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DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: Los Angeles Superintendent Announces Plan to Turn Around Lowest-Performing Secondary Schools

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"We are taking a very comprehensive approach to finding solutions to improve academic achievement at these nine schools that will be tailored to each individual school," Romer said

In the latest effort to turn around the lowest-performing secondary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Superintendent Roy Romer has announced a new plan to reassign staff, hire outside consultants, and rearrange large schools into smaller, more personalized environments. The nine schools have failed to meet state achievement goals for seven years in a row and, under No Child Left Behind, must be restructured. For some schools, this restructuring will be the second time in five years that Romer has had to step in and enact reforms-some schools, for example, have already been divided into smaller learning groups.

“We are taking a very comprehensive approach to finding solutions to improve academic achievement at these nine schools that will be tailored to each individual school,” Romer said. “We would expect to develop strategies that will also work at other schools in the district. It is also important to remember that even though these nine schools failed to meet federal requirements, many of them have been advancing academically by other recognized standards.”

In addition to reconstituting the nine schools into smaller learning communities, Romer’s restructuring plan will include compacts with faculty and staff to commit to the restructuring process, reassignment of some personnel, a careful evaluation of administrator qualifications, possible stipends to attract personnel to hard-to-staff schools, a focus on equity and closing the achievement gap, and safe campuses through the deployment of school police officers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Romer has said that a movement toward smaller schools would solve many of the district’s “most intractable problems,” including high dropout rates. However, it noted, some community groups and others say that “simply dividing up a troubled campus does not in and of itself reduce the serious educational problems on these campuses.”

John Perez, head of the Los Angeles teacher union, told the Times that the district had not done enough to include teachers, staff members, and parents in its reorganization plan. “They spring this restructuring plan on a faculty that has not had a single day of working with the district . . . in deciding how the school will be restructured. Our contention to them is that when you go through this process, as mandated by federal law, you’ve got to include the entire community.”

More information on Romer’s plan and the nine affected schools is available in the Times article here.

Governor Announces Interest-Free Money for Small Schools in Michigan 

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granhold (D) is pushing for zero-interest loans for school districts with high dropout rates, low test scores, and at least eight hundred high school students to help to build new, smaller high schools of no more than five hundred students. Approximately twenty-seven schools would be eligible to apply for the loans and could borrow up to $15 million from a pool of $180 million.

“Michigan lags in too many economic and education measurements not to try to heighten young people’s interest in school, even at such a relatively late stage as grades 9-12,” read an editorial in the Detroit Free Press. “Creating smaller schools where the disinterested and disaffected have a better chance of being rescued is an investment worth making.” (The editorial is available athttp://www.freep.com/voices/editorials/ehigh18e_20050418.htm.)

The new, smaller schools would not replace older high schools but would house students elsewhere on the campus in new buildings or renovated structures such as old middle schools. Jeremy Hughes, acting state superintendent of public instruction, stressed that the new small schools could evolve into magnet schools with specializations in math, business, or the arts. “Just making things small isn’t necessarily going to make a difference in student achievement,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “There are benefits, though, in terms of being able to develop relationships with instructors, of being more than just a number.”

“Granhold has plan to offer interest-free money to build small schools” is available athttp://www.freep.com/news/education/granholm11e_20050411.htm.

 

Footnotes
1. In late 2004, a special task force on high school dropout and graduation rates created by then U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige issued a final report that addressed some of these issues. The task force’s report included the mathematical equations that it recommends for calculating on-time graduation rates, completion rates, transfer rates, and dropout rates. It said that these rates require data that follow individual students throughout their high school careers (so-called cohort data), but it also offers alternatives for states that currently do not have that capacity. (More information on the task force report is at https://all4ed.org/publication_material/straight_as/4/21/#2.) (back).

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