The "innovation" that Urbanski claims to want has been possible for more than a decade under the Living Contract provision of the RTA contract and the school-based planning team policy, no further governance change is legitimately warranted. (Unless the goal is more power for the RTA.) Under the Living Contract, teachers at any school can vote to waive provisions of the contract to make it more flexible, innovative, or student-centered, they just haven't done it. The School-based planning Policy gives schools unprecedented autonomy and teachers and parents decision-making rights . (These aren't advisory bodies, they are deliberative.) Few, if any, of these SBPTs have used this authority to build "community schools" or otherwise innovate, even though they've always had the power to do so. We should all be skeptical of Urbanski's latest "innovation" idea that is frankly, nothing more than a power grab disguised as reform. The latest in a long list of his Trojan horses.
Vargas' remedy of "conversion charters" is equally empty, but also gives the allusion of change, the latest in a long line of Superintendent "reformy" moves. The only substantive change that conversion charters will bring is to governance: the school-based planning team will be replaced with a board that may or may not include parents and teachers. Same contracts, same work rules. (Charters in name only.) The public should also be skeptical of Vargas' new calls for school autonomy given that he dismantled the student-based budgeting, the "gold standard" in practices to support school autonomy. He also appears to be unwilling to take full advantage of the new state teacher evaluation law to make staffing decisions based on effectiveness, rather than seniority, another key principle of school autonomy.
In either case, parents will be relinquishing their decision-making rights and getting very little, if anything in return. Let's hope they do their homework and don't buy the snake oil that either is peddling.
Parents should be cautious of the charter conversion option. Converted charters are not 'real' charters: they have the same contracts and work rules as the district schools. Charters in name only.
Van-I agree, the goal should be improving the district and I believe I added concrete ideas to do so. If your "parent report card" idea is to be anything more than rhetoric, then it must be institutionalized in policy. By law, parents have a right to participate in that policy amendment process, it cannot be bypassed. Have you set a date for the parent involvement policy review hearing?
District officials only seem able to see "parent engagement" in terms of what parents are not doing. The district is blind to the barriers the system erects to this engagement and blind to its lack of accountability to the public on how it spends tax dollars earmarked for parent engagement programming. When was the last time the district did the annual evaluation of their parent program that the law requires? Never. Has the board ever bothered to monitor what school improvement plans say about engaging parents? If you did, you'd see that the SIPs are almost comical for their lack of evaluation and metrics. How many times has the board disregarded parent concerns about being excluded from SBPTs during the the bi-ennial review of shared-decisionmaking required by state regs? Every time.
If you want the public to believe this is anything more than an election year stunt, then link your report card to APPR, align it with regulatory requirements for involving parents in school improvement planning and evaluation. And by all means, involve parents in the process of putting it into policy. Use the report cards to correct long-standing problems with the way the district works with parents, send the signal that the district will (finally) be accountable for its parent engagement program.
And here's another idea for your plan... After you institute the parent report card and are faced with the bald facts that the district is incapable of engaging parents in any meaningful way, put the parent engagement program out to bid. The district already does this for teacher professional development, why not parent development? There are at least 5 human services agencies with authentic relationships with Rochester parents and proven track records of working with adult learners.
As I said, the parent trigger coalition has no position on parent report cards. The Parent Power Project is only one member of the coalition; our endorsement of the idea would depend on the details.
Assuming White's proposal isn't just an election year stunt, creating a parent report card would require a change of the parent involvement policy. Federal statute says that parents and the community have a right to participate in this process and we would take full advantage of the opportunity. It's worth noting that the district is terribly out of compliance with the federal requirements that give parents power to shape the parent involvement policy and programming, a point glossed over every year in the district's consolidated application for federal funding.
In a nut shell, PPP's support of a parent report card would hinge on three things: 1) they are supported by the district parent council 2) they are used as a measure of effectiveness in the evaluation of principals, parent liaisons, superintendent and any other staff with explicit parent involvement duties and 3) the school-based planning policy is updated to mandate that each school improvement plan include the parent report card and a specific action plan for increasing parent involvement and removing barriers that includes a reporting of Title I funds spent on school-level parent activities.
Executive director of Parent Power Project
This report was woefully incomplete. The Coalition's objection to the White proposal referred to the section of "Responsible/Involved" Parent Trigger that proposes that only parents with a "track record" of involvement are eligible to pull the trigger. Here is a link to the White proposal: http://www.scribd.com/doc/120871170/VanWhi…
Also, you are incorrect on your point on the parent report card. The Coalition has no position on whether the district should report on key parent engagement data.
My personal opinion is that you should be doing this anyway, by virtue of ESEA parent involvement requirements and your local parent involvement policy that promises the public an annual report on parent engagement metrics (but that is never delivered). I'd remind you , all of your federal titled funding (close to $50M) is conditioned on your involving parents in a meaningful way. Hard to claim you are complying when --by your the board's own admission--you aren't even yet collecting the data on their involvement.
I wanted to respond to your post.
The Buffalo parents are incredibly savvy and I assure you, "know their own history!" The Parent Trigger bill is actually different from the Charter School Act in a number of important ways:
1) It only applies to schools that are persistently lowest achieving (PLA)
2) For parents in PLA schools, it would grant a wider range of options than just charter conversions. PT would give parents collective bargaining power to make any number of changes the school has been unwilling to make (replacing staff, lengthening the school day, etc.) The "transformation" or "turnaround" options t would essentially give parents the muscle to make gridlocked and dysfunctional school-based planning teams act in the best interest of the students.
3) The charter conversion option in the PT bill is actually a "restart" and as such, the union contract does not follow the conversion like it does in the Charter Act. The potential loss of union members (and dues) is the real reason why the union is fighting PT, the union didn't object to the conversion option of the Charter Act because they got to keep their members.
Regarding your point about NCLB:
Section 1116 gives parents the right to transfer their student from a failing school to one that is not. Schools in improvement status or those deemed persistently dangerous, cannot be receiving schools. Bottom line: the district has more students with the right to transfer from their failing school than seats in "good schools". This same provision allows districts to establish cooperative agreements with neighboring LEAs to educate these students when there aren't enough seats in the home district. So the board actually has within its power, a lever to dilute the concentration of poverty it often points to as the reason so many of its schools are failing. Unless I'm mistaken, none of the board has used their bully pulpit to broker this conversation with surrounding districts. For metro school activists, this could be a concrete first step toward more sweeping change. Food for thought.
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