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Audio: Organizers Talk Parent Trigger Pros & Cons

Alexander Russo | April 19, 2013

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There were lots of interesting tidbits thrown out during the Yale School of Management education summit session on community mobilization held earlier this month in New Haven, and no shortage of quips from panelist organizers Jeremiah Kittredge and Derrell Bradford, Kristen Wiegand, and Derwin Sisnett (moderated by Suzanne Tacheny Kubach).

But the conversation at the end about the parent trigger was to me fascinating, revealing differences among organizers in terms of how they view the trigger, even as they admire its power and pull.

“The best hook anybody has found is parent trigger,” said Kittredge — even as he listed its flaws. “There’s no better piece of persuasion to get people to come back out than the concept of parent trigger.”

Some of the topics that were touched on included the power of storytelling, the difference between mobilizing a community and engaging or organizing it for the long run, the struggle to mesh what advocates want and what low-income communities can and should do. You should really skip the rest of this post and just start listening at the 5 minute mark where the session begins (WS600022).

The panelists – all of them involved in mobilization in various ways – spoke some powerful truths — humble ones, many of them — and expressed chagrin at their results so far and frustration with the funders and nonprofits whose beliefs they share but who don’t understand the world in which they work.

Like advance people on a campaign, organizers are different from those they work with.

However, for me the most engaging part of the panel came at the very end, when the panelists struggled to describe their views on the parent trigger, which is – like it or not – the most compelling, powerful policy option out there. The discussion of the trigger begins at roughly 1:11.

Some panelists like Sisnett said they were for it, felt it kept him and other operators honest.

Others like Bradford were downright enthusiastic:  “I think parent trigger is the ultimate local control,” said Bradford.  “Anybody who says that parents play a key role in education and should be more involved in education should be for parent trigger.  I’m for parent trigger.”

However, one of the panelists did his best to articulate a nuanced view of the trigger.

“We’re all searching for the hook.  I got 50 parents in a room I say, ‘Why should you come out tomorrow?’ The best hook anybody has found is parent trigger. There’s no better piece of persuasion to get people to come back out than the concept of parent trigger.”

Kittredge then listed three concerns — cost and scalability, use in districts where there’s a lot of school closings going on, and a third concern I didn’t understand. “All that being said, I don’t think there is a better or smarter legislative change around school transformation that I’ve ever heard of.”

Cross-posted from This Week In Education.  Image via YSOM

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