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Schools overseen by L.A. mayor get new chief academic officer

March 24, 2011 |  9:24 am

ColleenOliver The nonprofit that runs schools on behalf of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has selected a new chief academic officer. The choice could solidify links with the sometimes controversial education reforms of the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The new senior administrator, Colleen Oliver, has been a Gates Foundation senior program officer, managing its teaching-improvement and school-turnaround efforts in the Memphis and Chicago school systems, according to the mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

Oliver, whose appointment was announced Wednesday, will oversee teaching and learning at the partnership's 15 schools, which have more than 18,000 students.

The Gates Foundation has focused recently on a quality-teaching initiative, after leaving behind reforms aimed at breaking up large campuses into smaller academies. That earlier effort influenced school policies across the country, but the foundation itself concluded that the small-schools initiative delivered mixed results. The latest initiative has become controversial in some quarters in connection with attempts to link teacher evaluations to the standardized test scores of students.

The Gates Foundation has awarded grants to several major local charter-school operators to develop such teacher-evaluation methods. In a recent interview, Villaraigosa also embraced the use of test scores as a necessary element of teacher evaluations.

The incoming L.A. schools chief, John Deasy, also came directly from the Gates Foundation, where he oversaw teacher-effectiveness grants. 

Oliver also has been employed with the Seattle Public Schools, where she worked with principals to improve poor-performing campuses that served low-income students. She also has experience as a teacher and principal.

The partnership's previous chief academic officer was Angela Bass, who had been hired from the San Diego school system. She returned to San Diego to accept a senior administrative position.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo credit: Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

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