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Who Owns Our Schools — Unions or Parents?

schools.jpgThe battle over control of public schools in LA and across California is heating up with legal, legislative and political battles on many fronts.

President Obama’s “Right to the Top” initiative, sharp cuts in state funding, competition from charters, parent demands for better schools (see article below) are fueling the education debate. Get up to date at OurLA.org and share your views on the state of the schools in the comments section or by submitting articles to me at ron@ronkayela.com.

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9 Responses to Who Owns Our Schools — Unions or Parents?

  1. david r2b says:

    I have a question that doesn’t directly relate to “this” article entitled “Who owns our Schools?”, but does delve into the LA Unified School District.
    What happened to LA Unified that allowed it to no longer teach Students? I grew up in Woodland Hills: Woodlake Ave. Elementary, the old Hughes Junior High School (located on Winnetka) and ending at Taft High School. My education was incredible, 99 percent of the teachers were great, the facilities were always adequate, and parents wanted to and stayed involved. The only screw ups I ever encountered were of my own doing and/or not utilizing what I was being offered. Was I just lucky…..OR…..?
    Question: What changed at the LAUSD that allowed it to become what it is now?
    Thank you and Happy Holidays…..NO !……. screw the PC stuff, have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year !

  2. David, School board members who are politicians happened. An excessive bureaucracy which is out of touch with the schools, overemphasis on test scores and testing, programmed teaching like Open Court which takes away the freedom from the teachers to meet the needs of their students, spending money outside and much more happened. The best teachers either left, retired early or became instructional robots and school became neither satisfying or fun for everyone. Think micromanaging fits? Think one size fits all students? All the good things we experienced as students are gone. I was an LAUSD student, then a teacher when there was freedom and then the times changed.

  3. anonymous says:

    Stuart, thank you for your analysis. Would you mind commenting on the teachers? I realize one shouldn’t just blame teachers, that there’s more to it than that. I agree that one size doesn’t fit all. Ironically, the teachers that “fit” for me were the ones that were fired-not because of seniority, but because they didn’t fit the Catholic school mold. I guess the breaking point for one teacher was the A+ I received when pointing out that Creationism did not contradict Darwinism. Sorry, digression.
    I keep hearing how the bad ones are protected/tenured and lay offs would mean getting rid of some of the better newer ones.
    I’ve also read about how difficult it is to fire those who have multiple molestation complaints.
    In addition, I’ve read how the administration is top heavy at the expense of much need programs and more teachers.
    How true do you think this is?
    What’s your take on the pending changes?

  4. In Eagle Rock says:

    As one with some brief time in LAUSD teaching at the high school level, it seems that a lot of the teaching effort was shifted to “standards” and “test” curriculum that were not clearly all that was needed to impart upon students.
    The students, to a large degree, had a a lack of good study habits to use in handling assignments/lessons. This was on the academic level and, of course, many students did not have this problem and would even excel, but the others were in a sort of bottleneck in the progress through schools. Not meeting academic success was a kind of vicious cycle where a lot of counterproductive behavior was created as successful experiences became overshadowed by unsuccessful ones.
    Couple that to the related “social skills” issues and the situation becomes worse. I am now talking about the “problem” students more than the “good” students who will usually manage to get through the system at assorted levels of success. The “problem” students often have dysfunctional home situations that provide little assistance for the school condition. The job of imparting social skills, the basic of which are courtesy items, falls to the teachers or it doesn’t happen.
    Educating in social skills and being able to impart some knowledge of “why” and “how” such things improve life and are not “loser” or “wimp” actions helped get things moving in the right direction. Developing some attitude on the students’ part of a relevance to what we do in school to what will happen outside of school now and in the future is another task that helps but was not a primary concern when I was teaching a few years ago. It was done as the particular teacher was able to recognize a value to the effort and each saw things in their own way, shaped by their own experiences.
    But the “tests” were what ran the school’s direction, and it was all about making a lot of students study more about the tested areas and never really working on why this is important to them or how skills could be improved to help learning processes overall, not just for what amounted to a more elaborate “cramming” preparation, while the larger “preparing for life after high school” was handled very lightly by the LAUSD where maybe the Life Skills classes were to address that in a niche.
    Really it needed to be an overall concept for anything to sink in and become usable when you have a lot of students not prepared for high school who then graduate (or drop out) and now are unprepared for even Community College entry level courses. (Check catalogs of most CCs to see the numerous remedial classes that eat up semesters of time and money to get students where high school should have taken them.)
    LAUSD now is trying to weed out teachers at the pre-tenure level? It’s interesting that there is “tenure” at all in the high school level when it is supposed to be a concept that would fit colleges and university faculties more appropriately as that is where you begin to have a lot more opportunity to explore concepts and ideas that may not be popular and so a teacher with even solid competency would be in jeopardy because of the subject matter taught. But that’s with a wider scope of education and with adult age students.
    High school “tenure” might be the reason for problems in education, but the other side of the coin is that some adminstrators are endowed by the district with powers that exceed their capacities and tiny mental attitudes. There are enough of them and apparently were enough of them when “tenure” first was establlished in schools. I think the better course, but for the unprofessional performance level of some administrators in key places, would be to have teaching jobs handled like any job and not have a built in shield that prevents action to remedy the problems that tie the hands of LAUSD officials now.
    Just some views but I see charter schools as being what people look towards as the solution, rightly or wrongly. (And their are some of dubious value out there, as Monica Garcia continues to support them.)

  5. anonymous says:

    Thank you Eagle Rock. That really makes sense. Between questionable administrations, “tenured” teachers, sociological changes and challenges, it’s no wonder the system is failing our youth.
    Next question: can it be fixed?

  6. anonymous says:

    Thank you Eagle Rock. That really makes sense.
    I guess the next question is-what can be fixed and how?

  7. I was asked to comment on the teachers. Here is the link as to why I left the classroom and only work part time at an elementary school.http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-3311-LA-Public-Education-Examiner~y2009m6d5-I-Thought-That-I-Would-Teach-Forever–Now-Im-leaving

  8. david r2b says:

    Stuart – Thank you so much for your comments and information. This was really an informative article / comments adventure. There was also other excellent comments and information. Thank you everyone and I feel that this is a perfect example of Mr. Kayes’ goal: problem discussion and possible solutions. Also Stuart your article link was very interesting but disturbing. With this “Open Court” thing a teacher is told / instructed what to teach on a schedule ? Wow, I went into my education history and it always seemed my teachers were given quite a bit of freedom.
    Another comment item that was also mentioned frequently: “Tenure”. Didn’t the State of California vote a few years back that tenure should be two years rather than five? Although I have an AA in Music Theory and a BS (love that acronym) in Business, I’m a Plumber by trade and it took two years as a Mechanical Helper for me to qualify as an Apprentice and then four years before I qualified to take the Journeyman Plumbers Exam.
    Two years to acquire Tenure seems pretty generous. Is this a Labor Union power play . . . more members is more better? Therefore the Union has more influence? Stuart, what would be a reasonable number of years for Tenure be?
    Once again, thank you everyone for your input. Being an outsider I would evaluate / summarize that the two major concerns / problems are: 1) Tenure and 2) Studying to take exams / good “test scores”.
    NOW…………How do we the people solve it? Education Experts, answers please?
    Merry Christmas !

  9. I am not in a position where I can voice any opinion about the period for tenure. I received it and my first principal did my annual reviews without viewing any directed lessons. I believe that the first year is difficult for a new teachers. A lot of it depends whether it is a hard to staff school or a school with high parental expectations plus the administrative efforts along with that the of the veteran teachers to assist the new ones.
    Regarding Open Court here is what I wrote: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-3311-LA-Public-Education-Examiner~y2009m2d19-Open-Court-the-language-arts-program-that-teachers-love-to-hate

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