An elementary school in California has seen improvements among students for the first time in more than 10 years — something that was unthinkable just last year.
In 2017, fewer than 18 percent of students at Palm Lane Elementary School could read at grade level and fewer than 14 percent performed math at grade level, according to state data. Since then, the school has shown improvement in 13 of 14 learning categories, even improving up to 41 percent in academic achievement.
The change comes roughly a little more than a year after Palm Lane transitioned into being a non-union, independent public charter school. This meant that the school was free from union work rules and instead accountable to parents, who could transfer to a different school and take government funding with them, the Orange County Register reports.
Parents were the driving force behind the change.
After more than a decade of a failing school system, parents leveraged California’s 2010 Parent Empowerment Act, which allowed them to begin the process of switching the elementary school to an independent public charter school. They gathered 332 parent signatures and filed them with the proper authorities, only to find that officials from their own district sued them. They eventually took the case all the way to the state Supreme Court.
The school’s now-improved scores point to the success of at least one pillar for improving education from the five that Battleground State News supports: individual, local sovereignty and accountability for schools.
Although the school’s improvements also point to other changes, parents holding their school district accountable had a direct impact on the quality of the school where their students attend.
“Parents are more dedicated to putting kids first than any other stakeholder is,” wrote former Lose Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently. “While teachers, administrators and education reformers all care deeply about students, the politics of public education are largely driven by the interests of adults because kids can’t vote and parents don’t have lobbyists.”
Los Angeles Unified’s Twentieth Elementary was also transitioned to a charter school after consistently failing its students.
These California parents, through direct involvement, were able to hold their school districts accountable. Giving parents the ability to take their students from the school — bringing government funding with them — ultimately brings accountability for the school back down to a local level, rather than leaving it in the hands of the union.
Parents put their students first and holding districts accountable to them, rather than stakeholders and unions, can force schools to do the same.
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