The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools is a Media Master. Why isn’t LAUSD?

*All my posts have some opinionated analysis in them, but the ones marked with the category “Opinion” are more based on my personal opinions and perceptions, and less on data. 

This week, the Partnership for LA Schools pulled off a media coup. They managed to get not one, but two different news outlets to describe the changes they are making in their schools. KPCC reported on the changes at Hollenbeck Middle School, while LA School Report discussed changes at twentieth street elementary.

The Partnership is not a charter organization and these schools are still part of LAUSD. But they have something extra – an organization that facilitates training and support for the schools. And clearly, they facilitate media relations too.

Both of these stories were backed up with solid data – and I don’t want to diminish the achievement here – these schools have impressive improvements in their student outcomes. Using the data analysis I discussed in the last post, Twentieth Street is in the 98th percentile of schools for student growth and Hollenbeck is in the 88th percentile.

But here’s my question: Why can’t LAUSD do for its non-partnership schools too?

The Partnership was able to get two, separate, reputable, independent news outlets to give press coverage on the day that test scores were released. That kind of thing doesn’t just happen – you put out press releases, you garner attention and you make it happen. You plan ahead.

There is no reason that LAUSD couldn’t solicit coverage like that.

It’s not like there aren’t good things happening at traditional LAUSD schools. Nightingale Middle School, a once struggling school in LAUSD, is now one of the highest growth schools in the city. Where is the love for Kingsley Elementary, which grew almost as much as Twentieth Street did in Math this year? And what about Olive Vista Middle, which grew more in English last year than Hollenbeck did?

Sure, we have LAUSD Daily, an internal newsletter that profiles stories around the district. But I don’t think it really has the same weight as an outside news organization. And every so often, a school reaches out on its own and snags a news story. But the Partnership is clearly organizing media from the top down, while LAUSD seems to ask schools to do it from the ground up.

If LAUSD is going to stem the nagging enrollment, one thing we need to do is get our media game face on. There are plenty of traditional schools within LAUSD doing amazing things, that are losing enrollment because the perception of the district is monolithic.

There is no question – many of our schools are failing. But many of our schools are also succeeding. LAUSD needs to find a better way to communicate that.


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