Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why My Wife and I will not Send Our Kids to Los Angeles Public Schools

 

As parents in Los Angeles, my wife and I often hear horror stories about how bad the public schools are.  A major problem, I believe, is the anti-competitive attitudes among teachers’ unions and top-level bureaucrats in the Los Angeles Unified district.  We now have some more evidence of such attitudes.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times requested, using the California Public Records Act, data about performance of L.A. Unified teachers.  Specifically, the Times wanted results showing how student performances on standardized tests increased or decreased with individual L.A. Unified teachers.  L.A. Unified officials did not comply with the request, at least not fully.

David Holmquist, the general counsel for the L.A. Unified school district, explained to the Times why the district would not comply with the request:

Holmquist cited several reasons why the district declined to release all the information The Times requested, saying it could cause jealousy among teachers and lead to poor school morale. He said that the public release could harm teachers’ ability to get future jobs and that parents could demand instructors with high ratings, leading to unbalanced classrooms. Holmquist also said the release could make it more difficult to fire teachers.

If those are the attitudes of the people teaching the future leaders of Los Angeles, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the future of Los Angeles.

There are 24 comments.

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  1. Humza Ahmad Member
    Humza Ahmad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What a succinct expression of the liberal mindset. Jealousy and poor morale: prioritizing everyone’s “feelings” over rewards for high achievers. Harm future ability to get jobs: protect jobs at all costs, even for the unqualified. Higher performers get more students: demanding the best for your children is wrong, better to spread the incompetence of poor teachers fairly amongst all students. Makes it harder to fire teachers: Hypocrisy. In one breath they want to make it easier for bad teachers to find jobs elsewhere, and in the next they’re claiming to want to make it easier to fire teachers.

    • #1
    • November 23, 2011, at 7:25 AM PST
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  2. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    The school system in L.A., and many school systems in other venues, is sustained today to provide gainful, guaranteed employment for those with low scores on the SAT and ACT exams who nonetheless got through college, while majoring in the fields (such as education) which make next to no intellectual demands on those enrolled. Within these public school systems, the children no longer count.

    • #2
    • November 23, 2011, at 7:38 AM PST
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  3. Mollie Hemingway Contributor

    My own mother is a public school teacher and while our decision to send our kids to a Classical Lutheran school is for many reasons, this mentality is certainly enough to make one wary of public schools.

    • #3
    • November 23, 2011, at 7:51 AM PST
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  4. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: …a Classical Lutheran school…

    Mollie, what is a Classical Lutheran school? Is it different from a regular Lutheran school?

    • #4
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:04 AM PST
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  5. Mollie Hemingway Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Mollie, what is a Classical Lutheran school?

    From our school’s website:

    What is a Classical Education?

    Wisdom, eloquence and virtue – these are the aims of a classical education. The patriarchs of western civilization understood that education was more than the acquisition of basic skills and mere competency. The purpose of education was to transform, to elevate, and to refine the mind and the soul. This was the standard, not the exception. At the center of classical education is an emphasis on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Because these universal values serve as the building blocks of classical learning, the classical arts are timeless and proven, and have been known to produce many eloquent confessors and wise leaders. Our communities today are in dire need of just these sorts of men and women. In an endless pursuit of the latest educational dogma, many schools no longer have the capacity to judge what is Good, True and Beautiful, much less teach it. In forsaking the soul for the mind, they have forgotten how to educate both. Classical Education is a holistic approach to education, and a return to excellence in teaching, curriculum and expectations.

    • #5
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:14 AM PST
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  6. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I have a good friend in a nearby district who provides therapy to pre-school aged children and a sister-in-law who teaches remedial reading in rural Ohio. They are highly competent, intelligent women with amazing skills in their area of expertise, and are constantly embattled in defense of the system, particularly from conservatives. I think we have to be very careful not to oversimplify this problem.

    First, there are huge issues of cultural and societal degradation which no teacher is going to be able to address. I was just witness to a youth lighting fires in the church bathroom during religious education this past weekend. Trust me, the 3 hours we have each month or the 7 hours a teacher has each day is no substitute for good parenting, stable family settings, and a coherent, cohesive message of values and expectations from the larger community. Too many kids are missing some or all of these.

    And second, what do you expect these test scores to tell you? My SiL does great work with her remedial reading students, but their test scores are never going to make her look good.

    • #6
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:23 AM PST
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  7. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Maybe if the scores were tracked from year to year per student, so that you could see under which teacher(s) the child made the most progress, they would be helpful. But then only in regular education and only taking into consideration such things as upheaval in the child’s life (divorce, dislocation, etc.).

    I think almost any parent or any child in any school could tell you who the bad teachers are. I think they’re a small minority of the teacher population. The bigger problem is the quality of the students as related to the quality of the homes and culture from which they originate.

    Now, if you want to talk about eliminating tenure and unionization, I’m completely on your side. Subject education to the free market. Using test scores in this way doesn’t accomplish that.

    • #7
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:32 AM PST
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  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Mollie, what is a Classical Lutheran school?

    From our school’s website:

    What is a Classical Education?

    So, classical AND Lutheran. That makes sense. Thanks, Mollie.

    • #8
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:37 AM PST
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  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Western Chauvinist:

    I think almost any parent or any child in any school could tell you who the bad teachers are. I think they’re a small minority of the teacher population. The bigger problem…

    … is the stultifying bureaucracy that the best teachers run up against when they want to plan innovative and excellent lessons for their students. It’s a huge disincentive.

    WC, you’re right that home culture is a huge problem, too. But the administrative culture of a public school — particularly the bad ‘uns — is also a huge problem, and in theory, at least, more amenable to outside change than the intimacies of family life.

    • #9
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:44 AM PST
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  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    P.S. My kids go to a public charter (school of our choice! yea!) where the teachers are non-union. Teachers and students work their posteriors off, but the rewards are non-monetary. I think our teachers, who are some of the best, could get paid more if the whole system was subject to market forces. The fact that many of them choose to teach at our charter despite earning less than regular public school teachers and only slightly more than private school teachers makes them heroic.

    C’mon conservatives. Let’s find a way to support teachers and laborers, while doing our darnedest to fight their unions. The good of one comes at the expense of the other.

    • #10
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:47 AM PST
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  11. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    My friend and mentor is principal of a public school that has a great success rate with its students. Of course, the Washington Youth Academy exists for when other public schools have failed the kids. He tells me that having R. Lee Ermey as the hall monitor doesn’t hurt the process.

    • #11
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:49 AM PST
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  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Western Chauvinist:

    I think almost any parent or any child in any school could tell you who the bad teachers are. I think they’re a small minority of the teacher population. The bigger problem…

    … is the stultifying bureaucracy that the best teachers run up against when they want to plan innovative and excellent lessons for their students. It’s a huge disincentive.

    WC, you’re right that home culture is a huge problem, too. But the administrative culture of a public school — particularly the bad ‘uns — is also a huge problem, and in theory, at least, more amenable to outside change than the intimacies of family life. · Nov 23 at 7:44am

    You’ll get no argument from me there. I’m arguing against using test scores in this way, not for the status quo. Tear the system down and rebuild from the bottom up. Subsidiarity, says I.

    • #12
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:50 AM PST
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  13. Kelly B Inactive
    Western Chauvinist: Maybe if the scores were tracked from year to year per student, so that you could see under which teacher(s) the child made the most progress, they would be helpful. But then only in regular education and only taking into consideration such things as upheaval in the child’s life (divorce, dislocation, etc.).

    Efforts to do this are underway in most states. When systems that provide this information are displayed in educational conferences, it’s very interesting to see how nervous some people get.

    • #13
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:51 AM PST
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  14. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Kelly B
    Western Chauvinist: Maybe if the scores were tracked from year to year per student, so that you could see under which teacher(s) the child made the most progress, they would be helpful. But then only in regular education and only taking into consideration such things as upheaval in the child’s life (divorce, dislocation, etc.).
    Efforts to do this are underway in most states. When systems that provide this information are displayed in educational conferences, it’s very interesting to see how nervous some people get. · Nov 23 at 7:51am

    Well good. Now, how are we going to fire the bench-warmers?

    • #14
    • November 23, 2011, at 8:58 AM PST
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  15. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Western Chauvinist

    You’ll get no argument from me there. I’m arguing against using test scores in this way, not for the status quo. Tear the system down and rebuild from the bottom up. Subsidiarity, says I.

    Subsidiarity!

    • #15
    • November 23, 2011, at 9:29 AM PST
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  16. Barkha Herman Member

    I sent my kids to private schools for the most part for this very reason. Education by committee is nonsensical. They did attend public school for one year, when they got “bused” to a school far from our home, and they claimed that they learned nothing.

    In Florida, where I live, the school system is changing rapidly. Florida has one of the biggest online learning system in the country – and even other states are using the Florida online learning system. Any kid in Florida can attend any class online from anywhere in the world. In this system, the “better” courses win – since kids are not geographically confined to their school / teachers. And surprisingly, the better teachers win,

    I think technology in the future might solve this issue by making choices available to every student. MIT’s open course ware, the Khan academy, and the Floating University are other examples of the coming revolution in education.

    The thing about progress is that it is insidious. It finds ways around tyrants and Unions alike.

    Subsidiarity, indeed!

    • #16
    • November 23, 2011, at 10:55 AM PST
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  17. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    From our school’s website:

    What is a Classical Education?

    Wisdom, eloquence and virtue – these are the aims of a classical education.

    Mollie, I am jealous. I wish there were a school near us that sounded half as good as yours!

    • #17
    • November 23, 2011, at 11:54 AM PST
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  18. Mollie Hemingway Contributor
    Lucy Pevensie

    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    From our school’s website:

    What is a Classical Education?

    Wisdom, eloquence and virtue – these are the aims of a classical education.

    Mollie, I am jealous. I wish there were a school near us that sounded half as good as yours! · Nov 23 at 10:54am

    Yes, many of the parents at our school keep commenting on how happy we are to have it. Makes all the difference in the world.

    • #18
    • November 24, 2011, at 6:51 AM PST
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  19. Southern Pessimist Member

    Michelle Rhee has created a controversial movement in education circles by promoting research that states that replacing the bottom 6 per cent of the worst teachers in America with above average teachers would reinstate American education as the best in the world. I doubt if the solution is that simple but she is right to focus on the quality of the teacher. Within the bureaucracy of public education, it is almost impossible to evaluate the competency of teachers, much less replace the poor ones.

    • #19
    • November 24, 2011, at 7:13 AM PST
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  20. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Western Chauvinist: I have a good friend in a nearby district who provides therapy to pre-school aged children and a sister-in-law who teaches remedial reading in rural Ohio. They are highly competent, intelligent women with amazing skills in their area of expertise, and are constantly embattled in defense of the system, particularly from conservatives. I think we have to be very careful not to oversimplify this problem.

    First, there are huge issues of cultural and societal degradation which no teacher is going to be able to address.

    Bad schools are not the biggest problem; they come second to bad families. All available metrics on education are bad.

    These two facts are undeniable, and form the rhetorical basis for most opposition to reforms. They make sense if you’re pushing to somehow fix families or are debating an improved metric. In general, though, the unions and their fellow travellers deploy these arguments in a bad faith effort to make the perfect the enemy of the good. More data, of almost any kind is helpful for developing better sets. More firings would also be helpful. Given the profound negative impact of seniority, even completely random firings would help.

    • #20
    • November 24, 2011, at 7:41 AM PST
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  21. John Marzan Inactive

    In places like California and Texas, is it the quality of the teacher that’s the problem, or the students?

    • #21
    • November 24, 2011, at 9:05 AM PST
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  22. Jeremias Heidefelder Inactive

    And, when teachers’ unions are so blatantly in the tank for Dems, as illustrated by the example I put up here on Ricochet last year (the ACTFL conference) it doesn’t encourage parents who want their children to truly think for themselves, as opposed to the ideological puppy-farm approach in vogue today.

    • #22
    • November 25, 2011, at 3:34 AM PST
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  23. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    James Of England

    … families or are debating an improved metric. In general, though, the unions and their fellow travellers deploy these arguments in a bad faith effort to make the perfect the enemy of the good. More data, of almost any kind is helpful for developing better sets. More firings would also be helpful. Given the profound negative impact of seniority, even completely random firings would help. · Nov 24 at 6:41am

    I think you missed the entirety of the rest of my comments. Even if the data told you something meaningful about the quality of the teacher, which I think is questionable unless you’re tracking the children from year to year, how, exactly do you intend to fire the bad ones under the current tenure/union establishment? I’m not against good metrics. I’m against the government monopoly of education. Period.

    • #23
    • November 25, 2011, at 5:06 AM PST
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  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Western Chauvinist

    James Of England

    … families or are debating an improved metric. In general, though, the unions and their fellow travellers deploy these arguments in a bad faith effort to make the perfect the enemy of the good. More data, of almost any kind is helpful for developing better sets. More firings would also be helpful. Given the profound negative impact of seniority, even completely random firings would help. · Nov 24 at 6:41am

    I think you missed the entirety of the rest of my comments. Even if the data told you something meaningful about the quality of the teacher, which I think is questionable unless you’re tracking the children from year to year, how, exactly do you intend to fire the bad ones under the current tenure/union establishment? I’m not against good metrics. I’m against the government monopoly of education. Period. · Nov 24 at 4:06pm

    You’re opposing bad metrics. I’m saying that any and all metrics, and any and all firings, are good.

    • #24
    • November 25, 2011, at 11:01 AM PST
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