"I passionately believe that we should fix, not close or ignore, public schools that need improvement."
LOS ANGELES—Low-performing schools should be fixed, not closed or ignored. We must use real education reforms that have been shown to improve teaching and learning, such as the teacher-led, collaborative model that has turned around Woodland Hills Academy in Los Angeles, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said today at a news conference.
Following a visit to the school, Weingarten announced an AFT Innovation Fund grant to United Teachers Los Angeles to help teachers design teacher-led public schools like Woodland Hills, which has witnessed improving student achievement and growing enrollment.
Weingarten noted that so-called reformers too often rely on counterproductive measures, like closing schools or turning them over to private entities.
"That's not good for our students, and it's certainly not good for neighborhoods. I passionately believe that we should fix, not close or ignore, public schools that need improvement," she said. She lauded Woodland Hills' strategic, structured, collaborative education reform plan. "Parents were at the front end of reform and continue to be part of the educational process, which is absolutely essential."
Woodland Hills Academy was the city's first school of choice using expanded school-based management. Teacher and parent collaboration on the school's reform efforts has resulted in improved student achievement and increased enrollment.
Weingarten said this effective model stands in stark contrast to the parent trigger model being considered for 24th Street Elementary School, where, she said, "parents and teachers need to work together to help the struggling school; parent trigger is not the best way to improve it."
Also speaking at the news conference were UTLA President Warren Fletcher, Los Angeles Unified School District school board member Steven Zimmer and two parents, who explained that they chose to send their children to Woodland Hills because parental engagement is embedded in the school's operations, and because of the various interventions and other efforts to help individualize education for the students.
Michael Bennett, the former principal of Woodland Hills, has been hired by UTLA to run the Center for Effective School Improvement using the AFT Innovation Fund grant.
The AFT Innovation Fund, launched in 2009, has made more than 25 investments in groundbreaking work across the nation. Support comes from the AFT and private philanthropies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Weingarten also visited Stanley Mosk Elementary School, where she helped distribute nearly 1,000 books provided by First Book and funded by UTLA—about half will be given to students to take home and the other half will be used in classrooms.