Sunday, August 14, 2011


By Alan Bonsteel,M.D., president of California Parents for Educational Choice in the Daily News |

08/14/2011 01:00:00 AM PDT - The California Department of Education made an announcement on Thursday that will have earthshaking impact on the entire state.

For the first time, it acknowledged the massive numbers of County Office of Education dropouts that have been largely invisible to the public. It also acknowledged the existence of the significant numbers of especially tragic dropouts who do not even complete middle school before dropping out.

The County Offices of Education teach juvenile hall detainees, special education and disruptive students who have been expelled from district schools. Surveys by our own organization, California Parents for Educational Choice, have shown that only one California voter in four is aware even of the existence of these schools, an invisibility that has allowed them to lose more than three-quarters of their students to dropping out without the public noticing. It will not come as a surprise, then, that the Los Angeles County Office of Education is a bigger dropout factory, percentage-wise, than Los Angeles Unified School District.

For years the California Department of Education alternatively claimed that students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades -- what used to be called junior high school -- either weren't dropping out, or, if they were, they weren't high school dropouts because they hadn't even started high school.

These explosive realities have been known for decades to dropout researchers, but hidden from the public. What changed in California was the passage of Senate Bill 651 in 2009 by Democratic Sens. Glorio Romero (sic)  and Darrell Steinberg mandating reform.

The California Department of Education has also changed. Our organization has for 20 years been the harshest critic of the CDE, and especially its dropout rate reporting, but we now see a lot to like in the new candor and openness of the CDE about California's greatest crisis.

With the budget meltdown, the CDE could have pleaded poverty and sabotaged the new dropout reporting. But it instead produced a dropout reporting system, that, while still understating dropout numbers, is truly the best in the nation and that lays down a challenge to other states.

The newfound awareness of our dropout crisis now drives everything in California, from the realization that our painfully slow economic recovery is due to generations of adults who are dropouts and unemployable to the reality that we are now spending more on our prisons than public universities.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Green Dot charter school organization were successful in converting Locke High School. It had been quite likely the worst high school in the state and is now a highly successful charter school in large part because of the staggeringly high dropout rate of the old Locke high school.

The dropout crisis set the stage as well for the momentous victory of the Parent Trigger Law, authored by former Sen. Romero. The efforts of the California State Board of Education to water down Parent Trigger might well have succeeded had Compton Unified not been the test district, with its sky-high dropout rates.

There is no greater threat to the future of our once Golden State than our catastrophic dropout rates that so menace the future of our children.

The new release of crucial data about middle school and County Office of Education dropouts and the enactment of the Parent Trigger law will go far to help get our Golden State back on track.

2cents smf smf: 4LAKids welcomes the interest and the focus and the voice of Dr. Bonsteel to the discussion. We are not so enthusiastic about his fuzzy thinking and logical stretch.

Middle School Dropouts are a profound and absolute tragedy.

California Parents for Educational Choice is a pro-charter/pro-voucher advocacy group, I fail to see how charter schools and voucher programs can support at-risk kids in the juvenile justice system and COE schools. These are students who are incarcerated – there is no ‘choice’ involved for parents or the kids themselves. The firearm metaphor of the “Parent Trigger’ is dangerous and incendiary  in the context of this population.

Bonsteel states that “Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Green Dot charter school organization were successful in converting Locke High School. It had been quite likely the worst high school in the state….”

  • Mayor Tony rejects the dropout numbers Bonsteel embraces.
  • Further, other than accepting campaign contributions from their principals (in the business, not educational definition) and twisting a few school board members’ arms in a political quid-pro-quo, Mayor Tony has nothing to do with Green Dot at Locke. (O.K., last time I looked Parent Revolutionary Ben Austin was on both the City and Green Dot payrolls!)
  • And the “highly successful charter school” description of Locke is at odds with anything but spin-doctored media-manipulated press-agent reality. [Homework: Compare+contrast Green Dot Locke’s performance with other Green Dot schools.]
  • Reality (what a concept!) was prominent in this article’s headline..

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