A couple weeks ago, our school was informed that it is one of 33 that are now classified as Public School Choice (PSC) schools. Our principal made the announcement on a Monday morning, and by the afternoon, our school was buzzing with anxiety, questions and concern. I had never heard of the concept. The principal mentioned that due to our low test scores, we were now “enrolled” by the district into this program (which evidently is happening across the country in similar fashion), whereby an outside entity could take control of the school.
Why then was it not stated that we were going to (obviously) become a charter school? Because that wasn’t necessarily the case. Upon reading more about the topic, I learned several things. First, I had wondered why, after several consecutive years of rising scores, our school was on the list. Turns out that we have too few students classified as advanced or proficient on the California Standards Test.
Second, I learned that charter was/is only one option under the PSC “model.” What happens is that anyone (literally anyone) can put in a bid to control the school. Bid is not used here in a monetary sense, but rather one of creativity. Charters could submit a bid, as could groups of parents or teachers, as could the union, or other entrepreneurs.
After bids are in, an advisory vote happens. Every classified and certificated faculty member (meaning teachers and administrators) at the school can vote, as can every family of a currently enrolled child. The school board then gets the final say.
A possible outcome, to my surprise, was that several bids could win–simultaneously. In that situation, you may have what is called a “pilot” school. It is, essentially, an autonomous school (physically) within a school. Pilot schools (at least in L.A. Unified) are funded by the District, have a maximum of 420 students, control their own budgets and staffing (from the principal down), and operate under a modified union contract.
There could also be multiple pilots on one campus. The contract modification is this: the person in charge (it needn’t be under the name “principal”–charters often have a CEO) can hire and fire (pretty much) at will, but when a person is released, they are still guaranteed a job in the District. This reminds me a bit about the scene in”Waiting for Superman” where the Washington, D.C. schools chancellor offers teachers double pay if they give up tenure rights. (See below for L.A. Unified’s explanation of the PSC idea.)
After learning about all this, and reading up on it, I met with one of our local school board members. She encouraged me to come up with an idea for a pilot. I decided to do just that! I am now charged with the task of mapping out my dream school. It’s been daunting, and I have every intention of
consulting people of varied opinions and ideas about everything from staffing to bell schedule.
As daunting as it is, I keep reminding myself why I became a teacher in the first place, which makes the plan fee like less of a chore and more like a challenge. Anything that helps kids is worth the sweat. To be continued…
LAUSD’s FAQ ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: WHAT IS A PSC SCHOOL?
On August 25,
2009, the Board of Education voted 6-1 to approve a resolution that charges the District to provide quality educational options to all students. The Public School Choice Resolution (PSC) created an annual process that identifies the lowest performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) based on objective and publicly available data, and establishes a process for academic improvement at schools determined to need assistance.
In addition, it was determined by the Board of Education that any new school facility would also go through the same PSC process to ensure the best possible educational offerings from the first day at that new school site.
The PSC 2.0 focus is on developing plans for any new school that is scheduled to open in August or September 2011 and on Focus Schools, defined as existing schools that have met all of the following criteria:
- Program Improvement Status of 5 or more years;
- Academic Performance Index (API) Growth Score of 600 or less;
- Did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets in 2009;
- Less than 20% of students scoring proficient or advanced on the California Standards Tests (CST) in English Language Arts or Math; and
- Less than 100 points net API Gain over 5 years
- Greater than 10% dropout 4-year rate (for High Schools only)
Mr. Franklin is a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is an eleven year veteran and has won District and County Teacher of the Year awards. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Bank of America Community Hero award. Before teaching, he spent five years at Learning Forum, which runs summer camps designed to increase student academic potential. It is a world-wide program.
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