Parent Trigger Is Not the Answer to Troubled Schools
Parent trigger laws are well-intentioned but have no basis in research
October 26, 2012
Would you point a weapon at a building full of children? Of course not! Yet that is exactly what supporters of the "parent trigger" law want to do. Yes the "trigger" is a metaphor, and it is an apt one. Pulling a trigger takes only a second and yet has devastating consequences and so does the legislation that bears this name.
Yes, it is a tempting idea to implement a rapid response system to address the issue of a failing school. However, the strategies supported to turn around schools in "trigger" legislation are not evidence based; there is no proof they work. In fact well-intentioned ideas with no basis in research applied haphazardly is often what spiraled schools down the road to failure and more of the same will not pull them out. Our children deserve the support of proven strategies that are funded and supported by every level of the education system.
The biggest lie about "parent trigger" is that it is about parents. There is no doubt that parental engagement is one of the aforementioned research based strategies. When parents get involved in the education process, children succeed. Unfortunately, the "trigger" lets parents off the hook. Once they sign a petition to turn around the school their role is done. There is no requirement they read to their child at home or participate in a parent-teacher conference or volunteer in a classroom; they get to contribute a signature and the system takes over. That is not a parent empowerment strategy, that is exploitation of a parent's frustration and good intentions.
The evidence is clear, individualized reform plans that address school and community needs and are implemented by teachers, parents. and school districts together turn around schools. These strategies are not quick, they are not easy, but they are more successful than those implemented under duress. They also have less unintended casualties than those that result from aiming a weapon at a school full of children with fingers on the "trigger." As a parent I ask that we put the weapons away and start doing the hard work our kids deserve.