Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wake Up and Shake Up

My entire schooling occurred in the LA Unified School District (LAUSD). The whole time, having friends that lived in Orange County, I knew that the LAUSD sorta sucked. Well, it's come to a head and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says, "wake up and shake up the bureaucracy at the LAUSD".

The Economist has a pretty good summary of what the Mayor has proposed. I tried to find something from the LA Times since it should have a good local take, but I could only find something about the reaction to the proposal..nothing about the proposal itself (logins required for both).

Since I'm not too familiar with the specifics of the proposal, I can't really say if I'm totally for it or against it, but let me tell you...something needs to be done. My high school was all right, but every time I drive by that place now, I just feel like it's gotten a lot more ghetto over the years. I know, I know, a ghetto look to a school has no tie to how well the eduction is in that school, but even when I was there, most of students really had no plans to do anything after high school except work. Even then, it was pretty clear that one can't go too far in this world without some sort of further education. And as you can refer to in the Economist article, a staggering number of LAUSD students don't even bother to finish school.

The LATimes article refers to the range of schools in the LAUSD since there are many rich areas in LA City in addition to the many poor areas. This is a clear example of how "Separate But Equal" is still a reality even though it's unconstitutional. I'm not 100% sure about the charter school concept, but I am definitely sure about the utility of managing schools at a smaller level. Not micromanaging, but just focusing on a smaller number of students.

One of the proposals I heard on NPR last week (though I'm not sure if it's actually a part of the mayor's plans) is to manage every school in the district at a 500 student max. This doesn't mean creating physical schools with no more than 500 students, but I take it to mean that a person will be in charge of a 500 student slice of the school to ensure the success of those students. Sort of like the multiple schools at any university (School of Engineering, Arts & Letters, etc).

I think that's a really good idea. Simply throwing money at a problem rarely solves the problem. But thinking about ways to re-envision the existing structure can really lead to new ways to succeed.

At this point, the mayor's plan would have to be approved by the California Legislaure. Given Villaraigosa's history with the Leg. and the Governator's support, I have a feeling it will pass. Here's hoping that the 727 thousand students in that district really benefit from the plans.


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