Sunday, May 25, 2008

LA Unified Abandons Locke High School Again

There's a particularly terrible editorial in Sunday, May 25, 2008, Los Angeles Times praising how Los Angeles Unified School District is abandoning Locke High School, a school with a lot of problems a poor area of Southcentral Los Angeles. The only thing the newspaper gets right is the school district has abandoned Locke High for decades, and does say that "several years ago, dedicated teaches drew up a plan to transform the school. Approved by the local district, it then disappeared within the central office."

While the central district neglects the school, some teachers show movies rather than teach while others "strive heroically to educate." Of course, given the district's horrific neglect, most students perform poorly on those really absurd mandated tests and many drop out before graduation.

Rather than do anything for Locke, the district has give it over to Green Dot, a private firm with exactly no experience in running a large high school of 2,600. After the school district signed the contract with Green Dot, the district worsened the situation at Locke by cutting the security force in half: "classroom fights became frequent, and teachers' calls for help went answered." I find that quite horrifying how the district in fact set up the conditions for increased fights by ignoring the needs of both students and teachers at Locke. Don't blame it on the students but the district. Don't blame it on the students but blame it on the Los Angeles Times, which ignored the situation for years. Don't blame it on the students but blame it on the people of Los Angeles who ignored the situation for years.

The editorial makes a long list of reforms that Green Dot wants to do, but the district if it had wanted could have done each and all of these reforms decades ago. What of the students bring big problems to the Dot-run school, they will be expelled. A public school system in a democracy should educated all the children not give life rafts to a few, abandoning the rest.

I started teaching for Los Angeles Delinquent and Abandoned kids program in the 1970s, tutoring teenager at Boys Republic Silverlake who had been arrested and put in a court placement, ran a small classroom for delinquent boys at Optimist Homes for Boys in Highland Park, and taught creative writing at Camp Scott, a country workcamp for teenager girls. My students were bright, willing to learn, did well in a small-class situation, never gave me any security problems. The girls in lock-up--Camp Scott was a jail--when given poems did excellent analysis, and wrote fine poems and stories. These kids had more problems 90% of those at Locke, and were teachable if the teacher really tried to teach. I also worked as a teaching assistant at Garfield High School teaching 16-years who read at the 1st grade level how to read better. For decades the central school district could have reached these teenagers and children but didn't.

The central school district by allowing charters to try to take care of its problems is increasing the abandonment of its students and teachers. The school district is admitting that they can't make any improvements in the abysmal performance of schools like Locke so is washing its hands of even trying. It's not, as the Times says, a "refreshing" development but a horrifying one.


Bruce said...

Importantly, Ms. Stein, you miss the crucial point that we teachers at Locke asked Green Dot to help us take over the management of our school. We reached out to them before they had ever even heard of us. Green Dot is not a "private" organization any more than the Red Cross is; it's a 501(c)3 public charity. The Board courageously ratified our move after years of neglect and incompetence by district bureaucrats.

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