"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

The "Trigger Option"...on its Face, it's a Beauty. Look Deeper and You'll Find Bill Gates.

My emails have been exploding about the "Trigger Option". Have you heard about the newest educational tool to close underperforming schools? This was started in California; it is a way parents can force the closing of failing schools. Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal explaining how the trigger option works and the Journal is very supportive of placing the option in parents' hands.

On its face, this seems as if this is a fabulous idea on how to deal with underperforming schools. Parents can close schools that don't reach Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for four consecutive years. If at least 51% of the parents sign a petition, they can shut a school down, shake up its administration, or invite a charter operator to take over. Charters that open as a result of parent triggers must accept all students from the original school.

This sounds great, doesn't it? What would you think if I told you only 25% of Missouri school districts made the AYP goals this past year? You can access this link on the DESE website to check your own district's failing or passing grade. My district, Kirkwood VII District, has not met AYP goals for four years. Kirkwood VII has the highest paid superintendent in the state. Should I mount a campaign to ask my district to go to charters, scrap the administration and start over? Why are we paying a premium for an administrative head for a district that can't pass AYP goals?

The majority of Kirkwood students go on to college. So what's the disconnect between AYP and actual performance of the majority of the students? Here's a layman's definition of AYP. These goals are practically impossible for any school district to meet. High performing and high paying districts in my area very rarely can meet AYP goals. Why? Testing is broken down into subgroups (free lunch, minority, IEP student, etc.). A entire school can do well on the testing, but if one subgroup does not meet proficiency, the entire building fails on AYP for the year. This happened in one Missouri school last year; it had the highest math and reading scores in the district, but since the IEP students did NOT meet the AYP goals, the entire building failed. Entire districts fail based on the subgroup performance.

Be careful what you wish for. And ask yourself, who is behind the "parent trigger option"? Would it surprise you to discover that would be none other than Bill Gates? Read this article from "School Matters". It has not been a parent driven movement for the trigger option; it has been Bill Gates and his charter school buddies pushing this idea. If parents can become so enraged as to demand the closure of their school based on AYP data and demand charter schools, who immediately benefits? Those who are funding the charter schools will stand to make a fortune and this seems often to come back ultimately to Bill Gates.

Are there some schools who are performing badly? Absolutely. Should some be closed? Yes. But I get a bit uneasy when I see Gates' fingerprints all over this reform in terms of charters and common core standards. Read our blog on how Bill Gates is behind legislative writing of educational policy. It's not legislators driving legislation, it's special interest groups. No wonder I get concerned when Gates' name pops up in the Trigger Option as well.

As this administration has said, "Never waste a crisis". And a failing school is a crisis. It pits parents against teachers and teachers against parents. The teachers' unions finally get broken when it comes to disbanding a failing school and students are placed in charter schools. Just be sure before you celebrate this option you do your research and find out who is funding the charters and why.

And one more thought: if the charters are operating under the same standards as the public schools, and they are being graded in the same way (via subgroup testing protocol), will there be much difference in results? Instead of disbanding underperforming schools, perhaps more scrutiny should be given to the onerous mandates given to the states by the Federal Government and the way they are graded. Just wait for common core standards and assessments; they will be even worse and time consuming than No Child Left Behind. Claire McCaskill may be correct. Parents should get their pitchforks and demonstrate if their child is stuck in a failing school. But who are they demonstrating against? Are they demonstrating against failing teachers or a deeper systemic problem? Who is benefiting from all this unrest?

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree...especially about Bill Gates.
    Check out my Blog on this topic. "Bill Gates: Don't Monetize my Students!"



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