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Charles Kerchner
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Charles Kerchner is a research professor at Claremont Graduate University currently studying institutional change in public education.

He believes that a 21st Century learning system is beginning to emerge, and he describes it in blog posts at

His work on institutional change in contained in two recently published books: Learning from L.A.: Institutional Change in American Public Education, and The Transformation of Great American School Districts: How Big Cities are Reshaping Public Education, both by Harvard Education Press.

Kerchner's work in public affairs journalism is supported by a grant from the Stuart Foundation. However, the views and opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect foundation policy.

Author photo by Ibarionex R. Perello

Entries by Charles Kerchner

L.A. 'Public School Choice' Program Swaps Competition for Collaboration

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2013 | 3:14 PM

Four years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District embarked on a bold, perhaps reckless, program called Public School Choice to allow charter school operators and other community groups to compete for running many of its schools. Thursday, a team of researchers from the University of Southern California, revealed what...

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Bringing a Third Chair to the Bargaining Table

(4) Comments | Posted October 18, 2011 | 6:02 PM

Sometimes the most interesting political commentary is found in the comics... or in the ads.

Monday's editions of the Los Angeles Times, Daily News and La Opinion carried a full-page ad from a coalition of civic and community organizations aimed at influencing the negotiations between the Los Angeles Unified...

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New Analysis Shows Serious Flaws in LA Times Evaluation of Teacher Effectiveness

(10) Comments | Posted February 9, 2011 | 10:39 AM

Nearly half the rankings handed out to L.A. Unified teachers by the Los Angeles Times may be wrong. This is one of the conclusions reached by Derek Briggs and Ben Domingue of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who conducted a reanalysis of the data used by the Times in...

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Test Score Bomb: Don't Name Names, Fix the System

(13) Comments | Posted August 23, 2010 | 11:43 AM

The Los Angeles Times teacher rankings bomb has ignited a firestorm of controversy, a little light and a lot of heat.

Pundits have lined up and taken sides. Education secretary Arne Duncan has supported the pending release data on 6,000 Los Angeles Unified School District teachers, ranking them by...

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Grading Teachers: What's Next?

(20) Comments | Posted August 16, 2010 | 12:25 AM

Every so often a newspaper story changes everything, or at least a lot. Such a story appeared in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, when the test scores of students from different teachers were compared. And the teachers were named.

In coming articles, the scores of hundreds of other teachers...

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Ray Cortines' Birthday Present

(3) Comments | Posted July 29, 2010 | 10:50 AM

Ray Cortines gave himself a birthday present last week. At age 78, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, whose remarkable energy has allowed him to persevere through in-your-face politics and spirit-crushing budget cutbacks, announced his intent to retire in the spring.

A transition is in the offing...

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A Number Crunching Mom's Crusade Against Tax Inequity -- And Toward Solving the School Funding Problem

(14) Comments | Posted June 4, 2010 | 5:57 PM

Jennifer Bestor doesn't sound like a radical, but she has methodically peeled back a veil that clouds the inequity caused by the way California taxes commercial property.

She is a stay-at-home mom in Menlo Park who just happens to have 20 years' experience in business and finance. She's also ticked...

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Who Should Evaluate Teachers? Teachers Should

(15) Comments | Posted April 13, 2010 | 8:35 PM

The idea of peer review for teachers has been around for a generation. It's controversial, but mostly in the places that don't use it. Places such as Montgomery Country, Maryland, and 80 other districts that have strong programs consider them successful. The Los Angeles Unified School District and...

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Scotland Invests in a Powerful Learning Infrastructure

(3) Comments | Posted April 3, 2010 | 11:30 AM

There's a glimmer of education's future in Scotland, and it's called Glow. I spent four days in Glasgow last fall looking at that country's $100 million investment in educational technology, and I came away impressed with what ought to be possible in Southern California.

I watched biology teacher Jaye Richards...

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Obama Stimulus Money and Teacher Jobs

(4) Comments | Posted March 24, 2010 | 1:40 PM

There has been a good bit of grousing lately from teachers, particularly teacher activists. President Obama's tough love stance, which advocates tying student outcome measures to teacher compensation has not gone down well. I hear murmurs of "union busting," and "we'll just sit on our hands at the next election."

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The LA Compact: A Dollop of Hope for Our Schools

(3) Comments | Posted March 16, 2010 | 12:38 PM

Get Los Angeles Unified, the mayor, unions, and universities together to help schools get better? Yeah, we've heard that story before. They've got the attention span of a moth and fly away toward the next political flame.

This time it might be different.

Last month these worthy parties signed something...

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The Death of Public School Choice

(4) Comments | Posted March 1, 2010 | 10:40 AM

By Charles Taylor Kerchner and Dominic J. Brewer

The Los Angeles Unified School District board, which in August voted 6-1 for a competition between internal and external education providers, did its best to kill it off on last week. A different policy for change is needed. Here's why.


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Snatching Outrage From the Jaws of Victory

(8) Comments | Posted February 22, 2010 | 5:45 PM

Superintendent Ramon Cortines has made everyone angry. His recommendation for who should run 30 Los Angeles schools gave each of the competing organizations a little, but everyone has a grievance. Demonstrations are planned before, during, and after the Los Angeles Unified School District board meets on Tuesday.

Expect a...

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And the Winner Is? Who Knows?

(4) Comments | Posted February 15, 2010 | 5:05 PM

In the contest to determine who will run the schools for 36,000 Los Angeles students, all the votes are in, except those that count. Over the last three weeks, school communities went to the polls. And two panels of expert reviewers have issued their opinions. Despite all the...

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LA Schools' Big Experiment

(7) Comments | Posted January 29, 2010 | 10:38 AM

Think of it as a big chem lab experiment. The Los Angeles Unified School District is testing the hypothesis that allowing a bunch of people to compete for running schools will yield better ones. It's a starkly different idea than the traditional civil service model and probably the boldest experiment...

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Racing for Education Dollars

(4) Comments | Posted January 13, 2010 | 9:15 AM

The California Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger did cartwheels last week to pass education legislation that is opposed in part or whole by virtually every education interest group in the state. The public rationale for this seemingly odd behavior is that the new statutes would make the state eligible to compete...

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Will Tech Take Over?

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2009 | 1:59 PM

Betting on technology to change teaching wagers against history, but that's what the authors of Disrupting Class do, and persuasively. Every technological tweak, from student workbooks in the 1920s to television in the 1950s, was accompanied by the prediction that teaching would change. All these predictions proved wrong. But the...

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Urban Education Reform, LA Style

(1) Comments | Posted December 8, 2009 | 11:41 AM

When policy wonks pick interesting examples of urban education reform, Los Angeles Unified School District is not among them. It should be.

Through the bump and rub of messy politics and a generation of reform efforts, the country's second largest school district has moved away from a classic hierarchy and...

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