Los Angeles District Schools Outperform Schools Run by Outside Reformers

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August 13, 2011; Source: Los Angleles Times | A recent study of school performance found that the Los Angeles Unified School District outperformed independent charter schools as well as a group of schools controlled by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Mayor Villaraigosa attempted to take control of the entire school system six years ago.

The differentials are significant in some areas. In math the percentage of students working at a proficient level in the lowest-performing district-run high schools has increased 116% since 2008, while students in schools under Villaraigosa’s watch saw an increase of only 57%.

But that is not the most significant contrast. “In percentage point gains, the district outpaced all the outside organizations,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Test scores in reading at the district high schools rose 7.8 points; math scores climbed 6.3 points. . . . Among the outside efforts, Crenshaw High School—which is being overseen by the Los Angeles Urban League, the Bradley Foundation and USC—fared the worst. Reading scores at Crenshaw were down 2 percentage points over three years, while math scores nudged upward 0.3 point.” Villaraigosa’s high schools showed a 5.7-percentage-point increase in English and a 1.5-point increase in math, better than the Crenshaw effort but not as good as the district’s.

The Times notes that the findings are particularly stark given that district schools have had none of the outside funding and expertise afforded the reform efforts. The one charter school in the mix was not required to deal with the teacher’s union and fired approximately two-thirds of its teachers.

This is a very interesting report considering the amount of private money going into various educational experiments at this point. We’d love to hear what our readers—especially those in L.A.—think about these results.—Ruth McCambridge

  • John Carroll

    1. Competition is good for everyone.
    2. Half has to do where the kids started.
    3. Did they take over the worst schools?

  • Ruth McCambridge

    The study seemed to do a good job in correcting for that concern. It measured the new efforts against the worst performing schools in the district. But I also wondered what part competition played, Still, I think it is disturbing that some of these grand ideas that people attach themselves to and literally pour millions into fail so distinctly. People rattle off, apparently, what they think oughta work as what will work – like the Gates small schools initiative – and to heck with a reasonable research base!