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List of Southland's worst schools released

March 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A list of the Southland's lowest performing schools was released, and these schools face some severe sanctions ranging from replacement of the principal to dismissing half the staff and even an entire shutdown of the school and a takeover by the federal government.It's all in an effort to get failing schools back on track.

California's lowest performing schools face challenges that are entrenched. The Department of Education identifies five percent that reported low test scores in 2007 and since then, programs to raise achievement have failed. LAUSD's Belmont Senior High is on the list, and its dropout rate is over 60 percent.

It's President Obama that called for the list. The low performers are first identified then they become eligible for federal funds. But in receiving the money, the school must agree to implement specific reforms determined by federal educators.

"We've let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us," said the president.

The list includes 41 schools in Los Angeles County, three in Orange County and 23 in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the nation, has the most schools on the list.

They have been working with all of them.

"We've already looked at class size reduction, professional development for teachers and leaders. We looked at the instructional program, redesigning them," said Dr. Sharon Robinson, the assistant to the LAUSD superintendent.

Some schools have already been designated for takeover by management teams made up of teachers and community members. Juanita Carney's daughter just graduated from Belmont. She says parental involvement is key, and it's a struggle.

"They have heavy baggage on their backs. Most of the parents, three out of four are single mothers where they have to work long hours just to sustain their families," Carney said.

The schools on the list will be eligible to apply for federal school improvement grants ranging from $50,000 to $2 million.

AP contributed to this report.