Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mash-Up Madness Tamar Galatzan Vs. notyet LAUSD

I love mash-ups







In the spirit of Mash-ups I've taken Tamar Galatzan's recent LA Times Op-ed on the need for reform®.  Tamar's words remain unchanged.  notyetLAUSD is in red



By Tamar Galatzan  and notyet LAUSD

November 29, 2011 and December 1, 2011

Our school system is fracturing. While the Los Angeles Unified School District and its bargaining partners, the unions, endlessly debate how best to fix the system, parents and students are walking away from LAUSD. People move, the economy sucks and LA is high rent.

 I know because I'm not only a member of the school board, I'm the mother of two elementary school students in the district. 

Traditional, district-run schools are seen as bureaucratic, handcuffed by red tape, and a growing number of parents are choosing charter schools instead.
The op-ed opinion of the head of our school district.  I like charter schools because they can kick out the kids we don’t like and my child is surrounded by other children whose parents were motivated, like me, to take the time to apply.   There are now nearly 200 charter and affiliated-charter schools in Los Angeles serving nearly 100,000 students. Each charter approved by the Board.  These are public schools run by private organizations, with more autonomy than traditional schools. They take public money, they are not mandated to teach every child like a traditional school.  Can we stop calling charters public.  The assumption (Good word choice here) is that, except for the hard-to-get-into magnets or the highest-performing neighborhood schools, the best way to get a good education in L.A. is to head for classrooms dedicated to reform.  As a parent do I send my child to the school with the 900 API score but a 2.2 AGT or do I send my kid to the 650 API school with a 5.0 AGT.  If I really cared about my child learning I would send them to a high AGT school, but any self respecting parent would send their kid to the 900 API school.    Not surprisingly, a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 52% of respondents had a favorable opinion of charters, while only 24% considered traditional schools effective.  Cherry picked goodness.

In fact, that's not true. But one thing is clear: If LAUSD wants to compete for students
What students are public schools competing for?  Which students are more desirable than others.  Competing for students is like Grand Theft Auto, hit the high CST scorers and your school get points but if you hit the uninvolved parent that won’t apply to a “choice” system then your school loses points., and if it wants to survive and thrive as a system, it needs to encourage reform, innovation and excellence at every school, from every teacher and every principal. It needs to champion reform, from the inside out. What “reform” are you talking about the pejorative sense of reform®, those reforms don’t actually improve student outcomes.  Why don't we stop making races and competitions for a universal right?  


 To do that means removing impediments to change.
 The district's central administration needs to be more flexible and open. But that alone won't lead to reform from within the district. We also need the district's partners, the unions, to become more flexible.  Does this mean central administration will actually sign off a single ESBBM waiver.


For example, district schools need to be allowed to control their destinies. That means giving them local control over their finances and over professional development. It means giving individual schools the ability to hire their own staff, using criteria that aren't limited to seniority. And it means allowing schools to adopt a stronger, fairer, more complete teacher evaluation system.
Does this mean when a community picks a principal, they will actually get their first or second choice and not a Deasy must place (see Woodland Hills academy in your district).  I’m not against changing the stull, but it would be nice if my administrator actually did the current 1 page stull.  I doubt giving me two administrators with 63 measures multiple times over the year is actually going to do anything positive for me.  I’m not against choosing new hiring criteria, but we had a system up to 2007 for dealing with hard to staff schools equitably that the board dismantled.   As for the value of seniority, Thomas Kane, patron saint of Value Added has shown consistently that seniority beats out the inexperienced (save for TFA kids who are test obsessed teachers, typically not in it for the long haul).    When we say control destinies who gets to define a successful school, the community or Central still gets final say.  If LAUSD had made the model T their slogan would've been “you can paint your car any color you want as long as it ends up black.”  What good is community input if the only yardstick $5 billion LAUSD will use is the State's CST scores.

The district and the union have already agreed to loosen contract rules in some instances — for specific pilot programs, and under waivers for plans submitted under the Public School Choice program. PSC allows district outsiders (mostly charter operators) or insiders (teachers and administrators) to apply to institute a reform plan at failing schools. But the union has capped pilot programs, and waivers are hard to get. 
And central doesn’t sign off on a waiver when a community asks for one.

On top of that, as a board member, I've been told that teachers and administrators are pressured to submit only PSC plans that conform to union rules.  In the end, district insiders are often frustrated because the outsiders' PSC applications tend to win the day — often because the outsiders can provide the reforms and local school control parents want. 
How does a school plan lose to a charter, when the charter never even applied to run the school (Clay MS).   Are you saying you vote for Charter backed plans simply because they don’t have union rules.  Do you even bother to read the plans to see which one serves the community best?  Do you know the needs of schools that are not in your community    Are you aware that 80% of charters do not outperform their public peers?

The origin of union rules and the reasoning behind the union contract protections are understandable. An overwhelming majority of our teachers work hard, in challenging conditions. They are not paid what they are worth to Los Angeles. But even with appropriate protections from angry parents and unfair supervisors, union rules were never meant to prevent flexibility or accountability or to force out talented new teachers. 
Duh, that is why talented officials at the district came up with means to distribute these talented teachers across the district and shield them from layoffs.  This is also where Board members that authorize charters that do not outperform their public peers could close low performing charters and return those class seats and teaching positions back to the “young talented teacher.”  BTW the research suggests such rookies teachers are extremely uncommon.


Going charter cannot be the only viable to path to reform for Los Angeles schools.
But it is the only one the Board votes for, see affiliated charter school boom in 900 API plus schools desperate to keep those low performers from transferring in.  The union must give our teachers and principals the chance to generate in-district reform, or the LAUSD ( I think you meant The LAUSD) will splinter. The district is packed with principals and teachers with passion, energy and innovative ideas.  These ideas can happen with existing rules, it takes teachers and administrators to take the time to read the rules and make their ideas work. .  It's time to support them, with compromises to increase pilot programs and waivers, with support that will increase their success in taking charge of PSC schools, and with new contracts that allow teachers and principals — the district insiders — to be reformers too.  We must experiment with your top down ®eforms?  Why doesn't Central start signing off on internal reforms (ESBMM and others) and then we talk about what contract rules need to change.  


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