Monday, August 29, 2011


New LAUSD Public School Choice campuses don't always improve achievement over the schools that are supplying them with students. – FROM THE DAILY NEWS 

Analysis: Public School Choice program failed to spark academic gains

By Connie Llanos- l.a. dAILY nEWS Staff Writer |

Public School Choice (PSC) Charter Schools Outperform District-Run Programs

California Charters schools association PRESS RELEASE |

Contact: Sierra Jenkins, CCSA
(213) 256-9489

8/29/2011 09:37:31 PM PDT - In its first year, Los Angeles Unified's Public School Choice failed to spark academic gains in most of the 36 campuses that were overhauled through the competitive reform plan, according to a Daily News analysis.

Of the 12 underachieving LAUSD campuses that participated in the program's inaugural run, seven failed to meet or exceed the district's average growth in English and math proficiency. Some even posted decreases in student test scores.

Most of the five other schools showed small gains, with a few posting exceptional growth, according to a review of the state's Standardized Testing and Reporting Program data released earlier this month.

And of the two dozen new schools that were put out to bid, 17 had lower English and math proficiency rates than the neighboring schools where overcrowded conditions prompted the construction.

The one standout result of the program, however, was the performance of the charter operators that were granted the rights to run LAUSD campuses. Three out of the four charters that won control over new LAUSD schools outperformed neighboring schools.

While test scores could point to some early conclusions, district officials say it is too soon to make any determinations about the success or failure of the reform plan.

"This is a photograph - a snapshot - but I really want the movie," said Superintendent John Deasy.

"I don't know that Public School Choice was designed to produce,


in nine months, an unbelievable transformation ... but what it does say is that where schools are chronically underperforming, we are going to intervene."

Approved by the school board in 2009, School Choice was designed to overhaul low-performing campuses by instilling competition into the system. Outside groups as well as internal, district-based teams made up of LAUSD teachers and administrators were allowed to bid to take over management of the lowest-performing schools and new campuses.

In its first year, the school board awarded the majority of the 36 schools to district-based teams.

The reform has been described by many as the single most transformative effort undertaken by the school district while others, including teachers union leaders, have criticized it as a giveaway of district control.

Deasy pointed out that most Public School Choice campuses saw some gains, even if small and less than the district average, while a handful showed outstanding progress.

Five existing LAUSD schools and five new schools bucked the trend and pushed student proficiency rates forward last year.

Among those was Garfield High School, which saw its English proficiency rate soar by 7 percentage points, from 32 percent to 39 percent, and its math rate by a remarkable 14 percentage points, from 9 percent to 23 percent. LAUSD high schools, on average, increased their English proficiency rates by 4 percentage points and math rates by 2 percentage points.

San Fernando Middle School, the only existing campus in the San Fernando Valley selected for the first round of Public School Choice, also made strong academic gains. Students increased their proficiency in English by 5 percentage points, from 27 to 32 percent, and math by 10 points, from 22 percent to 32 percent.

Districtwide, middle schools increased their English test scores by 4 percentage points - 38 to 42 percent - and their math by 2 percentage points - 36 to 38.

Lackluster performance from a majority of schools that underwent the reform process in the first year, however, prompts some to question if the reform effort will be worth the effort in the long run.

To date, more than 50 LAUSD schools have gone through the first and second rounds of Public School Choice and another 37 schools are currently going through the bidding process for the third round, including five existing Valley campuses and two new schools.

"We've been spending money and resources on School Choice and it doesn't seem to be making a significant difference in terms of test scores," said LAUSD board member Bennett Kayser.

"This is money and resources being placed on the wrong priority."

United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher said he was somewhat surprised to see any Public School Choice campus succeed. He called the reform effort "incredibly disruptive."

Other officials argue, though, that in just a year Public School Choice has already proven itself an effective tool in pushing schools to improve.

"The primary purpose of this plan was to challenge the district to act out of urgency and to deliver better schools for kids ... I wanted the district to ante up and make a significantly greater effort to improving schools," said former LAUSD board member Yolie Flores, who authored the Public School Choice plan.

Flores, who now heads the education reform nonprofit Communities for Teaching Excellence, said she was expecting steeper and faster improvement at the schools that went through the inaugural run of School Choice.

But she argued that the spillover effect of the reform could be just as valuable as the results that take place at the schools that go through the process.

Last year, LAUSD schools posted some of their largest academic gains in years.

"I think overall this has created the environment for a very intentional push against the status quo," Flores said.

"Everyone is on notice now ... before there was never any consequence for schools that were repeatedly and chronically failing."

Early results could also point to a need for the current school board and district leadership to think about supporting more outside bidders for district campuses.

In the first round of Public School Choice the vast majority of schools were handed back to district educators, with just four schools given to independent charter operators, who run their public campuses free from LAUSD mandates.

Most of those charters outperformed their neighboring schools while serving students from similar communities.

Perhaps the starkest example of that can be seen in the difference between Synergy Charter Academy and Quincy Jones Elementary - two operators selected to share one school.

Synergy, a charter, was selected to share the Quincy Jones Elementary campus with LAUSD educators. Last year Synergy nearly doubled the proficiency of its students when compared with its sister campus - 69 percent of the school's students scored proficient or advanced in English while 90 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.

By comparison, 31 percent of the students at Quincy Jones Elementary were proficient in English and 69 percent in math.

Flores also argued that, perhaps, if Quincy Jones had the same flexibility to run its school free of bureaucratic rules, it could have made gains similar to Synergy's.

"To me there are likely structural barriers at these schools which need to be looked at," Flores said.

"As far as I'm concerned, if we don't change the rules of how the system works, we will likely not get different results."

LAUSD Board set to vote Tuesday on whether to allow charters to continue to apply for new schools

August 29, 2011: - LOS ANGELES, California.--Charter schools that opened under the first round of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Public School Choice (PSC 1.0) initiative last fall are largely outperforming district-run PSC programs, according to STAR testing results. Despite these promising results, on Tuesday, the LAUSD board is set to decide whether to continue to allow charter schools to apply for new schools under this reform initiative.

According to the data, overall the PSC 1.0 charter schools are showing stronger academic results than schools run by in-district applicants. In comparing the charter schools with the existing schools they relieved, three of the four charter schools significantly outpaced those schools in both English Language Arts and Math.

The PSC 1.0 charter schools include Camino Nuevo's Jose Castellanos Elementary, Aspire's Gateway Academy and Firestone Academy (which share a single campus), Synergy Charter School, Magnolia Science Academy Bell and Para Los Ninos - Gratts Learning Center.*

"We see promise in these results - they show charter schools are making a difference for kids and that the board's decision to put student needs first has paid off," said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of CCSA. "Charter schools are proud to be partners in this reform and we support the Board's continued efforts to ensure every student has access to a high-quality education."

It is particularly powerful to look at the testing results from a parent's perspective, comparing how the PSC 1.0 charters are doing compared to the schools these students otherwise would have attended (relieved schools):

  • In its first year, Camino Nuevo's Jose Castellanos Elementary outpaced all of its relieved schools on both ELA and Math.
  • Synergy Charter Academy** in south LA significantly outpaced both the relieved school and Quincy Jones, the new district-run school with which it shares a campus.
  • Both Aspire charter schools (Firestone and Gateway), in their first year of operation at South Region Elementary School #4 in south LA, significantly outpaced three of the four relieved schools in that area in both ELA and Math.
  • Magnolia Science Academy Bell, which shares a campus with two academies run by in-district teams, outperformed those two academies in math, as well as one of the two relieved schools.

On Tuesday, the LAUSD Board will be considering a resolution proposed by board member Steve Zimmer to dramatically roll back the PSC initiative, giving in-district applicant teams priority and effectively pushing out charter schools and community groups from applying for new schools.

The LAUSD Board voted passed the Public School Choice Resolution in 2009 to reform the operation of the new schools and some of the lowest performing schools in the district. In February 2010, five out of the 13 charter applicants were selected in the first round, opening charter school opportunities to an estimated 2,500 students. In round two, the LAUSD board selected six charter operators to run academies at six of the 13 campuses, resulting in an estimated 4,750 new seats available to students. Read more about Public School Choice.


For more details, download this Excel with proficiency rates for all the PSC 1.0 sites. Numbers reflect the CST Summary results from the California Department of Education 2011 STAR testing.

*Para Los Ninos only serves K-1 students so doesn't have standardized test scores, which start in second grade.

**Synergy had negotiated an agreement with the district before the Public School Choice initiative was passed and relocated its existing charter school on to the Quincy Jones campus. Approximately one-third of the Synergy students tested were from the previous school and two-thirds were new students.

About the California Charter Schools Association

The California Charter Schools Association is the membership and professional organization serving 912 charter public schools and more than 365,000 students in the state of California. The Vision of the California Charter Schools Association is to usher in a new era in public education so all students attend independent, innovative, accountable schools of choice. The Mission of the California Charter Schools Association is to influence the legislative and policy environments, leverage collective advocacy, and provide resources to support our members in developing and operating high quality, charter schools reflective of California's student population. For more information, please visit

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