Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest school district in the country. The schools range in academic performance but with the budget restraints that have hit the state of California, the disparities between the schools have only increased. Those schools that lacked resources have only slipped further and further away from what should be the standard of education. In the midst of all of this, managing the many schools under the LAUSD’s belt has left the seams at a bust.
The past couple of years has seen an increase in the number of charter schools in the district. According to the LAUSD website, they view charter schools as an opportunity to teach both students and educators. I am not really sure what that means, but currently there are 183 charter schools under the jurisdiction of the LAUSD, serving approximately 78,000 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Even amongst the most progressive education organizations, understanding charter schools and what they are about, particularly in the context of LAUSD, is a challenge. A quick Wikipedia search on charter schools will teach you this:
Charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money (they may also receive private donations) but are not subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to other public schools. In exchange for the loosened restrictions, the charter schools must provide some type of accountability by producing certain results. Charter schools are opened and attended by choice [or so they say]. While charter schools provide an alternative to public schools, they are part of the public education system and are not allowed to charge tuition. When the enrollment in a charter school is oversubscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions.
The Story of Jordon High School
I work for an educational access project called Mentors for Academic and Peer Support (MAPS) here in Los Angeles and I find all of this is very relevant. Jordan High School has been one of the lowest performing schools in LAUSD for quite some time now. Located on 103rd and Alameda, Jordan plays an integral role in the Watts community. Generations of Watts’ residences have attended this school and the district just realized this month that drastic changes need to be made to the school. However, the changes come in an unheard of manner…
Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced Wednesday January 12th, 2011 that Jordan would be subject to a drastic makeover. Jordan was not only going to be taken over a by a charter school, but three completely different charter schools. Ridiculous right!? Green Dot Public Schools, Alliance For College Ready Public Schools, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s nonprofit, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools will all have a share in the new Jordan.
Now how this is going to work out, three different schools on one very old campus?
We have absolutely no idea. Community members and students alike have yet to really grasp what is going on and little effort has been made to educate everyone. I assume it has a lot to do with the fact that the administration themselves have no idea what is going on. All of this is happening all too quickly. This is not the only thing that LAUSD has pushed through at an unprecedented pace. It was just recently announced that the school year will be moved up to begin in August and set to end by the first of June. Big changes –LAUSD is on a roll.
Back to the point, there is a lot of confusion on the grounds of Jordan High School and questions need to be answered. The parents and students deserve more than a letter in the mail received on the same day that it was announced on the local evening news. My suggestion would be to start off with a community event hosted by the school so that everyone can have the opportunity to ask questions. True, the administration will not have all the answers, but people can see that an effort is being made. That will be good enough, for now.
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