Out of Control Policy Blog

Los Angeles Unified School Competition Round-Up

Here’s a round-up about Los Angeles Unified’s board proposal to introduce competition to run new and low-performing schools and to offer more high quality choices for Los Angeles students.

The LA Times calls it L.A. Unified’s Chance for Change:

After several weeks of delay and lobbying, a resolution by board Vice President Yolie Flores Aguilar is slated for a vote. It would give outside organizations such as charter operators, unions, the mayor's office and community groups the opportunity to submit proposals for running the 50 or so new schools expected to open over the next few years. Flores Aguilar has improved her initiative in some key ways, including an expansion that also opens up the district's lowest-performing schools to outside supervision. The resolution enjoys the strong support of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has championed it despite the reservations of his labor allies. Now it deserves a ringing endorsement from the board.

Education Week tells the story behind WHY Yolie Flores has chosen to champion the resolution.

Yolie Flores Aguilar, the main author of the resolution and the vice president of the school board, said she was compelled to push for a “new way” after seeing a report from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, showing that out of every 100 students enrolled in high schools in her school board district comprised of communities in southeast Los Angeles, as few as 28, and no more than 36, actually graduated. Third-grade students’ reading scores also alarmed her: less than 30 percent read at grade level.
“I didn’t know whether to scream or to cry,” said Ms. Flores Aguilar. “My frustration is at the casualness of how people have reacted to the failure of so many of our schools. “When I look at the data indicators, I think this is a 911 emergency,” she said. “I don’t understand why we aren’t stepping it up.”

A new analysis by the California Charter Schools Association finds that Los Angeles charter schools that want to run the new schools in Los Angeles have proven track records and already outperform demographically-similar district schools. 

Sixteen charter school organizations currently operating 75 charter schools in Los Angeles (including several which open this fall) have publicly expressed interest in submitting proposals to open charter schools upon passage of the resolution. The Association conducted a matched comparison analysis of the performance of these 16 charter school organizations and assessed each charter school’s performance compared to the three similarly-matched district schools that students would otherwise likely attend.  
 
The analysis revealed that 70 percent of charter schools outperformed all three of their neighborhood peers in both English-Language Arts and mathematics. Additionally, 89 percent of the charter schools in the analysis outperformed at least two of their three similarly-matched district schools in both English-Language Arts and mathematics.

Some other interesting developments in the Los Angeles school choice story include:

  • The Los Angeles school superintendent Ray Cortines is behind the proposal. "Mr. Cortines, who pushed for Ms. Flores Aguilar to target low-achieving schools as well as new schools, said even if the board doesn’t approve the measure, he will pursue the strategy administratively."
  • To date, new schools in Los Angeles have been no guarantee of improved student achievement. Ben Austin, the executive director of the Parent Revolution, a group closely affiliated with some Los Angeles charter-management organizations told Education Week: "the district’s $20 billion school construction program can’t be called a success when many of the new schools that opened in recent years sunk to the bottom academically.They literally begin to fail under federal law the day after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” 
  • Thousands of  parents are expected to gather tomorrow in downtown Los Angeles to actively voice their support for the "Resolution for Public School Choice" between 12 PM and 2PM.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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