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No Statewide Testing Could Delay Parent Trigger Drives

Vanessa Romo | September 11, 2013

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parent-trigger1Sometime in hour five of yesterday’s marathon LA Unified school board meeting, the board approved a new set of guidelines to help principals, teachers and parents navigate the complex Parent Trigger process.

That’s the state law allowing parents to take over a failing school and force a complete overhaul, so long as a majority of parents have sought change through a petition drive.

But just as school board member Steve Zimmer – who won approval of establishing guidelines back in June – led a 5-2 board vote to approve the guidelines, a new set of concerns became evident.

LA Unified’s Chief of Intensive Support and Instruction, Donna Muncey, suggested that California’s plan to dump standardized tests for the current school year may have an unforeseen impact on parent trigger applications.

Schools only become eligible for a parent trigger after they are identified by the state as failing, based on Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress scores, which are usually released in September.

“That’s what sets the petition gathering [for a parent trigger] in motion,” Muncey said. “So usually, organizers collect signatures from the time those scores come out through May at the latest.”

If the petition drive succeeds, the process to invoke the law moves forward and a new plan for the following school year is devised. If the effort fails, organizers scrap the signatures, wait for a new round of standardized test scores and start over.

But with no new API or AYP scores on the horizon for the 2013-14 school year as the state shifts to the Common Core protocols and with no list of “subject schools,” Muncey said, “Then there’s the potential that the petition gathering process might spread over two years.”

A senior district official put it this way: Without standardized test scores no schools can be identified as failing and be made eligible for parent trigger.

“There’s an argument that there wouldn’t be subject schools next year and all parent trigger applications would be in abeyance,” the official said.

“Because the law is so new and no one’s ever done this before, we just don’t know the answers,” Muncey added. “But it’s at least a question we should be asking.”

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