2010-12-22 / Front Page

Education in crisis in Hub City

Parent anger, accusations of cheating and student harassment casts doubt on stellar API scores
By Cheryl Scott
Bulletin Staff Writer

The state of education in Compton appears to be entering a crisis if recent events are any indication.

At the college level, Compton Community College has become a part of El Camino Community College and, although the Compton Community College District remains a legal entity, sources close to the board and community activists privately express doubts that the college will ever be accredited and returned to the district.

Officials at El Camino College District have repeatedly assured the community that the exacting process for accreditation has begun and that the process is determined solely by the Accrediting Committee for Community and Junior Colleges, or ACCJC. They admit the process will take time, but they are confident that the end result will be accreditation and return of the college to local control.

Nonetheless, unease about the outcome still exists, say a variety of sources who asked to remain anonymous.

The college’s enrollment is up dramatically in the last two years, an encouraging sign for the school. But the much needed renovation of the facility is moving slowly at best, and the Learning Resource Center remains unusable despite $50 million in funding from the state and $5 million from a bond measure.

At the K-12 level, recent events have focused national attention on the Compton Unified School District.

The parents of McKinley Elementary School have used the recently passed parent trigger law to formally demand that the school become a charter school. During the weeks that signatures were being collected, parents say that their students were harassed by teachers who were critical of their parents for signing the petition. They have also accused members of the Parent Teachers Association of disrupting their meetings.

Some parents reported that teachers had said that if the school were turned into a charter school, their families would be deported.

The district recently released academic performance index, or API, scores indicating that many schools in the district had improved their scores. Enterprise Middle School was cited as one of only two schools in the state with an API growth of 100 or more points. Its scores went from 593 in 2009 to 808 in 2010. Carver Elementary raised its API scores from 655 to 831. Washington Elementary went from 535 to 810.

Included in the results is a category for schools that have raised API scores by 50 points or more in 2010. Anderson Elementary (58), Carver Elementary (64), Davis Middle School (60) and Washington Elementary (50) were all on the list.

The California Teacher’s Association said that the results were due to teacher-led reforms implemented in its Quality Education Investment Act, which is funded with $3 billion over the next seven years. This is the third year the program has been implemented.

However, McKinley was not on the list of improved schools, and it is ranked in the bottom 10 percent of all elementary schools in the state and 22nd among the 24 schools in the CUSD.

McKinley parents say that their students’ grades were high, but they noticed that the students’ did not display the level of knowledge reported by the school.

Acting Superintendent Karen Frison said in a statement released after delivery of the petition that McKinley has improved its API score by 77 points over the past two years and that the school is “well on its way” to becoming an 800 API school.

Principal Fleming Robinson said that many parents said that they were harassed into signing the petition and were not given clear information on what the petition is.

Experts hired by the district itself stated they have “grave concern” for learning opportunities at CUSD. The report states that after two years of assessing the district in a number of areas: including governance, data systems and achievement monitoring, professional development, human resources, fiscal services, and academic alignment, the auditors “Achievement Equity LLC” say that they are concerned about the district's capacity to make gains for the students.

The school board had mixed reactions when it heard the report at their July 13th meeting, with some expressing disbelief in the report and others acknowledging the problems cited, saying that they are being addressed.

The report has been forwarded to the state board of education and department of education, which will use the information to determine their next course of action relative to the Compton Unified School District.

The current turmoil in the city of Compton over the performance of CUSD and the state of its schools will not disappear. McKinley parents say they plan to stay the course. And if they do, it’s only a matter of time before parents at other schools start asking questions.

The school district says it intends to reach out to the community and seek its input about their level of satisfaction with their schools.

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