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Top-scoring charter school named for UCLA professor

January 14, 2010 |  6:51 pm

A four-year-old high school that became a 2009 California Distinguished School was formally named today for a respected expert on education and business management and his civic activist spouse.

The new William and Carol Ouchi High School is in its first school year in its new, $17-million Hyde Park-area campus, which was built in 56 days, officials said. The simple, two-story structure has two computer labs and updated technology hookups, but no cafeteria, no gym and limited recreation space on its 2.5-acre site, which includes an adjacent middle school.

The school’s test scores dipped slightly this year but its Academic Performance Index score of 799 ranks it among the best-scoring high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The school is operated by the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, a locally based charter school management organization that also operates other high-scoring schools.

About 100 of the school’s original 189 ninth-graders will be in the school’s first graduating class this year, said Principal Ena LaVan. All graduates must fulfill entrance requirements to apply for the University of California/Cal State system. And the first class had to endure a temporary location and a stint in trailers while awaiting the completion of the campus.

Charters are independently run and free of some restrictions that govern traditional schools, including strict state school-construction rules that drive up construction costs and slow down the building process for schools built by L.A. Unified. Charters instead can erect their schools under city building codes.

As a fundraising tool, the Alliance sells naming rights for its schools, and in this instance, Ouchi was nominated by former Mayor Richard Riordan, an education philanthropist and political power broker who has long relied on Ouchi, a UCLA professor, for expert guidance. Riordan has donated or committed a total of $2.8 million to Alliance schools.

Ouchi has long promoted a form of school decentralization. He says principals — not a school district central office — should make decisions on how to spend a school’s money and then be held accountable for the results. In his most recent book, “The Secret of TSL,” he chronicled how principals, especially in New York City, have used autonomy to reduce the total number of students that each teacher must manage in a year. He says this allows teachers to get to know and to better assist each student. Principals have accordingly reduced support and administrative staff to pursue this strategy — because it yields results, Ouchi wrote.

At his namesake school, Ouchi helped establish a Saturday business academy offering tutoring and enrichment classes to introduce students to potential careers.

Carol Ouchi has served on the boards of philanthropic organizations including the Santa Monica YWCA, Santa Monica College Foundation and Children’s Home Society.

—Howard Blume