Antonio Villaraigosa Mayor of the City of Los Angeles in the Huffington Post
Posted: September 9, 2009 09:21 PM
I grew up in Boyle Heights with my mother, who each day instilled in me the value of education. Studying wasn't an option; it was mandatory. My life could have easily taken a wrong turn, but having my mother as a support system kept me on track -- well at least most of the time -- helped me get into college, opened countless doors for me, and made me the person I am today.
To kick-off the first day of school for the students of Los Angeles Unified School District -- including the Partnership Schools I oversee -- I visited some schools, one of which was 99th Street Elementary School in Watts. Before the Partnership took over, 99th St. was one of the lowest performing schools in the entire LAUSD. But in one short year, the students at 99th St. have exhibited double-digit growth in the percentage of students scoring Proficient and Advanced in English Language Arts and Mathematics. To put this in perspective, their students scored in the top 2% of all LAUSD elementary schools in terms of growth in English Language Arts and Mathematics. This is the sort of metrics-driven change that all public schools need to strive for -- and also be held accountable to achieve.
What was the cause of this improvement? Well, I think it was a combination of Principal Sherri Williams' vision and the leadership of teachers and staff as well as the dedicated parents who played a very active role in their child's education. They went "beyond the bake sale" and participated in programs like "Donuts with Dad" and "Muffins with Moms," which are designed to ensure that families are informed of their child's progress, and to show them how to best support their learning at home. Now, not all of our schools saw this sort of improvement. Some schools didn't have as high test scores, but they made other gains in areas like student safety or attendance. Ultimately, what's important is that we are committed to increasing student achievement by changing a status quo that has been failing our children.
We are entering a new era of accountability and reform in Los Angeles schools. In addition to the progress of the Partnership Schools, which in just it's first year saw encouraging test results, we've elected a new, reform-minded School Board, and gotten the landmark School Choice Motion passed, which will bring reform and accountability to our failing schools and to our new schools. This motion will bring real change to our schools and will finally put students and their education first. The stakes are too high for us not to hold ourselves accountable.