Community to Discuss Roosevelt’s Progress, Future
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
A battle could be brewing over whether Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights should remain as one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, PLAS, under a contract with the school district that is set to come up for review in the next year.
At least that’s the word from a group of parents and community members who last week told EGP they want a referendum on the issue, and they want Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia to hold a town hall meeting where parents, teachers and students can voice their views.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Planifican una Reunión Comunitaria a Cerca del Progreso y Futuro de Roosevelt
Related story: Mendez High Makes Small Gains
They said they are concerned that the mayor’s Partnership is failing to bring about the academic reforms it promised when it was granted the authority to run schools under a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU. The agreement allowed the Partnership to take over 10 campuses during the 2007-2008 school year. It now runs 22 schools across the district; over half of those schools are on the eastside.
The group contends that progress at Roosevelt has been too slow under the Partnership, going so far as to call it failure. The MOU gave the Partnership five years to turn around some of the school district’s lowest performing schools, including Roosevelt. It includes a renewal option, which would give the Partnership another five years at the helm. But now, some people are saying the MOU should be terminated for non-compliance.
Community Activist Jose Aguilar and Villaraigosa critic George Buzzetti say the Partnership has violated its MOU by failing to improve academic progress and to adequately address drop out rates and attendance issues.
On Monday, a small group of parents and members of the community met with Garcia, who in addition to being school board president also represents many of the schools on the eastside.
Prior to the meeting, they told EGP they planned to talk about the problems they see at Roosevelt, including poor academic performance, drop out and absentee rates, safety issues, and the failure of school staff to adequately address parent concerns.
Local District 5 Superintendent Roberto Martinez and Roosevelt Principal Sofia Freire were also at the sit-down meeting, which took over a year to schedule, according to Roosevelt parent Barbara Martinez, who is also a member of the Compensatory Education Advisory Committee at Roosevelt’s Humanities Art & Technology School.
According to Aguilar, greater progress should have been made at Roosevelt by now.
“Roosevelt has the same demographics as Garfield but they collectively have 100 API points over Roosevelt…” he told EGP.
Buzzetti, a member of the Congress of Racial Equality of California, says the numbers don’t lie and Roosevelt is falling behind.
This is not about me, said Martinez, “It’s what’s going on with API scores and children with special needs… I’m not going to give up because it’s our children and community at stake.”
For her part, Garcia said she “absolutely” supports the idea of holding a town hall meeting. “We can come together, and we can take a look at what we’ve done, what we’ve tried, what has worked and where we can do better,” she said. Details of when that meeting might take place, however, still need to be worked out.
Garcia said she told the group that she is “interested in supporting whatever is helping us better serve students and support schools, and I am interested in LAUSD changing from a 50 percent graduation [rate], and in our neighborhood, when it comes to Roosevelt, its somewhere between 35 and 45 percent.”
She said she also shared with the group some of the positive changes that have taken place at the high school, such as finally being off a year-round schedule, and the move to small schools that allows for greater personalization.
“We’re all wanting to see better,” Garcia said.
Statewide, the API goal is 800 points. Each year the state sets a growth target for each school, the target can vary from 5 percent of the difference between the school’s API score and the target of 800, to 5 points or less points a year, or maintaining an API of at least 800 points, when that benchmark is reached.
Trying to figure out exactly where Roosevelt stands in comparison to other schools can be challenging, since the school now has seven separate small schools, each with its own County-District-School (CDS) code.
Garfield for example, last year had a 707 API (Academic Performance Index) score, a 75-point increase from 2009-2010, but that includes all five schools including their high performing Computer Science Magnet.
Calculated this way, Roosevelt’s cumulative API score is 598, lower than Lincoln High School’s, which raised its 2009-2010 score by 25 points, giving it a cumulative API score of 641.
Lincoln, like Garfield, underwent the Public School Choice Reform process, during which groups competed to take over management of some of the district’s lowest performing schools, in hopes of turning those schools around.
Roosevelt’s API, however, is in line with those at Mendez Learning Center’s two schools, opened under the Partnership in 2009. Mendez’s Math Science School last year had an API score of 599, while the school of Engineering and Technology had and API score of 606.
Unlike charter schools, Partnership schools are still part of the LAUSD, but the school district’s report card for the schools does not include a cumulative API for Roosevelt, nor does it include year-to-year changes since, in theory at least, 6 of the schools are considered “new” and now have a clean slate.
On the other hand, while Garfield and Lincoln have also been broken up into several schools, their scores are for the entire school, including the high achieving magnet schools.
In 2009-2010, five of Roosevelt’s seven schools received an API score at or below 600 points, while the Math, Science & Technology Magnet score soars well above with an API of 724.
Further convoluting the numbers, Roosevelt’s data at the California Department of Education website only reflects last year’s API score for the School of Communication, New Media & Technology, which last year had an API score of 521, the lowest score in the group.
When the campus switched over from seven small learning communities to seven small schools, each with its own principal, the CDS code remained attached to only one school. According to the data, that school had been in Program Improvement Status for five years, but the other 6 schools have no such status.
Partnership CEO Marshall Tuck says the seven small schools have helped to separate the “puzzle pieces” to reveal how students are performing and where to target resources.
He says the Partnership is very aware that it needs to do a much better job in improving academic performance, acknowledging a drop in scores during the last year. But he is also quick to point out that the Partnership has taken on LAUSD’s worst performing schools.
“One thing to remember, when the Partnership started, we went to work at the schools that were the lowest 10 percent in the district, and most were the lowest 5 percent. It doesn’t mean that these kids weren’t great, but these are schools that historically had some of the most challenging numbers as it relates to drop outs, as it relates to student achievement,” he said.
There has been decades of neglect, and it will take time to turn things around he said, adding that they have only been at the school for three and a half years, and the 7 school structure has only been in place for two of those years.
Tuck admits Roosevelt made some of its largest gains in the first two years as a Partnership school, and while the process of transitioning the schools to the new model might be the cause for the recent setback, overall Roosevelt has increased 45 points in it’s three plus years as a Partnership school.
Principal Freire told EGP that the change to small schools comes with a new instructional program. “The biggest innovation our schools have is the flexibility to really own and implement their curriculum,” which was teacher driven, she said.
Core improvements can be seen in California Standards Tests (CST) scores — 7 percent increase in English Language Arts, 2.2 percent increase in Math, 7.9 increase in History and a 7 percent increase in Science — all in the category of advanced and proficient, Tuck said.
The drop out rate has declined from 33 percent in 2006-2007 to 26 percent in 2010-2011, but suspension rates continue the same at 10 percent, according to the Partnership.
In the same time, reclassification of English Learners has increased from 7 percent to 12 percent. A drop in enrollment is most likely due to the opening of Mendez and Esteban Torres high schools, according to the Partnership. Those schools were built to ease overcrowding at Roosevelt and Garfield.
“We’ve got a big hill to climb… we’ve made progress, but not fast enough and not enough,” Tuck said.
The Partnership is funded for 10 years, and will continue after Villaraigosa’s term as mayor ends.
“Our goal and our focus is on, do whatever we can to improve the education students get. So technically the MOU expires in 2012-2013, but we expect to be at that campus for a long time,” Tuck told EGP.
Meanwhile, Martinez and others have been collecting signatures they say they will turn over to the district to show they have support to end the Partnership’s role at Roosevelt
Critics of the Partnership say alternatives to turn-around Roosevelt deserve consideration.
“Our agreement is that at the 5-year mark we’d take a look at it, and you know … these turn-around schools are very difficult things, but I am glad that in 2012 people are working together and trying to figure [it] out,” Garcia told EGP.
“I think we’d all like to see better, I’d like to say ‘we’re not where we used to be, and not where we want to be,’ to quote [LAUSD Superintendent] John Deasy, and that’s true with Roosevelt,” she said.
But “we have indicators that show things are moving, which is good.”
Editor’s note: a previous version of this story used the 2009-2010 API score for Mendez high school, the current score, 2010-2011, are slightly higher.Print This Post
February 16, 2012 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.