Upcoming Westside Middle School Tours

Hey Westside Middle School Shoppers. Here is a quick list of upcoming tours:

LACES – Thurs Nov 8, 9a
Palms – Fri Oct 26 & Mon Nov 5 8:30a
Revere – Thurs Oct 25 & Nov 15 9a, also Dec 6 and Jan 24
MarinaDelRey – Fri Oct 31, Weds Nov 7 & 14 8:30a
Twain – Thurs Oct 25 & Nov 1, also Nov 7 & Nov 15 8:30a
Webster – Thurs Nov 8 8:10a
Animo Westside – Thurs Oct 25 10a, Nov 15 10a & 5:30p
City School Charter – rsvp online: Sat Nov 3 & 17 9:30a, Thur Nov 29 7p
Incubator School – Town Hall Thurs Oct 25 6:30p
New West Charter – check back in Dec
.

To navigate school websites by neighborhood, use my color-coded schoolfinder maps: https://gomamaguide.com/schoolfinder/

Hidden Rival to Charter Schools – My Response

Have you read this recent article in the Washington Post?

Hidden Rival to Charter Schools by Jay Mathews

Fascinating. Shows just how frustrated parents are with the traditional, increasingly narrow, test-driven model of education. It’s not working. It hasn’t in a long time. We are collectively, desperately, ready and pining for something new. Even if it means trying something unorthodox or doing it ourselves. I see this all the time speaking to parents and helping them navigate their public school options.

Here in Los Angeles, the forefront of the charter movement and the second largest school district in the country, we’ve also seen an increase in collaborative homeschool study groups with organized educational field trips and social group outings. Many area museums and attractions offer programs/tours designed specifically for the homeschooler, and we also have a couple of hybrid schools that offer a part-time classroom /part-time home study combo.

Parents want options other than the traditional test-driven District model. That is unmistakable. Here’s what I’ve observed:

– communities desperately trying to support, reinvigorate and revitalize their neighborhood school despite the yearly onslaught of budget cuts and set backs, frequently get frustrated by the lack of engaging, inspired teaching and learning, and the unavoidable District policy ceiling they will hit, so they

-explore all their lottery options including magnets, charters or transfers/permits to find the best-possible school option for their children, and failing that they

– band together under a united vision to launch an indie start-up charter where collectively they can participate in an alternative model of education and have the freedom to collaborate on the shaping of their school. However, the space limitations under Prop 39 continually thwart rapid enrollment growth resulting in wait lists in the hundreds for the successful models, not to mention the rather sad lack of facilities (a row of temporary bungalows co-located on the side of another district school, or housed in a church, or concrete business park with no field, no auditorium, no library, few enrichments)

– some find a way to “make it work” and make the best of what they are offered, others frustrated by these options move to another more successful, better-funded public school footprint (if it exists nearby or if they can afford it), and finally having exhausted or summarily rejected all of the above for various reasons

– look into homeschooling options, which run the gamut from filing PSA affidavits, forming co-op home study groups, meet-ups, or utilizing online courses, such as K12, Kahn Academy or CAVA. With the ubiquitous accessibility of technology, I don’t doubt we will be seeing even more online and hybrid education models in the very near future.

There is plenty of research that points to best practices in 21st Century teaching and learning, yet for some reason the policymakers continually reject what the research shows and what the teachers already know, and set public school policy (federal and local) that instead narrows the curriculum and pushes top-down test-driven results, beating the very inspiration, depth and engagement we so desperately seek, out of education altogether.

I personally know my own limitations and don’t homeschool my daughter, but is it any wonder families are exploring any and all alternative options? “Hidden rival” to charter schools sound ominous and overly threatening. I’d say it’s more like growing numbers of families exploring their options and seeking different ones than the traditional model.

What do you think about this trend?

The Conversion Charter…Trending Now

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

With 6 LAUSD neighborhood schools converting to affiliated charter status last year and 25 more schools converting this year, we ask, is it contagious? A sign of the times?

 Why would your perfectly good neighborhood school convert to affiliated charter status anyway, you ask?

It all comes down to the 3 Fs. Flexibility, Freedom…and Funding.

An affiliated charter is a unique sort of “charter lite” or hybrid model that was created in LAUSD to pacify all parties. While this type of charter doesn’t have the full autonomy an independent charter school has, they do have increased autonomy from the traditional district model.

A typcial LAUSD neighborhood school that converts to an affiliated charter school can keep its existing campus and facilities -no fighting for space or co-locations via Prop 39. They also keep their attendance area -maintaining the feel of a neighborhood school with priority enrollment given to area residents. The UTLA teacher contract and District-paid union positions stay in tact -but with it so does tenure and seniority-based bumping rights. The school gains some limited freedoms from the district – and the feeling of semi-autonomy. Most importantly the school once converted can apply to the state for a block charter grant -direct funds based on enrollment numbers, which can make up some of the budget shortfalls the school sustained as a non-charter.

While still overseen by LAUSD, an affiliated charter creates its own site-based governance system typically made up of parents, staff, and administration, so the decision-making body of the school resides on campus, not downtown. The school also gains flexibility in curricular focus, textbook selection, selecting programs and materials, as well as freedom in deciding how to allocate, manage and spend the funds that come unrestricted from the state.

The district still oversees and controls many policies in an affiliated charter, and when lateral budget cuts are made – when a staff position or program is reduced or eliminate districtwide – affiliated charters are affected. When the district decides to change the calendar and implement “Early Start,” or makes changes to the bell schedule, or the number of instructional days, class size ratios, or changes to the graduation A-G requirements – affiliated charters are affected. So ultimately, it’s a compromise. The District maintains some control, the unions maintain their contracts, and the school site gains some autonomy without going full-out independent charter.

There is money involved, surely, particularly important for schools that have fallen just below the now higher Title 1 (poverty level) school threshold. In fact, the majority of the schools that have converted one by one (or seven by sixteen) to affiliated charter, are schools that have lost their Title 1 status, meaning they have lost their additional federal funding. The loss in federal funds, in additional to the continued onslaught of yearly state and district budget cuts, has been devastating.

For an elementary school in LAUSD, already 48th in the country in per-pupil spending, the Title 1 funding loss can amount to $80-150,000 annually from a school’s operating budget. For a secondary school such as the highly-lauded LACES, the loss from their budget this year was $460,000. For Millikan Middle School, the loss was about $600,000. You can see the kind of fiscal pressure a school is under, and why that charter block grant, not to mention the thought of gaining some autonomy, starts to look not only attractive, but necessary for survival.

Read some commentary on it from School Board member Tamar Galatzan HERE. And KPCC takes a look at the issues HERE.

But what does this mean in terms of trends where predominantly high-performing motivated middle class schools capable of self-governance are converting to charter 25 – 30 at a time? What does it mean for the rest of the district’s schools, where high staff turnover, low parent participation, and unmotivated communities do not, or can not, advocate for their schools?

In California we have more students enrolled in charter schools than anywhere else in the nation. Ten years from now, will the majority of our schools be charters? Will the District be bankrupt? Will we (the people, the policy-makers) make public education a priority, an undeniable human right, a necessary investment in our collective futures, or will it become an obsolete novelty gone the way of social security and pension plans?

In updating my color-coded Valley Elementary school map with all the recent charter conversions, there is a clear green line. The charter line. Schools south of the Ventura Freeway in the foothills, in North Hills, and Granada Hills, see the most conversions. Make no mistake, they’re also the areas with the highest property values.

GoMamaGuide’s Valley Elementary Schools Map.

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Want to use this article? You can as long as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
 
Tanya Anton is the creator of GoMamaGuide.com helping parents demystify and navigate their public school options in Los Angeles. To read more articles by Tanya or to learn about her Guidebooks, House Chats, Consultations, and Seminars, visit GoMamaGuide.com or email us at GoMama@mac.com.
© 2012 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.