LAUSD's API Scores and Alzheimer's

On Wednesday the California Department of Education released the 2009 Academic Performance Index (API) scores for schools in California. At LAUSD the news that 72% of its schools were in the lower half in terms of performance of all schools throughout the state didn't seem to bother LAUSD leadership very much. No matter how badly students perform on the API or other assessments, a successful career in LAUSD administration still means that you are incapable of seeing that anything is wrong.

This is attested to by the contemporaneous appointment of Michelle King to succeed Jim Morris as LAUSD Chief of Staff to Superintendent Ramon Cortines. "A brilliant, innovative and versatile leader, Michelle King never loses sight of our primary mission: Educating children," Superintendent Ramon Cortines said. "She is a veteran educator who has excelled in every assignment. I look forward to her bringing continuity to the position." King who is presently superintendent of Local District 3 for LAUSD immediately let us know that she would follow LAUSD's policy of being oblivious to the reality of awful API scores when she immediately said, "I got a great education in [the district]. I was well prepared for college and did well at one of the top universities in the nation," she said. "I have sent my three children to schools in this district. I believe we do a good job in LAUSD, a great job."

Is this early onset Alzheimer's or just a woman who knows what it takes to advance her career at LAUSD by giving homage to the District's number one tenet: Speak No Evil. For a person like Michelle King who says, "I miss children. I love children of all ages. When I am not in a classroom or in schools in general, I miss the energy of students and being connected to them. When you are connected to students, your purpose is ever present in front of you at all times." In order for her professed love of children to be taken at face value, Ms. King must be suffering from either early onset Alzheimer's or some rare form of institutional amnesia that seems to afflict most LAUSD administrators with the symptoms getting worse the closer one gets to the top of the LAUSD heap.

King said. "In the classroom, I loved seeing the inquisitiveness in the eyes of my students, their energy and their excitement to learn new things. Isn't it a fair question to ask if there is so much energy and excitement about learning new things then why cannot 72% of LAUSD's students show this love and accomplishment of learning on better API scores? While Hispanic students have a modest rise of 15 point on the APIs to 670 and African American students came up by 11 points to 641, these scores are still close to 200 points below what more affluent suburbs achieve on the same tests. One is not bothered about this if one really has no expectation that students of color ever attain parity with their White and Asian counterparts.

While LAUSD confines itself to touting the 158 schools on this year's APIs that attained 800 API scores out of 1044 schools in the District, they always fail to divulge that these schools exist mostly in wealthier pockets of Los Angeles or in communities where minority parents have finally had enough of watching LAUSD fail their children. These parents have somehow gotten the strengthen to stand up and advocate on behalf of their children. LAUSD is not alone in this failure of students and one can see that even where an inspired principal or teaching staff has beaten the mediocrity that afflicts most innercity school districts, the commitment of public school administrators is to regress these schools back to underachievement as quickly as possible, so as it does not become an embarrassment for self-satisfied and habitually underachieving LAUSD administration who just loooove children.

Two examples of this phenomenon -- one inside LAUSD and one outside -- are Bunche Elementary School in the equally failed Compton Disunified School District. At Bunche several years ago, Teach for America teacher and Principal Mikara Solomon Davis was able to lead the school to 868 API scores on a level with Beverly Hills even though she had no teaching or administrative credentials. Now Bunche is down to 768 API with a goal for 2010 of 773 API where Solomon Davis' earlier achievement seems forgotten. At Dorsey where a friend of mine taught English, he was able to get 90% of his class to pass the CAHSEE in a school that normally cannot get enough students to take assessment examinations to even post a schoolwide score. For doing this, his contract was not renewed.

On a personal level for those of you have followed my own saga as Prisioner of LAUSD, it does gall me that present LAUSD Chief of Staff Jim Morris will leave the district at the end of June 2010 without ever being held accountable for the damage that his equally clueless approach has caused. I promise him that I will not forget his malfeasance and believe that at some point in the not too distant future I will be able to hold him accountable. Unless LAUSD administration clearly knows that there are consequences for what they do wrong, it is a pipe dream to believe that things will get better. Tomorrow I am going to meet with parents who share this belief with the hope that good teachers, parents, and students will finally realize that as people who want accountable change, they are in the vast majority.

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