Year in review: 5 most disappointing moments in public education
There were hopeful signs this year in public education. Test scores continued to rise in California and in the Los Angeles Unified School District, especially among younger students. There was finally widespread agreement that the No Child Left Behind Act, though it brought more accountability to schools, was a mess of a law, badly in need of remediation itself. The so-called parent trigger, after a rocky start, showed promise by empowering parents to force change at failing schools that brush off their concerns. But financially, and at a policy level, 2011 was a year of multiple disappointments:
1. The Obama administration comes out with a regulatory fix for No Child Left Behind that, while more flexible in ways than the existing law, is equally complicated and more interfering. California justifiably shows no interest.
2. The U.S. Senate comes out with a proposed legislative fix for No Child Left Behind that more or less omits accountability.
3. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes a bill that would have expanded the measurement of progress in schools to take in more than just standardized tests. He says he'll come up with a more meaningful way to improve schools, but we haven't heard it yet.
4. The California Legislature secretively passes a bill that makes it impossible for school districts to responsibly manage their own budgets. It forces them to assume a rosy midyear budget scenario that everyone knew wouldn't take place, and prohibits them from laying off teachers or cutting programs.
5. Los Angeles Unified School District weakens, then virtually eliminates, the Public School Choice program less than two years after it started. One of the most promising reforms to have been adopted in years, the program allowed groups from both within and outside the school district to compete to run new and failing schools.
Photo: Students at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Tarzana board buses for home. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times