Sunday, November 04, 2007


Editorial from the AALA Update | Week of October 22, 2007

AALA is the Associated Administrators of LA, the LAUSD 'Principal's Union"

Grandchildren of AALA staff have toys called transformers. These are robot-like toys with moveable parts that allow the children to manipulate and twist them into various shapes and objects. Children play with these for long periods of time twisting and transforming the pieces.

Unfortunately, it appears that transformation in LAUSD is just such a toy. A variety of transformations have been proposed to make schools, especially secondary schools, more successful and raise the achievement levels of all students. During the past few weeks, we have heard about the 44 secondary school high priority district, the 94 school personalized middle school program, the Mayor's school communities, in addition to the Belmont Zone of Choice, small learning communities, and Boston pilot schools. Confusion in the field abounds as we attempt to sort out these various transformations, some of which no doubt overlap. These efforts while perhaps well-intentioned could be mere reactions to helping Superintendent Brewer "put his mark on the District." By the way, AALA does not believe LAUSD is a "failing District."

While AALA believes that all transformations may be a sincere attempt to address the real needs of schools struggling with very real problems, this proliferation of transforms is causing chaos instead of solution. Real problems such as overcrowded schools, high student-teacher ratios in classes, and safety concerns, among others, need to be addressed. However, real solutions only come about through thoughtful, consistent hard work. The needs of secondary schools must be focused and addressed. For instance, highly competent subject matter teachers with proven success in underperforming schools should be called upon to translate their successes into professional development for peers. School safety officials should assess the safety needs of students and staff. Facilities Division experts should explore ways to leverage space at overcrowded schools in order to lower the class-size norm. Class schedules should be adopted that allow students to spend more time on critical subjects. Well-designed intervention programs should be in place to assist students with tutoring as needed. Students need to be more involved in the development of their school programs through the use of elective courses. Personalized counseling needs to be enhanced. All of these ideas and others require hard work and channeled resources to the schools; they do not require a bureaucratic governance structure. They do need experienced and involved people to facilitate needed school discussions and to expedite resources. That is the true role of good management.

AALA hopes that the rhetoric around "the transformation of the day" and the creation of more divisions at the Beaudry central office will stop and the hard work will begin. Key District staff should analyze the API status of schools and support their needs to upgrade subgroup deficiencies. Money and time are limited; so, let us not waste either. AALA hopes that the Superintendent and his "brain trust" will spend time focusing on the things that are workable and well-thought-out, true practitioner-involved solutions. Transforming should not be like a child's toy twisting and turning with no practical end in sight.

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