Triggers and Turnarounds

California was the first state to pass parent trigger laws, and has now become the first state to successfully use this new tool for addressing lowest-performing schools.  Last week, a judge ruled in favor of a parents’ petition to take control of their children’s school.  LA Weekly and Reuters have the latest.

For those unfamiliar with this legislation, the laws allow parents of students in chronically low-performing schools who collect at least 51% of parent signatures to become the final voice in the school’s future, opting for one of several models to kick-start reform. In this particular case, the parents will transform their elementary school into a charter.  It will be interesting to watch the results of this decision play out.

As STG President Justin Cohen stated two years ago, “the spirit of this law is right, in that parents should have a stronger voice in the educational process,” but additional things need to happen after the trigger is pulled to ensure that the new management, instructional and governance stuctures actually produce better outcomes. In other words, the major downstream issue is “capacity.”

Parents and community members are critical to schools.  They are key stakeholders, they should be engaged in school planning and decision-making, and they deserve empowerment. That said, parent trigger laws ought to come with some safeguards to ensure that any new structure has the requisite capacity to manage and oversee better academic outcomes.