Sunday, May 23, 2004

4LAKids: Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

No News is Really Not Enough News ...but it fits.

It’s been a little slow at the ol’ LAUSD this past week
— slow after the recent excitement over the school
district budget and restructuring the local districts. Of
course, the budget isn’t solved ....and the mini-districts
aren’t resolved.

The Governor has delivered his May revision to the
state budget. It, or something appallingly close to it,
will undoubtedly pass the legislature. There’s not
enough money, but there’s more then we thought
there’d be.

We find ourselves in the meteorologically
metaphorical eye of the storm. The Superintendent is
on vacation. The School Board President will soon be
off on vacation. The County Office of Education waits.
Principals and School Site Councils wait. 750,000 kids
wait. We wait.

Q: Will the number of mini-districts be reduced?
A: Almost certainly.

Q: How many will remain?
A: Somewhere between 4 and 6 seems to be the
conventional wisdom; my guess would be 6 rather than
4. 5 is a compromise number.

Q: What will this mean?
A: That remains to be seen. If the mini-districts
become support structures for the schools - with true
decision making at the school site, principals
empowered and accountable, etc. – true reform of
LAUSD just might be in the wings! I’m not holding
my breath.

Q: What about the budget?
A: There apparently has been some creative
budgeteering at 333 S. Beaudry and some ‘unidentified
funds’ have been ‘identified’ to save some counseling
positions in secondary schools. That’s a good thing.
Hopefully the same can be said about school
psychologists and nurses. There certainly is sympathy
on the Board to return all or most of the $50 per
student back to the schools. Hopefully that money will
be returned unencumbered — hopefully it won’t come
with the “you save the counselors, psychologists and
nurses you want so badly” string attached!

It is, as they say in B-Movies: “Quiet. ....too Quiet!”

Memos with small bits of good news go out from
mini-district offices. Mostly it’s all about waiting for
the Board meeting on June 8th.

The District is in the middle of testing, that will keep a
lot of folks occupied. The new school year starts in
five weeks for year ‘round schools — and they don’t
know what their budget will look like, what their final
staffing numbers look like, how many reams of Xerox
paper and cases of paper towels and #2 pencils they
will have until June 9th at the best!

The District is beginning it’s roll out of Full Day
Kindergarten on July 1st in some schools — with a
commitment for districtwide implementation in four
years. This is probably the most important educational
initiative ever undertaken in LAUSD. The voters voted
$100 million dollars for this in Measure R and two
things are quite apparent.

1. There isn’t a budget or a plan on how to use that
money - and not one cent of bond funds can be spent
without both being done in advance.

2. $100 million isn’t going to be enough.

And in addition to the money ...the mission is being
questioned. LAUSD is too large to roll out a program
as big as FDK universally ...and I agree — we have to
start somewhere. But I’m not happy with the level of
planning to date, we seem just one or two steps
removed from ‘making it up as we go along’. Next
yaers kindergarteners deserve better!
[See: FDK: When 'Fair' Goes Too Far]

So, what can you do?

• Phone, write, e-mail your Board Member and the

• Ask for/Request/Plead for/Demand real reform in
LAUSD/The Budget/Full Day K. And in the Local
Districts. And at your school. With local accountability
and local control. Ask how principals and teachers can
possibly be held accountable when the decisions are
made elsewhere? Ask questions. Require answers.

• Ask that the decision making process in school
district reform/restructuring be opened up, that we –
the parents, the community, taxpayers, the public – be
engaged in it. Ask for a School District that is ours,
one we can work with and make this city proud of.

• Advocate for Kids. Plan to come on down to the
Board of Education on Tuesday June 6th at 1PM !

LA Times Editorial: FULL DAY K – When 'Fair' Goes Too Far
Editorial: May 23, 2004

The decision by Los Angeles school officials to offer
full-day kindergarten this fall seems a no-brainer.
Research shows that the extended classes deliver
benefits that last for years. The district has set aside
$100 million to pay for the additional classrooms, and
the school board voted 6 to 0 to begin phasing in the
popular classes next semester. So why did Supt. Roy
Romer have to plead in Sacramento for the program's
life? Because full-day kindergarten is the latest symbol
in a debate over how far an academically struggling
district such as Los Angeles Unified should bend to
balance benefits and burdens across its large, diverse
student body.

In this case, crowded inner-city schools won't be able
to offer the longer day program because they have no
room for expanded classes. Less-crowded schools will
start full-day kindergarten this fall, thanks to a waiver
from the state Board of Education exempting the
program from laws requiring equitable treatment of all
students. Is that fair? No. Is it a good decision?

The district plans full-day kindergarten at every school
within four years. Among the 180 schools in the first
round are most of the best-performing elementary
campuses, but officials promise that the next group
will include more struggling schools. That imperfect
solution reflects the reality of balancing needs in a
district that draws children from million-dollar homes
in the Palisades and converted garages in Pacoima.

The challenge is to equalize opportunity for deprived
kids without alienating the middle-income families who
had stayed with the district..

Fifteen years ago, every school in the district was put
on a year-round schedule to share the burden of

Later, fundraising at individual schools was limited to
keep wealthier neighborhoods from shoring up
academic programs beyond what schools in poor
neighborhoods could afford.* Both moves cost the
district middle-class support. More than three-quarters
of district students now come from homes so poor that
they get free or reduced-price school lunches. The
district's school-building program, however, has
middle-class parents taking a second look at public
schools; full-day kindergarten would be another lure.

Studies show that full-day kindergarten helps children
learn faster and perform better for years. Poor,
immigrant children benefit most, and United
Teachers-Los Angeles has argued that their schools
ought to get full-day kindergarten first.

"Again, the 'haves' get help and the 'have nots' don't,"
complains teachers union official Mike Dreebin. "What
do you tell those parents [at overcrowded campuses]
who know there are schools in other parts of the
district that will have the classes and they won't?"

More damaging to the district itself, however, would
be telling other parents that their children can't have a
proven beneficial program because a school across
town doesn't yet have space.

* I don’t think that ‘every school in the district’ was
ever really put on a year-round schedule! And limits on
fundraising, though contemplated, have never been
enforced in LAUSD. —smf

TESTING ...1 ...2: One Poor Test Result: Cheating Teachers
Reseda School Puts Character Above Scores

smf notes: This story - about adults cheating on student’s tests - has been covered previously as a national story in 4LAKids; this coverage brings it home.

The truth is that the tests really no longer simply measure student achievement, they gauge teachers, principals and school districts! Still, with CAT6 testing underway in LAUSD, these storys bring home just how important standardized
testing has become ...with just a bit of the film@eleven/ sweeps week/eyewitness news’ dramatic intensity!


By Erika Hayasaki - LA Times Staff Writer

May 21, 2004 - One cheater whispered answers in
students' ears as they took the exam. Another
photocopied test booklets so students would know
vocabulary words in advance. Another erased score
sheets marked with the wrong answers and substituted
correct ones.

None of these violations involving California's
standardized tests were committed by devious
students: These sneaky offenders were teachers.

Since a statewide testing program began five years
ago, more than 200 California teachers have been
investigated for allegedly helping students on state
exams, and at least 75 of those cases have been
proved, according to documents obtained by The

Most cases have led to reprimands and warnings that
future scores will be monitored, but a few teachers
have been fired or have resigned, say school
administrators and union officials.

Some educators say teacher cheating comes as no
surprise, given increased anxiety surrounding state
tests and the federal use of them under the No Child
Left Behind law.

While students may want to do well on those tests to
please parents or avoid remedial classes, their regular
report cards are more important. But principals
pressure teachers to work on raising scores not just for
bragging rights. The staff of a school with consistently
bad results can be reassigned and federal funding can
be withheld.

"Some people feel that they need to boost test scores
by hook or by crook," said Larry Ward of the National
Center for Fair and Open Testing, a watchdog group
that has criticized many standardized tests. "The more
pressure, the more some people take the unethical

Nearly 2,500 pages of documents from a Public
Records Act request detail cases of teachers allowing
extra time, erasing and changing score sheets, reading
answers and dropping hints during tests.

Some records include detailed investigations but omit
the teachers' names and possible punishment. Others
identify only the district and campus. Some cases were
blatant, while others were found to be a result of
confusion over testing rules.

According to state documents, incidents in the last five
years include the following:

• In the San Joaquin Valley's Merced County, a
third-grade Planada School District teacher gave hints
to answers and left a poster on a wall that also
provided clues.

• In the Inland Empire, a Rialto Unified School
District third-grade teacher admitted telling students:
"You missed a few answers; you need to go back and
find the ones you missed." A student reported that the
teacher looked over pupils' shoulders and told them
how many questions were wrong.

• Near the Mexican border, in the El Centro
Elementary School District, a principal asked a student
why he had erased so many answers. The student
responded that the teacher had told him to "fix them."

• In El Monte, a Mountain View School District
eighth-grade teacher admitted using the board to
demonstrate a math problem and saying, "This is a silly
answer. If you marked this one, erase it and pick
another." Records stated that the teacher "said she was
very sorry and wept during the interview."

• In the Ontario-Montclair School District, a student
told investigators that a teacher read 10 math answers.
One student said he handed his test booklet to that
teacher and then went back to change five answers
after the teacher said, "Why don't you try again?"

• Near Salinas, a Hollister School District teacher
admitted changing about 15 answers.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, testing
official Esther Wong said her office investigated three
to four potential teacher cheating cases a year. Most
cases were cleared after inquiries showed that "there
were just as many erasures from wrong to right as
right to wrong."

Several years ago at L.A. Unified's Banning High
School in Wilmington, one teacher resigned and a
dozen were disciplined after they showed exam copies
to students before testing.

Statewide, most testing "irregularities" are detected by
a computer analysis flagging classes with unusually
high numbers of erased answers. Investigations can
also start with tips from parents, students or staff.

"People are paying more attention to it in local
districts," Bill Padia, director of policy and evaluation
for the state Department of Education, said of
potential cheating by teachers.

California allows districts to determine punishments,
and most districts, citing privacy, do not disclose those

"I'm sure there are some districts who don't take it as
seriously as others, but we don't get involved," said
Les Axelrod of the state Education Department.

Beverly Tucker, California Teachers Assn. chief
counsel for 16 years, said the number of teachers her
office defended against allegations of cheating had
risen. She could recall one or two cases stemming
from the decade before the current testing began.
Since 1999, she estimated, the union has defended
more than 100.

"It's serious," Tucker said. "And I can understand
there might be cases where dismissal is warranted
because of a blatant violation…. Teachers really are
supposed to model appropriate behavior for children."

Under a previous testing program, cheating was
discovered at 40 elementary schools statewide in 1985.
L.A. Unified that year turned up 11 additional schools
where teachers changed answers or coached during the

California Teachers Assn. President Barbara Kerr said
that the union didn't excuse cheating but that she felt
bad for teachers who broke rules under what she
described as "horrendous" pressure.

"We have gone to such extremes — where your whole
life and existence is measured by one test — that the
pressure is on the kids, the pressure is on the teachers,
the publicity is so overblown," she said.

Financial rewards for higher scores used to be
distributed to schools and teachers, but that ended in
2002 amid budget cuts.

Low scores can still bring trouble, however. So far the
state has intervened at 56 schools with poor scores,
shaking up staffs. The federal government has warned
11 California campuses that they could lose funding or
face other sanctions.

State education officials contend that the numbers of
proven cases are small in a state with more than
200,000 teachers.

But a study in Chicago schools suggested that teacher
cheating might occur in 4% to 5% of classrooms.
Harvard professor Brian Jacob and University of
Chicago professor Steven Levitt made that estimate
last year after analyzing more than 700,000 students'

Jacob and Levitt also found that teacher cheating
increased after the 1996 introduction of high-stakes
testing and that cheating was likely if a class performed
poorly in a prior year.

Jacob suggested that districts implement security
measures, such as more proctors, random auditing and
some retesting.

California officials concede that they are not doing
much to curb cheating.

"We don't go out and do our own investigations; we
don't have a staff to do that," said Axelrod of the
Education Department. "If we had a proctor in class,
we would need another 200,000 people. Who is going
to pay for that?"

In Marin County, the San Rafael City School District
found that a teacher in 2001 repeatedly read questions
to her five classrooms during Stanford 9 math exams,
helped students with problems on scratch paper and
gave some answers.

Davidson Middle School Principal Ed Colucci thinks
the teacher desperately wanted the students to do well,
but he said that was no excuse. The teacher was fired.
"Stress is nothing worth losing your job over," he said.
"Tests are supposed to measure what kids are
learning…. But don't fudge it."

In 2001, the state flagged test results for five
Bakersfield classrooms with a lot of erasures. District
officials concluded that three teachers had coached
students to change answers.

Marvin Jones, director of research and evaluation for
the district, said the teachers' explanations included not
understanding the rules, "everybody does it" and "I
was trying to help the students do what I knew the
students can do."

The teachers were not fired — partly because "we
have unions to deal with," he said. "I hear a lot of
people say that the pressure to get high test scores is
so high that it drives people to use desperate


By Erika Hayasaki and Christiana Sciaudone - LA Times Staff Writers

May 23, 2004 - At Cleveland High School, students
sign "commitment to character contracts" promising to
be responsible citizens, and weekly awards are made to
recognize good deeds, honesty and responsibility.

So news last week that dozens of California teachers
had helped students cheat on state exams did not go
over well.

"I would expect more from a teacher," said Deborah
Hefter, 18. "It seems ridiculous that a teacher would
do this."

Students and teachers at the Reseda campus know
about the pressures of testing. On Friday, they
celebrated the end of a grueling week of standardized
state exams, the same kind of tests that had prompted
investigations of more than 200 teachers, with 75
proven cases of cheating over five years.

According to state records, teachers on some
campuses across California have allowed extra time,
erased and changed score sheets, read answers and
dropped hints during state tests.

The Cleveland students don't care much for the exams
— they complained about having been holed up in a
classroom all week. Unlike Advanced Placement or
college placement exams that directly affect their
education, some said, they see little point in a state

"I think it's a waste of time," said Masha Grigoryan,
16. "It's really tedious."

But their teachers have tried to impress upon them the
importance of the tests. Under state and federal
education codes, a school can lose funding or teachers
can be reassigned if scores are consistently poor.

"We know how big an issue it is; it's a huge pressure,"
social studies teacher Danielle Aucoin said.

Still, among students and staff there was little empathy
for cheaters. Those teachers "are being hypocrites
because they punish students for cheating off of each
other," Grigoryan said. "I don't think cheating is
acceptable in anything, whether it's a game, or a test or

Assistant Principal Barbara Garry agrees.

"Cheating is always unconscionable. Nothing is worse
than losing your professional or personal integrity,"
she said.

The campus daily emphasizes ethics as part of a
program begun three years ago by local district Supt.
Bob Collins, who oversees the southwest San
Fernando Valley area of the Los Angeles Unified
School District. Collins requires all 77,000 students in
the subdistrict to sign the so-called character contracts,
promising to be responsible citizens.

Cleveland Principal Allan Wiener said he makes
regular announcements over the public address system
about the importance of good character. And when
teachers spot students on his campus displaying
exemplary behavior — good sportsmanship, good
manners, peacemaking efforts — they recommend
them for recognition in the weekly award program.

Students who violate certain school rules may be
assigned to read a book or story with an ethical
message and write an essay about it instead of being
suspended, Weiner said.

Before state tests are held, Wiener holds assemblies to
tell students how important the exams are to the
school's reputation and to warn them not to cheat. "It's
not worth it to look at someone else's paper or ask for
answers," Wiener said he tells students. "The
consequences are too great."

He said he expects the same ethical behavior from

He reviews testing rules with them, too: no reading
aloud of test questions more than once; no translation
of questions into other languages; no posters, books or
other items in the classroom that might contain hints
about answers. Question books and answer sheets
must be turned in to authorities immediately when
testing time ends.

Many students and staff at Cleveland said the demands
to boost test scores probably pushed some teachers to
bend rules.

"I don't think it's right, and I would never do it,"
Aucoin said, "but at the same time, there's so much
pressure with testing and getting kids to take it

That's no excuse, said Stacey Klein, 18. "They are role
models. If kids see their teachers cheating, they are
likely to do so themselves."

THE ELECTION: Kerry Accuses Bush of Plans to Cut Education Funding

Don't look now ....but there's politics in public education! Who woulda thunk it?

By Michael Finnegan - LA Times Staff Writer

May 21, 2004 - PHILADELPHIA — Democratic
presidential hopeful John F. Kerry hammered President
Bush on Thursday for proposing cuts to federal
programs that ease access to college for students from
low-income families.

Kerry's attack was the latest variation on his broader
argument that Bush had failed to provide enough
federal money to sustain the education reforms that he
signed into law two years ago.

To illustrate his case, the Massachusetts senator
campaigned Thursday at a local high school where
students told him how the college-preparation
programs had helped them.

Kerry faulted Bush and his supporters for portraying
themselves as "trying to help kids and help education"
even as they tried to cut those programs.

"There's such a disconnect between the truth and their
talk, and what's really happening to young people,"
said Kerry, who for months has fought charges of
inconsistencies in his own record on education and
other issues.

Kerry's visit to the school was one of a string of recent
stops designed to keep his campaign focused on
schools, healthcare and jobs at a time when Bush was
immersed in the crises in Iraq.

Since Monday, the presumptive Democratic nominee
has touted his record on civil rights and affirmative
action — themes with potential appeal to African
Americans and other minority voters.

In an interview Thursday with the Philadelphia affiliate
of Univision, a Spanish-language television network,
Kerry said he would "guarantee the continued
enforcement of the set-asides, the minority-business
funding, the affirmative action efforts, the procurement
programs that empower people to be able to achieve
wealth, to do better in business, and to break into the

At Philadelphia's Edison High School where he
campaigned Thursday, 97% of the students enrolled
are Latino or black. In a speech to hundreds of
cheering students on bleachers in the gymnasium, he
framed his support for more college preparation
programs as partly a matter of race.

"In America, only 18% of African Americans have a
college degree, and only about 14% of Latinos have a
college degree, but we need to change that," he said.
"We need to make certain that every young person
who wants to go to college can go to college in the
United States of America."

Minority voters are a central part of the Democratic
Party base, and Kerry's hopes for winning the White
House depend partly on his success in mobilizing them
in Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami and other cities in the
most hotly contested states.

His criticism of Bush on Thursday stemmed from the
president's proposed cuts in federal spending on
GEAR UP, an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness
and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The
programs help low-income students prepare for
college and navigate the admissions and financial-aid
process with tutoring, mentoring, college visits and

Kerry, however, told the students that it was
"inconsistent" for Bush to tell Americans, "We're
going to leave no child behind," and then "make
choices to cut programs like this, or to starve them so
that they can't do the full job."

Kerry, who has proposed a $200-million increase in
spending on GEAR UP, said Bush last year had
proposed a $70-million cut.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Bush's reelection
campaign, said annual funding for the
college-preparation programs has risen from $295
million to $298 million since Bush took office in 2001.

According to the GEAR UP website, the
administration has proposed freezing the program's
budget at $298 million in fiscal 2005.

Schmidt cited a rise in overall federal funding for
education — a total of 48% since Bush became

Kerry, he said, voted for the president's signature No
Child Left Behind education reforms, "but now attacks
it daily on the campaign trail, not out of principle, but
out of cold political calculation, and that is a consistent
theme of the Kerry campaign."

CENTER TO AID TEEN MOTHERS: Facility to serve students, low-income families

By Jennifer Radcliffe - Daily News Staff Writer

Friday, May 21, 2004 - Bright plastic dump trucks are already positioned in the sandboxes and finger paints are waiting on the knee-high tables.

All the Cleveland Early Education Center needs are some toddlers to come do the dirty work.

As soon as its first class of youngsters enrolls, the $6 million center will provide child care on the Cleveland High School campus for teenage mothers enrolled in the school, as well as children of low-income families in the community. The Los Angeles Unified School District has seven similar facilities, including one at San Fernando High School.

"They identified the surrounding area as a critical-need area for child care," Cleveland High School Principal Allan Weiner said. "There's a lot of adults who have children between the ages of 2 and 5 who cannot work because they can't afford to pay for child care."

The center will open to 18 infants, whose mothers are students at Cleveland High, and 120 preschoolers of low-income parents who are working, going to school or searching for jobs.

Teenage parents who send their babies to the center will be taught about nutrition and parenting techniques. They are required to be involved with the center and their children.

Workers hope that portion of the program will help young mothers finish high school and spread the message to their peers that being a parent isn't easy.

In Los Angeles County, the number of births to teenage girls ages 15 to 19 dropped by more than 3,000 from 1997 to 2001 -- from 18,645 to 15,550, according to a report last week.

"We're not saying it's great, but since it's happened to you, we're going to support you," said Karen Bowles, principal of the new Cleveland Early Education Center.

The LAUSD has 103 early education centers that help prepare about 12,000 children for school. The state provides $106 million for the centers and the school district chips in an additional $5 million, said Carmen Schroeder, assistant superintendent of the early childhood education division.

While only a small fraction of the service targets teenage parents, it's an important component, Schroeder said.

"If we don't have this kind of program, the girls don't go to school," she said. "We want to support our teen moms to help them get their diplomas."

The infant program, which is limited to Cleveland High students, is expected to open in September. The preschool program will open when a class fills, but enrollment is off to a slow start, officials said.

Bowles said she's confident it will pick up once neighbors learn that the center is ready to open.

"We're not worried. We know they'll come," she said. "As the word gets out, it won't take long to fill up."

For more information on the Cleveland Early Education Center, call (818) 718-9420.