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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?


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 9 2012: Far more comforting for parents to believe that the reason their child doesn't have straight A's is the fault of the commy teachers union than it is to believe that their child isn't a perfect genius. My mother is an administrator at a high school and constantly has stories about parents who are quick to lay problems of the child on the school. Granted many of the grievances parents have are justified, but the gripe shouldn't be with the teacher it should really be with the realities of public education. I was fortunate enough to attend a private school after spending some years at a large high school and the differences were vast. I had my mind probed, my teachers cared about me, they had more leeway with the curriculum and i was able to learn about interesting things that left a lasting positive impact on me.

    Something about this movement scares me, i looked at "parent trigger" and it sounds analogous to a corporate takeover of some sort. Instituting a merit pay system sounds like a good idea on the surface, but how are they computing what is worth merit? If its based on test scores then this is an AWFUL idea. This is no way to get the kids to think this is just training for obedience and rewarding the teacher for running the class like a battalion commander. Instituting a voucher system is just a quick road to a caste system where the kids who's parents don't have as much interest/money are left in schools that are insufferably bad, leading to drop outs and all the other travesties that come about as a result.
    • Oct 9 2012: Nice post. Public education in the US sucks because it's funded with (very) local taxes, so a school in an affluent suburb has a much greater budget per student than a school in an inner city "ghetto". Other countries do better, don't go broke, and have teachers and teacher unions as well, so we know those are not the problem, although the American "discussion" about teachers annoys me very much (they're either underpaid saints or overpaid leechers, depending on who you ask), while the truth is American teachers get paid about the same as their European colleagues, while it is the school system and its funding itself that is lacking in America.
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      Oct 9 2012: Robert

      Thank you for contributing and I have wondered about several of the items in which you mentioned. What determines low performing? How does the transition take place? Should parent groups be required to hire professionals to lead the school, school finances?

      Great thoughts and questions...thanks for participating.

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