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Sep 052013

The Center For Education Reform has created the PARENT POWER INDEX, which gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether their state affords them power – and if not, what they can do to get it.  Click on the  link below to find out what power Connecticut parents have compared to other states in the U.S.   Issues like school choice, charter schools, on-line learning, teacher quality and transparency are addressed.


Summary: A poor charter law has plagued the state since its inception, but lawmakers did adopt a parent trigger law giving parents some power to make choices. A hearty group of parents are trying to pull the trigger on a failing school in one district, but they have not yet succeeded. While the state prides itself on paying teachers well, its quality indices are below average. Connecticut falls in the middle of the pack on digital learning, and parents will not find information easily about options or school quality through government agencies. School board elections are held in odd numbered years during May, diminishing parent power to effect change.

The Center For Education Reform was was founded in 1993 to bridge the gap between policy and practice and restore excellence to education. Today the Center is the pioneer and leading advocate for structural and sustainable changes that can dramatically improve educational opportunities in the U.S. We do that by primarily working to (1) generate and share leading ideas and information, (2) support and enable grassroots activism, and (3) protect and stimulate media coverage and issue accuracy.


Nov 262012

According To US News and World Report:

Seven U.S. states have passed “parent trigger” laws, which give parents the ability to petition for changes at their children’s low-performing public schools.  If more than half of the parents at a school sign the petition, the school district must comply with the changes.  These can include hiring a new staff, hiring a public charter school operator to take over reforms, or closing the school altogether and sending students to better performing neighboring schools.

Proponents of the laws say it gives parents real power to make a change in schools that are chronically failing when the administration has been unable to improve student performance. They say that parents at these schools, often in poor and minority neighborhoods, should be able to take steps in closing the achievement gap to which their children fall victim. It allows parents, they argue, to take a dominant role in their children’s educations and actively advocate for better schools.

Opponents of the parent trigger laws say merely signing a petition isn’t the appropriate way for parents to institute reforms. Allowing parents to instigate such disruptive changes denies teachers and parents the ability to work together to improve the school community, often relinquishing control of the process to a third-party charter company. Those against the laws maintain that there is no proof that they work, and though well-intentioned, the trigger system gives parents the false perception that they don’t have to play any other active role in improving their child’s education.


This article first appeared http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/is-there-a-need-for-parent-trigger-laws/fixing-our-failing-schools-is-a-civil-rights-issue

Michelle Rhee, CEO at Students First:  Communities Need Parent Trigger Laws   

Parents of children at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., didn’t decide to seek an overhaul of the school using the state’s 2010 parent-trigger law lightly, or with little thought. They sought changes on numerous occasions, giving administrators plenty of chances to bring about improvements at the school, where 70 percent of sixth graders aren’t reading or doing math on grade level and which has been on a state list of failing schools for six years.

Parent-trigger isn’t a first course of action, and it’s not used to solve small problems. It’s a law families can rely on to bring about change when their children are trapped in a school that isn’t meeting their kids’ needs. I’ve met a fair number of parents whose sons and daughters are assigned to such schools and it’s truly heartbreaking. We can’t expect parents and kids to be patient while slow-moving reforms take root.

Parent-trigger laws, recently enacted in half a dozen states, allow parents of children at a chronically failing school to petition for immediate, transformative changes. Districts are then required to implement those changes if more than half of parents sign the petition. I’ve been involved in plenty of schools as a mother, teacher, and administrator, and I can tell you that getting half of the parent body to agree on something isn’t a low bar.

[See the U.S. News Best High Schools.]

Parents can select from a set of options such as turning to a public charter operator for help with the overhaul, bringing in new staff, or closing the school and sending the students to better-performing schools nearby. Other changes might result in new curricula or longer days. Each of these has been defined by the Department of Education as sound turnaround options for failing schools. Parents are responsible for choosing the changes, not for running the school once a plan has been established.

Many, like me, see this as a civil rights issue. Far too often, chronically failing schools—the ones that are subject to parent-trigger laws—serve poor and minority communities. These schools, if left unchanged, will perpetuate achievement gaps between minority students and their wealthier, white peers. No child should have to attend such a school, and as concerned citizens we have a special responsibility to close the unconscionably large learning gaps in our country. Poverty can present huge challenges in our schools—I’ve seen this firsthand—but with the right supports in place, all children can learn at high levels.

When we’re having conversations in this country about how to improve schools in high-needs communities, people say we need to encourage more parental involvement. Well, parent-trigger is a way in which parents are seeking to be involved in their kids’ education and serve as advocates for them. It may not be a traditional form of parental involvement, such as helping with a fundraiser, but we shouldn’t limit what form parental involvement should come in.

[See the U.S. News Best STEM Schools.]

Of course, I’m not saying that parent-trigger laws offer some sort of silver bullet solution that will fix all of the problems our schools are facing. We also need to ensure that all of our kids have great teachers, and must ensure those teachers are supported and rewarded for their hard work. We also need excellent principals, more educational choices for families, and better stewardship of our public resources. If we bring about these kinds of reforms and include parent-trigger as one tool, then we will be well on our way toward building the kind of world-class education system we all want for our kids.


Aug 072011

This week the Wall Street Journal reported on an internal power point document that brags about the strategies used by the leadership and lobbyists of the American Federation of Teachers’ union to undermine parent groups in Connecticut.  The document demonstrates what parents and reformers are up against in the quest to clean up public school education.  RiShawn Biddle of DropOut Nation first uncovered the document on August 2nd entitled “How Connecticut Diffused the Parent Trigger” and explains how the union did it.   The document has since been taken off the AFT website.

While AFT  President, Randi Weingarten has repeatedly gone on the record as saying that she and the AFT support systemic reform in education and a collaborative approach with the community (she even echoed that sentiment to me directly at a Yale Leadership in Education Conference that I attended this past spring) the power point presentation demonstrates an attempt to kill parent voice in different parent and local communities,  confuse the community on what the educational issues are as well as the power they have over state legislators.

Let me restate that Red APPLES is pro- reform and pro teacher (despite the attacks we get for publishing information and data that we come across)  but  this document  is being posted  because  it provides a small glimpse into the concerted organizational leadership and strategy used by the AFT to slow-down or outright oppose any change that is directed by local communities, parent groups and/or even their own state teacher groups like  the CEA (Connecticut Education Association!)   It’s a bit of a David versus Goliath scenario, and it really doesn’t need to be.  Is education reform really about ongoing teacher development and kids anymore or is it about maintaining power from those historically in charge ?

Now lets examine our own backyard.   Given the  educational challenges Norwalk  faces (like the rest of the nation) not to mention the  personal attacks on the new superintendent or different members of the BoE, who undoubtedly try to serve in the best interests of the children;  can some of our troubles be tracked back to an overall strategy  by union leadership (either teacher or administrator or both ) to keep the community so fraught with chaos that it will undoubtedly slow down any attempt to change or improve the system?  Or are we just that disorganized?   I don’t believe in conspiracy theories and genuinely believe that Norwalk is making great strides with regard to  improving its test scores and 98% of staff are working extremely hard under the most challenging and stressful of circumstances  financially and managerially.  But,  just imagine WHAT could be accomplished, if somehow the various educational leaders in Norwalk somehow behaved as if we were all in this together?  Check out the power point presentation and draw your own conclusions.

Now, more than ever it is important for parent groups, school districts, boards of education and union leadership to come together on local reform initiatives.  Increasingly businesses and foundations will be looking for cities and school districts that have good working relationships with their union leadership as educational reforms move forward.  Let’s hope Norwalk is on their shortlists.