By Teresa Welsh |
Today, 600,000 American students are on waiting lists to attend a public charter school. Their parents aren't idle bystanders in their education, but unfortunately they often don't have high-quality options. Charter schools were designed to give parents an alternative to one-size-fits-all district-run schools and a venue to engage them in their child's education. Even though charter schools have grown in number and enrollment, they haven't been able to keep pace with the demand. Too many children are trapped in failing schools—and their parents want to get them out.
When a school clearly isn't meeting students' needs, parents need to be empowered to do something to change it. Parent trigger laws are designed to be this answer. As of June 2012, seven states have enacted parent trigger laws and 20 states have considered parent trigger legislation. Without parent trigger laws, parents have to wait for high-quality public charter schools to come to their neighborhood or, more commonly, rely on the district to fix their schools (often without parental input and without the sense of urgency that is needed to overhaul the system). Parent trigger laws give parents the power to intervene in underperforming schools when a majority of parents agree to impose school turnaround measures—such as converting it to a public charter school, replacing some of the school's administration and faculty, or closing the school.
However you look at the data, the need for parents to be empowered with options for their child's education is immediate and real. Scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress, also known as "the nation's report card," haven't moved in 30 years. Our performance on international tests is no better. The United States is average in reading and below average in both mathematics and science. Researchers say that even our nation's best students aren't keeping up with their peers across the world.
In thousands of schools across the country, achievement is inadequate. At Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., more than two thirds of students fail to meet the state's proficiency standards, and the school hasn't met its achievement goals for five consecutive years. The parents are no longer passive observers and are demanding change. They have invoked the state's parent trigger law to bring in a public charter school that will be accountable for results.
About Nina Rees President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Melissa J. Erickson Principal in Fund Education Now
Randi Weingarten President of the American Federation of Teachers
Brittny Saunders Senior Staff Attorney for Center for Popular Democracy
Leigh Dingerson Senior Consultant with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
Michelle Rhee CEO at StudentsFirst