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State Steps In at 10 Lagging L.A. Schools

Education: Audit teams are visiting the campuses and will recommend plans to shore up weaknesses.

October 03, 2001|RICHARD LEE COLVIN and ERIKA HAYASAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

California schools Supt. Delaine Eastin, who heads the state Education Department, said more such interventions can be expected. Nearly 900 schools in the state are receiving extra money to help them boost their academic performance. But if their methods fail to produce results, the state will be responsible for stepping in and making more dramatic changes.

Eastin said her department does not have the capacity to handle anywhere near that many emergency reform efforts. "It's one thing to identify 13 teams and it's another to identify 113 or more," she said.

The only elementary school on the intervention list in Los Angeles Unified is Avalon Gardens in South Los Angeles. Teachers and the principal said the school had recently brought in a new reading program, started after-school tutoring and began holding assemblies to recognize student achievement.

"We're going in the right direction, and when the state comes to see us we're going to explain that to them," said Principal Eva Ybarro, who has been in charge for a year.

Ann Peterson, a teacher at Avalon Gardens, said she hopes the state recognizes improvements that have been made before taking drastic action, such as removing principals or teachers.

"We just got our new reading program; we just got our new math program," she said. "How can you base performance on less than one year? You have to give it a chance to build up."

In Los Angeles, Romer's focus will be on boosting the pass rate for the high school test. He will recommend that the district increase its investment in teacher training, textbooks and math experts at all high schools to ensure that more students become proficient in algebra.

Recognizing that many students in middle and high school have yet to learn to read well, he also will form "cadres" of teachers who will be specially trained in that area.

But Romer and his advisors have only worked out sketchy details for addressing the schools where Eastin is intervening as well as five or 10 others that Romer has yet to select. He said that the principals and teachers at those schools will receive specialized, intensive training and that principals will be given specific goals.

"If they cannot respond to the leadership demand of the school, eventually we'll replace them," he said.

Eloisa Marquez, principal at Mt. Vernon Middle School, agreed that teachers and principals need more assistance, but said taking them out of the classroom to do training may not be the answer. "We're stretched so much," she said. "They keep adding more responsibility. I need to be left alone to do the best I can with what I have available at the school."

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