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Ron Kaye: La Cañada's education revolutionary

March 10, 2012

Imagine what it's like to teach in a community with schools that rank No. 2 in California on standardized tests, where nearly everyone is highly educated and very well to do, and where the kids are really smart and highly motivated, and challenge just about everything you do and say in the classroom.

And then one of the best and brightest comes back two years after graduating high school and wins a seat on the school board on a platform that says students should be grading teachers as part of a rigorous evaluation system that leads to paying high performers what they are worth and gets rid of low performers, regardless of seniority, if improvement programs don't bring them up to standards.

For the faculty and administrators of La Cañada Unified, that isn't a fantasy. It's the reality, and a nightmarish one for some. That's because Princeton University junior Andrew J. Blumenfeld is now one of their bosses, commuting 3,000 miles each way for board meetings.

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With youthful exuberance and idealism, the 21-year-old wants to turn the public educational system inside-out, but first things first. And most of the changes Blumenfeld wants are far less romantic than an education revolution.

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For the Record: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Blumenfeld as being 20.

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I caught up with Blumenfeld last week as he was waiting to board a plane to go back to college the day after the board voted to move forward with firing a teacher for a series of inappropriate remarks in the classroom — and also got hit with the bad news that there will be $1.5-million less in funding next year, and that the years after will be even worse.

It also was the day he submitted a seven-page memo entitled “Subject: Notes on social media strategy, policy, and mechanics,” meticulously setting out ground rules “to establish more robust forms of communication between the Governing Board and all stakeholders in our community … (and) the creation of additional electronic communication tools for Board use.”

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