By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
03/22/2010 -- Eight more Los Angeles Unified schools, including three in the San Fernando Valley, have been added to a list of California's lowest-performing campuses, making a total of 31 local schools eligible for federal improvement grants, state officials said Monday.
San Fernando High, Sylmar High and Sun Valley Middle schools were among the campuses added to the list after concerns were raised that some chronically poor performers had been overlooked. Each school on the list can apply for up to $6 million in federal grants earmarked for making drastic reforms by this fall, such as replacing the entire staff or converting to an independently run charter school.
Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools:
Approved by the State Board of Education on March 11, 2010. – these lists predate the “state officials said Monday” info, which is not yet posted online.
"I welcome change and the opportunity for reform ... but this is being thrown at us so close to the end of the year," said Mauricio Regalado, a Sylmar High School teacher. "How much change do they expect us to come up with in three months?"
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines took issue with the state Department of Education list, saying that the criteria erroneously excluded some schools that should have been in line for reform.
"This list is an embarrassment to the district and the state," Cortines wrote in a letter sent last week.
For example, he would have included Fremont High School, where just 2 percent of the students are proficient in math and where all of the teachers are already having to reapply for their jobs because of a reform effort.
But an improvement in standardized test scores kept Fremont off the list while 3-year-old East Valley High School was included.
State officials conceded that some districts may disagree with the selection process, but they believe their assessment is correct.
"This list has been approved by the state Board of Education and is now only pending approval from the U.S. Department of Education," said Rachel Perry, a director with the California Department of Education, said
"To my knowledge there is no way of getting off this list now through any other form of waiver process."
The list released earlier this month as a product of a package of state laws passed last year designed to make California more competitive for federal stimulus money.
Statewide, 188 schools were selected based on a broad range of criteria that included an evaluation of academic performance, standardized test scores and graduation rates.
Applicants for the grants will have to choose from one of four reform strategies: replace the entire staff; close the campus and transfer the students; convert to a charter school; or lengthen the school day and overhaul the instructional program.
All changes must be implemented by this fall.
In the meantime teachers and principals at the affected schools are awaiting instructions on how to proceed with reforms while working to finish the current year and prepare students for state testing in May.
"I still have questions, but for now we have to deal with what we have right now, which is preparing our kids to take the California Standards Test and for a rigorous and relevant education," said Betty Riley, principal of Robert Fulton College Preparatory School.
"I am not going to pull away from that."