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Education

Academia Semillas del Pueblo, a Failing School, Gets an L.A. Times Puff Piece

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Mon, May 7, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Updated with response from the Times on next page.

click to enlarge FRED NOLAND
  • Fred Noland
By Hillel Aron

The Los Angeles Times printed an odd take on Academia Semillas del Pueblo, the failing charter whose kids are nowhere near state standards on reading, writing, adding and subtracting -- even as compared to their identical, struggling, working-class, Latino, socioeconomic twins throughout California.

The school's founder Marcos Aguilar is protected on high by Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia. The LatExtra article in the L.A. Times was designed to survey the debate from a safe distance after L.A. Weekly beat the Times to the Semillas story.

"Things would be easier if Academia Semillas del Pueblo didn't have such low test scores," writes longtime education reporter Howard Blume. Easier for whom?

click to enlarge bad_school.jpg
Easier for the school's underwhelming adult overseers?

Well, yes. And it would be easier if we all could fly.

Blume mentions Academia Semillas' exceedingly low test scores, and he even links to the L.A. Times' own California Schools Guide.

The California Schools Guide's facts about Semillas Academia are easily ten times more harsh, and far more realistic, than those published in the LatExtra section.

The California Schools Guide shows that Semillas' unofficial statewide "API" rank is at the bottom. Even more sobering, Semillas earns a lowest of the low 1 out of 10 in California's "similar schools ranking," which measures hundreds of poor, struggling, heavily Mexican immigrant schools in California -- against one another.

Update: Blume tells the Weekly that 'It's not an editorial. We did lay out what their test scores were. They were bad."

The Times story today goes on: "Semillas has long enjoyed community support...."

Er, sort of. Semillas has at least as many community enemies and critics as friends.

"...including from influential allies..."

Such as?

click to enlarge Monica Garcia, LAUSD School Board president
  • Monica Garcia, LAUSD School Board president
We've named some of these allies, including Monica Garcia, Nury Martinez, Steve Zimmer and Richard Vladovic, the school board members who voted last week to ignore California state law by letting this failing school continue to teach small children.

But where is the Times' effort to expand this list of influential allies? (The board members who stood against Monica Garcia were Tamar Galatzan, Marguerite LaMotte and Bennett Kayser.)

"...but narrowly escaped closure recently when the school's charter came up for renewal."

Surely the narrow escape was due to the influential allies, no? And not all that narrow, right? Monica Garcia almost certainly made sure she had the votes from Martinez, Zimmer and Vladovic, yes?

The Times makes no mention of why these four elected politicians voted to ignore Superintendent John Deasy's recommendation to shutter the school.

The paper doesn't challenge Garcia's view that schools that experiment with children should be allowed continue churning out students who cannot read or do their arithmetic, as compared to the identical socioeconomic kids elsewhere.

The paper doesn't challenge Garcia's view that experimental failing schools deserve to continue on for more than a decade, affecting many children.

Toward the end of the piece, Blume includes a "let's hear from the other side" paragraph.

Yet Blume doesn't choose to quote from the many groups and people on the legitimate, thinking other side who are aghast at how far behind the Semillas children are falling -- and who have cogent arguments about why this is bad.

Instead, Blume chooses a clueless, right-wing, D.C.-based organization called Judicial Watch.

"The school is not much more than a training ground for the Mexican Reconquista movement, which seeks to conquer the American Southwest -- by force or by ballot box -- and return it to Mexico," Judicial Watch says.

Blume and the Times thus provide readers a hysterical-sounding straw man instead of a thoughtful opponent who understands what is unfolding at Semillas.

Update: Blume says, "It's not meant to be a defense of the school. It includes both sides. ... The school was originally the subject of a lot of attention (involving the Reconquista) -- something we covered as a news story several years back."

We can see the Los Angeles Times future vision now: an army of El Sereno fourth graders marching on Phoenix, blowing up tanks and humvees.

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