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Randy Speck

Superintendent , Madison District Public Schools

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Is it right for parents to takeover schools? Should "parent trigger" laws give families the ability to take over and manage schools?

Throughout the United States, there is a movement for parents to take a more active role in their local schools. Actually, a more active role is an understatement. The "movement" is for parents to be able to take-over their local school under what is called a "parent trigger." This happens if their local school is deemed to be low performing, as described by each individual state.

Parents have a right to be involved...any quality school will have strong parent and family involvement. But should parents be able to come in and manage the school?

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Closing Statement from Randy Speck

What a fantastic conversation and thanks to the TED community for participating. I also want to thank Ben Austin from Parent Revolution for getting involved in the discussion. Your insight was helpful to me, as a school leader.

The reality is, parents should be involved in their schools. They should have a say in the direction of their child's education. How that is accomplished may be a never-ending debate. As a school leader, I want my parents to be active in helping kids read and with their homework, but do to academic level of the family, that may not be an option. I want parents to be in attendance at parent-teacher conferences, football and basketball games, choral and dance recitals and any other activity that involves their child. However, I am also aware that working multiple jobs and shifts may make attending school events difficult, if not impossible. So how do we do this?

Unfortunately, my answer is little bit of "I don't know." But I do know it has to be a "we" that is involved. I don't believe legislatures can solve this issue. I don't believe for charter management companies can solve this problem. The main question becomes when and how are we going to make education in the United States a priority? When are we going to admit that students learn differently, therefore they should be assessed differently. That the neighborhoods you live in and the amount of resources (like food) that you have really do play a role in student achievement. Until we acknowledge...really acknowledge that socio-economics plays a factor, we may never be able to get passed basic debates.

Thank you again TED for being such a great place for people to safely communicate and share.

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    Oct 8 2012: There is another issue not raised so far in this thread. That is, which parents would be at the helm and how would that affect the services offered to ALL students?

    I believe from your profile that you are a superintendent of schools. When you were vetted for that position, I am guessing a very central issue in your selection was that you were convincingly committed to attend with vigor to the educational needs not just of children whose parents have significant resources and time to advocate for their children's needs but also of those who may have less articulate, influential, or outspoken private champions.

    That is an important requirement, I think, for those at the helm and is not guaranteed when parents take over school decisionmaking.
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      Oct 8 2012: I completely agree which leads to an important point in all of this. Schools, like other professions are to be led by professionals. Having a local PTO begin running the school may not be the best educationally for ALL students.
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        Oct 8 2012: School administrators need to challenge the misconception that only people NOT involved in the teaching profession believe in student learning as the mission of schools and student-centered pedagogies as the primary vehicle.

        An astounding number of people outside the field hold fast to the false belief that teachers and educational administrators are not student-focused and don't enjoy learning themselves.

        The implicit models to which people outside the field frequently subscribe as to why schools are not serving all students well tend to be based on such questionable explanations. The solutions, then, appear easy from the outside and as if it is only stubbornness or complacency of the professionals that stand in the way.

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