LAUSD superintendent’s South LA legacy

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

High school seniors in the Los Angeles Unified School District graduating in 2015 have attended school under five different superintendents since they began kindergarten in 2001. That statistic punctuates the departure of Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned last month following a three-and-a-half-year term that included both peak performances and steep pitfalls in the district.

As the door closes on Deasy’s high-profile leadership as LAUSD superintendent, Intersections explored how Deasy’s work influenced the experience of students in South L.A.—home to some of the district’s lowest performing schools.

[Read more…]

Students at South LA’s Manual Arts High react to superintendent’s resignation

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

John Deasy speaks at a City Year event in 2013. | City Year

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy resigned on Thursday, ending a controversial, much-discussed tenure. The word about his resignation spread quickly through South L.A., which is home to some of the lowest performing schools in California with some of the nation’s lowest graduation rates.

Students at South L.A.’s Manual Arts High School, which in 2012 had a graduation rate of about 65 percent and a dropout rate of about 26 percent, are hopeful that a future superintendent can be a model leader, and bring resources to their school.  [Read more…]

OPINION: Could Superintendent Deasy be replaced with an iPad?

David LyellJuly 2, 2013, wasn’t just another day. On that day, there was a LAUSD School Board meeting unlike any other in recent memory.

Each year, at the first LAUSD Board meeting in July, the seven School Board members ( vote to elect a president. While the School Board president doesn’t have expanded powers, the position affords an opportunity to set the tone, run Board meetings, and work closely with the superintendent to determine meeting agendas.

At the July 2 Board meeting, three members began a four-year term: District 2 Board Member Monica Garcia, District 4 Board Member Steve Zimmer, and District 6 Board Member Monica Ratliff. [Read more…]

Reconstitution and magnet convert at Crenshaw High draws protests

Parents, teachers and students held a press conference outside of Crenshaw High School on Monday to push back against a plan to magnet convert and reconstitute the South Los Angeles high school. image

Community members are upset at LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s proposal to convert Crenshaw High School, including Orville Wright Middle School and Central Region Elementary School #20 (CRES 20), into a magnet school, and reconstitute Crenshaw High, which means all teachers and staff must re-apply for their jobs, according to parent Loutrisha Swafford.

Swafford questioned the necessity of having existing staff and teachers re-apply for positions they were already hired for.

“It doesn’t necessarily stabilize what we’re trying to build here. It destabilizes it,” said Averie Blackwell, student at Crenshaw High School. “It kills everything that we worked for. It doesn’t allow us to be students, to be free, to learn from the same teachers every single day. You know how hard it is to learn in a classroom that has a different teacher every single day?”

Supporters held signs with slogans like “Stop Educational Racism, Keep Community Control” and “Keep Our Schools Public,” while several students sang songs in protest as their peers played the drums.

“We have students here who are high-achievers because they’re coming through the streets filled with crime,” said Swafford.

Anita Parker, a senior at Crenshaw High School, said reconstitution would not help a school with already low resources. She said many lunch tables are broken and some classrooms are so full “you have to sit on the floor.”

image Those at the press conference expressed outrage at LAUSD for not consulting with parents, teachers, students and staff. According to Swafford, there was no prior knowledge or mention to the community by LAUSD of their intention to convert Crenshaw into a magnet school.

Swafford said the community is demanding that LAUSD reverse reconstitution and postpone any vote until further discussions are made with the community. They are also demanding support and resources for a recently implemented Extended Cultural Learning model from LAUSD.

The Extended Cultural Learning model offers a more well-rounded approach to curriculum, according to a statement by members of the school. The model focuses on cultural relevance, behavioral support and services, and outside activities like internships. Based on that model, the school was awarded a grant of $225,000 from the Ford Foundation.

By using the Extended Learning Cultural model, Swafford outlined a list of achievements made by students and staff. In 2011 – 2012, the school was able to improve its API by 15 points, including higher API levels among African-American students that were above six of the seven major South LA high schools.

Haewon Asfar, an organizer with the Community Rights Campaign, said the Extended Cultural Learning model showed improvements in more than just measurable ways. Many of her students in the after-school program she runs at Crenshaw feel more empowered and excited about coming to school.

“It has to be put within the context of their everyday lives…more than half are below the poverty line,” said Asfar, who also mentioned that many students come from single parent households. “It’s not the same conditions as other communities.”

Opinion:  Many Dorsey High School members united to stop reconstitution

By Taylor Broom (Dorsey Alumni class of 2011, Community Organizer with Coalition for Educational Justice—CEJ), Sharonne Hapuarachy (Dorsey Teacher and English Dept. Chair), Hilda Daily (Dorsey parent) and Noah Lippe-Klein (Dorsey teacher and UTLA Chapter Chair)

Last Spring, Superintendent Deasy rejected Dorsey High School’s PSC (Public School Choice) plan and said if our upcoming re-write was not to his liking, then he would reconstitute Dorsey.

Upon hearing this, parents and alumni started meeting weekly to discuss a two-pronged approach to prevent reconstitution: (1) learn how students and community have been impacted by reconstitutions at other schools, and (2) unite a broad coalition of Dorsey community, Crenshaw community and the people throughout South LA, around the idea that reconstituting a school with such a committed faculty and strong programs would hurt students.

imageTaylor Broom, a co-author of this story and a Dorsey High School alum.

So, what is the Dorsey community doing to fight back?

• Dorsey parents and students have been speaking at School Board meetings to tell Deasy and the LAUSD Board members all the reasons that reconstitution would harm the school. (See videos of these powerful presentations and “like” us at .)
• Dorsey parents, alumni and teachers hosted a workshop at a major South LA conference this summer to raise awareness about reconstitution among community members and elected officials.
• Dorsey and Crenshaw teachers and alumni began working with a group of respected black community leaders and organizations in South LA (Ma’at Institute for Community Change, African American Cultural Center, CEJ) who have been advocating to improve schools. This coalition is prioritizing fighting institutionally racist policies in LAUSD, like the disproportionate suspension rates of black students, preventing reconstitution, AND supporting the struggles around Dorsey and Crenshaw school improvement.
• Dorsey stakeholders are in dialogue with Crenshaw teachers and community members and the entire Dorsey/Crenshaw feeder system. We see our struggle as one and the same because over the summer Crenshaw had to push back against Deasy’s threats to end its nationally recognized extended learning school reform model. Both schools are working closely with the community to prevent reconstitution and implement a plan rooted in culturally relevant, research-based strategies to meet the needs of our students.
• Dorsey’s staff and community are working closely with our principal to write a high-quality plan.  Implementing a reform plan that works for Dorsey’s students is a key priority.

NOW DORSEY NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT: On September 27, Dorsey’s parents, alumni, community and students are planning a major community event with the theme of “Celebrating, Improving and Fighting for Dorsey.” 

The event will celebrate Dorsey’s:
• teachers and faculty who have impacted lives
• programs that serve students
• role in the community

Celebrating Dorsey’s strengths is a way of saying, “Our school should not be reconstituted.” 

Why is it so critical to prevent the reconstitution of Dorsey? 

If sponsoring teachers lost their positions, key programs (like the Dorsey Ivy League College Preparation program, the prestigious Culinary Arts program, the rising Academic Decathlon team, the Annual Student Film Festival, the nationally recognized Theater Department, the 20thCentury Fox Partnership, and so much more) would be lost. Other reconstituted schools have already experienced this hemorrhaging and Dorsey would be at risk for this as well.

We also worry about the loss of faculty who support the disproportionately high number of Dorsey students in foster care and group homes. Many of these students rely on their teachers and counselors to provide stability in their lives.

Reconstitution would bring a newer faculty with less understanding of how to build upon some of Dorsey’s strengths:
• The number of committed teacher-alumni and teachers living in the community. Often, teachers with strong ties to community are pushed out of a reconstituted school.
• Strong ties that Dorsey has with black institutions in the community who support Dorsey’s students, the connections with historically black colleges and the growing number of ivy league schools that recruit Dorsey’s students.
• The gains made by the growing number of English Language Learner students—Dorsey has made huge strides in re-designating these students through focused support.

Are we merely trying to stop reconstitution? No, we are serious about improvements at Dorsey too — for example, improvements in pedagogy, personalization, community ties, internships, and the career and college readiness of students.

This fight won’t be won on Sept 27th, but if you care about Dorsey, the Dorsey/Crenshaw community, South LA, and public education in general, then mark your calendars and attend this critical event.

Location:  100 feet from Dorsey’s campus at the Rancho Cienega Gym. 5001 Rodeo, Los Angeles. at 5:30 pm  Click here for a map of the location.

New LAUSD program makes breakfast a priority

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

imageYou probably used to hear it from your parents all the time.

“It turns out our moms were right,” Mayor Villaraigosa said Thursday morning. “Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.”

It’s so important, that Villaraigosa has joined the Los Angeles Unified School District and community organization, InnerCity Struggle, to form “Food For Thought.”

The new program is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and looks to offer LAUSD students breakfast in the classroom.

“Food For Thought” will give students free breakfast at the start of each day, offering healthy options such as fresh fruit, whole wheat muffins, and one-percent milk.

But isn’t it the parents’ responsibility to feed their children in the morning?

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy says, “not necessarily.”

“It is a community’s responsibility,” Deasy said. “So that if a parent would not have the means, then we wrap our arms around the student and make sure that no one goes hungry.”

Monica Garcia, Board President of the LAUSD, believes “Food For Thought” will increase student attendance, decrease child obesity, and help students reach her ambitious goal.

“We said one hundred percent graduation and we meant it,” Garcia said. “Breakfast in the classroom helps kids get to graduation. Breakfast in the classroom help our employees maximize the service for our young people.”

Deasy shares Garcia’s goal of a perfect graduation rate, and says that poverty shouldn’t hurt a student’s chances of success.

“If great breakfast is good enough in Beverly Hills, it’s good enough in Boyle Heights. The idea that every student deserves [to] and will graduate college workforce ready is not a dream; it’s not unattainable. It’s the right of students.”

David Binkle, Deputy Director of Food Services for the LAUSD, knows that an empty stomach in the morning can lead to poor performance in the classroom.

“If you have a hungry stomach, then you focus on the hunger pains as opposed to focusing on whatever it is you’re trying to focus on,” said Binkle. “And in our case, in the educational day, the kids are trying to focus on learning life lessons; they’re trying to learn mathematics and science.”
Maria Brenes, Executive Director of InnerCity Struggle, is happy to help feed hungry children, but says that in the long run, “Food For Thought” can help more than just students.

“We have to play that role of being that safety net for these families and for these children so that they can succeed, go on to graduate, go on to college, and be able to come back to our communities and be those teachers and be those elected officials, and those doctors. So it’s a community investment.”

Now that is some serious food for thought.

You can follow Nick Edmonds on Twitter @NickEdmondsUSC

OPINION: Funding early childhood education, funding California’s future

By John Deasy and Celia C. Ayala

There’s little doubt that California today is facing monumental challenges. High unemployment, a stubborn recession and a gargantuan budget deficit are staring us in the eyes.

It’s quite evident that tough decisions must be made to right the ship. Gov. Jerry Brown began that process when he recently released his state budget proposal. Overall, it was a good start with one glaring exception: his plan to shift $1 billion in state and local Prop. 10 funds to balance the books. Doing so, in our opinion, would be a monumental mistake that would hurt education and health services for children statewide.

When voters approved Proposition 10 in 1998 by imposing a new tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, they did so because they supported the establishment of the much needed early education and social service programs for children age 0-5.

Los Angeles County benefits in many ways through a variety of children’s health and early childhood programs funded by the First 5 LA Commission, which administers Prop. 10 funding locally. One of those programs has touched the lives of more than 40,000 four-year-olds, who have been able to receive a quality preschool education.

Brown has proposed shifting $1 billion from the reserve accounts of state and local First 5 commissions. The governor is also proposing shifting 50 percent of future state and local First 5 commission revenues to the state’s general fund for early childhood services. Should that succeed, thousands of children – especially those from underserved communities – will not receive a quality preschool education to better prepare them for kindergarten.

No matter where you stand in the political spectrum, you should be concerned because one fact is clear: the future of our state will largely depend on our children’s ability to compete in an unforgiving world economy, and early education plays an important role in helping children gain the critical thinking skills they need to succeed. The governor’s budget proposal would defeat that objective.

We could not agree more with Nobel-Prize winning economist and Professor James Heckman. In a letter to the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Reform, he calls for investing in high-quality early education or risk putting “our country’s future in peril by producing a deficit in human capital that will take generations to correct.”

In Los Angeles County, it is sad that preschool education is already out of reach for about half of four-year-olds, mainly due to the lack of availability. That should concern all of us, because research has shown children who attend a high-quality preschool education enjoy greater academic achievement, are more likely to graduate from high school and college and are less likely to be involved in crime.

And according to a report from the RAND Corporation, African American and Latino students have lower levels of proficiency in several academic measures than white and Asian students. Preschool appears to be a promising solution to narrow such achievement gaps.

As such, it is imperative for Brown and the legislature to not take any action that would hurt early education efforts. This is especially important if we want to level the playing field for children who come from disadvantaged homes. Studies show at least half of the educational achievement gap between poor children and their more advantaged peers is evident in kindergarten, because many of them do not attend preschool.

That is crucial because children who start behind in kindergarten often remain behind throughout their entire school experience, which inhibits learning. This is one contributing factor to the fact that about 35 percent of Los Angeles students don’t graduate from high school.

We urge Brown and legislators to support efforts to even the playing field – not the opposite – and to provide a strong foundation for children by not threatening funds that support early childhood education. After all, today’s preschoolers are our country’s future leaders and taxpayers.

Simply put, we cannot afford to balance the budget on the backs of our young children. We urge Gov. Brown and the Legislature to not reduce Proposition 10 funding. Doing so would have lasting consequences that threaten not only our children’s future, but that of our state.

John Deasy is the incoming Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school system in the nation. Celia C. Ayala is the CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool, which funds high-quality preschool programs across Los Angeles County.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

OPINION: Value-added assessments: has the data been cooked?

imageBy David Lyell (left), LAUSD teacher

A report published this month by UC Berkeley economist Jesse Rothstein raises serious ethical questions about the objectivity of an analysis of “value-added” models by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In his report, “Review of Learning About Teaching,” Rothstein concludes that The Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) Project contains, “troubling indications that the Project’s conclusions were predetermined.” Rothstein asserts that “the Gates Foundation has widely circulated a stand-alone policy brief (with the same title as the research report) that omits the full analysis, so even careful readers will be unaware of the weak evidentiary basis for its conclusions.”

To promote “value-added” as a measure of teacher effectiveness, The LA Times hired Richard Buddin, a professor at UCLA, and paid him an undisclosed sum to conduct a statistical analysis of student test data. Buddin has himself been rated as ineffective by his own students on a website where UCLA students rate teachers.

In August 2010, LA Times reporters Jason Felch, Jason Song, and Doug Smith wrote a host of articles touting the benefits of “value-added” as a way of measuring teacher effectiveness, along with a database rating teachers.

On August 31, 2010, LAUSD Deputy Superintendent John Deasy proposed for value-added measures on tests to account for 30 percent of teacher evaluations. Six Board Members all voted for the proposal, with one dissent: School Board Member Marguerite LaMotte. The proposal now faces a major obstacle. It must be agreed to as part of collective bargaining negotiations in order for it to take effect.

Superintendent Cortines has said he wants LAUSD teachers to take seven furlough days for the 2011-12 school year, despite the fact that the LAUSD spends $100 million on non-mandated standardized tests — that is, testing not required by law — and $43 million on the eight mini-district offices.

I recently spoke to Deputy Superintendent John Deasy, and got his reaction to this story.

To critics like myself who think value-added should not at all be a component of teacher evaluations, Deasy said, “I take that at face value, and say I appreciate your position. I respectfully disagree.” He continued, “There will be margins of error. No question about that,” adding, “when people say that it’s ineffective, I think the issue is, for me, how do you use a balanced set of multiple measures to take a look at teacher effectiveness?”

Conceding that value-added models are imperfect, and reportedly have a plus or minus error of 45 points, and a teacher’s livelihood could be at stake, Deasy said it shouldn’t be the only measure of teacher effectiveness.

“A good observation by a well-trained principal,” said Deasy. “I believe that should be the majority indicator.”

When asked about the assessments of Buddin by his students on the Bruin website, where some students rated Buddin as “ineffective” and “boring,” Deasy responded, “I do think it matters how students perceive the learning experience with a teacher. Once again, I don’t think it is the only metric that should be used.”

I stated one of my objections to value-added, namely, that it perpetuates the demonization of teachers. I said, “I wish we did a better job supporting teachers. 50 percent of them quit within the first five years, even more so at charter schools. And part of it is because there is just a lack of support for teachers in the classroom.” Deasy responded: “I happen to agree with you completely on that. We have an enormous obligation to support teachers.”

When I proposed that cuts should be kept away from the classroom, especially given that LAUSD spends $100 million on non-mandated testing, and $43 million on the eight mini-district offices, Deasy responded, “My response to that is going to have to be, given the budget, as I read it, and given what has happened since the governor has taken office, all of those areas are going to have to be examined for further reduction.”

When pressed on this, and asked, “So you want to keep cuts away from the classroom?” Deasy responded, “Absolutely. We’ve already cut too much.” He added that the last cuts should be in the classroom.

Whether Deasy will stick to his word, and keep cuts away from the classroom, as stated, remains to be seen. How much he will stick to a deeply flawed methodology of evaluating teachers, also known as “value-added,” also remains to be seen.

Phone calls and emails seeking comment from UCLA instructor Buddin, LA Times reporters Felch, Song, Smith, and representatives from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have not been returned. Additional phone calls and emails seeking comment from the following proponents of using value-added as a component in teacher evaluations have also not been returned: LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines, LAUSD School Board Members Monica Garcia, Yolie Flores, Tamar Galatzan, Nury Martinez, Richard Vladovic, and Steve Zimmer, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

To read Jesse Rothstein’s Rothstein’s critique of The Gates’ Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project, click here.

What do you think about Deasy’s position on value-added assessments? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more from David Lyell at

OPINION: John Deasy a disappointing choice for LAUSD superintendent

imageBy David Lyell (left), LAUSD teacher

I’m disappointed by the appointment of John Deasy as the superintendent to the LAUSD School Board. The school board didn’t even bother to consider any other candidates, which is very strange. The public needs to remember that the mayor, who celebrated this appointment, after recently attacking UTLA, was also handed a vote of “no confidence” by teachers at eight of the 10 schools he takes credit for operating.

The reality is that the teachers at those school sites operate those schools. The mayor, who rarely shows up, only operates them on paper, and dismally at that. We need to remember that this is the same mayor who, in 2009, spent 15 times as much as his nearest opponent on his campaign, then refused to debate him.

Deasy embraces Value-Added. Value-added testing is yet another example a punitive, ineffective, dictatorial management style. A July 2010 report by the Institute of Education Sciences concluded that, “more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under the control of the teacher.” An August 2010 report by the Economic Policy Institute warned in a report that it would be “unwise” to give substantial weight to VAM scores in measuring teacher effectiveness. Researchers for RAND concluded that, “the research base is currently insufficient to support the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers.”

LAUSD Board Members cry about a budget crisis, yet spend $100 million per year on non-mandated assessments — that is, testing not required by law — and $43 million on mini-districts. In December 2010, they fired clerical and custodial workers at school sites after firing teachers and instituting furloughs, and they transferred hundreds of other clerical and custodial staff. Now Cortines says we need to take more furlough days.


We need to use the Federal Jobs money for its intended purpose: to save jobs. We need to spend that $143 million that is wasted on testing and mini-districts, and spend it on teachers, clerical, and custodial staff.

Aside from his employment record, serious ethical questions remain concerning Deasy’s background. In addition to the LMU and University of Louisville scandals, Deasy comes from the Gates Foundation. Gates — whose company Microsoft was literally sued by the US Government for antitrust allegations and using market dominance to stifle competition — is now an advocate for, of all things, competition. Like Oprah, Gates is just wrong. Instead of asking why it’s so hard to fire teachers, they need to ask why school districts can’t carry out their administrative duties in a timely manner.

Gates has even recently advocated for larger class sizes, and videotaping teachers. That’s how out of touch he is. Our schools are already so darn top-heavy with administrators, classrooms are under-staffed, and teachers are under-paid, over-worked, and under-appreciated. In Gates’ world classrooms would host one thousand students. Teachers would have every twitch scrutinized by a panel of six-figure education “experts” who then meet with the teacher to tell them what they need to do to improve. Where I come from, that sounds like a colossal waste of tax-payer dollars. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but those are the type of policies he advocates.

LAUSD is insanely top-heavy with administrators who make well over six figures. We need less bureaucracy. A test result cannot teach a student. A teacher can. It’s very strange how the very people who claim to care about children the most are the same individuals who do everything humanly possible to actually avoid having to spend time in a classroom. They love their cushy six-figure jobs.

We need real reformers who want to work with teachers instead of demonizing them. As it is, 50 percent of all teachers quit within the first five years. The numbers are even higher in charter schools. Fewer than one in seven charters produce better results, and many are simply out of control, as we saw with the Parent Trigger scandal in Compton. Charters are the new deregulation, and we all know how well that worked with the banks.

We need leaders who recognize that the way to improve education is to support the work teachers do. Teachers are responsible for student achievement, not administrators, not tests.

Read more from David Lyell at

John Deasy announced as new LAUSD superintendent

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this week that John Deasy will assume the role of LAUSD superintendent in the spring after serving as deputy superintendent.

“John Deasy is the right person for this job and the Los Angeles Unified School District is lucky to have him,” said the Mayor. “John understands the unique challenges facing the LAUSD and has already benefitted from on-the-job training as Deputy Superintendent.”

What do you think of Deasy’s appointment? Let us know in the comments below.

LAUSD teacher David Lyell responded to Howard Blume’s article in the LA Times today, noting that Deasy’s background has yet to come into full view:

What Howard Blume’s article didn’t mention is that prior to coming to University of Louisville, Deasy, while chief of the Santa Monica school district, awarded Robert Felner’s research company, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, a $375,000 grant care of the Santa Monica School District. Rather than defend that dissertation, as one would expect of a learned Ph.D candidate, Deasy offered to give it back. He did so because his conscience was telling him that he did not earn that degree.

Blume also failed to mention that Deasy reportedly lied on his resume about having worked as a Faculty Member in the doctoral program of the Educational Leadership and Social Dept. of Loyola Marymount University. LMU reportedly has no employment records for him.


Lyell added:

What the public needs to understand is that teachers would like to see responsible, conscientious leadership from the LAUSD School Board, and it is the board, and not teachers, that is responsible for determining district policy. Teachers would like to see district leaders who are interested in collaborative policies, rather than embracing a punitive top-down management style that favors turning schools over to corporate interests who see children as dollar signs.