July 22, 2014

Summer Camp Guide 2014

Summer CampSummer is coming and the living won’t be easy unless you can figure out what you’re doing with your kids. Luckily, there are a ton of fun summer camp options in and around downtown Los Angeles. Read on to find the perfect summer fun spot for your little ones. [Read more...]

Spring 2014 School Guide

ChalkboardIt’s that time of year again: The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) open enrollment application period will begin the first week of May for placements in the 2014-15 school year. That means that if you are the parent of a child who will start kindergarten in September, now is the time to start visiting potential schools.

Luckily, DTLA parents have a lot of options to choose from. Two elementary schools opened in downtown Los Angeles in the past year and there are a number of good schools in the surrounding neighborhoods. Remember, thanks to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) choice policies, your child does not have to attend their zoned school, so you have a lot of flexibility in deciding where your kid goes to school.

A few things to consider when looking at schools: test scores are important, but they aren’t the only factor you should consider. A school with high test scores can have a “kill and drill” environment with too much pressure for many children, while a school with more modest scores could be a hidden gem. The only way to find out? Visit the schools and talk to the teachers and parents! Check out this CNN article for tips on what to look for during your school visit. You can also learn more about school choice in this site’s Scandalously Informal Guide to the LAUSD, guest-authored by Sandra Tsing-Loh.

Below is a list of elementary schools in or near downtown for you to consider. [Read more...]

Spotlight on Ninth Street Elementary

Playground, Ninth Street School

Playground, Ninth Street School

Last week I attended a “Meet the Principal” event at Ninth Street Elementary, the zoned school for most of downtown LA. The school is reopening on Tuesday after being closed for a three-year, $54 million renovation of the campus. The school, located on 9th Street and Towne Avenue in the Fashion District, was in deep trouble before the closure. In 2010, LA Weekly wrote a devastating profile of the school, describing it as among the worst in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). At the time of its closure, the school’s API score (a measure of academic performance of California schools) was 670, far below the state target of 800, and it ranked 1 out of 10 on LAUSD’s “similar schools” ranking, making it one of the worst among its peers. It was Ninth Street’s terrible performance that led in part to a group of downtown parents forming Metro Charter elementary school (coincidentally also opening this fall). [Read more...]

Where Will Your Kid Go to School in September?

RS1574_shutterstock_50156-lprIt’s that time of year again: The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) open enrollment application period will begin the first week of May for placements in the 2013-14 school year. That means that if you are the parent of a child who will start kindergarten in September, now is the time to start visiting potential schools.
[Read more...]

Creating a Diverse School in DTLA

Photo courtesy of Sanj@y (Flickr)

Photo courtesy of Sanj@y (Flickr)

The organizers of Downtown LA’s first parent-run charter school say they are committed to diversity. But providing a high-quality education to all children in DTLA may be harder than expected.

After more than a year of planning and political advocacy, a group of downtown Los Angeles parents have won approval to establish Metro Charter, DTLA’s first parent-run charter elementary school. But even though Metro Charter isn’t slated to open until September, it’s already coming under fire from critics who say that the school will exclude downtown’s homeless population and creates a special school reserved for the affluent at the expense of poorer kids in the community.

[Read more...]

Parent’s POV: Dorris Place Elementary

DorrisToday’s post was written by guest author Camille Irons Coakley, a downtown Los Angeles parent. Read on for her perspective on moving from Beverly Hills to DTLA and discovering a great LAUSD school for her kid.

For years we managed to dodge the whole public school nightmare by nesting in Beverly Hills, where really wealthy people pay high taxes so that families like mine can take advantage of the great public school system. But because it was time for us to downsize and to be closer to work, we made the move to downtown Los Angeles.
[Read more...]

Fear, Guns and Kids

Armed-Guards-at-SchoolWhen I brought my son back to school on Monday after the winter break, we got an unpleasant surprise: two armed cops standing at the front gate. The first thought that went through my mind? Wayne LaPierre has won. A week after the Newtown shootings, LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association (NRA), had called for gun-toting security guards to be placed at every school in country. And here I was bringing my five-year-old son to kindergarten, walking past two police officers loaded and ready to shoot.
[Read more...]

Spotlight on Schools: Dorris Place

Spotlight on Schools is an ongoing series featuring high-performing public elementary schools within a 15 minute drive of Downtown Los Angeles. Thanks to the magic of LAUSD open enrollment, you can apply to have your child attend any of the schools featured in this series.

Located in Elysian Valley about a 15 minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, Dorris Place Elementary is a school on a mission: to be ranked with Ivanhoe, Eagle Rock Elementary, and other top performing schools in the LAUSD. Recently, the school has come a long way towards achieving that goal. The school’s API rank has climbed from below 800 to 852 in 2011, giving it a Great Schools rating of 8 out of 10. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Dorris Place draws from a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood, giving it an API Similar Schools ranking of 9 out of 10.
[Read more...]

Charter Schools

Today’s post is authored by Sandra Tsing Loh, a writer/performer whose shows include “Mother on Fire”, “Sugar Plum Fairy,” and “I Worry.” Loh’s books include If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now, which was named by the LA Times as one of the 100 best fiction books of 1998. She has been a regular commentator on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and on Ira Glass’ “This American Life.” She is currently a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly and was a 2006 finalist for the National Magazine Award. Sandra has graciously allowed me to republish her Scandalously Informal Guide to the LAUSD.

(This is Part 5 of a 5-part series. Read the rest of the series here.)

I admit I am a traditionalist. Even in kindergarten, if my kids are not actually bleeding from the ears, I think some drilling, some memorization, and some homework is okay. Even at home, in reward for tiny little accomplishments, I’m all for busy little charts, stars, and stickers, particularly if I can remember where I put them.
[Read more...]

LAUSD Magnet Schools

Today’s post is authored by Sandra Tsing Loh, a writer/performer whose shows include “Mother on Fire”, “Sugar Plum Fairy,” and “I Worry.” Loh’s books include If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now, which was named by the LA Times as one of the 100 best fiction books of 1998. She has been a regular commentator on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and on Ira Glass’ “This American Life.” She is currently a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly and was a 2006 finalist for the National Magazine Award. Sandra has graciously allowed me to republish her Scandalously Informal Guide to the LAUSD.

(This is Part 4 of a 5-part series. Read the rest of the series here.)

So much is said about the LAUSD magnet system, so few understand it. To get you to Base Camp One of the Everest of Understanding, let me proffer another tale. This one is called:
[Read more...]

LAUSD Open Enrollment

Today’s post is authored by Sandra Tsing Loh, a writer/performer whose shows include “Mother on Fire”, “Sugar Plum Fairy,” and “I Worry.” Loh’s books include If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now, which was named by the LA Times as one of the 100 best fiction books of 1998. She has been a regular commentator on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and on Ira Glass’ “This American Life.” She is currently a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly and was a 2006 finalist for the National Magazine Award. Sandra has graciously allowed me to republish her Scandalously Informal Guide to the LAUSD.

(This is Part 3 of a 5-part series. Read the rest of the series here.)

Keening hysteria, all the wrong loans, divorce and bankruptcy. . . that is where the Conventional Wisdom gets you in L.A.

But for today, let’s dispense with the conventional wisdom and start opening boxes. At IKEA, the mystery boxes would have names like “Lol,” “Varknedink,” and “Klumspoof!” In the LAUSD, we call the boxes:

  • Open enrollment
  • Magnet schools
  • Charter schools
  • [Read more...]

    So What the Hell is an API Score?

    Today’s post is authored by Sandra Tsing Loh, a writer/performer whose shows include “Mother on Fire”, “Sugar Plum Fairy,” and “I Worry.” Loh’s books include If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now, which was named by the LA Times as one of the 100 best fiction books of 1998. She has been a regular commentator on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and on Ira Glass’ “This American Life.” She is currently a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly and was a 2006 finalist for the National Magazine Award. Sandra has graciously allowed me to republish her Scandalously Informal Guide to the LAUSD.

    (This is Part 2 of a 5-part series. Read the rest of the series here.)

    Let us imagine your LAUSD school does NOT turn out to be a “hot” elementary like:

  • Carpenter (ooh!)
  • Ivanhoe (ah!)
  • Wonderland (insert appropriate Baby Gap-infused exclamation here!)
  • No, let’s say YOUR home LAUSD school (or the schools in the neighborhoods surrounding DTLA) has a name like (flugelhorn of alarm): “Guavatorina Elementary.” Which is to say, like so many LAUSD schools, its name seems to recall some obscure and slightly moldering Ecuadorian melon. And no one you know knows anything about it.
    [Read more...]