Los Angeles Unified School District students scored higher than their reform counterparts at some charter-run schools and those that are backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a new analysis reveals.
A Los Angeles Times study revealed Aug. 18 that test scores of pupils at LAUSD community schools have risen higher than Locke High School, which is run by Green Dot Public Schools, and some high schools supported by Villaraigosa.
In mathematics and English, LAUSD schools outpaced all other schools in the study that have held themselves out as models of reform: L.A.’s Promise, Crenshaw High, which is run by the Urban League, and Villaraigosa’s schools. District schools also scored higher than the others at the elementary and middle school level.
Former United Teacher Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy praised the district’s teachers for the progress that the analysis revealed.
“What you’re seeing in the schools that are making progress is teacher collaboration on decision-making,” said Duffy, who stepped down from the union last month.
LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer said the study dismisses a myth that has been prevalent for too long in certain education and political circles. “It’s good to be able to dispel the notion that others can always do it better than LAUSD teachers,” he said. “I have never believed that.”
The analysis comes at a time when a growing number of parents are vocally protesting what they believe is a giveaway of students to charter schools by LAUSD, the nation’s second largest school district.
Venice resident Karen Wolfe, whose son is enrolled at Marina Del Rey Middle School in Del Rey and whose daughter is a fourth-grader at Ocean Charter School in Mar Vista, views the test results as confirmation that a district policy that she feels disenfranchises students is not effective.
“This is absolute proof that the deregulation of public school education does not have a positive impact on student experiences,” Wolfe said.
Charter schools are publicly funded but are not subjected to the same oversight as that of traditional community schools.
Anne Wexler, who is trying to start a charter middle school in Westchester, and her co-petitioner, Janet Landon, say charters are pushing traditional schools to higher academic performance.
“We think it’s great that students at all of these schools are continuing to improve. Part of the point of charters and ‘outside’ groups like the mayor’s was to get LAUSD to step up to the plate,” said Wexler, whose daughter graduated from Westchester High School last year. “So from that perspective, charters are accomplishing part of what they are intended to — the competition model is having a positive effect.”
Perhaps the person most surprised by the conclusions of the study was Villaraigosa, who has put a great deal of his political capital in focusing on the school district and its shortcomings.
The mayor has been openly critical of the teachers’ union and was rebuffed in an attempt to take over the school district two years ago. In 2009 he backed the Public School Choice initiative, which allows charter schools and other outside organizations to bid on new schools and “failing” LAUSD institutions.
He claimed that his schools were also improving. “But I want them to be improving at a more accelerated rate,” he said. “We’re committed to the long haul.”
While he was gratified that LAUSD schools showed improvement, Zimmer said he was not thrilled that students at other schools did not fare as well.
In District 4, which includes Westchester, Del Rey, Venice and Mar Vista, parents have made a concerted effort over the last several years to spotlight and enhance the quality of their local schools. Zimmer feels that the results of the analysis could spur more parents who have opted for charters to get involved and give their neighborhood school a second look.
“Our schools deserve every family’s first look,” said the school board member, who represents District 4. “(The finding) acts to remove a stigma that never should have existed.”
Wolfe said the analysis makes the case for allowing teachers to have more input in how they educate children. “I think this shows what pros can do,” she said.
Duffy added, “It’s clear that LAUSD teachers are doing a hellava job.”
But Zimmer said there was still room for growth.
“Until graduation rates improve, I won’t say that we don’t deserve criticism,” he cautioned. “But maybe the reports of public education being (in shambles) was a little premature.”
The Argonaut did not receive a counter analysis to the study by Green Dot officials as of press time.