Monday, August 05, 2013

Parent Trigger Transforms Failing School

It’s exciting to see the first school in the nation transformed by the successful use of the Parent Trigger. This is a BIG DEAL, as many states are adopting similar legislation:

After years of legal and political battles, a controversial law giving parents the power to take control of a failing school will be put into action today, when the former public Desert Trails Elementary School will reopen as a charter school, Desert Trails Preparatory Academy.
"We had our back to school night last night," the new school's director, Debra Tarver, said Friday. "Oh my God, it was more than I ever expected."

In 2011, local parents, aided by Parent Revolution, the nonprofit that helped pass the 2010 Parent Trigger Law three years ago, began circulating petitions in the High Desert city, attempting to take control of Desert Trails.

The school had been in trouble for years, academically: The school received a 699 Academic Performance Index score in 2012, 30 points below the Adelanto Elementary School District average, and 101 points below the state's goal of 800 API for all schools. (The score is based on the results of multiple statewide tests, and scores range from 200 to 1,000.) Three-quarters of the students are unable to read or write at grade level, according to state test scores.

Every single one of the students at Desert Trails whose test results made up the API score was socio-economically disadvantaged, according to the California Department of Education and 32 percent of them don't speak English at home.

The petitions, turned in to the district in January 2012, set off a long legal battle as the Parent Trigger Law was put to the test. The law allows those who gather signatures from 51 percent of a failing school's parents to force changes as originally defined under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In October 2012, a Victorville Superior Court judge ordered the AESD to allow the Desert Trails Parent Union to turn the school over to a charter operator of their choosing for the 2013-14 school year.

The parents chose Tarver, whose LaVerne Preparatory Academy in nearby Hesperia also serves a predominantly poor population: 56.9 percent of LEPA students whose test scores were used in that school's API score were socio-economically disadvantaged, as compared to 73 percent of the students at Kingston Elementary, the nearest elementary public school. But LEPA's test scores are in an entirely different league than Desert Trails': The school received a 911 API score in 2012.

Thursday night, parents lined up outside Desert Trails before Parents Night, apparently hoping for similar results in Adelanto.

"Those parents said these kids have never said 'I want to go to school, I want to go to school,'" Tarver said. "We had parents literally crying, with tears.

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