I’d mentioned way back when that my school was taken over by the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools – Mayor Villaraigosa’s political effort to do something about education.
After the first year, he’s quite happy to be able to take credit for some big progress.
I could go on the usual rant here about politicians getting involved in stuff the know nothing about, and taking credit for things they didn’t actually do. And for the mayor, that’d be pretty darn correct. The partnership itself admitted the first year (at least) would be about getting their bearings, and that they didn’t expect to see a lot of results right away. Those improved results are not out of line with LAUSD’s overall improvements, and are easily explained by processes that were already in place.
Here’s the thing, though. I think the Partnership, and the people running it, are lining themselves up to do a pretty good job.
Most teachers hate them. They lost a no confidence vote at the high school across the street. The only reason that didn’t happen at our school is because our union leadership recommended against it.
But the biggest complaints seem to be from the people who say (and this is a quote): “We’re doing our best. It’s not our fault the students are failing. You can’t expect us to do better.”
I think the biggest failing of the Partnership is that they did not realize how dysfunctional the systems they were getting involved with were. They compound that by striving for a full democracy, where every teacher, student, and parent has a say in what happens to the school.
They weight all input equally, and if the majority of that input comes from people that are accustomed to a failing system, they’ll get corresponding results. During the final meeting of the year, one of our other teachers (who has also since left that school) suggested that ideally you’d want a meritocracy, where the successful people provide input and guidance. That makes sense to me, but I also suspect that putting that into practice would result in a lot of chaos as the result of bruised and battered fragile egos. During that same meeting, I saw some from frustration from Marshall Tuck, the president of the partnership. The frustration wasn’t that with the failures – it was with the paranoid social environment that stymied his efforts. Fortunately for the Partnership and its school, I have also found him to be eternally responsive and dedicated. He’s willing to play by your rules, and is confident that he can still achieve his goals. I know I wouldn’t have that perseverance (which is why I have since moved on), but I suspect that if anyone can make it work, it’s him.
I wish him, my old school, and all of the staff and students there the best of luck.