Back in October, I blogged on California’s new law, “parent trigger,” which enables parents to turn failing schools around. Today I am excited to report on one example of how a group of parents used “parent trigger” to turn the administration of a failing elementary school over to a successful charter school. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger writes in the Washington Post:

On Dec. 7, history was made by a small group of parents in Compton, Calif.

Their children attend McKinley Elementary School – a school that has been defined as failing for the past 10 years. Using a new power known as the “parent trigger,” […] these Compton parents banded together to demand change. The legislation allows parents of students at troubled schools to demand such significant reforms as closing a school, replacing a school’s management or most of its staff, or reorganizing a school into a charter, if 51 percent of parents sign a petition.

McKinley Elementary is being reorganized and will soon be transformed into a charter school run by Celerity Educational Group, which is successfully operating three other schools in California.


In California, like in many other states, our public education system is not based on merit or holding the adults in whose care we have placed our children accountable. Some students get a good education, but others do not, and report after report reaches the same conclusion: No matter how much money we throw at the problem, unless the school is fundamentally fixed, we will not get the results in student performance we all deserve.

Giving parents the power to hold their schools accountable is a giant step forward, and I believe that what happened in Compton is the beginning of a movement that will sweep the nation.

This example, of parents coming together to affect positive change in their communities by holding their public school accountable and demanding sweeping changes to its administration, is tremendously powerful.

Just yesterday, I wrote about a similarly exciting development in Florida, where Gov.-elect Rick Scott recently announced his plans to push for education savings accounts to enable all Florida parents to choose their children’s schools. California and Florida have the opportunity to set an example for the nation as a whole, that if given the institutional power, parents will take the personal responsibility to assure their children’s academic success.

A recent poll suggests that most adults blame parents for the failure of education in America:

An Associated Press-Stanford University Poll on education found that 68 percent of adults believe parents deserve heavy blame for what’s wrong with the U.S. education system – more than teachers, school administrators, the government or teachers unions.

I also believe that parents play a crucial role in the education of their children, as role models, mentors, and disciplinarians. However, I am convinced that much of the apathy many parents have shown towards education is not a result of parental indifference towards the well-being of their children, but rather an implicit understanding that most parents are powerless observers in an education system that puts the interests of education professionals before those of children and their parents.

Parent trigger means that parents are no longer reduced to being observers on the sidelines, but they are able to hold failing schools accountable by having the tools to demand significant reforms. The example of McKinley Elementary School demonstrates that when parents are empowered, they are encouraged to become engaged.