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Calif. Parent-Trigger Charter Advances, and New Effort Begins in Conn.

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Last night, the Adelanto, Calif. school board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation of the Desert Trails Parent Union to transform Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter school operated by LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy.

The vote makes the Adelanto District the first in the country to have officially approved any aspect of implementing a parent-trigger law—which allow schools to be restructured through a majority vote of parents, said Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based organization that has advised a group of parents in their efforts to overhaul the school's structure. The vote to support the parents' union's decision was aided by results from the November election, which ousted school board president Carlos Mendoza, who had vocally opposed the parents' effort. In the same election, Teresa Rogers, a member of the Desert Trails Parent Union, was elected to the school board.

The operator of the school will be LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy, which is located in nearby Hesperia, Calif. The academy currently operates one school, and it does not have experience turning around low-performing schools. When LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy was selected as a finalist for the charter model Desert Trails could turn into, Debbie Tarver, the school's founder and executive director, said that she envisioned implementing a "classical" academic model that would emphasize language development, history, and the integration of subjects.

The decision would appear to conclude a long and contentious battle between Adelanto district officials and the parents who pushed for the school's restructuring. Meanwhile, for another group of parents, in Waterbury, Conn., it appears the battle is just beginning.

Parents there are invoking a form of their state's parent trigger law to begin the process of turning around Walsh Elementary School, an academically low-performing school in the area. In 2012, 53 percent of the students there demonstrated proficiency in math, while only 32 percent were deemed proficient in reading, lagging far behind the state average in both subjects.

Connecticut's law is a much more modest form of trigger policy than those approved in California and some other states. Passed in 2010, the state's law allows parents in low-performing and failing schools to form School Governance Councils consisting of parents, teachers, and community leaders, which serve an advisory role to the school's administration. The Walsh Elementary School Governance Council recommended either the creation of a CommPACT school, a model to help close the achievement gap in Connecticut's public schools through collaboration with parents and community leaders, or an innovation school, which are created through a local decision and operated under a plan developed by the school faculty, district leadership, or an external partner (which could be a higher ed. institution, a nonprofit charter school operator, an educational collaborative, or an educational consortium).

The Walsh Elementary School Governance Council will be meeting tonight at 6pm with district officials there to discuss the school turnaround process and how it could play out in that district.

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