California's parent trigger law has finally achieved its first success, the Los Angeles Times reports. After nearly two years of battling in front of lawmakers and judges, a parent group in a small school located near the Mojave Desert have won approval to convert their failing campus into a charter.
The parents' fight to take over Desert Trails Elementary School has been a media sensation. It was looked upon as the first test case of the parent trigger law, and served as a demonstration to parents in other parts of California who were contemplating taking the same steps. Now the fight is over, and starting this August the running of Desert Trails will be handled by LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy, a long-time charter operator.
Three votes on the local school board managed to hold back the conversion, but when two of the three lost their election for their seats this November, and the third left to take up his seat at the Adelanto City Council, a positive outcome looked possible. Teresa Rogers – who has been spearheading the conversion effort – won one of the vacated seats and the rest was history.
The 2010 parent trigger law allows parents to petition to overhaul their failing school by replacing staff and revising the curriculum, closing the campus or converting to an independent, publicly financed charter school.
More than 20 other states have considered a similar law and at least six others besides California have adopted one, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The law also inspired the film "Won't Back Down," which was released last year.
Martialing the effort to put the trigger law into effect was the advocacy group Parent Revolution. The group was also instrumental in putting together a proposal to convert a schoolin Compton, one of the first two trigger-related moves in the state. Unlike Desert Trails, the Compton petition failed.
Both campaigns were notable for the acrimony and vitriol expressed by both sides. Each included a prolonged legal battle and was characterized by friction between supporters and those who opposed the effort, including teachers unions and – in most cases – school board members.
In Adelanto, parents expressed excitement over the new start for their school, where only one-third of sixth-graders are at grade level in reading and math. The school's achievement score on a 1,000-point scale known as the Academic Performance Index fell by 13 points to 699 last year. In contrast, LaVerne Elementary's score rose to 911 last year from 869. About two-thirds of its sixth-graders were at grade level in English and just over half in math. Only 17 sixth-graders were tested at LaVerne, however, compared to 95 at Desert Trails. LaVerne also has a student body with less poverty and higher parent education levels.