Turnaround Spotlight: Partnership for LA Schools

In 2009, the office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and local foundations came together to create the nonprofit Partnership for LA Schools (the Partnership). The Partnership is one of the largest urban school turnaround organizations in the nation, with 17 schools and over 15,000 students. The nonprofit runs the schools as traditional LAUSD schools with unionized staff, with the added ability to leverage partners for needed resources to carry out key changes, such as social services or building maintenance.

The Partnership is the most improved school system in California and has been outpacing all other mid-large school districts on the California Academic Performance Index over the past five years. Though many students enter Partnership schools at below-proficient levels in multiple content areas, the network has moved students to proficiency faster than both LAUSD and the state in all four content areas over the past couple of years.

Part of the Partnership’s strategy includes developing, attracting, and retaining great leaders. By cultivating leaders at all levels, including the classroom, using differentiated compensation for principals, and providing customized training for school leaders, the Partnership is able to place excellent leaders in network schools. School leaders are supported, and also held accountable, with multiple-measure evaluations. Over 50 percent of school leaders have been replaced since 2012 as the Partnership refines their turnaround model to ensure excellent leadership in each school.

The Partnership’s human capital strategy also extends to teachers. As part of the turnaround, the Partnership focuses on changing school recruitment and hiring practices. Highly competent teachers are identified and trained to lead instructional initiatives and all teachers work on developing college-ready programming through the implementation of the Common Core. Multiple-measure evaluations are used to identify areas for support and to hold teachers accountable as well.

The Partnership leverages data and technology to identify and individualize student support. Teachers use a data and assessment platform that provides results in real time, allowing teachers to customize learning to student needs. Lessons blended with technology, commonly called “blended learning,” allow for differentiated instruction for students. Schools provide expanded learning opportunities for intervention and enrichment, including additional extracurricular and summer opportunities.

Learn more about successful turnarounds in Innovate Public Schools’ report, “Struggling Schools, Promising Solutions.”

Resources and references

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