Magazine article District Administration

Parent Trigger Law Enacted for the First Time

Magazine article District Administration

Parent Trigger Law Enacted for the First Time

Article excerpt

Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif. has been on the federal watch list for failing schools for six years, with only one-third of sixth-graders at grade level in reading and math. But come next August, it will be transformed into a charter school, thanks to a small group of parents who for the first time enacted major reform under the state's controversial parent trigger law.

A first of its kind for the nation, California's Parent Empowerment Act of 2010, or the trigger law, allows parents to force overhauls on low-performing schools. If half or more of the parents at any systemically failing school in California sign a petition demanding change, they can sanction reforms, including firing the principal and half the staff or converting to a charter. Seven states have similar laws, and 20 more have legislation in the works.

Desert Trails ranks in the bottom third of California schools with similar demographics, with its achievement score at 699, out of a 1,000-point scale called the Academic Performance Index. The score fell by 13 points just this year. Every student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, and one-quarter of students don't speak English at home, according to the state Department of Education.

"My daughter is not learning there," says Doreen Diaz, Desert Trails Parent Union coordinator who spearheaded the reform. "It's unacceptable that children are not being taught everything they need to get them ready for their future."

After months of court battles, 53 parents chose LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy as their charter operator. …

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