Not all of them, but some, yes.
This past Tuesday, July 1st, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his Partnership for L.A. Schools took control of ten LAUSD schools: Ritter Elementary and Markham Middle School in Watts, 99th St. Elementary, Figueroa Elementary, Gompers Middle, and Santee Educational Complex in South L.A., and Sunrise Elementary, Hollenbeck Middle, Stevenson Middle, and Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights.
This Partnership is a result of his failed attempt at taking control of a larger number of LAUSD schools via Assembly Bill 1381, which was eventually ruled unconstitutional. These schools are under the Partnership’s control for the next five years, and if this Partnership shows results, it will most likely be instituted in a wider basis.
What does the Partnership provide? Since the schools are under control of Villaraigosa, he can bring in city services. The Partnership fundraises and also lobbies the LAUSD for increased funding per student. The greatest benefit, in my opinion, are these two bits from the press release:
[A] new contract that gives schools independence from burdensome district rules and regulations, the Partnership is beginning to break down the District’s bureaucracy by returning decision-making authority over budgets and priorities to staff at the schools themselves.
. . .
For the first time, principals at Partnership schools will be in classrooms three hours per day, taking a hands-on leadership role and providing direct feedback to teachers. In addition, all new teachers hired at Partnership schools were selected by hiring committees unique to each school – and not by a remote bureaucracy.
Less bureaucracy and local control over hiring: steps in the right direction. in my years as a student at LAUSD schools and talks with teachers, one of the areas of contention I had was with the UTLA and the LAUSD bureaucracy above. Too often I saw administrators sent to my schools to spend the final years of their careers or overly eager teachers and administrators doing all they could to move up in the bureaucracy, short-changing the student’s education for the sake of improving their status. In the pursuit of moving up the bureaucracy, the administrators and teachers often worked to impose the policies of the bureaucracy above (i.e. small learning communities, block scheduling) to win the favor of others and move up.
Also, the UTLA was just ineffective and made it harder in dealing with teachers. Rather than firing teachers who under-perform, UTLA forces the LAUSD to shuffle teachers from one school to another, making some schools dumping grounds for ineffective teachers and hurting education as a whole. Schools should have always had better control over who they hire, who stays and who leaves.
Another positive that I see out of this partnership is more aggressive hiring practices for qualified teachers. Rather than using seniority and amount of preparation (measured by degrees acquired), schools should offer teachers salaries based on how important they are to the school. Some teachers should be paid more than others, at the discretion of the school, in order to keep highly-desirable teachers (science teachers, especially) at the school. The teacher unions are the biggest detriment and they are only working to keep the state of education in their schools the same. I saw too many well-qualified, respectable, engaging and effective teachers leave the LAUSD because they were no longer paid enough and sought higher pay. Let the school itself barter the salary with the teacher, not the union.
I am for these partnerships and charter schools (a la Green Dot Schools) to improve education in Los Angeles and in other areas of the United States. Public education has stagnated long enough and different methods should be tried.