Major Changes Ahead At Franklin High School

Through restructuring, Franklin will be devising new academic plans, and possibly turning over its staff.

principal Joseph Nacorda has a comparison he likes to use when talking about the state of the 96-year-old school.

"We have a classic Chevy, and we need to overhaul it so it can race and be competitive tomorrow," Nacorda said.

Narcoda said the teachers at Franklin have become very familiar with the metaphor over the course of the 2011/2012 year, as the school prepares to overhaul its educational plan as part of Public School Choice Version 4.0.

Through the LAUSD Public School Choice initiative, schools that fail to reach academic benchmarks are required to realign their academic strategies, and teachers are required to reapply for their jobs.

, which is currently in the first year of its own pubic school choice restructuring, saw 80-percent of its staff turnover as a result of its participation in the program.

In the past, charter school, pilot and magnet schools could apply to take over struggling campuses through public school choice, but that aspect of the plan was rescinded in December as part of ongoing negotiations between LAUSD and United Teachers of Los Angeles.

Franklin was pegged in November as one of 13 schools required to take part in the latest round of school choice restructuring.

According to a performance meter provided by the district, Franklin currently lags behind district standards in terms of graduation rate, attendance and proficiency in both math and english language arts.

Through this semester, a team of teachers and faculty assembled by Nacorda have devised an educational plan that will be submitted for review to Superintendent John Deasy next fall.

Deasy will either approve the plan, or send it back to Franklin with his recommended changes.

By the end of the 2013/2014 school year, teachers at Franklin will be required to reapply for their jobs at the school. Those unwilling, or deemed unsuited, to participate in Franklin's new educational plan will be moved to other schools in the district.

Nacorda said some of the changes that will be included in Franklin's new academic plan have already started to take place.

"For next year we are continuing with our current staff--next year is the year to submit the proposal wait for approval," Nacorda said. "But I am jumping ahead and adopting some things to see what results."

He's required math teachers to participate in professional development as part of an effort to align Franklin's and Burbank's pedagogy.

The school will also implement block scheduling, which will allow teachers more time to conference with peers and give students the opportunity to earn 10 more credits per semester.

Currently, students take six classes a day, each an hour long. Under the new block schedule, students would take 8 classes on Monday, each 45 minutes long. On Tuesday through Friday, students would take four classes each day, each 90 minutes long. Classes would be alternated, so that classes taken on Tuesday would repeat on Thursday and classes taken on Wednesday would repeat on Friday.

Nacorda said that he is expecting some push back from teachers as a result of the restructuring plan, and that some teachers have already retired or requested transfers.

"We've had some transfer requests, had some retirements," he said. "This is the reality."

Franklin's UTLA Representative Monica Whalen, who has been participating in the development of the school's new educational plan, said that while she's in favor of constant evaluation, she said that the district's manner of evaluating schools through standardized tests wasn't always fair.

English language learners made up 21-percent of Franklin's population during the 2010-2011 school year, while students with disabilities made up 13-percent--both are in line with LAUSD averages provided by the district for the same year.

"When you have special education kids, you can't have 100-percent success on standardized test, but you can aim for it," she said. "I think you need to look at where students are beginning and you need to push them forward,  I think we also need to have attainable goals."

Whalen also said that LAUSD restructuring could be too rigid, which would prevent teachers from innovating or taking risks.

"I think we need to look at ourselves and always been open to new ideas," she said. "We always need to be evaluating ourselves, that always needs to happen, but I don't like this threat of the whole school being dismantled."

Susan R May 04, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Hope they are also relooking at their Vice-Principals and other administrative staff too.
Susan R May 04, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Yes. Relooking means firing. And I hope the vice-principals and administative staff also have to reapply for their positions too.
Concerned Parent and Community Member June 15, 2012 at 04:35 PM
I agree that restructuring a school should also involve staff and administrators not just teachers! Changing administrators is what helped Luther Burbank change! I also agree that English Learners and Special Ed students should be measured separately. Teacher/Administrators/Staff transfer request should be granted after they have completed a two day observation of a school that has implemented this new block schedule. Children in middle and high school can sit through their classes a lot longer than elementary school. Change is good!


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