There’s a movie coming out this fall called ‘Won’t Back Down’ which the commercial says is “inspired by true events.” The movie is about a parent who is unhappy with her child’s school and rallies the other parents plus half the staff to enact what is called the ‘parent trigger,’ shooting the school at point blank and replacing it with a charter school, no doubt.
The actual ‘parent trigger’ does not require half the staff to sign off on it, or none would ever get passed.
The reason they can only say this is “inspired by true events” is that there has been, to date, only one time that the ‘trigger’ has been pulled. There is a law allowing this in California, and there was one failed attempt to do the parent trigger there. Then, recently, there was a ‘successful’ effort to get the required numbers of signatures. It later came out, in court, that many parents did not realizing what they were signing and they wanted to remove their signatures, thus making the ‘trigger’ invalid. But a judge ruled that they were not allowed to rescind their signatures, so that school, unless an appeal happens soon, will become a charter next year.
But that does not mean the school will be any better. So there has NEVER been a trigger where there has been a new school to even compare to the old school yet.
The big problem with the ‘parent trigger’ is that parents are often duped into signing the petition by the organizations that will benefit from it happening. If you ask a parent if they want their child’s school to improve, of course they will sign something. But as true turnarounds (where the school has to keep the same students that were there before) have not been proven to work (see the saga of the one time KIPP tried to do this at Cole Middle School in Denver. It was a disaster.) misleading the parents into giving the control of the school to an outside organization who will surely use much of the funds on consultants and paying their CEO a couple of hundred thousand dollars, is not responsible education reform.
To say that this movie is “inspired by true events” is like saying that ‘Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory’ was “inspired” by Watergate.
So where does TFA fit into this? Well, there is a concert tonight in L.A. sponsored by “Never Back Down” called “Teachers Rock.” This will also be broadcast on CBS this Friday. Several pretty popular musicians are donated their time as well as some video messages from some very famous actors. The money from this concert is going to three organizations, Donorschoose.org, Feeding America, and, yes, Teach For America.
For Teach For America to accept money from this movie and then to say “What? We never said that bad teachers are the cause of the achievement gap.” is really strange. TFA should not be accepting a dime from this scapegoating teacher propaganda.
School turnaround, TFA surely knows, is messy business. In NYC where this is one of the main components of the ‘reform’ here, the DOE here tried recently to ‘turnaround’ 24 ‘failing’ schools. This turnaround effort was led by TFA alum Marc Sternberg, deputy Chancellor. TFA stood silently by all the dramatic hearings where teachers, parents, and students begged Sternberg to reconsider. Fortunately the turnarounds were blocked by a judge, and are safe, at least, until the next appeal. One of the reasons that TFA should have not been silent is that some of the schools that were slated for turnaround had many TFA teachers and even TFA administrators. I think that TFA should have gotten behind these schools and Wendy should have written an op-ed in The New York Times, just as she came out against the release of the teacher value-added scores a few months ago. But in this case, by sitting quietly, TFA endorsed the alum who they are so proud of over the hard work by all the committed TFA teachers and administrators.
Here’s an excellent post by a great NYC blogger named Jose Vilson that I highly recommend.