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Garfield High among 12 schools available to outside bidders

Garfield High, which became nationally known as the real-life setting for the film “Stand and Deliver,” will be among the first group of local schools eligible for takeover because of persistent academic failure, a high-level district source has told The Times.

Garfield’s selection means that the nation’s second-largest school system will invite bidders — from inside and outside of the district — to run the East Los Angeles campus of 4,600 students.  This “request-for-proposal” process could apply to more than 250 schools under a Board of Education resolution passed last month, but the initial set of schools will number 12, sources said.

Included are Jefferson High in Central-Alameda, Lincoln High in Lincoln Heights, Burbank Middle School in Highland Park and Maywood Academy High in the southeast L.A. County city of Maywood.

[UPDATED: In addition to the schools named above, the following schools also are on the list: Gardena High in Gardena, San Pedro High in San Pedro, San Fernando Middle School, Carver Middle School in South Park, Griffith Joyner Elementary in Watts, Hillcrest Elementary in Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Hyde Park Elementary in Hyde Park.] 

Sources supplied the information on a confidential basis because they did not have permission to disclose it. In an interview Thursday, district Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said he would release the list today, but only after notifying senior officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Garfield High, which for decades has served a largely immigrant population east of downtown, reached its recent high-water mark in the 1980s, when math teacher Jaime Escalante built a famed calculus program that became the subject of a book and subsequent movie. Under his leadership, dozens of students passed the Advanced Placement calculus test every year, a rare feat even at the nation’s elite high schools. 

Last year, only 5% of Garfield students tested as proficient in any math class. The school qualified for possible takeover as one of more than 250 that had consistently failed to meet federal benchmarks and thus was designated as falling into “Program Improvement” status. The board resolution applied to any school with that designation for three or more years.

Cortines later refined the criteria. “Focus” schools, as he called them, would have to meet additional criteria: Less than 21% of students proficient in math or English and schoolwide improvement of less than 10 points on the state’s Academic Performance Index, which is largely based on standardized test scores. In addition, high schools would have a dropout rate greater than 10%.

Garfield qualified easily. Moreover, the school has the lowest rank, 1 of 10, when compared with schools statewide.  But that does not make Garfield’s selection noncontroversial or uncontestable.

When compared with schools that serve similar students, Garfield rates a 6 of 10, which puts it in the upper half of state schools by that yardstick. An independently operated charter school, for example, would be eligible for renewal if it achieved a 4 of 10 in this category. Charter schools are exempt from some rules governing traditional schools, including adherence to the district’s union contracts.

And although Garfield dropped three points on this year’s Academic Performance Index, it had improved by 44 and 25 points the previous two years. That gives the school a three-year average gain of 22 points annually, far surpassing the level of improvement that Cortines sought for just one year.

“It’s hard to have constant progress each year,” said social studies teacher Brian Fritch. “We’re doing our best. People here really care about their jobs and they’re trying to do well.”

These efforts have included a recent intervention program that includes Saturday school and after-school tutoring and faculty collaboration that entails reviewing data to refine teaching strategies, Fritch said.

The expectation that Garfield would be put up for bidding has affected the campus climate, Fritch said.
“The mood is not good,” he said. “There is a lot of fear, uncertainty and anger. We have a lot of teachers confused about what the next step will be. People don’t feel included in the process and feel rushed. Even students talk about it.”

Garfield has been a particular reform battleground in recent weeks. The school has been targeted by The Parents Revolution, a group initiated within the charter-school organization Green Dot Public Schools. Its organizers assert they have signatures from community parents equal in number to more than half the Garfield student body. They say that the district must either improve Garfield or face competition from startup charter schools that would surround the Garfield campus.

The district’s action, in opening Garfield to bidding, means a charter school can now vie to manage Garfield. The school board's school-control resolution, authored by Yolie Flore Aguilar, also applies to 51 new schools set to open over the next four years.

Another organization involved at Garfield has been the local nonprofit InnerCity Struggle. It has pushed the “pilot school” model, under which Garfield would be divided into separate, independent small schools that, unlike charters, would retain a close affiliation with the school district. InnerCity Struggle has especially close ties with school board President Monica Garcia.

On campus, Fritch is trying to organize an internal reform proposal. He was among a delegation of about 20 Garfield teachers Thursday who toured pilot schools already operating within L.A. Unified

-- Howard Blume

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Comments () | Archives (77)

Nobody can fix the school system. The school system is not designed to teach kids of up to 90% non english speaking student. The only system that can work is have Mexico or Spain runs the school system which I am not sure this country is ready.

I cannot believe that public education is coming to an end. I think charter schools should stay away from public education. Public education serves ALL forms of students in the district. CHARTER will be able to select students of their choice, and could DENY special needs kids, english as a second learner, behavior kids, and can send them back to public schools if they do not do well. we needs a system which will accept all kids no matter who they are, and where they are from.

Excellent observation @sethook: "Are any of the mayor's schools being auctioned off for poor performance?" Taking that further, will any Green Dot schools be available to outside bidders? After all, Green Dot has three schools in the lowest 100 APIs in the County. They also have five schools in the lowest 35 average SAT scores in the County.

In fact Green Dot's Animo Watts II boasts API scores so much worse than Garfield's it's astonishing! This is despite the fact that it has only 139 students versus Garfield's 4,603. By any account this vaunted Green Dot institution should be a failing school, but corporate charters don't play on an even field. Why isn't Animo Watts II on your list Mr. Cortines? Why aren't all Green Dot's six figure salary types like Barr, Petruzzi, and Austin able to figure out how to fix their own failing schools? Is Animo Watts II an example of Steve Barr's Barr brash statement "our model should work in any educational context, because the principles are embodied in all high-performing schools?" Is it an example of LAUSD VP Yolie Flores Aguilar's infamous statement about "high performing charters?"


Green Dot Animo Watts II
2008 Academic Performance Index (API) 494
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed seven of 12 federal targets for 2008

Green Dot Animo Watts II
2009 Academic Performance Index (API) 534
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed 12 of 18 federal targets for 2009


James A. Garfield Senior High
2008 Academic Performance Index (API) 597
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed five of 20 federal targets for 2008

James A. Garfield Senior High
2009 Academic Performance Index (API) 594
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed 10 of 18 federal targets for 2009

Data courtesy http://projects.latimes.com/schools/

I graduated from GHS..and see this as an attempt to privitize our pubic education by trying to allow these private charters to come in and use our public funds for their own goals.

As a survivor of multiple LAUSD schools, I know that the entire system is institutionalized child abuse. There is no education: only humiliation, violence, and utter contempt for the children, who are treated as unruly livestock. It is a cross between Lord of the Flies and the Gulag Archipelago. Fifteen years later I still bear the scars on my own hide.

Tear down these prison camps for children. Just one hour per day of Wikipedia at the public library would produce far better educated and socialized citizens, without having to rob the rest of us to pay for it. Even better, the kids would then be free to take part-time jobs and actually learn something about becoming an adult in the real world, rather than wasting their youth on self-esteem exercises in cloud-cuckoo land.

For a more thorough treatment, please see John Taylor Gatto's "Underground History of American Education". His career was very similar to Escalante's, except that he had the stones to write a tell-all book after resigning in disgust.

Hey Ricardo, muy estupido, an AP Calculus score of "3" is generally considered minimum passing, i.e., the minimum that any college will accept for college credit. The more elite the college the higher the score required - some schools accept only scores of "4" or "5". So there is a "passing" score, and most high schools consider it to be the "3" score. You would know that if you actually took any AP tests and applied to college.

As for Jaime Escalante, yeah, too bad about the politics that drove him and his successor Angelo Villavicencio, both of whom were driven out of Garfield by bad internal politics. The Wikipedia entry on Escalante mentions the principle of Garfield at the time - Tony Garcia - hmmmm, is that even a real name? It's like "John Smith" in the Hispanic world....

So whatever happened to Tony Garcia? Is seems like Garfield hired a bunch of bozo administrators/principles who destroyed the place.

For an illustration of the English proficiency of both LAUSD teachers and GHS graduates, look no further than the comment of "GHS class of 2000" above. What a joke.

As a class, we read this article and some of the comments posted.
Danny: What's going to happen to the traditions and culture of our school? Especially worrisome, what will happen to the East LA Classic (the football game with the largest attendance outside of Texas - 22,000 fans)?
Jean: Don't charter schools get to kick out the "bad students?" That's not fair - that's not public education.
Christina (Cheer '10): What's going to happen to our sports programs?
Maria: It's not just about tradition - it's about our school. It won't be Garfield anymore. How will the community react? There may not even be an East LA anymore?
Oscar: What will happen to baseball? It's a major reason why I'm graduating this year.
Sandra: Why didn't Yolie Flores work for OUR community? When she came and listened to GHS parents and students, she ignored our requests for more time to improve our school.
Marlene: What needs to happen is our students need to stop being lazy and get there work done.
Sandra: Stop putting the blame on the teachers!
Samuel: Other than Escalante, there are many teachers here who influence our young minds today.
Ms Jauregui (teacher): We spent the last five minutes of class reviewing and critiquing this article as an expository piece of writing.

A lot of us have strong feelings about Garfield. I spent five years of my life writing a book about the school. It is clearly in trouble, like nearly all inner city schools with large numbers of low-income students. But it is wrong to say all of the faculty turned their back on the lessons of Jaime Escalante when he left the school. Many teachers from that era, such as John Bennett and Tom Woessner, continued to teach excellent AP courses. Some Garfield students of the Escalante era returned to the school as teachers, furthering those high expectations for their students. On the API, the school looks bad, but that is mostly the result of its demographics. If you look at the latest AP data, they are doing remarkably well for an inner city school. They again made the Newsweek Top High schools list, which put them in the top 6 percent of all public high schools in AP test participation rates. Only 35 percent of those tests received passing scores. (Yes, there is a passing score. Colleges and universities, and those of us who write about AP, refer to scores of 3 or above as passing, because they are the equivalent of college C-pluses and can earn college credit.) But even that low passing rate looks good when compared to the country as a whole. In 2008 16 percent of graduating Garfield seniors had at least one passing score on an AP tests sometime in high school. That is a point above the national average, not something you would expect in an impoverished neighborhood. A lot of those scores are in AP Spanish, but if you think about it, that is still a plus. Being bilingual is a great advantage in this world. Most Americans, including me (my Chinese is terrible), don't reach that standard. So, as the story indicates, Garfield still has many good teachers and lots of potential. If I was in the school buying business, I would snap it up.

When is the East L.A. Classic? Isn't that all anyone is East L.A. cares about anyway? At least you'll still have that...

Well, at this point you've either got to flush it or to fix it. Time to FIRE the entire staff AND administration and begin again.

No wonder all you lefties said Bush was an idiot for instituting national performance accountability standards. They expose you clowns the con you've hidden for too long! Maybe Saint Obama can drop them so you can go return to lurking in your dark shadows.

That being said, the blame belongs ultimately belongs with the parents. Parents of dropouts should have all handouts removed immediately and be punished and fined for the burdens to society they have bred. Free ride's over, losers.

In the short term we should have plenty of recruits for Afghanistan at Garfield High. Turn the front entrance into a recruiting station.

I am a parent of a student at an elementary school near Garfield. My son is 5 years old and is doing well in reading and math. But what will happen to him when he arrives to Garfield if the school doesn't do a better job of preparing our students for college? I was hopeful that Garfield would improve their scores- but it didn't happen. No matter what, I want my son to go to Garfield or the new school opening up next year. But things have to change. Why are people so afraid of change? Let's make sure that the change that does happen improves academic achievement.

Business for sale: Garfield High.

The administrators, teachers, and union are partly to blame, but most of the blame falls on the parents of the mostly Mexican students at Garfield. I went to Garfield and know that parents who are actively engaged with their children's academic achievement are the best predictor of academic success.

You can't throw money at this problem. Sure, a gifted teacher who comes along once in a generation might be able to turn the tables, but that's unrealistic to expect in every classroom.

Students need to be motivated by their families' insistence and expectation of academic excellence, which is generally lacking in the Mexican culture.

If you don't believe this, you're in denial. Or you've never ever been to an Asian family's house.

Why am I not surprised GHS is being sold down the river? This seems to be the trend of the entire country going down the same road. How can we point to a high school that has traditionally put out millions of students who became successful citizens since 1925 by these Johnny-Come-Latelys who profess to know better? Sure, the community is partly to blame because not enough parents get involved in their children's education but Garfield is a landmark. It as though a new mayor came in town and decided the city hall was ugly and have it replaced by a new skyscraper. I think it's the school board and the superintendant that need replacing because I haven't seen them come up with an idea on how to make the schools better.

I just checked the school rankings made available by the Times and the trends are still the same: charter schools do slightly better than the three high schools mentioned in this article, are on par or slightly below most LAUSD schools, and are way below than the best charter/formerly LAUSD schools. (I picked Animo Inglewwod, Venice, and de la Hoya, and View Park Prep for charters; Venice, Hamilton, University, Van Nuys and Cleveland for LAUSD; and Granada Hills and Palisades for the former LAUSD.)

But let's follow the money: "sethook" asks why is Cortines paid a lot of money. Is he aware that the CEO of ICEF (View Park Prep and others) pays himself upwards of $19ok/year? And the CEO of Green Dot (Animo schools and Locke) makes above $200k? Consider that Cortines supervises a system with around 700,000 students. ICEF has about 4,000 and Green Dot used to be around 3,000 before they took over Locke. So who is getting better paid?

Another factoid (or, if you wish, another dot in the map): all the "parent" organizations originally listed as supporters of the Flores Aguilar motion to outsource public education are "non-profits" whose CEOs make around $200k/year.

So, is this about education, money, or politics? Dollars to donuts that it is about money for the "leaders", about politics for the New Wave Chicano Politicos, and about raw power for the "silent partners", who nobody mentions but everybody knows them as major donors of these non-profits. And the parents, both black and brown, will be "sold down the river" when it's all said and done.

Meanwhile, people rant and rave about vouchers, parents' choice and other pabulum...

Hi Howard, The Superintendent posted all information and data at lausd.net under Choice with updated information and the process for each school. Could you possibly work on follow up article with your analysis of that info. Thanks

this is ridiculous!!!if youre trying to get our API scores rise, what makes you think that this change will make that happen? it depends on the students and how they want to take those tests! not in how well we are being taught! many dont even take the time to actually read the question when they already have the answer bubbled in!!!

Garfield is not against reform and we understand there must be change. My priority and that off all the faculty is the students and making sure they get an education that prepares them for a successful and productive life. My priority is not my job as a commenter has said below. I love my job and would could not imagine doing anything else other than teaching. We hope that this reform will be something that the kids, teachers, and community can have input on and be successful with.


Not only by the teachers but specifically Maria Tostado, then principal of the school. I was a student of Jaime Escalante for three years. On more than one occasion, Maria Tostado would barge into our classroom and start fighting with Jaime Escalante, yelling obscenities at the top of her lungs. Talk about unprofessional. She was on a major power trip and resented the fact, as well as many teachers at the school, that Jaime Escalante was getting all this attention. Credit has to be given to Jimenez and Villavicencio, the other awesome math teachers at that time. Jaime Escalante brought a lot of good competition to the other departments as well and those teachers were doing a superb job in their respective AP classes. At that time we had AP Spanish, Spanish Lit, Goverment, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, English and Lit etc. In 1991 the year Escalante was forced to leave, the school was a phenomenal success, despite the less than professional administrators.

As someone who currently works at a charter school, I need to clarify a few HUGE misconceptions that have been posted. First of all, charter schools are PUBLIC schools. Second, charter schools MUST accept any and all students that apply to the school. This includes students with special needs and students who participate in the free and reduced price lunch program. My school is 15% special education which is even higher than the district average. We are 70% free and reduced lunch. We DO NOT have a choice over the students who enroll in our school. If you know of a charter school that is "selecting" which students can attend, then PLEASE report them. They should be shut down for breaking the law and giving other charters a bad name. Just like all public schools, there are charter schools that are doing an incredible job with student achievement and others that are terrible and should be shut down. Charter schools are here to give parents more CHOICE in their child's education. If a parent wants to send his/her child to their neighborhood school, they can. But now they also have the choice of hundreds of charter schools. All I ask is that you inform yourselves of the true facts about charter schools vs. traditional district schools before posting comments.

I am very sad after reading this article. I am an alumnus of Garfield High School, a student of Mr. Escalante, and a product of East Los Angeles. I support a good deal of what Ricardo posted with the exception of bringing up Escalante’s heritage, I don’t know if he ever met Mr. Escalante but this was never an issue. I blame the district and teachers for allowing schools to fail. I think that poor performing students should be given intense support for a semester, if they do not show the initiative they should be removed from public education and not take up the scarce resources that can be given to motivated students. To a large degree, this is how I felt things were handled when I was at Garfield. A public education should be the best education possible; it would be great if one day private education meant that you were not good enough to compete in a public school. If a charter school system could implement a system that focused on motivated students, maybe if could be very successful. I am looking forward to helping revive the school that I love so much.

What a shame. What is going to happen to all the students I teach and expected to teach at Burbank Middle School if it becomes a charter and won't allow the local students into the school?

Sethook is right on target. The Superintendent has become an auctioneer and not a true educational leader. Where are his ideas for better teaching and learning to a needy population of students in many of LAUSD schools. And, the Board is even worse...they have a fiduciary and legal responsibility to run the schools not give them away to lessen their overall responsibility. If they can't stand the heat,they should get out of the LAUSD kitchen. AND, is Roosevelt HS, the Mayor's Partnership flagship school, also up for grabs based on the data?

Ms. Montes, if BMS is taken over as a charter, the students will most likely be allowed to learn there, it's the jobs that may feel uncertain. There's greater accountability at many charters and some teachers don't have the fire for it. Performance is scrutinized, teaching strategies are hypervigilently encouraged, and bonuses can be tied to student success on tests. The business is impacted, with plenty of talented teachers in the wings waiting to take their mark. Feel bad for the students, then work that much harder.

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