Saturday, January 9, 2010

CFT and the Lynch-Mob Quote.

The Interwebs are a-buzzing with EIAonline's news from the great state of California.
Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, discovered that California’s Race to the Top legislation had a school-change provision. His words:
"Under the parent trigger (or lynch mob provision) if 50% of the parents at a school or feeder schools of a low performing school sign a petition, the school board must hold a hearing to accept that petition or provide an alternative governance change, which could include closing the school, turning it into a charter school, or reconstituting the school."
Everyone is, of course, focusing on the "lynch mob" terminology and screaming for justice and a remedy for terribly hurt feelings, missing what seems like an important point.

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Getting 50% of the parents to sign a petition is a trigger for required action. That seems an incredibly low action threshold to me. "Just sign here and we'll be able to make improvements." -- what parent would say no?
"must hold a hearing to accept that petition or provide an alternative governance change, which could include closing the school, turning it into a charter school, or reconstituting the school."
Forgive my insouciance, but is there a clause for ignoring the petition because the problems with this school won't be helped by closing it or turning it into a charter?

Parents always want the best for their children but don't always know what that is, don't always know or care what's best for other kids and definitely don't always know the best education methods and situations. Those who sign such a document are usually doing so for different reasons and in search of different outcomes -- outcomes that are driven by very different needs and wishes. A very tangential example of this is the interplay between a football coach, the nationally- televised parent of a concussed athlete and the rest of the parents and fans at Texas.

"Teachers always try to cut and run from this issue! Parents are not fools. You can't ignore us." I hear you cry. Sure I can ... and many times I must because what you want for your kid may not be what's best for them all. You are perfectly free to homeschool if you want, but you can't force that choice or other choices on anyone else.

Whimsical change is not the way to run a school (or any business or organization, for that matter).

Don't tell me how to run my classroom if your expertise is in dental hygeine or auto mechanics or software development or horticulture. When you make the analogy between gardening and raising kids, your argument sounds deep to anyone who doesn't teach. To us, its just mental fertilizer. The day that I am called up to provide advice or an override on installing an HVAC system in a 34 floor building is the day that I will blindly accept the installer's advice on teaching.

If you are a stay-at-home parent whose sole work experience has been hourly work 15 years ago during a four-year college degree in the liberal arts, your advice on flashcards in AP Calculus is interesting but useless. Likewise for the opinions from the CEO who tells me that I need to focus on the basics more so he doesn't have to spend money on training and that I should buy more of his product licenses for my students so they can spend more class time on everything but those basics.

In closing, I would note that this is California, the state that runs by referendum, bouncing from pro to con and back with the whims of a populace that can't make up its mind. They referendum a budget cut but don't say how. They decide/reject new laws with every voting season -- gay marriage anyone? If you follow the various links and get to the actual bill, we see it currently is on version 97 and nearly 90% of the text has been struck out and changed. Not what I would call a reasoned approach to school reform. Oh, and it refers to itself as the "Open Enrollment Act." I didn't try to read it all - I may have mischaracterized some of it and I'll apologize for that in advance.

It's unfortunate that CFT used the phrase "lynch mob" because of it's terrible connotations.

What he really meant was "a whirling dervish of a crowd, pinballing from from whim to whim as the fad takes them, a band of well-intentioned people who can't agree on anything save their certainty that 'We just can't take it anymore!' -- not that they have a clue as to what 'it' is."

also at Coach Brown's website.

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