After five years of failing to meet California mandated educational benchmarks in math and English, in Highland Park will undergo a drastic reconstitution overseen by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Through the recently announced reform, all 36 of Burbank's teachers will have to reapply for their jobs by Friday, April 8. Those who not rehired will be given the opportunity to apply for posts at other LAUSD schools.
According to principal Arturo Valdez, administrators will select which teachers from the school will be allowed to stay on board by Monday, May 2.
Valdez, who was pegged by the LAUSD board of trustees last year to help reform Burbank, will not have to reapply for his job.
Those teachers who are hired to work at Burbank will have to sign a compact agreement--a contract that includes a number of performance-based provisions.
“It is going to be a process to reform the current structure,” said Dale Vigil, interim superintendent for LAUSD district 4. “[The reforms] will improve student success. [Student achievement] will be higher than what it is now.”
Burbank has been under LAUSD mandated program improvement for more than five years after not reaching benchmarks in math and English laid out by California under the national No Child Left Behind Act.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, states are required to measure student achievement though an approved standardized test. In California, California Standards Test (CST) is used to track student proficiency.
According to Shannon Corbett, LAUSD district 4 director of school services, students at Luther Burbank have for years lagged behind their peers across the state on the CST.
"States set a benchmark percentage for the number of students showing proficiency in math. The proficiency benchmark is 58 percent, Burbank is at 30.5 percent," Corbett said. "For English Language Arts, the proficiency benchmark is 58.8 percent. Burbank is at 33.3 percent."
In California, all schools must also reach an Academic Performance Index score of 800, which is considered proficient. Burbank is at 633. The school has only made a 10-point growth over the last five years – the average in the district 0ver that time is about 72 points, Corbett said.
Reconstitution is the consequence failing schools face under NCLB and schools are expected to show results in three to five years, Vigil said.
Valdez said the school will have a strict curriculum, which will include quality professional development for teachers and a new dual language program in the next two years.
Parent engagement will also be key in shifting the school’s academic record, he said.
“We are going to need the parents to be part of the process,” he said. “We are going to need them a lot next year.”
Gabriel Burrola, a Highland Park resident and parent of an eighth grader at the school, said he was concerned about the reconstitution process.
“They (students) are so used to the teachers and staff,” said Burrola. “It is going to be a big adjustment for them.”
His son has already seen two principals and a series of changes at the school in the last two years. But despite the concern, Burrola said he trusts the new principal and hopes the changes will improve the school.
His son is graduating from Burbank this year but he has two daughters who will likely attend the school.
Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch is still awaiting comment from United Teachers Los Angeles, who in other publications have called the the decision by LAUSD to reconstitute Burbank as "unnecessary."
Three years ago, the district identified Burbank as a troubled school and it underwent its first round of reforms under LAUSD's public school choice measure, which allows interested charter schools to operate inside public school buildings.
No charters showed interest in operating at Burbank, Vigil said.
A new reform program created by administrators at Burbank was submitted for review, but according to Corbett it failed to pass LAUSD muster.
That’s when the district considered the reconstitution option, which is outlined in NCLB. Burbank will be the only school under reconstitution in District 4, but there are several others undergoing the process across Los Angeles.
The teachers who are chosen to work at Burbank will be encouraged to share the same philosophical principles as the rest of the administration, chief among them the belief that the classroom should be a student centered place with a high level of collaboration and increased accountability, Corbett said.
"Reconstitution sets forward curriculum, directs teachers how to conduct self, sets forward expectations of working together, using data, providing timely feedback to students. So its pretty explicit in what the expectations are," Corbett said. "The school is really falling many kids in math and English. Those scores just aren't acceptable. Parents should be excited, their students will be given a chance to succeed in the 21st century."