Sunday, April 13, 2014

For What It’s Worth: from tragedy to farce

Onward! 4LAKids4LAKids: Sunday 13•April•2014
In This Issue:
 • From tragedy… IN AN INSTANT, A BUS TO COLLEGE WAS A FIERY TRAP
 • …to farce. 3 Articles: TEACHER JAIL? DEASY JAIL?
 • COMMON CORE LITERARY STANDARDS REQUIRE CLOSE READING + AN EDUCATION REPORTER PUTS HIMSELF TO THE (STANDARDIZED) TEST
 • L.A. Times editorialist: “WHY MY FAMILY IS OPTING OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TESTING” + smf’s 2¢
 • HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 • EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 • What can YOU do?


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tragedy (ˈtrædʒɪdɪ)
n, pl -dies
1. (Theatre - esp in classical and Renaissance drama) a play in which the protagonist, usually a man of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he cannot deal
2. (Theatre) (in later drama, such as that of Ibsen) a play in which the protagonist is overcome by a combination of social and psychological circumstances
3. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) any dramatic or literary composition dealing with serious or sombre themes and ending with disaster
4. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) (in medieval literature) a literary work in which a great person falls from prosperity to disaster, often through no fault of his own
5. (Theatre) the branch of drama dealing with such themes
6. the unfortunate aspect of something
7. a shocking or sad event; disaster
[C14: from Old French tragédie, from Latin tragoedia, from Greek tragōidia, from tragos goat + ōidē song; perhaps a reference to the goat-satyrs of Peloponnesian plays]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged |http://bit.ly/Q3tRqL

Drama in classical Greece was neither an entertainment nor an art form.

Drama was a religious observance – a way of explaining reality and man’s relationship to his gods. Theaters were temples. In Comedy man and his motives triumph over adversity; in Tragedy, not so much. Man’s fatal flaw is ultimately his own humanity+mortality.

Thursday afternoon’s bus crash is undeniably tragic.

Young people poised at the very brink of adulthood, rehearsing the leaving of home, about to take charge of their lives. Already successful, our best+brightest+newest+most promising: Gone.

Ladle on the irony: The newly engaged chaperones, the twins separated by happenstance, the fender-bender that makes the bus late. Five students – one from Dorsey High School, three young adult chaperone-counselors, two drivers dead.

And there are the survivors. Survivors on the bus, burned and injured and the shaken who walked away. Parents and family members, friends and teachers and classmates – witnesses to incomplete lives and witnesses to survival. Nineteen students from 16 LAUSD schools were aboard the bus |http://bit.ly/1kLYT46

We wrestle with “Why?” because we longer have the angry+jealous gods to blame …and our legal system and risk managers and the media have little use for Fate.

Maybe we look to blame the drivers or the bus and trucking companies. Almost the first words from the superintendent were that it wasn’t an LAUSD sponsored trip. It was a Humboldt State University sponsored trip, part of a decades-long and highly successful program to educate inner city youth in sylvan Humboldt County.

As Paige St. John writes in today’s LA Times [After Bus Crash, Humboldt State Community Embraces Survivors]: “(The students) were part of a group of minority and largely first-generation high school students Humboldt has recruited to enroll in California's most out-of-the-way public university. About 45% of those who accept the bus ride wind up returning as students, a primary source of ethnic and social diversity for Humboldt and also Arcata, the coastal village that forms the other half of the local population.

To go all 4LAKids Sunday sermony and invoke the gods: Humboldt State is doing God’s work. For kids and the greater good.

We weep and wish Godspeed for the ones that didn’t make it. We sympathize and wish comfort to the survivors and number ourselves distant among them. We must remember that ultimately none of us get out of this alive as we celebrate the living and move forward.


WITH THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 (…and the Ford Mustang – what a week THAT was!) we need to consider that the strategies of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Local Control Funding Formula/Local Control Accountability Plan as budgeted by Superintendent Deasy is to perpetuate+compensate the new segregation and make schools more, not less, separate and unequal. And unless+ until the LCFF/LCAP Supplemental and Concentration Grant funding follows the individual student, that will be the outcome.


IN OTHER NEWS, THERE WAS A BIT OF A JAILBREAK OF SORTS from “Teacher Jail” – or as other pundits in the blogosphere would like to call it: “Deasy Jail”. It started quietly enough against the backdrop of rather frequently noted mysterious “bad teacher” disappearances from LAUSD campuses. A teacher here, a principal there, a choir director somewhere else – vanished into the gulag of “Reassigned to District Offices” housing.

Welcome to the paranoia: “Step outta line, the man comes and takes you away.”

Occasionally some return – but very few come back in a timely manner. And the argument is almost always the same: Not even the accused knows what the accusations are. They are just reassigned to a rubber room, told not to discuss their case and replaced by a substitute in their office or classroom.

A couple of weeks ago I heard from parents from The School Formerly Known as Central High School #9 (the renaming remains controversial at Cortines High School for the Visual and Performing Arts). A popular science teacher had been removed because a student (or students) had made a science fair project that may or may not have been a gun. I pictured an art school-science student – nerdy+goth - with a 3-D printer making an AK-47 …or perhaps a grenade launcher from surplus copier parts.

The teacher was hauled away and replaced with an under-qualified long term sub, administrators came from ESC East office to forbid parents from meeting, discussing the issue or circulating a petition. The teacher became an unperson. I was on the verge of challenging LAUSD on the First Amendment: "The right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances…"….also enshrined in the Declaration of Independence “In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms…” …and, for good measure: The Magna Carta. After all, the Magna Carta undid a previous King John.

But then I received an email from the un-teacher’s parents – which I published: XXX.

The prisoner whose name must not be spoken is Greg Schiller; he has a mom and dad – both also LAUSD teachers. Within a day The Times broke the story, followed by every news+media outlet from the liberal NPR KPCC to Channels 2, 4 and 7 and on to the conservative KFI radio talk John & Ken.

“At a White House Science Fair in February 2012, President Barack Obama shot a marshmallow across the State Dining Room with the help of a pressurized air gun invented by 14-year-old Joey Hudy. The “Extreme Marshmallow Cannon” can launch marshmallows up to 175 feet—over half a football field.”http://bit.ly/1p0yaT9

And just as quickly as the wrestling coach at SaMo High went from Bad Teacher to Good Teacher – and the SMMUSD superintendent went from Good Supe to Bad Supe [Santa Monica Coach May Become A Hero For Exasperated Teachers |http://lat.ms/1nlCHeh] - the roles were reversed, shoes went on other feet and every Shakespearian metaphor can be hauled out, dusted off and mixed well

And I recall that in my PTA presidency at Mt Washington Elementary how the teapot became tempestuous when theatrical swordplay was employed in a visiting production of Shakespeare from the Theatricum Botanicum. Yes, weapons are forbidden from campuses …but the Bard without swordplay might as well be Ibsen …and where’s the fun in that? And yes, to add to Mr. Schiller’s crimes – he IS the HS#9 fencing coach!

“….I think it's time we stop
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's going down.”

HAPPY SPRING BREAK! /  HAPPY EASTOVER!

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf


From tragedy… IN AN INSTANT, A BUS TO COLLEGE WAS A FIERY TRAP
By Ian Lovett, New York Times | http://nyti.ms/1eBmqNe

APRIL 11, 2014 :: LOS ANGELES — Harley Hoyt, an 18-year-old senior at Valhalla High School in San Diego County, was listening to his headphones to pass the time during the 12-hour bus ride up California’s Interstate 5 when he was catapulted forward, his face smashing against the seat in front of him.

All around him, people were screaming. The front of the bus was “like an accordion,” he said. A truck outside was on fire. He kicked the emergency door open and jumped out.

“Everyone was piling out the windows,” he said. “It was like a battle scene. People were screaming, crying, pulling out their hair. Everyone was bloodied. My clothes were covered in blood.”

Mr. Hoyt was among the 43 high school students from urban corners of Southern California — Torrance, El Monte, South Los Angeles — who had boarded the bus bound for another world: They had been accepted to Humboldt State University, a countryside college in California’s northern reaches, and were headed there for a recruiting visit. Many would be the first members of their family to attend college.

Then, as the bus rolled north past Sacramento on Thursday evening, the long trip turned tragic in a violent instant. A FedEx tractor-trailer jumped a grassy divider and barreled into the bus, killing 10 people, including both drivers. As metal and glass crashed around them, the panicked teenagers escaped through windows and ran to safety along the highway. The front of the bus exploded in flames and filled with smoke. Five students and three of their chaperones did not make it out alive. More than 30 other passengers were injured.

Mr. Hoyt said a group of terrified students ran across the freeway and watched, helpless, as flames and charcoal-gray smoke engulfed the bus, where friends and classmates remained trapped.

“I’m so grateful I’m alive,” Mr. Hoyt said. “I was in the back. One of my buddies that I had just met, he was up front. I’m sure he didn’t make it. The chaperone and his fiancée, they didn’t make it.”

Mr. Hoyt was taken to Glenn Medical Center, where he spent the night and was released Friday afternoon.

The students involved in the accident were taking part in Preview Plus, an annual program in which Humboldt State provides transportation and lodging to allow hundreds of disadvantaged students who have been accepted to the university to visit the campus. The bus was one of three chartered by Humboldt State to bring high school students to the campus on Thursday.

Jarad Petroske, a university spokesman, said the program, which dates to the 1990s, is for students from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, particularly those from low-income homes.

It coincides with the university’s annual spring preview, held Friday, which has events for prospective students and their families.

“The weekend will proceed as planned,” Mr. Petroske said. “It’ll be taking on a more somber tone, of course. Everybody on campus is devastated.”

Aboard the buses that did arrive Thursday, many of the students and chaperones had already learned of the tragedy on their phones. That night, the university’s president, Rollin C. Richmond, met with them, explained what he knew about what had happened and offered support services.

Larry Jones, the sheriff and coroner of Glenn County, where the accident took place in the town of Orland, said the crash could be heard from a quarter-mile away.

“This was a horrific collision,” Sheriff Jones said. He added that a fire “with very high temperatures” broke out almost immediately after the impact.

As news of the crash reached them, parents streamed north to collect their shellshocked children.

At the American Red Cross shelter established at the Veterans Memorial Hall Community Center in Orland, where some surviving students spent a sleepless night, four students were waiting Friday morning to be picked up by their families. Families that had been unable to determine their children’s whereabouts also went to the center for information. Shortly after three members of one family arrived at the center, anguished wailing could be heard from inside. Less than an hour later, they left the center in tears.

Other students escaped with injuries ranging from smoke inhalation and burns to lacerations and broken teeth.

Mitchell Huezo said his 18-year-old niece, Angela Corro, had been a passenger on the bus. She was in stable condition and receiving treatment for smoke inhalation, he said.

“She couldn’t talk,” Mr. Huezo said. “She can’t really breathe because she inhaled so much smoke.”

The authorities and family members confirmed the names of a few of the dead. The three chaperones were Arthur Arzola, a recruiter for Humboldt State, and Mattison Haywood and Michael Myvett, whose families told reporters that they were a couple who had recently become engaged.

Mr. Myvett and Ms. Haywood met in 2006, and Mr. Myvett graduated from Humboldt State the next year. After becoming engaged in Paris at Christmas, the couple were returning to the place where their relationship blossomed.

Mr. Myvett worked as a therapist for the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Torrance for two years, helping children with life skills and behavior. His death has devastated his co-workers, said Sarah Cho, the center’s corporate director of operations.

“He was very bubbly and positive, even on the most challenging days,” she said. “With kids with autism, sometimes they have a bad day. And Michael was always able to be positive with those kids and those families.”

Two of the buses, including the one involved in the crash, had originated from the Los Angeles area; the third came from Fresno, Calif. Students from more than a dozen Los Angeles Unified School District schools were on the bus involved in the crash, according to district officials.

John Deasy, the district superintendent, said that in a district where 80 percent of students come from low-income households, many of the passengers on the buses were destined to be the first in their families to finish high school.

For some, Mr. Deasy said, the two days they had planned to spend at Humboldt State — staying in the residence halls and getting a brief taste of collegiate life — would have been the first significant time they had spent away from home.

“These are students who were graduating and had been accepted and were going to visit a place that was obviously of their dreams, so that’s quite painful,” he said. “This is the high point, when many students are going off and trying to make their decision.”

For students who, by chance, ended up on one of the other buses, news of the crash was chilling and surreal. They arrived safely on the campus in Arcata, a bucolic town tucked into the redwood forest on California’s northern coast. After a moment of silence on Friday, activities resumed as planned.

“I was tripped out because we were supposed to go before them,” said Adrian Romo, an 18-year-old high school student from San Diego, who had ridden on the other bus from Los Angeles. “Everyone was saying, ‘It could have been us.’ ”

Mr. Romo said the atmosphere on campus was solemn. When the students arrived Thursday night, he said, “everyone was really quiet for a long time.”

Word of students who were unaccounted for had begun to trickle through Los Angeles Unified schools by Friday afternoon.

Andrew Tony, an educational adviser who works for a college preparatory agency, said that of the three students from Dorsey High in Los Angeles on the ill-fated trip, one remained unaccounted for. Mr. Tony described her as “an amazing student, vivacious and bubbly.” He added, “Academically, she was on top of her game.”


• Reporting was contributed by Matt Hamilton from Los Angeles; Allison Edrington from Arcata, Calif.; Norimitsu Onishi from Orland, Calif.; and Richard Pérez-Peña, Ashley Southall and Timothy Williams from New York.


…to farce. 3 Articles: TEACHER JAIL? DEASY JAIL?

►IN TEACHER JAIL
By Gerald and Esther Schiller, from an email circulating widely

Our son is in jail.

But there are no bars or armed guards, or wardens.

And he does go home to his wife each afternoon.

Our son is in “teacher jail.”

For those who may be unaware of this bizarre institution, “teacher jail” is the name applied (with no affection) to what the Los Angeles Unified School District calls teacher “housing.” And this euphemism refers to the act of removing teachers from their classrooms, if there are accusations against them, and placing them in large rooms where they, basically, sit for days, or weeks, or months, or even years. It may come as a surprise to many people but there are currently several hundred Los Angeles School District employees in this situation.

These “housed” men and women remain there, are allowed no contact with their schools or colleagues, and continue to collect their salaries, while substitute teachers (each hired at several hundred dollars per day) cover their classrooms.

The rationale for this “housing” is that these teachers pose a risk to the safety and well being of the students and staff of their schools.

Our son, however, is not a thief, a rapist, a pornographer, or a child molester.

On the contrary, he is an exemplary instructor who has distinguished himself for almost twenty years with nary a blemish on his record. He teaches Advanced Placement (college credit) classes in biology and psychology. He supervises numerous school clubs. He coaches fencing.

And he works assiduously on many school committees.

He has been praised by his students and their parents, given high marks by his colleagues, and spends long hours at the school where he works.

What then was the heinous offense that caused his placement in “teacher jail?”

Two students in one of his classes created projects for a science fair.

Each of these projects had the word “gun” in its title though neither resembled a gun in any form. But an administrator saw the projects when they were brought to the cafeteria for display and confiscated them, calling them “dangerous.” Our son, who had not yet seen the completed exhibits,was called into the principal’s office, and then, rather than being chastised and told never to repeat such an offense again, was told to report to “teacher jail.”

And there he sits. Now for more than a month.

There is both irony and tragedy in what has occurred.

Irony in that one of the confiscated projects—according to several parents— was similar to a science fair exhibit that won national awards and was included on the Los Angeles School District’s own website as an example of an outstanding student science achievement.

There is irony that the administrator who confiscated the projects and called them dangerous, has a background in teaching English, not science.

And it is highly ironic that our son was actively involved with the committee that chose the current principal—a principal who now seems eager to see him removed from the school.

But among the tragic aspects of this situation is that our son’s Advanced Placement students, now deprived of a qualified “AP” teacher may not be adequately prepared for their national examination, just weeks away.

It is also tragic that the students who submitted the projects are now extremely upset and feel guilty that they were responsible for their teacher’s removal.

Most tragically, however, is the fact that a caring, dedicated, and beloved teacher may be driven from a job he not only cares deeply about, but is also masterful at.

It seems that in the bizarre and arcane complexities of the Los Angeles Unified School District, because of its fear of public criticism and its terror at media finger-pointing, competent teachers like our son are too often pulled from their classrooms.

And there they sit.

In teacher jail.

• Gerald and Esther Schiller are retired teachers. Both worked for many years with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Their son is on the faculty of Ramon C. Cortines High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, the arts school formerly known as Central High School #9.


►TEACHER REMOVED FOR 'DANGEROUS' SCIENCE PROJECTS; SUPPORTERS RALLY

By Howard Blume, LA Times | http://lat.ms/1jCMOux

April 9, 2014, 5:20 p.m. :: A popular Los Angeles high school science teacher has been suspended after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom.

Students and parents have rallied around Greg Schiller after his suspension in February from the downtown Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts. Supporters have organized a rally on his behalf at the campus scheduled for Thursday, gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition calling for his reinstatement and set up a social media page.

Schiller was ordered to report daily to a district administrative office pending an investigation after two students turned in science projects that were designed to shoot small projectiles.

One project used compressed air to propel a small object, but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)

Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said the student's parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.

A school employee saw the air-pressure project and raised concerns about what looked to her like a weapon, according to the teachers union and supporters. Schiller, who said he never saw either completed project except in photos, was summoned and sent home.

Both projects were confiscated as “evidence,” said Susan Ferguson, whose son did the coil-gun project.

L.A. Unified School District administrators have told Schiller that he was removed from his classroom six weeks ago for “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons,” said union representative Roger Scott.

School administrators did not respond to inquiries. District officials said they could not comment on an ongoing probe.

“As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Schiller teaches Advanced Placement biology and psychology, as well as regular and honors biology.

Students in Schiller's classes are concerned about Advanced Placement exams for college credit in May.

“The class is now essentially a free period,” said 17-year-old psychology student Liana Kleinman. “The sub does not have a psych background and can’t help us with the work.”

Schiller initially prepared lesson plans for the substitute, but the district in an email directed him to stop.

“This is really hurting my students more than anything else,” Schiller said in an interview. “I would never do anything to set up a situation where a student could be harmed.”

He also coaches the school’s fencing team, and administrators have determined the team cannot compete safely without Schiller in charge.

Schiller, 43, also was the teachers union representative on the campus and had been dealing with disagreements with administrators over updating the employment agreement under which the faculty works. His suspension, with pay, removed him from those discussions.

The expensive Grand Avenue arts high school has a troubled brief history, including repeated administrative and staff turnover.



►LAUSD SHOULD LET THIS SCIENCE TEACHER TEACH: GREG SCHILLER OUGHT TO BE IN THE CLASSROOM, DOING WHAT HE DOES BEST, NOT SUSPENDED.

Editorial by The LA Times editorial board | http://lat.ms/Rgqf5y

April 10, 2014, 4:49 p.m. :: In February, Los Angeles Unified School District officials suspended a teacher after two of his students turned in science projects that administrators thought looked like guns. Even granting that school officials have a right to be hypersensitive these days about anything resembling a weapon, their decision to remove him from the classroom was a harmful overreaction.

It's also hard to understand why the investigation into this seemingly simple matter has taken more than a month. Science teacher Greg Schiller cannot return to teaching at the Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts until it is resolved.

The projects, according to a report in The Times, included a device that could use compressed air to propel a small object but that couldn't be fired because it wasn't connected to a source of air pressure, and a coil gun, a standard in the world of science fairs.

Since his suspension, Schiller's students have been taught by a substitute teacher. A student told The Times that in one of the classes, Advanced Placement psychology, the substitute didn't know the course material and the class had become the equivalent of a free period. Schiller also taught AP biology, and the AP tests are next month; this is usually an intensive prep period for the exams. During his suspension, Schiller also is barred from coaching the fencing team and fulfilling his role as the campus' union representative, dealing with various disputes over the teachers' work agreement.

Not every lapse of teacher judgment, if that's indeed what this was, calls for an investigation. And if the district wants to lay to rest its reputation as a slow-moving bureaucracy in which procedure takes precedence over learning, it needs to stop acting like one.

Perhaps there is more to the story. The district says it is prohibited from discussing the matter while the probe is ongoing, while students, parents and union representatives are free to talk. But so far it seems straightforward: No one denies that Schiller oversaw the two projects. No one was hurt by them. President Obama tried out something similar to the air-pressure device — one that could and did propel marshmallows up to 175 feet — at the White House Science Fair in 2012.

Schiller is a veteran teacher, and there are no indications that his students have ever been harmed by him. All that is needed is some common sense: Investigate by all means, but in the meantime, allow popular, rigorous teachers like Schiller, who are not a danger to their students, to remain in the classroom, teaching.


COMMON CORE LITERARY STANDARDS REQUIRE CLOSE READING + AN EDUCATION REPORTER PUTS HIMSELF TO THE (STANDARDIZED) TEST
THE NEW COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR ENGLISH HAVE STIRRED PLENTY OF CONTROVERSY. IN A VERMONT CLASSROOM FULL OF 8TH GRADERS, THEY ARE WORKING ON A CORNERSTONE OF THE CORE: CLOSE READING.

by Charlotte Albright, NPR Morning Edition |http://n.pr/1ig1Nuw

April 09, 2014 5:08 AM ET

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Many of the nation's public schools have been implementing new standards for literacy and math that are called the Common Core. Right now, big new standardized tests intended to make sure kids meet these standards are themselves being tested out in many states. In just a minute, one of our reporters takes a practice exam, but first the Common Core literacy standards. They're all about tackling tough reading, making sure kids are able to form ideas about what they read and to support those ideas in writing with evidence. Vermont Public Radio's Charlotte Albright went into the classroom.

CHARLOTTE ALBRIGHT, BYLINE: Newton School looks like a big white New England farmhouse perched on a hill in Strafford, a tiny village in the eastern part of the state. Inside, about 120 students from Pre-K to eighth grade hurry to class.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELECTRIC PENCIL SHARPENER)

ALBRIGHT: Kids in Ms. White's eighth grade history class sharpen their pencils. Today, they have a visitor. Joanna Hawkins is an education consultant and for the next 90 minutes she's in charge. They're beginning a new lesson on the Holocaust. To get things started, she invites a minute of conversation with the kids about the way Nazis forced Jews to publicly identify themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Like, they have the little yellow stars pinned to their jackets.

ALBRIGHT: Next up, Hawkins passes out copies of an article. It's a lesson in bad science, about how German scientists distorted the work of Charles Darwin to justify Hitler's rise to power.

JOANNA HAWKINS: The idea of evolution, of the survival of the fittest seemed to confirm a view of German nationalism and German power that was ascending in that society. Let's underline that whole sentence.

ALBRIGHT: After this exercise in close reading, Hawkins takes the class on what seems like a sharp turn.

HAWKINS: We're going to switch a little bit. Just switch your head to another piece of information that you have, that you have studied recently.

ALBRIGHT: It's a fable the kids have read about a blind sage who touches and elephant's tail and assumes...

HAWKINS: (Reading) I can feel the elephant and it feels exactly like a rope. Therefore, all elephants are like enormous ropes.

ALBRIGHT: Hawkins sends the fable, along with the article on social Darwinism, home with the students. Their assignment: read both closely and find connections between them.

HAWKINS: All right, ladies and gentlemen.

ALBRIGHT: A week later, Joanna Hawkins returns to the classroom. She guides the students through a structured exercise, filling in blanks on a chart as the discussion unfolds about good versus bad science in Hitler's Germany. The kids compare Nazi scientists to the blind sage who was so wrong about that elephant.

IDA WICK: So, instead of science controlling what people think, what people think is controlling science.

ALBRIGHT: That's Ida Wick. Her classmates search the article for quotes to support her idea. More ideas surface with more quotes to back them up. The students organize all this into a grid and copy it down. So at home when they start writing essays about Darwin and Hitler, they'll have a blueprint. Here's eighth grader Emma Bower.

EMMA BOWER: We are given, like, a good scaffold to put the evidence that we need. But the way we put together and meld all those words together is up to us.

ALBRIGHT: And for this middle school class, that's a lot of words. These kids get a written assignment just about every week, based on readings you might easily find on a college syllabus. For NPR News, I'm Charlotte Albright near Strafford, Vermont.


Part 2 of above: AN EDUCATION REPORTER PUTS HIMSELF TO THE (STANDARDIZED) TEST by Cory Turner, NPR Morning Edition



L.A. Times editorialist: “WHY MY FAMILY IS OPTING OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TESTING” + smf’s 2¢
BY Karin Klein, La Times Editorial Writer | HTTP://LAT.MS/1QJZUNV

April 8, 2014, 11:47 a.m. :: Sixteen consecutive years of the state's standardized testing are now under my belt, all of them spent covering the accountability program as a journalist, as well as having one or more of my three children filling in bubbles in public school for the annual assessments. And on the 17th year, the last spring that I have a student scheduled for testing, it's time for a rest.

My 16-year-old daughter is in standardized-test burnout mode, and to a lesser extent, so am I. Juniors are the only ones taking the test in high school this year in California; they start this week at her school. Eleventh grade also happens to be a big year for all kinds of tests. The PSAT. The SAT. The SAT 2 subject tests: three of them. There was a brief winter flirtation with the ACT. And next month, four Advanced Placement tests.

The California standards tests were never useful for my kids; of course, they're not designed for use at such a granular level. After one of the earlier versions gave a low score to my eldest on reading comprehension, my husband and I shrugged and knew there had to be something wrong with the test. That's the daughter who is now finishing off her dissertation for a doctorate in literature. (And yes, I know the chances are slim that she will be supporting me in my old age in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed.)

As a journalist, reviewing an early state test that had been leaked to the paper by a teacher, I saw how thin and fault-riddled it could be. One question asked students to mark what they thought would be the best title for a certain reading passage. The answer the test sought was obvious; the title was direct and on topic, though flat and uninteresting. There was another choice, a better one, it seemed to me. It wasn't as obvious an answer; it struck me as the one that a director would pick for a movie rather than the one a test creator would pick. The difference, if you will, between “Star Wars” and “Luke Travels in Space and Shoots Down a Big Weapon.”

The schools in Laguna Beach, where I live, don't go into testing high-alert each spring, for which I'm grateful. A couple of math classes gave a retroactive grade bonus to students who scored proficient or advanced. There are teachers who prep heavily for the spring test and those who don't. One year, my younger daughter's history teacher gave the class three weeks of straight practice tests. Later, my daughter noted with surprise how many of the questions in those practice tests had appeared on the official one, quite possibly because the state, to save money, repeated so many questions on the tests from year to year. Her English teacher that year -- the inspiring, engaging one -- surprised the students just as much by announcing she would do no test prep. She had given them her best all year, she said, and it was time for them to go forth and do their best. Her students got three more weeks of learning that year. I could tell you how my daughter fared on the tests, but an experimental universe of one doesn't yield meaningful results.

Opting out has occurred to me before, but that seemed selfish. The idea of the tests is to look at the larger picture of how much progress the schools, the districts and the state are making. Participation was the socially responsible thing to do.

The scores have risen impressively in our district, but I can't honestly say that I have noticed an improvement in actual learning over the years. What has been noticeable: more teachers who don't feel they have time to do the creative projects with their students that they used to do. There was one elementary school teacher I particularly wanted my youngest to be taught by; she conducted poetry tea parties with her students, nurturing a love of writing, listening to writing and some good old-fashioned manners. But by the time my daughter was lucky enough to be assigned to that teacher, the poetry teas had disappeared in favor of covering everything in the curriculum that would be on the test.

I'm hoping the Common Core curriculum standards will help, and several teachers have told me that they already do. The related curriculum covers fewer topics, allowing more time to delve into each.

I envy the home-schoolers, who take their children on exciting field trips, cover the curriculum quickly and efficiently, tackle more interesting projects, minimize the testing, maximize the learning and still have time to head for the beach during uncrowded weekdays. They seek out a local Audubon wilderness preserve that offers hands-on science lessons, at nominal cost, for all school-aged children. The public schools aren't allowed to bring their classes, the preserve's manager told me, because the lessons are adapted to the skills needed in the natural sciences rather than being aligned with the California curriculum as the state requires of field trips.

When I attended a talk in Los Angeles by Erica Jong a few months ago, I drove home wishing that my 16-year-old, who loves creative writing and has an over-tendency to perfectionism, had heard this strong, articulate woman talk about her first failure while writing “Fear of Flying,” and the anxieties about writing that never really disappear. I had an extra ticket, but Aviva had far too much homework that night.

My guilty sense was that I had gone along with the mind-numbing academic program for far too long; done too much to prep her for a life of tests and not enough to prep her for the pursuit of great and original adventures.

I'm not one for whining about standardized tests. (Not until now, anyway.) They have certain, limited uses. At their best, the state tests could be used to guide better teaching; at their worst, they are used as the main measure of educational quality. They're an imperfect fact of life, and one of the important lessons students get out of public schools is that life is not perfect. We deal with it.

But this year, knowing how much Aviva dreaded yet another bubble test, the words just came out: “We are allowed to opt out, you know.” (Actually, the field test is administered by computer, not a fill-in-the-bubble form.) She perked up so markedly, I had to write the waiver note to the school. The decisions we make as parents sometimes have to be different from those we make as a member of the larger society.

Her test results could, in an immeasurably small way, have helped the state draw up better exams in the future. Right now, I think the small, joyous rebellion of saying no, during the last year we have the chance, is more important for both of us. Take that, world of Scantron.

• Karin Klein is an editorial writer covering education, environment, religion and culture. She occasionally contributes columns to the op-ed page. She is the 2006-07 winner of the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writers, under which she spent a year studying and writing about the first wave of children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, now that they have reached adulthood.
Klein was previously an assignment editor with The Times, and also has worked at the Orange County Register, San Jose Mercury News and Sacramento Bee. She attended Wellesley College, did her graduate work in journalism at UC Berkeley, and is currently an adjunct professor of journalism at Chapman University in Orange. She lives in Laguna Beach, where she is a volunteer naturalist.

●●smf’s 2¢: California has been passé/blasé about the Common Core – and the No Child Left Behind testiness.

Up until now.

We had our own standards, We had our own tests. We had our own way of measuring results: (AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress] instead of NCLB’s API {Academic Progress Index] ) We had our own way of doing things.

No more. Now we have the so called “Common Core State Standards” – called that because “National Standards” would be

1. politically unpopular and
2. unconstitutional.

Plus 45 states (now 43) agreeing on common standards aren’t exactly national standards …and aren’t exactly state standards either!

And having two flavors of national tests (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) doesn’t exactly make them “national” either.

But isn’t Smarter Balanced a brand of margarine? What if some of us want want butter?

The Alderney
Said sleepily:
“You’d better tell
His Majesty
That many people nowadays
Like marmalade
Instead.”

The Common Core State Standards were dreamt up by the National Governor’s Association, completely independent of the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in them by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the political efforts by the Arne Duncan Department of Education – because governors by their very nature are inherently disinterested in money and politics. But in the end if the CCSS and their tests aren’t accepted by parents like Ms Klein – or if they don’t pass muster with the good citizens of Indiana and Oklahoma and the other states of the union they are doomed. Federal law says that the results of tests only count if 95% of students take them. If only 5% of parents take the route espoused by Ms. Klein the whole program is as doomed as the contents of a vegetable cart in the first shot of a chase scene in a car chase movie.


HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
SANTA MONICA COACH MAY BECOME A HERO FOR EXASPERATED TEACHERS: A teacher at Santa Monica High School was place... http://bit.ly/1iJ0tgi

"Teacher Jail" = DEASY JAIL [Picture] pic.twitter.com/nrp6PtzgF7

Teacher Jail=DEASY JAIL. "Please tell everybody you know to STOP saying Teacher Jail! It reinforces the (cont)http://tl.gd/n_1s1bkkc

SCIENCE TEACHER’S SUSPENSION SPURS PETITION DRIVE: Cortines School's Greg Schiller was removed by L.A. Unified...http://bit.ly/1quUPT7

Career Tech & Ag Ed: LEG PANEL REJECTS LOCAL CONTROL OVER SPECIALIZED ED PROGRAMS: by Kimberly Beltran SI&A C... http://bit.ly/1quU8cm

The Reed Case: L.A. UNIFIED SETTLES LAWSUIT OVER LAYOFFS: The agreement will provide $60 million in raises, se... http://bit.ly/1sE2Fh8

YESTERDAY’S LAUSD BOARD MEETING: The headlines say it all + smf’s 2¢: LAUSD outlines plan to spend $837 millio...http://bit.ly/1k6Vw4T

L.A. Times editorialist: “WHY MY FAMILY IS OPTING OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TESTING” + smf’s 2¢: By Karin Klei...http://bit.ly/PTy00g

IN TEACHER JAIL: by Gerald and Esther Schiller, from an email circulating widely Our son is in jail. But the...http://bit.ly/1ipgQOW

Twitter Quote: M.P.LaMotte:"We are giving away our schools and now we want to get rid of transparency - so we can do whatever we want in the dark of night"

More Bruce Fuller: "It's unclear whether (Deasy budget) meets the letter or spirit of Gov. Brown's finance reform."http://bit.ly/auDNT3

UC professor Bruce Fuller: Deasy’s proposal uses LCFF to pay for existing district programs paid for by other sources.http://bit.ly/auDNT3

LAUSD BUDGET: Some advocates say they oppose using LCFF to pay down debt or for an across-the-board salary hike |http://bit.ly/auDNT3

L.A. UNIFIED SUPT. DEASY UNVEILS NEW BUDGET PROPOSAL: By Howard Blume, L.A. Times | http://lat.ms/1lL7xPQ 8:0...http://bit.ly/OrzRYT


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
April 17, 2014 - Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee -
Start: 04/17/2014 11:00 am

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
• SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:
http://www.laschools.org/bond/
Phone: 213-241-5183
____________________________________________________
• LAUSD FACILITIES COMMUNITY OUTREACH CALENDAR:
http://www.laschools.org/happenings/
Phone: 213-241.8700


• LAUSD BOARD OF EDUCATION & COMMITTEES MEETING CALENDAR



What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member:
Tamar.Galatzan@lausd.net • 213-241-6386
Monica.Garcia@lausd.net • 213-241-6180
Bennett.Kayser@lausd.net • 213-241-5555
Marguerite.LaMotte@lausd.net • 213-241-6382
Monica.Ratliff@lausd.net • 213-241-6388
Richard.Vladovic@lausd.net • 213-241-6385
Steve.Zimmer@lausd.net • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: http://bit.ly/dqFdq2 • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at mayor@lacity.org • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Brown: 213-897-0322 e-mail:http://www.govmail.ca.gov/
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT. THEY DO!.


Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?


Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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Sunday, April 06, 2014

Briefly

Onward! 4LAKids4LAKids: Sunday 6•April•2014
In This Issue:
 • Moving the money around: DEASY'S PROPOSED BUDGET INCLUDES 1,200 NEW STAFF POSITIONS
 • STAKES RUN HIGH IN TRIAL RUN FOR EXAMS: Field-Testing Set to Begin on Common-Core Exams
 • OKLAHOMA MOVES TO DUMP COMMON CORE: A landslide vote in the Sooner State follows Indiana withdrawal.
 • DRUG ENFORCEMENT GONE WRONG: Should we allow cops posing as students to trick kids into breaking laws?
 • HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 • EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 • What can YOU do?


Featured Links:
 • Give the gift of a 4LAKids Subscription to a friend or colleague!
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 • 4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
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There’s a lot going on that I’m not going to go on about this week. Students are excelling and programs are successful. Oklahoma joined Indiana in opting out of the Common Core. iPads have been delivered. The Smarter Balanced test o’ th’ test has begun and we’ll see how that goes. The superintendent gave a speech at USC on Monday – Cesar Chavez Birthday – a speech that equated the Vergara Lawsuit (which in essence takes his union contract negotiations to the courts) with the great civil rights cases of the age. Maybe it’s his law student’s exposure to case law; maybe it was his Hollywood Moment: “But enough about the script and the cinematography …how did you like my performance on the witness stand?”

On Friday – after the deadlines for the evening news or the Saturday and probably Sunday papers – and certainly dodging the op-ed pages - the superintendent gave the press a first look at his draft proposed 2014-15 Budget Recommendations and his Formal Preliminary Draft of the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) http://bit.ly/1kbfs9x.

Both need and will get a lot of scrutiny …as well they should.

On the LCFF budget spreadsheet [http://bit.ly/1jPknu1] every line item is preceded by which bargaining unit it comes under – intimating that this, like all things in his universe, is a contract negotiation. (There is a line item for salary increase; there is no money attached to it. TBD = $0). The bargaining units (besides the ones contesting that $0) Dr. Deasy needs to deal with are going to be the LCAP Parent Advisory Committee (LCAP PAC), the District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) and the Board of Education, which begin to take up this work next week.

The product of Public Education is not balanced budgets or test scores, or the ratio of diplomas-awarded to entering-kindergartners; it is students successfully prepared for life. Not college or career: Life.

The work of the schools doesn’t happen at press conferences or in the courthouse or the boardroom or the capitol. The work happens at the schoolsite. In the front office and the classroom and hallways and playground and library.


HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL OUT THERE WAS DEALING WITH LAST WEEK – complicated by too much work, not enough time, respect, support or money.

• Seven murders in the surrounding neighborhood in the last two weeks.
• A was girl kidnapped walking home from the high school down the street. After attempting rape "they” poured gasoline on her, but she escaped. Thank God.
• One night last week “they” tried to break in and steal the school’s new computers but luckily the devices were locked behind steel doors.

And who are “they”, you ask? There’s a feud going on between the three local rival gangs – a turf war complicated by race and fueled by poverty and ignorance – a battle for the hearts-and-minds-and-lives of youngsters. “They” ultimately are the students from before that the system failed.

It doesn’t help that employee morale is low and nobody but the superintendent has received a raise in recent memory. It doesn’t help that our principal and every administrator in LAUSD got a pink slip on March 15th.Or that a school boardmember bragged no pink slips were issued “to teachers”.

Being told you may be laid off and then not being laid off is not exactly a perk!

The principal and the site council are desperately trying to up their security and add to the staff …but when push-comes-to-shove there is not enough money to work with to improve test scores and data metrics and keep kids and staff safe+learning.

The promise of Prop 30 and the LCFF is to return school districts to 2007-8 funding levels by 2018. Only this and nothing more.

So even with the Prop 30 money and the Common Core money the challenge at the schoolsite continues to be to do more with not-enough. The school started out the budget year with money earmarked for a special math program …a line item that got sucked up by things outside the principal’s control – like the District mandated copier contract. The LCFF funding should be discretionary but it’s not.

The principal won’t say it but allow me: There is little “Local” or “Control” or “Accountable” or “Planning” in the Superintendent’s Recommended Draft Budget/Draft Local Control Accountability Plan. Apparently it’s going to be necessary to spend the “new money” on other things – old things like the ‘structural deficit’ (ie: carried-over debt) and necessary things like paper towels and classroom supplies. More nurses and librarians and counselors and afterschool programs are bargaining chips. Salary increases are “TBD”.

And then there are the sparkly shiny things that someone in Beaudry thinks are a Civil Right.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf


Moving the money around: DEASY'S PROPOSED BUDGET INCLUDES 1,200 NEW STAFF POSITIONS
DEASY THE LAW STUDENT THINKS THE PLAN IS “…ABSOLUTELY IN LINE WITH THE TECHNICAL PART OF THE LAW." 

Annie Gilbertson | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC |http://bit.ly/1so96Vq

April 5th, 2014, 1:48am :: Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy on Friday proposed spending nearly half of the district's new targeted state money on special education next year - but that's not an increase in the program, rather a recalibrating of where the funds are coming from.

The proposal is part of his recommendations for the district's $6.8 billion budget, a $332 million increase over the current year's budget. It must be approved by the school board, which will begin budget discussions Tuesday.

New state law allocated $837 million to L.A. Unified next year towards the education of students who fall into at least one of California's new categories of need: low income, English language learners and foster youth. That's about 80 percent of L.A. Unified's students.

Over half of the targeted funds - what the law calls supplemental and concentration funding - would go to special education - but that $450 million is not an increase in district's special education budget from this year.

"I think we've proposed some investments that are absolutely in line with the technical part of the law," Deasy said at a press conference at district headquarters Friday afternoon.

A portion of the remaining $387 million would go to hire 1,200 new teaching and support positions. But Deasy proposes allowing the central office, not school principals, to dictate which schools get which placements.

"You just can’t say at the moment, well, I wanted a different position," Deasy said.

Under Deasy's staffing plan, the district's more than 8,000 foster students would get 60 new counselors, for a student-counselor ratio of of well over 100-to-1.

At $35 million, funds for targeted English language learner support, such as coaches and dual language programs, would stay the same as the current school year. So, too, would the $35 million for early education programs.

Deasy proposes using about $10 million of targeted funds to pay for nearly 100 technology support positions for his iPad program.

Schools would get about 10 percent of targeted funds in cash, which principals could use for a variety of programs.

Earlier this year, Deasy advocated for giving principals more leeway in spending decisions, at a time when the state board of education was weighing if they should strictly guide how districts spent the new money.

"School communities know their students best," Deasy told a group of education advocates in January. "They should have the maximum autonomy about how to spend that within the right parameters.”

Deasy said Friday he is still committed to the idea, but said it would take a couple years to develop such parameters.

The United Way of Los Angeles has brought many community groups together around the issue in the past several weeks, demanding principals have autonomy in spending dollars meant for their high need students.

Some of the additional money coming to the school system will be used to begin to restore school libraries. But the 15 new middle school librarians Deasy proposes, while doubling their ranks, won't come close to opening all 84 middle school libraries.

District officials said they'd allocate staff to the neediest schools first, and many may not get any new positions next year.

The teachers' union has advocated that staffing be restored at all schools to pre-recession levels. Opponents to that approach say it wouldn't target high needs students as the state's new funding law intended.

Overall, almost all schools can expect more resources next year. But because of targeted funding, district officials estimate about dozen schools with very few high needs students will get less.

●●smf’s 2¢: How is supplanting $450 million to fund-but-not -enhance an ongoing program technically “supplemental”?

• QUOTE O' TH' WEEK: “Deasy said he expects each school to have complete control of its budget within the next 2 years.”http://bit.ly/1q6bQCN 5
• DEASY RELEASES DRAFT OF LAUSD’S NEXT BUDGET, WITH NEW MONEY: by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report | |http://bit.ly/1q4dNjj


First Look: SUPERINTENDENT’S DRAFT PROPOSED BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS & FORMAL PRELIMINARY DRAFT OF THE LOCAL CONTROL ACCOUNTABILITY PLAN



STAKES RUN HIGH IN TRIAL RUN FOR EXAMS: Field-Testing Set to Begin on Common-Core Exams
BY CATHERINE GEWERTZ | EDUCATION WEEK | HTTP://BIT.LY/1DZKIIT

Published in Print: March 26, 2014 [Includes correction(s): March 27, 2014] :: This week marks a major milestone in an assessment project of unprecedented scope: the start of field-testing season for new, shared tests of a common set of academic standards.

Between March 24 and June 6, more than 4 million students in 36 states and the District of Columbia will take near-final versions of the tests in mathematics and English/language arts. Those exams—tied to the Common Core State Standards that all but a handful of states have adopted—were created by a bevy of vendors hired at the request of two groups of states: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

“I don’t think a trial of this magnitude has been done anytime in the history of student testing in the U.S.,” said Keith Rust, a vice president at the Rockville, Md.-based Westat, where he oversees the sampling of schools and students for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

The exercise won’t produce detailed, scaled scores of student performance; that part is still a year away. Instead, this spring’s field-testing is a crucial part of the assessments’ design stage, undertaken to see what works and what doesn’t. Questions like these are on test-makers’ minds: Will schools’ hardware and bandwidth be able to handle large-scale, computer-based testing? Do the tests work equally well on desktops, laptops, and tablets? Which items might confuse or overwhelm students?

Immense stakes are riding on the field tests. The federal government is watching closely to see how well its $360 million investment—awarded in grants to the state consortia developing the exams—is paying off so far, especially since it has let more than a dozen states drop all or part of their current testing regimens in order to participate fully in the field tests.

States that pledged loyalty to the project need to see that they can rely on the tests, since those states plan to base crucial decisions on them—such as how to evaluate schools, teachers, and students—within a year or two after the final tests are available in spring 2015.

School districts have made massive investments in technology to manage the consortium tests, and have spent countless hours preparing teachers, students, and parents for the new system—all on the faith that enduring the inevitable problems during the transition will pay off in a much better assessment than what they’ve been using. Amid a wave of anti-testing sentiment, many parents and activists are poised to seize on problems in field-testing as one more sign that large-scale testing is misguided.

A Combustible Moment

Those elements create a combustible moment: An experiment deliberately designed to uncover weaknesses in a high-profile test takes place under intense public scrutiny.

“The consortia are going to have to be pretty confident they’ll see minor glitches, but not major problems,” Mr. Rust said. “You wouldn’t want to go into this on a wing and a prayer. If it goes badly wrong, it shakes people’s confidence that it will be right the next time.”

In fact, just days before the planned March 18 start date for field-testing by Smarter Balanced, the organization took the major step of postponing the launch by one week to allow time for what Jacqueline King, a spokeswoman for the consortium, called some final “quality checking.” She said the delay was not about the test’s content, but rather ensuring that all the important elements, including the software and accessibility features—such as read-aloud assistance for certain students with disabilities—were working together seamlessly.

Making Assessments More Accessible

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium say their computer-based tests will offer an array of accessibility features. Many of these features can be used by any student, but some are geared specifically to students with disabilities, or to English-language learners. The field tests will offer the first opportunity for students to try the accommodations in a test situation.

There are some key differences between the field tests and the fully operational assessments that will be used in the spring of 2015. Length, for instance: Students will typically be involved in three to four hours of field-testing, less than half as long as what they’ll face next spring.

In the real PARCC test, students will take both a multiple-choice, end-of-year component and a more extended and complex performance-based section. On the field test, only 25 percent to 30 percent of students will take both pieces, and only in one subject, said Jeffrey Nellhaus, the director of assessment for PARCC. The rest will take either the end-of-year or performance segment.

The Smarter Balanced operational test in 2015 will be computer-adaptive—adjusting the difficulty of questions to the student’s skill level—but the field test, for the most part, will not be. A small number of students will get the adaptive version at the end of the field-testing window, said Ms. King. That’s because test-makers will use the questions students answer earlier in the field test to calibrate the adaptivity of the test engine later in the field-testing window.

Representative Samples

While some schools volunteered to participate in the field tests, most were chosen by their state or their state’s consortium as the multistate groups sought to build demographically representative samples of students. The result is a distribution of students taking the field tests that is wide nationally but not, in general, deep in individual schools.

The PARCC field tests will involve about 10 percent of the students in the participating states and districts, but they are scattered across half the schools. That pattern is deliberate and beneficial, Mr. Nellhaus said.

“A more spread-out testing pattern,” he said, “means that you won’t get a clustering effect in the sampling” that could magnify the impact of anomalous conditions in any one place. “It also avoids a heavy impact on school life.”

Most students are taking the field tests in only math or English/language arts; a subset will be tested in both subjects. Some states, however, such as California, Connecticut, Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota, have chosen to wade much deeper into the field-test exercise. They’re involving all—or nearly all—of their students. While that takes a greater toll on schools’ time and focus, leaders in those states decided that the payoff would justify the effort.

Those states were among the ones that obtained waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to cut back or eliminate their existing state tests to free up time to try the field tests. Since the new tests aren’t final, the data they produce can’t be used for accountability purposes, so the federal government has agreed to let the waiver states hold their accountability ratings steady for another year.

“We decided that it was a great opportunity for students to experience the test when it doesn’t count,” said Deborah V.H. Sigman, the deputy state superintendent of education in California, where 95 percent of the students will answer Smarter Balanced field test items in both subjects, and the rest will take the test only in one content area.

“It’s also a way for adults in the [school] building to think about what they need to do to optimize the experience for next year.”

Some districts are doing more comprehensive field-testing than their states. The suburban system in Burlington, Mass., 15 miles west of Boston, chose to give the PARCC field test to every student in grades 3-11 in both subjects. Eric Conti, the superintendent of the 3,600-student district, said he thinks it’s good for adults and students to experience something “as close to the real thing” as possible.

A federal waiver allows Massachusetts students participating in the PARCC field test to skip the state’s regular testing under the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, although 10th graders still must take the MCAS to graduate.

Burlington was originally chosen by PARCC to do only the paper-and-pencil version of the field test, and only in some classrooms, in grades 3, 4, 8 and 10, Mr. Conti said. But he wanted to put his district’s technological readiness to the test—it has a computer for every student—so he appealed to the state for permission to use the computer-based version with all children in tested grades, he said.

The district has made a deliberate research subject of itself, not only with PARCC, but with the Cambridge, Mass.-based Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy. Working with the state teachers’ union, the superintendents’ association, and the state education department, the Rennie Center will examine what happens in different field-testing scenarios in Burlington and in Revere, a small urban district near Boston.

Burlington, for instance, will “livestream” the field test, so any loss of its network connections will interrupt the exam availability, Mr. Conti said. Revere, on the other hand, will “cache” the field test, downloading it and pumping it out locally. Burlington is trying the field test on varying devices, including iPads, Chromebooks, Mac desktops, and PCs, in a bid to see what works well and what doesn’t.

“It makes no sense to show off technologically,” Mr. Conti said. “We could probably test all our kids in three days. Our network could handle it. Instead, it will be a three-week disruption.

“But the point is to see what happens,” he said. “As a superintendent, I plan 18 months in advance. When we do it live a year from now, it will impact my budget if we have to make changes. I’d rather know that sooner than later.”

Balancing Opposition, Potential

The Nashville, Tenn., school system illustrates both the promise and the risks districts face when taking part in what the consortium test designers call “testing the test.” About 10 percent of the district’s 83,000 students will take the PARCC field test, either in math or in English/language arts.

Jesse Register, the district’s director of schools, said he thinks the experience will “take away the fear of the unknown” for teachers, students, and parents. It also complements the work the district has been doing to invest heavily in technological infrastructure and in training teachers to use technology to differentiate instruction, he said.

Since Nashville’s schools enroll one-third of Tennessee’s English-language learners, Mr. Register considers his district’s participation pivotal to ensuring the PARCC test works well for students whose native language isn’t English. “For our data to be included in how PARCC is going is important to influencing the design of the test,” he said.

Even as the Nashville schools inform a potentially better test, the district is treading on bumpy turf. Without a federal waiver for Tennessee, Nashville’s students will have to take both the PARCC field tests and the state’s regular assessments. And that likely will draw some criticism, Mr. Register said.

“We’re getting some pushback now about too much assessment,” he said. “We have to communicate very effectively with our parents and with our teachers to make sure this doesn’t become a negative.”

Looking for Weak Spots

More than a few worries are shadowing the landscape as field-testing gets underway. Technological capacity is high on the list.

“We have 60 computers in one computer lab in our school. Our tech people are worried about our servers,” said Kristin Winder, a 6th grade teacher in Great Falls, Mont.

One district experienced such problems in the run-up to the PARCC field tests that it decided against participating. District sources said their faith was undermined by last-minute changes in test dates, student files uploaded but then lost, and other logistical and communications slip-ups.

“We simply couldn’t allow our system’s first experience with PARCC to be a negative one,” a district official said in a confidential email obtained by Education Week. “We believe it would have undermined our work and our staff. Students and parents deserve better.”

The complexity of mounting field tests on such a large scale is daunting. PARCC’s field-test-administration manual weighs in at 180 pages. The readiness exercise has spawned countless memos and staff meetings across states and districts as systems gear up for the field test. Educators have spent time trying practice tests with students, and administrators overseeing the coming exams have experimented with “training tests.”

“You can imagine the planning it takes to put something like this in place,” Ms. Sigman said of preparing for the Smarter Balanced field tests.

Some see big benefits in all that planning, as it provides a glimpse into how the common standards should inform instruction and a preview of the forthcoming tests. Others see those hours as a tragic mischanneling of education energy and resources.

“Schools are spending all this money trying to get wired and ready for PARCC and Smarter Balanced. And who’s getting that money? Corporations,” said Peggy Robertson, an Aurora, Colo., literacy coach who co-founded United Opt Out National, which seeks to eliminate high-stakes standardized tests. “The less money schools have, the more likely it is that they’ll fail. All of it is a setup for charter schools and the privatization of public education.”

Teams from each consortium will be watching many aspects of field-testing closely to figure out what works well and what doesn’t.

Questions of technology loom large: How many children can a given school test at one time? If a teacher is streaming video in her classroom while other children take the test down the hall, will it overload the system?

The teams are looking for many other outcomes as well. What kinds of answers does a given question elicit from a range of students? Test designers will have detailed student-level information—pegged to unique new identifiers to protect students’ identities—to enable them to see if some questions stump subgroups of students, such as those in a given area of the country or those from certain racial or socioeconomic backgrounds. Do students who perform well on most parts of the field test consistently trip on some items?

Those kinds of observations will lead to a weeding-out or revision of questions, typically as many as 10 to 20 percent of the total, Ms. King of Smarter Balanced said.

Other questions involve how to scale and score the tests. PARCC officials, for instance, will be considering whether to treat the end-of-year portion and the performance-task portion as separate exams, with separate scales and scores, or to combine them into “one big test,” Mr. Nellhaus said. And if they are combined, should the two pieces be weighted differently?

In the end, the two consortia are keenly aware that they’re asking a lot of participating schools and districts: major time investments and schedule disruptions for what amounts to a research project to refine the test.

“This is why we do this,” Ms. King said. “To see what works and what doesn’t.”

Even some of those most committed to the project are feeling trepidation. One district official who described himself as “knee deep” in preparations said he is bracing for blowback from his staff and his parent community if even moderate problems arise with the test.

“I just hope it’s worth it in the end,” he said.


OKLAHOMA MOVES TO DUMP COMMON CORE: A landslide vote in the Sooner State follows Indiana withdrawal.
BY ALEC TORRES, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE | HTTP://BIT.LY/1H1MILW

APRIL 2, 2014 5:31 PM :: The Oklahoma state senate passed a bill Tuesday to withdraw the state from the Common Core standards. If the bill is signed by Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma will become the second state to withdraw from the Common Core.

Indiana withdrew last week, with Governor Mike Pence’s signature.

The bill to get the Sooner State was hugely popular in both houses. House Bill 3399 was approved by the state house in a 78 to 12 vote before being sent to the state senate for amendments. On Tuesday, the state senate voted 37 to 10 in favor of the bill. The bill will now go to the House for another vote before being sent to the governor’s desk.

Oklahoma was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core standards in June of 2010, after a vote by the state board of education. However, the Sooner State later dropped out of the Common Core’s standardized testing consortium in the summer of 2013. Fallin then issued an executive order in December directing the Secretary of Education to make sure the federal government “does not intrude in Oklahoma’s development of academic curricula and teaching strategies.”

State representative Jason Nelson, an author and co-sponsor of HB 3399, is confident that the bill will pass its last vote and that Fallin will sign it.

“The strong votes [for the bill] are not an illusion,” Nelson tells National Review Online. “There’s really strong support in both the house and the senate.”

Fallin did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. She has expressed reservations about a prior version of the bill.

On March 24 — on the same day Governor Pence signed legislation withdrawing Indiana from the Common Core standards — Fallin released a statement praising state authority and criticizing the Common Core.

“As we work to raise the bar in our schools, it is essential that higher academic standards are developed and implemented by and for Oklahomans,” Fallin wrote. “We have no interest in relinquishing control over education to the federal government or outside groups.”

Fallin wrote that she would support legislation repealing the Common Core, if the legislation “increases classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference.” She did not consider the earlier version of HB 3399 before amendments satisfactory, but but said she hopes it will “ultimately be signed into law.”

Nelson believes the legislature has fulfilled the governor’s request. “I think she would probably sign it because we’ve addressed the concerns that the standards are not watered down,” Nelson says.

HB 3399 still allows the Oklahoma state board of education — in consultation with the state’s higher education and vocational training systems– to preserve aspects of the Common Core standards, if it so chooses.

“Specifically, the bill says that the state cannot cede its control over our standards or our student assessments,” Nelson says, “or relinquish our authority over those standards and assessments.” The bill, he says, would still leave the state free to use selected Common Core standards.

If the bill is signed into law, Oklahoma will transition away from the Common Core standards over the next few years as it develops its own standards.


DRUG ENFORCEMENT GONE WRONG: Should we allow cops posing as students to trick kids into breaking laws?

Op-Ed By Theshia Naidoo and Lynne Lyman | L.A. Times |http://lat.ms/1so1wKk

April 6, 2014 :: Jesse Snodgrass had recently transferred to Chaparral High School in Temecula and was feeling out of place and alone in 2012 when a boy named Dan, another newcomer, befriended him. Jesse, a 17-year-old autistic student, wasn't good at making friends and he was pleased by the overture. But there was something he didn't know about Dan: He was an undercover narcotics officer attending class at Chaparral hoping to bust student drug dealers.

Dan quickly began exerting pressure on Jesse to sneak a pill from his parent's medicine cabinet or buy him some marijuana. Jesse, whose demeanor and speech clearly signal his autism, was at first at a loss for how to meet his friend's request. But he finally sought out a homeless man near a dispensary and traded a $20 bill Dan had given him for a plastic bag containing less than a gram of marijuana leaves. A few months after the two young men met, Jesse was arrested and found himself alone and bewildered in juvenile detention.

Jesse was lucky to have parents who stood by him and helped him navigate the court system. A judge has now purged his record of the drug charge, and an administrative law judge issued a scathing ruling that the school could not expel him, saying that the evidence was overwhelming that his disability had influenced his actions.

But we as a society still have some soul-searching to do. Should we really allow adults to dress up as kids, embed themselves in school classrooms and trick children into breaking the law?

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department regularly targets high school students, sometimes, as in this case, inspiring crime where it otherwise would not have existed. In the last four years, the department has staged four undercover sting operations in which adult officers, masquerading as high school students, repeatedly pressured students to obtain illegal substances for them. Over the last four years, nearly 100 students, a number of whom were special-needs students, have been arrested.

It is unclear why the Riverside sheriff continues to use this ill-advised strategy, and why area school districts continue to allow it. Such stings have been abandoned by many law enforcement agencies and banned by school districts across the country. The Los Angeles Unified School District hasn't allowed undercover stings in its schools since 2004, when it concluded that they had the potential to harm students but had not reduced the availability of drugs on campus. The National Assn. of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officials has concluded that undercover high school operations have a high potential for bad outcomes for kids without evidence of corresponding good results for communities.

Building on the efforts of Jesse's family, the Drug Policy Alliance has been working to call attention to the problem in Riverside County through community education. We also recently sent a letter to the superintendents of 20 Riverside County school districts urging them not to allow undercover law enforcement operations on their campuses.

The letter noted that operations of this kind are not only ineffective in combating drug availability on campus, they also can inflict irreparable harm on young people struggling with the challenges of adolescence or special needs.

Children should receive honest drug education from their schools, not face deception and betrayal by people they think are their peers. Inevitably, as in the case of Jesse Snodgrass, high school drug stings will ensnare some students who would never have been involved in obtaining or selling drugs without being manipulated by undercover officers. Is pushing students into illicit activities really the best use of scant law enforcement resources?

Educators, parents, students and the community at large should call on law enforcement agencies to do real police work rather than targeting children in schools. Simply adding to arrest statistics, regardless of the consequences, does not protect schools or communities.

• Theshia Naidoo is a senior staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance. Lynne Lyman is the California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.


HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
AB 215: DEAL ANNOUNCED ON ‘SEVERE MISCONDUCT’ TEACHER DISMISSAL BILL THAT GOVERNOR WOULD SUPPORT + smf’s 2¢: B... http://bit.ly/1q6qslI

STAKES RUN HIGH IN TRIAL RUN FOR EXAMS: Field-Testing Set to Begin on Common-Core Exams: By Catherine Gewertz ... http://bit.ly/1jiDgVo

OKLAHOMA MOVES TO DUMP COMMON CORE: A landslide vote in the Sooner State follows Indiana withdrawal.: By Alec ...http://bit.ly/1jiyaZf

DEASY RELEASES DRAFT OF LAUSD’S NEXT BUDGET, WITH NEW MONEY: by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report | http:...http://bit.ly/1q4dNjj

First Look: SUPERINTENDENT’S DRAFT PROPOSED BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS & FORMAL PRELIMINARY DRAFT OF THE LOCAL CONT... http://bit.ly/1q4cdOn

BATTLE LINES FORMING IN LA UNIFIED FOR ‘LOCAL CONTROL’ SPENDING: by Vanessa Romo, L.A. School Report | http://...http://bit.ly/1shD1OY

Deasy to run his Budget+Local Control Funding Plans up flagpole today for press in advance of Bd of Ed&LCAP Committee http://bit.ly/PxO8UT

A2Z :: BEN AUSTIN ANSWERS STEVE ZIMMER ON VERGARA: Don't miss it unless you possibly can! | http://bit.ly/1oycjSY

Report: FOUNDATION FUNDING WIDENS THE GAP BETWEEN CALIFORNIA’S ‘RICH’ AND ‘POOR’ SCHOOLS + smf’s 2¢: Adolfo Gu... http://bit.ly/1pWpbzn

RE SCHOOL FOUNDATION FUNDING: Where does Deasy/Chernin LA Fund – w/Century City office+$200M goal - come into this? http://bit.ly/QIkpd5

‘High Quality Teachers Act of 2014’: VERGARA-LIKE BALLOT INITIATIVE PULLED UNTIL 2016, REPORT SAYS: Projected ...http://bit.ly/1jAH70y

Deasy at USC: VERGARA IS THE NEXT BIG CIVIL RIGHTS CASE: Posted on by Vanessa Romo | LA School Report | http:... http://bit.ly/1pL23UB

Pencils down, iPads up! - LA SCHOOLS’ NEW EXAM STRATEGY PUT TO THE TEST + smf’s 2¢: Annie Gilbertson | Pass / ...http://bit.ly/PiE81T

Nutritious but uneaten: SOLUTIONS SOUGHT TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE IN SCHOOLS: Federal rules require students to ta... http://bit.ly/1dR9WWv

CBS: “City Council Eyes Limits On Street Sweeping Parking Restrictions Near LA Schools” | http://cbsloc.al/1opOA7r

@ladailynews LAUSD investigates as Sunny Brae Elementary principal is removed in Winnetka amid misconduct allegationhttp://bit.ly/1jyVin1
The “other” CORE: TEACHERS UNION FIGHTS NEW PLAN BY SACRAMENTO, LAUSD AND OTHER SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO ADDRESS LO... http://bit.ly/PeNCLp

The “other” CORE: The @COREdistriWaiver: 1 No Union buy-in. 2 No Community buy-in 3 No Bd of Ed buy-in. Do we renew on May1? | http://bit.ly/PeNCLp

A Teacher in L.A: WHO IS JOHN DEASY??: by “Geronimo” from Diane Ravitch’s blog | http://bit.ly/Pa0Sko March ...http://bit.ly/1hUi6cG


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
UNITED WAY OF GREATER L.A. is planning a STUDENT RALLY in front of LAUSD Administrative Headquarters on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. The group has been issued a permit to close Beaudry Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets from 6:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Approximately 450 participants are expected.

●●smf: APPARENTLY UNITED WAY IS ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO BE ABSENT FROM SCHOOL FOR A PHOTO OP IN FURTHERANCE OF THEIR POLITICAL AGENDA. No permit has been granted to excuse students from school. Keeping students out of school during school hours is an act of civil disobedience and parents and community organizations who permit this activity should be held accountable.
Any parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of any pupil who fails to comply with the California compulsory attendance law , unless excused or exempted therefrom, is guilty of an infraction.

_____________________________________________

REGULAR MEETING OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION - April 8, 2014 -- Start: 10:00 am
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
• SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:
http://www.laschools.org/bond/
Phone: 213-241-5183
____________________________________________________
• LAUSD FACILITIES COMMUNITY OUTREACH CALENDAR:
http://www.laschools.org/happenings/
Phone: 213-241.8700


• LAUSD BOARD OF EDUCATION & COMMITTEES MEETING CALENDAR



What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member:
Tamar.Galatzan@lausd.net • 213-241-6386
Monica.Garcia@lausd.net • 213-241-6180
Bennett.Kayser@lausd.net • 213-241-5555
Marguerite.LaMotte@lausd.net • 213-241-6382
Monica.Ratliff@lausd.net • 213-241-6388
Richard.Vladovic@lausd.net • 213-241-6385
Steve.Zimmer@lausd.net • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: http://bit.ly/dqFdq2 • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at mayor@lacity.org • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Brown: 213-897-0322 e-mail:http://www.govmail.ca.gov/
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT. THEY DO!.


Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?


Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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