Second chance or fresh start?

How much does a track record matter? Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says a lot. That’s why he’s encouraging the LA Unified School District to hand over more schools to charter operators in this year’s round of school takeover bids. We applauded LA for “snapping out of LA-LA land" when it invited teachers, community groups, and charters to apply to take over the district’s worst schools or start-up a handful of new ones. But when the first round takeover decisions were made, LAUSD supe Ramon Cortines recommended, and the school board ultimately chose, to turn most (twenty-two of thirty) schools over to teacher groups, who’d scrambled in the weeks before the deadline to draw up their turnaround or start-up plans. Charters got no turnaround schools and only four new ones, and the city’s three largest charter operators (ICEF, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, and Green Dot) got none. Villaraigosa thinks this was wrongheaded. “You can write a great plan,” he explains, “but if you don’t have a history…of proven results, that plan is just a piece of paper.” We’re with him so far. But if we're going for a "history of proven results," then history is pretty plain: The track record of turnarounds is spotty at best. 

Charters, teachers vie to take over L.A. Unified schools,” by Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2010

Villaraigosa backs charter school bids, rips Cortines,” by Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2010

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