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Crenshaw High group opposes reform plan and school closings

Parents, students and teachers rallied Monday in front of Crenshaw High School to protest a plan to restructure the low-performing campus and require teachers to reapply for their jobs.

Under the plan, approved this month by the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, the school would open next fall as three magnet programs, which are open to students from across the nation’s second-largest school system.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said starting over was necessary to address high dropout rates and low student achievement. Deasy has described the Leimert Park campus as one of the district's biggest disappointments.

But a couple dozen community members defended both the staff and ongoing academic efforts. They said Deasy’s directive, which they referred to as a “reconstitution,” would disrupt students’ education.

“Don’t destabilize and reconstitute our school,” said parent Christine Williams.

The Crenshaw group has joined forces with a national movement to stop the closing of low-performing schools, which has become a widely favored reform strategy and has been endorsed by the Obama administration. Instead of being closed, schools should receive the help needed to improve, said the Crenshaw group.

Opponents of school closings are expected to testify at a U.S. Department of Education hearing Tuesday. They cite research suggesting that changing the staff doesn’t fix the problems at a school.

But Deasy has used the strategy increasingly at schools that have lagged in achievement for years or even decades. He has the authority under federal law to replace the staff at Crenshaw because of the school's poor performance. District officials have maintained that there is no limit on how many teachers can return, although few instructors have returned to some other recently restructured schools.

Crenshaw High, which has 1,500 students -- nearly all from low-income families -- has made virtually no progress in raising student achievement in English and math, according to state tests. The percentage of students at grade level in English has declined slightly over four years, from 19% to 17%; in math, the figure has inched up from 2% to 3%.

This year there was an upward bump in the school’s overall test results, but the campus remains among the state’s lowest-performing. The school has experienced an enrollment decline, with many potential students choosing other district schools or independent, publicly funded charter schools.

The school is about two years into its current reform plan, which it calls the Extended Learning Cultural Model. It involves teachers receiving training on the culture of their students and students taking part in projects relevant to their lives. Speakers at the rally called on the district to provide support and resources for the effort.

“They should want to support this, not destabilize it,” said teacher Alex Caputo-Pearl.

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-- Stephen Ceasar

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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