Pulling the Trigger

Included in this years budget is a radical provision only one other state has recently implemented. The Parent Trigger. The Dispatch gives us a quick explanation

Gov. John Kasich's budget plan would give parents the power to force radical changes on chronically underperforming schools.
The "parent trigger" would apply to schools that rank in the state's bottom 5 percent in academics for three consecutive school years. If a majority of a school's parents sign a petition demanding change, the school would be forced to accept the reform the parents propose:
  • Converting into a charter school.
  • Replacing at least 70 percent of the staff.
  • Contracting with another school district, an effective nonprofit group or a for-profit group to operate the school.
  • Turning the school's operation over to the Ohio Department of Education.
  • Making "fundamental reforms" to the school's staffing or governance.

The article goes on to include a quote from JTF

Critics say they want parents involved in school reform, but perhaps not like this.

"I don't know how you don't create chaos when you've always got this specter of parents who are dissatisfied in some way saying, 'We're going to initiate this process and reconstitute this school,'" said Scott DiMauro, a Worthington teacher who heads the Central OEA/NEA, a regional union branch. He spoke on behalf of Join the Future, a new group advocating for public schools and teachers.

The Parent trigger has only been used at one California school, and the result was a mess, but before we get to the Compton story, EdWeek suggests that parents will be unlikely to want to use this trigger

Despite the fanfare since the law went into effect in Jan. 2010, few parents have taken advantage of their new leverage to create change. That's not at all surprising. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, which has been in existence since 2002, parents have had the right to transfer their children out of failing schools. But few have done so.

There are several explanations. In 2003, a study by the University of Texas found that parents often chose schools for idiosyncratic reasons, with low-income parents more satisfied with their schools despite low test scores. Echoing this finding, in 2005, the National Center for the Study of Privatization reported that parents frequently opted for schools based on holistic, social, logistic and administrative factors.

So why any concern? Compton.

There has been only one effort so far in California, in Compton, and it has proven highly controversial. California Watch has the story.

The issue of more transparency has emerged as a major source of controversy, and conflict, in response to the stealth campaign organized by Parent Revolution, which was able to gain sufficient signatures from parents at the McKinley Elementary School in Compton Unified School District to turn the school in a charter school, and to designate which charter school company would run it.

The petition was delivered to school district officials, who had no idea the petition drive was even underway, after weeks of signature gathering by Parent Revolution organizers who trolled Compton, knocking randomly on doors and stopping people on the street to locate McKinley parents, or parents from feeder schools.

After the petitions were delivered, many parents asked for their names to be withdrawn, claiming that they weren't fully aware of what they were signing.

So in short. A stealth trigger campaign was started by a for profit business (The Parent Revolution, has close ties to Green Dot public schools, a large charter management organization in Los Angeles) to take over a public school, and they did so by collecting signatures randomly and without properly disclosing their intent. The case is now pending before the courts.

That's the first and only instance of a parent trigger being pulled - and some want this debacle imported to Ohio.