Senior Deputy Supt. Ray Cortines talks district reform with Times editors and reporters.
FROM LATIMES OPINION ONLINE
May 14, 2008 — On Tuesday, Ray Cortines, senior deputy superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, met with editors and reporters from The Times to discuss his return to the district that he headed years ago and his plans for quick reform of some L.A. Unified functions. Here is a short excerpt of that conversation, which begins with Cortines discussing algebra and also the school district's budget.
Ray Cortines: One of the things I'm talking with the superintendents and the middle school principals about is what are we doing in the middle schools. Algebraic concepts should not begin with algebra. It should begin in kindergarten or pre-school, and it should move through the system.
If some of our children are having problems, we should have introduction to algebra in the sixth grade. We should have pre-algebra in the seventh grade. And we should have algebra in the eighth grade. And we do in some schools. But [some] high schools will not accept the algebra on the transcripts that has been given in the middle school. That's arrogant.
It should be the same course, middle school or senior high, and if a kid is successful, they get credit for it.
Karin Klein, L.A. Times: So kids who took algebra in eighth grade had to repeat it in ninth grade?
Cortines: Some. Not in every school. Based on the senior high school…. And I understand why some teachers did that, but it's not fair to kids…. If a kid plans and you're successful in doing that, that gives you some options in high school….
See, we organize schools around adults, not around children and their families. And we get away with it because kids are poor
That's insidious racism.
Mitchell Landsberg, L.A. Times: Are you looking at [budget cuts] as an opportunity to decentralize the district by reining in the central office?
Cortines: The answer is yes. I did that when I was here in 2000, and I'm doing it again. But I have to tell you, that's only Phase 1. Because I talk about trying to protect schools and classrooms, and I've just given you several examples of the rigidity of schools. And so that's an issue that I'm going to have to deal with. I'm not going to deal with that tomorrow. That's a year away, as I lay a strategic plan.
I told you I was doing a reorganization of central around functional lines. I've tried to look at function and where things belong.
Also, I'm going to get started very shortly… on a strategic plan for the district. That involves members of the community as well as the educational community.
Is it going to be high and lofty? No. I'm even going to call it "preliminary strategic" because I want it practical. A strategic plan is nothing more than a roadmap. We need a roadmap. I should have it now, but I don't. I should have it for this July for multi-track schools, but I can't. And I won't have it for this September. But we're going to get into it. And it may be only half a year, but it looks at benchmarks and reporting back, the issue of constant follow-up.
There's just so much to be done….
Klein: When the superintendency was most recently open, you declined to apply. Should the superintendency happen to open up again in the near future, would you apply.
Cortines: No. [pause] I would expect to be appointed.