Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea A. Hubbard, PhD, Chair; Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Frank R. Kemerer, PhD


24th Street Elementary (Los Angeles, CA), cross case comparison, Desert Trails Elementary (Adelanto, CA), educational policy, Leadership studies, local context, parent empowerment, parents & parenting, parent trigger legislation, qualitative, reform, school governance, underperforming schools


Parent involvement in public education has changed over time in the United States. Recently it has taken on a more radical dimension aimed at shifting the role of parents. These efforts are identified by some as parent empowerment and arguably may be part of a larger policy movement to secure parent voice in equity-focused education reform. The policy innovation allows parents with students in persistently underperforming schools to force a change in school governance. Since the passage of the first parent trigger law in California in 2010, three parent petition campaigns have forced a turnaround in school governance. The purpose of this study was to provide a baseline of understanding for the ways in which parent trigger legislation intersected educational policy and to investigate the extent to which the law supported the needs, values, and interests of local parent stakeholders. This qualitative study consisted of three ways in which to examine the legislative influence on parent empowerment: 1) a state-level document analysis of proposed and enacted parent trigger legislation; 2) interviews with the legislator and the education reform advocate responsible for authoring the first parent trigger law; and, 3) eleven interviews with key stakeholders involved in the first two successful efforts to use the parent trigger at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, California and 24th Street Elementary in Los Angeles, California. A cross case comparison of the two school sites revealed that the needs and core beliefs of parent leaders aligned with the intent of the parent trigger law. However, an intermediary organization was required to help the parent stakeholders attain the resources, socio-political learning, and community building strategies necessary to effectively exercise their parental legal right. Moreover, factors within the local context affected the parent leaders' implementation of the law. Levels of relational trust either mitigated or exacerbated the process. Finally, the use of the law was experienced by parent leaders as both personally and collectively empowering in shifting their role to decision maker. This study has implications for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners considering parent trigger legislation and parent empowerment as a solution for failing schools.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies