In December, Secretary Duncan made a stop at Samuel Gompers Middle School in Los Angeles. He saw a school with many challenges and a great deal of diversity. Students from Gompers wrote to Secretary Duncan following his visit. His answer to them can be found at this link.
Gompers is one of 12 schools that Mayor Villaraigosa has assumed control of as part of his Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. This partnership is focused on turning-around low-performing schools. Gompers has made improvements to their school culture, improved student attendance, and made the school a safer place to be. The staff has worked hard to build school operational systems, offer more professional development and teacher collaborative structures, and it has begun to regain the trust of the students, parents, and staff through the development of shared decision-making processes. Improving instructional practice and raising student performance is now the focus of the school.
Over the past 15 months, the Partnership has successfully implemented several operational improvements at Gompers, including: 1) Dramatic facilities investments through an investment of $900,000 in the few weeks before school to repair basis needs, including bathroom renovations, exterior painting, floor repair, new lighting, and new windows. Gompers has also benefitted from the completion of $2.5 million in capital projects, with another $1.2 million underway, since the Partnership began working with the school, for projects such as classroom repair, asphalt paving, and fire alarm repair; 2) Recruiting and retaining talent through a partnership that hired “The New Teacher Project” in the first year to help recruit outstanding teachers; 3) A per pupil funding implementation took place a new per pupil funding model that is designed to more equitably distribute district resources and allow schools to have greater flexibility in how they make spending decisions; 4) Implementation of the MyData Dashboard, a web-based program that provides real-time student data to teachers; and 5) access to instructional technology through a donation from Direct TV, which donated a TV and educational programming for the model Parent Center, and a Time Warner donation of approximately $15,000 in computers and e-learning subscriptions.