"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bill Gates Still Thinks Students are Widgets

Bill Gates, sharing the byline with his wife, Melinda, is still talking about students as if they were widgets and schools as if they were for profit companies (and we know they all would be if it were up to him).
In most workplaces, there is an implicit bargain: Employees get the support they need to excel at their jobs, and employers build a system to evaluate their performance. The evaluations yield information that employees use to improve—and that employers use to hold employees accountable for results.
It's all teacher evaluations and "employee accountability" for them. And what better way to hold teachers accountable than by using scores on student tests. Reduce each student to a number and hold the teacher accountable for that number.

Anthony Cody responded with an excellent post on Living in Dialogue.
...The answer, according to Mr. Gates, is that we must get rid of bad teachers. He said, during his appearance on Oprah last year, that if we got rid of all the bad teachers, "our schools would shoot from the bottom of these rankings to the top."

In order to be able to fire all these bad teachers, we need to be able to measure their performance. The measurements he wants to use are the data from our students' test scores, which tell us how much "value" we have added to them. These students are our raw material, and just like any manufacturing process, we ought to be paid and evaluated according to how much value we have added to the product as it passed through our hands. His foundation created the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, which has come up with something they call "multiple measures" of good teaching, but unfortunately it appears all these measures lead back to test score data.
There's more data that the billionaires need to look at however.
...the United States...ranks next to Greece, Turkey, Mexico and Chile in terms of the percentage of children in poverty...Many teachers see poverty up close, although our students do their best to hide it. Like wounded birds, they do not want others to see their weakness. They tease one another about buying clothes at Salvation Army, or living in a cardboard box. Those of us who have worked in schools with children in poverty are very familiar with this data.

Are our billionaire education reformers interested in any of this information?

We can choose tax structures that underfund our schools, we can believe that we are collectively "broke" while some people stack up the billions, and still need tax breaks. But the data is in. We have become a banana republic, with a widening gulf between rich and poor. And the schools alone will not fix this. Sending more children to college will not fix this. Only social policies that aim to reverse the concentration of wealth will make a real difference.
Gates, while encouraging us to rely on test scores to evaluate teachers, seems to ignore the test results that don't fit his biases. An analysis of the PISA tests results provides data which makes it less comfortable to be incredibly wealthy. From the 2009 PISA test results:
  • In schools where less than 10 percent of students get free or reduced lunch, the reading score is 551. That would place those U.S. students at No. 2 on the international ranking for reading, just behind Shanghai, China which topped the ranking with a score of 556.
  • Of all the nations participating in the PISA assessment, the U.S. has, by far, the largest number of students living in poverty–21.7%. The next closest nations in terms of poverty levels are the United Kingdom and New Zealand have poverty rates that are 75% of ours.
  • U.S. students in schools with 10% or less poverty are number one country in the world.
  • U.S. students in schools with 10-24.9% poverty are third behind Korea, and Finland.
  • U.S. students in schools with 25-50% poverty are tenth in the world.
U.S. schools with low poverty are among the best in the world as rated by the PISA tests. It's not bad teachers, unless, by some coincidence all the nation's bad teachers are concentrated in schools with high poverty.

Perhaps it's poverty itself that's the problem. Maybe David Berliner was right when, in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, he wrote,
...six OSFs [out of school factors] common among the poor that significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

Also discussed is a seventh OSF, extended learning opportunities, such as pre- school, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.

Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.
Poverty is the data that billionaires and politicians won't see. To them it's just a distraction from the "it's bad teachers" mantra that they have been chanting since No Child Left Behind was passed. They claim it's "an excuse" and that teachers are not willing to be accountable.

Teachers are willing to be accountable, but other stakeholders need to be accountable, too -- politicians and the state and federal legislatures they populate, parents, school boards, businesses, and students themselves.

Stephen Krashen put it well...
Research tells that there is no correlation between improved test scores and subsequent economic progress, that high unemployment in an area results in decreased school performance of children, even those whose parents are still employed, and it also tells us what we already should know: High poverty means poor diets, inadequate health care, and little access to books and all of these conditions are related to school performance.

The best teaching in the world will have little impact when there is high poverty, when children are under-nourished, in poor health, and have little or nothing to read.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Only One Party In Education Policy

So...why is Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association, asking me to join Educators for Obama?

If you click on the link above you'll be taken to the web site for the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. There you'll find the plug, "Pledge to be an Educator for Obama" followed by this amazing comment:
President Obama has earned NEA's recommendation because of his unwavering support for education and students. Now more than ever, we need to elect a President who shares our vision for a stronger America. Do your part and pledge to be an educator for Obama today!
I was against the NEA endorsement of Obama when it was first mentioned at the NEA-RA last July. The Obama administration has done nothing to support public education and public school educators in the United States.

Using his Secretary of Education, President Obama has continued the attack on public schools which began with No Child Left Behind. Arne Duncan's plan for America's public schools, Race to the Top, is nothing short of disaster for our children and our public schools.

Anthony Cody writing in Living In Dialogue last March reminded us of the disconnect between President Obama's words and his administration's actions. He quotes the President,
...one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you're not learning about the world; you're not learning about different cultures, you're not learning about science, you're not learning about math. All you're learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that's not going to make education interesting to you. And young people do well in stuff that they're interested in. They're not going to do as well if it's boring."
Then he asked,
Is President Obama aware:
  • that Race to the Top requires states to tie teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores? If ever there was a recipe for teaching to the test, this is it!
  • that his Secretary of Education is proposing to evaluate teacher preparation programs by tracking the test scores of the teachers they produce?
  • that his administration's plan for the new version of No Child Left Behind continues to place tremendous pressure on schools attended by the poorest students, ensuring that there will still be extremely high stakes attached to these tests? This creates the most invidious inequity of all -- where students most in need of the sort of wholistic, project-based curriculum the President rightly says is the cure to boredom remain stuck in schools forced to focus on test scores.
  • that his Department of Education is proposing greatly expanding both the number of subjects tested, and the frequency of tests, to enable us to measure the "value" each teacher adds to their students?
Writing in the Answer Sheet, Monty Niell critiqued the waivers the Obama administration is offering to states to relieve the pressure of No Child Left Behind.
If they accept the deal, states will lock in ever more counter-productive educational practices based on the misuse of test scores, including linking teacher evaluation to student scores. Those policies could be hard to dislodge should Congress decide not to endorse Duncan’s “Blueprint” when it eventually does reauthorize the federal law. States that refuse to sign on to Duncan’s reform program, however, will be denied waivers, Duncan said, and will then continue to be subject to the continue the NCLB charade of seeking “100% proficiency” of students in reading and math by 2014. Neither choice will help children or schools.
Will the Republicans do anything different? Will a Republican administration be better for public education? Not likely. But the fact remains that Dennis Van Roekel and the NEA are wrong. President Obama is no friend of public education.

My choice for president in the 2012 election will be made based on non-education issues. The current crop of candidates, President Obama and the Republicans who are running, are pushing the privatization of public education with charters (the Republicans include voucher plans as well), the deprofessionalization of teachers, and the corporatization of America's education system.

When it comes to education policy we don't have a two party system. The Corporate Party is in control.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who Will Staff Tomorrow's Schools? Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE.

Recently our local newspaper ran two related articles about the future of education in Indiana and by extension, the United States.

Students hesitant to pursue teaching: Economy, politics linked to fewer education majors
Published: October 23, 2011 3:00 a.m.

Schools of Education in Indiana's colleges and universities are seeing a drop in enrollment. Fewer jobs, more academic restrictions and a growing unpopularity has taken its toll on the teaching profession.

Professor Michael Slavkin, director of teacher education at Manchester College:
...the Daniels administration, along with Superintendent of Education Tony Bennett, have been outwardly aggressive in their disdain for teachers. The discourse became particularly caustic during the recent legislative session, he said, when lawmakers passed legislation limiting collective bargaining rights, linking teacher pay to test scores and other measures.

“Obviously, the current political environment around education probably makes (the field) less appealing,” Slavkin said. “I think this is the most important job we have to offer college students. I think it’s the most valuable. And yet, I think I would probably second-guess right now if my children were to come to me and say they wanted to be teachers. It’s been a hard couple of years in Indiana for educators.”
A shrinking job market, poor advancement, dependence on student test scores for evaluations, lowered status, lack of professional decision making opportunities, and lack of public support are all making the prospect of a career in education less appealing. The best and the brightest will, for the most part, look elsewhere for career opportunities. The teachers who remain will be overburdened with large class sizes, and hard-to-teach students. The constant attack on public education, public school teachers and their unions, has had a self-fulfilling effect on the profession.

In an editorial, Endangered Profession (October 25, 2011), the Journal Gazette editorialist wrote,
Double-digit enrollment decreases in education schools at area colleges and universities ought to be an early warning that something’s amiss in Indiana’s efforts to overhaul its schools. When students choose not to pursue teaching careers because of discouraging job prospects or unfavorable attitudes toward the profession, the very quality of education is at risk.
We're gutting the teaching profession in a false reform and our children and grandchildren will suffer because of it. Punitive attacks on teachers and public schools has made the educator's job more difficult and less attractive.

Already nearly 50% of educators leave the profession in their first five years. With fewer people going into teaching, and a high attrition rate, our public schools are looking at a bleak future.

Cutting Libraries

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Medley #11

Yet Another Committee About Education with no Teachers, Bill Gates, Miracle Schools, Assess Corporate America, Poverty, Preserving Public Education, Do Teachers Do Too Much? 

Who is missing from this lineup to evaluate Race to the Top?
By Valerie Strauss
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just convened a group of prominent people in the education world to take a comprehensive look at the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative and its impact on school reform around the country...
Educators -- teachers, principals -- are missing from the group. Strauss asks...
But why ask them anything about school reform? What could people who work with kids every day know about what works and what doesn’t in reforming schools?
Nothing New about Teaching from Bill Gates
by Walt Gardner
One of the perks of being a billionaire is that anything you submit to a newspaper is definitely going to be published. No one has been more successful in this respect than Bill Gates opining about education. His latest essay, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal, was nothing more than a rehash of what others have proposed as a way of improving educational quality ("Grading the Teachers," Oct. 22). Yet Gates believes that he has broken new ground.
If You Believe in Miracles, Don't Read This
by Diane Ravitch
Yes, poor kids can learn and excel. But whether or not children are poor, education is a slow, incremental process. While it is true that a student may have a remarkable change in attitude and motivation and demonstrate large test-score gains in a short period of time, it is rare indeed when an entire school or district experiences a dramatic increase in test scores. Any huge change in scores for a school or a district in a short period of time ought to provoke skepticism and a demand for evidence, not a willing suspension of disbelief.
Teachers Want Corporate America Assessed
by Judy Rabin
The message was loud and clear -- it is time for educators to turn the table on the corporations and politicians and begin evaluating, measuring and assessing their performance. Here are some well-known statistics: 25 million people are out of work or underemployed, 50 million people have no access to health insurance and one in five children in the U.S. is living in poverty and four of every ten black children living in poverty. Everyone but the wealthy are corporate America's collateral damage
Why school reform can’t ignore poverty’s toll
by Valerie Strauss
The bottom line is that pushing school reforms that are obsessed with standardized test scores and do nothing to address the emotional, physical and social needs of needy children are bound to fail.
Why public education must be preserved
We owe it to future generations to preserve the ideals which have served our nation since its beginning. Our public schools have produced presidents, statesmen, scientists, sports and entertainment figures. We can’t let outside forces result in public education becoming a system of haves and have-nots. We must make sure that we remember what our Founding Fathers saw: that public education is essential to our country’s common good.
Do Teachers Do Too Much?
As soon as the phrase “for the students” or something similar to it gets tossed around, many teachers instantly bend...“You need to understand that your entire schedule has been rearranged because it’s what’s best for the students. Yes, I understand you’re now teaching three different subjects in six different rooms, but like I just said, it’s what’s best for students. End of discussion.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One Child Every Five Hours

The Shame of a Nation is not just the title of Jonathan Kozol's 2005 book about the Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. It's the very real epidemic of child abuse that's taking place right now in the United States.

Think Progress...
A disturbing new report reveals that child abuse in the United States has reached “epidemic” levels, with one child dying every five hours from abuse or neglect. A recent congressional report estimates that some 2,500 children were killed as a result of maltreatment in 2009, and America has the worst child abuse record in the industrialized world.
The report, called America's child death shame, comes from the BBC.
Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada's and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year. Why is that?

Downward spiral

Part of the answer is that teen pregnancy, high-school dropout, violent crime, imprisonment, and poverty - factors associated with abuse and neglect - are generally much higher in the US.

Further, other rich nations have social policies that provide child care, universal health insurance, pre-school, parental leave and visiting nurses to virtually all in need.

In the US, when children are born into young families not prepared to receive them, local social safety nets may be frayed, or non-existent. As a result, they are unable to compensate for the household stress the child must endure.

In the most severe situations, there is a predictable downward spiral and a child dies. Some 75% of these children are under four, while nearly half are under one.
We pay the price for our stubborn refusal to provide for our citizens...with the lives of approximately 2000 children a year.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan get attention on the news. The number of dead soldiers elicits an outcry of compassion and frustration...as it should.

Where is the similar outrage for the deaths of thousands of children at the hands of the adults who are supposed to care for them?
A national strategy, led by our national government, needs to be developed and implemented. For a start, the Congress should adopt legislation that would create a National Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

And no children's programmes should be on the chopping block, federal or state. Children did not crash the US economy. It is both shortsighted economic policy and morally wrong to make them pay the price for fixing it.

But instead as the US economy lags, child poverty soars, and states cut billions in children's services, we are further straining America's already weak safety net.

Inevitably, it means more children will die. The easy answer is to blame parents and already burdened child protection workers. But easy answers don't solve complex problems.

And with millions of children injured and thousands killed, this problem is large indeed, and it deserves a large response.
You should watch it all -- HERE and read about it HERE.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Focusing on Teachers

Teacher quality is the focus of the new, corporate "reformers." Outside influences on student achievement (poverty, native language, etc) are glossed over as "excuses" to defend poor teachers. "Bad teachers" teaching in "failing schools" are the problem.

Kelly Wu, a high school student from California, defends her teachers.
In the United States, teaching has one of the highest turnover rates for any profession, meaning that more teachers quit every year compared to other professions. This, according to the Alliance of Excellent Education, is costing our state governments an average of $4.5 billion yearly. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future reports that every year, 16 percent of all teachers quit, compared to the national average of 2.7 percent per profession.
We've asked over and over again why anyone would choose to become a teacher given the low status, mediocre pay, difficult work and extreme stress caused by the corporate war against teachers and teachers' unions.

Those of us who have taught or are teaching, know why. We do it because we love children and love teaching. A quick perusal of OCCUPY EDUCATION: Reclaiming Our Voice in Education will give non-educators a pretty good idea of why teachers go into teaching. However, there is no denying that a huge number of people who become educators don't make it past their 5th year. The current anti-teacher atmosphere has a lot to do with the high turnover rate...that, and the difficulty of the job.

It's also costly to replace teachers. The new "Reformers" who want to get rid of veteran teachers and replace them with new teachers are doing so, not for the purpose of improving education, but to cash in on lower paid teachers. Unfortunately, it costs money to replace teachers.

E. D. Kain at Forbes Magazine, writes,
Estimates put the costs of teacher attrition at $7.3 billion a year. I find it hard to believe that policies geared toward keeping teachers around for only a few years would be good for students, teachers, or public schools. Already 46% of new teachers leave the profession within five years, and now reformers want to make it even less appealing for teachers to make teaching a career. This makes no sense. Whatever money is saved on benefits and higher veteran salaries is lost in recruitment, training, and other expenses associated with high turnover. Turnover is highest at the neediest schools.
It's not good for students, teachers or public schools. Schools need dedicated professionals with varied years of experience. Veterans help new teachers acclimate and are valuable as mentors and advisors. Young teachers infuse the profession with energy and creativity.

One of the reasons teachers unions are anathema to "reformers" is because they provide teachers with due process. Firing "bad teachers" is the main reform coming from the Michelle Rhees of the world. Defining "bad teachers" by way of student test scores makes the process simple. The only problem is that it's inadequate. It punishes the teachers who work with the neediest students.

Kain talks about firing "bad teachers:"
Bad teachers can be weeded out...before gaining tenure. School officials need to use this time window appropriately.

...tenure is to protect teachers from arbitrarily being fired. Teachers need protection from over-zealous bosses and ideological politicians. This is the same thinking behind seniority rules, which protect more expensive teachers (i.e. veterans) from being laid off due to budget cuts...If you take away pensions, job security, tenure, the ability to unionize, and basically all the other perks of teaching, what you’re left with is a very difficult job with no job security, mediocre benefits, and relatively low pay. This is not how you attract good people to a profession, or how you guarantee a good education experience for your children. Paying starting teachers more but making their long-term prospects in the career less certain is also wrong-headed. High turnover is not desirable for any business, teaching included.
The direction that the corporate "reformers" have taken America's public schools over the last decade is the wrong one. We need to break this status quo and get down to the business of supporting the neediest students socially as well as academically. Destroying teachers unions, firing teachers, and defunding public schools doesn't help anyone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Animal Left Behind

From SOS Million Teacher March on Facebook. Click the cartoon for the link.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Who Will Staff Tomorrow's Schools?

The number of new teachers is growing in the US as more and more experienced teachers are leaving the classroom for less stressful, better paying jobs or early retirement. Where will the mentors for new teachers come from? Will schools have a balance of new and experienced teachers?

Walt Gardner, in The Changing Demographics of the Teaching Profession says that teachers are getting younger and younger.
In the 1987-88 school year, for example, 14 years was the most common level of experience. But by 2007-08, it was one or two years.
And new teachers are coming from other certification routes...not just university schools of education. It doesn't matter where they get their training (assuming that they get any at all), they will eventually be trained through the classroom experience.
...new teachers from any certification route, no matter how promising, are untested. The crucible of the classroom will determine if they have what it takes to be successful...nearly half of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years...It is psychologically costly for students because the deep bonds they form with their teachers are severed when their teachers depart.

The teaching profession is going through a metamorphosis. No one knows what the eventual outcome will be. But I don't think it will be recognizable in the next two decades. 
I say that primarily because the fun has been taken out of teaching by endless rules and regulations that have effectively tied the hands of classroom teachers. Teachers in the past never chose the profession for power, fame or money. They did so because they loved their subjects, enjoyed young people and felt appreciated. It will take unusually dedicated college graduates to pass up opportunities outside of education, as immediately measurable outcomes become the only thing that matters.
It has become harder and harder to teach. With the testing insanity growing to include pay based on test scores, teachers are going to avoid teaching hard to educate children. The gaps between rich and poor will grow.

In a blog entry titled A Moment of National Insanity, Diane Ravitch said,
The corporate reformers have done a good job of persuading the media that our public schools are failing because they are overrun by bad teachers, and these bad teachers have lifetime tenure because of their powerful unions...I'm sorry to say that Race to the Top, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have stirred up a frenzy of anti-teacher sentiment that hurts even our very best teachers, by their much-publicized search for "bad teachers." 
Our schools remain subject to a failed federal accountability system. We are packing children into crowded classrooms, ignoring the growing levels of child poverty (the U.S. now leads all advanced nations in infant mortality), and putting fear into the hearts of our nation's teachers. Who will want to teach? How does any of this improve schools or benefit children? Do you understand it? I don't.
Some experienced teachers are leaving the country. NBC aired an interview with Stephanie Olson, a high school English teacher in Arizona for 10 years with 2 Masters degrees.

Classroom 'crisis': Many teachers have little or no experience
Stephanie Olson...has had enough.

"I'm doing more work, but I'm getting less money every year," she told NBC News. "Instead of being excited about a job and looking forward to your job, you begin to fear your job. It becomes stressful, tiring and takes a toll not only on your health, but on your family."

So the Phoenix mother is uprooting her life and moving to Abu Dhabi, where she said will earn better pay and be more highly valued as a teacher. She landed the job through Teach Away, a Toronto-based agency that helps North Americans find teaching jobs overseas.
"Sometimes, the best teachers are the ones to leave," Olson said, adding "they feel like they are mistreated."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Just Say No to the Waiver: Part 2

(Click Here for Part 1)

UPDATE: Schools Matter published this from teacher Michelle Newsum. Click on the link to read the whole thing.

Three Good Anwers to Poisonous Waiver Plan: No Thanks, I Said No, and Hell No
The National Academy of Sciences states, "There is no research base to support high stakes testing."Yet 'reformers' continue to push excessive and expensive testing to (line publishers' pockets and) discover which schools are 'failing' and punish them. (This, by the way, hasn't worked. Reconstituted and charter schools are not benefiting our kids. Indeed, according to a recent Stanford study, 83% of charter schools did not perform better than public schools.)


The billions of dollars saved from unbounded testing and carrot-and-stick reforms could then be used for real solutions such as:

* Reducing class size

(This is one of four K-12 reforms backed by rigorous evidence according to the Institute of Educational Sciences [Research arm of the Department of Education]

* Providing prenatal care for low income women

(Low income women are currently unlikely to receive adequate prenatal care. They have a high incidence of low birth weight babies. Low birth weight babies have a much higher incidence of learning disabilities)

* Funding public, school and classroom libraries

(Most children in high poverty areas have limited access to books)

* Providing quality professional development for teachers
* Including teachers, parents and students in legislative decision making

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Public Trust

There's a new tactic being used by those who wish to privatize America's public education system. It's called the "Parent Trigger." This tactic, as explained by Diane Ravitch in her Bridging Differences Blog,
...allows a majority of parents in a low-performing school to sign a petition that leads to various sanctions for the school: firing all or some of the staff, turning the school over to charter management, or closing the school. These are similar to the options in the U.S. Department of Education's School Improvement Grant program. All of them are punitive, none is supportive of changing the school for the better, and none has a shred of evidence to show that it will improve the school. Neither the Parent Trigger nor the federal SIG program offers any constructive alternatives to unhappy parents, only ways to punish the school for low scores.
The Parent Revolution is a group that encourages parents to utilize the Parent Trigger. Their goal, as claimed on their web site, is to "take back your school, for your child, your community and your future." The video on the home page states,
The only way to change [schools] is to give power to the only people who only care about children — parents.
Though worded carefully the intent of the comment is clear. The educators -- teachers, and administrators -- who work in the so-called 'failing' public schools, don't care about children.

Parents have the right to demand that schools meet the needs of their children. Municipalities, however, have the obligation to improve the schools. The trend encouraged by the US DOE, which began with No Child Left Behind and continues unabated with Race to the Top, is to throw schools filled with struggling students away, not fix them. They close schools that are in difficulty, ship the students to other schools, open charter schools, and/or fire teachers and principals. None of those "solutions" deal with the core issues of failing schools. None have any research basis whatsoever. The vast majority of charter schools don't perform better than the vast majority of regular public schools.

Ravitch concludes,
a public school is a public trust. It doesn't belong to the students who are currently enrolled in it or their parents or to the teachers who currently teach in it. All of them are part of the school community, and that community needs to collaborate to make the school better for everyone. Together, they should be able to redesign or create or discontinue programs and services. But collaboration is not the same as ownership. The school belongs to the public, to the commonwealth. It belongs to everyone who ever attended it (and their parents) and to future generations. It is part of the public patrimony, not an asset that can be closed or privatized by its current constituents.

If a school is dysfunctional, those who are in charge of the district are obliged to find out why and to do whatever they can to fix the problems. If the principal is incompetent, he or she should be removed. If there are teachers who are incompetent, they should be removed. If the school is doing poorly because it lacks necessary resources, the district is obliged to do whatever it can to improve the school.

ASIDE: The Parent Revolution in Action: McKinley Elementary School in Compton.

There does seem to be some overlap between the Parent Revolution and the Charter School industry. According to Larry Ferlazzo,
the chair of Parent Revolution’s board is the head of charter operator Green Dot Schools
Parent Revolution’s primary funders are the same ones who are the biggest funders of charter schools
So what we're looking at is a group with ties to charter entrepreneurs who are encouraging parents to take action to close their schools so they can be reopened...as charters.

Parent Revolution was instrumental in engaging the "parent trigger" at McKinley Elementary School in Compton California. A Charter school was established, but, a comment on Bridging Differences claims that,
Chaos ensued after the Parent Trigger was deployed against McKinley Elementary in Compton. After the dust settled, the Celerity charter operator opened this fall in a nearby church rather than taking over McKinley Elementary. The big news, as reported by the New York Times last week...is that only a small number of McKinley students have been enrolled in the new charter. So much for the notion that the families were clamoring to have this charter operator educate their kids. (Unless, of course, Celerity rejected many of the students, which is quite possible, though that would be a different story that also reveals what a failure this operation was.)