Author: RiShawn Biddle

Where Are the Parent Power Activists, Senator Harkin?

Certainly, no one should think tomorrow’s hearings on the Harkin-Enzi plan for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act will sway the direction that Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions…

Certainly, no one should think tomorrow’s hearings on the Harkin-Enzi plan for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act will sway the direction that Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee will take in the coming weeks. The real work (or damage) was done last month during the committee’s markup session on the plan. At the same time, the hearing — prompted by the delay tactics of Kentucky Republican Rand Paul — was at least supposed to be an opportunity for voices to be heard on the evisceration of No Child’s accountability provisions and whether other matters should be brought to bear in the legislation — including the importance of providing parents with the tools they need to take their rightful roles as lead decision-makers in education. That many not happen either.

At this moment, the list of folks testifying before the committee tomorrow include Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, school superintendents such as Terry Grier of the Houston district in Texas, a Teach Plus fellow working in the Memphis-Shelby County district in Tennessee, and a school principal from Kentucky. But none of the grassroots players who have been at the heart of the Parent Power movement — from Gwen Samuel of the Connecticut Parents Union (whose work with the State of Black CT Alliance led to the passage of the Nutmeg State’s Parent Trigger law), to former California state senator Gloria Romero (who led the passage of the nation’s first Parent Trigger law), to even Kevin Chavous of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (which has been successful in expanding charter schools and school voucher programs in states such as Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Indiana) — are on the list.

Perhaps HELP Chairman Tom Harkin and ranking Republican member Mike Enzi forgot to include these activists, as House education committee chairman John Kline did two months ago. Or they just couldn’t allot time for at least one of them to talk. Whatever the reason, Harkin and Enzi are missing an opportunity to foster a real discussion about an area in which federal education policy can help encourage and expand.

While No Child has had a family engagement component since 2001, the vehicle through which this happens — state- and district-level parent information resource centers — have been of limited success. One reason: Districts loathe meeting the required set-aside of one percent of Title 1 dollars for family engagement efforts required under the law. Another reason lies with the fact that a good number of PIRCS have not followed the strategies for engagement advocated by National PTA, the Harvard Family Research Project, and other organizations in this space.

Meanwhile other aspects of No Child that were intended to expand family engagement, Parent Power, and school choice have not worked out as plan. One provision, which requires districts to allow families to move their kids out of failing schools has long been wrecked by the intransigence of districts (which often failed to inform families of their choices in a timely manner) and the reality that most failure mills are part of districts that are failing altogether (and have few high-quality options in the first place).

The Harkin-Enzi plan does require states and school districts to develop family engagement plans and requires all those involved to follow the recommendations for family engagement developed by PTA for its National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. The plan also requires states to develop more-comprehensive school report cards, providing families more information they can use in school decisions. But Harkin-Enzi abolishes the school choice provisions instead of requiring districts and states to either issue vouchers to families so they can escape failure mills; the plan doesn’t even incorporate the smart suggestions from Richard Kahlenberg and the Century Foundation to allow for inter-district choice options. And ultimately, there is no provision in the plan that requires states to enact Parent Trigger laws that would allow families to overhaul the failure factories in their own communities, either in the form of petitions (as used in California) or through the slightly-less powerful committee format required in Connecticut.

Given the lack of real effort on this front, Harkin and Enzi could at least  used the hearing as an opportunity to open up this conversation and even consider adding such provisions on the Senate floor whenever the law finally is brought before the full body. Hopefully, by the end of today, their staffs will put at least Parent Power activist on the testimony list. If it doesn’t happen, the silence of these voices will speak volumes — and not in a good way.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Challenge Achievement Gaps

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, a Webinar I conducted for Students For Education Reform leads me to offer some important reasons why now, more than ever, we must focus…

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, a Webinar I conducted for Students For Education Reform leads me to offer some important reasons why now, more than ever, we must focus on stemming achievement gaps. Contrary to what some may think, we must  address the gaps of literacy, opportunity, teacher quality, and practices that has condemned 1.2 million sixth graders alone (and, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, millions more) to the educational, economic, and social abyss.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, Zune, MP3 player, smartphone, Nook Color or Kindle.  Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, the Education Podcast NetworkZune Marketplace and PodBean. Also download to your phone with BlackBerry podcast software and Google Reader.

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Best of Dropout Nation: When Personal Responsibility and Poor Values Aren’t the Problems

The Poverty Myth of Education, a topic of discussion earlier today at Dropout Nation, is one of the concepts that blind many education traditionalists to the systemic problems within America’s…

The Poverty Myth of Education, a topic of discussion earlier today at Dropout Nation, is one of the concepts that blind many education traditionalists to the systemic problems within America’s traditional public schools that perpetuate the nation’s dropout crisis. Another, embraced by other traditionalists and even some school reformers, it the Personal Responsibility Myth, which states that students cannot succeed until their families get straight and fly right. (Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute hits upon this in his generally thoughtful piece on education and families.)  While those who espouse this view are largely right about the consequences of unwed motherhood and social ills on the economy and society, they fail to remember that social ills have always been around. More importantly, the problems of the nation’s school systems would exist no matter how functional these families may be.

In this Best of Dropout Nation from last February, Editor RiShawn Biddle takes a look at the flaws in the Personal Responsibility myth. Read, consider, and take action.

If you lived in Baltimore, Chicago, New York or Philadelphia in 1887, there was a chance that just two out of every three kids living in the poorest neighborhoods were in school, according to The Seventh Special Report of the United States Commissioner of Labor. If one was talking about the children of immigrants living in slums at the time, it was more like two out of every five. Where were the rest of the kids? The survey shows that most were likely to be at home with their parents. But especially in immigrant household, as many as 15 percent of students were likely working in sweatshops.

Given that the quality of surveys and census counts for child labor and education were not all that reliable, we must consider that data with caution. But along with the compendium of information we do have on childhood activities for the time, it is clear that most kids didn’t likely get an education past the eighth grade; in 1890, just seven percent of young adults age 14-to-17 were enrolled in high school. This didn’t change in the following five decades; only 32 percent of teens age 14-to-17 were attending high school.

It’s difficult to know what percentage of American kids at that time could read at the levels demanded in this day and age (and no pulling out of old textbooks from that era — a trick used by opponents of Common Core standards — will prove that point). We know that, based on Census surveys, at least 13 percent of adults regardless of their race (and, respectively, 56 percent of blacks and 13 percent of immigrants). But those results were self-reported; so it’s more likely that more young adult were signing Xs on the dotted lines and could barely read the New York Herald.

From what kind of households did these kids come? Some of these households wouldn’t look any different from those of today: Single mothers (in this case, widowed or abandoned by husbands). But, for the most part, these young men and women would have come from married two-parent homes — some immigrant households, a few of them sharecropping black families, others having been in America since the founding of Jamestown — in which the parents also couldn’t read. The kids may have learned the values of thrift, hard work, sexual virtue and delayed gratification — values fully embraced for the most part by civil society — but it wouldn’t have helped most of them learn how to read or get out of being economically poor.

This reality must be kept in mind, especially given the context of the times. Back then, two parent households were unlikely to be knowledgeable about what was then known about child development. For many two-parent homes, school wasn’t a priority. As detailed in the book Mothers of All Children, there were parents placing their kids in adult jails because the kids wouldn’t go to work in factories. With both parents often working just to keep food on the table (the stay-at-home mom was, for most of the nation at the time a concept limited to upper middle class and wealthy households), kids could also be seen loitering in alleys, getting into trouble, and exposing themselves to all things bad and otherwise.

In fact, it was the well-considered fear that kids were not getting well-educated for the time (along with the less-charitable view among middle-class women of the time that working-class parents were incapable of raising their own kids in a proper manner) that led to the formation of the nation’s first kindergartens. It is also why the nation’s juvenile justice system came into existence.

Thanks to those efforts, more children in two-parent households (especially among the poor) were attending school. But still, education wasn’t as high a priority; adults could earn a decent income thanks to the nation’s growing prosperity and the advance of modern industrialism (and the trade unions that, for much ill and some good, came with it). By 1940, married couples made up 84 percent of all family households, yet graduation rates were likely still around 50 percent — and that’s for kids who managed to make it to high school.

Why all this history? To highlight a reality: There are some flaws in the argument made by those who perpetuate the personal responsibility myth in education — the school thought that ascribes academic failure to single motherhood, the lack of two-family homes, and a lack of values.

For one, they mistaken correlation with causation. The evidence thus far suggests that children from single-family households are slightly more likely to drop out and fail academically than those from two-parent households. But the research generally groups together all single-parent households into one category; so it is unclear that whether this is true for kids coming from single-parent households formed by divorce (in which the dad will still be involved) or kids from single-family households where moms gave birth out of wedlock. Essentially, unlike the more-conclusive evidence that single-parent households are more-likely to suffer from other economic and social ills, the data on single-families and education is incomplete.

More importantly, they ignore evidence that the problems of American public education are deeper than just low graduation rates among the poor in urban districts. The fact that both middle-class black and white males — kids from college-educated homes that should have strong moral values and be exposed to good parenting — are struggling in reading and other aspects of academics should give personable responsibility myth believers pause. So should data that shows that males account for just 32 percent of all students taking Advanced Placement tests (one of the gateways to college entry) and the array of woeful results on NAEP and PISA.

The reality is that personal responsibility myth papers over the systemic issues that have led to the nation’s educational crisis: Low-quality instruction; mediocre curricula; abysmal recruiting and training of teachers and school leaders; the lack of high-quality educational choice for families; overdiagnosis of illiterate children (especially young men) as being learning disabled; school cultures that treat families as afterthoughts and nuisances; and a system of low expectations (including social promotion and a belief that only some kids deserve high-quality education).

The personal responsibility myth also covers up the lack of empathy among those who embrace it. After all, why enhance skills and work hard to improve student achievement when the kids have been written off as captured by lack of moral virtue? By simply arguing that kids are too shiftless and banal to help, personal responsibility mythmakers simply say that reforming American public education isn’t worth the time. The kids are throwaways; the single mothers (including those battling fiercely to improve education for their kids) are nuisances; and their lives are hopeless. From any worldview, including Christianity and Humanism, this sentiment is abominable. And whatever your ideology, the underlying philosophy violates any sense of humanity.

This isn’t to say parents don’t need to take power and fight vigorously for improving education for their kids, nor should it be said that good parenting and strong family structures can’t be helpful in improving educational outcomes. If anything, the concept of Parent Power and the tools and ideas arising from it — from Parent Trigger Laws to school choice — is based on the idea that parents should be the kings and lead decision-makers in education, something that defenders of the status quo in American public education has been unwilling to acknowledge (except when they want to avoid responsibility for failure).

Parents also need to teach their kids how to behave in school (since that is what parents are supposed to do). As Kay Hymowitz has shown over and over, two-parent households (and the focus on raising productive young men and women that is inherent in its existence) must return to the norm. It’s just that it is wrong to just pin alone onto families and misbehavior in civic society the critical mismanagement of public education that has led to low academic achievement.

Let’s be clear: High quality education will not make men or women morally upstanding members of society. It can help them stay out of poverty and prison; and high-quality schools can prove to be safe havens for kids in terrible neighborhoods and even absentee landlord families. Through high expectations and cultures of genius, schools can even teach them such values as delayed gratification and the Golden Rule. But it won’t stop young women from bearing children out of wedlock (either during their teen years or as young adults); if anything, there are plenty of college-educated members of the middle class who behave no better than Paris Hilton (and sometimes, even worse). And we should think carefully before asking schools to take on matters that truly should be the responsibility of parents, including providing their kids healthy meals and sending them out for exercise.

At the same time, two-family households cannot help improve educational outcomes for young men and women on their own; neither can just embracing personal responsibility. Given that 40 percent of all students entering the early grades will need some form of specialized reading remediation, personal responsibility will not help them read; their parents won’t have the specialized training needed to do so. Personal responsibility will not fully overcome poor educational backgrounds; a two-parent household of illiterate parents will do no better at helping their kids learn the basics than a single mother with equally low levels of education.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a need to deal with the ills that plague American society. We clearly need a stronger civic society in which single motherhood isn’t widely embraced as a norm to which young girls should aspire. We need all men, especially fathers, to be fully engaged in the lives and education of their children. But two decades of data has shown that the underlying causes of this nation’s educational crisis has plenty to do with a system that likely wasn’t up to the task even in a more industrial-driven time — and has become obsolete and abysmal now. American public education and those who work within it need to take their own medicine: Be responsible for what is wrought at the expense of children who deserve better.

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Dana Goldstein Blows Hot Air for the Poverty Myth of Education

It’s amazing how pieces you wrote months or even years ago take on lives of their own. Yesterday, it was a piece I wrote in August on how education can…

It’s amazing how pieces you wrote months or even years ago take on lives of their own. Yesterday, it was a piece I wrote in August on how education can serve as the long-term solution for pernicious poverty. After more than two months of sitting around Dropout Nation getting relatively scant attention, the Nation‘s resident spokeswoman for education traditionalists, Dana Goldstein, noticed that the piece mentioned her review of Steve Brill‘s Class Warfare. And she was none too happy about it.

Now, folks, Goldstein is right about this: I mistakenly thought that she cited the Coleman Report in her review. After all, when your editor realizes he’s wrong, he admits it. (It will be mentioned in future reprintings.) But Goldstein’s assertion that the research consistently shows that teacher quality accounts for at most, just 15-to-20 percent of student achievement fails the test.

Forget by the way that two of the four studies Goldstein cites don’t assert that neighborhood and family characteristics matter more.  One study she cites, co-written in 1998 by Value-Added godfather Eric Hanushek, John F. Kain and Stephen Rivkin, notes that while teacher quality may account for at least 7.8 percent of student gains, those numbers could easily be underestimated largely because of grade variation in teacher quality, errors that may be inherent in the tests used at the time, and the problems of using lower-bound estimates. Brian Rowan, Richard Correnti, and Robert J. Miller of the University of Pennsylvania make similar arguments in another study she cites. Essentially, it is quite likely the impact of teacher quality is understated instead of being overstated. And Spyros Konstantopoulos of Northwestern University pointed out in his 2005 meta-analysis, teacher quality may have a much-larger impact on student achievement in areas such as mathematics and science, largely because those are subjects more-likely to be learned by students in school than at home.

Ultimately, Goldstein dances around the general consensus that teacher quality (along with the role of families), is the most-critical factor in student achievement, especially within schools. If one wants to go with the argument that schools account for just 40 percent of student achievement, then teacher quality would still be the single-biggest factor in their success or failure, accounting for as much as half (if not more) of variations. If one argues that schools account for half of variation in student achievement, then likely teacher quality looms even larger. And if you divide up the socioeconomic factors along such lines as race, income, and everything else, teacher quality (along with families) would still likely be the biggest single slice of the student achievement pie. Given that research and the development of efforts such as the KIPP chain of charter schools have shown so  that high-quality teaching (along with strong family engagement) have stronger pulls on student success in school than socioeconomic conditions, the family and community factors aren’t necessarily as important as Goldstein declares. Poverty isn’t destiny.

This doesn’t mean that teacher quality is the only matter that must be dealt with in school reform. Good-to-great teachers still need rigorous college preparatory curricula (along with the underlying standards) in order to effectively instruct students. Schools still need strong, savvy, innovative and  principals to help build cultures of genius in which the potential of kids can be nurtured. Families still need the data and information in order to make smart decisions and be the lead players in schools that they should be. And there are practices, such as year-round school schedules, after-school programs, and extended school days, that, along with overhauling instruction and curricula, can help poor kids get high-quality learning (as well as help their parents with their child care needs). But understating the importance of teacher quality — which, despite her protest, is what Goldstein attempts to do with some finesse — essentially lets American public education off the hook for serving up educational neglect and malpractice to its poorest kids. And it is senseless to support the development of meaningful career ladders (as Goldstein rightfully does), without addressing the impact of traditional system of teacher compensation that rewards teachers for seat time instead of improving student achievement (and makes it difficult to initiate such reforms in the first place).

If one takes another look at Goldstein’s review of Class Struggle, some other flaws in her overall argument — that poverty is such a “crushing influence over children’s lives” that teachers and schools are incapable of helping  kids get on the path to success in life — also appear.

For example, Goldstein uses a  2008 Harvard University study on the benefits of school nutrition programs to argue that hunger is strongly correlated to student achievement. The problem is that Goldstein’s declaration is based on what can best be called the public health version of eyewitness testimony: Largely based on subjective observations without objective evidence, and thus, absolutely unreliable. The Harvard review of nutrition research she mentions, for example, bases its conclusions on a series of other studies such as two by a team led by nutritionist Ronald Kleinman which based its results on surveys of observations by parents and school administrators, or grades given by teachers, both of which are subjected to strong biases and aren’t empirical in nature.

This isn’t to say that nutrition can’t be an important factor in student achievement; as I’ve noted, the National School Lunch Program is one of the country’s most successful anti-poverty programs because it ties education and empowerment, two of three areas in which government can actually help alleviate poverty for the long haul. I have no problem with expanding school nutrition programs in order to help kids get three square meals each day. But the evidence she cites doesn’t prove her point.

Then she argues that school reformers should be embracing wrap-around concepts such as those pioneered by the Harlem Children’s Zone that have “realistic assessment of the whole child—not just a child’s test scores”. As a fan of Geoffrey Canada, the Harlem Children’s Zone, and the efforts being undertaken as part of the Obama administration’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative, I definitely think they are one of the many silver bullets for spurring systemic reform and helping all kids succeed. But, as the Brookings Institution pointed out last year in its (rather flawed) study of Harlem Children’s Zone’s results, there are other school reform efforts such as those of KIPP that are doing as good or better at improving student performance without embracing such a holistic approach; even if you dismiss the study (as I generally do), there isn’t enough evidence to show that this approach is better than any of the others being pursued today.

Finally, she argues that the solution for helping kids emerge from poverty lies not so much with reforming schools, but with developing and expanding anti-poverty programs. For more than a century, America has poured billions into anti-poverty efforts, from the mother’s pensions of the Progressive Era to most of the Great Society programs of the 1960s. Yet they have largely been failures. If anything, many of the anti-poverty programs (including welfare) has helped foster what Leon Dash would call the pestilences of gang warfare, drug dealing and unwed motherhood that have plagued Black America and Latino communities.

As I noted in my commentary last September, there are several reasons why they have been failures. For one, short-term anti-poverty efforts ameliorate the problems, but don’t stem those issues for the long haul. After all the food stamps and WIC checks, the families still remain poor. They remain dependent on welfare systems, their condescending administrators, and the corrupt politicians who use those regimes to bolster their political machines. More importantly, anti-poverty programs just don’t address the real issues of low educational attainment that is at the heart of the economic segregation that perpetuates poverty, especially in an age in which what you know is more important than what you can do with your hands. Education equals empowerment, and a high-quality education is what the children of these dropouts need in order to move out of poverty for the long haul.

Certainly schools cannot solve ameliorate short-term aspects of poverty. This is why the school lunch program and Earned Income Tax Credits are important in helping families become empowered and help their kids get the education they need for long-term success. Nor can reformers ignore the social ills that kids do have to deal with when they are not in school. It is why Dropout Nation argues strongly for reformers to team up with grassroots organizations and community outfits that address those issues on a daily basis — and why I put a strong focus on the nation’s failing juvenile justice and foster care systems. But anti-poverty programs won’t be enough. There are some issues, such as out-of-wedlock marriage, that aren’t necessarily matters of poverty in the first place; governments cannot make people get married.

More importantly, anti-poverty programs cannot solve the long-term consequences of the nation’s education crisis, which is the driving force behind the growing gaps in income between poor and more-affluent families. Contrary to what Goldstein or her fellow-travelers may think, the problems poor families face when dealing with American publication aren’t ones of poverty. Their problems lie with practices — including zoned schooling, ability tracking, the gate-keeping of Advanced Placement and other college-preparatory programs, and the restrictions on school choice —  that limit their ability to help their kids get the high-quality education that they need. The condescension of many principals and teachers toward low-income families is especially alienating. And they are tired, tired, tired of just being told that schools can’t provide their kids with high-quality education until every other social ill is fixed.

This is why Parent Power activists such as Gwen Samuel of the Connecticut Parents Union are challenging the institutions in their communities to do better. The schools at the center of the lives of their children should serve them far better than they do. And it would be nice if Goldstein would spend some of her considerable talent taking aim at the systemic problems within American public education that frustrates these families instead of blowing the hot squalid air of excuses that damn poor kids with low expectations.

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Voices of the Dropout Nation in Quotes: Zip Code Shouldn’t Equal Destiny

  Memo to self: remember not to come back as a poor kid in Alaska or DC in the next life. Ten points roughly equals a grade level worth of…

 

Memo to self: remember not to come back as a poor kid in Alaska or DC in the next life. Ten points roughly equals a grade level worth of progress. Low-income kids in Alaska and DC are reading almost as poorly as 1st graders in Massachusetts, which is to say, not much all.

Matthew Ladner of the George W. Bush Institute in his analysis of 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress data. He also notes that Michigan — a state that has lagged behind in reform over the past three decades, isn’t exactly a great place for young black students to grow up. In short, we must end zip code education, both in communities and throughout states.

Next time districts feel their wallets swell a bit, we hope they might resist the urge to hire, given that it’s not at all clear what it accomplished in terms of growth in student achievement. Next time, let’s look to significantly better compensation for talented teachers.

The National Council on Teacher Quality helping to dispel the myth that there are widespread teacher layoffs so far. Dropout Nation made this clear back in September.

We have a choice of two futures… It is the most precarious time in our lifetimes… We are facing two tipping points. One is a fiscal tipping point. The other is a moral one

Congressman Paul Ryan in his speech yesterday at The American Spectator’s annual confab. While he was talking about federal spending, taxes, and regulation, his words could easily apply to the nation’s education crisis and the woeful performance of American public education that will condemn taxpayers and children alike if we don’t continuously push for systemic reform.

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Parent Power Demands Teacher Quality Reform: The L.A. Unified Lawsuit

Last week’s Dropout Nation report on the possible lawsuit being brought on behalf of seven families by Barnes & Thornburg over the Los Angeles Unified School District’s teacher evaluations has…

Last week’s Dropout Nation report on the possible lawsuit being brought on behalf of seven families by Barnes & Thornburg over the Los Angeles Unified School District’s teacher evaluations has turned from a letter to reality. Today, the families filed for declaratory relief, asking California’s superior court to bar the district from striking a new collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Teachers’ City of Angels local that doesn’t provide for the use of student test data in future teacher evaluations. The lawsuit is also asking the court to put an injunction on related legal action between the district and the AFT that is before the state’s Public Employees Relations Board.

As Dropout Nation reported Friday, the demands are based on the Parent Power activists’ interpretation of the state’s Stull Act, which governs teacher evaluations. As Barnes & Thornburg partners Kyle Kirwan and Scott Witlin argue in the brief (and in an earlier demand letter to the district), the Stull Act required L.A. Unified to use data from the state’s “criterion reference test” in evaluating teachers. But it hasn’t done so. Witlin also argues that L.A. Unified has also failed to provide its teachers provide meaningful and specific feedback on performance as required under Stull, and help laggard teachers improve their instruction. In essence, the district hasn’t followed the law for the last 40 years.

The assertions follow along the lines of a report released earlier this year by the National Council on Teacher Quality based on a study it conducted for the United Way’s City of Angels operation and a group of civil rights groups earlier this year. According to the study, just 40 percent of veteran teachers and 70 percent of new hires were evaluated by the district during the 2009-2010 school year. NCTQ does note that L.A. Unified’s evaluation procedures do follow the letter of state law, but argues that the district hasn’t made the evaluations more-thorough and of better use for teachers and principals alike, even though state law does allow the district to do so. For example, California moved two years ago to allow student test data to be tied into teacher performance as part of the development of the now-kiboshed CALTIDES data systems. And, as Los Angeles Times reporter Howard Blume reported yesterday, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy thinks that the Stull Act allows the district much leeway in structuring performance management.

The parents are being helped out by EdVoice, a Sacramento, Calif., outfit whose board includes school reformer Eli Broad. Certainly, education traditionalists will argue that this is some nefarious plot by big-moneyed folks. But one must keep in mind that AFT and its L.A. affiliate are big-money players themselves. Earlier this year, the AFT tossed $10,000 to fund the Save Our Schools rally, which touted itself as a grassroots effort; it, along with the NEA, financed half of the rally’s budget.

Whatever happens, the lawsuit serves as another example of parents pushing to reform American public education by any means necessary. The Connecticut Parents Union, for example, has helped Marie Menard, file suit against the Stratford school district after it charged her with what can laughingly be called stealing education for allowing her daughter to claim her home as a residence for her two grandchildren in order to avoid sending them to failure mills. The very idea that we continue to restrict children from getting a high-quality education by where they live — and perpetuate Zip Code education — is absolutely senseless. It’s time for more parents to take to the courts, the ballot boxes, and to the streets for their kids.

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