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Union leaders and teachers defend L.A. middle school's record

October 14, 2011 |  9:52 pm

Photo: Randi Weingarten in the movie "Waiting for Superman." Credit: Paramount Pictures
A national teachers union leader joined faculty at a Los Angeles middle school Friday to criticize a major school-improvement initiative within the L.A. Unified School District.

Under the strategy, called Public School Choice, groups inside and outside the school system can bid for control of new and low-performing campuses. The meeting between teachers and Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, took place at Cochran Middle School in Arlington Heights, one of the campuses affected.

What’s at stake is “bigger than what happens in L.A.,” Weingarten said. Local developments are part of a national campaign to blame teachers unfairly for shortcomings in public education, she said.

Cochran stands as an example of wrongheaded reform, said the school's teachers and Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. They noted that Cochran’s performance on state standardized tests has risen steadily over the last four years, but flat growth five years ago could result in the dismantling of the staff and its ongoing efforts.

“We are continuing to grow,” said teacher Don Luong.

District officials are reevaluating the rules under which schools are placed in Public School Choice. Supporters of the plan say it has given proven outside school operators, such as independently managed charter schools, a chance to turn around campuses that have lagged in achievement. And they say it has also reinvigorated faculties that had to compete to retain district control.

But Cochran teachers said the imperative of writing a lengthy plan to outcompete charter schools has been a distraction.

“I would rather be spending time, energy and effort for my students rather than this madness,” said teacher Kyle Hunsberger.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Randi Weingarten in the movie "Waiting for Superman." Credit: Paramount Pictures

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