It’s time to break up Los Angeles Unified

It’s time to break up Los Angeles Unified, argues Dropout Nation, which sees an anti-reform turn on the school board. There are 32 cities within the giant district. “L.A. Unified’s bureaucracy has proven long ago that it is impervious to change,” writes RiShawn Biddle.

Superintendent John Deasy threatened to resign if pro-union Richard Vladovic, a former teacher, principal and superintendent, became president of the Board of Education. Vladovic became president last week. Deasy backed down.

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  1. Mike in Texas says:

    Yes, that pesky anti-reform crowd, who had the audacity to vote in a local teacher instead of the anointed one the billionaire reformers spent a fortune trying to elect.

    And now they may have to face GASP! someone with actual experience teaching, And a former principal to boot!

    How dare they disobey the great and powerful Gates, Broad and Rhee.

    Yes,that was sarcasm.

  2. It is pleasant, in the absence of any imminent reform, to realize that the screw-the-kids crowd is playing defense and scraping the bottom of the barrel for tactics.

    It’s not as if the tactics the board is contemplating, to try to stave off the inevitable, are anything new which means there’s already judicial precedent to guide subsequent decisions. The most the board can hope for is delay although a judge annoyed by such tactics might make that delay quite short.

    • Mike in Texas says:

      The “screw the kids crowd”, what a perfect description of the “reform” crowd.

      • Can’t write your own posts, hey Mike?

        Not much of a surprise since you recoil with horror at the thought of having to demonstrate professional competence. If you don’t want to and can’t do your job – and thank goodness you work where you’re not expected too, hey Mike? – why would you exert yourself writing a post appropriate anywhere other then the school yard?

        By the way, twenty-five states now have some form of parent trigger law. Twenty-five states.

        Gee, I wonder what’ll happen when parents realize they don’t have to accept the educational equivalent of a school lunch for their children? Not much you can do about that, Mike, other then to tremble in fear and engage in name-calling.

        • Mike in Texas says:

          Ahh Allen, no actual facts to present so you resort to name calling and attacks. Shouldn’t you be watching Fox News?

          BTW, I invited you to come see me teach and see what teaching was really about, but you were too chickenshit to take the challenge, so you know nothing about my professional competence.

        • Mike in Texas says:

          25 states? Once again its time for me to prove you’re a know nothing allergic to facts:

          http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/educ/state-parent-trigger-laws.aspx

          As of March 2013, at least 25 states have considered parent trigger legislation and seven of them have enacted some version of the law.

          How does it feel to be so consistently wrong?

        • Why Mike, it’s not even my birthday and you’re giving me a present.

          As you’re undoubtedly aware when you issued the “John Stossel” challenge, like Stossel I immediately accepted. You, naturally, dissembled and for the same reason as Randi Weingarten was forced to dissemble – it’s a bluff and your bluff was called.

          As I responded then I’ll respond now. You tell me where and when and I’ll be there on my own dime.

          Chickenshit indeed.

          As for the number of states that’ve passed parent trigger, I understand your need to make something out of nothing but as I don’t give much weight to your posts neither do I spend much time or attention on my replies to you. I misread an article. Call the state police.

          Besides, I was just a bit ahead of myself.

          Not that long ago it was a single state that had parental trigger. Then it was three. Now it’s seven. It seems pretty obvious that before very long it will be twenty-five states and then all you’ll be left with is vulgarity.

          Actually, that’s pretty much all you’ve got now. Well, when you’re not lying that is.

          But let’s not let your desire to engage in the only thing you’re good at cloud the issue. The L.A. Unified School district board of education, having lost on both the legislative and the judicial fronts is reduced to trying to throw bureaucratic roadblocks in the path of parents trying to get an education for their kids. They’ll lose. You know it and so do I.

          • Mike in Texas says:

            Let’s fact check Allen: 25 states with a parent trigger law as he claimed?Nope!

            Did he take me up on my challenge and come see what teaching was really like? NOPE!

            Now it’s seven.

            And there it is, caught in a lie and Allen tries to duck out it. Did you check your usual source, Wikipedia? I’ll give you ten minutes so you can modify the entry.

          • You’re repeating yourself Mike and given the quality of your posts that’s not a good idea.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    Oh,please. Both the reformers and the traditionalists think they are doing what is best “for the children.”

    They just happen to both be wrong :)

    • Right. It’s only the people who don’t give a damn that know what’s best “for the children”.

      Uhh, they are the only bunch left, correct?

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Okay, I was pretty snarky. Here I want to be sober and serious.

        I think just about everyone in the ed business, including ed school people, foundation people, the people who populate the state and federal ed bureaucracies, even the people who work for consultancies and publishing companies, think they are helping “the children.”

        Are they doing “what’s best?” Not if they accept two ideas that almost all do.

        First idea: The primary purpose of K-12 is preparing young people for college. Both because college is a good thing in itself and because college teaches you things that are necessary in most good jobs.

        Now I think a liberal education is wonderful but that’s not what most people get out of college. They jump through hoops that they don’t care about before or after they do it. They memorize and forget in order to pass most classes. Some actually get a degree, some don’t. Maybe a quarter of the people who enter 9th grade have a college degree a decade later.

        Though many jobs say, “degree required,” this is not because the job uses much, if any, academic knowledge. It is a cheap way of filtering out the less smart, less conscientious, less conformist. Which means it’s a way of closing doors to people who begin life nearer the bottom. But no one in the ed business has a problem with that!

        Because K-12 is seen as preparation for college, the question is rarely asked, “what should young citizens know and be able to do?” Instead, once they reach middle school, we require them to attend condensed college courses. Perhaps an example will show what I mean. We do not ask, “what should high school kids learn about science?” Instead, we require them to take a condensed version of Biology 101, a condensed version of Chemistry 101, and a condensed version of Physics 101. That makes it easy to get teachers–they all took those courses–but it leaves out anything that does not easily fall into one of them, and it forces students to take equal time in all three.

        Around puberty, kids stop being information sponges and become more willful and focused. Yet that is the same time that we force them to take more academic (college condensed) courses. Once kids have hit 7th grade, the honest answer to the question, “When will we ever use this?” is usually, “In a class I hope you will take in the next few years.”

        Most people in the biz don’t have a problem with this because they also accept the idea that “every child can learn”–by which they mean “every child can successfully complete a pre-college course, and most can successfully earn a college degree.”

        This is simply wrong. For some, it is a matter of not having book smarts. For many, it is a matter of not being interested–for reasons of culture, temperament, whatever. So we make these kids failures.

        • I really don’t care what the intentions of all those folks might be. Their results spell out a rather different set on intentions. In fact, the announced intentions are an impediment to understanding the more rational motivations that apply to the various folks in the ed business.

          Ed schools, for instance, may claim to be concerned with the education of children but the quality of research that emerges from schools of education, along with the results of implementing policy based on that research in grade schools, argues persuasively that educating children is of little importance.

          A similar disconnect between avowed intentions and results can be observed in all the entrants in your list.

          A point comes when the claimed desire for a certain outcome runs into the widespread failure to achieve that outcome. That’s when those claimed desires begin to be questioned.

          I would offer that the broad appeal of various reform policies has less to do with those billionaires that Mike loves to hate then with a still-coalescing consensus that changes of a foundational nature must be made to the public education system. Changes like parental trigger.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Roger. Let’s swap “claims” for “thinks”. We don’t know they actually “think” that. We do know they claim it.
      It would be interesting if a traditionalist impulse for improvement visualized a reduced number of jobs in the biz. Or didn’t visualize an increased number.

  4. Roger Sweeny says:

    I suppose I was trying to say two things. “The best salesmen believe their own lines.” Most people in education honestly mean what they say. Often what they say is good for “the children” is also good for them. But not always. Many teachers really seem to believe in heterogeneous grouping and differentiated instruction, even though it makes their job considerably more difficult.

    Two, both traditionalists and reformers will fail. American schools attempt the impossible, and hurt a lot of people in the attempt.

    • Yup. Which is why stated intentions are irrelevant as far as I’m concerned.

      The results suggest a rather different set of intentions, intentions which aren’t anywhere near as attractive as the stated intentions. But self-interest and self-deception have always gone hand in hand since people prefer to believe we’re rather better then the evidence indicates.

      All those who are part of the public education system, employees and elective officials, are no exception.

      Reform of the public education system has always failed because all the basic assumptions upon which the public education system is built went unquestioned. It was reform in name only.

      Now some of the assumptions upon which the public education system is built are being questioned which is why such heretofore heretical ideas – vouchers, charters, parental trigger – ideas which directly attack the indifference to results that’s the default position in public education, are becoming law.

  5. palisadesk says:

    Quite apart from RiShawn Biddle’s various and cogently argued reasons for breaking up LA Unified, the fact that such monster districts tend inevitably towards waste, inefficiency and stasis is reason enough for turning them into smaller, more manageable, units — perhaps with a co-coordinating committee of some kind to deal with issues that can usefully be pooled or shared (placement and programs for high-needs, low-incidence exceptional students for example).

    I have no particular knowledge of LAUSD and its problems but have worked in several districts, two large (one urban and large, another rural and large in geographic area but not population), and one giant, monster urban district still significantly smaller than LAUSD. The contrast between urban-large and urban-monster is stark and unfavorable. Some random factors that I can point to include:

    – smaller (but big) district was much more responsive to citizens, both parents and others, through the electoral process as well as through organized deputations and lobbying for particular needed changes. Mega-district has a million stalling techniques and wears down almost all parties who attempt to effect change or provide input.
    – accountability for particulars is near-zero in mega-district. Attempts to follow through or initiate anything meet an endless voice-mail circuit, with who is responsible for what changing weekly. Correcting any minor error, for instance a student officially recorded in the wrong grade or program, becomes a mammoth operation like Desert Storm. Everyone contacted refers you to someone else, or says “it’s not my department.”
    – decision making, budgeting and much planning and student service is removed from the local level (school, community, neighborhood) to faceless bureaucrats “downtown;” the paperwork required for the simplest things is ridiculous and time consuming — time taken away from real kids and their needs. Furthermore, I personally doubt whether anyone at the other end actually *reads* much of this stuff. In one application for a paraprofessional to service a special needs student, I randomly inserted a few inflammatory items, plus a couple of paragraphs in Latin, just to see if anyone read the stuff. Nope.

    LAUSD is bound to exhibit all of the negatives I’ve experienced plus more. Bigger is not only not better, it is far worse — more expensive, more inflexible, less accountable, completely impervious to change or student needs. “Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do” — maybe, but definitely in the best interests of the students, the staff and the community.