Our 17 most popular articles about Los Angeles schools from 2017
Esmeralda Fabián Romero | January 2, 2018
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*Updated Jan. 3
2017 was a big year for education news in Los Angeles, drawing national attention to the most expensive school board race in U.S. history, the looming fiscal cliff exacerbated by declining enrollment, and a new state accountability system that has sparked sharp criticism from parent groups across the state and education advocates across the nation.
Here’s our final roster of the most-read stories about Los Angeles schools from 2017. (And in case you missed it, you might also want to catch up with our “Year in Numbers:” 7 charts and graphs that shaped the way we think about LA schools in 2017)
1. Reformers sweep LAUSD school board elections
The most-watched story of the year in the nation’s second-largest school district was the LA Unified school board race, which shattered campaign spending records, toppled the board president, and ushered in the first reform majority since 2010. LA School Report covered the intense race like no other publication, with comprehensive profiles of the primary candidates, what was at stake for kids, what fueled the record spending, and the rising parent movement that swept in change for public education. Read it all at LAUSD Race 2017.
2. Exclusive: New district data on student grades show more than half of LAUSD’s 2016 graduates were not eligible for California’s public universities
More students are graduating from LA Unified schools, but a majority of them are ineligible for the state’s public universities. To apply for University of California and Cal State schools, students need to pass a set of college-prep classes with a C grade or better. But only 47 percent of the 2016 grads received at least a C in those classes, known as A-G courses. LA Unified leaders decided two years ago to allow students to graduate with D’s in those classes. Now some school board members are pushing to raise the requirement back to a C. That could reverse some of the district’s gains in its graduation rate, which hit a record 80 percent.
3. ‘They wonder how we do it’: Downey Unified — a school district in LA’s shadow with the same student demographics — is getting 96% of kids across the graduation stage
Students in Downey Unified look a lot like those in neighboring LA Unified: mainly Latino and low-income. But Downey has achieved a graduation rate of 96 percent — far outstripping LA Unified and the state. And other school districts and charter organizations are now copying Downey’s strategies.
4. LAUSD notifies 1,600 administrators of potential layoffs: Too little, too late or just a mirage?
Declining enrollment and an impending budget deficit led an independent panel to recommend 10,000 jobs be cut from LA Unified. In the spring, 1,600 administrators were notified of possible layoffs, but in the end, only 115 were told their contracts would not be renewed, and all were offered other positions in the district. As of January 2018, LA Unified’s Human Resources reported that 58 of those 115 administrators who lost their positions are now in non-administrative jobs, meaning more than half of those who lost administrative positions are still working for the district.
5. Exclusive: Charter school gives up the fight and will close after years of battling LAUSD for classroom space
A charter school’s four-year struggle to find a permanent classroom space ended when founding families, teachers, and school leaders decided to close rather than appeal the county’s denial of its renewal petition. The school had three homes in four years, which caused parents to leave and contributed to academic challenges.
6. Exclusive: How safe are LA’s schools? New interactive map compares what teachers and students are seeing
LA School Report’s partner publication, The 74, and the Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden developed an exclusive interactive map of Los Angeles schools based on how safe teachers and students said they felt they were.
7. Top 10 LA high schools in national poll include 4 charters, 3 magnets; LACES scores best in LAUSD
Los Angeles’s top 10 included four independent charters, three magnets, and three traditional schools, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. The Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies was the top-ranked LA school and the only LA Unified school in California’s top 20.
8. 7 years to a bachelor’s degree: California community college students who transfer to UC or CSU schools are trapped in a system that adds $38K to the cost of a diploma, new study shows
9. A movie, a principal, and a turnaround school: 30 years since ‘The George McKenna Story’
10. LAUSD backs off proposal to cut health care and is now set to guarantee benefits at current levels for three more years
11. The LAUSD school calendar is final — but for one year only
12. These 20 LAUSD schools are among the state’s lowest performers
13. Instant Expert: The 10 things to know about the charges against Board President Ref Rodriguez
14. ‘Respect parents’ choices’ — Nick Melvoin lays out his priorities for Los Angeles schools
15. A model for change in South Los Angeles: UCLA steps in to rescue a struggling middle school
16. LA Unified considers supporting a state bill some say could ‘kill’ charters
17. California may see more ‘parent triggers’ to force school improvement as state’s ESSA plan ‘punts’ on responsibility
* This article has been updated to add the latest numbers of administrators reassigned to other positions.