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That Was Quick

September 24, 2012

Last week, I looked into the crystal ball and asked What Comes Next? Today, State Senator David Holt (R-OKC) answered the question, announcing that “he would file legislation for the 2013 session that will empower parents to force positive changes in chronically low-performing schools” with a “parent trigger” law.

From the Oklahoma State Senate news release:

As a rule, I think local control of education is best, and there’s nothing more localized than the parents at a neighborhood school…The parent trigger model isn’t going to work in every situation, and it’s only an option where everything else has probably already failed. But I think there’s something inspiring about giving parents who care a tool they can use to fundamentally change the failed school that is attempting to educate their children.

The parent trigger, as implemented in other states, typically does one of two things: transition the school into a charter, or turn the management of the school over to a private party. In some cases, the third party has even campaigned for parents to sign the parent trigger petition.

This represents a new thrust in Oklahoma education reform, and as with all of the rest of them, it is not an original thought. Holt credits the soon-to-be-released movie Won’t Back Down as motivation. Stephanie Rivera wrote an excellent critique of the movie from a preview that included a panel discussion. And Diane Ravitch nailed the critical question about parent triggers in her blog post, Who Owns the Public Schools?

Twitter – the great scientific survey that it is – was quick to respond both positively and negatively. I think the plan is going to run into issues with groups disagreeing on how to define terms like “choice” and “failing.” (The SDE can neither accurately calculate accountability scores within its own formula nor effectively explain them to educators or the public.)

Something tells me this is just the first salvo to be fired (or misfired) in the next wave of reforms. We’ll see.

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