Can Strategy Save Failing Los Angeles Schools?

Written by Patricia Hawke for

In response to a recent evaluation of Los Angeles schools, Superintendent Brewer released a new strategy for helping failing secondary (high schools, grades 9-12) schools improve. Called “The Strategic Plan for High Priority Schools”, it is a document that is intended to address the problems inherent in these schools and the goals that have been set to solve them.
Los Angeles schools who attend these failing schools (approximately 13 in all) may feel like they are being taken care of by their school board, if they take the time to even think about it. Most likely, they have their minds on other, more pressing (to them) matters, such as living in poverty, learning to speak English, learning with disabilities and whether or not to stay in school at all.
These students attending these Los Angeles schools may look to their school as a place of sanctuary, but given the habit of teens to bring wear their problems on their sleeves, it’s doubtful that even the best school can offer much sanctuary from a stressful life.
The Plan: Inspired or Misguided?
So is the “Plan” misguided? I believe that the leaders of Los Angeles schools truly want to improve their schools that need improving. Is the plan the best way to go? Well, let’s take a look at a few of its high points.
·         Local Control – individual Los Angeles schools will be given control over how they will improve. With district support, these Los Angeles schools can use what methods work best for their particular students. (One has to wonder, however, that if the administrators of these Los Angeles schools were doing their best in the first place, whether the problems would be as extensive as they currently are.)
·         Rigorous Curriculum – Setting a higher standard for students to reach is all well and good, but if the students attending these failing Los Angeles schools are already behind, (and it’s a good bet that this is so, especially if we’re talking about those in danger of dropping out or with learning disabilities) it’s hard to see how raising the bar will help. Perhaps more concentration should go into getting these students of Los Angeles schools back on track academically speaking.
·         High Quality Instruction – This simply means putting better teachers in the classrooms. Too often, low-achieving schools are the dumping ground for what’s wrong with the teaching profession; they’ll take any assignment they can get in order to keep their jobs. They’re teaching for the paycheck (as unbelievable as THAT may be) and little else. Improving teacher quality is imperative; principals have got to be able to rearrange, reassign, retrain or even FIRE ineffective teaching staff. Failing teachers working at failing Los Angeles schools really do not deserve job security. We wouldn’t accept that from a doctor, lawyer, policeman or even preacher, so why should teaching be any different?
While these are only a few areas which are addressed in “The Strategic Plan for High Priority Schools”, it is easy to see that Los Angeles schools have their work cut out for them. Reform is necessary, and won’t be simple. Hopefully, the leaders of Los Angeles schools will stick to their jobs for the long haul and fix what’s wrong with these Los Angeles schools