Monday, May 24, 2010


by Howard Blume | L.A. Times LA Now blog

May 24, 2010 |  4:55 pm -- Eight low-performing Los Angeles-area schools and nine new campuses will be open to bids from groups inside and outside the school system, officials announced Monday. The winning bidders would take over management of these schools in the fall of 2011.

The two high schools on the list are Huntington Park High and Los Angeles High in Mid-Wilshire. Most are middle schools: Audubon in Leimert Park, Clay in unincorporated West Athens, Harte in Vermont Vista, Mann in unincorporated Westmont and Muir in Vermont-Slauson. Woodcrest, also in Westmont, is the sole elementary school.

Except for the high schools, all the low-performing campuses are, broadly speaking, in low-income minority neighborhoods north and west of the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways.

This is round two of bidding under a school-control process that the Los Angeles Board of Education approved last year. A first round concluded in February for 12 struggling schools and 18 new campuses. Teacher-led groups claimed most of the campuses, with a handful going to charter schools and the education nonprofit controlled by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Independently operated charter schools were unhappy at being shut out from most of the new campuses in the L. A. Unified School District. Their discontent has continued into the spring over disagreements with the school system over the distribution of classrooms districtwide. Under state law, charters are entitled to "reasonably equivalent" facilities.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, charters complained that they typically receive only leftover classroom space, if that, often in unworkable configurations.

District officials insisted that charter schools are being treated equitably, given competing demands on space and resources.

To become eligible for outside control, a school had to fall short of federal improvement targets for at least the last five years and score less than 600 on the state’s Academic Performance Index, which is based almost entirely on test scores. These schools also have improved less than 100 points on the state index over the last five years. In addition, less than 20% of students are proficient in English or math. And the high schools have a dropout rate greater than 10%.

As with the first group of schools, the bidding process will include public information sessions, non-binding school-level votes by parents and staff, and then a recommendation by L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. The school board will make the final selections.

These “focus schools” can escape this bidding process if this spring's test scores show marked improvement when they are released in the fall.

Fifteen other schools also met the criteria based on data, but they already are engaged in substantial reform efforts, officials said.

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