By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | LA Daily News
18 Feb 2009 -- A coalition of civic, business, labor and education leaders Wednesday signed an ambitious agreement to reform Los Angeles public schools, setting a goal of a 100 percent graduation rate.
Modeled after the Boston Compact [a creation of the Boston Private Industry Council] signed nearly 30 years ago, the L.A. Compact counts 18 local groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, City Council, and the County Federation of Labor, which will lobby together for funding and legislative changes on behalf of local schools.
Addressing some criticism that the pact's goals were too lofty, such as aiming to have all graduates prepared to enter college, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines stressed the compact needs to be more than "words on paper."
"We need more than a bunch of signatures," Cortines said. "We need to make sure that these groups put into action these words. Then this will be an important document."
The agreement pools the resources of the various groups that can help fund programs at schools, like enrichment courses and internship opportunities, and meaningful research on education reform.
The pact is welcomed by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which struggles with an improving, yet still appalling, 52 percent graduation rate, and a massive budget deficit that has forced it to cut services and could even lead to a shorter school year.
One signature missing from the deal was A.J. Duffy, president of the powerful union United Teachers Los Angeles, representing more than 40,000 LAUSD teachers and counselors.
"We were a main force behind this compact and we helped guide the process," Duffy said. "But we need to make sure that this is a genuine partnership."
Maria Elena Durazo, who spoke on behalf of all labor unions, said the teachers union would still cooperate with various plans in the compact even though they did not sign.
Several goals in the compact require buy-in from the teachers union, including professional development programs and a commitment to finding new and more efficient ways of evaluating teachers.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a key proponent and partner of the compact, expressed concern about the teachers union decision to stay out of the agreement.
"I hope they realize that it is time to join together in an effort to transform schools."
Boston's teachers union also held out from signing that city's first compact in 1982, opting to join that coalition in 1989.
It has produced several academic gains for Boston, including increasing the college attendance rate from 50 percent in 1985 to 78 percent in 2007.
Still, even after 28 years, the agreement has missed the mark on other key goals, like improving the region's graduation rate, which has remained at 60 percent.
●●smf: Data driven to distraction: The statistics above seem to imply that 60% of students in Boston graduate from high school …but 78% attend college?
Over the years, the Boston Compact has had several iterations and phases. Originally a workforce development/summer jobs program it has followed the timelines and trends of school reform – becoming a accountability and measurement instrument and a provider of scholarships. In its second phase it embraced school based management and brought corporate funding to schools and mutual accountability between business, labor and government to various programs paralleling LEARN and LAAMP in LA.
An economic downturn reduced private & public investment and the good will, the partners fell out (stop me if this sounds familiar); the teachers union and the mayors office fell out and the politics got ugly. The mayor and the business community replaced the elected school board with an appointed one. High Stakes testing became popular. The Stanford Nine became the rage. Charter Schools were tried. Pilot Schools were invented. Results fluctuated and flat-lined.
- 28 years on The Boston Compact and Boston PIC generates studies and reports on the dropout crisis …but little results.
- Boston Public Schools is a district less than 10% the size of LA … it has a graduation rate about the same as LA.
- Boston’s graduation rate is the lowest of urban districts in Massachusetts …but it met the state AYP goal last year | http://bit.ly/99YzcR]
- Last year the BPS grad rate for Latino kids went down slightly | http://bit.ly/dbSbva
- It’s faint praise, but LAUSD does not have the lowest grad rate in California.
The politicians, organized labor and the chamber of commerce (The Compact is ©2010 Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce) are behind The new LA Compact – but the teachers are absent.
Parents weren’t even invited. What’s with that?
L.A. Compact - Downloadable Documents
Document downloads provided in Adobe Reader format (.pdf).
Prior to the signing of this "document," I attempted to learn what was in it, how it was negotiated, etc. I could find nothing. The website of the effort, www.lacompact.org, had the image of a hard-hat and an "Under Construction" sign. This one day before signature day. None of the major partners (AALA, County Fed, United Way, for example) had anything in their web sites, much less UTLA.
The fact that the publications of this effort are copyrighted by the LA Chamber of Commerce says volumes. To me, the signing ceremony was nothing more than Grand Kabuki and it will be just another Potemkin Village erected on behalf of LAUSD.
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