On Tuesday, the Los Angeles School Board approved a plan that could change 250 schools to charter schools. According to the Los Angeles Times, the meeting where this was approved by a 6-1 margin lasted four hours. While some people refer to televised school board meetings as the “original reality TV,” we don’t think anyone would tune in for a marathon meeting like this one. L.A. also streams these meetings on their web site, and while many districts use this practice to streamline coverage for their constituents and inform the community from anywhere in the world (literally), the debate over this plan must have been interesting to watch.
The argument is similar to one that has been hashed out in urban districts around the country: Charter schools allow more freedom for the principal and school leaders and take away a lot of the red tape when it comes to hiring, firing, and working with the teachers and staff at a school. They eliminate the status quo (count how many times you’ve heard that term since January), they give parents more choices, and the students work longer and harder in classes.
But our question remains, can you prove that these charter schools actually increase student achievement? If L.A. is going to transform 250 schools (a quarter of their schools), then shouldn’t there be data to back up the claim that this will improve student achievement? To date, the verdict is still out on the impact.
Something has to be done. Too many students in L.A. and other urban districts are facing increasingly difficult odds and they are not succeeding anywhere near the level they should be. But turning over this many schools to private entities may be a slippery slope. As the second largest district in the nation, L.A. should be a leader and an innovator. But in too many cases, decisions are made and instant results are expected. The students lose in those situations every time, as the adults and decision makers claim that they tried to change the status quo and the results didn’t lead to change as planned.
As loyal readers of BoardBuzz, you know education changes sometimes move at glacial speeds. We just hope that the experiment recently approved in Los Angeles works so that their students succeed academically. We will all be watching.