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Leadership High School is not slated to close

favicon Even though my students read seven books, wrote 14 essays, and averaged 10 hours of homework a week this semester (in my class alone), I work at a failing school.

So says the California Charter Schools Association.

On Thursday, the organization — which has no authority over our school — recommended 10 schools for closure because of low test scores. My school, Leadership High School, was on the list. This press release prompted several misleading news reports and tons of anxiety in our school community.

The truth is, the CCSA does not choose whether our school gets its charter renewed. That authority goes to our district’s Board of Education.

The truth also is, our test scores are, indeed, low — if you look just at the overall score. But if you consider our performance with African American and Latino students, who make up 82 percent of our population, our results surpass those of other schools in San Francisco. Please read our school’s response.

In our current political climate, it’s easy to overgeneralize, and it’s easy to point fingers. That’s what’s happening here. With our economy down, money is tight, and that means emotions are strong. Charter schools run the gamut and are not widely understood as public schools. Because everyone pays taxes and has attended school, everyone has an opinion. People’s full selves — positive and negative, compassionate and mean-spirited, magnanimous and racist — come out when talking about public schools.

I’m proud to work at Leadership High School. That’s why I’ve been here 12 years. We do important work. I look forward to our charter renewal process in February with the Board of Education. I am hopeful that its seven members will follow the process and look closely at all the facts, rather than succumb to simplistic rhetoric. favicon


  1. Beth Silbergeld

    Mark, I appreciate your timely response to the media barrage LHS is dealing with right now. Instead of celebrating the work of our staff and students, we are reacting to the statement made by the CCSA. We are not only a charter school, but more authentically are a public small school that has teachers working more time (for less pay in some cases) than we would get if working at an SFUSD school. For this city’s youth, what more could we want for?

  2. Tony

    Your assessment of how the general populace responds to any discourse around public school speaks volumes. We see the worst and best in people when publiic schools are brought up. Today, I am thinking about your 12 years and Leaderships thirteen or so years helping students to think big ideas, to read and write and reason well, to have empathy for others and to take ownership over their lives. LHS and Isero kick ass!

  3. Lois

    Tony’s right . Sometimes I wonder how teachers stay motivated and working so hard for their students, myself included when I was teaching. The public is so quick to blame, and comment, and so few know the real story. AND test scores tell so little. Raise your head and take on that board as soon as you get the chance. It’s so discouraging to hear this, yet all too common.

  4. ida

    Well put! I’ve been sick since I over exerted in the room cleaning on Friday (SO MUCH DUST, not to mention grime, misc. trash, hairballs and gum wads. YUCK) and haven’t gotten a chance to be thoughtful about all of this yet. I appreciate yours!

  5. Mark Isero

    Thank you for the comments. The conversation about public schools is crucial for our democracy. But we need norms. Otherwise, politics takes over and leads us to shortsightedness.

  6. Heidi Guibord

    Can we also talk about the power of images? The initial photo running with the article of Ms. Rood hugging a student makes it look like she is consoling her on the news of the school closing. But I guess images of students graduating or presenting portfolios or attending parent family meetings or working hard in classes just wouldn’t fit the agenda.

  7. Elizabeth Rood

    I know the photographer liked that photo. He thought that it captured the personal, supportive nature of the school. But of course, he wouldn’t have known that the heading it would run next to would be “school closing” so he wouldn’t know that it would look like consoling.

    But, I thought the exact same thing when I saw it.

  8. Paul Preston


    You are right on the money with your post. For those who understand the charter school movement and the plight California school children and their parents the CCSA’s “recommendation” is nothing more than an act of betrayal to the entire charter school movement but more importantly betrayal to the students who would not or could not attend the traditional public comprehensive schools.

    Most charter schools in the state and the nation take in a disproportionally higher number of students who drop out of the traditional public schools. In the late 80s and early 90s before California had implemented its massive and “flawed” data system that tracks student performance on standardized tests, demographics and drop outs, most educational experts would have agreed the state’s drop out rate hovered around 9%. Over the last 20 years the these drop out numbers have continued to grow and grow to the point where even the state Department of Education now admits California’s drop out rate is 18%. For all of us in the business who understand the data and can read between the lines of the CDE’s conservative data interpretations put the real drop out number well above 30%. Los Angeles Unified the largest District in the state and second largest in the nation which has 660,000 students reports their drop out rate is a jaw dropping 50% plus. In one school district in Southern California where I recently consulted staff reported the real drop out number for them was more like 78%.

    Most disturbing as an association in which these schools pay dues they offer no help to them to improve these “scores”. What Jed and the CCSA need to be looking at is the outrageous drop out rate we have in California schools before they start “dictating” the closure of schools that serve students most at risk of dropping out.

Please share your brilliant insights!