Re: “Degrees of Deceit” [July 19–25]. While I much appreciate Howard Blume’s exposures of the chicanery and shenanigans of the LAUSD’s bureaucracy, I must make a suggestion. Why doesn’t your staff volunteer to work in the district’s worst secondary schools? (Believe me, the LAUSD is so desperate for teachers they’ll hire almost anyone.) Teach remedial classes with 40-plus students. Try contacting the homes of all the students on your roll who are either missing or no-shows, and see how many parents you actually reach. This may clarify much of the dropout problem.
However, what would happen if LAUSD’s dropouts didn’t drop out? Where would you put them? For years, the mentality of the LAUSD has resembled the mentality of the owners of slave ships: How many people can we cram into a given physical space? This mentality has given rise to all sorts of educational “reforms”: multitrack schools (with less instructional time) and roving teachers, to name two. The ugly truth is that without a high dropout rate, the LAUSD would simply run out of room.
In a way, though, blaming the LAUSD for its dropout rate is like “blaming the victim.” The real culprits are the politicians and educational reformers who derided the traditional schedule because most classrooms were vacant for three months, then proposed year-round, multitrack schools as a way to save taxpayer dollars and economize on unused classroom space. Equally blameworthy is the state Department of Education, which encouraged overcrowding by promising additional funds for schools that went multitrack. (In the case of Los Angeles, the state has not delivered the funds.)
So by all means, rail against the LAUSD for its real follies and ineptitude if you will, but the real boobies are the voters of California — including those whose work appears in the pages of the L.A. Weekly.
Cooking the books to improve attendance figures and diminish dropout rates at Manual Arts High School was bound to happen eventually because of the way educational quality is measured. As long as only quantifiable data are considered in assessing school performance, incentives will exist to engage in fraudulent practices. This is particularly the case today, when the standards movement demands accountability every year, no excuses accepted.
Perhaps it’s time to give more weight to qualitative factors in rating a school’s success. Anonymous reports by the students themselves, regarding a school’s success in meeting their needs and interests, can be as revealing as traditional yardsticks. The student who was failing when she attended Manual Arts but is now thriving at Metro because of its supportive environment serves as an instructive example.
Retired LAUSD teacher
THROW ME THE MONEY!
Re: Christopher Noxon’s “A King’s Ransom” [A Considerable Town, July 19–25]. Poor Scott King. Why doesn’t he make a documentary with “complete period accuracy” about the United States of Profit and its decades of global mischief, so his family and friends can connect the ugly dots and see that the causes of terrorism exist right in our own back yard? With King’s money, I think I could find a way to expose the hypocrisy. It’d be challenging, and it just might make me some bank. Then I could finally try some materialism of my own on for size. And that would shock myfriends.