What Charter Schools Mean to Three RenArts Parents

Higher standards, smaller class size, greater intimacy with teachers and a focus on the arts make charter schools such as Renaissance Arts Academy an attractive choice.

This article was submitted by three parents whose children have benefited from an education at Renaissance Arts Academy, a well-known charter public school in Eagle Rock.

On Sept. 11, Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Steve Zimmer introduced a resolution to limit choices for parents by not allowing the board to hear any petitions for new charter schools. Several hundred parents attended the meeting to oppose the resolution and share with the board what charter schools have meant to their families.

The LAUSD board votes on this resolution on Oct. 9 and parents are continuing to speak out about what charter schools have meant to their families and to ask the board to vote no, including these parents from Renaissance Arts Academy:

Eduvina Lechuga

I am a mother of daughters who have attended a charter school for a number of years. My daughters have grown tremendously from learning within a charter school system. After having transferred two of my daughters into a charter school, I noticed a change in their grades for the better. The standards of the charter school are higher than public schools they had previously attended, therefore, asking more of them. The small size of the charter school has benefited my daughters by allowing them to develop a relationship with the directors of the school. As a result, my oldest daughter graduated and was given a job that allowed her to finance her way through college. I feel secure that my other daughter has also developed traits no other school can provide for her. The charter school system has provided so much for my family.

Sharon Bernard

I have had two of my children attending Renaissance Arts Academy, a charter school, from 2004 to 2008. I have also had some of my children in public schools at different times. Our family has had a much better experience with the charter schools.

Not all students do well in a traditional public school. We found that charter schools provided a better fit for our children. They tend to be smaller than traditional schools, and more specialized in the options they offer, which helps the students to be more enthusiastic about their education and studying because they are able to focus on their interests. Our daughters were adopted from Ukraine at ages 10 and 13 and even as fairly new English Language Learners, they got the extra help and tutoring they needed from Renarts to be successful academically and graduate with their agemates. We felt that they would have likely "fallen through the cracks" in a traditional large public school.

We also saw that the charter schools provided a better environment socially for the students. It's an environment where the teachers and students all know each other, receive personal attention from the teachers, and there was not much negative influence as there is in regular public schools. The administration was able to have much better control over discipline and the learning environment. The students were much better supervised. Their overall academic progress was very closely tracked and facilitated. We felt our daughters were very safe and well educated at RenArts.

We are grateful that this option was available to our family when needed. There will always be plenty of students who go to the traditional, large schools, but charter schools are a very important alternative for many families.

Veronica Reyes

La escuela chárter Renaissance Arts Academy ha ayudado a mis hijas a crecer intelectual y artísticamente. Para mi la escuela es una buena alternativa, ya que contiene menos alumnos, mejores profesores, mejor disciplina y un programa de arte. Yo tenía temor de mandar a mis hijas a una escuela pública, ya que académicamente están muy bajas, también por todo lo que desarrollan dentro de la escuela a temprana edad. Por eso es importante tener la opción de mandar a mis hijos a una escuela chárter.

Renaissance Arts Academy motivan a los alumnos de alcanzar un intelectual mas alto en conjunto con el arte y la disciplina que está implementa. En cada clase los estudiantes aprenden a dar todo su potencial académico y artístico , no nada mas dentro de la escuela, sino que también están preparados para desempeñarlo fuera de ésta. El arte sin duda hace que los estudiantes desarrollen su intellectual académico aun más. Ellos tienen la oportunidad de aprender a tocar un instrumento, bailar, cantar, componer canciones y crear bailes. Con todo este conjunto de actividades mis hijas han descubierto sus diferentes talentos.

Es tan importante que la comunidad tenga la oportunidad a mandar a sus hijos a una escuela que pueda manejar su propio sistema de aprendizaje, ya que con esto, nuestros hijos van mejor preparados y tienen una mejor oportunidad para entrar a una buena universidad.

Translation: Renaissance Arts Academy charter school has helped my children to grow intellectually and artistically. For me, the school is a good alternative because it has fewer students, better teachers, better discipline and an arts program. I was afraid to send my daughter to public school as they are academically they are not strong and because the early years are so important for a child’s development. Therefore it was important to have the option of sending my children to a charter school.

Renaissance Arts Academy motivates students to grow intellectually, supported by the art and discipline the school has. In each class, students learn to give full academic and artistic potential, not just in school, but are also prepared to apply those skills in the rest of their life. Without a doubt, art makes students realize their academic potential even more. They have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, dance, sing, write songs and create dances. With this set of activities, my children have discovered their different talents.

It is so important that the community has the opportunity to send their children to a school that can manage its own approach to education, because with this, our children are better prepared and have a better chance to get into a good college.


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EagleRockMom September 26, 2012 at 02:15 AM
@Rebecca LAUSD is divided up into mini districts. Each mini district consists of a group of schools that are overseen by its own superintendent. Eagle Rock schools are in District 4. So, breaking the district up into smaller, manageable parts has been done and refined.
EagleRockMom September 26, 2012 at 02:23 AM
@ERHS Moms Oh yes. I have been following the ERHS story for several years and I remember the uproar regarding the cancellation of the football program and firing of the coach. Gnarly. I also recently read of the tenured English teacher who abruptly left ERHS and is now teaching at La Canada High. While the article did not specify a reason for this popular teaching switching districts, I have my suspicions as to the cause.
ERHS Moms September 26, 2012 at 03:46 AM
@ERM: The teacher who left to teach in La Canada was a tenured history teacher. It remains to be seen what AP scores will become without him. There was honestly no one like him and his loss to ER was great! But you're right that if ER would have remained great he may not have left. But there were a couple of English teachers (who the principal should have fought for), another history teacher, etc. That principal is pulling one fast one after .another. His behavior is simply unconscionable and it is quite pathetic that it is tolerated at all, let alone for this long.
lisa karahalios September 26, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Renaissance Arts, like the vast majority of charters schools in Los Angeles does not take the same percentage or severity of special education students that LAUSD schools do. The district has an average of about 12% special education students compared to a little over 6% for independent charters. Ren Arts has 6.5%. Half the percentage as district schools. And, the special education students they do take are at the least severe end of the spectrum. The charter trend is increasing the burden on LAUSD and draining money from their schools. Public education in America is supposed to be for all children, not just the ones who will have high test scores. There is also the issue of charter schools re-segregating public schools. For instance, Larchmont Charter School is over 50% white, while the neighboring LAUSD schools are less than 7% white. The major charter chains like Alliance for College Ready Schools and Eagle Rock's Celerity Charter Schools pay their CEOs crazy, high salaries. Nice work if you can get it ;o) Eagle Rock's schools are doing really well, and hey, neighboring Franklin High School's Academic Decathalon Team came in 5th in the state Academic Decathalon. They must be doing something right!
Elijah H September 29, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Interesting analysis / "proof" Let's take a look at similar stats for magnets, where it's available: Arroyo Seco Museum Magnet: School Profile 2011-2012 Enrollment: 557 API: Number Tested: 458 Wow, that's a drop of 18% Valley Alternative Magnet: School Profile 2011-2012 Enrollment: 604 API: Number Tested: 509 Hmm... another huge drop of 18% Let's see what we find at a non-magnet Eagle Rock High: School Profile 2011-2012 Enrollment: 2709 API: Number Tested: 2377 Wow! that's a drop of 332, or 14%... So I'm not quite sure what to make of your "proof".
Elijah H September 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Erykah, a good charter provides a framework for a strong administrative team and governing board to make their own budgeting decisions. This is, the most important benefit, in my opinion. Money from fundraising can be applied at their discretion - to hire aides, award raises, provide targeted education for teachers, etc. Those decisions can be made freely, without restrictions placed by the LAUSD beaurocracy and the much stricter district union contracts. Everyone benefits from reduced class sizes and engaged teachers... at an ideal charter, that is.
Elijah H September 29, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Lisa, you make a point about the discrepancy in racial composition between Larchmont Charter and surrounding schools. What do you make of the discrepancy between Ivanhoe and surrounding schools? Might Larchmont and Ivanhoe be more comparable each other than to surrounding schools?
Elijah H September 29, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Lisa, What do you make of these stats: Students with disabilities Ren Arts: 7.9% Ivanhoe: 7.9% Mt. Washington: 10.1% Arroyo Seco: 8.3% Valley Alt Magnet: 5.9% English Learners: Ren Arts: 13.4% Ivanhoe: 9.1% Mt Washington: 4.8% Arroyo Seco: 40.7% Valley Alt: 32.6% I think what we can conclude is that these show a pattern of parental self-selection, a pattern than seems to hold truer than your accused pattern of administrative bias. My thinking is that the tendency of parents to self-select by race could be solved, as it is with magnets, by allowing a preference based on race. But your accusations of bias against special education students don't seem to hold up to scrutiny, in the case of this charter. If so, then there would seem to be a host of other non-charter schools that would seem to have the exact same pattern of bias against special ed students.
Jennifer N September 30, 2012 at 01:40 AM
@ Elijah H Check your math, your percentage for ERHS is wrong. Regardless, looking at ERHS's and RenArt's 2011 API scores, ERHS tested 238 special ed students, while RenArts tested 23. Granted ERHS services 8 times the students of RenArts. but they tested 10 times the amount of special ed students than RenArts. That doesn't include the students with disabilities so severe that they do not test. Then there is this from the Green Dot Special Ed manual: "Contact your cluster's Special Education Program Administrator to discuss placement options when your school is not the appropriate placement for thestudents and the team will be recommending placement back to an LAUSD school." I contend if a school is to receive tax dollars, it should service ALL students.
EagleRockMom September 30, 2012 at 03:31 AM
@Elijah Charter schools are public schools and many are managed by LAUSD with UTLA representation. There are numerous failing charters who have been mismanaged, have low test scores, and have been caught cheating on standardized tests. The picture isn't as rosy as you paint it.
Elijah H September 30, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Correct! My apologies for the typo, ERHS's drop off between enrollment and testing is 12‰. This is, you realize, larger than the 10% drop off at Ren Arts - which you said was proof of students being forced out. Hmm... so 8.7% of ERHS kids test as special ed, compared to 7.9% at Ren Arts. Statistically there is not a real difference. Both are significantly below the average for the district. You have some wild allegations, but nothing to support them. If you have a problem with Green Dot, take your beef up with them.
Elijah H September 30, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Right... presumably, neither Erykah nor you nor I are talking about the failed charters here... so what is your point? If you have a bone to pick with mismanaged charters, fine, but why do you and other charter opponents get all up in arms when we talk about the successful charters? Does it threaten your belief that charters are inherently evil?
Elijah H September 30, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Larger often means that internal change is more difficult to implement. I'd argue that applies in this case. If you agree the system is dysfunctional, that's a fair argument for decreasing the size by breaking it up, thereby making reform easier.
EagleRockMom September 30, 2012 at 04:24 AM
@Elijah You and other charter proponents have discussed what you feel the pros are of such schools and I am merely presenting a different perspective. The reality is that charters are public schools. Some are successful and many are not.
Elijah H September 30, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Exactly, and if the district were operating properly, the good charters would be used as models to help reform other district schools, and failed charters would be closed. The former hasn't happened, because change and reform in a district this large moves at a snail's pace, and many are reluctant to recognize any success among charters, and thereby endorse the movement. The latter hasn't happened often enough largely because the district is asleep at the wheel.
ERHS Moms September 30, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Just remember that charters that have made a big splash (like in Waiting for Superman) come with a signed parental requirement of participation, child monitoring, child performance expectation - all in all an "if you want your child to go to school here you must fulfill these requirements". Any school that had that would have a much better success rate. Also, whenever a school can rid itself of its problems the real statistics get somewhat skewed. What can parents do to get LAUSD off its snail pace? It does not seem to matter to them what the inefficiency of the hour is or how dire things are at any given place, they just continue to act like they are doing you a favor, rather than acknowledging that your tax dollars are paying for their ridiculously huge downtown salaries. They just continue to blame the teacher. Lying, Dumb, Deasy STILL wants to use testing to 'evaluate" teachers, regardless of how many kids he stuffs in each class. Our entire system needs to be revamped starting with the unqualified superintendent whose salary only goes up regardless of his performance.
Elijah H September 30, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I call BS. Where are you getting this drivel? "signed parental requirement of participation"... no. Not the case at all. "whenever a school can rid itself of its problems" again, unproven sensationalistic accusations. You persist with these statements, but we have seen that you have no support for them. Sigh... teachers rightly complain that others presume to judge their situation with no first-hand knowledge. Kettle, meet pot. You presume to tell us what charters [generalizing all charters with the same accusations] are really like, and have no clue what the reality is; again, you are basing your opinion on anti-charter rhetoric, and just parroting the misinformation you've been fed.
ERHS Moms September 30, 2012 at 08:10 PM
@Elijah: Really? We were under the impression that Waiting for Superman and Rhee regarding the DC charter were advocating charters, their smallness, their class size, their parental involvement, their rules, their benefits if these rules are followed. Am I wrong? And I didn't generalize ALL charters; That charter was clearly referenced and why Rhee et al say that it works. Are they wrong about why their own charter works? Why do you think private schools have better successes? The general consensus is that first off they mostly do not take someone else's heinous problem- academic or behavioral. This opinion is not based on anti-charter rhetoric, but rather just he opposite, at least we (and the rest of the audience) thought Rhee was pro charter. They clearly stated that IF parents refused to comply with the rules of their charter then their kids were subject to dismissal. So you are saying that ALL charters take anybody at all? That they keep anybody at all? That they have no standards? They take all types of Special ED even when they don't have the resources to deal with them? Then could you please explain how they are different if they do exactly everything how regular school does? What is the pot calling the kettle black? I think it's you who generalized what we said in saying that we said ALL charters EVERYWHERE. Please accept apologies if Waiting for Superman is not accurate support for the school it was about, but that would be the producer's problem, right?
ERHS Moms September 30, 2012 at 08:16 PM
continued: Why so touchy? Do you feel your charter was insulted? Sorry. Is nothing reported about charters true? Did some not fake their test scores? Did some not ditch their problems? Is their no truth to the fear that LAUSD is deliberately trying to wreck some schools (ERHS appears in that category) to force charters, make money, and potentially bust the union which is illegal? Mostly, if charters are no better or in anyway different than the big monster school why would anyone support them? Isn't the main reason to support then because they are better? Is demanded parental participation not a good thing? Why should it all fall on the teacher? Please explain. Thanks!
Elijah H October 01, 2012 at 01:12 AM
ERHS Moms, I'm hoping you are capable of comprehending the distinction between encouraging parental participation and requiring participation. Realize that you are making unfounded accusations that charters require a "signed parental requirement of participation", and you further imply that failure to follow through on those pledges will lead to expulsion. Do you have a specific example of a LAUSD charter requiring a signed pledge, that if not honored, results in expulsion? I will be awaiting your reply. Again, unfounded accusations. Charter opponents jump into every discussion of successful charters to harp on issues where they don't apply, and manufacture controversy where it does not exist. You seem to have run out of arguments against charter success stories like Ren Arts that you can base in fact, leaving only straw-man arguments and vague accusations that you continue to peddle, in the hope that people will accept it as fact. I see that you are attempting to pigeonhole me into defending all charters, since you're unable to prove any points with respect to the specific charter discussed in this article. My apologies, but I will not engage in that discussion. If you have a beef with a specific charter, please confine your complaint to attacking that particular charter, and don't use it as an excuse to condemn them all. I can tell you, with certainty, that your accusations regarding the charters I've been exposed to and researched are completely off base.
Elijah H October 01, 2012 at 01:22 AM
If you sense irritation, I apologize. It stems from my incredulity that any rational person would continue to hijack a discussion about a respected charter school to push strawman arguments that are blatantly misdirected at the charter in question and generalizations that are so wildly off base compared to my experience. Once again, you seem eager to engage in an argument about positions I'm not taking. Please feel free to continue your thought process, but don't expect me to play the opposite role.
EagleRockMom October 01, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Again, the district has been "broken up." Each local or mini district is governed by its own administrative team, including a superintendent.
Elijah H October 01, 2012 at 01:53 AM
EagleRockMom, could you give us examples of how this has helped the district be more responsive? Honest question... because I haven't seen any change, just an increase in expensive bureaucrats.
EagleRockMom October 01, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I am aware of the practice of eliciting parent participation at NON-LAUSD charters and private schools.
EagleRockMom October 01, 2012 at 02:12 AM
@Elijah RenArts was created because there was a need for an additional arts school. It is overseen by Local District 4 and judging by your posts, I would guess you support this LAUSD charter.
ERHS Moms October 01, 2012 at 02:31 AM
@Elijah: It is you who seem eager to engage in an argument that is not being taken taking. Maybe you have ERHSMoms confused with another poster? ERHSMoms didn't say anything ever about Ren Arts. There is no opposition regarding charters coming from this quarter. Requiring parental participation should be a good thing, yes? Sorry if the explanation was not clear enough. We heard this from the studio audience of Waiting for Superman at the Oprah show and THEY said that parental participation was REQUIRED or the child's position was forfeited. Not that that appeared to be likely since there is a lotto to get into that charter. There have been no accusations towards Ren Ats or any LAUSD charter other than what was read in the paper regarding those that cheated their test scores. That wasn't made up by us, it was on the news and in the paper. If it's not true I'm sorry for the bad press, but feel no responsibility for ABC news/and the papers. They should require parental participation because that is one of the things wrong with public education in general.
ERHS Moms October 01, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Who ran out of arguments for charter success stories like Ren Arts? Nothing was ever said about them at all. Questions about Ren Arts are basic ones, like, can you play team sports there, how many foreign languages are offered, how many APs, how large is the class size. There was no intention to hijack the discussion about your respected charter school. The reply was to charter in general. The only negatives were about ERHS and its crummy, conniving principal and LAUSD in general. So sorry!
Elijah H October 01, 2012 at 09:23 PM
My question to you is: What place does your statement, quoted below. have in this discussion. It came out of the blue, threaded as a direct response to an article filled with parental praise of RenArts. With no other point of context, we assume you're responding to the article. If you're replying to a specific post above, and NOT the main article, it's proper to indicate the context of your contribution to the discussion by using the "Reply" link to place it into proper context with the rest of this discussion. Otherwise, any reader would assume you're responding to the article at hand. ERHS Moms said, "Just remember that charters that have made a big splash (like in Waiting for Superman) come with a signed parental requirement of participation, child monitoring, child performance expectation - all in all an "if you want your child to go to school here you must fulfill these requirements". Any school that had that would have a much better success rate. Also, whenever a school can rid itself of its problems the real statistics get somewhat skewed." <-- supposedly has NOTHING to do with points made in the Ren Arts article, but somehow relates vaguely to a discussion, somewhere above?
Elijah H October 01, 2012 at 09:27 PM
"The reply was to charter in general." In general, yet not any specific charter in LAUSD. Interesting. Ok.
ERHS Moms October 02, 2012 at 12:35 AM
@Elijah: Sorry for breaking protocol and responding to LAUSD comments in general not Ren Arts specifically. When the comments started about LAUSD in general the responses began due to horrible trouble and experience with ERHS principal which did get off topic of this article. Comparing charters didn't seem that off, but it won't be done again, although their requirement for parents seems like an advantageous thing and appears to be working well. From the perspective of teachers, however, charters come with questions attached such as those with no union or tenure contract. Questions would be: Who would stop the charter from trying to cut costs by not renewing the contracts of older teachers? Why should LAUSD use charters/threat to sell you off as a threat to employees for their own reasons or to force an already huge campus to host a charter to earn more money? If they work for your kids that's great. Would still love the answers to those questions about academic/sports opportunities/teacher considerations, though.


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