No One Could Have Seen This Coming
Okay, so we have the Parent Revolution. This is a group grown out passage of a law called the Parent Trigger in California that allows 51% of parents at a school (that is under certain criteria) to force a district to transform a school under a turnaround strategy that the parents choose. This sounds good, right? (What's interesting is that a school that is ID'ed as a "persistently lowest achieving school" is NOT eligible but only ones eligible for certain corrective actions.)
The parents have five interesting choices: charter conversion, turnaround, closure, transformation and bargaining power. There is nuance to each but basically:
- Charter - school reopens under a charter operation BUT unlike other charters, has to take all the kids who are eligible to attend the school. That means if there are ELL and Special services, that charter operation HAS to have them as well.
- turnaround - entire new staff and local community has more control over the staffing and the budget
- closure - Parent Revoluntion doesn't recommend this one but if parents take it, they get to send their kids to better performing schools nearby
- bargaining power - this one is more of a threat - if the district won't listen, get 51% of parents' signatures and use it as a bargaining chip. Could get ugly, though.
- transformation - some of the staff changes and parents get more control
Plus any parent at the school OR who lives in the school's eligibility region can sign a petition.
So against this backdrop, the first test case. Parents at one of the worst schools in Compton signed a petition to takeover the school. Or did they? A story in the LA Times says that some parents who signed the petition say they were misled or threatened if they didn't sign. (Some say they were told they could be deported if they didn't sign.) Both sides are crying foul with the parents who did sign willingly saying it's intimidation against THEM.
Parent Revolution apparently had targeted this school because of its low performance AND they had decided it would be a charter conversion. (Interesting they didn't wait to ask the parents first.) A state audit said this summer said the schools appeared to run to support adults, not kids and that the district seemed to be doing little to change that. The school and its parent supporters point to a 77 point rise over two years in their state test scores, making them one of the fastest improving schools in the state.
In an opinion piece in the LA Times, they point out that the parent trigger can be used on schools NOT in the greatest need (not to mention that turnaround or charter conversion is absolutely no guarantee of success). They worry over how quickly the legislation got passed without anyone asking some "what if" questions.
They talk about how the district and the school had no idea the petition was going around. And you can see how you would want to keep it quiet, otherwise the teachers and staff would be working against it and the situation could quickly get out of hand.
The Times makes a good point over how wrong it is for groups to be working in secret and partial or misinformationbeing given out by either side. They warn of charter groups trying to "buy" parent signatures by making promises they may not keep.
The California State Board of Education is meeting this week to possibly tighten up the rules.
Let's have California figure this all out before it moves to the rest of the country.