LA School Board Approves Controversial Reform Plan

Filed under: In The News

In what could become an example for school districts nationwide, the Los Angeles school board passed a controversial plan last month that will let teachers manage nearly two dozen schools in the state's largest district.

Ramon C. Cortines, the district's superintendent, backed the plan "to turn over 22 of the schools to teacher-led efforts" while allowing some outside groups and teachers to share management of a handful of campuses, according to the Los Angeles Times. The program, Public School Choice, will go into effect for the 2010-2011 school year.

The reforms target underperforming schools where, for example, less than 25 percent of the students are proficient in either math or English based on state standardized tests, according to the Times.

In August, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved the measure to entertain proposals to take over direct management of the schools. The decision pitted management proposals from private charter companies against those of the school district's teachers, who believe they know what is best to fix problems within their own schools, the newspaper reports.

According to a Times blog, a possible model for teachers taking control of the schools would be "small schools where teachers, administrators and community members have broad latitude to establish the rules under which the school operates." In contrast to charter schools, the teacher-run schools would retain a close relationship with the school district.

Originally, the reform plan was to encompass "more than 250 existing schools," according to the Times. However, the superintendent focused the list to 30 schools. The decision by the school board affects 40,000 students in the "nation's second-largest school district" and marks "a signal of notable progress" within the district, the newspaper reports.

The teachers' proposals, created with the assistance of the district and the teacher's union, competed against proposals by the Los Angeles' mayor's nonprofit school organization and "mostly nonunion" charter schools, according to the Times. The mayor's group will oversee three schools, while charter schools were handed four schools, the Times reports.

Charters "had lobbied hard for a chance to run the schools," but Cortines says the board appreciated the efforts of the teachers' plans, the Times reports.

"So many of our school communities have stepped up to the plate to improve the conditions at their schools. Schools that have been struggling for years now have a sense of urgency and commitment to improving their schools," Cortines tells the Times.

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