xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Don't Forget South Central: September 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

LAAMS Will Not Be Outsourced! This Year, At Least...

After the revision of the revised criteria for which public LAUSD schools would be eligible to be outsourced to corporate management organizations, our school is pleased to learn that OUR SCHOOL WILL NOT BE ONE OF THEM!

We grimly noted that both Carver MS and Jefferson HS however, are on the dreaded takeover list. We hope their staff and faculty pull together to out forth a strong plan for the benefit of all of their students. We also wonder which organization will have what it takes to turn around troubled schools such as these, since Green Dot has yet to prove it can do so at Locke HS.

This week we were NOT surprised to learn that many classrooms across the district are overcrowded, some with no seats for the students. We knew this would happen (its chronicled in this very blog), but there is no joy in having been able to forecast this development. Students at this very moment are being robbed of individual attention in many non-Title 1, non-QEIA schools, and no student anywhere should have to sacrifice their education and future because a district can't manage its money.

For the countless numbers of people who accused teachers of being greedy for wanting to save jobs, maybe now you will realize that our fight was first and foremost about the children. Many of the laid-off teachers quickly found jobs elsewhere and are doing just fine. But the same cannot be said of the broken system left behind in the wake of massive layoffs.

Of Cortines' revised criteria, we can't help but feel it has the markings of an arbitrary selection process. It seems like in the end, it was known that in reality, LAUSD and the CMO's only had the capacity to take on 12 struggling schools, so they manipulated the data until this number was reached. It makes more sense to look at the last 5 years of a school's progress and use that data in combination with actual school visits and interviews of parents, teachers, and students. You can tell very quickly how functional a school is simply by walking into the main office.

Our plan for now is to continue working with the new staff members, about 10 so far, and acclimate them to our school instructional plan, our unique bell schedule and team system, so as to be able to continue our forward progress academically. We will keep readers posted with our progress.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

LAUSD School Board Votes to Reduce Transparency

From the Solidaridad blog by Robert D. Skeels. Click on link below.

Transparency has left the Beaudry Building!




from fotosearch.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Criteria For Being Outsourced

The Superintendent's "Public Choice" Timeline has been delayed by one week, and is now permanently tentative, according to the Friday email blast received by all employees and posted on the LAUSD website. Criteria for schools to be taken over by corporate management organizations, however, was posted. It includes:





Less than 21% proficiency in either Math or ELA no

Less than a 10pt growth in API no

Program Improvement Status of 3+ yes

Greater than 10% dropout rates does not apply


We meet only 1 of the criteria, PI 3+ status, so we should be exempt from takeover this year. However, as we understand it, the L.A. School Board called a meeting this past week to support SB51 which will require that 5% of all struggling schools be eligible for a takeover. While we may be out of the fire this year, it is no guarantee we will remain a public school in perpetuity.


Why is the School Board in such a rush to abdicate their authority?


Los Angeles voters are correct when they demand accountability from schools. Their taxes are paying for schools. But in this democracy, public schooling is a right guaranteed to everyone. We elect our leaders to oversee public schools, for the benefit of all members of society. Voters did NOT elect Steve Barr or Antonio Villaraigosa to run schools. Why are our school board members giving away schools or as Superintendent Cortines put it, letting them be stolen?


Whatever the reasons, this school community is buoyed by our latest accountability reporting marks, and hope to maintain our sustained, incremental growth in academics so that we can keep providing students a quality education in South Central.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A.P.I Scores Reflect Progress at LAAMS

Our students and staff were quite content to receive the news that our school met and exceeded the growth target assigned to us by the state of California. We were required to grow by 10 points and we grew by 17. Almost all our subgroups met their targets with the exception of EL's and Special Needs.

As teachers, without a doubt we believe that today's obsessive climate of testing students is not the solution to improving education. While there is a place for data, it is only a tool, and nothing else. Having said that, we are professionals, and administer all periodic assessments, common assessments, end of unit exams, pop quizzes, and the CST, as required by the CDE.

We anxiously waited for our scores and were gratified to see that our unique schedule that allows us to divide our school into 9 teams of students (teachers have common conference periods) and gives all students real elective classes, resulted in increased academic performance as measured by the API.

It would seem counterproductive for our school to be outsourced to a Corporate Management Organization (charter school) in the midst of continuous growth. We are worried because our two closest neighboring schools did not meet their API target (Bethune grew by 9 points, missed target by 1, Carver went down 29 points!) If taken over, it may force us to absorb their displaced teachers and students. For all we know, double digit growth may not be enough to save our school either. Friday should be the big day, when the Superintendent announces the schools eligible for outsourcing, and we await this next announcement as Zen as we possibly can be.

image from education.change.org

Saturday, September 12, 2009

To Write or Not to Write








image from laamschampions.org


Teachers at this South Central Middle School are conflicted about writing a proposal to manage
our school. Thanks to NCLB, we are deemed to be a "struggling school", even though our test scores have gone up every single year in the last 5 years. Now, thanks to the Flores-Aguilar plan, our school is up on the auction block, for anyone to bid on.

Should we write a plan? Just who is we? The union? The teachers? The instructional leadership group? The arts department?

Teachers are educators, not business plan writers. Nor, do we want to be. We want to teach. We are in the midst of a new school year, are getting to know our students, and are excited about new projects and initiatives we are trying out this year. We start at 7:30 am and literally do not stop with all our teaching, team meetings, parent conferences, in-services, faculty meetings, department meetings, until 4:00 pm. Then, we try to have decent time with our families. We don't want to write a plan. We want to lesson plan.

We wonder why we even have to write a plan, when this is what people in Beaudry have been paid three times our salaries to do over the last 10 years. Where are those plans? Why didn't they work? Was anyone held accountable for that?

Three years ago, we wrote a comprehensive plan that combined our single plan with the high priority school plan. It took a massive effort from a team of teachers, coordinators, coaches, and administrators who missed significant time from the classroom (reluctantly) to complete this required task. For a bureaucratic document, it turned out pretty darn good. Our plan guides everything we do as a school, and our results show it. Why reinvent the wheel?

The cynics in our school doubt we will even be considered for a takeover due to our progress, and due to not being a shiny new school in PI5+ status. They figure there are not enough organizations out there to handle the capacity of managing 250+ schools, and certainly not many who have the "perseverance" to work in a challenging neighborhood such as the one in which LAAMS is located.

According to the Superintendents most recent email, we have just weeks to submit a proposal. Unfortunately, we do not have a Megan Reilly on staff to handle the numbers for us. So for now, the teachers are sticking to what they do best: being there for the students, and changing lives, one student at a time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Holy Cow, The L.A. Times Sees the Light!


Teachers in South Central choked on their coffee this morning while reading today's editorial in the L.A. Times. We are pleased that this important conveyor of information realizes that the elimination of unions, especially in professional fields such as teaching, is to the detriment of all Americans.

You cannot turn teachers into cheap labor. None of today's leaders (or editors at major newspapers) were educated by "dispensable commodities." Why should we condemn today's children to be educated by people who see teaching as a paycheck, on the road to bigger or better jobs? Will people with school aged children or grandchildren really feel comfort and security knowing their children are in good hands when the instructor is a 23 year old whose only knowledge of the teaching profession is a 40 hour boot camp that focuses on crunching the numbers of the periodic assessments? Or, on the first day of school, do they want to entrust the care of their precious child to a person for whom teaching is their chosen profession, their craft, their passion, and whose commitment to children and education is an unwritten social contract that doesn't compare to that of privatized educational company employees? I think we all know the answer to that.

One bone to pick with this editorial is the contention that unions have been against reform. Could it be that any said opposition (no one ever mentions what actual reform was opposed) was motivated by a better understanding of students than say..a newspaper reporter or politician? Or that teachers in the classroom can tell you off the bat whether a reform will really work, or not?

LAT isn't off the hook yet, though. The role it played in the passage of the Yolie-Flores Aguilar motion is evident to anyone who keeps up with education politics in L.A. First, you demean an entire profession by focusing your reporting on the less than 1% of teachers who have been accused of wrongdoing, then you sing the praises of one public school that turned charter (minimizing their equally low scores and unsustainable funding), and finally you endorse the proposal to hand over control of a significant number of public schools to private operators. I wonder if when Villaraigosa boasted of having six votes in his pocket, he already felt he had public opinion behind him thanks to LAT? Teachers will wait and see if LAT truly means the words written today.

And finally, this editorial explains that long-held rancor of the LAT towards unions. We're sorry your building got burned down in the early 20th century, almost 100 years ago, courtesy of anarchists/union rogues. But you are right to assert that job protection and security is pivotal to the health and well-being of the teaching profession. In the classroom, it is a beautiful thing to see when a child reaches his moment of understanding. Today was a beautiful morning.