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California 'Parent Trigger' School Opens Its Doors

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The first school to come into being as a result of a “parent trigger” law has opened its doors.

The Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, in Adelanto, Calif., welcomed students late last month after a tumultuous process led by a group of parents who said they wanted to change the leadership and direction of what has been an academically struggling school serving grades K-6.

The effort to create the new school roiled the community and touched off a legal battle, in which a judge ultimately ruled that the parents invoking the trigger policy had met the legal standards to go forward with their plans. The website of the former Desert Trails Elementary School lists four other attendance options for students for the 2013-14 school year.

Parent-trigger laws typically allow for the overhaul of a low-performing school, and potentially the removal of its administration and staff, if signatures can be collected from a majority of parents of children at the school who agree to take that step.

Backers of those plans see them as grassroots initiatives to bring immediate and dramatic improvements to schools that have resisted change and shown no signs of improving soon. But detractors say trigger policies divide communities—they cite the Desert Trails fight as an example—and leave parents at the will of outside operators who potentially have little investment in producing a better school.

California was the first state to approve a parent-trigger law, in 2010. The initial undertaking to use the state law to redesign an academically struggling school, in the Southern California community of Compton, disintegrated in political and legal turmoil.

Despite the fights on display in California, legislators in other states have been drawn to trigger laws. As of spring, at least 25 states had considered parent-trigger policies, and seven of them had adopted laws establishing the policies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Vol. 32, Issue 37, Page 4

Published in Print: August 7, 2013, as California 'Parent Trigger' School Opens Its Doors
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