Los Angeles Unified Turns Watts High School Over to Charter Organizations

Jordan High School is set to be split into three campuses, and the school's 200 teachers will have to reapply for their jobs.

Los Angeles school officials have announced that for the second time in the district's history, they're handing off management of one of the city's lowest performing high schools to outside organizations. Watts' Jordan High School will be split into three campuses, and the school's 200 teachers will have to reapply for their jobs.

Two charter school operators, Green Dot Public Schools and Alliance For College Ready Public Schools will run two of the campuses, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nonprofit, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools will take over the third.

In December, Jordan's teaching staff submitted its own turnaround plan to the district. Outgoing LAUSD superintendent Ramon C. Cortines rejected it, saying that it blamed students for academic performance. Eighty-four percent of Jordan's nearly 1,600 students come from low-income backgrounds and 34 percent are classified as still learning English. The school sits next to gang and crime-ridden housing project, Jordan Downs, which featured prominently in the 1993 film Menace II Society.

Just how bad are academics at Jordan? According to the school's most recent LAUSD school report card, during the 2008-2009 school year, only 12 percent of students scored "proficient" in English on standardized tests, well below the LAUSD average of 33 percent proficiency.

Even worse, only 2 percent of Jordan students were proficient in math, well below the abysmal LAUSD average of 13 percent. When it comes to graduation, only 35 percent of 9th graders enrolled in the fall of 2005 left with a diploma four years later.

United Teachers of Los Angeles vice-president Gregg Solkovitz expressed disappointment that Cortines didn't work more closely with the teachers union or the school's staff. "If he had just come to UTLA and said look, we need to go out to Jordan, roll up our sleeves and not leave that school until we have a plan to make that school turn around, we would have been more than willing to do that," he said.

Last year, Cortines announced the restructuring of Fremont High School after that campus failed to meet its academic improvement goals for 12 straight years. Teachers at Fremont also had to reapply for their jobs, and less than half were rehired.

District officials said parents were notified of the restructuring decision by an automated phone message and will also receive a letter about it. A trustee will take over Jordan's campus next month.

photo (cc) Flickr user luminafoundation

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