Sunday, April 22, 2012

Real Parent Empowerment is a Rebellion

     If without medical justification, [your son] is absent from school on any day during the Assessment period, the District will deem this absence as unexcused.  Further, if you keep [your son] home from school during the Assessment period, without medical verification, it is within the District’s discretion to deem these absences as indicia of educational neglect, which would leave the District little choice but to contact Child Protective Services (“CPS”). Pursuant to the New York State Education Department’s 2012 School Administrator’s Manual, a student will receive a final score of “999 and will be counted as “not tested” if: (1) he is absent from the entire test; (2) he refuses the entire test; (3) he is absent for any session; or (4) he is present for all sessions, but does not respond to even one question on the test. Accordingly, if [your son] engages in any one of these activities, he will receive a final score of 999, he will be counted as not tested, he may receive an unexcused absence, and CPS may have to be called. 
Thomas Capone - Principal of School #2
Oceanside School District
Oceanside, NY

 There's been a lot of talk about parent empowerment.  I'm not seeing a lot of it.  The Parent Trigger Law, as I have seen it applied to the Adelanto School District, is not parent empowerment.  It is a vehicle to impose Race To The Top policies on school districts.  It does more to empower outside groups to make decisions affecting children than it does to empower their parents.  Many of our laws from so-called education reformers do little to nothing for parent empowerment.  Many of them actually restrict parent empowerment.

In the latest opt out news, Christine Dougherty wanted to opt her son out of state testing.  Her son attends School #2 in Oceanside, New York.  She informed the principal that after watching her son struggle and listening to his concerns they decided to opt him out of this unnecessary testing.  Her son was still required to take the test when he arrived at school.  Also, Thomas Capone, the principal, responded to her decision by threatening to contact Child Protective Services if her son did not participate in state testing.

Really?!  What the heck!  Where are the Pro Bono lawyers to fight for her constitutional parent empowerment rights?  Where are the deep pocket funded astro turf nonprofit organizations to organize civil rights resistance to the tyranny of the state? Where are the liberal or conservative politicians that wax eloquently that they support disenfranchised parents?  They are nowhere because it is not a cause that aligns with their goals.  It doesn't impose their policies on school districts. 

We are in an era in which the state and federal governments want to make decisions for us.  This is a bipartisan effort by politicians that can't balance or pass a real budget, or secure our borders, but want to take over the education of our children.  And standardized state testing is a key element in how it is done.

Good luck to the parents that want to opt out of state testing.  Such an option takes away power from politicians and deep pocket funded astro turf nonprofit organizations that want to use state testing for their purposes.  Opting out of state testing is exercising true parent empowerment.  It is the actual parent rebellion demanding real reforms to education. 

There is a grassroots parent rebellion forming across the country that is demanding real improvement in schools, or parents will opt their students out of state testing.  It has nothing to do with the nonprofit organization called Parent Revolution.  The nonprofit Parent Revolution has had more than two years and several states to properly implement a parent trigger law petition and hasn't succeeded yet.  Their problem - The Parent Trigger Law is not a grassroots movement.  It causes division wherever it goes and winds up initiating a lawsuit instead of reform.

Opting out of state testing, however, is a real parent rebellion.  There are parents in Seattle protesting state budget cuts to education by opting their children from state testing.  The parents reason that the $40 million a year the state spends on testing could be better used in the classroom.  

There is an online petition to the New York State Regents to end the reliance on high stakes standardized testing.

There are more than 300 school districts in Texas  that have adopted a resolution saying that standardized tests are "strangling" public schools and asking their State Board of Education to rethink the testing regime.

The rebellion is growing.  More and more parents are considering opting their children out of state testing.  There are more open letters from professionals calling for the end of high stakes testing and the beginning of true education reforms. And there are good reasons for this.

The federal and state use of standardized state testing is hurting - not reforming education for our students.  It is narrowing the curriculum to only what will be on the test - crowding out social studies, science, and the arts.  It is limiting teaching to simple test prep instruction.  Critical thinking is being limited to deciphering the correct answer out of four choices on a fill in the bubble test.  Its only real purpose is to give politicians and influential groups an easy to score leverage to impose their educational policies on schools.  

Parents, if you really want to hold your school, district, state, and federal government hostage to your demands for better education - opt your students out of state testing.  

Please join me in my reflections on 21st century learning.  I want to read your comments and opinions.  I will do my best to answer questions.

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April 09, 2012

The Innovator Educator - Blog

April 19, 2012

American Principles In Action
April 19, 2012
Grumpy Educators
April 18, 2012

Schools Matter
April 18, 2012

The Washington Post – The Answer Sheet
April 20, 2012

New York Times – School Book
With Test Week Here, Parents Consider the Option of Opting Out
April 16, 2012 

q13Fox. com

April 09, 2012

Herald Net
April 09, 2012

My San Antonio
April 03, 2012
The Washington Post – The Answer Sheet
March 31, 2012

The Miami Herald
March 27, 2012

The Washington Post – The Answer Sheet
March 23, 2012

The Washington Post – The Answer Sheet
February 10, 2012

The New York Times
February 04, 2012

The Huffington Post – Education
January 31, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

State Senator Gloria Romero Addresses School Board - Parent Trigger Law Petition

      Even as she affirmed support for Parent Revolution, Romero called the group's two petition tactic a "dubious strategic choice" that was bound to confuse parents.  She also criticized what she called "rookie political mistakes" in making demands she found politically unrealistic, such as a freer hand to hire and fire teachers, and allowing the debate to focus again on charter schools, which also occurred in Compton.

      In particular, Romero said presenting Adelanto parents with two petitions to sign was needlessly confusing and only aided those opposing the effort. ...     Romero also said several of the parents' goals, including changes in the curriculum and textbooks, could not be reached through in-district reforms.     "You cannot negotiate for something the district cannot do," Romero said.  "That's not negotiating in good faith."

     Meanwhile, the author of the 2010 parent trigger law, former state Sen. Gloria Romero said parents should be given one chance to revoke their signature within a specified time limit if they believe they were mislead into signing the petition.  "This would put the onus on organizers that you really have to be truthful and open and honest with parents," she said.

Note: The views posted on my blog are my own and should not be confused as statements  from the Adelanto School Board.  

Parent Empowerment

Parent empowerment is a good idea.  Our public school system was founded on local control - the original old G of parent empowerment.  The concept of a public school system was centered on community-based run education.  The system allowed for local people to be elected by the community to be trustees of their school district.  It evolved to allow parent involvement as volunteers, members of the school site councils, members of district committees, PTA, Boosters, and members of interview panels for teachers, principals, and superintendents.  

Unfortunately, the public school system is no longer centered on community-based run education.  Local control has been drained from public schools.  What we now have is only a facade of local control.  Education is now being run by politicians in state capitols and from Washington D.C.. The politicians, in turn, are influenced by the deep pocket affluence of nonprofit and for-profit organizations pushing their agenda on education.  

No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top grants are federal laws that are pushing states to adopt laws and policies that have been narrowing the curriculum and forcing our schools to be test prep institutions at the expense of science, social studies, and the arts.  The "essential standards" taught now are only the ones that appear on state tests.  Fear of punishment by state and federal government agencies is forcing all other subjects out of the curriculum.   Even U.S. Education Secretary Duncan has conceded this point.

Every dollar received in grants by schools from the state and federal government have strings attached to them that specifically directs how they should be spent.  They are called restricted funds - restricted because they can only be spent to satisfy a particular state or federal policy.  Local school districts only have real say on unrestricted funds that are almost all for employee salaries and benefits.  It is sad that local control now means that districts can cut the salaries and benefits of employees during the tough times, but have little say on how to spend other monies for education.

The California parent trigger law doesn't empower parents to fix any of these problems.  The parent trigger law is limited to imposing Race To The Top policies on local school districts.  The parent trigger law is a vehicle to obligate school districts to enforce one out of five Race To The Top intervention models on a failing school.  A real parent empowerment law would give parents the power to provide their school districts relief from onerous policies limiting our ability to provide a complete and better quality education for students. 

Charter schools, for example, are considered to be superior to traditional public schools because they are free from regulations and policies that hamper traditional public schools.  Well, then why not just provide similar freedom to school districts without the involvement of outside nonprofit or for-profit charter school organizations?

Aside from that thought, some parent empowerment is better than none.  The California parent trigger law allows for a petition of parent signatures representing 50% plus one of a failing school population to impose one of five Race To The Top intervention models on that school.

The intervention models are as followed:
1. Transformation - Replace the principal.
2. Turnaround - Replace the principal and 50% of all staff.
3. Restart - Convert the school into a charter.
4. Closure - Close the school.
5. Alternative Governance - Any other major restructuring of the school's governance.

The Adelanto School District

The Adelanto School District received a Restart Model parent trigger petition from parents calling themselves the Parent Union of Desert Trails Elementary School.  The petition called for converting that school into a charter.  Parent Revolution,  a nonprofit organization, provided the strategy, technical support, and a few staff members for this petition.  The school board determined that there were not enough verified valid signatures to accept the petition and is now going to be taken to court.

The failure of this parent trigger law petition should be attributed directly to Parent Revolution.  They mismanaged the process.  The school board of the Adelanto School District has always taken the position that they were going to comply with the law.  They had no interest in challenging the law.  Verifying for valid signatures on the petition is very much a part of the law.  Signatures that could not be verified as legitimate for various reasons or were rescinded were not counted.  

A major contention is the rescinded signatures.  The school board was caught by surprise as much as anyone else when a grass root movement of parents who felt that the signature campaign was confusing or misleading wanted to take back their signatures from the petition.  They submitted rescissions to take back their signatures.  And yes, they did receive support from CTA.

Parent Revolution's two petition strategy is the center of this controversy.  Parent Revolution had parents sign two different petitions.  The first petition was to force an alternative governance solution to improve the school.  The second petition, the one actually submitted, was to convert Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter school.  The purpose of the two different petitions has not been clear.  And the decision process to submit the charter school petition over the alternative governance petition has also not been clear. 

The Adelanto School Board held two public hearing that lasted for hours.  Parents from both sides of the issue addressed the board.  They conveyed two points of agreements. 1. They wanted a quality education for their children.  2. They did not want to convert Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter school.

The Parent Union addressed the board with a powerpoint presentation.  In it they made clear that parents signed two different petitions.  They also made it clear that it was the least favored petition that was submitted.  Parent after Parent Revolution parent, when asked directly, stated that they did not want a charter school.

It begs the question. Why have parents sign two different petitions and submit the one with the Race To The Top intervention model that they don't want? The answer is baffling - it was strategy.  

According to the strategy, the two petitions were required to force the district into negotiations.  That is interesting because only one petition at the ready is actually needed to threaten a district into negotiations with the parent trigger law.  So why have parents sign two different  petitions?  And if a petition was going to be submitted - then why not submit the one desired by the parents?  Why not submit the petition that the parents were negotiating for?

A reasonable person can understand that a scenario has been created in which a parent can legitimately state that the signature process for two different petitions and the submission of the least favored charter petition was either confusing or misleading.  That being the case, why should they not revoke their signature from the petition?  The failure of this parent trigger law petition is not their fault.  Instead, the fault should be attributed directly to Parent Revolution and its two petition strategy.

State Senator Gloria Romero

The author of the California Parent Empowerment Law, former State Senator Gloria Romero, addressed the Adelanto School Board in support of the submitted parent trigger charter school petition.  In February, she called Parent Revolution's two petition strategy a "dubious strategic choice." At the board meeting she called it "smart" and "strategic."  In February, she supported allowing parents to revoke their signatures if they believe they were mislead into signing the petition.  At the board meeting she stated that the parent trigger law did not allow for rescissions.  

One can see how implementing the parent trigger law could be confusing or misleading.

Please join me in my reflections on 21st century learning.  I want to read your comments and opinions.  I will do my best to answer questions. 

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Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 1 - ADTA T.V.

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 2 - ADTA T.V.

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 3 - ADTA T.V

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 4 - ADTA T.V.

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 5 - ADTA T.V.

ADTA President La Nita Dominique Response - ADTA T.V.