School & District Management

L.A. Proceeds With Plans to Open ‘Pilot Schools’ in Belmont Area

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — August 08, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Los Angeles officials are hoping a school improvement model that has shown promise on the opposite coast will help turn around secondary education in the school system’s Belmont attendance area.

The 727,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District announced last month that it is working with the local teachers’ union and community groups on a plan to open as many as 10 secondary schools patterned after the Boston “pilot school” program. The model, in which schools have autonomy in hiring, spending, curriculum, and scheduling, has been linked to rising test scores and improvements on other measures.

“This is real education reform,” Superintendent Roy Romer said in a statement. In 2003, Mr. Romer led a delegation of union officials, school board members, and parents to Boston to learn more about the program. “It creates high-caliber schools for downtown students,” he said.

The Los Angeles district announced the agreement last month with United Teachers Los Angeles, an affiliate of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, to begin work on establishing small college-preparatory high schools, which would be offered as an option for students eligible to attend Belmont High School.

Boston’s pilot-school program, which has grown to 19 schools since 1994—including several high schools—was set up through a partnership between the 145-school district and the Boston Teachers Union.

A study released in January found that students in the schools in the program outperformed their counterparts in the city’s regular public schools on several measures of student engagement and achievement, including state test scores in reading and mathematics, graduation rates, and the percentage of students going on to college.

The growth of the network, however, was stalled for several years in a dispute over overtime pay for the extra time teachers in the pilot schools work beyond what the union contract requires. After reaching a compromise earlier this year, the network is set to open as many as seven new schools over the next three years. (“Boston District and Union Agree on Adding ‘Pilot Schools’,” Feb. 22, 2006.)

A Signal for Progress?

After two years of discussion, Los Angeles officials hope to reach a final agreement and begin work on designing five to 10 such schools in time to open for the 2007-08 school year. UTLA has not committed to a time frame, but has agreed to enter into “meaningful dialogue” about the plan, according to President A.J. Duffy.

“There are a lot of aspects [of the model] that are very attractive to teachers: lower class sizes; teachers have a meaningful and central role in curriculum and professional-development decisions; and the creation of a model of an administrator that isn’t a top-down autocrat, but a bottom-up, collaborative consensus builder,” he said. “These are things that UTLA has fought for for years.”

The Belmont Education Collaborative, a group of more than three dozen community and business organizations, and universities, many of them serving the large Latino population in the Belmont attendance area, has also pushed for the new program.

The pilot schools often have longer school days and an extended school year. Principals control their budgeting decisions and choice of instructional programs. They can also choose teachers who agree to longer hours and extended planning and collaboration with colleagues.

Advocates say that adapting the Boston program to other cities will help promote the need for districts, unions, and communities to work together to foster more innovative school models.

“We have enough longitudinal data that suggests that when you grant urban public schools maximum autonomy over resources in exchange for accountability, it improves engagement and achievement outcomes for their students,” said Dan French, the executive director of the Center for Collaborative Education, a Boston-based group that promotes small schools. “Hopefully, having Los Angeles join will signal to districts and unions … that until [they] find ways to collaborate in the creation of dynamic public schools, we won’t make the progress we need.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 09, 2006 edition of Education Week as L.A. Proceeds With Plans to Open ‘Pilot Schools’ in Belmont Area

Events

School & District Management Webinar Fostering Student Well-Being with Programs That Work
Protecting student well-being has never been more important. Join this webinar to learn how to ensure your programs yield the best outcomes.
Reading & Literacy Webinar 'Science of Reading': What Are the Components?
Learn how to adopt a “science of reading” approach to early literacy to effectively build students’ vocabulary and content knowledge.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Effective Communication for School Leaders: A Forum
Join us for an afternoon of discussions on how school and district leaders can motivate staff, make the most of social media, and more.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Uvalde Schools Suspend Entire Police Force After Outrage
The decision followed backlash over the hiring of a former state trooper who was part of the hesitant police response in the May attack.
2 min read
Police walk near Robb Elementary School following a shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Police walk near Robb Elementary School following a shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Four months after the Robb Elementary School shooting, the Uvalde school district pulled its entire embattled campus police force off the job following a wave of new outrage over the hiring of a former Texas state trooper who was part of the hesitant law enforcement response as a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.
Dario Lopez-Mills/AP
School & District Management What the Research Says Principals Matter for Preschools, But Studies Show They Lack Training
New research suggests principals need to learn more about the preschool classes in their buildings.
3 min read
Illustration of students and a teacher.
DigitalVision Vectors
School & District Management Meet the Principals of TikTok: 2022 Edition
6 fun principal accounts to check out.
1 min read
Smiling prinicpal with text Morning in the life of an early childhood prinicpal
Source: @principal_mommy
School & District Management Finalists for National Principal of the Year Cite School Culture, Equity
School leaders from California, Massachusetts, and Texas are the three finalists for the National Principal of the Year honor.
5 min read
Image of leaders as a central figures to a variety of activities in motion.
Laura Baker/Education Week and gobyg/DigitalVision Vectors