For the first time in 15 years, California has no real accountability system for schools. The state’s Academic Performance Index, which judged student progress mainly by test scores, was washed away in the switch to Common Core standards, and the shape of whatever will replace it is fuzzy. The federal government’s rigid and unrealistic Adequate Yearly Progress measurement is also nearly dead, along with the won’t-be-missed No Child Left Behind Act.
That’s what school districts would apparently like to believe. Twice in the last year, trigger petitions have been rejected on the grounds that the API scores date from several years ago. And in the more recent case, at 20th Street Elementary School, officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District added that the school had met its federal AYP target. (Former Supt. John Deasy made a similar argument in 2014, but his decision was overturned by his successor, Ramon C. Cortines.) While it is possible to look at it that way, the reality is that during the transition period when Common Core was being introduced, the state got permission to reduce AYP to a meaningless number that mostly reflects insignificant factors like attendance and test participation.
The rejection of the 20th Street effort is especially frustrating because this is the second parent petition there. The first one, last year, was never submitted because parents were assured that the district would take strong measures to improve the school. Those measures fell short in their eyes, leading to the second petition. Had the parents been hard-nosed from the start, they’d have transformed the school by now.
And where is the state in all this? Why hasn’t the California Board of Education adopted interim regulations guiding parents and schools considering using parent trigger through this foggy period? Why hasn’t the Legislature laid down the law, at least temporarily?
As flawed as the trigger law is, it provides a mechanism for the most disenfranchised families to force school officials to listen to them. Yes, it’s a new era in accountability and that will take some time to iron out. But in the meantime, parents in the lowest-performing schools are tired of waiting for the latest grand policy from on high.