Friday, January 14, 2011


Howard Blume in LA Times/LA Now |

January 13, 2011 |  8:24 am - The immediate reaction was disbelief, disappointment and anger among teachers at Jordan High School, who learned Wednesday that they will have to re-interview for their jobs.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines announced Wednesday the low-performing school in Watts would be restructured, and all employees would have to reapply.

"I'm really devastated," said one teacher at the Watts school, who asked not to be named because she could lose her job. "The only reason that I hang in there is that I love the kids so much, even when they don't love me."

Under the restructuring plan, employees will be eligible for jobs elsewhere in the nation's second-largest school system.

The plan will divide the Jordan High campus into three small schools run by outside entities. The school's principal told the staff in an after-school meeting Wednesday that two of the three groups were nonprofit charters: The Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and Green Dot Public Schools.

Charters are free and publicly funded but privately operated. The third group is the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit that manages 15 schools on behalf of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Several staff members reacted angrily when the school's chapter chairman for the teachers union suggested that the mayor's group might be better because his schools operate under the collective bargaining agreement.

"You already going to divide us with that one!" a staff member shouted at him.

About 100 school staffers attended the meeting, at which Principal Evelyn Mahmud conceded that she was still learning the relevant details herself.

"We're flying the plane as we're building the engine -- literally," she said. "So there are a lot of unknowns at this point."

Mahmud, in her second year as principal, was brought in last year after serving as the top administrator at Dorsey High School. She noted in an interview that her future at the school also is uncertain.

The school next to the Jordan Downs housing project and other subsidized housing serves students from low-income minority neighborhoods plagued by gangs and crime.

Parents were notified in an automated phone message Wednesday evening and will be receiving letters in the mail, officials said.

David Starr Jordan Senior High

2265 East 103rd St., Los Angeles, 90002

David Starr Jordan Senior High

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  • Public school in the Los Angeles Unified district.
  • Grades 9-12
  • 1,799 students
  • 103 faculty members
  • Source: California Department of Education

    Sandra Poindexter, Ben Welsh Los Angeles Times


RESCUING JORDAN HIGH: L.A. Unified's plan to save the failing school should be seen for what it is — a special, emergency fix.

LA Times Editorial |

January 14, 2011 - Ordinarily, we'd rail against a decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District to hand over a school to outside operators without a vote of the teachers, without consulting parents, without an open discussion or an opportunity for existing staff to offer a competing proposal. But Jordan High School's record isn't ordinary. The school performs so poorly that only 2% of its students are proficient in math; the picture for English isn't much better.

According to school officials, Jordan will be split into three separate entities, each run by an outside group: Green Dot Public Schools, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. These are three well-run organizations that have demonstrated particular diligence in working with inner-city schools. However, both the mayor's partnership and Green Dot have learned from some of their other schools that when outside operators have to accept all of the students within their boundaries, they don't often see the same stellar results that they typically get when they enroll their students via lotteries. It's always easier to look good when motivated students and parents from a broader area sign up to fill a school.

Jordan's teachers should receive credit for raising standardized test scores for several years at the school with a largely impoverished population of students who come from gang-infested housing projects. The improvements were incremental, but they did meet most of the state's targets and over time were significant. Jordan has fallen short of federal targets year after year — a failure that gave the district the authority to hand the school over to outside operators — but the federal standards are so poorly crafted that many a good school has been labeled a failure.

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Ultimately, it's the on-campus reality that matters. Jordan is not a good school. Not even mediocre. It's in the bottom 10% in the state. Its students have about a 1-in-3 chance of graduating at all, much less graduating ready for a job or college. It failed to test enough students this year to have the state take its full measure. The school was given the opportunity to turn itself around by joining the mayor's partnership in 2008, but both parents and teachers rejected that option, yet did little to improve the situation on their own.

In the future we would rather see L.A. Unified make more of an effort to improve its own schools — as it did by reconstituting Fremont High — than outsource them without public discussion or competing proposals. This might be the only viable option right now for Jordan, but it's not the way to build a stronger school district in the long term.

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