Sunday, April 7, 2013

True Parent Empowerment

Florida is reconsidering a bill that has been commonly called the Parent Trigger law.  California was the first state to actually make Parent Trigger a law.  The law has been spun to present a picture of empowered parents uniting a community to save a failing school.  In my experience, there has never been anything further from the truth. 

I was the school board president of the Adelanto Elementary School District when Parent Revolution, a lobbyist group, bullied our small California school district with lawsuits into accepting the parent trigger petition. 

The Parent Trigger Law essentially states that the signatures of a simple majority of parents in a failing school can force the district into one of five intervention models.

The intervention models are as followed:
1.  Transformation - Replace the principal.
2.  Turn Around - 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.

Parent Revolution devised a two-petition strategy to get parent signatures.  The first petition, the popular choice among the parents, was described as being along the lines of the Alternative Governance model.  The second petition was considered to be the back up plan and called for converting the school into a charter school.  All the parents from both sides of the issue told the school board that they did not want Desert Trails Elementary School to be a charter school.  Yet it was the charter school petition that was submitted to the board.

Many parents felt that the signature process misled them.  They asked the school board to remove their signatures from the petition.  We honored their request and the number of signatures fell below the simple majority needed to make the petition valid.  That was not to be the end.  The board supported many of the reforms mentioned by the parents and set in motion action to implement them.  Parent Revolution was not satisfied and took the district to court.  The judge ruled that it was not up to the district to allow parents to change their mind and revoke their signatures – even if they felt misled.

Just to be clear, the district worked with the parents and teacher union to bring reforms to Desert Trails. The reforms included adding instructional minutes to the school day, a new curriculum, staff development, an infusion of technology, a memorandum of understanding with the teacher union, signed pledges by teachers to support these reforms, a school site coach to support the reforms, an elected council to oversee the reforms, and of course, an excellent principal to make it happen. In short, what the parents wanted.

Politics and the law threw all that away to bring a charter that only a minority group of parents were even eligible to help select.  Yes, only the parents that signed the petition were allowed to vote for the charter school selection and only a fraction actually voted.  That is not bringing a community together, but creating an elitist group to wrest public schools away from the community.  I am convinced that only the private sector without public funds and grants from corporate reformers will provide an alternative education that is re-imagined for the century we live in.

Just to clarify. I do not support privatizing public schools. The management of public schools should not be handed over to private companies. If they were any good they wouldn't need to hijack public schools to get publicly funded tuition. I'm just at the point where I know that the creativity and innovation needed to bring education into the 21st century will not come from the entrenched bureaucracy and politics of public education.

I’m promoting a radical change in education.  Consider the technology we have today.  Research what we now know about the brain and learning.  Look at where our current school system is inadequate.  How would you re-imagine education if a system had to be created today?

I thought of Coach Lerning Academies.  Official Coach Lerning Academies is a 21st century concept of education. Regionally accredited independent studies schools that blend online gamified story lines with project-based mastery. It is still in the developmental stage. Students are not enrolled in a particular school, but rather have membership privileges in all of the academies. Coach Michael Lerning is the central character of a gamified story line that motivates and guide students through the 21st century learning experience.

Parents and students enjoy a lot of flexibility with this model.  Most of the content delivery is online with gamified story lines.  Students have access to this 24 hours a day.  Parents have the flexibility of signing their children up for enrichment activities at any of the Official Coach Lerning Academies.  Students earn credit by demonstrating mastery of content through problem-solving projects at any of the academies.  Mastery of content is reported with earned digital badges that list actual accomplishments and not by report cards and vague inaccurate grades.  Grade levels are determined by mastery level – not by age group.  This is real parental choice.  This is real parent empowerment.  This is a real 21st century concept of education.

Alas, it is not currently a reality.  It is a concept that I am working on and pushing for acceptance.  You can be an early supporter by Liking our Facebook page.  If you want a radical change in education – start here. 

We will continue to explore the uniqueness of Official Coach Lerning Academies in future posts.  Thank you for visiting.  Please continue to visit our blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

No comments: