‘Parent trigger’ schools open

The first “parent trigger” schools have opened in California. Desert Trails, a low-performing elementary school in Adelanto, is now a charter “preparatory academy.” The school year started in early August.

In Los Angeles, 24th Street Elementary opened last week:  The district will run the K-4 grades while a charter operator will run grades 5 to 8; a preschool provider will offer early childhood education.

Parent Revolution, which is backing trigger campaigns, claims two other victories: Parents got what they wanted without taking over the school

At Haddon Avenue Elementary in Pacoima, the parent union paused — and then stopped — their Parent Trigger campaign.  This was because their pressure caused the district, teachers and administrators to put together a thoughtful plan to transform the school.  And in the Watts neighborhood of LA, the parents decided on replacing the principal and making in-district changes to turn-around the chronically failing Weigand Avenue Elementary.

We The Parents, a documentary about Compton parents’  ”trigger” campaign to seize their children’s chronically low-performing school, has opened in Los Angeles. The LA Times calls it “inspirational but not too informative.” The Compton parents failed on a technicality, but drew a charter school to a nearby church to provide an alternative.

‘Trigger’ parents choose LAUSD, charter

What happens when a school district works with a “parent trigger” campaign instead of fighting it? “Parents at 24th Street Elementary School have overwhelmingly chosen a partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and a charter school to run the persistently low-performing Jefferson Park campus,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Eighty percent of eligible voters chose to let the district manage K-4 classes and let Crown Preparatory Academy, which already runs a middle school on campus, run a program for students in grades five through eight.

Under LA Unified’s reform plan, parents will participate in a hiring committee. Teachers who want to stay at the school will have to interview with the committee to keep their jobs.

Parents said they were impressed with the district’s ability to offer pre-school education and services to disabled students. They said they liked the charter because of its demonstrated ability to raise academic achievement.

Eighty-seven percent of 24th Street Elementary students qualify for a subsidized lunch; 75 percent are Latino and 23 percent are black.

No ‘parent trigger’ fight in Los Angeles

California’s first two parent trigger campaigns were bitter fights, but Los Angeles parents seeking to transform 24th Street Elementary have found a “willing partner” in the school district, reports EdSource Today.

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy met them and promised “to work side by side with you so every student – todos los niños – gets an outstanding education.” United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher showed up unexpectedly at their press conference and vowed to collaborate with them, too.

The school’s parents union say 68 percent of parents signed the trigger petition, far more than the 50 percent needed.

Los Angeles Unified already has identified 24th Street Elementary as one of the worst performing in the district.

. . . before the parents handed in their petition, Deasy returned the school’s transformation plan, written by the principal and a team of teachers in consultation with a half-dozen parents and Parent Revolution organizers, as insufficient.

It was, however, candid in explaining the need for change: “We have continued to operate in the same manner for years and have consequently yielded the same ineffective results,” it said. “Rather than learn from our operational miscues and poor communication and look to our past for guidance, we have allowed the accretion of our failures to weigh us down.”

The 24th Street Elementary School Parents Union has set deadlines for converting the school to a charter by next fall, but parents could agree to an in-district school transformation plan, says Ben Austin of Parent Revolution.

LA parents submit ‘trigger’ petition

Last week, the first “parent trigger” school takeover was approved in California’s Mojave Desert. A high-scoring charter operator will take over low-scoring Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto. Today, Los Angeles parents will use the trigger law to ask for changes at their very low-scoring school, threatening to convert the school to a charter if they’re not satisfied. Parents at 24th Street  Elementary “are demanding stronger leadership, better academics, safer and cleaner facilities and a new culture of high expectations,” reports the Hechinger Report.

As they recruit parents, the 24th Street petitioners cite the grim statistics: More than 80 percent of third-graders and 71 percent of fifth-graders can’t read at grade level, and the school’s 8 percent suspension rate is the second highest out of all elementary schools in the LAUSD. Last year, 24th Street scored a 667 on the state’s Academic Performance Index, a 1,000-point scale that ranks California schools. That was 32 points lower than Desert Trails—the school that won its parent trigger push last week—and well below the state target of 800.

“It hasn’t been that difficult to rally parents,” (parent Amabilia) Villeda said. “Many parents say that if significant changes don’t happen at this school this year, they’re going to take their kids out.”

24th Street Elementary is a turnaround school that hasn’t turned yet. Its 2012-13 improvement plan discusses “stubbornly low test scores, ineffective teaching methods and student concerns about bullying and cleanliness” as well as high absenteeism and transiency rates.

The plan calls for .. .  better systems in place to check for student understanding and promote re-teaching, more comprehensive teacher evaluations and increased parent involvement on school committees.

Parent-union leaders says the plan doesn’t go far enough and had little parent input. About 60 percent of parents have signed the trigger petition, according to Parent Revolution, which is backing the campaign.

Parent Laura Wade, 37, said 24th Street shouldn’t get a pass just because it serves a low-income area—100 percent of students there are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged. Eighty percent of its students are Hispanic and 18 percent are black. Nearly half of the students don’t speak English at home.

Since her son started kindergarten last fall, he’s had 11 teachers, most of them substitutes, Wade said.

The 24th Street petition “calls for reopening the school under either a charter operator or a partnership model within the district.”

The elementary school shares its campus with Crown Prep, a charter middle school (starting in fifth grade) that’s reached the state target on the Academic Performance Index.