Earlier this month, parents of kids trapped in a Compton, California elementary school pulled the "trigger" on a potentially explosive school reform:
Under a California law passed in January, parents can trigger a change in governance at some 1,300 schools that have failed to make "adequate yearly progress" for four consecutive years. If at least 51% of the parents sign a petition, they can shut the school down, shake up its administration, or invite a charter operator to take over. Charters that open as a result of parent triggers must accept all students from the original school.
Compton's McKinley Elementary School has made adequate progress only once since 2003, and it is in the bottom 10% of schools statewide and when compared to schools with students of similar backgrounds. McKinley is part of the Compton Unified School District, which has a high school graduation rate of 46.8%; only 3.3% of those graduates were eligible for California's public universities in 2008. That year the state required Compton to hire a "district assistance intervention team." According to its own investigators, the district demonstrated over two years a "lack of a sense of urgency related to student achievement."
Not surprisingly, there's pushback from the powers that be (powers that were?), which is claiming that the charter group poised to take over the school isn't up to the task, blah blah blah. The parental trigger is getting props from many Dems around the Golden State and beyond.
Parent trigger has support from Democrats including Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee and even Rahm Emanuel now that he's running for mayor of Chicago. Legislators in Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland tell us they will introduce versions of parent trigger in the coming months.
The biggest obstacle to education reform has long been overcoming the inertial forces of unionized bureaucracy. Parent trigger is a revolutionary shortcut, and bravo to the parents in Compton for making the leap.
What's good about this law is that it doesn't require a massive overhaul of the system to institute change at the local level. Just 13 percent of parents are "very" or "somewhat" dissatisfied with the quality of their kids' traditional public schools, which means there ain't gonna be no massive revolt any time soon. Change only gets tougher when you factor in relatively wealthy and politically connected people with no kids in the system whose property values are in part based on the educational status quo.
Hat Tip: Alan Vanneman.
Take it away, NWA. And who knows? In future versions of the song, maybe G.T.A. will be replaced with G.P.A.: