Why the PLAS Experiment Must End at Roosevelt High School

By John Fernandez

On December 7, 2007 teachers and parents voted 152-62 in favor of the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) to work “collaboratively” with teachers, parents, classified staff, and students to increase student achievement at Roosevelt High School.  After 5-years, PLAS is a dismal failure at Roosevelt High School.

After five years, 2012 standardized test scores indicate that six out of seven small schools at Roosevelt have API scores from 544 to 672 range, not counting the magnet school.  A score of 600 or below qualifies a school as a “Focus School,” which can be reconstituted, taken over by a charter operator, or taken over by groups of teachers. CST scores range from 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the statewide performance target.

When the PLAS experiment got underway at Roosevelt High School in 2007, there were 5,000 students at Roosevelt High School and 240 teachers. Today, there are 2,900 students and 170 teachers. The PLAS small school experiment has eliminated dozens of courses, including AP, foreign language, Mexican American Studies, and vocational classes, like culinary arts. The PLAS argument for small schools was that smaller was better. But now, according to PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck…”the small schools [at RHS] are currently not financially and programmatically sustainable and need to consolidate in order to remain viable.” CEO Marshall Tuck claims that Roosevelt students have gone to charter schools, since there are now 4,500 charter seats in the area. Actually, Roosevelt students that were way behind on credits to graduate were sent to the Mendez Learning Center and Esteban E. Torres High Schools. They were also sent to the Roosevelt Community Adult School, the Boyle Heights Continuation School, the East Los Angeles Occupational Center, and the East Los Angeles Skills Center.

Perhaps the biggest mistake under PLAS took place in the 2010-2011 school year, when Roosevelt High School was broken up into seven independent schools with their own state education code. Each of the seven small schools offers different electives, foreign language, AP, and core classes to RHS students. The seven small school arrangement deprives students of taking a variety of classes in their small school.  Each small school has its own principal and no assistant principals. An eighth campus-wide principal was added to oversee the entire operation.  Eight principals, seven small schools, created a financial and logistical nightmare.

Another unacceptable metric under PLAS at Roosevelt’s seven schools is that according to the most recent data, six out of the seven schools’ reclassification rates of ELL students to English fluency are terribly low. It appears that Roosevelt’s six schools are out of compliance with state and federal law and the District’s Master Plan for English language learners. This strongly suggests that ELL (English language learners) at six of the seven small schools at Roosevelt are not being given specially designed academic instruction in English, including bilingual instruction.

Only one out of the seven principals of the seven schools has previous experience as a principal. One principal never completed his administrative credential course work prior to being hired—he was straight out of the classroom. One principal hired, came from the state of Washington, with no knowledge of Roosevelt students or the immediate community.

Roosevelt students in the seven small schools are given a rigorous college core curriculum, which parents welcome. However, the problem is that most of Roosevelt students lack the basic skills in English, math, and science to pass college core courses. Remediation and basic skills development are not adequate for Roosevelt High School students. Students must be up to grade level to succeed in rigorous college bound classes. Moreover, the overall curriculum for six schools, not counting the magnet school, lack vocational and technical classes, which gives students an option to be career bound and college ready.

On January 28, 2013, the PLAS administrative staff convened a parent meeting at Roosevelt High School to address why Roosevelt would have to submit a plan by February 22, 2013 to Supt. Deasy to consolidate from its current seven small schools arrangement. When asked repeatedly by George Buzzetti, the Policy Director of CORE, California, how much each student received at Roosevelt, PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck finally responded that Roosevelt received $9,000 per student. When Mr. Buzzetti informed PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck that one of the principals of one of the small schools had budgeted $4,027 for each student, then asked him “What happened to the other $5,000?”, to everyone’s surprise,  Marshall Tuck could not answer the question.

At the January 28, 2013 parent meeting at Roosevelt High School, parents, students, and community members voiced their dissatisfaction with PLAS. In 2009, the Roosevelt faculty gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and PLAS at Roosevelt a grade of F—because they saw no improvement—the same holds true today. It’s time to end the experiment with PLAS at Roosevelt High School.

Dr. John Fernandez taught at Roosevelt High School for 24-years. He was former director of the Mexican American Education Commission for the LAUSD. Dr. Fernandez ran unsuccessfully for the LAUSD School Board in 2011.

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February 21, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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