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[Susan notes: Walt Gardner doesn't need many words to make a great point: managerial efficiency is no substitute for educational effectiveness.]

Published in LA Weekly

To the editor

Robert Greene is wrong if he believes that the winner of the mayoral runoff election can make a difference in the education provided by the LAUSD if only he gets more involved than his predecessors [“Flunking Campaigns,” March 18–24]. The most compelling evidence to refute his position comes from New York City, which was forced by the Legislature several years ago to turn over control of its schools to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Despite Bloomberg’s ambitious efforts to overhaul the district, the nation’s largest, with the help of Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, the mayor has been no more successful in improving educational quality than Superintendent Roy Romer has been in the LAUSD. The reasons serve as a cautionary tale for Los Angeles.

What Greene fails to acknowledge is that managerial efficiency is no substitute for educational effectiveness. Schools are not businesses. As a result, no matter how many changes are enacted at the administrative level, they do not necessarily alter what takes place in classrooms, where learning takes place.

That’s why the national trend to recruit CEOs, politicians and generals will do little to help children most in need. The initial fanfare accompanying their appointment quickly fades because the underlying issues that caused disaffection with the schools in the first place remain. If transforming schools were easy, the job would have been accomplished long ago. That’s the lesson that Angelenos need to keep in mind when they consider turning over public schools to the new mayor or anyone else who proclaims he has the solution.

—Walt Gardner

28-year LAUSD teacher

Los Angeles

Walt Gardner

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