Skip to main content

Episode 9: When Schools Work with Bruce Fuller

Bruce Fuller, is a professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He recently released When Schools Work, a book that looks at why student achievement climbed in Los Angeles between 2002-2019, and how a variety of civic activists-initiated reforms across the city.  

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Nati Rodriguez [01:20] 
First, I’d like to just pick your brain around what’s happening now and what is preventing us from creating a public education system that works for all students?   

Bruce Fuller [01:30] 
Well, a lot of my team’s work, really over the last 15 years has been in LA. I’ll respond through that local lens. In Los Angeles, there’ve been two or three big barriers to improvement. Although we’ll get to the mystery that motivated my book, which is why achievement went up in LA for so many years. One is the current distribution of funding for schools in Los Angeles. Like other big metro areas, you have a pretty significant middle-class and even upper-middle-class in parts of LA – on the westside or northwest LA. And then you have pockets of very severe poverty. Civic activists and pro-equity groups now for 25 years have pushed for more progressively funded schools and they’ve had some real success in that regard. I think the other big issue, which I really learned about from these same activists in Los Angeles, is that for a long time you had racially organized expectations in the heads and hearts of teachers. You had teachers who really felt that only certain kids had the ability or the capacity to go to college. You had pretty sharp tracking in LA elementary schools, high schools. Over the last quarter-century, there’s pretty good evidence that those teacher expectations have changed. The teaching force is beginning to look more like the demographics of the kids being served and that has a very positive effect on raising expectations. In the guts of the beast, these expectations are super important to enrich and equalize, and then equalizing school funding is another big remedy for which there’s been great progress.  

Nati Rodriguez [03:15] 
Touching on the funding piece, right now districts are inundated with more funds than they’ve ever had. I’m just wondering, how are LAUSD or California districts – how are they making sure that there is an equal distribution of funding? Are they using existing models or creating new ones because of the influx of funding? Can you speak to that? 

Bruce Fuller [03:36] 
Yeah, that’s a great question Nati. LA Unified, as one big district, the nation’s second-largest district, has about a 40% bump in its annual budget from federal stimulus dollars, and California Governor Newsom provided additional funding. There’s a lot of cash slushing around in the system, but a lot of that will go away in 2024 when the federal stimulus dollars expire. A lot of districts are in this very awkward situation, where they have a lot of funding now, but tomorrow they’re not going to have a lot of new funding. We see interventions like tutoring have received a lot of attention in recent months. Districts can quickly hire private firms to provide supplemental tutoring for kids. There’s some evidence that tutoring does pay off if it’s done by high-quality teachers and tutors, but that’s a temporary fix. That’s a band-aid, that’s not looking at the long-term quality of the core teaching force. It’s not looking at; can we sustain some of the innovations that popped up during COVID? It’s not looking at; can we lower class size over time? So, we’re in this very strange era that’s going to go for another couple of years now, where there’s a lot of money, but that funding may not actually be targeted on building more innovative and engaging schools.

Nati Rodriguez [05:04] 
Shifting gears, back to the book, can you describe who the new pluralists were as you described them in the book? Also, what new coalitions and tactics you’re observing now during the pandemic? 

Bruce Fuller [05:19] 
My research team, with colleagues at other universities and my students, began to hang out in LA for months at a time. This began about in 2007. I grew up outside of Pasadena. I am an Angeleno by birth so I was happy to get back to my hometown. What motivated our inquiry was we began to discover that test scores kept inching up and up and up in Los Angeles from 2002 forward. In a town that had become increasingly working class, increasingly populated by families who are struggling to make ends meet – despite that challenge, test scores were going up, and after about 18 or 19 years until the eve of the pandemic, on average kids were now about one grade level higher than they were in 2001-2002. That was a very tantalizing mystery for an academic researcher – like why in the heck did you see such progress in a district that oftentimes looks pretty chaotic?  

To your question, what we discovered was this complicated group, which we call the new pluralist in the book. The book is called When Schools Work; it’s trying to explain that mystery. One answer to this is that in the late 1990s, you had a new politics of education emerging in LA. Without droning on about this, it was basically a third sector, a third group of activists that were not aligned to the old, mainly white corporate moderates in downtown LA, who pulled a lot of strings oftentimes to fund or to limit funding for LA schools. These third sector groups were not aligned with organized labor. In fact, some of the Latino groups had no history in organized labor because labor unions in LA had not accepted Latino members until the late 1950s. This was a third sector of activists from the political left and what we consider the political right. That is part of the new pluralists were advocates for charter schools, which were being funded by right of center groups, like the Walton family and Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, who is a left-of-center Democrat, but he’s very hot on charter schools.  

You had a set of new pluralists that introduced charter schools. And then on the left, you had pro-equity advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Advancement Project, a group started by left-of-center attorneys in Los Angeles, InnerCity Struggle, started by Maria Brenes, who’s now a school board candidate in LA, and Karen Bass who started the Community Coalition in South LA and is now running for mayor of LA. You had this new generation of activists who weren’t satisfied with the corporate remedies nor the labor remedies for schools, and that generated a whole bunch of school reforms that we might want to talk about. The point is these new pluralists, this more pluralistic politics in LA, generated a fresh set of energy that has really lasted through the pandemic over the last quarter-century. These folks now are rising up in positions of power after challenging the status quo. That was the driving spark behind these reforms that resulted in almost 20 years of growth and student achievement. 

Nati Rodriguez [08:56] 
Got it. Can you speak to what that might look like going forward? I can imagine just there being a lot of discontent around parents and families, where there’s been a lot of issues that they faced, including unfinished learning, unclear communication from schools about returning or not returning. Where do you see this heading now, in terms of the groups that are working for or against, or within the district to make change?  

Bruce Fuller [09:25] 
Well, I think going back to these immediate band-aids like tutoring. I think the pro-equity wing of the new pluralist are pushing to make sure that these new interventions, these new support systems, are focused on schools that are most challenged by poverty. The theory of action here is quite simple, it’s a little bit like healthcare. We don’t equally distribute public support for healthcare because healthy people don’t cost as much as people that suffer from illness or disease. Like healthcare, these groups are saying that to move kids in poor communities over the proficiency bar, to help them reach proficiency in reading math, [and] social studies, those communities do need extra support, and it’s this progressive form of school finance that’s being pushed on. The report out two weeks ago from LA Unified on the tutoring showed that tutoring is only reaching about one-sixth of all the kids in the district. That’s the kind of thing that upsets these equity groups. 

LA Unified has an extra $3-3.5 billion per year now, and they’re not getting the tutoring support to the kids who would most benefit. In the short run, post-COVID, there’s going to be this ongoing press to distribute resources more equally. At the same time, try to make sure that we’re upgrading the teaching force across all schools, rich and poor. Superintendent Carvalho has talked about renovating school facilities to make sure all kids, rich and poor, go to first-class facilities. This is going to be a universal strategy with some strong focus on progressive finance to make sure the kids that were hit hardest by learning loss get the most supplemental aid. Some of the themes originating with the new pluralists back in the late 1990s, those themes and those policy priorities, I think are maturing and growing even stronger post-pandemic.

Nati Rodriguez [11:37] 
This reminds me of something that I read in your book about the equity index. Is that related to how funding was pushed to the schools that were most in need, or the communities most in need? What is that exactly?  

Bruce Fuller [11:48] 
Going back about 10 years ago, United Way of Greater Los Angeles led a coalition called The Class Coalition. Some of our students did analytic work for the Coalition, which showed that as new funding was coming into LA- former Governor Brown increased funding dramatically from 2013 forward – [as] that new money came in, this Coalition was trying to push to make sure that the most challenged schools received their fair share, and the way to distribute money was organized around a new equity formula. This has become known as the SENI index, the Student Equity Needs Index. The Advancement Project in Los Angeles, the Community Coalition under Karen Bass’ leadership, these are the core groups that have put in place this allocation formula which will regularize a more progressive way to finance schools. As new funding comes into LA Unified from the state capital, rather than spreading that funding evenly, the SENI index makes sure that the most highly challenged schools, often times in the poorest parts of South LA [or] East LA, that those heavily challenged schools receive some extra support, just like we do in healthcare finance, to make sure that those kids can reach the state proficiency bar. The SENI index is a really pivotal case of how the new pluralist have worked at this for 12-14 years now. They didn’t just settle for a rhetorical resolution passed by the school board. They’ve really dug in and implemented this index. It now moves about $1.5 billion of the district budget each year progressively.   

Nati Rodriguez [14:14] 
There was an interesting map in your book about the degree of competition between charter, pilot, [or] private, as it relates to traditional district schools. It showed that if there was a school within a 2 mile radius, and this was captured in 2016, that the schools actually decreased in achievement. What might that map look like today, given all the numbers of students that have left the district?

Bruce Fuller [14:40] 
To back up one step, part of the new pluralist agenda was to move towards, what we call in the book, organizational pluralism – that is letting a thousand flowers blossom, creating a more diverse set of schools in the district. Again, the new pluralist made huge progress on this agenda. On the right, there were the charter advocates, which has proven very controversial, but charter schools now enroll a fifth of all the kids in LA Unified. Maybe more in the center politically and left-of-center, you had the growth of pilot schools. Pilot schools are like charters, but teachers remain in the union. Teachers remain in the pension and benefit plan system for the District. There are now 51 pilot schools, many are small high schools. In Boyle Heights, the Esteban Torres Complex, there are five small pilot high schools, human-scale high schools, [and] you have dual language immersion programs.  

The district has about 70,000 youngsters in magnet schools that move from a focus on theater arts, to pre-nursing studies, to STEM and math science. You had all these flowers blossoming and an enormous amount of diversity. Parents were no longer tied to attendance zones. You have a very liberal parental choice system in LA Unified, and kids are traveling across town, outside their neighborhoods to this wild kaleidoscope of different kinds of schools. This proved to be a double-edged sword. This comes to the maps. Now, if you put a pin on a map in any regular public school in LA Unified, there may be 5-7 alternative schools within a 2 mile radius. This competition unfolds, which on the positive side has proven very popular among parents because now parents feel that they can search out the best school that fits their child’s interests, attributes, personality.  

It’s the positive side of competition. On the other hand, to your question, we also found that regular public schools that face the most competitive pressure, tend to lose their most effective teachers. If you put one of these pins on a map in East LA, if that school is surrounded by twelve alternative schools, rather than two alternatives, that first school is going to lose more of its most effective teachers. By effective, we mean teachers that boost kids’ learning curves most steeply over a year or a school year. That proved to be the negative side of competition. These alternative schools, for whatever reason might provide more small-working environments, they might be more social justice-oriented, they might be more specialized, but the most effective teachers in regular schools tend to migrate out to the alternative schools, and that’s the downside of competition.  

Nati Rodriguez [17:28] 
I’m curious, and maybe this isn’t part of your research, but what could those schools do? Assuming that’s the lever that needs to be adjusted; how do they make it competitive among teachers so they stay at their respective campuses?  

Bruce Fuller [17:42] 
Yeah, that’s a great question Nati, and one that I hope Superintendent Carvalho addresses. I think charter school advocates, or proponents of dual language immersion, would say that they’re creating more innovative models, which should be mimicked by regular public schools. They’re saying that we’re just not like Burger King, we’re ramping up hamburgers, or we’re providing a more quality product, and that pressure should lead to innovation in those regular public schools. That’s a hopeful argument and ideally, that plays out. The problem though, is that the regular public school in that community may not have the capacity to innovate, or it may have an aging teaching staff, or it may have a deadhead school principal. This is the problem with market arguments – it is that markets create sparks of innovation, but they also drag down organizations that don’t have much capacity to innovate. The other thing we found, which is troubling, and which we think the district should be monitoring more closely, is that some of these schools like charters are more effective in boosting kids’ achievement, but they’re also recruiting kids from better-educated households. They’re accepting kids who are already achieving at higher levels, in the first, second grade. The new forms of schooling are exciting, they’re proving to be popular, but they’re also leading to new forms of stratification among kids, even in a town that’s heavily working class and lower middle class. This is not stratifying wealthy Westwood kids from poor Boyle Heights kids. This is now a new form of stratification just among middle to lower-income families.

Nati Rodriguez [19:20] 
Thank you for clarifying. That leads me to my next question about the segregation around schools. I think historically, it’s talked about in terms of separate but equal doctrine, what does that look like now? What are some of the policies or activism around trying to integrate schools?  

Bruce Fuller [19:43] 
There’s still severe racial segregation in LA. The other complication in Southern California, or if you think about LA County, which is a bigger geographical unit than the school district – we have districts like Santa Monica on the westside, which is much Whiter than LA Unified, Glendale Unified, which borders on LA Unified. Glendale is super interesting, it’s Latino, White, and Armenian. So, just the diversity of the county is really unbelievable and quite remarkable. What’s happened in the last quarter-century in LA Unified, is that with upward mobility, especially among young Latino families and young Black families, they tend to move out of LA Unified, not far from LA downtown, but into neighboring districts like Glendale, Burbank, Culver City, is a much more integrated district. Culver City is an island inside LA Unified, for listeners who aren’t familiar with LA. The good news is we’ve had upper mobility, especially since the 2008 recession. That’s led to a lot of migration of middle-class Latinos and Blacks, and even Asian heritage families, out of the district into neighboring districts where they think they’re finding higher-quality schools or safer neighborhoods, but that leaves behind a much more segregated population within LA Unified. As I mentioned before, within LA Unified, with a diverse range of schools, the parents who have time or wherewithal or chutzpah to shop around schools and to drive in LA traffic to find different schools, those kids tend to sort into stronger schools and alternative schools. That leaves behind kids who may be in foster care homes or whose parents work graveyard and swing shifts who don’t have time to shop this market. The marketization of the L.A. school system is leading to these new forms of stratification.  

 
Nati Rodriguez [21:52] 
I read about San Antonio where they’re trying to integrate students from different zip codes and they actually allocate a certain amount of seats for students so that it is a more diverse population. In San Antonio, it’s not racially diverse, but it’s income diversity. Is there anything like that in LA County?  

Bruce Fuller [22:13] 
It’s a great point. There is talk of this inside the district. Kelly Gonez is a school board member from the San Fernando Valley, she formed a commission to look at whether there could be greater integration across social class lines. I know the policy and strategy office under Superintendent Carvalho is looking into this. Whether the board will take action remains to be seen, but at least there’s some serious thinking about this. One center of the conversation is around magnet schools because magnet programs in LA Unified have become really very popular. There are about three-parent applications for every one seat that opens up each year. [There’s a] long waiting list for magnet programs. There are many magnet programs that resegregate kids. You might have the resegregation of Asian heritage kids in certain kinds of magnets, or Black families are turned on by one magnet in one part of the district. There is real interest in trying to make sure that the magnet system is racially and integrated across social class lines.  

Nati Rodriguez [23:24] 
I’m curious since we’re talking about magnet schools and also just the smaller school movement in general did those fare better in terms of enrollment in the last three years, I’m thinking magnets, dual language, those mission-driven theme schools? We keep hearing about enrollment being significantly down across the district.

Bruce Fuller [24:49] 
I have not seen solid data on that out of LA Unified. We do know that attendance was lower. We did find that pilot schools, at least over the last 10 years, are more effective than regular public schools in LA in terms of reducing dropout rates at the high school level. Pilot schools have more holding power. Kids transfer out of pilots at a much lower rate. It may be these smaller human-scale high schools, like in San Antonio – Superintendent Carvalho did this very well in Miami before he came to LA – it could be these human-scale, small schools have much greater holding power and kids feel more loyalty and feel more respect and acceptance in those school settings. Hopefully, they’ll be maintained and funded at a higher level.  

Nati Rodriguez [24:31] 
Yes. When we think about achievement, it starts with getting the students there and I feel like we’ve taken so many steps back during this pandemic. I think we’re going back to let’s just get them in the classroom and learning again.  

Bruce Fuller [24:45] 
Yeah, and making them feel like they’re members of a school community. They’re not just out there in electronicsland, not connected to their friends and to their teachers.  

Nati Rodriguez [25:16] 
There’s a graph that summarizes your findings in When Schools Work about which policies benefited students the most between that period of the early 2000s to 2020. Can you talk about what the key takeaways were?  

Bruce Fuller [25:29] 
We found a few things that worked really well. Some of these new diverse forms of schooling, like autonomous pilot schools, as I mentioned, were lowering dropout rates and that tends to increase achievement over time. We found that going back to Roy Romer’s superintendency, starting in the year 2000, he really focused teachers on early literacy skills and really tried to herd all teachers to get behind a shared set of basic proficiencies, tied to early literacy, reading, reading comprehension, writing. This was not without controversy because he did buy a fairly regimented curriculum called Open Court. He sent in monitors to keep track of teachers – were teachers teaching the curriculum with great fidelity and allegiance. This regulation was controversial, but that’s when achievement first started to go up. As that cohort went into middle school with stronger literacy levels, ideally a greater love for reading, stronger math skills, that cohort then drove future achievement trends that kept climbing and climbing until right before the pandemic. Focusing on a fewer set of key proficiencies, I think is something that really worked. We also found that investing in facilities made a big difference, especially in the South cities, in East LA, places where kids were going to schools where the bathrooms were closed because the toilets didn’t work, roofs were falling in, the place hadn’t been painted in 30-40 years. Sometimes facilities are seen as a cosmetic fix, but we actually track kids as they went from old decrepit schools into newer renovated schools, and that raised achievement.  

We talked to one kid; I’ll never forget. A first-year high school student in a brand-new school said, “I’m no longer going to a ghetto school. I realized that the grownups actually care about [me].” 

It was just the vivid symbolism of being in a freshly painted school. He realized that there was this civic investment in his future. Facilities investments also paid off in spades.

Nati Rodriguez [27:40] 
Based on those findings, if it were me, I’d go to the district and say these two things created a huge improvement in achievement, more than all these others that are being explored. Would that be a fair argument to make? I can see backlash on the first one, the curriculum, but the second one?  

Bruce Fuller [28:02] 
It wouldn’t be that controversial. No, that’s a good point. My colleague Pedro Noguera and I did an op-ed a couple of weeks ago, doing what you’re suggesting Nati. We read the book together and then distilled our best agenda for the new superintendent. Part of the problem though, is conditions have changed. So, LA Unified is going to have to be closing at least a few schools as enrollments decline. Ideally, we’d like to know, of these kaleidoscope of diverse schools, post-COVID, which schools are more effective or least effective. I think Superintendent Carvalho – he’s kind of a data nerd – I think he will try to look at the comparative efficacy of different kinds of schools. We’d want to know more before we move on that. Certainly, we know changing teacher expectations, as I mentioned upfront, has been very effective.  

Maria Brenes, at InnerCity Struggle, really pushed to ensure that every high school kid in LA can enter an Advanced Placement class, every kid in LA can take a college prep class to qualify them for the University of California. Maria Brenes, Karen Bass, these new pluralists from the 90s, they did concrete things to try to raise and enrich the expectations teachers have for their students. We have a long way to go on that too. There are certainly reforms discussed in the book that are kind of halfway implemented, and we just have to keep the momentum going.  

Nati Rodriguez [29:29] 
One of the understandings that I took away from the book was that LAUSD was a highly centralized district and it had slowly moved to be very decentralized, giving a lot of power around budgeting and hiring to school site leaders. I’m curious, do you see that continuing to happen? Do you see it moving back a little? How does that help us, or not, address all of the many issues that are facing the district, including unfinished learning, families with food insecurity, illness, job loss, and attendance in the last three years?  

Bruce Fuller [30:01] 
Yeah. That’s a really pivotal issue and Superintendent Carvalho – I’ve heard him speak a couple of times and met with his staff – he’s leaning towards centralization. So, this is going to be interesting. Also, I would say that if you add up this kaleidoscope and this rainbow of alternative schools, charters, pilots, dual language immersion, magnets, it’s still probably about a third of all the schools in LA. Two-thirds of the schools really still operate as conventional, regular public schools under the centralized reign of the district. The district is one-third decentralized, two-thirds still pretty centralized. That’s going to be something to deal with. That’s a tough governance situation for the board and for the Superintendent. The other point here is when the district hands out decentralized chunks of funding, under the SENI index we talked about earlier, that gives more discretionary funding to school principals, even in regular public schools.  

When that happens, principals are not always the most strategic planners. They might say, well, we’ve got to reopen two bathrooms, or I have a Spanish teacher who has a bad bulletin board. I want to replace the bulletin board or the English department needs new textbooks. That is, when you decentralize funding it’s not always a silver bullet because principals may be patching holes in the walls. They may not actually be rethinking the nature of schooling, or creating more alternative internship programs, or getting rid of lousy teachers. Right? Principals are political actors too, on a small canvas, and they may just be engaged in incremental improvement. Decentralization is not always a silver bullet because that discretion may not lead to bold improvements at the school level.

Nati Rodriguez [32:00] 
I wonder if there is a world in which you have both, where the money is going to those local leaders, but something attached to it so there is system-level change at the local level? 

Bruce Fuller [32:13] 
There’ve been a couple of models. The Bill Clinton [and] Barack Obama model was that centrally we should set the learning objectives, right so we have learning proficiencies set by the state government or perhaps the school district. Essentially, that is what are we working towards? Everybody should work towards the same learning objectives, but then you decentralize as to how schools get there. That’s one model which has had some success in some communities. The second model, which Carvallo really pioneered in Miami, he looked at student growth school by school, and if a school over three or four years kept showing student growth, he just decentralized management. He just said we’re not going to come and see you guys very often anymore. You’re doing fine. He rewarded high performance. It also allowed him to not worry so much about upper-middle-class families complaining all the time in Miami; he could focus his attention and resources on schools and communities that needed more capacity building and greater assistance. That’s a second model to reward schools that turn around and show growth over time. There are different strategies, but I think one message from our book is that decentralization buys you variety in the types of schools and programs that are created, but decentralization doesn’t necessarily reduce inequality and narrow achievement gaps. It’s a double-edged sword.  

Nati Rodriguez [33:39] Yes. I read that although student achievement went up, the gap persists.  

Bruce Fuller [33:43]
Exactly and this miffs a lot of us in the academic world. I think activists are frustrated by this. We’ve seen this in other cities and suburban school districts, that if over 25 years, you have concerted policy reforms, you can raise achievement levels. In Miami, where Carvalho is from, kids are two grade levels above where LA kids are performing. Carvalho went through the same experience, where he could raise achievement levels on average, but reforms that actually narrow disparities, that’s a harder nut to crack. We’ve not been able to do that yet in LA.  

Nati Rodriguez [34:20] 

Do you see that working or having been done elsewhere?  

Bruce Fuller [34:25]
Well,
Carvallo did it in certain schools in Miami. He had very low-performing schools serving quite low-income communities and he did turnaround a fair number of schools. We haven’t seen that happen so much in Los Angeles, although pilot schools give us a hint as to how to do this. The Esteban Torres Complex in East LA – a lot of those kids used to go to Garfield High School, which was an overcrowded, dismal place to be in for a couple of decades but those kids are doing much better in pilot schools. I think we have hints as to how to close achievement gaps, but we haven’t yet done it very well on a system-wide basis. 

Nati Rodriguez [35:42]
Do you see some innovative practices, or practices that look promising, that could be shared across the system in LA? What else is being done there that’s unique? 

Bruce Fuller [35:53] 
Well, pilots, I think it is small scale. These are schools with 400-500 kids as opposed to 3,000-4,000 so it is human scale. Pilot schools recruit teachers. Just like magnets, teachers are recruited who get behind the program. There are pilots that are very social justice-oriented and kids do internships in the community. Kids learn all about serving the community. Racial injustice and class inequality are topics that are dealt with head-on. Talking about problems kids face in walking to school or walking by liquor stores, just the day-to-day challenges kids face, are put on the table and talked about. Yeah, we need to make sure kids know civics and know long division, but we also want to respect and engage the daily issues they face. That new relevance is super important and then some of the new pluralists, the nonprofit groups like the Community Coalition, they form student clubs that are organizing tutoring sessions. Kids come in for lunch sessions, the Community Coalition, the CoCo clubs, and they talk about community problems. They talk about how do we get our school painted. How do we try to set aside lousy teachers? How do we make sure that discipline isn’t criminalized and cops aren’t on campus? Some of the new pluralists have really innovative ways of engaging kids and really nurturing their ability to take control of their lives and their communities. We have a chapter in the book just on this very topic, following these CoCo school lunch hours. It’s a fascinating innovation because now kids feel control and feel like we’re being respected as agents of improving our neighborhoods.  

Nati Rodriguez [37:40] 
I remember reading about these organizations that are applying pressure at the top, but they’re also getting youth exposed to leadership and becoming change agents in their community so they can then do the work.  

Bruce Fuller [37:52] 
If you look at Maria Brenes, school board candidate, and Karen Bass, mayoral candidate, these are people who when they were young, went through these organizing sessions and they became very connected and very respected members of their neighborhoods. This is a way to rethink relevance and really engage in what kids are struggling with day-to-day and what they’re mulling over, not just what the Sacramento set curriculum objectives look like.  

Nati Rodriguez [38:19]  
Bruce,
is there anything else you would like to share with our Learner audience, about your research or your book When Schools Work or anything that’s coming?  

Bruce Fuller [38:28] 
The other big takeaway from the book – I was at USC the other day, and I gave a book talk and a person in the audience came up afterward – she made this great point that most of the characters that I trace in the book, no one’s ever heard of. Even like LA political hacks, may not have heard of Yolie Flores or Elmer Roldan, these characters that I came to love in tracking them over 10-12 years. The point is that these reforms that proved so effective came out of this cauldron of new thinking, new politics, new pluralism, but they were authored and crafted by a lot of individual actors that just had this commitment and faith that they can improve the schools. So, it wasn’t Barack Obama, it wasn’t Jerry Brown, it was lesser-known civic activists that made it all happen. I think that’s a hopeful story. That’s an uplifting reality [for] how schools can improve over time, driven by the commitment of a lot of different people.

SHARE THIS POST

Explore More Episodes