State NAACP backs ‘parent trigger’

Parents can demand charter conversion

Taking a different tack on school reform from the national headquarters, the California chapter of the NAACP adopted a resolution endorsing the “parent trigger” at its state convention last weekend.

Parent trigger was one of the reforms that the Legislature passed earlier this year to bolster its Race to the Top application. Under a parent trigger, a majority of parents in an underperforming school can demand that their school be turned over to a charter operator or be transformed in one of three other ways permitted under President Obama’s plan for turning around failing schools.

No parent petitions have yet been submitted, but Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles based group, is pushing the idea and reportedly organizing parents in Southern California. The state NAACP’s endorsement of the concept could help break down some of the resistance to it.

“The California State NAACP will stand with and support parents in their efforts to use the parent trigger to transform their schools through community organizing,” the resolution said.

In July, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund was one of seven national civil rights groups that criticized much of Obama’s agenda for school reform, including competitive grant processes like Race to the Top, and expressed “reservations about the extensive reliance on charter schools” in  turnaround strategies. It’s likely that most of the petitions under a parent trigger will call for a charter school conversion, although parents could also demand a milder transformation involving a longer school day or other, more traditional reforms.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a big charter school proponent, voiced strong support for the parent trigger at the convention. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has pushed for opening up more Los Angeles Unified low-performng schools to outside operators, praised its passage in a statement. “I was thrilled to hear that the NAACP has endorsed the parent trigger,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the NAACP and other reform-minded groups to ensure that all our students – and particularly those of color – have equal access to a world-class education.”

Any school in the third-year status of School Improvement for failing to make proficiency targets under No Child Left Behind – and not already undergoing a federally required turnaround process – is potentially open to a parent trigger initiative, although the Legislature has limited the initial number to 75 schools. Schools subject to a petition signed by 51 percent of parents this year must undergo one of the turnaround strategies next fall. But opponents of the parent trigger, including unionized teachers, may challenge implementing rules in court.

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  1. Just to be clear, Parent Revolution is run (with paid staff, as opposed to actual volunteer advocates) by a group of charter operators, led by Green Dot. That ICEF charter operator that is now in financial collapse was part of it too, wasn’t it?
    The “Parent Trigger” is a notion that sounds really good in concept to those who are not well informed about education issues and yes, I am including the NAACP representatives who fell for it — er, voted for it.
    If they had had full information — such as the fact that most Green Dot schools perform more poorly than the “failing” schools that they are participating in targeting in L.A., and that high-performing ICEF is in financial collapse — the decision would have been different.
    Realistically, this notion is unlikely to go far. We know from real-life experience that when even “failing” schools are slated to be shut down, the parents in those schools often protest vigorously. (We saw this in San Francisco with explosive controversy over the closure of John Swett Elementary at a time when district enrollment was dropping. John Swett’s enrollment and test scores were low and dropping, yet the protest was still heated. And when another school with very low performance and enrollment, Malcolm X Academy, was targeted for closure, Mayor Newsom came out to support the parents who were protesting. That school was spared, and is now improving impressively.)
    We know from polls that parents who will agree in concept with the statement “our public schools are failing” still tend to like their own kids’ schools — even when those schools are low-performing.
    Given those realities, are parents really likely to vote to dismantle their own kids’ schools in favor of a totally unknown quantity?
    In fact, in one of Parent Revolution’s showplace takeovers, the “trigger” movement is led by a FORMER parent at the school, not current parents. No current parents are quoted in the article, and it’s not stated whether the former parent is paid to be the face of the “revolution,” but I would place a good-size bet.
    Green Dot Revolution targets school that outperforms current Green Dotters
    14 of 15 Green Dot schools are “failing,” by Parent Revolution’s definition
    Other big questions about the parent trigger include the vague definition of who may vote for these takeovers (it includes potential parents at the school, right?) — and the potentially explosive issue of the potential for heated conflict and intimidation between factions. Can anyone who has any experience being part of a school community actually believe this is a remotely good thing?

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  2. I would propose that any parents who have a right to “pull the trigger” should first show proof that they have actively worked with their children and the school to improve both.

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  3. Additionally, before the floodgates are permitted to be opened to charter schools under this provision, the charter school operator must have some evidence that their approach is more effective than the current school with the existing student population AND that they MUST accept ALL students, existing and future, AND they are NOT permitted to cherry-pick students, or counsel students out.  Essentially, they should minimally be held to the same standards as public institutions, and ideally, higher to cover the switching costs.

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  4. My school district definitely tells every parent that he needs to support his child’s education.  What they don’t tell every parent is that he is responsible for somewhere between 40-60% of his child’s learning.  This is not a bad arrangement for some parents, especially since parents can often be much more effective with time as they are focusing on fewer children.  For these parents it might even be more effective to get day-care vouchers from the state and take over 100% of the schooling themselves.  If you’re capable of providing 50% of the education I’d guess that you can handle the other 50% as well.  There are already many parents that would take advantage of such an option.  Although I think most parents want a school system that can take over 100% of the teaching role.  And maybe people would be willing to pay for such a system, but I doubt we’ll ever get to such a system if we have to guarantee anyone a job.  So maybe we’re just stuck in the equilibrium that we’re capable of obtaining now.  But I think parents should have the opportunity to try to break out of the rut we’re in if they get that desparate.

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  5. Caroline wrote: “We know from polls that parents who will agree in concept with the statement “our public schools are failing” still tend to like their own kids’ schools — even when those schools are low-performing.
    Given those realities, are parents really likely to vote to dismantle their own kids’ schools in favor of a totally unknown quantity?”
    I believe that’s at the root of the “astroturf” Parent Revolution and the motivation for jamming through the “trigger” legislation.  It’s precisely because parents (and teachers) tend to like their own kids schools that outside organizations have struggled to assemble the necessary grassroots energy to initiate charter conversions.  With the new trigger bill, paid organizers like Parent Revolution can easily reach the low bar of 50% +1 current and feeder families to sign a petition for a charter conversion.  It’s kind of like the fox inviting the hens out to (be) dinner.  I don’t believe parents actually get a vote in the dismantling once they’ve signed the petition.
    The RTTT bills rushed through last January were a mess, start to finish.  I fear we’ll be living with the consequences for some time.

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  6. Just a clarification – ICEF had no affiliation with Parent Revolution. Way to push your agenda on any point even when ill-informed.

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  7. I hope that Caroline Grannan understands the meaning of Inuendo and Slander.
    I am the Former Parent she is referring too. I have not received any money  for my work on the Parent Trigger. After dedicating the last 10 years of my life to help improve Education in The
    City of Los Angeles, She has the nerve to say something negative. I am the Elected Community Representative for School Reform, have Volunteered for many years at LAUSD Campuses, Including 5 years on the Middle School Campus. Ask any LAUSD Board Member, City Official or Community leaders, as I am well known for helping students. I have sent 3 Children through this school  that has been in P.I. since 1997.  This battle to improve this school started many years ago and has increased since I left the school and they were no longer able to harass me and my children. People need to get their facts straight before they tell lies. I have Documents going back many years. Many of Parents at this school are very unhappy, as are many of  the Elementary School Parents, in our community. When we get our signatures, and pull the Parent Trigger, The truth will become clear.

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  8. Robert, given that Parent Revolution’s disclosure ranges from cagey to deceitful, I have not been able to find its official list of the charter operators that sponsor the fake “parent” organization. “Click here to learn more about our coalition members” on the Parent Revolution website leads to “page not found.”
    So I’ve had to rely on what others have posted. Obviously, if the organization would be honest and transparent, that wouldn’t be a problem, would it? It’s a little rich to be so furtive and then blast members of the public for being unable to get accurate information.
    Lydia Grant, nothing I said was inaccurate, let alone slanderous (or within the definition of innuendo). I speculated that you are a paid organizer, and made it clear that it was speculation. You deny it. So be it.

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  9. It is good to see that the NAACP of California is embracing real reform options over the failed approach of showering more money on a failing model (bureaucracy and union driven education).
    The “district” model, where rich children benefit from their the socio-economic status of their locale, while the disadvantaged suffer, is an utter failure.  The idea that over-funding poor DISTRICTS will improve the outcomes for urban and disadvantaged students has been tried for over a decade.  It is an utter failure.
    The parent trigger legislation, though imperfect, is far superior to the “more money for more bureaucracy” approach.
    First, it engages and involves parents in education, something teachers purport to agree with.
    Second, it offers are real option for reform, as opposed the obligatory re-arranging of the deck chairs of large district ‘Titanics.’
    Third, it begins the necessary process of having education dollars follow the child to better providers, instead of following a failed, but still politically powerful set of financial interests.
    The current system is beyond reform, and it time to totally transform education.  The least invasive way to engage in this transformation is to expand education providers.
    Fund Children, not bureaucracies, unions, text book companies, and bond dealers.  The Parent Trigger begins that process.

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  10. It is a happy coincident that Rick Hess has a hilarious piece about incompetent ad hominem attacks today (–well_a_bit_surprised–that_the_uceas_standing_behind_its_enemies_list.html ) so it will save me from commenting directly on Ms. Grannan original attack and her later effort to “explain it away.”
    I will just end with Rick’s final thought on this:
    “A simple suggestion for young academics aspiring to publish in the field of ed leadership: if you’re going to get into ad hominem attack–which is apparently an accepted line of scholarship–at least try to do it competently, and accurately.”

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  11. You have the weirdest perceptions, Ze’ev Wurman. I didn’t even name anyone in my original post, and didn’t attack anyone either. I did sharply criticize Parent Revolution, which is not an individual human.

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  12.         Just an update:  The Parent Trigger on Mount Gleason Middle School  is  using the Transformation Model. In Plain English-No Charter involved in any way. We have contacted the UTLA and LAUSD for help, both have refused. The Trigger  is being  run by Former and Current Parents, the Former Parents Taking the front line role to protect the current Parents and Students from Retaliation.  The Parent Revolution is not running anything in this Campaign, nor is it controlling any issue. They have been there for support.
            None of the Parents involved are being paid.
            If you do not believe that, there at real problems at the school, Please check out the CNN Video Titled: Parent Trigger. You will see one current parent, and 2 others who have pulled their children because of safety Issues.  The documents are clearly visible. We have not been able to get the Problems solved.
     The Parent Revolution Website has been in the process of being re-designed, and will be finished soon.

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  13. A news report on the Foothills Forum online discussion group — reposting a news story from an unidentified source — quotes Lydia Grant as saying parents aren’t getting on board.
    Using the parent trigger no easy task, reformers say
    By Allen Young
    Monday, March 22, 2010

    …Parent Lydia Grant has been credited with leading the state’s first serious effort to execute education’s parent trigger, the recently enacted state law that has drawn national attention for giving parents unprecedented power to radically transform their children’s schools.

    But the mother of three from northeastern Los Angeles said last week that her endeavors to restructure Mount Gleason, her children’s former middle school, have already hit some significant road blocks. …
    “It is very difficult to get a group of parents to agree to anything,” said Grant….
    Initially, Grant said, her group attempted to get parents to agree that their neighborhood schools should be converted into a charter but there wasn’t support for that idea. The focus since then has been on finding consensus on one of the other options.
    That’s my point — parents are unlikely to be willing to vote to dismantle their own kids’ school when the replacement is an unknown quantity.
    Of course, that’s why the only way to make it happen would be to allow non-school community members — prospective parents, former parents — to vote. But the potential for extreme ugliness is high. This news report also quotes Grant as complaining about school staff trying to get involved, though it seems fairly evident that school staff would be unlikely to placidly stand by doing nothing as this effort was being mounted.
    The article also describes Grant and Parent Revolution staffer Gabe Rose disagreeing on some procedural issues:
    Grant said that while she thinks the enabling legislation was a big step forward, she also said another bill might be needed to set procedural guidelines for parents like the number of meetings necessary to come up with an appropriate turnaround strategy.

    Gabe Rose, spokesman for Parent Revolution, said that he wouldn’t want to see a state law impose further requirements on how parents can assemble and access information.

    “It’s important to help parents, but not enact more barriers in the process,” he said.

    Grant also said that she would like to open up the petition process to parents of children who graduated from the school within two years, because they would be more inclined to sign up without fear of retaliation from the school.

    Rose disagreed, arguing that including parents of graduated students would not be an accurate reflection of the school’s student body.

    “You run into more problems if you allow parents of kids who are gone,” he said. “I think it’s better to focus on future and prospective parents.”
    If Gabe Rose is saying parents of former students shouldn’t be involved, obviously he’s including Grant, so clearly she isn’t representing Parent Revolution.
    I would include the link to this article, but that seems to delay postings by many hours, so I’m not. It’s not hard to find by Googling.

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  14. Post subject: Re: Cabinet Report- Mt. Gleason Parent Trigger
    Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:40 am 

    Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2007 7:59 am
    Posts: 543

    Of course Articles have their own “Spin”, but I did want to clarify a few things. It isn’t about me, as the Community Representative, for the Parents and Students, I have been placed as the “Figure Head.” I live in a wonderful, tight-knit community, of people, who are willing to stand up and make a “Difference.”
    We have been trying to get the District to work with us for years with little action. When the Parents
    started discussing reform for Mt. Gleason Middle School, the only leverage available was Charter. We approached The “Parent Revolution”, and asked for their help. They are an incredible group of people, that offered us support, but they are in no way, controlling, or leading this community fight. We cannot Thank them enough for giving us Hope, that our Parents, can finally make a difference, and we know that they walk with us every step of the way. Our Parents made it clear from the start that we did have good Teachers and Staff, and didn’t want a Charter unless that was what the Teachers picked. We were looking for Reform, to change the Problems, not start over. That is why I spoke at the LAUSD meeting on the School Choice Resolutions, and went to Sacramento, to help support Parents having options.

    Senator Romero also deserves an incredible amount of thanks, for not only writing the “Parent Trigger” part of the Legislation, but for her determination in rallying her colleagues, and getting it passed.

    The article also says “School Staff wants to have a say”. The whole point of the Reform at this school is to give the Staff the chance to participate. Since they are the front line, they are the ones who know, what policies don’t work and what the needs of the students are. When multiple staff members on campus were injured by students,Police reports were filed, and the UTLA was contacted. Since the problems continued, parents could only assume that Union was Powerless, or didn’t care.

    The only way to get the school and staff the help it needs, is to get the signatures and Pull the Trigger, So that we can enhance what is working, and get rid of the District Policies that don’t work. We need to change the attitude, that what we have, is good enough, and that we should be Thankful that our scores are going up. When this school was ready to exit P.I. a few years ago, the District replaced the Principal, promoting from V.P. an administrator from a school 100 API points, below our scores.

    Many of the changes needed at or school. We as parents believe,
    may of the probems are based on Discipline and Safety issues, Several parents have fled the Community to protect their children.

    Failing schools get more money, it’s time we stop letting the District “Fail, to educate our kids.”
    It is time the District provided Students with a School Environment, that is “Safe and Condusive to learning”.
    According to the District/State the School is in it’s 14th year of program improvement.

    The Latest School Report Card fror Mt. Geason Middle School shows, 52% of the Students are Failing in English language arts
    While 60% are failing in Math. That may be better than other schools, but it is cetainly not good enough for or Community.



    It always amazes me, when someone is surprised, that people who have different opinions, can 
    work for a common cause. You can certainly tell who the people are, that have only negative things to say, even when they twist it to serve their own purposes They are the “Arm Chair Quarter Backs”. Then there are the ones who aren’t,  “All talk and no action” They  take action, and  are well respected. I can only say please go look at the Foothills Forum, but make sure you read my response from March 24th, The Comment about the Charter School is clearly explained, The Charter was the only option before the Legislation. We were not pushing it only using it to start the conversation about Improving the school. That is why I fought so hard for the Legislation. The Charter was not a good fit for our Community and we love our Teachers and didn’t want them to leave. We don’t blame the Teachers for the problems at the school, we blame the District and Administration. The same people we have been trying to work with for 10 years. I would also have to assume that Caroline is not a Teacher in a District where Teachers are kept under control and are retaliated against when they speak up in disagreement.
    I have a Letter from UTLA President A.J. Duffy. They will not be working with us. Which leaves our teachers in the middle. We want to help them. Several have been attacked by students.
    That leaves us to fight for them, The Parent Trigger gave us hope that maybe we can fix things before someone gets killed. I challenge those that attack me, to walk in my shoes.

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  15. I’m not attacking you in the slightest. I’m pointing out that the article and the real-life situation bear out my observation that parents aren’t likely to get onboard with an effort to dismantle their school. You note that dismantling the school is no longer one of the options on the table, which further bears out my point.

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