Friday, October 7, 2011

"Parent empowerment" beginning to catch on outside California

There was much ado about the enactment of California's so-called "parent trigger" legislation, S.B. 4. Now similar legislation has been enacted in Texas and Ohio, although the legislation in these new states differs somewhat from the original California blueprint.

Under the original California law, if at least half of parents at a low-performing school (or a combination of half of such parents and of parents at the feeder elementary or middle school) sign a petition requesting the district to implement one or more of four intervention options (the turnaround model, the restart model, school closure or the transformation model) or the federally mandated alternative governance arrangement identified in NCLB, the district must implement the option requested by the parents, unless the district makes a finding in writing at a regularly scheduled public hearing, stating the reason it cannot implement the specific recommended option (in which case it must designate in writing which of the other options described in this section it will implement in the subsequent school year). Up to 75 schools in the state may be subject to a petition. The district may deny the parent petition option if it appears to be for reasons other than school safety or student achievement.

The Ohio legislation, part of very lengthy H.B. 153, is a pilot limited to Columbus, and is targeted to the school level rather than the district level. If at least 50% of parents at any school ranked in the lowest 5% for three or more consecutive years (or the combination of parents at the school and the feeder schools) sign a petition "and if the validity and sufficiency of the petition is certified", the board must implement the parents' chosen option the following school year. Options include (1) Reopening the school as a community school (charter school), (2) Replacing at least 70% of the school personnel related to the school's poor academic performance, (3) Contracting with another district, or a nonprofit or for-profit with a proven record of effectiveness to run the school, (4) Transferring operation of the school to the department of ed., or (5) Any other major restructuring of the school that makes fundamental reforms in the school's staffing or governance. Just as in California, the Columbus board may not approve a reform that the board determines is proposed for reasons other than improving student academic achievement or student safety, and the local board can select another reform option if it provides a written statement on how it will improve school performance. Unlike the California legislation, the parent-supported reform may also be denied if the state superintendent determines that implementation of the requested reform would not comply with the state's model of differentiated accountability, or the parents requested a state takeover and the department of ed. refuses to take operation of the school. And unlike in California, the local board doesn't have final say on the alternative to the parent-requested reform--if the local board selects an option other than the one on the parent petition, the board must submit its written statement to the state superintendent and state board along with evidence indicating how the alternative reform the district board wants to implement will enable the school to improve its academic performance; both the state superintendent and state board must approve the alternative reform's implementation. Interestingly, the Ohio legislation calls for the SEA to conduct an annual evaluation of the pilot program, to be submitted to the general assembly. The report must include recommendations regarding the continuation of the pilot, or expansion to other districts, or extending the program statewide.

In Texas, meanwhile, the legislation leaves out the middleman and sends parents straight to the commissioner of education. A majority of parents at a school with an "unacceptable" performance rating three consecutive school years after a school has been reconstituted may submit a petition to the commissioner asking that the school be (1) repurposed, (2) led under alternative management, or (3) closed. However, the local board may also submit to the commissioner a written request for a specific action other than that requested by the parents, along with an explanation of the basis for the board's request, and the commissioner may select the local board's option instead.

It is interesting to note the variation in the state approaches--the options available to parents, and what mechanisms are in place for the parents' reform option to be trumped by the local board or state authorities. It is a little like VHS versus Beta--as additional states look at the parent trigger option (as I feel they may in 2012), which options will they make available to parents, and which entities will be able to override the parents' choice? Only time will tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment