LAUSD pilot schools: Same old' same old'

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While there are many possibilities for addressing present public school dysfunction, the four models that the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers of Los Angeles have allegedly considered are: Affiliated Charters, ESBMM (Expanded School-Based Management Model), iDesign/Partnership Schools, and the dreaded Pilot School. As this study clearly shows, if a charter school is correctly implemented it can beat any of these models, because it offers the greatest latitude in drafting to reelect a reformed school model that could mix the most subjectively appropriate strengths of all models to the student population and community where the school has to function.

However, this is not the approach that either LAUSD or UTLA seem to be employing. Unlike Nazi Germany, which sought the formation of a 1000 year reich, LAUSD and UTLA in triage mode that the present economic downturn finds them in is just trying to squeeze out one more year of doing exactly what they have done in the past, while calling it something different in the hope that they can last long enough to make it to the safe haven of retirement with all the perks they have amassed.

You can be sure that whether it is a charter or a pilot school, it will look, smell, and malfunction exactly like the good old boys club that LAUSD has fostered since my mother taught their in the 1950s. The present administrators of LAUSD are not really trying to fix public education, they are just trying reconfigure the existing endemic chaos of LAUSD into a small learning community (SLC) or pilot school where their continuing malfeasance can continue to reign unchecked. The attitude of my principal is typical of this mind set, "I've seen it before, we just have to ride out this wave of reform..."

The critical difference with pilot schools and other reform models is that it appears to give autonomy, but two key provisions assure LAUSD party line will be maintained:

1. "Principal selection and evaluation with final approval by Local District Superintendent

2. "Staff members work under a modified UTLA-LAUSD contract"

What this will create is LAUSD lite with LAUSD principals continuing to promulgate District failed policy, while now having the ability to remove any teacher who dares to object.

As for UTLA, I have heard the same line from past presidents Day Higuchi, John Perez, and now A.J. Duffy, "Let's see what the District has to say about this," as a response to virtually ever problem that teachers, parents, and students face. It never seems to have occurred to these "leaders" of the union that they see themselves as functioning within the failed culture of LAUSD, instead of positing a well thought out alternative derived from empirical experience of its presently disaffected rank and file- UTLA's never played trump card. There is a reason why legal proceedings and the union/management relationship must be adversarial. In both cases, this adversarial relationship would not create destructive conflict, but rather the accountability in public education that must be at the foundation of any meaningful change. Until they learn this lesson, putting on a bunch of red T-shirts and marching around the 333 S. Beaudry LAUSD headquarters, as they plan to do on Tuesday, Dec 8, will have no effect but to increase the debilitating apathy that presently cripples the teaching profession.(The following is a link to the Oct 23 UTLA paper, please see page 15. http://www.utla.net/utla/unitedteacher/UT_20091023_LR.pdf)

Besides having small classes of 15-20 students, which must become the primary and costly reform in public education no matter what model is ultimately chosen, the relative success of private schools is based on the fact that both teachers and administrators there know the parents are watching and that there will be immediate and dire consequences if the best possible education practices are not always followed as a matter of course. Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone has learned this lesson of "no excuses" in achieving unequivocal success with Black children who up until had never been allowed to reach their potential.

This is in sharp contrast to the LAUSD litany I remember from habitually failing Dorsey High School, where the principal tried to get me to accept mediocrity with the excuse of "this is a Black school." I would be happy to buy her or anybody else that believes this nonsense a plane ticket to go check out the reality of the Harlem Children's Zone and other programs that no longer promote failure in public education. 

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12 2009

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