Thursday, August 28, 2014

Accountability at the LAUSD

“If we transform human capital by ensuring there are effective employees at every level of the organization focused on improving student outcomes, give our students and parents a portfolio of high quality school choice, and hold ourselves accountable through strong performance management, then every student in our schools will graduate college-prepared and career-ready.”

Dr. John E. Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District

There is a heated debate going on over the role of the 0.1% in education reform (you can see my take in this Monkey Cage piece). It is also a fairly new one. For years, the reform movement portrayed itself in grassroots terms despite being fundamentally a top-down movement. This was possible for a while because virtually all major media players were openly supportive of the movement and almost never questioned the narrative.

These days, many journalists such as  Valerie Strauss have become much more critical of the movement and are much less inclined to ignore ubiquitous billionaires such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Alice Walton. The response from movement supporters has been to ask what's the problem with successful people being generous?

This is another case of short question/long answer, but part of the answer is that when a very small group of people have this much influence over something like education, winning the approval of these people becomes more important than competence or being responsive to the remaining 99.9% of the population.

For all the talk of tenure, connections are the ultimate form of job security. John Deasy is extraordinarily good at winning over the support of the rich and powerful (add Antonio Villaraigosa to all of the names mentioned earlier). He is also extraordinarily bad at running the LAUSD. The iPad fiasco is the best known example (and it keeps getting better) but that same kind of mismanagement is more or less the norm under Deasy.
Hundreds of students walked out of class at Jefferson High School on Monday morning, holding a sit-in to protest a host of issues at the South Los Angeles campus -- among them a scheduling snafu that has extended into the third week of school.

Students gathered in the quad after first period, sitting in a grassy area in a silent protest of what they contend has been weeks of mismanagement by administrators that has wasted their time and severely interrupted their education.

For the first weeks of school, many students were left without class schedules, others were given courses they did not need and some were without those required for graduation, students and teachers said.

Several Advanced Placement courses were scheduled at the same time, leaving students unable to enroll in all the college-level courses they desired. Students still learning English were unable to enroll in courses at their level, as they were scheduled during the same periods.

Problems were apparently intensified by a new computer database, known as the My Integrated Student Information System, which caused a litany of scheduling problems around the district in the first weeks of school.

Teachers have described over-enrolled classes, missing or inaccurate rosters, students without schedules and an inability to take attendance in the system.

Last week, district officials overhauled Jefferson's master schedule and removed the principal. The district then installed another principal, Jack Foote, whom the district described as an "experienced administrator who brings to his role a track record of success."

But the issues have persisted, students say.

Foote did not return requests for comment. Students returned to class Monday afternoon.

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