High-performing Alliance charter schools celebrate 10 years

Alliance for College-Ready SchoolsAlliance College-Ready Public Schools, the largest charter network in LA Unified is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and based on performance, there is much to celebrate.

The Alliance schools, which include 17 high schools and 9 middle schools, are all located in low-income neighborhoods but have an overall high school graduation rate of 94 percent and combined 2012-2013 API scores of 760, which exceeds state (735) and LA Unified (693) averages.

While not all charters have performed well in LA Unified, and with Alliance having faced challenges, too, over the last decade, the network does serve as an example to many supporters of what charter schools can offer students in struggling neighborhoods.

“The first thing I would point to about our success, and it may be a bit hokey, but believing that all kids can do it and having high expectations for students when they come in,” Alliance spokesperson Catherine Suitor said. “Everything we do is focused on and works around that.”

Other key factors Suitor pointed to are longer school days, giving decision-making power to principals, setting aside more training time for teachers and having smaller schools.

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LAUSD charters extending lead in academic performance

Charter schools API chart LAUSD

Source: California Charter Schools Association


A new report by the California Charter Schools Association shows a growing gap between the overall school performance of traditional schools and charter schools in LA Unified.

The report — Portrait of the Movement — says LA Unified charter schools, on average, produce stronger test results than traditional schools in the district. The data shows that charter school median API scores have been on a steady rise over the last six years, gradually expanding the difference over the other schools.

The report covers a five-year period between the 2007-2008 and 2012-2013 school years. A three-point difference in the median API score for charters and traditional schools in 2007-2008 grew to 47 over the five years, as the median API score for traditional scores slipped in the final year.

The charter association said the trend represents just one aspect of the charters’ overall achievement.

“The gap doesn’t just exist on one measure, the gap exists on a host of other measures across a spectrum of performance, whether you look at graduation rates, college readiness data or this particular data,” Elizabeth Robitaille, Senior Vice President, Achievement and Performance Management, told LA School Report.

She said this gap is likely to get bigger as more students in LAUSD start attending top performing charter schools.

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Morning Read: Unions Oppose Teacher Evaluation Bill

Teacher Evaluations: Let the Battle Begin
On Wednesday, the state Senate Education Committee will take up a bill by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, that would adopt a formal state standard for evaluating teachers. SD Union-Tribune Editorial

A Student With Promise, a Teacher Who Had to Help
Brought to the U.S. as a baby, Itzel Ortega had no way to get financial aid to become an architect. Then a former teacher, recalling her own story, stepped in. LA Times

L.A. Unified Teacher Arrested for Alleged Child Porn Possession
Douglas Randolph Collins, 46, of Valencia, was taken into custody at the Van Nuys Education Center, where he had been sent after being removed from the classroom after authorities began investigating child porn allegations in October. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, HuffPo

LA Mayor’s Race: How the Candidates Stand on Your Issues
Even though the mayor doesn’t have any direct authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District, many voters said they want the next major to play a role in education. Neither Greuel nor Garcetti has indicated they would follow Antonio Villaraigosa’s lead. KPCC
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Morning Read: Villaraigosa Fell Short on Education, Says KPCC

Why Antonio Villaraigosa Fell Short as LA’s Education Mayor
As Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prepares to step down in June, among the achievements he takes credit for during his eight years in office is improving one institution that the law gives him no authority over: the public schools. KPCC

CTC to Survey New Teacher Prep Grads for Data on System Improvements
Concerned that too many of California’s teacher preparation programs don’t measure up to the state’s high standards, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is set to undertake a data collection program aimed at pin-pointing strengths and weaknesses of specific institutions. SI&A Cabinet Report

California School Districts Send out Far Fewer Pink Slips
Thanks to a boost in money for public education, California school districts have issued just 3,000 pink slips to teachers this year, a dramatic drop from the 20,000 sent out last year, the California Teachers Assn. reported Monday. LA Times

School District Discriminated Against Gay Students, ACLU Alleges
In a letter from the ACLU, the Hesperia Unified School District is accused of discriminating against gay and lesbian students, including refusing to allow girls to wear tuxedos to the prom. LA Times
See also: AP

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Morning Read: Election Poised to Break $4.5 Million Record

LA Unified School Board Race Could Break Fundraising Records This Election
The 2013 school board races have barely started and they have already attracted more than $4 million in donations. KPCC
See also: LA School Report

Union Wins Right to Represent Valley Charter School
The Los Angeles teachers union announced Wednesday night that it has won the right to negotiate a contract for teachers and counselors at a West San Fernando Valley charter school. LA Times

Open Letter to New York Mayor Bloomberg
Perhaps I haven’t pleased everyone in my pursuit to make our student’s education a priority, and by eschewing politics to pursue education reform I’ve offended the extremes of the education debate. Venice Patch Op-Ed by LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer

Slate Mailer Sleaze in L.A.
If you are on record as ever having voted in an L.A. municipal election, this month your mailbox will jam up with photo-filled mailers in advance of the March 5 primary for mayor, City Council, city attorney, controller, Los Angeles Unified School Board and community college trustees. LA Weekly

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Morning Read: Parents Submit Trigger Petition

‘Parent Trigger’ Strikes Again in California
On Thursday, the parent union plans to present its petition to officials at the Los Angeles Unified School District office. The petition threatens to force the school into the control of a charter operator unless parents can negotiate major changes in the way the school is run under the district. California Watch
See also: AP, Fox LA, LA School Report

Alliance of Big City School Districts Aims for More Healthful Meals
L.A. Unified and five others are striving to make wholesome food a national standard. They’re working on biodegradable trays and utensils as well. Each district has been assigned a specific project. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News

Elementary Students Experience Their First Opera
A partnership with the Opera, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of Transportation and City Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office offers schoolchildren the opportunity to attend the performance. LA Times

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Morning Read: A Slew Of Board Candidates

Candidates File Papers to Run For L.A. School Board
The March election could change the course of a new teacher evaluation system, the union’s dealings with charters and, possibly, the future of Supt. John Deasy. LA Times

Mother of Twins, Lawyer and Activist Goes After Anti-Charter Zimmer
Kate Anderson, an activist mom and successful attorney with political chops will try to oust Steve Zimmer, the Westside’s man on Los Angeles Unified School Board, in March 2013. LA Weekly

Lawsuit Against Teacher Tenure Laws, Seniority Rights Advances
Supporters of a lawsuit to make it easier to remove ineffective teachers hailed a court ruling Friday that will allow them to proceed with efforts to overturn teacher tenure laws and seniority rights. LA Times

A Smarter Way to Grade Schools
Unlike in the rest of the U.S., California’s SB 1458 rightly assigns just a portion of student test results into the API school rating formula. How the rest will be determined is the question. LA Times Editorial

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Data: How’s LAUSD Doing, Really?

Looking for an independent source of information about how LAUSD is doing?  You might want to check out Ed-Data, which is managed by the Education Data Partnership and recently uploaded 2011 – 2012 Academic Performance Index (API) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) scores for school districts across the state.

As you can see, LAUSD’s API score showed significant improvement, climbing 16 points to reach 745, but was still below California’s statewide goal for an 800 API score. When it came to the district’s AYP score, which is a broader federal measure of how a school district is progressing, LAUSD did not meet AYP target goals for student performance or graduation rates. LAUSD did, however, meet participation rates in math and English/language arts.

LAUSD was not alone in its struggle to meet AYP goals, and both AYP and API are incomplete measures of school effectiveness.

Previous posts: No NCLB Waiver — No “Freeze”Testing Problems at 2 LAUSD Schools

Testing Problems at 2 LAUSD Schools

Two of the 23 schools recently stripped of their API rankings by the state for testing irregularities were elementary schools located in LAUSD, and three more were located within LA County.  You can read the irregularity reports for the two LAUSD schools (Capistrano Avenue and Short Avenue) posted by the LA Times here, or read the original LAT story here: State strips 23 schools of API rankings for cheating

Morning Read: Union Blocks $40M Grant Plan

Teachers Union Refuses to Sign Off on LAUSD Plan for Race to the Top Grant
The Los Angeles teachers union has refused to sign off on Los Angeles Unified’s bid for a prestigious Race to the Top grant, costing the district a shot at winning $40 million in federal money, sources said Saturday. Daily News

Measuring the Worth of a Teacher?
L.A. Unified School District’s Academic Growth Over Time measurement system, based on students’ progress on standardized tests, spurs debate over fairness, accuracy. LA Times

State Strips 23 Schools of API Rankings for Cheating
Teachers helped students correct mistakes on standardized tests, prepared them with actual test questions or left instructional posters displayed in the classroom during testing, according to school district reports. LA Times

Proposition 30 Analysis: Does California Need More Tax Money?
Even if the measure fails, funding for schools is expected to increase 21 percent from 2012 to 2015 because of economic growth. The $6 billion trigger-cut figure stems from the fact that he and the Legislature started the budget year by assuming that Proposition 30 would pass. Daily News

Brown Brings Prop. 30 Campaign to L.A.’s Grand Central Market
Fighting for support for his tax-hike initiative to help fund education, Gov. Jerry Brown aims his message at Latinos. LA Times

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Morning Read: Scrutinizing the Scores

L.A. Schools Improve by State Standards, Not Enough by U.S. Yardstick
Just like across California, campuses are at their highest-achieving level yet, but they aren’t keeping pace with rapidly rising federal targets. LA Times

Also see stories from the Daily News, Ed SourceCity News ServiceSI&A Cabinet Report

The Times also reports that two L.A. schools this year were stripped of an API score because of mistakes or misconduct by a teacher.

Overusing Test for Special Ed Students Inflates API Scores
A deeper look at the results shows not only inflation contributing to the gains but also a substantial policy shift toward lower expectations for special education students in California. Ed Source

California’s New School Budget Math
Add 30 and 38, and what do you get? In California, the answer is zero. The ballot propositions are on the verge of cancelling out each other to produce a big, fat zero. Prop Zero

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Test Scores Will Matter Less for a School’s Fate… In Four Years

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a measure (SB 1458) which curtails the role of test scores in calculating a school’s Academic Performance Index (or API). Right now, API scores are based solely on student test scores, and can have enormous consequences for a school. A low API score can eventually lead to its management being replaced and its governance structure being changed.

Under the new law, supported by LAUSD and an array of business groups, student test scores will account for no more than 60% of high school API scores, leaving room for other factors in assessing a school’s success. The new API won’t start until 2016. Senate majority leader Darrell Steinberg, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement:

“For years, ‘teaching to the test’ has become more than a worn cliche because 100% of the API relied on bubble tests scores in limited subject areas. But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids. By balancing testing with factors like graduation rates, and measuring how prepared our students are for entering college and the workforce, SB 1458 will spur the system into delivering higher quality education combining real-world relevance and academic rigor.”

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Morning Read: Modest Proposals

California Limits Role of Student Tests in API Scores
California’s key measure of public school quality will be redefined to lessen the impact of standardized test scores under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The law will broaden how the Academic Performance Index is calculated by limiting test scores to 60% for high schools and including graduation rates and other factors. LA Times

Governor Brown’s Modest Proposal
If Prop 30, which raises California sales tax from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent and increases the income tax on those earning over $250,000, goes down in flames, Governor Brown will likely make good on his promise to cut $4.8 billion in public school funds. That could mean wiping out an additional 15-20 schools days from the 2012-2013 academic year. HuffPo Opinion

UC to Pay Damages in Davis Pepper-Spraying
The University of California will pay damages of $30,000 to each of the 21 UC Davis students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed by campus police during an otherwise peaceful protest 10 months ago, the university system announced Wednesday. LA Times

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Morning Read: Better Ratings, Better Teachers

Steinberg hoping this time Brown will sign bill changing API Ed Source: President pro tem of the State Senate Darrell Steinberg wants to alter the mix of factors that determine a school’s Academic Performance Index (API), which he argues is too tied to standardized test scores, predominantly math and English language arts, along with, to a smaller degree, science and history and the high school exit exam.

Torlakson’s teacher panel finalizes report on improving quality SI&A Report: A blue-ribbon state panel on improving teacher quality in California calls for more rigorous monitoring of preparation programs and more aggressive enforcement of state standards, sources familiar with the report said Thursday.

Teachers union gives another $6.9 million to Prop. 32 fight LA Times: California’s largest teachers union is literally doubling down to fight Proposition 32, the November ballot measure that promises to eliminate special-interest money in politics.

Heat wave costs LAUSD more than $400K in AC repairs Daily News: Los Angeles Unified maintenance crews racked up more than $400,000 in overtime repairing overloaded air-conditioning units during the heat wave that swamped the region during the opening days of school, officials said.

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Update: API Delayed Until October

For those of you wondering when the California Department of Education (CDE) will release its much-maligned Academic Performance Index (API) for 2012, don’t hold your breath.

The API Index is the single number used to reflect a school’s progress, based on statewide testing. Traditionally timed to coincide with the start of the school year, the API release has instead been pushed to October 3, 2012.  That’s an additional month after the release of individual test score results — which have also been postponed — and are now due on August 31st. (Los Angeles Times)

According to the CDE, more time is needed to investigate last spring’s testing scandal – when students allegedly took hundreds of photos of the standardized test and posted them on social networking sites. If you don’t have time to hunt down CDE’s buried press release, click here.