant by balancing populations in the available school sites.

But I guess if 51% of parents in the east Lake City neighbor want, say, another STEM school, well, by gosh, that's what they're gonna get! The other 49% might then have to go to Eckstein and Whitman, but hey, they can add portables.

Anonymous said...

This will, of course, play holy hell with centralized decision-making, but only at failing schools. Schools that aren't "failing" are not subject to the Parent Trigger law.


Uhh. Have you checked lately? More and more are failing every year. So, pretty much all of them will eventually be subjected to mob rule in this type of scheme. I wonder how they measure the 51%? Especially since they can call up parents who might be attending in future years. Do they count all the future maybe-attenders who didn't vote when they count 51%? How would you possibly even know who that would be. What about people who might become pregnant or move into the area? Should they count too? Seems like near impossible to really know what 51% even means.

I would argue that parents who do a lot at their child's school know that school better than most people at district headquarters. I absolutely think they have valuable input.

Depends what they do. Most know pretty much nothing. Most care very little about serving everyone's needs. Most like being there to hang out with other adults. Should they get to have input? Some, but not too much. Frankly, they should probably just get a real job, which would be a fine thing to model to their children.

Still Skeptical

wseadawg said...

SC & Anonymom: Good fireworks tonight!

An important part of the reformer strategy puzzle you're not arguing about is how the astro-turf groups co-opt parental involvement and twist it to their needs, and not the needs of the parents.

The OSC is a good example of how to obtain the supposed support (really consent) of a wide range of communities, then twist it a bit and deliver the message that "parents want X or Y" (And we, Charter folks, will give them what they want).

Haven't we all seen the Change we voted for in '08 morph into a lot of D.C. business as usual?

The point is that the intelligence or sophistication of the particular parent groups is irrelevant. The groups within the reform agenda will parachute into town, make a good sale, have you sign their mailing list, and voila(!), you are now a parent demanding their product! When the politicians see the size of those mailing lists, it's a pretty quick ka-ching of a bunch of votes in their column the next time around, so they'll always grab onto anything that looks like a movement.

All these things need to be read carefully, dissected, cross-examined, and ultimately embraced or rejected on their own merits. We know our politicians don't read legislation, and we know our Ed Reformers have profits and power (the ultimate aphrodisiac) in their minds, so the only ones defending parents interests are the parents, already occupied with their kids sports, education and well-being, and who typically, smart or dumb, do not have the time or the access to the decision-makers to really get their voices heard, and taken seriously.

wseadawg said...

And besides that, GreenDot's numbers are nothing to brag about at all. So why is it's founder here in Seattle pushing Charters? It's all about the dollars, uh, er, um, I mean "kids."

Is he an expert in running great schools, or an expert in wrestling schools away from communities and playing God with kids futures?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Frankly, they should probably just get a real job, which would be a fine thing to model to their children."

That you remain anonymous after making a distasteful statement like that says a lot about you. I'd bet you wouldn't say that at a PTA meeting or school function but you probably don't even attend.

Volunteers are people who can't get a job and modeling service to your children is useless?

I have always said I'd love if all volunteers in our district walked away for one week. You think you wouldn't feel it? In particular, you think your school wouldn't feel it? Who do you think gets things done at schools today? Who is working to fund staff? Maintenance? Office equipment? Playground equipment? Monitor bus lines?

Unbelievable.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

"Many people advocated for a environmentally themed program at Jane Addams. Where have you been?"

I live very close to JA, and have a middle school age child. When Summit closed I was very active in advocating for a 6-8 traditional middle school. Most parents agreed that was what was needed in our area and we lobbied the board and super relentlessly. A handful of parents disagreed and thought an IB K-8 or an immersion k-8 would work better. But nobody, and I do mean nobody, asked for an environmental science k-8 at JA. We were all shocked when that theme was announced.

Consequently, the school was nowhere near as popular as it could have been. The first year almost 80% of the elementary students assigned there were there due to a mandatory assignment. And there were only 54 kids in the entire middle school. To add insult to injury one week after families received their assignment letters the district sent them another letter advising that JA k-8 was only guaranteed for 3 years, after which time capacity would have to be re-evaluated and the school may get restructured into a middle school.

This year the school grew a bit, but even with that growth, the building is still just a little over half full.

To bad the super didn't listen to what the parents had to say. Unfortunately, this is a recurring theme in SPS. Parents write and call the super, they go to board directors coffee hours, attend board meetings, lobby, speak out, protest, call the press, form coalitions, blog. But the super and board rarely listen to, or even respond to, parents. And there is not much we can do about it. It's extremely frustrating.

That's why the trigger law is appealing to me. It forces the district to hear what parents have to say.

Charlie, Q. about the trigger law. What if the community of a failing school didn't use the trigger law? Would the district still have to step in under NCLB and restructure? I think about the case of Summit, which was in step 5 of NCLB, but the community was perfectly happy with the school the way it was and would probably not have opted for any intervention or restructure.

Anonymous said...

On please Melissa, get a grip. And believe it. My kids have been in schools with LOTS of volunteers, huge PTAs, etc. AND, they've been in schools without. Guess what? Things do get done just fine without volunteers. Sure it's nice to have volunteers, but fine without them too. If you think it makes a fundamental difference, I assure you, it does not. And, let's also be clear, there IS a lot to be said for modeling employment and encouraging independence. That doesn't happen to kids whose mommy is always in the school flitting around, always an arms length away. I definitely do not want school volunteer types in charge of educational planning or decision making, or having a particularly large voice in policy. The school IS a part of the community, it's not a democracy, it doesn't belong to 51% of some small group of parents... as a lot of other posters have noted.

SS

Patrick said...

Anonymom, where do you get this: And there were only 54 kids in the entire middle school.

The Oct. 2009 adjusted enrollment shows a total of 147 kids in 6th-8th grades.

This year Jane Addams's enrollment is up by 1/3. I would expect increases to continue as large entry grades move up until all the grades are the same size.

hschinske said...

And, let's also be clear, there IS a lot to be said for modeling employment and encouraging independence. That doesn't happen to kids whose mommy is always in the school flitting around, always an arms length away.

There is this thing called flextime. Many of the most active parent volunteers I know also have full-time jobs. My husband has been on way more field trips than I have.

Helen Schinske

wseadawg said...

I can't believe one can't see the value of volunteering at their local school, and thinks all that "flitting around" makes no difference to their child's education. Modeling independence? What about modeling excellence, doing as much as you can, and going the extra mile? Those "flitting" volunteers have kept my children safe on the playground, crossing the streets, chaperoned on excellent field trips, and taught my kids many life skills beyond what they learn in the classroom. Sure, they'd still get the same curriculum, but compare the schools with high rates of volunteerism with those that don't have it, and look at their performance.

I wonder how many teachers in the district would agree with your sentiment, Anonymous? I'd bet not one.

Sure, some parents are annoying and don't necessarily improve things for the kids. We get it. I'm sure we've all seen and experienced it. But to throw a bucket of cold water on volunteering as though it has no impact is just, well, really ignorant.

Sahila said...

I've done my share of volunteering (and I still do)... but consider this:

Volunteering - Service or Exploitation?

seattle said...

54 was the the number that I was given from the JA principal when I asked for it, which was immediately after she received the initial enrollment numbers. At that time she was very worried about programming and electives with such a small number of middle school students.

There are certainly factors that could have increased enrollment after that though.

JA was the only middle school north of the ship canal that had any open seats, so all families new to the district that wanted a school north of the ship canal would have had to send their kids there.

Then in late August 2009, the week before school started, the district sent out NCLB opt out letters to students from failing schools. They were offered a transfer in to the JA middle school (and a couple of other schools too) with transportation from anywhere in the entire district.

Even with growth, today the school is still under enrolled. I don't believe it's as popular as it could have been if the district had listened to what parents asked for.

And I'm not so sure about what the future holds for JA either?? Besides only getting a 3 year commitment from the district, the schools first set of WASL scores has been released, and they don't look so good. Only 26% of JA students in 6th grade passed the science WASL, and in 8th grade only 38% passed it. In math only 63% of 6th graders passed, and only 41% of 8th graders passed. That's not great news for a science and math magnet. And reading and writing scores were low too. In fact reading, writing, and science scores were far lower than any other school in the entire attendance area.

Of course, at this point, I want to see the school succeed, grow, and do well. All I am pointing out is that the district should have listened to parents in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Volunteering is fine, but it isn't an entitlement to some sort of extra voice. I volunteer, I don't expect to get to pick the math book because of it. Plenty of volunteers aren't even good. I'll take MGJ's decisions over that of a bunch of volunteer's any day. Volunteers should not be used for essential pieces of education either, rather for enrichment. If schools with volunteers do better in some way than those without, it is unlikely that they do better because of the volunteers. That's a bit like measuring teachers with the MAP. The 2 aren't necessarily related.

Parent Volunteer

Melissa Westbrook said...

SS, you completely twisted what I said. I wasn't even talking about a school takeover. I was referencing your unfortunate remark about volunteers.

And I don't know what schools you've been in but YES volunteers make a difference. Roosevelt, for example, would not have its jazz band or its drama program if not for volunteers.

"Volunteers should not be used for essential pieces of education either, rather for enrichment."

OH, I get it. Sit down, shut up and raise money but you shouldn't have much a say in the school you raise money for. Okay, so maybe no more fundraising for staff or maintenance. Interesting where you want to draw the thing because I have long said PTA is for enrichment and yet here we are funding every thing under the sun.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I think Parent Volunteer 2:04 (you called PV "SS") is saying that staff and maintainence shouldn't be paid for by volunteers (PTSA), that they should be piad for as part of the organizational budget.

I tend to agree with PV - the school should be organized to run without volunteers are all, where possible. Any extra volunteer help is great, of course, and volunteers, including parents of course, those who sit on BLTs, for instance, can help guide the organization's (the school's) direction, but really, schools shouldn't have to COUNT on volunteers because they have to do without sometimes, and because they represent a greater sphere of stakeholders than just the volunteers and/or parents.

I don't get the feeling that PV is against volunteers in any way, shape or form, but rather PV believes, as do I, that schools have to be able to run without them, and that parent/guardian/volunteer influence, while important and perhaps necessary, shouldn't be controlling - that is the job of the principal, staff, and district (and, under our current economic and educational organizational structures, the state and the feds)

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
Volunteer and raise money IF you want to, but it isn't an entitlement. And do it without expectations. That's what it means to volunteer. Roosevelt would still have a jazz band without volunteers, it would simply be a different jazz band. It would still be a good school. Personally, I would support a policy that all fundraising go to a generalized pot. See how much those "volunteers" are willing to fork over in that case. You can bet, not much. In that case, can you really call it "volunteering"?

Parent Volunteer

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

But anonymous it's not just about fundraising. How about all of the volunteers who garden, help out in the lunchroom, answer phones in the office, monitor kids during recess and during lunch, organize teacher appreciation events, write and distribute school newsletters, etc.

Sure parents fundraise too. And it makes a HUGE difference. Yes, sure, a school could survive without those fundraising $$$, but what would that look like? And would that be best for the kids?

My sons high school just started a parent initiated science boosters group. This small group went straight to the science department teachers and asked them what they wanted and needed. Based on that feedback they are fundraising to provide more science field trips, and more materials for labs. And they are lobbying for SPS to continue to allow kids to receive science credit for Astronomy and Horticulture classes (MGJ is trying to standardize science and make these classes electives).

And lets not forget parent volunteers that sit on school governing committees, like the BLT and site council. Or parents who volunteer on their schools PTSA. Or special committees that a school might have, like Diversity committee, or new family welcome committee, etc.

Do you honestly think parents, should not be allowed to join these committees? Because some of them like the BLT and site council are governing bodies for the school, where parent committee members, teachers, and staff all get a vote at the table. And how about the PTSA, with their political influence, and fundraising? All parents and all volunteers. Should we do away with the PTSA?

Of course no single volunteer parent should have the power to make any decisions on behalf of a school. That does't happen. But parents working together, on school appointed committees, BLT's, Site Councils, PTSA's, certainly should be able to have a voice.

So yes, PV, you are right schools can operate without volunteers. But why should they?

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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seattle said...

"PV "SS") is saying that staff and maintainence shouldn't be paid for by volunteers (PTSA)"

100% agreed SC. Who wouldn't agree with that? Parents don't WANT to pay for staff and maintenance.

The only problem is schools are understaffed, and maintenance is a complete joke.

So what are parents to do when their kids elementary school has a dangerous door that could easily chop a kindergartner finger off ? And SPS refuses to fix it? (this actually happened at our kids elementary school - a kid got their finger tip chopped off and had to get it re-attached)

A) We could work with the district to get the door fixed! Even demand it! Unfortunately more times than not we lose. And meanwhile all of the kids at the school are at risk of a severe injury

B) Parents pay for the door to get fixed, so kids are safe.

It's an obvious decision for most parents. We pony up.

We don't want to have to pay for maintenance and we shouldn't be expected to. But, as parents, we are not willing to turn the other cheek to a potential danger and so we pay to fix it.

At my sons HS, fundraising pays 100% of the costs for teachers salary to stay after school and staff the "homework help center" for struggling students. Let's think about our options here.

A) We could work with the district and ask them to provide more remedial classes, and fund things like after school homework help centers. And we have for years! But the district hasn't heard us. They tell us there is no funding for it. Meanwhile, kids continue fail.

B) We have an annual campaign and parents raise the funds to run the homework help center. Kids catch up and pass their classes! Meanwhile we continue to lobby the district for the funding.

Again it's an easy and obvious choice for most parents. We pony up and fund when we need to.

As parents we want what's best for our kids. I believe teachers do too. But, the district just doesn't come through all the time, and when it doesn't parents and teachers step up.

Sahila said...

As to unsafe buildings - REPORT IT TO THE NEAREST OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY REGULATORY BODY... a couple of hefty fines and the District will soon start to fix things...

Or file a lawsuit...

the more parents pay to fix, the more the District will abdicate from its responsibility...

Sahila said...

no testing for connor

BrunoBehrend said...

Dear Everyone,

If you are interested in learning more about the Parent Trigger, and various ways that it can be promoted, I would really enjoy presenting some of that information to you on-line, or potentially around an event in Seattle.

Here is a policy brief we wrote on the trigger.

http://www.heartland.org/full/28202/The_Parent_Trigger_A_Model_for_Transforming_Education.html

I'm in the education reform movement, and it's my job to promote and organize around robust education reform. We are BIG fans of parental empowerment.

Anyone here can contact me at:

Bruno Behrend
Director of the Center for School Reform
The Heartland Institute
19 South LaSalle Street #903
Chicago, IL 60603
phone 312/377-4000
fax 312/377-5000
cell 847/343-4250
bbehrend@heartland.org
http://www.heartland.org