Saturday, June 28, 2008

Delivering a Quality Education in Schools of Every Size

When it comes to education reform, what change will have the biggest impact on student achievement? This question was before the School Board on Tuesday as we discussed a resolution to transform large LAUSD schools in to schools of approximately 500 students.

I feel very strongly that the size of a school is far less important than the quality of the teachers and the principal at that school. I also feel that any large scale transformation requires a thorough, thoughtful analysis. Before I could commit to breaking down all of our large schools into smaller schools, I needed to know: Are schools of 500 too small to offer students everything we want and need to provide? What is the right number that achieves both a sense of personalization and improved student outcomes? How much will the changes cost and what do we forgo by using our resources to make schools smaller? How do we ensure that schools have the right conditions – from quality teaching staff and a strong principal to rigorous curriculum – for increased student achievement in a smaller setting and in every setting?

Tuesday’s debate was long and in the end, I was pleased that the authors of the resolution listened to my concerns and accepted amendments from Board Member Galatzan and me to do the requisite analysis and planning before declaring unequivocally that LAUSD will be transformed into a district of small schools by 2020. I look forward to receiving the Superintendent’s analysis in December and hearing his recommendations for making large schools smaller, where it makes sense.

I also look forward to the pilot phase, which will begin no later than 2010, focus on high priority schools and large middle schools, and which will be guided by the results of the Superintendent’s analysis. I know from my business career that you always start small, learn from your mistakes, and then scale up if the results warrant it.

1 comment:

Yolie Flores Aguilar said...

Marlene - I´m disappointed by your continued mischaracterization of the orgininal language of my resolution, and misleading your readers about your amendments. Allow me to clarify: 1)The original language in my resolution included up to a year and half for planning and thoughtful implementation; 2) the language in the original resolution called for a "portfolio" of schools, acknowledging that we want options and variety, such as magnets, and allowing for large schools that are doing well to be left alone if there is not a demand to transform into a campus of small schools; and 3) the final language in the resolution called for "phases," not pilots, as you indicated in your blog statement. The first phase will include all High Priority Schools and all middle schools. We would begin implementation by the year 2010. It is important to note that we have already "piloted" small schools -- the High Tech Highs include those; the resolution idenified others that are already part of LAUSD. They are ALL showing better results. Clearly, we don´t need any more pilots. What our students need is for us to get off the dime and take what works to scale. This is what our resolution will do. Small schools should be available to many more students(not just some) if this is what we know sets the stage for other important reforms, in particular more effective, personalized instruction. The best teachers know this, and this is what they have been telling us. Charters know this and this is what they have been demonstrating. Parents know this and this is why they are voting with their feet and going to Charters. I´m glad we were willing to finally listen.

I appreciated your amendments as they helped the resolution move forward and get us to a 6-1 vote. Principally, they gave the Superintendent the ability to define the phases after we completed implementation of small schools beyond the High Priority and middle schools. Beyond that, I´m grateful that the resolution´s original intent and mandate to begin the process immediately was made even stronger.

I hope this helps clarify and give your readers accurate information.

Yolie Flores Aguilar
Vice President of the Board