Formation, Leadership and Guiding Principles to Ensure Every L.A. Student Has Access to a High-Quality Public School

Great Public Schools Now Announces Formation, Leadership and Guiding Principles to Ensure Every L.A. Student Has Access to a High-Quality Public School

Organization will support replication of successful public schools – charter, magnet, pilot or Partnership schools – in high poverty areas of Greater Los Angeles. Ongoing community engagement efforts to continue ahead of release of Great Public Schools Now Plan in 2016.

LOS ANGELES—Great Public Schools Now, a new non-profit organization created to give every student in Los Angeles a great education by accelerating the growth of high-quality public schools and significantly reducing the number of students attending chronically under-performing schools, today announced its formation and executive leadership team and unveiled a list of guiding principles.

To date, Great Public Schools Now has met with more than 60 education and community organizations to solicit input on how best to serve under-resourced neighborhoods and give families more options for high-quality public schools. The organization plans to continue these conversations with a broad cross-section of parents, educators, governmental leaders and community members before finalizing the Great Public Schools Now plan in 2016.

Longtime Los Angeles education leaders William E.B. Siart and Anita Landecker of ExED will serve as the chairman and interim executive director of Great Public Schools Now. The new organization will be governed by an 11-member board, and advised by a 15-member advisory council, both of which are in development.

“More than 160,000 students in Los Angeles and surrounding cities attend schools that are failing to provide them with a quality education. There are over 40,000 students on charter school waiting lists in Los Angeles hoping to get into a better school in their neighborhood,” Siart said. “This effort will be aimed at replicating and accelerating the development of public schools – charter, magnet, pilot, or Partnership-- that have proven to be successful for kids in traditionally underperforming schools.”

“It’s unconscionable that families in many low-income communities lack the same opportunities to send their children to a high-quality school,” said Landecker, who will serve in an interim capacity as a search is conducted for a permanent executive director. “We want to work with these communities to identify how best to provide expanded educational opportunities so that every student has access to a great public school. We’ve already had valuable conversations that have shaped the vision of this organization, and we are continuing to grow a broad coalition that will support this effort.”

One way that Great Public Schools Now will work to achieve its goal is through the expansion of high-performing charter schools. A recent survey of 1,150 Los Angeles residents, showed deep, across-the-board support for the expansion of charter schools, particularly in areas of high need. Results from the poll showed that 74% of respondents favored expanding the number of charter schools in Los Angeles, and 87% supported reforming the public school system in Los Angeles.

“We need to have choices. I am a parent of two children with special needs. One attends a charter high school, and the other attends our Los Angeles neighborhood elementary school. Charter schools give us an option, because every child has unique needs,” said Lisette Duarte, parent at Partnership to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools). “It’s important to understand the realities that we face. We don’t have as many options as we would like on where to send our children to school. Our zip codes still limit us. That’s why I am grateful charter schools exist and want to see them grow.”

According to the latest research from Stanford University’s Center for Research and Economic Outcomes (CREDO), charters in Los Angeles yield academic gains that are equivalent to more than two months of extra learning in English and nearly two months in Math. Charter students are three times more likely to be college-ready when they graduate. Latino, African-American, and economically disadvantaged students, in particular, are up to five times more likely to be college-ready.

“It’s time to take action to replicate good schools so every student has access to a high-quality school in their neighborhood,” said Myrna Castrejón, acting chief executive officer of the California Charter Schools Association. “As evidenced by research from the CREDO Institute and countless other measures, charter schools have done incredible work in educating students from high-poverty backgrounds throughout Los Angeles. Because of this record, Great Public Schools Now will unequivocally support the replication of successful charters as a major component of their efforts.”

The organization also released a set of principles today that will guide its efforts in the months and years to come.

  1. We support the right of every child to attend a high-quality public school in his or her neighborhood.

  2. We support efforts to expand parental choice in Los Angeles and open new high-quality public schools in neighborhoods of need. We believe that high-quality schools are those where principals are leaders of quality instruction and can make decisions about school finance, faculty, curriculum and instruction.

  3. We recognize that teachers, principals, and administrators within the Los Angeles Unified School District work hard and want the best for all students. However, we also acknowledge the reality that despite this hard work, there are communities within Los Angeles where the existing public schools have persistently underperformed.

  4. We believe that students have waited too long in these high need communities. We share a sense of urgency to implement solutions that can work now.

  5. While recognizing the role that schools play in the entire community, we are committed to putting the interests of students above all else.

  6. We recognize that high-quality solutions can come from anywhere, either within or outside of the District, but believe that no high quality solutions should be excluded from consideration.

  7. We recognize that there are a number of high-quality educational models currently operating within the Los Angeles Unified School District, and we commit to support their expansion as part of meeting the needs of underserved students.

  8. We recognize the challenges involved in implementing any solution, charter or otherwise, but we believe that the most important criteria is what’s best for students.

  9. We reject needless confrontation. We believe that too many debates in education are filled with unnecessary rancor. We believe all of us, despite our disagreements, want to do what’s best for students in Los Angeles.

  10. We call on elected officials and other community leaders to embrace solutions that are proven, that will provide students and parents more and better educational options, and that help meet the need now. Politics and ideology should not drive this debate – the needs of students and parents should.

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Great Public Schools Now is an independent, non-profit organization working to accelerate the growth of high-quality public schools and significantly reduce the number of students attending chronically low performing schools in Los Angeles. The organization is a collaborative effort of parents, students, teachers, community leaders, foundations and Angelenos dedicated to ensuring all Los Angeles students receive a high-quality K-12 education.

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