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Parent Empowerment Triggers Debate

“‘Parent trigger’ bill triggering debate in Florida”
by Bill Kaczor, Associated Press
Miami Herald
March 5, 2012

A bill that would let parents “trigger” a turnaround plan for failing schools would cause disputes and dissension in Florida’s public schools, opponents said Monday.

That’s yet to be proven, but it is causing plenty of turmoil in the Florida Legislature as it has in California, where the idea originated.

The Florida PTA and other bipartisan opponents held a news conference Monday to criticize not only the bill that’s supported by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush but the way it’s been ramrodded through the GOP-controlled Legislature.

School officials would be required to adopt a turnaround plan if a majority of parents sign a petition.

Supporters say the “parent trigger” is a way to empower parents and encourage them to participate in school affairs. Critics contend it’s a ploy for handing public schools to private management or charter school companies.

“It has everything to do with laying the groundwork for the hostile, corporate takeover of public schools,” said Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston. “Parents will divide against parents and even children will divide against children.”

Florida PTA Vice President Dawn Steward said corporations put the stockholders’ interest first.

“Their stockholders aren’t going to necessarily be children,” Steward said. “My stockholders are children and I’m a volunteer and I represent 330,000 voices.”

The trigger bill is being pushed by Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future and the California-based Parent Revolution. The group contends the legislation is not intended to promote charters, although that’s one turnaround option.

Parent Revolution spokeswoman Linda Serrato said it actually would add another step – the parents’ petition – to existing procedure for creating charters, which get public funding but are run by entities other than elected local school boards.

“So to put it in context, I’m a big bad for-profit charter

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Bushes honor success stories at Celebration of Reading

by Chris Umpierre
Lehigh Acres News Star
February 18, 2012

Like many migrant workers, Immokalee’s Maria Segura didn’t know how to read or speak English. Like her parents before her and their parents before them, the 43-year-old mother of four thought she would end up working the fields for the rest of her life.

Then she stepped into a Bush family literacy program, and everything changed.

A high school dropout, Segura learned to read, learned English, got her GED and in 2009 graduated from Southwest Florida College in Fort Myers. Today, she’s the lead preschool teacher at Immokalee’s Family Literacy Academy.

Former first lady Barbara Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush celebrated Segura’s accomplishment as well as the thousands of people their foundation has helped at Friday night’s 12th annual Celebration of Reading at the Hyatt Regency in Bonita Springs.

The Bush family’s foundation has raised $42 million for 960 family literacy programs, but in a Friday panel discussion at Florida Gulf Coast University, education experts agreed more needs to be done.

About 90 million Americans struggle with literacy, a statistic that hasn’t changed in more than a decade. About 30 million of those people are caregivers of children younger than 8, according to the National Center for Family Literacy. The center’s president, Sharon Darling, said educators should expand prekindergarten opportunities and utilize the advance of smartphones to reach illiterate adults.

“We can do all we can to improve our institutions and we can get excellent charter schools, but until we think about educating illiterate adults, it’s like pushing on a rope,” Darling said. “We might get there, but it’s going to be a longer route.”

Jeb Bush, who announced Friday that he and his sister, Doro Bush Koch, will be taking over the reins of the Bush literacy program from their mother, hopes to

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Achievement Gap Isn't Just Black And White

NPR’s “School’s Out: America’s Dropout Crisis” focuses on the nation’s dropout problem, recognizing that the crisis has a lifelong impact on far too many people, including our economy and our community, as dropouts earn significantly less than a high school or college graduate and are more likely to commit crimes, live in poverty, and become teen parents.

A recent NAEP study found that a significant gap remains between Hispanic and white achievement levels. Well aware of the dropout and achievement of Hispanic youngsters, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO) hosted an education summit in Florida to examine how school choice options can help Hispanic students not only stay in school, but achieve at higher levels. By creating coalitions with parents, teachers, schools, faith-based organizations, and corporate America, HCREO has been able to educate, inform, and mobilize Hispanic parents.

Florida’s new education commissioner Gerard Robinson, formerly president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Secretary of Education in Virginia, advocated in favor of all forms of choice for minority students from low-income families. Wonder what the NAACP thinks about that? The goal is to put the pressure on at a national level, which HCREO hopes to do with its Coalition to Ensure Educational Opportunities for Hispanic Children to Succeed.

Let’s hope they, and NPR, can shake the status quo to do just that.

Onwards and upwards

up-buttonCharters are not only closing the achievement gap for those stuck in failing schools but educating diverse student populations that represent wide variation in income and race.

But what about their effect on students’ futures?

A study looked at the achievement and movement of charter students in Florida and Chicago and has found a direct (positive) impact on graduation rate and college matriculation.

Two key findings:

Students who attend a charter high school are 7 to 15 percentage points more likely to earn a standard diploma than students who attend a traditional public high school. Similarly, those attending a charter high school are 8 to 10 percentage points more likely to attend college.

The “what” is clear. Charter schools are providing the necessary environment for students to break the 70 percent graduation rate and not only earn their high school diploma but move on to college in many cases.

The “why” may take a little more time to nail down, but whatever it is, it’s working.

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