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Responsible reporting?

July 9, 2010

Fremont High School in Los Angeles has been getting a lot of attention lately, as it is that city’s biggest “experiment” with restructuring schools. However, insiders say that there is more wrong with the reporting than there is right. For instance, some of the reports suggest that the school had been shut down between December and now, which clearly isn’t true– a basic fact that could easily have been checked, but wasn’t. The local Fox affiliate’s video contains aerial footage of a riot that happened there in 2006, visually suggesting that this level of violence was commonplace, when it wasn’t. The district officials have been touting staff changes as the key improvement that has been made, but according to some students, they’ve had as many as three or four substitutes a day. In general, there has been a problem getting a straightforward accounting of how many staff members there are, and how many of them currently hold valid teaching credentials. Likewise, the only reason there has been teacher input in the reporting at all has been because a few dedicated, mostly displaced former teachers have followed the stories and commented vigorously (In the actual stories themselves, we mainly hear from district officials and union leaders, not new or former Fremont teachers). Student input is mostly just an odd quote here or there.

These kinds of staff overhauls are controversial for a reason, and not just for the commonly assumed reason that unions simply want to protect the length of their membership rolls. They’re disruptive to student learning, and there is little evidence to suggest that they work. As you watch these turnaround stories unfold, make sure to question the coverage. Ask yourself who is represented, and what their interests might be; what other reforms were tried before such drastic action was taken; and what other support the school will have to overcome its struggles. After all, putting new people into a still-problematic situation probably won’t yield any better results than leaving the original people where they were. Indeed, the loss of community ties and institutional memory will likely make things even harder.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2010 11:38 pm

    While a few teacher’s voices were represented, it was primarily the administration’s propaganda. They have no scruples and no respect for teachers. Students are already suffering greatly.

  2. laurie permalink
    July 10, 2010 1:12 pm

    I have enjoyed and learned from reading your blog the past few weeks. You may have seen this article on edweek, I found it interesting because I have applied to a couple of turn around schools in my city and have been trying to learn what I can about their plans. I have an interview at one of them coming up. Based on what I have been reading I am not sure I want the job, but another part of me is curious to have a look at the whole process from the inside. Though it may be too stressful because I really don’t want to wind up unemployed again.

    • July 15, 2010 10:29 pm

      Thanks, Laurie! Despite the dismal political climate, I think it is worthwhile to try to contribute wherever you can. If you feel called to work in a school that needs you, you should be there. Just be prepared for what might await you while you’re there, and be clear about your own philosophy as a teacher. I’m sure you’ll love your students and feel good about your work, even if the rest of the situation is crazy.

  3. July 28, 2010 10:26 am

    As to an update on the staffing situation, out of the 128 teachers who are currently on track (Tracks B and C), there are 128 positions–positions, but 4 positions lack names, which means they are being filled by substitutes. Actual numbers are 40 or more teachers who are NEW TO TEACHING and over 30 substitutes. The school normal staffs 240 teachers, but all tracks being equal, that means there ought to be 160 teachers on track, not 128. The principal also stated to the Los Angeles Times that all 219 positions were filled. What happened to all the teachers? Did that many students leave or are the classes that much more crowded?


  1. More views on the reconstitution at LA’s Fremont High School « Failing Schools

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