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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: Welcome back Randy. Its been a while. You brought my point to the table with your first response to Fritzie. The involvement of the state and federal lawmakers in the education business. Administrators are often placed in a no win situation due to mandates when the parents want to know the whys and demand changes that are not possible. The state does this through legislation and the feds do it by holding the grants and money guns to the schools head. More demands and less funding are the rule of the day. Common Core Curriculum, STEM requirements, new evaluation demands, and a host of other mandates leaves little choice in the direction we will and must go. Schools have prioritized the classes and the arts will suffer the most. The course syllabus is driven by the textbook developers and the test writers will devise tests based on what the text presents. High stakes testing is the current flavor of the day. At what point have I mentioned the Administrator or the teacher in the process.

    I understand and appreciate the parents concerns. I do a lot of volunteer work and often feel like the proverbal red headed step child. The teachers do not have the time or resources to attend to all of the hoops that are required to jump through and just for good measure the state raises the hoop and makes it smaller. The point is that there is frustration at every level. This is not fully understood by the community. The face of the education system is the Super. He smiles and does his best to resolve the issue that is beyond his level. To be honest I think the teachers lounge needs padded walls and a full time psych to treat them and send them back into the game.

    We do need to develop a better relationship with the community and a means of conveying the issues and limitations. Should parents take over ... no. But they do need to be better informed.

    Again .... welcome back.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Oct 9 2012: Thanks Bob...it's good to be back. I have a lot of well-meaning and heavily invested parents in my district. However, it is hard enough for me to keep up with al of the changes that are taking place in education, both locally and nationally. Schools and school districts have to be better at creating opportunities for parents to be involved...not necessarily in the classroom, but certainly within the schools, or better yet, educating parents on ow they can be involved in helping their kids with homework.

      Parents need to/have to be involved...having a successful school is tough enough. Without parental involvement, it is almost impossible. Information about how to be involved in their child's education may be the key to closing the parent-involvement gap.

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