“Schools rise to the level of expectation we place upon them,” said James S. Lanich, coauthor of the just-released “Failing Our Future: The Holes in California’s School Accountability System and How to Fix Them.” “If we don’t have a high level of expectation, schools won’t improve.”
Hundreds of California schools are “failing” under the federal standards, but one that’s shining bright — and adding its own wrinkle to the debate over school reform — is Ralph Bunche Elementary, named for the black American diplomat who won the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize.
At this school, the primary mover has been first-time Principal Mikara Solomon Davis, who arrived in mid-2000. Some would say she’s done the near impossible.
Bunche has blown past the target score of 800 on the state’s Academic Performance Index. Its 868 compares favorably to the scores at schools in Beverly Hills and San Marino. A school would score 875 if every student scored “proficient” on standardized tests.
And that means pushing parents, who adjusted to a principal who in her first year issued more than 100 suspensions in a school of 467 students.
“There was such an issue with discipline that you couldn’t teach. Disrespect for teachers and adults was the norm,” said Solomon Davis. When parents confront her over a suspension, “I begin by saying, ‘Our goal is college for your child. We’re not here to punish,’ ” Solomon Davis said.