Friday, January 22, 2010

HISTORIC TIME FOR ‘CHOICE’ IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS + DO THE APPLICANTS HAVE WHAT IT TAKES? - Parents, students and teachers are urged to get informed; selected school operators may control schools for five years.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, Gloria Alvarez, Paul Aranda Jr, and Eloisa España  | Eastern Group Publications - Eastside Sun / Northeast Sun / Mexican American Sun / Bell Gardens Sun / City Terrace Comet / Commerce Comet / Montebello Comet / Monterey Park Comet / ELA Brookyln Belvedere Comet / Wyvernwood Chronicle / Vernon Sun

21 January - Following a historic vote last summer, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is initiating revolutionary changes for some of its most underperforming schools as well as 24 new campuses set to open next fall.

As part of the District’s Public School Choice (PSC) Resolution, school operations will no longer be the sole responsibility of the LAUSD, but may be turned over to new school management teams that are convinced they have a better plan to raise student achievement and graduation rates.

Clockwise from top  left: Esteban Torres High School (rendering), Luther Burbank Middle School, James A. Garfield High School, and Abraham Lincoln High School

Clockwise from top left: Esteban Torres High School (rendering), Luther Burbank Middle School, James A. Garfield High School, and Abraham Lincoln High School

Starting today, presentation teams will be in East and Northeast Los Angeles communities to discuss proposals submitted to the LAUSD for schools included in the PSC plan. Some meetings have already been held in other parts of the District.

In the Northeast area, students at Burbank Middle School (Highland Park) and Abraham Lincoln High School (Lincoln Heights) could find themselves in schools radically different than previous generations. The same could be said for Eastside students at James A. Garfield High School. The new Esteban Torres High school in East L.A. is also part of the upcoming changes. Due to its placement in the mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Roosevelt is exempt from the new plan.

The community meetings mark the latest stage in the implementation of the Public School Choice Resolution, approved by school board members in August 2009.

Many view PSC as the District’s most progressive attempt in years to address the poor test scores and high dropout rates that have plagued many schools for decades. The resolution allows LAUSD educators, charter school operators, partnerships and non-profits to submit plans to operate designated schools. For-profit entities were not allowed to submit a plan.

The presentations are expected to provide a wide-array of educational experiences and philosophies. The range of proposals include pilot schools, specialized academies run by current teachers and charter schools run by large charter operators. At Garfield, one of the plans is from a neighboring school district.

Burbank, Lincoln and Garfield are among 12 existing schools selected based on the following criteria: “Program Improvement 3+” status, which means they have been under-performing for five or more years; zero to negative growth in Academic Performance Index (API) for the 2008-2009 year; Less than 21 percent  of students scoring proficient or advanced on either the Mathematics or English Language Arts California Standards Test; and a drop-out rate greater than 10 percent, according to a Dec. 2009 LAUSD memo.

Following the public presentations, the District will conduct internal reviews of each application, according to the Public School Choice Timeline Appendix. Advisory votes on each application will be taken in February.

Advisory votes are open to the public, including parents and guardians of students attending the selected school, a designated feeder school, or schools set to be relieved as in the case of Torres High.

A review panel for each school will present the advisory votes, community feedback and analyze each plan before making a recommendation to the Superintendent.

The Superintendent will share the advisory recommendations with the school board when he makes his recommendations sometime in February, according to LAUSD. The Board is scheduled to vote on February 23.

Selected applicants will operate the school for five years. The school will be reviewed twice a year, with a report submitted to the Board and Superintendent annually, according to the district. The public will be able to monitor the progress through LAUSD School Report Cards.

For more details, visit


Do the School Choice Applicants Have What it Takes?

EGP Staff has put together a guide to the strategies proposed by applicants that think they can improve academic performance at Garfield, Lincoln and Esteban Torres High Schools and Luther Burbank Middle School.

By EGP Staff Reports

Garfield High School:  Garfield’s 2009 API Growth is 595,the school failed to make a five percent improvement from the previous year. The 2008 Base API was 597.

Applicant: Garfield Faculty and Administrators with Aupport from Local District 5.

Applicant proposes using four inter-related curricular strategies to reform student achievement: (1) Literacy and numeracy courses; (2) A multi-tiered system of instructional strategies; (3) A professional development routine and (4) a cooperating team of small learning communities. Each student’s curricular path will be tailored to meet student’s individual needs and interests, including those requiring Special Education or identified as Gifted or English learners.

Applicant intends to establish six cooperative small learning communities in addition to the existing Computer Science Magnet — College and Career Readiness Academy, Global Studies Academy, Green Architecture Design Academy (GADA), Humanitas Academy of Media Arts, Teacher Career and Performing Arts Academy, University Preparatory Program — each with its own advisory group of parents, community members, and students. When they mature to six separate small schools, each will have its own School Site Council, bilingual and Title I committees, and a shared decision council.

An “intervention friendly’ schedule will allow students to take extra classes to improve skills or for enrichment while still completing the A-G requirements, and allow more professional development time for teachers. Applicant will aggressively pursue increasing the number of minority students with disabilities in GATE and taking Advanced Placement classes. The school will move from a three-track, year-round schedule to a traditional one-track schedule.

The assumption is that the school will receive approximately the same funding, ADA and enrollment-based state and federal revenue, throughout the five-year proposal.

State mandated assessments, CAHSEE, CELDT, and others will be administered. Athletics and extracurricular activities will be continued and supported.

Applicant: Green Architectural Design Academy (GADA)

GADA is an existing small learning community at Garfield High School seeking continuation through the PSC program. The academy’s curriculum emphasizes learning opportunities in the fields of green technology and architecture, along with the required A-G core classes needed for college admission. Applicant calls it a three-year pathway to raise test scores, increase graduation rates, and prepare students for entry into the career fields around green architecture.

GADA is funded by the state through 2012, when the first class graduates. The academy’s 500 students in grades 10 through 12 include the requisite number of students from the attendance area and special education students.

The state provides regular training and oversight of the academy’s expenditures. Community, educational and industry partnerships are being developed to provide funding, training, guidance and student internships.

GADA Instructional Methods include progressively challenging project-based learning around green architectural themes. Students will engage in a real-life, real-time project in constructing a “green auditorium” at the school.

GADA emphasizes key CAHSEE and CST tests standards and provided appropriate intervention and assistance and teacher directed study to raise passing and proficiency rates. GADA will use Specifically Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE strategies) in all classrooms with English Learners. Special Education students will be fully included in intervention and modification programs directed by special education personnel.

GADA will follow the same single or multi-track calendar as Garfield, but with a block class schedule to facilitate remediation and credit recovery for at-risk students.

Applicant: Montebello Unified School District (MUSD)

MUSD, like the Los Angeles Unified School District, is a public educational organization under the California State Department of Education. It is bound by state policy and the Educational Code to adhere to certain operating procedures. MUSD says the student demographics at Garfield are very similar to those of the MUSD, but MUSD has higher graduation rates and API scores. Over 300 Garfield area transfer students currently attend Schurr, Montebello and Bell Gardens High School in the MUSD.

Garfield would be incorporated into MUSD’s 5-year strategic plan to increase student achievement through a rigorous standards based curriculum that includes access to Honors and AP Courses, A-G core curriculum, and career-themed Multiple Pathway (Small Learning Communities), teacher development and a safety net for students who need support to meet CST, CAHSEE or CELDT benchmarks. Parent and community participation opportunities will be available through school site committees. MUSD will provide service to LAUSD identified “high-priority” students.

MUSD expressed confidence in current Garfield staff, and said it would remove instructional impediments to promote instructional momentum. MUSD Superintendent and Board of Education will provide leadership/governance over Garfield.

Revenue would be based on ADA and enrollment-based Federal and State categorical funding, and other grant opportunities. Athletics and extracurricular activities will be continued and supported.

Abraham Lincoln Senior High School: The school’s 2009 API is 587, down from 608 in 2008.

Applicant: The Lincoln High School Focus Team

The focus team is comprised of existing administration, classified personnel and teachers at the school, as well as students and parent groups. The primary goal is to create five Small Learning Communities (SLC) and implement block scheduling.

The SLC’s include; Law, Business and Government, aims to prepare students for college and knowledge necessary for entry-level jobs in law, government or business; Science for Global Studies emphasis on academic skills, preparation and motivation to successfully pursue university degree’s in science, technology and engineering; VOICE (Victory Over Ignorance Through Culture) focuses on creating awareness of social and political inequalities for the purpose of self-empowerment and the development of critical-thinking skills; Math, Science and Technology Magnet is a college-preparatory program with strong emphasis on science, mathematics and computer technology; Humanitas will provide students with an interdisciplinary curriculum for students entering the workforce after graduation; and Medical and Health Careers, a health and medical career-focused education program.

Applicant will adopt a semester block schedule to allow students to complete more courses in four years, and more time to assist students with low-standardized test scores with additional English and math courses. Students can use extra periods for SLC related enrichment courses. The enrollment policy for Lincoln High School will comply with identified LAUSD attendance boundaries and admission requirements for English Learners, Special Educations, and students with disabilities.

A student coordinating committee will be created to allow students to participate in the decision making of their SLC. A school governance council, comprised of teacher representatives, administrators and student representatives, parents and community members will oversee the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the school.

Applicant: The Law, Leadership in Entertainment and Media Arts (LEMA) Pilot

Applicant includes veteran LAUSD teachers supported by Local District 5 and Local District 4’s Pilot School Director. LEMA proposes to operate as a small independent school on the Lincoln High School campus. All LEMA students will be allowed to participate in extracurricular clubs and sports teams from the main campus.

LEMA’s objective is to provide students with a solid background knowledge of law along with the technical skills emphasized in the entertainment industry, through a program that engages students in learning and practice, improving the school’s graduation and test passage rate.

LEMA proposes to lengthen the school day, (8:00 am to 3:30 pm) and adopt a trimester calendar to allow students to complete 15 classes each year. Students may be able to finish high school early and participate in work-study programs or enroll in community college courses for free. The trimester calendar will allow struggling students extra time to finish yearlong courses and improve tests scores.

LEMA will implement eHIGH (extended high school) where students will participate in intervention, enhancement and acceleration programs (i.e. Internships) after school, on Saturdays and during vacations. LEMA will create financial incentives for students for academic achievement, attendance and performance on standardized tests. The incentives will be offered through eHIGH internships, workforce education and jobs programs.

As a pilot school, LEMA would have autonomy over its budget, governance, staffing and curriculum, and be exempt from certain Board Rules and District policies, and provisions of the UTLA contract.

Luther Burbank Middle School:

Applicant: Luther Burbank Middle School submitted three individual proposals for the school as an internal applicant. The school proposes re-naming the school Luther Burbank Learning Complex (LBLC) composed of three grade-specific small pilot schools and the recently opened magnet schools (Luther Burbank Math-Science-Technology Magnet and Luther Burbank Police Academy Magnet). The Learning Complex may be similar to the Civitas School of Leadership near downtown L.A.

—Luther Burbank Sixth Grade Science, Technology, English Arts & Mathematics “S.T.E.A.M.” Pilot School

The STEAM Pilot school aims to give 6th grade students a strong background in core courses to help them successfully transition to middle school. The transition pilot will intentionally create a setting similar to an elementary school but instead of one teacher, students will experience two to four teachers in their first year. Students will be offered learning opportunities and support before and after school; parents and students can access the student’s progress and grades at least once a week.

Students will be introduced to their Individual Learning Plan per LAUSD, teachers will use the Understanding by Design instructional model which includes communicating with 5th and 7th/8th grade teachers about “how” each student learn best.

STEAM will have multiple layers of school governance that will encourage parent participation, and the creation of a Board of Trustees made up by school community stakeholder groups. The Board will not make decisions, but will represent groups and report to the principal and School Site Council.

The STEAM fiscal plan will focus on Pilot-Per-Pupil budgeting formula. Other costs will include reducing the student to teacher ratio to 27 to one, two weeks of training for teachers prior to the new school year, funding for the AVID program, and buses for trips to colleges.

Burbank Middle School Proposal for the seventh grade “Luther Burbank Intermediate School for Environmental Studies”

The Environmental Studies Pilot philosophy is that very child can and will learn through direct experiences with nature; three-fourths of an acre on the campus will be dedicated to cultivation and xenoscaping. Student’s daily schedule consists of an advisory period for 40 minutes where they can engage in collaborative projects and/or service-based learning focused on an environmental issue. There will be daily intervention or enrichment for 55 minutes depending on a student’s progress. After school tutoring and support will be available. Students will be taught to analyze their own progress and be able to explain it to their parents. Students will have an Individual Learning Plan and one semester of Technology Skills.

Instruction will be collaborative, reflective, innovated and connected. Intervention programs will address individual student needs. School governance and fiscal plan will be similar to the Sixth Grade STEAM Pilot.

Partnerships will continue with the Hathaway House, Los Angeles Police and Probation Departments, Occidental College and CSU Los Angeles.

First-year goals for the pilot include increasing by 10 percent students scoring Proficient or Advanced on CST in English Language Arts and Math, Science and Social Studies, and increase by 10 percent the performance of students identified as Standard English Learners (SEL).

—Burbank Middle School Proposal for Eighth Grade “Luther Burbank Intermediate School for Humanities and Arts”

The Humanities and Arts Pilot will offer dance, theater, music and visual arts in addition to core subjects, and foster an environment of support with the goal of cultivating independent and thoughtful learners who will pursue a higher education and become active and creative citizens.

Arts will be incorporated into the curriculum and will build upon the student’s knowledge and “what it means to be a human being living in a culturally diverse community; the goal is connecting to their life experiences,” the proposal states. No student will be turned away based on talent in art fields.

Students will have group and cooperative learning, project-based and problem-based learning opportunities, public speaking and leadership opportunities, and give/receive peer feedback on assignments.

The education plan, governance and fiscal plan will be similar to the STEAM and Environmental Studies Pilot Schools.

Esteban Torres High Schools #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Esteban Torres High Schools is a newly built educational complex scheduled to open in September 2010. The school complex was designed to accommodate five separate high schools. Students will come from the Garfield and Roosevelt attendance areas, relieving overcrowding at those schools. Eight separate applications were submitted for the five schools.

Applications include two applications each from charter school operators Alliance for College Ready Schools and Green Dot Public Schools, and one from The Design High School; together they currently operate 36 charter schools. They propose to operate the five high schools under the name of “Esteban Torres Family of Schools.”

Individual applications were also received from the Social Justice Leadership Academy, The Humanitas Art and Technology Academy, East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy, East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy and a team from Local District 5, under the name of the Energy & Technology Academy. A summary of these applications will be updated soon.

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