Ohio is in the midst of its biennial budget debate and there has been much angst and ink spilled about a proposal in the budget bill (HB 153) to create a ???parent trigger??? for the state's truly woeful schools. The proposal has triggered front page new stories, strongly worded editorials against the idea, and public testimony in House hearings on the budget dismissing the idea as another assault on public schools.
The bill would allow parents to petition a school district to force reforms in a school that, for at least three consecutive years, has been ranked in the lowest 5 percent of all district-operated schools statewide based on its performance index score (which is a measure of student achievement across all grades and subjects). Parents would be allowed to file a petition requesting the district to do one of the following:
- Reopen the failing school as a community school,
- Replace at least 70 percent of the school's personnel,
- Contract with another school district or a nonprofit or for-profit entity with a record of effectiveness to operate the school,
- Turn operation of the school over to the state Department of Education, or
- Any other restructuring that makes fundamental reforms in the school's staffing or governance.
This is strong medicine for sure, and for truly atrocious schools necessary. Now, the part of the story that has been missed by almost everyone is how few schools this law would actually impact. The bar for triggering the parent trigger is so low that based on 2009-10 data only 29 of the state's current 3,372 schools (that received academic rating data) would be eligible for the trigger (that's less than one percent of Ohio's district schools).
Almost half of these schools are in Cleveland and the others are scattered across the state's other big and mid-sized urban districts. In sum, the parent trigger is much ado about very little. One might fairly ask, why so few schools on the list?
- Terry Ryan