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Principals Urged to Visit More Classrooms

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles Unified Supt. Roy Romer exhorted nearly 2,000 of the district’s principals and administrators Thursday to get away from their offices and into classrooms to survey instruction.

Principals who heard Romer’s back-to-school address at the Los Angeles Convention Center said they gladly accept the superintendent’s mission, but it competes with other duties on their ever-growing to-do lists.

Since taking over the nation’s second-largest school district last year, Romer has drilled his emphasis on instruction into the district’s corps of 75,000 employees.

Teachers are not the only ones who affect students, he said; a child’s education also depends on those who pay the bills, route the buses and stock the district’s 30,000 classrooms.

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“We need to draw a direct line from each of our jobs to improving instruction,” Romer said.

He urged principals to walk through their schools’ classrooms to determine whether teachers are teaching and students are learning--an obvious assignment for a school’s leader but not always a realistic expectation, principals said.

“Sometimes the day-to-day operational issues interfere with the principal’s obligation to lead instruction on the campus,” said Principal James Noble of Washington Preparatory High School in Athens, who added that he often works 16-hour days.

Romer, who focused his first year on reading and math in elementary grades, applauded the district’s recently announced gains in standardized test scores for those students.

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But static scores in the higher grades are a “stern warning” that improvement must be made--and soon, he said.

This year, the district will focus on literacy, particularly in sixth and ninth grade.

Because knowing algebra is “a civil right,” Romer said, the district’s new math curriculum will require algebra in eighth grade.

In a speech sprinkled with lessons he has learned from books on World War II, Romer demonstrated Thursday that he has settled into his job running Los Angeles’ public schools, which have 720,000 students.

Romer promised progress in technology, building new schools and providing teaching materials. One of the crowd’s loudest cheers came when he said, “We’re going to start paying our bills on time.”


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