Our project for 2021 has one target and one objective only; to once and for all, fix our public schools. Presently, we are working with a network of 70 to 120 other public school parent leaders from around LA County. We work independently at our children’s schools through our participation on School Site Councils and other advisory committees. We network and collaborate through our participation on various district advisory committees and study groups.
Venice HS School Site Council
We, the parents, share a similar experience. We first got involved because we had a negative personal experience at the school level, or because we observed things we did not like at our children’s schools. In either case, we felt compelled to do something or say something about these conditions or behaviors. The outcome we seek from our participation is that our concerns be addressed and changes be made to prevent our negative experiences from recurring.
Because the pace and extent of change we desire is not coming quickly enough, we have started to connect outside of any school or district affiliated groups. We are reaching out to other parents, sharing our concerns with them, and inviting them to join us. We want them to help us co-construct and present our proposal for how to address and resolve many the concerns we share in common.
Very soon, we will present our proposal to the district leadership. We expect the district leadership to authorize it, and financially support its implementation. This is our project for 2021.
We need the public’s financial support to fix our public schools
We have a strong proposal. We are excited to share it with you, and we ask that you support us to the extent that you can. The problems we have in our public schools will not be eradicated by any stakeholder on the public school payroll. Fear of loss of their livelihood prevents them from challenging their superiors, their peers, and themselves. That is why only the parents and the public, in general, can lead the charge to fix our public schools.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the public school district in which most of us have our children enrolled, has a nearly $8 Billion budget to work with.
Believe me when I tell you that the work we have been doing, participating in school/district committee meetings and trainings, planning and preparing to be an active and contributing attendee, networking, meeting offline, reaching out to other parents, and training other parents, is as time consuming as a full-time job. In some cases, it is a full-time job. We do this work for free, and would rather it be that way than have to accept compensation from the school district.
We know that the moment we accept any payment from the district, the chance of a dependent relationship is born. If that dependency becomes a reality, the integrity of our work will be compromised, and our ability to effect permanent change will be lost.
Our team presently has a budget of $0. We do not need much, but we need enough to keep the lights on. Please help us level the playing field with a generous tax-deductible donation. Please continue reading to see how we would put your gift to work. I really encourage you to do so. You will find that this is one of the most logical, comprehensive, well-researched, and though through proposals for fixing our public schools. This is our project for 2021.
To make a donation click here or scan this QR Code.
What problems are we solving in our project for 2021?
Problem 1: Too many school improvement initiatives are launched in the absence of well-informed, well-prepared and organized key stakeholders
The lack of common sense, fact-based, structured and constructive communication among all the stakeholders (e.g., politicians, educators, families, the business community, etc…) vested in public education is the problem we are going to solve. The reason for this is simple. It’s not happening!
Do not get me wrong. Nationally, public education is now over a $700 Billion per year business. So there are a lot of people talking about how to make our schools more effective. Unfortunately, these conversations have all been in the absence of one or more of the conditions or stakeholder groups I list above.
Problem 2: Too many of the goals set for these initiatives are set in response to the wrong question(s). So the initiative does not fulfill its purpose.
It is hard enough to bring stakeholders together to dialogue around the issues affecting our children and the schools they attend. It is even harder ensuring that the multitude of issues and perspective stakeholders bring to the discussion don’t derail the dialogue to the point that little forward progress is made. The worst scenario, however, is the one where there is synergy, consensus, a plan of action, and action is taken, but the desired outcomes are never achieved.
This scenario can be devastating, and usually concludes with participants finding fault in the actions or perceived intentions of one or more of the stakeholders. We’ve come to learn from experience that in most cases the root of the failure is not foul play or lack of effort. Instead it is the fact that either the action plan was not in alignment with the desired outcomes, or the desired outcomes were off target. We call that asking the wrong questions. The fact that too many school improvement initiatives are based on a collective response to the wrong questions is the second problem we are going to solve.
The Price Tag of Not Discussing The Public Education Crisis Properly
Alto often these discussions occur in the absence of the most important stakeholder, the students themselves. The result of this negligence is an overinflated public education budget; #1 in the world, that returns lackluster results. American students rank 38th in math among students from other OECD nations. They rank 24th in science.
Peel The Onion and My Call For A More Complete Point of Departure Starts Making More Sense
You may be thinking, “Who cares about how our youth compare to the youth from the rest of the world?” Okay. Let’s scale it down to the district level, and compare its return on investment (ROI) over the span of three years. So we’ll be comparing ourselves to ourselves.
As the graph below shows, we have the same mismatch between high investment and low return. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) spends close to $8 Billion per year. In exchange for that collective expenditure less than 40% of all its seniors will leave the district unprepared for college or for gainful employment (see below).
There’s something very wrong with this mismatch and the trend that shows little learning from our mistakes. Worse yet, few are making noise about the fact that 6 out of every 10 young Angelenos who exit the K-12 public school system, does so either as a drop out or as a graduate with a diploma they cannot read. Even worse, fewer are making the connection between this trend (which dates back for generations) and the fact that we have 2,000,000 Americans behind bars. Multiply that figure by the $60,000 to $100,000 we spend to house, feed, and secure each of our fellow Americans behind bars, and you start wondering how much longer this can last without total disaster.
The worst part of this phenomenon is that things are the way they are, because the small group of individuals who profit from it lobby to maintain this status quo. Meanwhile, the far larger group whose flipping the bill, is not making the connection between their declining quality of life, and what is happening right in front of them. It is almost as if they were watching a car accident in the making, and do not know how to stop it.
As Long As We Let The Problem Persist It Will Worsen
This phenomenon of runaway public school budgets is the direct consequence of not having a common sense, fact-based, structured and constructive public dialogue among all the stakeholders vested in public education. In fact, even in those rare instances when the conditions have been right, and the right people were at the table, the wrong questions have been asked. The end result has been heavy investment in ineffective large scale programs, such as No Child Left Behind. The program came to an end several years back. Today, you would be hard pressed to hear anyone say that it made a permanent difference in making schools more effective. So, now what?
First, The Good News
The good news is this:
- IF we act NOW, we can still afford to fix this problem.
- The solution to this problem is extremely simple, and would cost no more than what funding public education costs now. It may even cost far less.
- The change would take very little time to implement and effect increased performance levels.
- Teachers, the most influential factor in a student’s academic success, will agree with the solution we propose.
- If we muster the will to make the proposed solution work, we will have demonstrated to our children that we adults have the maturity and common sense to coexist and collaborate for the benefit of our kids. That life lesson will resonate for generations.
What are the right questions?
Question 1: Why do we send our children to school?
We send our children to school to get an education. That is to obtain the academic, thinking, and social skills and knowledge to enter adulthood able to obtain gainful employment, get along with others, and be a contributing member of society.
Question 2: What or who has the most influence on our children’s education?
At school the teacher has the greatest influence on our children’s education. That is the quality of the teacher’s instruction.
Question 3: If the quality of a teacher’s instruction has the greatest influence on a student’s academic success, and the data shows that over 60% of LAUSD’s students leave the district ill-prepared for life after high school what does that say about the quality of instruction at LAUSD?
It’s telling us that the teachers in LAUSD have the capacity and support to effectively educate less than 40% of their students from the moment they enter kindergarten to the time they exit the district.
Question 4: How can LAUSD (and the public school system overall) educate a greater percentage of their students more effectively?
Apply the KISS Principle. According to Wikipedia, KISS, an acronym for keep it simple, stupid, is a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
Based on the answers to the questions above, the KISS Principle tells us that to be more effective, LAUSD must focus on three things – excellence, quality of instruction, and the quality of instructional leadership.
What does focusing on excellence, quality of instruction, and the quality of instructional leadership look like in everyday life in schools?
For over thirty years, education theory has told us that effective teachers do more than transmit subject matter knowledge and procedures to the students. A computer can do that. Effective teachers do three things better than other teachers. They:
- Help children develop life skills and competencies that will make learning possible
- Create the conditions in their classrooms to make the development of these skills and competencies possible
- Find the fire within to continue their relentless pursuit of excellence
What are the skills and competencies students needs to develop to thrive in school?
What conditions must a teacher create to enable students to develop the necessary skills and competencies?
It is the combination of a teacher’s proficiencies in subject matter knowledge, the conditions for learning they create, and the life skills and competencies they help their students develop that provides measure of their quality of instruction. Driving all stakeholders to have THIS conversation, constructively, is our project for 2021 and for 2022.
What about (teachers) finding the fire within to continue their relentless pursuit of excellence?
The best of the best in any profession stand alone in public, but behind closed doors they are supported by entire teams of people who are usually the best of the best at playing the role they have been assigned. So it goes with teachers. The best of the best teachers will have an effective team of instructional leaders.
Those instructional leaders see their primary purpose as being the creation of the conditions for teachers to evolve, reflect, and keep pushing their thinking towards a higher level of instructional quality. These conditions involve teachers observing other teachers, instructional leaders modeling best practices, colleagues calibrating scoring practices and criteria, and enjoying the intellectual gratification of spending quality time with fellow pedagogues challenging and enriching each others’ thinking and behaviors.
Presently, we have very few leaders of this type in our public schools. Most are ineffective, due to no fault of their own, because they are over-occupied with tasks having nothing to do with quality of instruction. Want proof? See the image below. These are the LAUSD high school teachers’ responses to statements in the Instructional Improvement section of School Experience Survey 2019-20. See how many agree with statements about the instructional leadership at their schools.
Let’s Connect the Dots
- Public school student success is low
- The lack of effective instruction in our schools is the greatest barrier to student success.
- The lack of effective instructional leadership is the greatest barrier to quality instruction.
- The disregard education bureaucrats have for teacher and principal time is the greatest barrier to developing effective instructional leaders.
Our goal is to eliminate these barriers by the end of 2021. Below is our plan for eliminating these barriers. This is our project for 2021.
What is the solution?
To fix themselves, public schools must focus exclusively on the cultivation of high-quality instruction and instructional leaderships at our schools. Their ability to cultivate both to high levels of excellence will depend on the time we give the faculty and administration to focus on their craft. We, the parents and the public must protect teachers and administrators from anything that takes time away from focusing on instruction.
What role will CTD Development Services play?
Helping our public schools keep focus and protect faculty development time IS our project for 2021. It is also what we see as the unifying theme for our growing team of public-school parent leaders. Training stakeholders to fulfill their role as proponents of high-quality instruction is our objective for the next two years. That is how long we estimate it will take us to recruit, develop, and train the 200+ parent leaders that will keep our LA County school districts focused on quality instruction.
The Role of Parents
Keep The Stakeholders You’re Working With Focused On What Matters
In 2020 LAUSD had 550,779 K-12 students enrolled. Besides teaching and supplying them, it feeds free or reduced lunch and breakfast to close to 80% of those students. 17% of those students enrolled are learning English as a Second Language. Collectively, they speak 102 languages.
On the staffing side, LAUSD also employs 75,674 people. The district spans over 710 square miles, and it holds 1,413 schools. The annual price tag for keeping this mini-city running is close to $8 Billion. On any given day anything can happen, and it does. Understandably, it can be a challenge for our teachers and instructional leaders to maintain focus. Therefore, as the champions of excellence, high quality instruction, and high quality instructional leadership, we must ensure that we keep these topics at the top of the agenda at every opportunity.
Learn What Quality Instruction Looks Like, Observe, Report, and Press
These are unusual and crazy times we are living in. Such times can bring chaos, but they also bring tremendous opportunity. I choose opportunity.
This is a simple solution. If I can simplify it further I will. The simpler the better. But, just because the plan is simple that does not mean it will be easy to execute. For starters, we know that the place we want our work to have the greatest focus and effect is in the classroom. That is where instruction happens most of the time, and that is where we want notable and observable improvement to happen.
The key word here is observable. That means that:
- We will have to observe instruction and assign a score to its quality.
- Parents will need to:
- Be trained to conduct an observation and calibrate their scoring criteria.
- Debrief their observations with other parents, the observed teacher, and the principal, at least.
- Repeat the cycle periodically until high quality instruction.
- Debrief their school day with their kids and listen. They will need to hear for clues that tell them whether or not the teacher is making an effort to meet their expectations
The biggest challenge to our project for 2021
In a nutshell, this is our plan for fixing our public schools. It sounds simple, because delivering high quality instruction to ALL students in our public schools IS simple. Not easy, but simple.
Our mistake has been to complicate the problem by:
- Seeking easier solutions than what I have described here
- Trying to solve problems other than the lack of focus on quality instruction and/or instructional leadership.
Delivering high quality instruction every day is not easy. It is challenging work because getting better requires questioning personal beliefs and practices we believe are necessary. Sometimes it requires totaling abandoning practices we have spent years mastering. It requires ongoing reflection and self-critique. So we understand and expect certain challenges to come our way. The good news is that this time we’re ready for them.
The bottom line about fixing public schools is this.
- Teachers who put in the time and effort to improve their pedagogy, WILL become better teachers
- Teachers with the courage to receive ongoing constructive criticism from peers and instructional leaders WILL master teaching.
- The primary:
- Thing instructional leaders can do to help teachers is take a genuine interest in their professional growth
- Skill instructional leaders must develop is the ability to give helpful feedback
- Practice instructional leaders must employ is follow-up and follow-through
- Most instructional leaders become effective by learning to say what the teacher needs to hear to demand more from themselves.
The recipe for developing great schools IS that simple. This is the only recipe that has ever worked and will work. Any expenditure aimed to do more than what I have described will be a waste of money and time. It will generate worse results, and produce more disillusion.
Why our project for 2021 will work
I have worked on school improvement projects for 25 years. This proposal is based on the lessons learned from the failures of these projects. It has the best chance to effect permanent change of all projects I have worked on before. This is why.
- We finally have enough parents working with us, representative of the diverse LA County demographic
- The entire team is on board with our plan for fixing our public schools
- We are working together to strategize inside and outside of the schools, consistently
- We have learned to leverage our collective knowledge to successfully earn small, but growing victories
- The speed with which recently requested changes have been made and become observable, far exceeded our expectations
- The conditions are all favorable, presently, and are starting to make believers out of those on the fence.
Our project for 2021 will succeed with your support
The only imminent barrier to our progress and impact is a loss in momentum. That could only happen if we were to lose a key team member. The one thing that could cause one of us to leave is the prospect of facing financial hardship. This is something many Americans are presently contending with.
This is the best opportunity, since I started working in the schools, for parents to fix our public schools. It would be a shame if we failed because of our inability to help a key partner avoid financial hardship. That is why I urgently ask you to support this project, TODAY, with a donation. Just click on the button below.
Visit our Donate page to learn about other ways you can support our mission.
Learn More About The Work We Do Behind the Scene
There’s much to discuss and much detail I wish to share with you. I am certain that the better you understand our work, the greater value you will see in it – for you. As someone asking for your support, making this value to you as obvious as possible is my #1 priority.
That is why I am sharing the Project for 2021 Media Summary below. It provides a combined media mix of videos and a slideshow. Please check it out. My hope is that after viewing some of these items many of your questions will be answered. I am certain that if you do you will want to support us without ever being asked to again.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Hearing from you would be considered an honored blessing.
Carlos Lemus, President
Project for 2021 Media Summary
Video 1: To The Adults On The Public School Payroll: Enough Is Enough – The purpose of this video is to bring some passion to the discussion of school improvement. The spirit of our youth, hence our future, sits in the balance. Our actions should reflect the urgency we should have regarding the failure of our public schools. Every stakeholder group should be concerned.
If you work for or are serviced by the public school system, you should be very very concerned. If you do not, you should be even more concerned. Hopefully, this video makes that clear for you.
Duration: 18 minutes
Video 2: How To Fix Our Public Schools For Free – This is a mixed compilation of clips from the much longer 1.5 hour video that lays out the whole plan. It’s purpose was to capture the most salient points of the longer video.
Duration: 28 minutes
This is the original video that, combined with the slide show, lays out the entire plan. You don’t need to view these to get the gist of what I am proposing. However, you do get 1.5 hrs of thoroughness, where I illustrate my plan, in detail.
Duration: 1hr 28min