Ever since parents began using California’s historic Parent Empowerment Act, a key question has followed our work around California and the nation: Does #parentpower lead to student success.
We know that the challenging nature of school transformation efforts means that it will take years to more conclusively answer that question. Much of the current research suggests that it can take years for successful transformation efforts to show significant improvements in test scores. Districts and states around the country are still struggling to figure out how to effectively measure broader indications of school improvement than merely considering test scores. Almost all student assessments were suspended in California schools last year due to field testing for new Common Core-aligned assessments.
Even with that enormous challenge, however, it is encouraging to see that the first two Parent Trigger schools saw significant student gains in CST science scores, the one test that was administered last year. Take for example, the comparison between the 24th Street / Crown Preparatory Academy scores in 2013 and 2014:
Desert Trails Preparatory Academy also saw enormous gains in science. More students tested Advanced or Proficient in science that in anytime in the past 10 years*, including almost 4x as many as the year before.
This data, while very limited in nature, also aligns with the parent survey data gathered at the end of last year, in which 91% of parents at Desert Trails Preparatory Academy and 83% of the parents at 24th Street Elementary said their schools had improved from the year before.
Kathy Duncan, parent of 2 Desert Trails Preparatory Students shared her satisfaction with the school’s transformation: “As a parent, I am happy to send my child to DTPA. Everyone was happy the first day. I saw new faces that had never seen before. I would like to shine a light on [Desert Trails school leader] Ms. Debbie Tarver and her staff. My children, Jeremiah and Evelyn have had an exceptional time at DTPA."
It’s also crucial to note the significant gains for African American, Latino and low-income students, as those are the populations with whom we most closely work and partner with every day.
The three schools that underwent purely in-district reforms (in constrast to Desert Trails and 24th St / Crown Prep which are both operating as charter schools) – Haddon Elementary, Lennox Middle School, and Weigand Elementary – either stayed flat or saw a slight dip in student science performance data. In addition to previous cited research showing that first year test score results are often sluggish even at successful turnarounds, Kutash et al explain that this may in fact be because “successful efforts at the school level must be supported by corresponding changes at the system level.” Often, district-led turnarounds can take longer to show results.
After reading the data, Ben Austin, Executive Director of Parent Revolution noted: “What we see in the data is what we expected - we know that parent engagement leads to ongoing academic success, and that while rapid success is sometimes possible, the first years of turnarounds are notoriously challenging. We are enthusiastic and optimistic about the efforts being made by educators, parents, and students to turnaround schools that have struggled for years to effectively serve their communities, and we must all hold ourselves accountable to producing real changes in the lives and learning of children.”
It’s worth noting that measuring the long-term outcome across measures of both numeracy and literacy are crucial. We’re committed to using data and ensuring that parents have access to data that can help them decide what path to take as they work to turn around schools that are failing their children.
While this data doesn’t paint anything close to a complete picture, it’s promising. Chief Strategy Officer Gabe Rose explains, “We of course cannot draw conclusions based on one subject test during one year, but the emerging evidence at these schools gives us an abundance of hope that we are on the right track, and can’t wait to share all data we gather with parents as they organize to do what’s best for their kids. We know from research that at best, only 25-30% of school turnaround efforts generally succeed, but we are confident that the consistent presence of organized and engaged parents will make our efforts substantially more successful.”
Yes, it matters to close the political power gap and to empower low-income parents of color. It’s not only the right thing to do, and it can, does, and will turn schools around so they work better for all kids - because all kids matter.
*10 year science score data for Desert Trails Elementary Schools
Parent Revolution transforms underperforming public schools by empowering parents to advocate for what is good for children, not adults, through grassroots community organizing.