Hartford Supporters Call Parent Trigger Long Overdue
February 16, 2010
HARTFORD —. - A group of city parents supporting the "parent trigger" provision in education reform legislation to be considered by the General Assembly had one principal reaction Monday.
What took so long?
The provision was part of a 10-point plan proposed last week by the legislature's Black & Puerto Rican Caucus to address the state's achievement gap between white and minority students"This should have been done a long time ago," said Millie Arciniegas, president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council. "We don't have a voice."
The council supports the parent trigger as a way to give parents power to change the direction of failing city schools.
If passed, the legislation would allow 51 percent or more of parents from a school that has failed to make progress for three consecutive years under the national No Child Left Behind guidelines to petition for intervention.
The remedies proposed could force dramatic changes, including closing a school altogether. One plan, called the "turnaround model," would include replacing the principal and 50 percent of the staff. A "restart model" would include converting to a charter school.
Another plan, called a "transformation model," would include replacing the principal and implementing professional development and evaluation for teachers.
"It gives parents power equal to the power of the union and the school district so we can finally be at the table," Arcinieagas said.
California adopted a similar plan in January as part of legislation designed to qualify the state for millions of dollars in Race To The Top school reform funding.
"It says if a school is failing for three years in a row we would have the power to say, "Let's close shop,'" Arcinieagas said.
Opponents of the parent trigger, including the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, say it reduces the full scope of parental responsibility and involvement in their children's education to a simple petition campaign.
"This is an overreaction," said Sharon Palmer, president of the Connecticut chapter of the federation. "The parent trigger has to be at the end of a very long trail. You can't make it too easy."
Palmer argues that parents, for the most part, do and should have a voice in their children's education. For those who feel they don't, she said, there are options such as the formation of charter and CommPACT schools. Palmer also cautioned that putting something as drastic as closing a school in the hands of parents circulating a petition could have unintended consequences.
"The ramifications go beyond one school," she said. "What happens in one school affects a whole district?"
But Arcinieagas and other parents who plan to testify at the capital Wednesday in support of the "parent trigger" said it's time to stop talking and start acting.
"The thing is we want to stop having our children get left behind a lot quicker," she said. "They should applaud our involvement."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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