LA parents head to Sacramento for this week’s vote to plead for an overall rating to assess schools

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Proposed school report card (California Department of Education).

*UPDATED

A contingent of LA parents, armed with a petition of about 420 signatures, will ask the state Board of Education this week to adopt a summative rating to evaluate schools in addition to a number of proposed measures that move beyond ranking schools solely based on test scores.

The Board of Education is expected to vote Thursday on its rubric that will be used to evaluate California public schools under the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act. The state must approve this evaluation by Oct. 1 to comply with federal law.

The new law is aimed at moving away from solely evaluating schools based on standardized test scores as has been done in public education from 2002 to 2015 under ESSA’s precursor No Child Left Behind. In California, all schools were given a ranking called an Academic Performance Index, or API, which was a number between 200 and 1,000.

Under the new federal law, which will go into effect in 2017-18, states must evaluate schools based on a number of “indicators” in addition to performance on state tests and growth over time.

After months of public comment, meetings and discussion, the state board has decided on several indicators that will be evaluated and compared over time. Those indicators will be finalized Thursday. The federal law requires that states use academic achievement, academic progress, graduation rate, progress on achieving English proficiency and school quality or student success.

The state has proposed using English language arts and math standardized test scores in grades 3 to 8, science test scores when available, an English learner indicator, high school graduation rates, suspension rates, chronic absenteeism, college and career readiness, school climate, parent engagement and school conditions as part of its evaluation.   

But a number of parent activist groups and others are pushing the state board to adopt a summative rating for schools based on the chosen indicators and that without it, it will be difficult for families to compare schools or know how well their school is educating their students. They also point to the “sea of colors” on the proposed school report cards covering 17 categories, each of which is rated by one of five colors.

“In the absence of a summative rating for a school, it becomes very difficult for families to hold schools accountable for what happens within the walls,” said Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, an organization that helps parents push for better educational opportunities in their neighborhoods including using the “parent trigger” law to take over low-performing schools.

His group, as well as Families in Schools, Innovate Public Schools, Speak UP and Students for Education Reform have launched a petition asking the state Board of Education to adopt an overall rating system.

Litt said even though schools’ API scores haven’t been updated for two years, parents are still relying on them to evaluate a school because it’s something they can understand.

Litt said he is encouraged by some moves the board has made in choosing specific indicators, such as evaluating schools based on climate and how many students are being suspended.

“We just think the state board needs to finish the job and provide an overall summative rating,” he said.

A summative rating might be a number or a letter, or it could be a categorization of a school based on a color (green, yellow or red), or an assessment, such as low, improving, quality or excellent, Litt said. The group is not advocating for a return to the API score.

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Despite district rules, Haddon Elementary increases enrollment and decreases absenteeism with unique programs

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Principal Richard Ramos with Dominga Verduzco.

Haddon Elementary Avenue School is so in demand that families want to drive their children across the San Fernando Valley from Granada Hills to attend the Pacoima school.

Haddon is not a charter school, it’s not a new pilot program and it’s not a magnet school (yet). It’s a traditional Title 1 district school in a low-income Latino neighborhood that has been there since 1926.

But it wasn’t always growing. And in fact it had to fight district rules that prohibited families from moving to the school.

Five years ago, parents were so fed up with the school that they initiated a “parent trigger” to try to take over the school from the district. The trigger was never pulled, and a new principal came in who brought programs students wanted, like a Mariachi class, a robotics program and an award-winning speech and debate team.

“We are certainly an anomaly in the district, and I’m learning now that part of my job is to figure out how to be competitive and promote the school,” said Haddon Principal Richard S. Ramos, who has worked with the charter school group Partnerships to Uplift Communities and on dozens of successful electoral campaigns, most recently for Robert Gonzales to the San Fernando City Council in 2012. “We have to figure out better ways to get the word out about what we’re doing that’s good in our schools.”

Soon students were clamoring to transfer to the school — a welcome change especially as without the new enrollment, the school faced a loss of teachers.

Then came the curve ball. District administrators said “No!” to the families who wanted to transfer to Haddon.

The district wouldn’t allow students to transfer because it wasn’t a pilot or magnet or charter school. Families weren’t allowed to leave their home schools to attend Haddon. One family was pleading to get in because their daughter loved robotics, and the parents were willing to drive nearly an hour every day to bring her to the school.

“They have parents wanting to come in, and I don’t understand why it’s not allowed?” school board member Monica Ratliff said at a board meeting this spring after she heard about the issue.

District administrators listened to Ratliff. They worked it out so that applicants could say they wanted to transfer to the school because similar programs were not offered at their home schools. Parents’ requests needed to include a waiver form that explained the programs offered at Haddon were not offered elsewhere.

Removing that roadblock resulted in unprecedented growth for the school unlike any other school in the area. The principal noted that Haddon has had increased enrollment for the past two years. In fact, he said that 39 of the new students he has this year are transferring from charter schools.

“We are in a time now where the entire district is seeing declining enrollment,” Ramos said on the first day of the new school year on Tuesday. For the past decade, the school enrollment was on a steady decline. The school now has an enrollment of more than 900, with a capacity of 960.

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JUST IN: No lawsuit for 20th Street Elementary as parents, LA Unified agree to plan by Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

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Former Superintendent Ramon Cortines with 20th Street families last summer. (Photo by Omar Cavillo)

After two legal attempts by parents to take over a South-Central LA elementary school they said was failing their children, an agreement has been reached for the school to join the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. The deal averts a threatened lawsuit and ends a two-year “parent trigger” battle.

The agreement moves 20th Street Elementary into the Partnership family of 17 schools in South LA, Boyle Heights and Watts. The organization takes over low-performing schools while working in conjunction with the district to manage the schools and retaining union contracts.

The plan was announced Tuesday by parents at the school, the Partnership and LA Unified in a district press release, which said LA Unified and the Partnership signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding for the organization to manage the school, starting with the upcoming school year.

The parent group, known as the 20th Street Parents Union, has been supported by Parent Revolution, a nonprofit group that helps parents take over failing schools through the state’s Parent Empowerment Act — known as the “parent trigger” — which allows parents to enact changes at a school if a majority of them sign a petition. The changes can include replacing administrators or converting the school into an independent charter school. In this case, 20th Street will remain a traditional LA Unified school but with some changes.

“I really think we have reached a place where the families that have led this campaign over the last two years are ready to work with all the other families, ready to work with the school and ready to work with the Partnership and have everyone on the same team moving forward,” said Seth Litt, CEO of Parent Revolution. “It’s an important part of the progress of this school, not just signing the MOU but that the whole community comes together to support the school, and I think this is a moment where everyone is focused on that.”

Parents at 20th Street, a K-5th grade campus serving nearly 600 students, first enacted a parent trigger during the 2014-15 school year but withdrew it when LA Unified changed principals at the school and made a number of assurances. But parent leaders were unhappy with the progress, and in January they enacted another parent trigger petition.

Omar Calvillo, a 20th Street Parents Union coordinator, said he is pleased that the Partnership will now manage the school.

“We are very excited to work with the Partnership organization, our school staff, and all parents at the school to work for the education our children deserve,” said Calvillo in a statement. “We want to thank both LAUSD and the Partnership for coming to a collaborative agreement that addresses our concerns and offers a strong path forward for our community. Now it is time for all of us – parents, teachers, and the Partnership team – to come together and work as one team on behalf on our children.”

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321 students have applied to new schools through Choice4LA pilot program

Information table for Parent Revolution's Choice4LA school choice program. (courtesy)

Information table for Parent Revolution’s Choice4LA school choice program. (courtesy)

Parent Revolution announced Tuesday that it has helped 321 students apply to new, higher performing schools through its Choice4LA pilot program launched in January.

The program is aimed at helping low-income families navigate a complex system of school choice by providing information on all types of schools, helping parents choose the right school for their children and providing support through the application process. In total the group has engaged with 734 families as of last week.

The group also announced it has received a $50,000 grant from the California Community Foundation toward the effort.

Choice4LA has been focused on a pilot area in South Los Angeles where it has partnered with community groups to reach out to parents who are interested in finding other school options for their students.

Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, said there are many barriers for families to applying to high-performing schools, including a lack of transportation and sometimes no internet access at home.

Many parents don’t have the type of jobs where they can take time off to tour new schools, he said.

“A lot of families are effectively shut out of choice,” Litt said.

Many parents do not even know about the options available, he said.

“Either school choice information doesn’t reach them through traditional methods, or the process is so complex that they don’t actually exercise those choices for their children,” Litt said.

Of the families that have applied to new schools, 63 percent have applied to both charter schools and district schools, according to statistics provided by the group. Twenty-six percent of families have applied only to charter schools, and 11 percent have applied only to district schools.

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Lawsuit likely averted: 20th Street School moves toward Partnership plan instead of ‘parent trigger’

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Parent Omar Cavillo at Monday’s meeting at 20th Street Elementary School.

Parents may be on the verge of settling a two-year “parent trigger” battle at 20th Street Elementary School without a lawsuit, which both sides hoped to avoid.

Nearly 200 parents, students and teachers attended a Monday evening meeting at the school and heard about a unique alternative in which 20th Street would win greater autonomy but be neither an independent charter nor remain solely a traditional district school. The meeting became heated at times, with an equal amount of debate in English and Spanish.

Joan Sullivan, CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which was brought into the situation at parent organizers’ request, told the gathering Monday that the Partnership was willing to work with the school and the district to solve the issues that parents have with the teaching and student scores at the K-5th grade campus that serves nearly 600 students in South-Central LA.

“There are a lot of impassioned parents here who are concerned about their children’s education with very different ideas of how to get there,” Sullivan said. “Change is hard, there needs to be healing. You need to look forward and making this a school that every child wants to come to every day.”

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Coordinator Ana Garcia, right, with other 20th Street teachers and staff.

The parents who initiated the parent trigger said they heard for the first time Monday some promising compromises by the school district. Local District Central Superintendent Roberto Martinez attended and dispelled some of the concerns that the parents had about a deal with Partnership.

“The superintendent (Michelle King) will be making the final decision, but we are looking at a standard contract with Partnership,” Martinez said. “We would accept Partnership running the school.”

In March, the district rejected the parent trigger saying the school didn’t qualify because it wasn’t failing, but by that rationale no school in the state would qualify because the state API test scores had been suspended. The district did acknowledge that the parents had gathered enough signatures to trigger a take-over.

The most recent 20th Street school report card showed only slight improvements, with 37 percent of 5th-graders passing the California Standards Test compared to a district average of 47 percent. On the new CORE accountability system, the school scored a 46 out of 100. The district average was 60.

Omar Cavillo — one of the parents who filed the parent trigger which allows parents to take over a failing school and possibly create a charter school — said he was relieved that the district would allow a standard Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) rather than a more restrictive one that was previously presented to them when they met with King last month.

“We need to get this in writing, there is still a lot of lack of trust, so we want to see it from Miss King herself,” Cavillo said. “We like the Partnership model. It could work out.”

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High stakes over ‘parent trigger’: Closed session discussion tries to avoid 20th Street lawsuit

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20th Street Elementary School

The LA Unified school board broke into a surprise closed session for several hours Tuesday afternoon in the middle of their public meeting in order to head off a potential “parent trigger” lawsuit over 20th Street Elementary School.

All morning, the school board was in closed session to discuss employee actions, contract renewals and pending litigation. Then, in the middle of the 1 p.m. public meeting, school board secretariat Jefferson Crain said they were going into closed session again to discuss the potential litigation involving the elementary school.

Board member Monica Garcia, who has worked with the 20th Street parents to try to solve the issues, said Wednesday that the closed-door session wasn’t merely to stop the threatened lawsuit.

“We are making every effort to listen to all of the concerns, the dreams and aspirations of all the players and give energy into making that a better school,” Garcia told LA School Report.

Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution — a nonprofit group that helps parents organize and take over a failing campus through the state’s Parent Empowerment Act — said the attorney representing the parents “made it very clear that there’s pending litigation and that’s why in the closed sessions they went in to see what the settlement would look like. The parents expressed clearly there’s no plausible deal without a significant shift in who’s managing the school.”

But the district didn’t offer enough, Rose said. “The parents need autonomy and without the necessary changes, they will go the legal route and be successful. The district never did any of the things they promised, so of course there’s a lot of hesitation on the part of the parents.”

One of the parents, Omar Cavillo, who helped file the trigger against the district, said the parents are trying to work on a deal with Partnership for Los Angeles Schools that could offer a hybrid of a charter and traditional school as an option, which they have done in 17 schools in the South Central LA area.

“We like the Partnership, but the deal the district offered still had them completely in charge of our school,” Cavillo said. “The attorneys are negotiating, and that’s probably what is going on in the closed session.”

No one seems to want to go to court. “We don’t want a lawsuit, it’s not good for the district or school or community,” Cavillo said. “We care for LAUSD, there are some great teachers. We want to work with the district.”

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Commentary: All families deserve good school choice options

Shirley Cap and Gown

Shirley Ford

By Shirley Ford

I realized there was a problem as early as elementary school. I always knew that my boys were smart – they started reading me the newspaper in the evening when they were 6 years old – but they were clearly bored and not being challenged in school. Like so many young African-American boys, they were quickly labeled with alleged “learning disabilities” when they starting committing normal, minor infractions in class. At a young age, they started to become disengaged and apathetic about school.

I quickly started to become desperate. I knew that my sons needed a great education if they were going to be successful, and I realized it was my job to make that happen – nobody else was going to do it for me.

So over the next few years, I tried everything I could to get them into a better public school. When that didn’t work, I applied for financial aid at a local private school, but was denied.

As my sons started to make their way through middle school, falling further and further behind, I began to feel angry and hopeless. I began to blame myself – was I a bad mother? In my worst moments, I began to blame them. As high school began to approach, I was terrified of what would come next for them.

One day, I came home to find a flyer on my door that said something about a new “charter school” opening in our community. I had no idea what a charter school was, but I was out of good options, so I decided to go check out their upcoming meeting.

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Parent trigger tries takeover at South Central school, again

 

For the first time, a Parent Trigger has been threatened twice for the same school. The parents of the 20th Street Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles are fed up with the lack of response from LA Unified after their first attempt two years ago to take over the school and on Monday filed a new petition with the district.

It all started when Guadalupe Aragon saw the report card that rated her daughter’s elementary school and showed that only 43 percent of the students at the school were performing at grade level. She decided to do something about it.

Parents signed a petition to take over the school through the state’s Parent Empowerment Act, often called a “Parent Trigger,” which allows parent groups to push for sweeping changes and even create a charter school. The LA Unified district administrators changed principals at the school, held meetings, made assurances. But that was two years ago.

This week, the Parents Union gathered yet another petition of 58 percent of the parents in the school of 591 students and called for another Parent Trigger. This time they’re not waiting for promises to be fulfilled.

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The Parent Union of 20th Street Elementary. (Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Aragon)

“We had so many meetings and they told us they were going to do things, but nothing ever happened, we won’t wait anymore,” said Aragon, who was one of two parents signing the Feb. 1 letter to Superintendent Michelle King stating their case for the Parent Trigger and presenting the petition. The petition states that the parents are demanding a “restart,” an option that would allow them to create or bring in a charter school to operate 20th Street.

“The parents shelved their petition the first time around and agreed to work with top district officials, but there was no change at the school, it’s as if the petition never happened,” said Gabe Rose, the chief strategy officer of Parent Revolution, a group that helped write the Parent Empowerment Act in 2011. “Now we’re forced to file again.”

The act allows communities to jumpstart changes at chronically low-performing schools. It requires a majority of the parents to sign a petition that could force a district to bring in new leadership and staff, or convert a school into a nonprofit independent charter.

At LAUSD, nine schools have been threatened with Parent Triggers, and the district made changes to six of them before petitions were filed, according to Rose. Three schools at LAUSD — Weigand Avenue Elementary in Watts, 24th Street Elementary in South Central and 20th Street — resulted in filing petitions with the district to date.

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Parent Revolution announces Seth Litt as new CEO

Seth Litt

Seth Litt

Parent Revolution has announced that Seth Litt is taking over as its CEO. The news comes a full nine months after the organization’s former executive director and founder, Ben Austin, stepped down.

Parent Revolution was formed in 2009 by Austin and played a role in creating California’s “parent trigger” law. It also offers guidance and help to parent groups wanting to implement the law at their school.

Litt brings a long career in education to Parent Revolution: he was a teacher in middle school in the south Bronx, a Teach for America corps member, a union chapter leader and charter high school principal.

“I am excited to join Parent Revolution and lead the organization through its next chapter of impact for students and families,” Litt said in a statement. “Families in every community deserve more than hope or a roll of the dice – they deserve information, access to the system, and real power to make changes for their kids and their communities. For too long parents in communities like the south Bronx, south Los Angeles, and elsewhere have been on their own. They deserve the power to take action and effect change in their children’s education and lives.”

Alison Laslett, Parent Revolution’s Chief Operating Officer, has been serving as interim executive director while the board searched for a permanent replacement, a role now changed to the title of CEO.

Parent Revolution and the parent trigger law have proven to be a controversial and polarizing presence in California. Under the parent trigger law, which was passed in 2010, parents at a chronically underperforming school that meets certain criteria can call for reform if a majority of them sign a petition requesting a specific change. The changes could include converting the school into a charter school or changing the administration.

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Another LAUSD school uses Parent Trigger as leverage for change

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Members of Parent Revolution

Parents of students at 20th Street Elementary in Central LA have unanimously approved a district proposal to turn around the low-performing school, starting next year. As a result, the local parent union is dropping plans for a school-wide take over under the state Parent Trigger law.

The deal with LA Unified ensures that all of the current staff will remain in place at the school, and it is the first agreement of its kind to set concrete performance targets. Teachers are expected to increase the number of students scoring at or above grade level in reading, math and state language tests for English learners, by 25 percent over the next year. For 2013, the most recent year available, these were the percentages of students proficient in reading and math:

  • Second grade: 38 and 33
  • Third grade: 36 and 59
  • Fourth grade: 54 and 56
  • Fifth grade: 43 and 52

District officials also agreed to transform the struggling school by aligning curriculum and instructional techniques with that of Julian Nava Learning Complex, which houses two high-performing pilot schools — a middle school and a high school — in the area. Finally, 20th Street will become a second feeder elementary school into the competitive Nava schools. The other is Nevin Elementary School.

“Our goal all along was to connect the 20th Street to Julian Nava,” Lupe Aragon, whose fourth grade daughter attends 20th Street, told LA School Report.

Aragon is a key figure among the parent union calling for swift changes on campus. While she had always been content with the quality of teaching and learning her daughter received at the school, “everything changed  in the fourth grade,” she said.

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Deasy, Austin join Vergara suit sponsor, Students Matter

LA Unified Supt. John Deasy testifying at the Vergara trial

Former LA Unified Supt. John Deasy testifying at the Vergara trial

The non-profit behind the Vergara lawsuit, Students Matter, is adding two former LA Unified lightning rods to their ranks. Ex-Superintendent John Deasy and founder of Parent Revolution, Ben Austin, are joining the advocacy group.

Students Matter successfully sued the state of California and its public school teachers unions, overturning five laws governing tenure, seniority and dismissal that the student plaintiffs argued kept ineffective teachers in their classrooms. The state and the unions have appealed, vowing to defend the statutes challenged in the case.

It’s the second job-related announcement this month for Deasy, who will be serving on the Students Matter advisory board. He was recently named a consultant for The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems as a “superintendent-in-residence.” Austin will serve as head of policy development and advocacy for Students Matter, leading the organization’s “Courtroom to Classroom” campaign.

“By hiring Ben Austin and adding Dr. John E. Deasy ’s expertise to our board, Students Matter is expanding its commitment to fighting for political change that focuses on the needs of our kids,” David Welch, the group’s founder and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur said in a press release today.

Austin stepped down last month as executive director of Parent Revolution, a group he founded six years ago to aid parents pushing for change in their children’s poorly-performing schools.  Under his leadership, the organization played a role in creating California’s parent trigger law and, later, helping three area schools use it. Three other schools used the threat of it to force changes.

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Austin stepping down as head of Parent Revolution

Parent Revolution’s Gabe Rose and Ben Austin

Parent Revolution’s Gabe Rose (left) and Ben Austin

Ben Austin is stepping down as executive director of Parent Revolution, a group he founded six years ago to aid parents pushing for change in their children’s poorly-performing schools.

Parent Revolution played a role in creating California’s parent trigger law and, later, helping three area schools use it. Three other schools used the threat of it to force changes.

“Over the past six years, we have invented an idea, passed it into law, implemented it, built an organization and scaled a movement,” Austin said in a statement. “In the wake of the successful Parent Power Convention and the recent agreement with the LAUSD to work collaboratively on Parent Trigger, we are at an inflection point. We have normalized the idea of parent power and institutionalized Parent Trigger laws into our legal and political framework.”

He added, “It’s now about long term movement and institution building. It’s time to let new leadership and new energy take the reigns and help shape this next chapter.”

Parent Revolution said Alison Laslett, Pasrent Revolution’s Chief Operating Officer, will serve as interim executive director while the board searches for a permanent replacement.

California became the first state to pass a parent trigger law, in 2010; since then, at least six other states have followed suit.

Despite its victories, Parent Revolution has endured withering criticism from teacher unions and others who charge that schools are using parent trigger to skirt employment protections for public school teachers. The group has also been attacked for its sources of funding, including the Gates Foundation, and for doing the bidding of charter school operators.

Cortines lifts LAUSD ban on Parent Trigger enacted by Deasy

parent triggerThe head of Parent Revolution said today that LA Unified has reversed course, lifting the ban on using the “Parent Trigger” law this year to overhaul failing district schools.

“As one of Superintendent Cortines’s first moves, it’s a sign that the district will be respectful of the law,” Ben Austin, founder of the group that helps parents organize and enact the take-over of a failing campus, told LA School Report.

“It indicates that Cortines wants to work collaboratively with parents and parent unions,” he added.

The state Parent Trigger law allows parents to make changes at their children’s school if a majority of parents sign a petition demanding improvements. So far, it has been used for only a handful of schools in California.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines and Deputy Superintendent Michelle King met with Austin last week to discuss the moratorium. In an interview with LA School Report a day later, Cortines confirmed the district’s change in policy.

“I believe in parent choice, and I mean parent choice. There is no ban,” Cortines said, adding that he had already notified the author of the law, former Senator Gloria Romero, about his position.

However, several district officials said they know of no such change. When asked about it last week General Counsel David Holmquist said he had been unaware of Cortines’s decision.

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Outside group challenging LAUSD’s view of ‘Parent Trigger’

Gloria Romero, CA State Senator

Gloria Romero

* UPDATED

Parent Revolution, an organization that helps parents petition for change at poor-performing schools, is disputing an LA Unified legal opinion that says the state law that gives parents that right is invalid this year.

The conflict came to light in an LA Times story this morning, citing an opinion from a district lawyer sent to Gloria Romero, the former California lawmaker who wrote the 2010 “Parent Trigger” law.

Romero, who founded the California Center for Parent Empowerment last year, said in an interview this morning she felt “angry and betrayed” by a legal decision that was reached last fall by the district but not shared with her until she learned about it three weeks ago.

“I’m not saying LAUSD is wrong on the legal interpretation; I just don’t know, and that’s why I’m seeking another legal interpretation from the state,” she said, “But LAUSD’s decision violates the spirit and intent of the law.”

“What I want to know,” she added, “is why did they keep this quiet all this time.”

The district’s opinion stems from a Federal waiver granted LA Unified and seven other California school districts, allowing them to to create their own metrics for academic performance in the temporary absence of statewide standards — measures used to determine whether a school is failing.

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy said in an interview that the metrics used by LA Unified and the other districts granted the waiver still give parents the right to use the Parent Trigger law, so long as a school has been deemed in need of improvement for two consecutive years, ending with the 2014-2015 school year.

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Parent Revolution holding a forum to spread the ‘trigger’ word

Parent RevolutionEmboldened by the Vergara v. California ruling, which struck down state teacher tenure and seniority protections last week, Parent Revolution is trying to expand its reach.

The advocacy group, which pushes for Parent Trigger laws across the country, plans to hold a one-day “Parent Power Convention” in October, the first meeting of its kind. It’s timed to coincide with the countdown to the fall elections and “will incorporate vital discussions on the type of laws” the group seeks to enact.

In California, the parent trigger law creates a pathway for parents to make changes at their schools by collecting signatures of a majority of parents who want change. It has been used so far in only two schools, 24th Street Elementary in LA Unified and Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto.

“It should be clear that in the wake of the historic decision in Vergara, Parent Union leaders immediately grasped the opportunity and the responsibility to build upon their hard won seat at table around school site decisions into a seat at the table in Sacramento to advocate for the interests of all children in California,” Ben Austin, executive director for Parent Revolution, said in a statement.

Organizers expect candidates in the final days of their respective campaigns will be eager to gain the endorsement of Parent Union chapters, which they claim are a rising and expanding political constituency in California.

Few details about the event are available at this time, but a spokesperson confirmed it will “definitely be interactive.”

Candidates for board seat, CA education chief at USC forum

candidate forumYet another education-related candidate forum has been scheduled for Los Angeles, this one on Saturday at USC, and it’s unusual in that it will include back-to-back conversations with candidates for the open board seat for LA Unified’s District 1, then another with those running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The co-sponsors — Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles Urban League and Students for Education Reform — said today that five of the seven board candidates and two of the three people running for the state position will appear.

The board candidates who have agreed to appear are Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Alex Johnson, Rachel Johnson, Hattie McFrazier and George McKenna. Two others are not listed as participants — Omarosa Manigault and Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, but no reason was given.

“Parents across the city and state recognize they need to have the ability to protect their children’s right to both a quality education and opportunity for a successful future,” the organizers said in a news release. “Recent parent successes have come from parents initiating improvements, becoming real partners with educators and community leaders in charting a course of success for their children. Parents need public elected leaders who are truly invested in crafting paths to provide all children in the state with a great education.”

Marshall Tuck and Lydia Gutierrez, the two candidates challenging the incumbent state education chief, Tom Torlakson, are scheduled to appear, but not Torlakson.

See details of event here.

Two other District 1 candidate forums are scheduled for May 7 and May 14.

 

Commentary: An extraordinary effort for extraordinary need

Ben Austin

Ben Austin

LAUSD School Board Member Steve Zimmer’s recent commentary “Standing with Beatriz” hit the nail on the head on one key issue: for our children, the stakes are high.

Let me acknowledge first that Mr. Zimmer is a good person who is doing what he feels is best for the children of LAUSD. On this issue, however, we have a principled disagreement about what that is.

Mr. Zimmer portrays himself as a grassroots underdog taking on a phalanx of nefarious billionaires who aim to “privatize” public education. What he fails to mention, is that he was also supported by over one million dollars in campaign contributions from the biggest and most powerful special interest group in the state. That fact doesn’t make him right or wrong, but it does make him part of the system. It isn’t a coincidence that the same adult special interests that bankrolled his campaign are now bankrolling the opposition to Vergara.

Mr. Zimmer wrote about the “Vergara fiction,” that the status quo is broken. But this harsh reality is unfortunately not fiction for the children who lose their talented, dedicated and loving teachers to layoffs each year just because they were hired last. And it’s not fiction for the children who have been molested and for those who were literally forced to eat semen by a teacher who was paid $40,000 to retire, with full benefits!

Vergara shifts the focus from the interests of adults to where it should have been all along: children.

Putting children first must be the “north star” by which all decisions are made in our public education system. Ninety one percent of likely California voters support a children-first agenda, but far too often the interests of powerful adults trump the interests of children.

This is not a coincidence.

It’s because kids don’t have a political action committee, and kids don’t have lobbyists.

Beatriz Vergara and the millions of children attending California public schools can’t vote.

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Survey: parents want more change, power in schools

parent empowermentA new poll commissioned by Parent Revolution finds that two-thirds of California voters believe that the state education system needs either a “major” change or a “complete overhaul,” and by the same 2-1 margin they believe schools are currently focusing on the needs of adults rather than children.

The results were included in a poll of 807 likely November 2014 voters, conducted in English and Spanish by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research between Dec. 8 and 15. Parent Revolution is a group that works with parents to make changes in their children’s schools, in accordance with California’s Parent Empowerment Act, the state’s so-called ”parent trigger” law.

The overarching message from the poll is that most Californians want the state public school system reworked and that parents must be included in the process. Latinos polled consistently higher in support of the need for real parent empowerment and decision-making in their children’s community schools.

These were among the poll’s other findings:

  • 91 percent of California voters believe every decision about schools should be based on what’s best for the children in the classroom, not what is best for adults who work for the school. And 72 percent of Californians “strongly” agree with this statement.
  • 82 percent of all voters and 88 percent of Latinos believe that parents should have the ability to force school districts to re-organize a school that has been failing for four years in a row or more.
  • 76 percent of all voters and 82 percent of Latinos oppose weakening or repealing the Parent Empowerment Act.

Previous Posts: Parents using the ‘Trigger‘ law help get a pre-k for 24th streetUTLA voted to find a state lawmaker to change the parent trigger lawMorning Read: Parent Trigger School Opens a New Era.

‘Trigger’ Parents Help Return Pre-K to 24th St. Elementary

Twenty-Fourth Street School

Twenty-Fourth Street School

By the first of the new year, 24th Street Elementary School in West Adams will open a new pre-kindergarten program, a victory for parents concerned with how children were performing in grades beyond.

The change came about through California’s new Parent Empowerment Act, the so-called Parent Trigger Law, which lets parents implement changes that include replacing staff, adding programs, shutting down the school altogether and handing control over to a charter.

The law has been used in a small number of schools this year, drawing controversy in each case for its impact on union teachers and the parents of students who did not sign petitions seeking change.

Efforts for change at 24th Street began several years ago. Parent Maria Eloisa Alcala said the school was functioning poorly on a number of levels, with bathrooms that weren’t working properly, rats found in vents and, worse, low student achievement.

“Children at 24th were performing way below grade level,” said Alcala, who has two kids at the school. Children were testing badly, she adds, in both reading and math.

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Gloria Romero Leaving One Ed Reform Group to Start Another

Gloria Romero, from her days as State Senate Majority Leader

Gloria Romero, from her days as State Senate Majority Leader

Gloria Romero is stepping down from her position as Director of California Democrats for Education Reform (or DFER) to start a new organization, the Foundation for Parent Empowerment.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with DFER, but believe that it is time to move past party politics and focus my skills and organizing with parents who form the true base of any education reform movement,” she said in a statement.

In 2010, as a California State Senator, Romero authored the country’s first “parent trigger” law, which allows a majority of parents to replace a school’s leadership. But the fiercely independent Romero hasn’t always agreed with the tactics employed by Parent Revolution, the non-profit that has helped organize every parent trigger campaign in California to date.

Romero’s new organization will focus on empowering parents to affect change at their children’s schools.

“A myriad of federal and state laws exist which, when combined, offer parents greater opportunities to become more actively involved in helping their children pursue the American Dream via education,” she said.

Romero’s independence and unpredictability have earned her many enemies. Last year, she even broke with DFER’s national organization to support LA Unified and seven other California school districts in their quest for a No Child Left Behind waiver.

Nevertheless, DFER Executive Director Joe Williams lent a quote to Romero’s goodbye press release, saying, “We are extremely grateful for all the great work Gloria has done for children and families in California as an elected official in the California Legislature as well as her leadership of DFER in California.”

Previous posts: Reform Group Splits over Federal Waiver for LAUSDMayor Overreached Against Zimmer, Says ReformerHow Prop. 32 Could Affect LAUSD