More Falling Ed Reform Dominoes (This Time in LA) - What Could it Mean for Seattle?

Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy told his district's top leadership that he would be leaving in a few months.  He came from the Gates Foundation and is yet another Broad superintendent to get exited or who left a job.  He has been on the job since 2011. 

Into this issue wades Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (basically a local think-tank for ed reform).  She lauds Deasy for leaving "a comfortable job at the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation."  Then she goes all in:

In nearly any other sector, a man like Deasy—who is able to articulate a strong vision of change and pursue it relentlessly—would be able to get people to follow him and accomplish most anything. But this was LAUSD, where for decades strong leaders were eaten alive by the politics of race and unions and poverty and rampant district dysfunction. 

Note that ed reform jargon: dysfunction (again), politics of race and unions and poverty. 

Then she explains what  School Board should do:

But more than anything, it was impossible to make challenging policy decisions and maintain the support of LAUSD school board members, who—as in other cities—are influenced by community politics and stakeholder interests, rather than acting like they should, as a governing body that oversees a long-term civic vision and strategic plan.  

First of all, that civic vision INCLUDES the public ("the stakeholders") - parents who invest their children's academic lives in the district AND the taxpayers.  So sorry that democracy is a bother and that parents and taxpayers are to vote and then sit down and shut up. 

Urban districts are so large and out-of-control that special dispensation should be given to urban superintendents?  Because that's what I'm hearing here.  

Again, she goes after the school board:

If you are honest with yourself (and older than 20), you may find yourself believing that if a leader like John Deasy can’t make real progress, the urban superintendency truly is an impossible job. We need to stop relying on heroism and instead start dismantling special interest-captured school boards and other governance structures that get in the way of school improvement for urban students. We need civic leaders to commit to a long-term vision of institutional change that will weather the leadership shift of the moment. 

And then she goes for the big ask:

What if we could go back and reprogram the game so that Deasy didn’t have an elected board? What if he’d decided to use his political capital during the mayor’s terms to turn 200 of LAUSD’s worst schools over to the city’s highest-performing charter organizations, so that his gains would be hard to reverse? What else could he have done differently to fundamentally change the trajectory of the district? 

Get rid of elected oversight.

In one fell swoop, turn 200 schools over to "highest-performing" charters?  How does she know that those high-performing ones have worked with what are probably the students with more challenges?  More poverty?  More children of color?  

Beware, because if this is the talk for LA, what are these ed reformers who live in Seattle thinking for our district.  This is very precisely why we need Sue Peters and not Suzanne Dale Estey on the Seattle School Board.

 If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny.  Does every ed reformer get an e-mail or fax every day with talking points?  Because you can't miss the messaging.

About Deasy from the LA Times:

His major initiatives have included revamping teachers evaluations to include the use of students' standardized test scores. He also altered the seniority system to limit the effect of job cuts at schools with large numbers of less-experienced instructors, who are generally the first to be laid off.

The school system recently embarked on a $1-billion project — led by Deasy — to provide iPads to every student and teacher, using school-construction bonds as the funding source. The effort has gotten off to a rocky start, and Deasy has come under criticism for moving too quickly while there are still unanswered questions.

Rocky start is right.  High school students figured out how to hack into the iPads so they could avoid the firewalls set up by the district.  And, as Diane Ravitch points out,

The cost–anticipated ultimately to be in excess of $1 billion–is one concern at a time when classes are overcrowded, and many schools are in need of repair, and thousands of teachers were laid off.

What is also interesting here is that Deasy was close with former LA mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.  Both of them backed ed reform candidates school board candidates who lost their races.   It seems Deasy doesn't play well with others according to the LA Times:

The newly constituted board has made no moves against Deasy, but quickly began to challenge more of his policies.

The superintendent threatened to resign when the school board was poised to elect Vladovic as board president in July. The board elevated Vladovic anyway and Deasy stayed.

He threatened to leave when he didn't like the choice that duly-elected school board members were going to make for president?  

One community leader said that it would be a loss and, shades of Seattle, said this:

Further, he said, the superintendent has been stymied by a dysfunctional school board.
"The failure has been to bring the board around to his vision for the district," he said.

Ed reform vocabulary word - "dysfunctional".  Don't like your Board?  Just call 'em dysfunctional.

From the Huffington Post:

"On the one hand, urban districts like LAUSD and New York are going after the best qualified candidates in the national pool," said Wong. "Oftentimes these strong charismatic leaders bring in innovative ideas," like Deasy's program to provide an iPad for every student, his support for a parental trigger for school reform and his push to include student performance as a part of teacher evaluations

Contrast those district-wide reforms with an elected school board whose loyalties lie with the residents who voted for them, and school districts have a recipe for controversy.

Yes, those pesky elected officials who are there as the check and balance to a superintendent. 


Someone said…
Wow - really, this bothers them? "Contrast those district-wide reforms with an elected school board whose loyalties lie with the residents who voted for them.." - that is some scary scary thinking. As long as my tax dollars are (partly) paying for public education, then I get a say too - geez the arrogance is astounding. Unsurprising, perhaps, but astounding.
Patrick said…
Dysfunctional boards apparently are boards that are doing what their voters want instead of what the Walton, Broad, and Gates Foundations wants
William H. said…
Nick Hanauer put $1M into YES on 1240 and Democrats for Education Reform were was behind I 1240.

Hanauer and Democrats for Education Reform have contributed $31K to Estey's PAC.

Hard to believe Estey is against charter schools when her campaign is funded at $225K.
Anonymous said…
When will we get it through our heads that representative democracy is a terrible thing? How many Broad quitters must tuck tail and run until we realize it's all our fault for wanting to be heard concerning our children? So, another poor Gates-Broad Urban SI alum loses his 6 figure salary, expensive car allowance, executive office suite in LA with all it's perks, and who grieves for him?

Stop Discrimination Against Plutocrats Now!

Kate Martin said…
Every time they have a hard time pointing to a large school district with diversity and poverty that is on the right track without being lap dogs for corporate style ed reform, I point to Joshua Starr, Superintendent at Montgomery County School District in Maryland... MOCO as it's called. Starr is a star! Just ask: What would Joshua do and then do it. We'd be miles ahead.
Anonymous said…
Deasy went down because of the iPad fiasco. Surely a "businessman" could come up with a better plan of piloting and implementing new technology than this school district superintendent fool did. Oh wait - he IS a businessman.

MW said…
I remember reading and re-reading the 1240 document and my alarm at the loss of community/taxpayer/parent control. This post explains so much about why I was feeling that way and the culture that was driving it. Stunningly revealing.
Anonymous said…
Wow! So now the blogosphere opposes technology? And points to it as evidence of the evil reform failure? Gates somehow is now responsible for a failure by Ipad? ??? You people are unbelievable! Ipads are great. All private schools require technology, eg laptops for high school students and yes, *gasp* with internet access. You do have to learn self regulation skills at some point. Why not high school? I'm sure all your kids have smart phones available all day long, not to mention lap tops. Yet you'd gladly "whip up" on "failing reformers" than fix anything for anybody.

-Bring It
Ryan said…
I think that you could already see the beginnings of this in the proposals in the legislature this year to disband elected school boards and turn them over to the SPI, a "reform" that Senator Tom has been after for a few years now.
Bring It, where did anyone say they opposed technology? No, the issue was to ask "is this the best use of dollars in the face of what LUSD was facing?" Did it roll out properly? It did not (Google this). Is Pearson in line to make millions from this buy? They are.

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