Empowering Parents to Address and Challenge Low-Performing Schools.
(a) Parental petition to enable parents to reform public schools with inadequate student achievement.
(1) For any school in the bottom 20% of schools as identified under state law, parents may petition to convert the school into a charter school or to transform it under one of the four following transformation models:
A. Turnaround model.
i. A turnaround model is one in which an LEA must—
1. Replace the principal and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars/time, and budgeting) to implement fully a comprehensive approach in order to substantially improve student achievement outcomes and increase high school graduation rates;
2. Using locally adopted competencies to measure the effectiveness of staff who can work within the turnaround environment to meet the needs of students,
a. Screen all existing staff and rehire no more than 50 percent; and
b. Select new staff;
3. Implement such strategies as financial incentives, increased opportunities for promotion and career growth, and more flexible work conditions that are designed to recruit, place, and retain staff with the skills necessary to meet the needs of the students in the turnaround school;
4. Provide staff with ongoing, high quality, job-embedded professional development that is aligned with the school’s comprehensive instructional program and designed with school staff to ensure that they are equipped to facilitate effective teaching and learning and have the capacity to successfully implement school reform strategies;
5. Adopt a new governance structure, which may include, but is not limited to, requiring the school to report to a new ‘‘turnaround office’’ in the LEA or SEA, hire a ‘‘turnaround leader’’ who reports directly to the Superintendent or Chief Academic Officer, or enter into a multi-year contract with the LEA or SEA to obtain added flexibility in exchange for greater accountability;
6. Use data to identify and implement an instructional program that is research-based and ‘‘vertically aligned’’ from one grade to the next as well as aligned with state academic standards;
7. Promote the continuous use of student data (such as from formative, interim, and summative assessments) to inform and differentiate instruction in order to meet the academic needs of individual students;
8. Establish schedules and implement strategies that provide increased learning time (as defined in this notice); and
9. Provide appropriate social-emotional and community-oriented services and supports for students.
ii. A turnaround model may also implement other strategies such as—
1. Any of the required and permissible activities under the transformation model; or
2. A new school model (e.g., themed, dual language academy).
B. Restart model. A restart model is one in which an LEA converts a school or closes and reopens a school under a charter school operator, a charter management organization (CMO), or an education management organization (EMO) that has been selected through a rigorous review process. (A CMO is a non-profit organization that operates or manages charter schools by centralizing or sharing certain functions and resources among schools. An EMO is a for-profit or non-profit organization that provides ‘‘whole-school operation’’ services to an LEA). A restart model must enroll, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend the school.
C. Transformation model. A transformation model is one in which an LEA implements each of the following strategies:
i. Developing and increasing teacher and school leader effectiveness.
1. Required activities. The LEA must—
a. Replace the principal who led the school prior to commencement of the transformation model;
b. Use rigorous, transparent, and equitable evaluation systems for teachers and principals that—
i. Take into account data on student growth (as defined in this notice) as a significant factor as well as other factors such as multiple observation-based assessments of performance and ongoing collections of professional practice reflective of student achievement and increased high-school graduations rates; and
ii. Are designed and developed with teacher and principal involvement;
c. Identify and reward school leaders, teachers, and other staff who, in implementing this model, have increased student achievement and high-school graduation rates and identify and remove those who, after ample opportunities have been provided for them to improve their professional practice, have not done so;
d. Provide staff with ongoing, high-quality, job-embedded professional development (e.g., regarding subject specific pedagogy, instruction that reflects a deeper understanding of the community served by the school, or differentiated instruction) that is aligned with the school’s comprehensive instructional program and designed with school staff to ensure they are equipped to facilitate effective teaching and learning and have the capacity to successfully implement school reform strategies; and
e. Implement such strategies as financial incentives, increased opportunities for promotion and career growth, and more flexible work conditions that are designed to recruit, place, and retain staff with the skills necessary to meet the needs of the students in a transformation school.
2. Permissible activities. An LEA may also implement other strategies to develop teachers’ and school leaders’ effectiveness, such as—
a. Providing additional compensation to attract and retain staff with the skills necessary to meet the needs of the students in a transformation school;
b. Instituting a system for measuring changes in instructional practices resulting from professional development; or
c. Ensuring that the school is not required to accept a teacher without the mutual consent of the teacher and principal, regardless of the teacher’s seniority.
ii. Comprehensive instructional reform strategies.
1. Required activities. The LEA must—
a. Use data to identify and implement an instructional program that is research-based and ‘‘vertically aligned’’ from one grade to the next as well as aligned with state academic standards; and
b. Promote the continuous use of student data (such as from formative, interim, and summative assessments) to inform and differentiate instruction in order to meet the academic needs of individual students.
2. Permissible activities. An LEA may also implement comprehensive instructional reform strategies, such as—
a. Conducting periodic reviews to ensure that the curriculum is being implemented with fidelity, is having the intended impact on student achievement, and is modified if ineffective;
b. Implementing a schoolwide ‘‘response-to-intervention’’ model;
c. Providing additional supports and professional development to teachers and principals in order to implement effective strategies to support students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and to ensure that limited English proficient students acquire language skills to master academic content;
d. Using and integrating technology based supports and interventions as part of the instructional program; and
e. In secondary schools—
i. Increasing rigor by offering opportunities for students to enroll in advanced coursework (such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate; or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, especially those that incorporate rigorous and relevant project-, inquiry-, or design-based contextual learning opportunities), early-college high schools, dual enrollment programs, or thematic learning academies that prepare students for college and careers, including by providing appropriate supports designed to ensure that low achieving students can take advantage of these programs and coursework;
ii. Improving student transition from middle to high school through summer transition programs or freshman academies;
iii. Increasing graduation rates through, for example, credit-recovery programs, re-engagement strategies, smaller learning communities, competency-based instruction and performance-based assessments, and acceleration of basic reading and mathematics skills; or
iv. Establishing early-warning systems to identify students who may be at risk of failing to achieve to high standards or graduate.
iii. Increasing learning time and creating community-oriented schools.
1. Required activities. The LEA must—
a. Establish schedules and implement strategies that provide increased learning time (as defined in this notice); and
b. Provide ongoing mechanisms for family and community engagement.
2. Permissible activities. An LEA may also implement other strategies that extend learning time and create community-oriented schools, such as—
a. Partnering with parents and parent organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, health clinics, other state or local agencies, and others to create safe school environments that meet students’ social, emotional, and health needs;
b. Extending or restructuring the school day so as to add time for such strategies as advisory periods that build relationships between students, faculty, and other school staff;
c. Implementing approaches to improve school climate and discipline, such as implementing a system of positive behavioral supports or taking steps to eliminate bullying and student harassment; or
d. Expanding the school program to offer full-day kindergarten or prekindergarten.
iv. Providing operational flexibility and sustained support.
1. Required activities. The LEA must—
a. Give the school sufficient operational flexibility (such as staffing, calendars/time, and budgeting) to implement fully a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student achievement outcomes and increase high school graduation rates; and
b. Ensure that the school receives ongoing, intensive technical assistance and related support from the LEA, the SEA, or a designated external lead partner organization (such as a school turnaround organization or an EMO).
2. Permissible activities. The LEA may also implement other strategies for providing operational flexibility and intensive support, such as—
a. Allowing the school to be run under a new governance arrangement, such as a turnaround division within the LEA or SEA; or
b. Implementing a per-pupil school based budget formula that is weighted based on student needs.
(2) This section does not apply to an existing public elementary or secondary school that the local educational agency has scheduled for closure.
(3) If parents representing at least fifty-one percent (51%) of the pupils attending the school, or a combination of parents representing at least fifty-one percent (51%) of pupils attending the school and the elementary or middle schools that normally matriculate into a middle or high school, as applicable, sign a petition requesting one of the interventions mentioned in paragraph (1), the local educational agency shall implement the option requested by the parents, except as provided in paragraph (9). Each parent shall sign the petition once for each child they have in the eligible school(s).
(4) Petitioning parents shall not submit signatures for any school until they have already surpassed the 51% threshold of support. Once the local educational agency receives the petitions, they shall have no more than 45 calendar days to review and verify the signatures as legitimate. Local educational agencies must initially attempt to verify all signatures by simply comparing the petitions to their existing files for parents, and may only contact parents about their signature in the case of a perceived discrepancy. If enough discrepancies exist to put the total support level below 51%, parents shall have an additional 30-calendar day window to clear up such discrepancies and/or add the signatures of additional supportive parents. Petitions shall not be discarded over technicalities if the clear intent of the parent was to support the petition.
(5) If the petitioning parents select conversion to a charter school under the “Restart Model,” they may select a specific, existing charter school operator by writing the operator’s name onto the petition and circulating the petition with the completed charter application for the school. Parents may also decline to select a specific operator, choosing instead to select the operator after the petition is submitted to the district. In cases where the parents decline, they shall have 90 calendar days after their majority is certified by the district to solicit charter proposals from potential operators and select one.
(6) In order to implement charter conversion option under the “Restart Model,” the charter application must be approved by the appropriate authorizing body. The charter application will still have access to the same appellate process as normal charter applications.
(7) Only non-profit charter school operators are eligible to participate in school transformations under this act. A petition may not select a for-profit charter school operator to transform an existing school.
(8) Once the signatures have been verified, the local educational agency shall have no more than 30 calendar days to reach a decision on the final disposition of the petition.
(9) Unless the parent petitioners explicitly request otherwise, the local educational agency shall plan the conversion or transformation and shall implement the plan no later than 180 days after the petition is received or, in the case where a petition is received after March 1, no later than the first day of school of the school year beginning in the next calendar year.
(10) If the local educational agency approves a parent petition to convert the school into a charter school, any parents who do not want their child to attend the charter school shall have the right to enroll their student in a different publicly funded school within the jurisdiction.
(11) A charter school established pursuant to this act is subject to the same accountability and other standards in place for charters in that jurisdiction. Any charter school that takes over the operation of a school under this act must continue to serve the entire attendance boundary of the school, subject to space considerations. Parents petitioning to establish a charter pursuant to this act do not need signatures from any other party.
(12) Any school that implements any one of the turnaround options, including but not limited to charter conversion, must continue to serve the entire attendance boundary and must continue to serve all students who attended the school in the year prior to the transformation.
(13) The local educational agency must implement the specific option that parents request in their petition unless they make a finding in writing, presented at a public meeting, stating the reason it is logistically impossible to do so. In such a case, they must also state which of the other conversion or transformation options described in this section it will implement within the timeframe in paragraph (6).
(14) If a local educational agency determines that it is logistically impossible to implement the specific option requested by petitioning parents and instead designates a different option, the petitioning parents shall have the right to an expedited appeal to the state superintendent to determine whether or not the parents’ request is or is not logistically impossible. The local educational agency shall defend the option selected. The state superintendent will provide guidelines for the appointment of counsel to represent the petitioning parents during the appeals process.
(15) After a designated school has been reorganized, another petition for the reorganization of the designated school under this section may not be submitted to the governing body for at least two years after the school year in which the reorganization takes place.
(16) Parents and legal guardians shall be free from harassment, threats, and intimidation related to circulation or signature of a petition, or to the discouraging of signing a petition or to the revocation of signatures from the petition.
(17) School and/or district resources shall not be used to support or oppose any efforts by petitioning parents.
(b) Local educational agency responsibilities.
(1) The local educational agency shall notify the state superintendent and state department of education upon receipt of a parental petition under this section and upon its final disposition of that petition.
(2) A local educational agency shall not be required to implement the option requested by the parental petition if the request is for reasons other than improving academic achievement or pupil safety. Any denial of a petition on such ground is also subject to an expedited appeal to the state superintendent by the petitioning parents.
(3) If a local educational agency indicates in writing that it will implement an alternative governance arrangement other than that requested by the petitioning parents and the petitioning parents do not file an appeal, the local educational agency shall include plans to demonstrate that the alternative governance option selected has substantial promise of enabling the school to make adequate student achievement growth consistent with state standards.
(4) The local educational agency shall be responsible for verifying the petition signatures and making a decision on its disposition pursuant to paragraphs 4 and 5 of section (a) of this act.
(c) State department of education responsibilities.
(1) Within 120 days from the passage of this act, the state superintendent shall adopt regulations to implement the provisions of this law, including but not limited to:
a. The petition format and submission process;
b. The appeals procedure should petitioning parents appeal the decision of the local educational agency to implement an alternative governance arrangement other than that requested by the petitioning parents; and
c. The selection of the charter operator in circumstances where a charter school is established pursuant to this act.
(2) The state department of education shall maintain records regarding the contents of and outcomes from parental petitions in order to ensure appropriate implementation of this section and address concerns identified through regulatory action.
(3) The state superintendent shall preside over appeals filed by petitioning parents under this section and issue his or her determination in writing