Antonio Villaraigosa change agent L.A. schools

Jun 28, 2013 by

change-agent_01The mayor vowed to turn the district into an incubator of education reform. In his two terms, during which his nonprofit took over more than a dozen campuses, he’s had mixed results.

In the middle of Watts, at one of the worst-performing high schools in Los Angeles Unified, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was in his element.

As he sat with Jordan High students late last year, he shared snippets of his life story, as he’s done during scores of school visits during his eight years as mayor. He was raised without a father, was kicked out of one school and dropped out of another before graduating from Roosevelt High with a 1.4 GPA — because his mother and a teacher believed in him, he told students.

“Do you believe in you?” he asked them. “I believe in you. I believe you can reach for the stars.”

No other issue has stoked the mayor’s personal passion as much as public education. Despite lacking any formal authority over the nation’s second-largest school system, Villaraigosa has left a major imprint.

Soon after taking office in 2005, he tried to take control of L.A. Unified. When that ambitious effort failed, the school board allowed a nonprofit foundation he created to manage more than a dozen low-performing schools. He raised millions of dollars and vowed to turn the schools into incubators of reform.

His nationwide fundraising also helped elect a loyal school board majority that installed superintendents he favored. Through them, he has pushed for a brand of reform that includes tying teacher evaluations to test scores and providing more choices for parents, such as charter schools.

Along the way, the onetime teachers union organizer has confronted his former allies by challenging seniority-based layoffs and advocating a higher bar for tenure. He blasted the United Teachers Los Angeles union as “the one unwavering roadblock” to improving public education.

As he leaves office, Villaraigosa points to successes: an increase in the graduation rate to 66%. A doubling in high-performing schools, as measured by the state’s Academic Performance Index, which is based on standardized test scores. An explosion in publicly financed, independent charter schools.

A Times analysis found a mixed record at the schools his nonprofit controls. Overall, the mayor’s schools have performed comparably to district schools with similar demographics. Some of his schools, notably 99th Street Elementary, have seen significant improvements. But others, such as Gompers Middle School and Roosevelt High, have seen comparatively modest gains.

Villaraigosa sometimes exaggerates his effect: He has taken credit for the district’s massive school-construction program, although it was firmly established by the time he took office. Overall, L.A. Unified has improved slightly faster than the state, but test scores remain below the state average. And the district’s upward trend began before Villaraigosa became mayor.

via Antonio Villaraigosa leaves his mark on L.A. schools –

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.