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State releases list of 'worst' schools

March 8, 2010 |  6:03 pm

A new list of California’s lowest-performing schools includes 39 from Los Angeles County, and a few surprises are among them.

California education officials released their preliminary list Monday and 23 are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest.

State officials are required to compile the list as a result of state and federal law to make these schools eligible for federal improvement grants. The list represents the lowest-performing 5% of California schools.

Five of the schools are in the Compton Unified School District and two in Lynwood Unified.

California is expected to receive about $415 million from school improvement grants this year. The state, in turn, will hand out grants to schools ranging from $50,000 to $2 million annually per campus for up to three years, officials said. About 190 schools are eligible.

But there are strings attached: Schools that accept the money must adopt one of four federally approved reform models.

The most aggressive include, for example, shutting down a school entirely, but even the least disruptive “transformation” model involves replacing the principal and linking principal and teacher evaluations to test scores.

The preliminary list of schools included some surprises because the formula for selecting schools roped in some higher-performing schools. Federal officials may yet allow the state to remove some of these relatively high performers.

Workman High in the City of Industry, for example, ended up on the list even though it far surpassed its specified improvement target this year on the state’s Academic Performance Index.

The list of 23 L.A. Unified schools did not include six of the 12 that district officials themselves had singled out as bad enough to warrant a possible takeover, including Garfield and San Pedro high schools. Nor did the list include Fremont High, at which the district is requiring staff to re-interview for jobs.

The state’s “worst” list does include some schools that did not make L.A. Unified’s list: Crenshaw High, Washington Preparatory High, Manual Arts High and Miguel Contreras Learning Center.

The reason for the discrepancy is the use of different rubrics. L.A. Unified looked only at performance last year. The state averaged the percentage of students proficient in math and English over the last three years. And a school also could exit the list if it had shown steady gains over five years.

-- Howard Blume

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