Thursday, December 09, 2010

Giving parents control

Under a new law in California parents can take control of a public school if the school fails to make "adequate yearly progress" for four years in a row and if at least 51% of the parents sign a petition. The parents can get rid of the administration and start up a charter school. And now the first school is ready to do take control.
Compton's McKinley Elementary School has made adequate progress only once since 2003, and it is in the bottom 10% of schools statewide and when compared to schools with students of similar backgrounds. McKinley is part of the Compton Unified School District, which has a high school graduation rate of 46.8%; only 3.3% of those graduates were eligible for California's public universities in 2008. That year the state required Compton to hire a "district assistance intervention team." According to its own investigators, the district demonstrated over two years a "lack of a sense of urgency related to student achievement."

Thus the parental uprising. "Parents operate on a different clock than district bureaucrats," says Ben Austin of Parent Revolution, a liberal group assisting McKinley parents. "Kids get older every year. We can't freeze-dry our kids and wait for your pilot programs to pan out." More than 60% of McKinley parents have signed the petition to free the school from the Compton Unified bureaucracy and install charter school operator Celerity Educational Group to run it instead.

Celerity already runs three Los Angeles-area charters that serve students similar to those at McKinley with far greater success. In 2009, one Celerity school was in the 40th percentile statewide and in the 90th compared to schools with similar demographics. Another was in the 50th percentile statewide and in the top 10% compared to its peers.
What's not to like, right? It certainly couldn't be worse than the present situation.

Not so fast - the teachers union are ready to fight back.
None of this is going down well with the bureaucracy or the California Federation of Teachers, whose president has called parent trigger a "lynch mob provision." The law says that the district must comply with a petition unless it "makes a finding in writing stating the reason it cannot," but McKinley's parents expect to have to sue to get their way. Since Celerity is ready and waiting to take over McKinley, the district has no legitimate reason not to facilitate the switch.
The one thing the teachers union can't have happen is for them to lose control of all the failing schools. There are a whole lot of such schools in California and teachers must be shaking in their shoes at the thought of a parent revolution. Let the alarm bells ring, because it's time that parents had the ability to change the miserable schools that are dooming their children.