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More Schools Rush to Embrace Change in LA Unified*

LA School Report | August 20, 2013

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2013_AlternativeSchoolGraphic2-01*Oops. In a previous version of this story the chart mistakenly used “district control” instead of “district autonomy,” reversing the meaning of the graphic. Apologies to our readers.

The Los Angeles public school landscape is undergoing an unmistakable shift, with schools adopting new models that ultimately will result in students getting more choices. In a review of non-traditional public schools, LA School Report has found they make up almost one third of all schools in the District. A combination of funding pressures, a push by Superintendent John Deasy to find innovative ways raise academic achievement and a desire by local school sites to gain more control has led to a big jump this year in schools adopting new ‘autonomy’ models. The number of so-called Pilot Schools, for example (see below), has risen 41 percent this year. As a result schools are popping up all over LA Unified with a focus on everything from gaming to applied medicine to entrepreneurship to social justice. Will this have an impact on student achievement or teacher job satisfaction?
That remains to be seen. In the meantime, here is a rundown of the options.

Independent Charters
First permitted by the California legislature in 1992, Independent Charter schools are public schools run by non-profit organizations. Typically, they receive funding directly from the state but are authorized by the LAUSD Board of Education, which oversees their performance and has the ability to renew or deny their charter every five years. Charter schools are open to students district-wide with enrollment conducted by lottery. Unlike other models, charters must pay for their own school facility – but increasingly are sharing space with other public schools, thanks to the enforcement of a ballot measure. Most LAUSD charter schools operate without unionized labor and are exempt from most District policy.  For a list of Independent Charters, click here.

Pilot Schools
First launched at 10 LA school sites in 2007 with the support of UTLA and modeled after namesake schools in Boston, the Pilot School model is based on granting local sites autonomy in terms of budget, staffing, governance and curriculum. The school leadership operates with broad local control, exemptions from District policies and some waivers from the teachers union contract, including the unique ability to replace staff at the end of each school year. Considered the most flexible model, pilot schools are typically small (around 500 students) and are most often adopted at newly-minted school sites. The number of schools was capped in 2009, but as part of District negotiations in 2011 with the teachers union, the cap was lifted, leading to 14 new pilots just this year. For a list of Pilot schools click here.

Local Initiative Schools (LIS)
This new model was the result of the 2011 labor agreements between UTLA and LAUSD and has the potential for significant collaboration between teachers, parents and administrators. LIS schools have broad local control and exemptions from District policy. But they are unique one key respect: the concept of “mutual consent” hiring is contractually embedded in the LIS model. This requires that both the school and teacher agree to placement at the school site, a departure from traditional LAUSD schools, where placement is decided by the central office. LIS schools may elect to waive some union contract provisions if there is agreement at the school site to do so. Click here for a list of LIS schools.

Affiliated Charters
Affiliated charters are existing, traditional LAUSD schools that opt to convert to charter school status. These schools resemble traditional schools more than charters: LAUSD, not an independent nonprofit board, retains governing control of the school; all employees are paid by LAUSD and subject to union agreements; and the schools’ funding flows through LAUSD rather than from the state as with most Independent Charters. Affiliated Charters have become popular with non-Title 1 LAUSD schools as a mechanism to retain greater funding on campus and for branding purposes. Otherwise, Affiliated Charters offer similar levels of flexibility as LIS and ESBMM schools. For a list of Affiliated Charters, click here.

Expanded School-Based Management Model
The ESBMM model is based on a teacher-led approach formulated in 2005 when Woodland Hills Academy Middle School almost converted to a Charter school. ESBMM provides school sites with autonomy from certain District policies and emphasizes shared decision-making, with greater teacher input. All provisions of labor agreements continue to apply. With the strong support of union leadership, the number of schools has expanded rapidly, even as the flagship school in Woodland Hills has bowed out. For a list of ESBMM schools, click here.

Network Partner Schools
These are LAUSD schools run as collaborations between the District and non-profit organizations, which serve as the day-to-day managers of the school. Network Partner schools have waivers from some District policies and operate under existing union contracts. They include former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools,  launched in 2007; L.A.’s Promise, which has focused on a neighborhood-based turnaround model in South LA; and the troubled Greater Crenshaw Educational Partnership, which once oversaw Crenshaw High. The LAUSD school board voted unanimously early this year to break up Crenshaw into three smaller magnet schools.


Previous posts: Charter & District School Alternatives,Teachers Flocking to “Pilot” School Model,Public School Choice 4.0

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