March 23, 2011: A win for reform and Los Angeles students
About 4,750 students in Los Angeles will be attending high-quality charter schools this fall, thanks to a massive effort from the charter school community and the bold actions of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board to push for reform and put kids first in the second round of Public School Choice.
The LAUSD board approved Public School Choice (PSC) in 2009, an innovative reform initiative proposed by Board member Yolie Flores that allows other school operators - like charter schools, teacher teams, and other organizations - the opportunity to run new and low-performing schools.
On March 15, the LAUSD board voted on the applications for the second round of PSC, affecting 13 public schools in Los Angeles, projected to serve about 20,000 students. Ten of the schools are new campuses slated to open in fall 2011 and three are 'focus schools' - the district's lowest-performing schools. In many instances, the 13 campuses were divided into multiple academies, providing opportunity for multiple successful applicants per campus. Charter schools submitted thirteen out of the 47 applications in total.
Ultimately, seven out of the 13 charter applications were successful.
"This vote shows that the second-largest school district in the country is serious about reinventing public education. When they passed PSC, they made a statement that the traditional system is not working as well as it needs to and parents should be able to choose where their children go to school," said Jed Wallace, President of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). "With their vote on March 15, the vision of reform they championed took a major step forward. A majority of the Board said the interests of our children must come first - and the voices of our parents must be heard." In the first round of the PSC process, last year, charter schools applied for 18 schools and were just awarded four schools with about 2,500 students currently served by those charter schools (Aspire, Camino Nuevo, Magnolia, and Para Los Niños).
CCSA supported the application teams for Round Two this year with assistance in communications, technical application development, political strategy and positioning, and community outreach and organizing through Families That Can.
Six charter applicants had successful applications: Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Camino Nuevo, Green Dot, Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC), and Synergy which was awarded parts of both a middle school and a high school in South LA.
These charters will be housed on campuses representing $400 million in facilities space, which will reduce the facilities burden on their budget, allow them to focus on their educational programs and ensure adequate classroom space, common rooms and sports facilities for students.
One of the highlights was the board's decisive action to turn around chronically low-performing schools. Clay Middle School in south LA has an API of 538, the lowest of any in all of LAUSD, and just 18 percent of its students are proficient in English-language Arts and 10 percent in math. Superintendent Ramon Cortines proposed the campus be split in two, with half run by Green Dot and the other half run by a district team, with an agreement between the two to work together collaboratively. At the meeting, a Clay teacher who had also applied to run an academy at the site, asked the board to give the entire school to Green Dot for the sake of the kids. He said he was for Green Dot, even if it meant he would be re-applying for his own job as a result.
Chan McCreary, a Clay alum who has had several of her children go through the school and has children attending Green Dot high schools, also asked the board to support Green Dot.
""I grew up in the community and I want to see a change for our area. I want to see Henry Clay become a better school," said McCreary. "Let's turn it over, let's do something, let's remodel education for Henry Clay because we have some young scholars out there. I want Henry Clay to be turned around."
Ultimately, the board voted to give Green Dot control of the entire site. They also voted to reconstitute Mann and Muir middle schools.
"My only disappointment is that more charters didn't apply for focus schools. I want to commend green dot. They stepped up," said Board Member Steve Zimmer. He also said he was impressed with the partnerships between charters and district teams that emerged at several sites.
For instance, Synergy Charter applied in conjunction with teacher teams at both the middle school and high school sites for which they applied. Their successful plans included how all three teams would collaborate and share best practices.
The applicant teams for a large new high school at Taylor Yard in Northeast Los Angeles also met early in the process to discuss collaboration. The school is built to house five academies and the board approved two charter applicants for the site - Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and Partnerships to Uplift Communities - as well as three teacher teams. The school will have a single athletic program and other student activities across all academies.
Not 100% of charter applications were approved, as there were strong applications submitted by Green Dot Public Schools for Central Region Middle School #7, Partnerships to Uplift Communities for Valley Region High School #5, and Granada Charter High School for Valley Region High School #4 that were not approved by the School Board. It was particularly disappointing that Granada Hills was shut out of this process, given their one application, incredible level of community support and stellar record of success- just last week, the school won the statewide academic decathlon.
The third round of PSC has already kicked off, with 42 schools, 16 of them new and the majority focus schools. Initial letters of intent to apply for schools are due at the end of March, with many charter schools considering applying.
Summary of results
Northeast Los Angeles
Central Region High School #13 (2050 San Fernando Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90065) The high school will be comprised of five academies - one of which will be run by Alliance College Ready Public Schools and one which will be run by Partnership to Uplift Communities (PUC) Schools, with the three additional academies run by district/teacher teams.
Central Region Elementary School #14 (1018 Mohawk Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026) Entire campus was awarded to Camino Nuevo Charter Academy.
South Los Angeles
South Region Elementary School #6 (8919 Main Street, Los Angeles, CA) Entire campus was awarded to Aspire Public Schools
Clay Middle School (12226 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90047) Entire campus was awarded to Green Dot Public Schools
Central Region Middle School #7 (1420 E. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90011) Synergy Academies was awarded one of the three academies at the school. It applied for just one, applying in collaboration with two teacher teams, all parties proposing to work together collaboratively.
Central Region High School #16 (300 E. 53rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90011) Synergy Academies was awarded one of the three academies at the school. It applied for just one, applying in collaboration with two teacher teams, all parties proposing to work together collaboratively.