Battle for Education Reform: California Parents Revolt and Win

On January 7th Californiaís governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed new legislation that gave parents the right to demand reform of failing schools if at least 50% of parents agreed that changes were needed. Some of the options parents would have to choose from include: replacing the existing administration with a charter school, closing schools and replacing some or all of the existing staff.

The governorís signing of the bill drew demonstrations from the teacherís union, who opposed it, and parents groups, who are in favor.

Before this law, California was not able to compete for any of the Race to the Top funding.† This new legislation, coupled with the fact that theyíve made it legally possible to tie standardized test scores to teacher performance reviews, has put California into contention for the $4.35 billion in grant money available from the federal government.

Critics worry this new legislation puts too much power into the hands of parents.† Itís a legitimate complaint as there is no mention of how teachers and administrations will be able to protect themselves from vindictive attacks by parents who expect accountability for their childís academic success from everyone but themselves or their child. However, empowered parents might turn out to be the tipping pointing in bringing previously disenfranchised parents into a working relationship with their childrenís schools.

About ten years ago, I taught at a middle school in Des Moines, Iowa and was part of the transformation of that school into a magnet school. One of the most difficult parts of the process was bringing parents into a partnership with us. Parents too often had been made to feel as though their only contribution was to drop their kids off in the morning and pick them up again in the afternoon. They didnít feel welcome. They didnít feel as though their opinions mattered, and I could easily understand why. While teachers are generally good at communicating directly with parents, the administration could sometimes seem authoritative and dismissive to even the most concerned and involved parent.

Though it took time, we eventually transitioned the school to magnet status with the input and cooperation of parents and students. Fostering relationships with the communities where students live and opening lines of give and take with their parents and guardians should never be considered a bad thing.

It remains to be seen what will result from this new piece of education reform in California. The group responsible for lobbying for the bill, Parent Revolution, thinks that parentsí ability to hold schools and teachers accountable via measures contained in the bill will be a positive thing.† However, the emphasis on holding only teachers accountable in an equation that also includes students and parents feels more vengeful than a rallying point for cooperation and dialog.

How do schools where you live work with communities and parents? What are your experiences with school administrations and teachers? Is there really a need for parents to wield new powers like this or can working together for the good of children be accomplished in other ways?

ESC Father's Day project at Fort Sask Elementary by Ann Bibby

53 comments

Leanne B.
Leanne B9 years ago

Noted!

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Angel Sch
Past Member 9 years ago

I've noted, thanks :).
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Karen B.
Karen B9 years ago

This is a highly difficult issue. When did education become so political? Is not "education" about helping our children learn? Maybe we should refocus on the children. I believe that our children are ultimately our responsibility. We brought them into this world. (I know there are exceptions.) I am a mother of four children: a banker, a mechanical engineer and two high school homeschoolers. Given the proper tools and encouragement, our children will learn in spite of all our "systems."

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Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann9 years ago

This is no more than a palliative and chicanery intended to delude the ignorant masses into believing that the ills of their education system will be cured. The problem is far deeper than anything that has been mentioned here. The education system of the U.S.A., in common with that of other English-speaking lands, currently faces an insuperable obstacle. Learning flourishes solely in an ordered and disciplined environment. Not even in their wildest imagination would anybody so describe prevailing conditions in the U.S.A. The widespread illiteracy, innumeracy and abysmal ignorance are the product of a society in chaos. Until that is remedied no efficient system of education will be practicable. It is really not in the interest of any politician or business tycoon to support an improvement; an intelligent populace would soon perceive and cry out against their skullduggery. Regrettably therefore no solution of the difficulty appears at all likely in the near future.

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Linda M.
Linda M9 years ago

thanks for the article

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Rosemarie M.
Rosemarie M9 years ago

Marvin Gentz, very interesting. Will you please let us know where you got this information? Thank you.

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Otto V.
Otto V9 years ago

An individual I know of inherited a company, He has been educated in California and cannot spell or read at a good level. He lucked out because he hires people who can make up for his shortcomings. This should be unnecessary.

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Jessie H.
Jessie H9 years ago

Thanks for the info!

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Robin Powell
Robin Powell9 years ago

It's true, we all have to work together as a whole to improve the education and school issues. It may take some time but, if we work together it can be done.

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erica j.
erica J9 years ago

It's really annoying that every time something happens, we all jump to playing the blame game. "It's the teachers fault!" "It's the parents fault!" "It's the students fault!" How can I put this.... IT'S EVERYONE'S FAULT!!!! I have had my share of terrible terrible teachers. I've also seen the parents who pay absolutely no attention to the child's education and then want to throw a bitch fit when the kid gets a bad grade. I've also seen the student's who pay no attention in class and then want to get upset when the teacher calls them out on it. I've seen it from everyone! What we need to do is stop blaming and start working together to improve our educational system. Then and only then will we see improvement. But wasting our time talking about who's fault it is obviously isn't getting us anywhere. Everyone needs to take responsibility as this issue is not one sided. In my opinion, laziness is the key ingredient to our failure; no one wants to take responsibility they'd rather just waste time pushing it onto others so they don't have to personally deal with it. What a bunch of hogwash! Let's get with the program and step it up.

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