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L.A. Unified and six other districts will pursue reforms even without federal money

October 11, 2010 |  6:57 pm

A group of seven school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, announced Monday that they would move ahead with reform plans developed for the recent federal Race to the Top school-reform grant competition.

In August, California lost that bid—and with it up to $700 million in one-time funding during tight economic times. But state and district officials insisted their plans are worth pursuing even without the money.

“We strongly believe there is benefit and efficiency to the seven school districts continuing to work together,” L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said in a statement.  “Together our districts represent well over a million students, students who deserve our best effort to help them succeed.”

The other participating districts are Long Beach, San Francisco, Fresno, Clovis, Sanger and Sacramento City.

Officials, including California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss, made the announcement at 122nd Street Elementary School in Willowbrook. The nonprofit coordinating the effort is called the California Office to Reform Education  or CORE, which plays off the “common core” national academic standards that California and most other states have recently adopted. 

The seven districts will work jointly to put these new standards into practice and better use data to track student progress. Among other initiatives, the districts also have pledged to use students' standardized test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation—something that most teachers unions have not agreed to.

So far, the effort has collected $3 million in seed money, most of it from the San Francisco-based Silver Giving Foundation. The initiative could have another eventual payoff: For the next round of Race to the Top funding, school districts could be able to apply directly, rather than rely on a state application.

-- Howard Blume