The Parent Trigger and 2 Radical Changes I Suggest for Public Education in 2012 and Beyond

Being a teacher in my area, I’m probably a little more aware of the parent trigger law and the Hollywood movie Won’t Back Down. I’ve watched the media chaos descend into what is now the lowest grossing movie in recent memory. In other words, the movie is no crescendo for the parent trigger movement. Despite that fact, the parent trigger law will bring, and already has brought, some changes to education. I read that education degrees are less sought after than ever. After the reckless voices have waned, people are likely to sit down and discuss real change in education. I think this change will be radical in some ways but in others it will contain common sense that has been a long time coming.


The standardized test needs to go away. I think No Child Left Behind gave us teachers a clear and solid goal and encouraged us to teach to the test. We tried to include all students in this process but as you know, not every kid is a multiple choice test taking success. Like millions of teachers, I got used to this goal however and it became a lighthouse, a navigation device telling me how my kids were doing. It did not guide me to the finer arts like music and art and I had to get creative to get those taught. Furthermore, I even felt at risk of being reprimanded at times when I would incorporate these into the curriculum. Parents are realizing now that they want more than a test for their kids. I am only surprised that the parent trigger law and Parent Revolution don’t measure a school on more than just a test.

Every major news article I read on Desert Trails gives some statistic on how low the percentage is of kids who can “read and write.” Where did they glean this information? I don’t know of any test or company hired that went in to check how many kids can read and write. They are using standardized test results and changing the words from “% proficient on the CST” to “% kids that can read and write.” It’s scandalous really but I would rather look forward with new ideas for teaching than dig in the dirt with this issue. I have a feeling it is far from over. If it shifts focus in education away from the standardized test however, I will see it as having been positive. I wrote a book review on Renewal that discusses some of the possible coming trends in education. Check it out if interested, it has some very encouraging predictions.

To close for now: Student collaboration and open ended questions must be the focus. With our country’s unemployment being as high as it is, we need to foster and teach skills to our kids that will help them find jobs and do them well. The most important skill set one can bring to an interview is the ability to work with others to find productive solutions. After we get a new focus other than the test, we need to be instilling these skills into our kids. As teachers, we need to be brave and address the collaboration piece. There are many times kids can teach something indirectly through a peer group more effectively than when it comes from the teacher. The role of the teacher is to instruct and inspire but we need more now: fostering problem solving skills. The good news is, the Common Core appears to place a high priority on this … awesome! Also, watch for the advent of online teacher jobs. These should be interesting.

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Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. I believe the best tool for engaging students is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are writings from my journey. Thanks for reading!

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