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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 11 2012: Randy, One of the things that many of the responders do not fully appreciate is the inter-relationship of the course syllabi. The prerequisates from one grade to another, the abality to manage the information flow, the feedback in many forms that allow you to proceed or remain on topic for a while longer, etc ...

    It is the culmination of all of these little things that make the student ready to progress to the next level.

    Parents would be involved in single unit isolated classes and thus direction would be limited. That is where educational professionals manage and merge the efforts to achieve the goals.

    I could teach science but the student may not be getting the terms and associations for the next level. I would teach to achieve the test but any application would be missing.

    Being smart also means to know when you are out of your element and to seek help.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Oct 12 2012: Bob,

      I think this is a good point. I've always thought that sometimes the prevailing thought is that "anyone can teach", just like many of us may believe we can coach or manage our favorite sports team after a loss. The reality is, anyone can't teach...anyone can't coach...and anyone can't lead and manage a school. A school/school system may be one of the most complex organizations to lead based on the population that is served. Students and their families, all with different and various needs, all wanting to be served right now. We may have close to 100% of our customers in our facilities on any given day, plus their representatives (parents/guardians). Turning around schools and leading them effectively is a complex, chaotic, sometimes strange, but unbelievably rewarding. More parent involvement in the process and being a part of the solution will be a key ingredient to keeping the school moving in the right direction.
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        Oct 12 2012: Randy, I had an irrate parent (who was convienced that "Jonnie" was divine) stated that he does his homework every night and that the teacher hates him and is flunking him out of spite. The parent, teacher, myself, and the "chosen one" all went through the teachers in basket, no homework, went to the locker, found lots of homework never turned in, and in his backpack more not turned in homework.

        Parent stomped off .... no appology .... Jonnie defient ..... and the world continued to turn.

        The moral here is that everything that Jonnie/Jane comes home and tells you may not be a fact.

        In this case parent involvement was a wonderful thing.

        I wonder if a volunteer at the front office to sort out these things and act as a independent source for both the parents and teachers would be of any benefit. Kind of like a complaints department. After a brief "look into the situation" the volunteer could draft a letter to both the school and the parents with a "here is what I found" report. This needs administrative action OR not founded. Either way there is doccumentation. Thus the old saying if it ain't documented ... it never happened.

        Just a thought.


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