Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Extraordinary Responses to School Failure: Parents

I'm convinced that most teachers care a lot about failing schools, although caring enough to give up their jobs is likely to remain extremely rare. But depending upon groups of teachers, especially in unions, to fundamentally change American education in the current dismal economic environment is unrealistic.

Fortunately a new law in California empowers another group that has long been marginalized in the school reform debates: parents. The Parent Revolution, founded two years ago, has the aim of organizing parents in dysfunctional school jurisdictions to work with them to "take back" their schools (funny--I used the exact same rhetoric in my speech at the 10 May 2007 press conference outside Locke High School) by means of California's innovative Parent Trigger law (written and passed due to the leadership of former Senator Gloria Romero). Schools that have long been failing students and their families are subject to a petition by a majority of neighborhood parents to redress those parents' grievances by means of four possible outcomes: transformation under a new principal, turnaround with a new staff and a more empowered community, conversion into a charter school under outside management (this is what we opted for at Locke), or closure.

Parents in depressed urban communities like Compton, where the Trigger was first pulled, whose local school leadership appears incapable of or indifferent to fixing their schools, too often used to lack hope. Now they have one. They should contact the Parent Revolution if they want to find out more. 

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