Parent-Trigger Efforts in California Hit Stumbling Blocks

By Sarah Tully

The parent-trigger movement that allows parents to petition to take over failing schools is hitting obstacles in California because the system to determine if schools are indeed failing is in transition.

In 2010, California was the first state to pass a so-called parent-trigger law, which allows parents to overhaul schools that are determined as failing by turning them into charters, removing the administration, or taking other measures. It’s also the only state, out of six that have such laws, to successfully execute a campaign.

But now California school officials and parent advocates have different opinions about how to figure out which, if any, schools are actually failing and are subject to parent-trigger campaigns.

Two school districts—Los Angeles Unified and Anaheim City—rejected parent-trigger petitions because, they argue, the test scores are outdated.

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Parent-Trigger Movement Struggles Outside Calif. as Bills Fizzle in Four States

By Sarah Tully. This story originally appeared on the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.

With the recent news about the rejection of a parent-trigger petition in Los Angeles, I was curious about what other states are considering new laws to give parents a route to greater power over their children’s schools.

As it turns out, not many this year.

Josh Cunningham, a senior education policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures, checked on whether state legislatures are advancing new parent trigger laws this year for me. He found out that lawmakers in four states—Iowa, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania—have introduced bills to create parent-trigger laws. But no action has been taken.

Colorado House of Representatives members tried to add a parent-trigger amendment to a bill on another issue, but it failed, Cunningham said in an email.

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L.A. School District Meets With Parents in Effort to Calm Anxiety After Rejecting Parent Trigger Petition

By The 74 and the LA School Report

About 100 parents from Los Angeles’ 20th Street Elementary School met Tuesday night in the school auditorium with more than a dozen school administrators after the district denied a “parent trigger” that would allow them to make sweeping changes to the school. (Read more about the denial, which casts doubt over the state’s “parent trigger” law)

“It was like a big cheerleading session,” said parent Omar Cavillo, who is on the school site council and the English Learner Advisory Committee and one of the parents who started the petition drive under the state’s Parent Empowerment Act. The act, also known as parent trigger, is geared toward underperforming schools so that parents can force changes in instruction and personnel or even create a charter school.

The Parents Union tried for nearly three years to make changes at the school and threatened to file a parent trigger petition last year but withdrew it when the district promised to make changes. They filed in February after they said no changes were made this school year, and they were equally underwhelmed at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Parent petitions could lead to firing of academy leaders

By John Dickens

Parents could spark a change of academy trust under proposals in the white paper that give them the right to petition regional schools commissioners if they are not satisfied with how their school is run.

But there are no details on the percentage of parent signatures needed to trigger a review or the process for such an investigation.

The government said it wants parents “very much more in the driving seat” of a system in which all schools are academies, although a government source admitted the bar for a commissioner intervention would have to be “very high” to maintain stability while also “avoiding stagnation”.

A Department for Education spokesperson declined to comment on how it would get around current legal restrictions on moving academies between trusts, apart from in specific circumstances. He said the government would be looking at the legal framework in relation to academies “in general”.

The proposal is similar to one put forward by Labour in 2014, which suggested parents have the power to sack headteachers. A similar mechanism, the “parent trigger”, exists in some parts of the US.

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California should restore the trigger allowing parents to force change at low-performing schools

By The Times Editorial Board

For the first time in 15 years, California has no real accountability system for schools. The state’s Academic Performance Index, which judged student progress mainly by test scores, was washed away in the switch to Common Core standards, and the shape of whatever will replace it is fuzzy. The federal government’s rigid and unrealistic Adequate Yearly Progress measurement is also nearly dead, along with the won’t-be-missed No Child Left Behind Act.

The dismantling of the API and AYP has also had a strange effect on California’s parent trigger law, a reform that was pioneered in this state in 2010 but that has been faltering here of late. The law allows parents at low-performing schools to force change, such as a switch to charter status or new campus leadership, if a majority of them sign a petition. But under the law, the trigger can be invoked only at schools that have fallen short of an 800 API and missed their AYP targets. With those measurements gone or rendered meaningless, is the trigger dead?

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This Mom Is Ensuring a Better Education for All

By Tosten Burks

This profile is part of TakePart’s “Re-Visionaries” series, in which we highlight people who are shaking things up—and making a difference—in their field and community.

In 2006, when Shirley Ford and two other mothers in South L.A. started Parent Revolution, they simply wanted their children to enjoy a better experience in high school than they did in chronically underfunded public elementary and middle schools. After helping to pass California’s landmark parent-trigger legislation in 2010, which empowers a majority of parents to take control over failing schools and make decisions for its future, Parent Revolution has doubled down on its efforts to help families control their educational destiny. The organization recently launched the “Choice4LA” tool kit to provide comprehensive school data and walk parents through application and transfer processes. As director of community partnerships, Ford trains families and community groups to navigate the school system. The revolution continues.

Parent Trigger charter school switches from Adelanto to county school

By Beau Yarbrough, The Sun

In 2012, residents of the High Desert city of Adelanto pulled off a first: They forced a failing school in the Adelanto Elementary School District to close its doors and reopen as a charter school, in the first successful use of California’s 2010 “Parent Trigger” law.

But the relationship between school district and the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy has been a rocky one. In December, the Adelanto school board voted to not renew the school’s charter for another three years, with both sides pointing fingers at the other’s alleged failures to comply with state law.

On Monday afternoon, Desert Trails Preparatory Academy staff and supporters got a reprieve, when the San Bernardino County Board of Education voted 3-2 to take over as the overseeing agency for the school.

“Please keep this school open,” parent Wendy Ramos said. “I love this school. My child loves this school.”

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PLF files brief in Anaheim school district ‘parent trigger’ law case

By Caleb Trotter

Today, PLF, along with Parent Revolution, filed this amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal in the case of Anaheim City School District v. Cecilia Ochoa. At issue in the case is whether California’s Parent Empowerment Act–also known as the “parent trigger”–applied to Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim during the 2013-14 school year. Parents used the Act to petition to convert Palm Lane into a charter school after the school was deemed a failing school year after year. The school district, however, tried to avoid the Act by claiming that the Act didn’t apply during the 2013-14 school year. Fortunately, the trial court rejected the school district’s arguments, but the school district has appealed.

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California Department of Education effectively repeals “parent trigger” law for 2015 : PLF Liberty Blog

By Caleb Trotter, blog.pacificlegal.org

Recognizing the need to give parents more control over improving their children’s schools, the California Legislature passed–and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed–the Parent Empowerment Act, also known as the “Parent Trigger,” in 2010. The first such law in existence, the Act provides a mechanism for parents to force changes at their children’s failing school. So long as certain criteria are met, and at least half the parents present a petition to the school, the school is required to implement the change demanded by the parents.

Under the Act, there are four changes parents can demand: replace over half the school staff; replace the principal and make other structural changes; demand the school be closed and the children be transferred to other schools; or convert the school into a charter school. But, the parents can only demand changes if the school meets four specific criteria:

  1. not be a “persistently lowest-achieving” school
  2. be subject to federal corrective measures
  3. continue to fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP)
  4. have an Academic Performance Index score of less than 800

It is the third criteria–AYP–that has been subject to recent interpretations that arguably could prevent the vast majority of schools from meeting the criteria to trigger the law’s application.

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School reform ‘trigger’ misfires

Law meant to empower parents flops

WATERBURY — In 2010, Connecticut passed a revolutionary education reform law requiring school government councils of parents, educators and community members at struggling schools and giving them the power to recommend massive reorganizations.

Nearly six years later, Connecticut has more than 300 school governance councils. But not one has asked the state to reorganize a school through the “parent trigger,” according to state education officials.

To Connecticut Parents Union founder Gwendolyn Samuel — a chief proponent of the parent trigger — this is just one of several indications of law not living up to its original promise. She says there hasn’t been enough support, or oversight, from the State Department of Education. Instead of giving parents a greater stake in leadership, these councils often become an extension of existing leadership, she said.

“I think from the very beginning they didn’t serve their purpose,” Samuel said.

“I feel it was met with resistance from the very beginning. There has been pushback because there is a premise that parents just don’t get it,” Samuel added.

Continue reading at http://www.rep-am.com/news/local/941006.txt

Parents at Struggling L.A. School Invoke Parent-Trigger Law for Second Time

By Arianna Prothero

Parents at a Los Angeles elementary school are threatening to use California’s parent-trigger law for the second time in one year to wrest control of their school from the district.

Under the law, if a petition gathers enough signatures, parents can initiate an overhaul of a failing school, including turning it into a charter school.

Parents at 20th Street Elementary used the threat of a petition in June to force the Los Angeles Unified School District to make changes at the majority Latino and low-income school, including hiring a new principal and two new teachers, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But LAUSD hasn’t delivered on many of its other promises, the group says, such as strong and experienced turnaround leadership and professional development for the school’s teachers

Continue reading at Education Week

Vouchers Are Everywhere. What Next?

School Choice Weekly #126

Vouchers Are Everywhere. What Next?

February 18, 2016

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