Monday, March 28, 2011

Jordan High School

Now that Green Dot has made MASSIVE improvements at Locke High School, which I visited on Tuesday, the shameful title of worst high school in LA (and probably the country) is Jordan High School, which is plagued by 26 gangs and where only 2% of students are Proficient in math (1 of 926 was Advanced), and 90% are Below Basic or Far Below Basic.  Kudos to outgoing Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who declared an "emergency situation" and announced last month an emergency restructuring plan that will turn the school over to three charter operators (including Green Dot) and that all 50 of its staff and teachers will have to re-apply for their jobs in the spring.  The union, of course, is fighting this tooth and nail.  Here are excerpts from a fact sheet about the school and a letter from Cortines absolutely RIPPING a turnaround plan that the current staff at the school submitted –


I must be honest and state that I am extremely disappointed that beginning in your second paragraph

on the summary page you begin to set up the straw man of blame and excuses. The Watts

community is not the only school community within LAUSD that is surrounded by community issues.


It is hard for me to be sympathetic regarding your needs identified in the plan when the school has

had additional money in the form of the Quality Education Investment Act grant, and support from

Talent Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As you know, I had to notify you of

the loss of the generous and valuable QEIA grant because you did not meet your own benchmarks.

These were not benchmarks set by the state or LAUSD, but by your own staff. Everyone bears

responsibility—administrators, school staff and union leadership.


I agree with the words you use when you say, "The transformation of Jordan High School will be built

upon Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor so that by the 12th grade, every student will have

developed as an independent learner." Let me remind you that graduation begins in pre-school.

There is no evidence in your plan of ongoing outreach to teachers, students and parents that feed

into Jordan. The school is not an island unto itself but a place of learning that should move students

forward in their educational journey. In addition, we need to be mindful that there is a fourth element

to the "Relationships, Relevance and Rigor" framework that helps move schools forward: results.


Beyond the classroom, I am concerned that out of 1,600 parents, only 54 parents returned the parent

surveys for the Report Card last year. That is another sign that shows we have not created conditions

that welcome, engage and sustain parental involvement at Jordan. This is so important because

schools must not only be a safe-haven for students but for the community and parents as well.


How many times has the Jordan staff said that student attitude and discipline are paramount?

Nonetheless, there is no evidence of consistency and continuity of direction to students, to campus

security, and for administrators and teachers to assume responsibility.


The data

described in the first page of your plan is just that, data; it is not justification to be used as an excuse.

With a graduation rate of 35 percent and proficiency rates in the single and low double-digit ranges,

Jordan is in crisis and I need to intervene for the benefit of the students, staff, parents and the Watts



I have decided to make a change to Jordan under the provisions of No Child Left Behind. Beginning

on Feb. 1, I am going to put a trustee, or several, in place to see that staff and students understand

roles and responsibilities until the end of the current school year, and in the process we are going to

restructure the school. All employees in the spring—both certificated and classified—will have to

reapply for their positions.


It is critical that we bring order to the campus, see that students understand and know their roles and

responsibilities through multiple assemblies and that staff are held accountable for doing their job as

we plan the reorganization of the school into three small independent learning academies run by

internal and external partners. This is not Public School Choice; this is an emergency situation that

requires immediate action.

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