Sunday, August 01, 2004

Would a budget by any other name smell so sweet?

8-Article Newsletter Template
4LAKids: Sunday, August 1st, 2004
In This Issue:
 •  From the Wonderful Folks who brought you the California State Budget: POSTPONING KINDERGARTEN
 •  Daily News Editorial: FIXING THE LAUSD
 •  NCLB: Washington's Inflexibility Hurts School Reform Efforts
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  4LAKids Book Club for August & September—THE HUMAN SIDE OF SCHOOL CHANGE: Reform, Resistance and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation—by Robert Evans
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - Past Issues and added features
 •  MAKING SCHOOLS WORK: Get the Book @
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target 5¢ from every federal tax dollar for Education
At long last the state budget impasse is behind us!

Now we can sigh with relief ....and long for the good old
days before our problems were “solved!” We tossed out
the old governor and brought in the new because of the
very situation we still find ourselves in!

LetÂ’s see where we stand:

• K-12 and higher education have been cut — and
continue to be held hostage by special interests like the
prison guards (...who are doing such a good job the
federal courts are threatening to take over the entire state
prison system!)
• “Constitutional Guarantees” — which supposedly
“ensure” funding to public education have now been
extended to county and municipal governments. Those
local jurisdictions have now “loaned” Sacramento more
bail out money ...although “loaned” here is a criminal
example of lexicon abuse.
• The “constitutional mandate” for a balanced budget has
been subverted through massive borrowing (California
has the worst credit rating of all the states - consequently
California taxpayers will be paying the highest interest
rates of all the taxpayers!).
• And new “constitutional guarantees” promise this won’t
happen again. Not this way. At least not more than twice
every decade. What a relief!

And why was this problem “solved” when it was? A
new-found spirit of bipartisanship? Because lawmakers
donÂ’t get paid until they come up with a budget?* Or was
it because the state treasurer simply wasnÂ’t going to write
any checks – no bills would be paid, no highway
patrolmen would be paid, no school districts would get a
dime – after the 28th, the day of the “miracle

You tell me. — smf

* DonÂ’t worry, they get their back pay after they reach a

From the Wonderful Folks who brought you the California State Budget: POSTPONING KINDERGARTEN
• If Governor Schwartzenegger’s California Performanace
Review Panel had just been asked to list some ideas for
the state to save money, the idea of starting kids in
kindergarten a little later in their young lives might have
fit the bill. However, they seem to have missed the point:
Their charge was to find some “good ideas”!

This is such a bad idea that one should put a little R in a
circle after it! i.e.: Bad Idea® — smf

Targeted Areas: EDUCATION

Changing the cutoff date for enrolling in kindergarten to
Sept. 1 could initially save $660 million a year, but critics
say it would hurt immigrant students.
By Jean Merl and Stuart Silverstein - Times Staff Writers

July 31, 2004 - Educators on Friday gave a mixed report
card to the plan to tinker with the state's schools and

The government streamlining panel's recommendations to
move up the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment
would save money but hurt children from immigrant
families who do not speak English at home, said Jim
Morris, an assistant superintendent for the Los Angeles
Unified School District.

"The sooner we have these kids in school, the sooner we
can help them become academically prepared," he said.

The state panel proposed making students wait a year to
start kindergarten if they have not turned 5 by Sept. 1.
The current cutoff date is Dec. 2.

Keeping 90,000 students from starting kindergarten
would save about $660 million annually for the first two
years and then $30 million a year, the panel said.

The commission cited research showing that students
with summer and fall birthdates fall behind older
classmates and are more likely to be held back. But
Morris, who oversees elementary education, said Los
Angeles schools find youngsters from poor families do
better with an early start.

A commission proposal for the other end of public
education won praise: eliminating fees for low-income
students at UC and Cal State campuses, as community
colleges already do. It is widely regarded as a simpler way
to help those students than having them pay fees and
apply for financial aid.

Such a change "could be a clear signal to more and more
people in the state that education truly isn't a function of
how much money you have, and it might encourage more
people to see [higher education] as an immediate
possibility," said Robert L. Moore, an education advisor
to former Gov. Jerry Brown and until April the executive
director of the California Postsecondary Education

The panel also proposed a requirement for everyone
attending the state's public universities and community
colleges to perform community service.

Manolo P. Platin, chairman of the California State
Student Assn., and a senior at Humboldt State, called it
"an awesome move."

"In a perfect world, we'd want everyone to want to do it,
so you wouldn't need to make it a mandatory thing," he

But at the new Cal State Monterey Bay, the only state
university or college with such a mandate, he said:
"They've seen some amazing results from people who get
involved in their communities who otherwise wouldn't
have, and it's changed their whole lives."

Facing sharper debate, however, was the idea of replacing
the 58 county offices of education with 11 regional

Many services that counties provide have been
increasingly regionalized, said Glen Thomas, executive
director of the California County Superintendents
Educational Services Assn. But it would be unworkable
to lump together the oversight that counties have over
local districts, he said.

The L.A. County Office of Education, the largest in the
state, monitors the finances of 94 school and community
college districts and provides such services as juvenile
court schools and special education for 60 districts.

Some experts also were critical of the plan to fold the
California Community College Chancellor's Office into a
new Higher Education Division and drop the board
overseeing the 72 college districts. They contend
community colleges warrant an independent system.

Daily News Editorial: FIXING THE LAUSD
• Romer needs to finally get tough with "can't do"
bureaucrats who have left the children behind

Saturday, July 31, 2004 - If Roy Romer were one of the
Los Angeles Unified School District's students and not its
superintendent, his teachers would describe him as "not
well-rounded." While excelling in some areas (like school
construction), and getting by in others (like raising test
scores), he has one glaring area of weakness: managing
the bureaucracy.

It's a discipline, a teacher might say, in which he needs
some tutoring. But if Romer had to rely on his
administrators to provide it, he'd never get it.

Because when it comes to providing tutors, the LAUSD's
performance is dismal.

Under the federal Leave No Child Behind Act — the
cornerstone of the president's school reform plan —
needy children at underperforming schools are entitled to
extra help from tutors, with Uncle Sam, and not the
district, picking up the tab. At the LAUSD, that's now
nearly one-third of its student body — 230,000 kids total.

Yet despite the need, and despite some $60 million in
federal funds, the district only provides tutoring to 25,000
kids — about 11 percent of all those eligible — a number
that has been growing but still lags far behind New York
City and other districts that have aggressively and
creatively tackled the problem.

The reason for the shortfall, LAUSD officials claim, is
outreach. They can't seem to get the word out to parents
that the tutoring services are available — a failure for
which they offer all kinds of excuses, just as they have for
most every failure over the course of two decades before
Romer arrived.

This year marks the third since the enactment of the No
Child Left Behind Act, meaning the LAUSD has had
plenty of time to come to grips with its requirements. And
in a district perpetually short on cash with many
underperforming students, there's no excuse for failing to
use the millions available to boost student performance.

But what's wrong with the LAUSD isn't tutoring — that's
just the symptom. The bigger issue is a massive district
bureaucracy that lacks the will or the flexibility to meet
the needs of the district's schools, its teachers, its families
and its students. Under Romer's tenure, that bureaucracy
has only grown larger, better paid, more comfortable.

The result is not only wasted money — in this case,
untapped millions in federal funds — but also wasted

Romer needs to finally get tough on "can't do"
bureaucrats who fail in their jobs, and light a fire under
those who can do the job. A leaner, success-oriented team
of administrators would free up money for classrooms
and give students the help they deserve.

Our advice is this: Leave the deadwood bureaucrats —
not the children — behind.

NCLB: Washington's Inflexibility Hurts School Reform Efforts
• This editorial ran last March in USA Today, hardly a
bastion of knee-jerk administration bashing. Nothing has
changed much since then except for a rather feeble nationwide tour of Department of Education spin doctors a few weeks back. — smf

In 2002, Marshall High School, which serves a poor
section of Portland, Ore., landed on a federal "needs
improvement" list for a second year in a row. It triggered
a provision under a new federal school-reform law that
lets students transfer to better schools in Portland. And
40 students did just that.

School officials would have preferred a less-disruptive
option to help the students: tutoring. But the federal law
won't pay for tutors until a school is listed as
underperforming for three straight years. That doesn't
make sense to educators, who say transfers should be
considered only after other efforts to improve student
performance. [smf notes: Not that LAUSD seems all
that eager to comply with NCLB even when they are supposed to! see: FIXING THE LAUSD, previous]

In fact, to more and more states across the country, many
of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act defy
logic. This month, Indiana's state board of education gave
the law a vote of no confidence. Oklahoma's legislature
did the same last month, joining a dozen other states that
have protested portions of the law. Even one of its
architects, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., has cited flaws
that need fixing.

Two years into this sweeping effort to improve education
for all students, states are encountering bumps in the
road. Yet, instead of responding to these predictable
bumps, the government is reluctant to make sensible
mid-course corrections. In some areas, such as transfers,
the Department of Education clings to overly rigid rules.
In others, it provides inadequate guidance for meeting
tougher standards set by the law.

The government's recalcitrance fuels obstructionist efforts
by groups that never backed the reforms. And it alienates
schools that can embrace this law as a pathway to a
high-quality education for poor and minority students
shortchanged in the classroom.

A common complaint is that schools are tripped up by
rules that result in the schools being branded as "failing."
For example, if a school tests 94% of special education
students, it can run afoul of the law, which requires 95%
to take tests to track their progress. That's one reason
nearly 30% of the nation's 90,000 public schools failed
last fall to make the gains required by the law, more than
double the number of schools that education experts rate
as truly troubled.

Fine-tuning provisions to increase federal support and
remove unreasonable demands could prompt more
schools to strive to reach the law's goals. Some changes

•Making tutoring available earlier. Allowing students to
transfer from a failing school makes sense. But offering
transfers before tutoring deprives schools of a valuable
tool for improving students' performance and the schools'
overall rating. At Marshall, 200 students who would have
attended the school this year opted to go elsewhere,
largely because of publicity about the 40 transfers the year

•Revisiting special education rules. The law sets an
admirable goal of making sure that 90% of special
education students learn at the same level as other
students. But many educators say the rule is unrealistic
because the percentage of children with learning
disabilities who are able to keep up with other students is
much lower. They want more flexibility in deciding how
many special education students can handle schoolwork at
a normal pace.

Education Secretary Rod Paige says his department has
made accommodations. And in some cases, he's right. For
example, last month it dropped a requirement that states
give reading tests to non-English-speaking students who
just entered schools.

Still, Washington has failed to adopt other needed fixes
that are costing the law support. Smoothing out more
bumps along the way could help ensure the nation reaches
the goal of a better education for everyone.

• In addition to the 'fairness to competitors' angle, this
abuse of the system costs taxpayers money as
student-athletes 'left behind' attend an additional year of school at their expense — filling a classroom seat that could go to another student.

Just how much does this — if not unethical and
unsportsmanlike — at least ‘extra-ethical’ and
‘under-sportsmanlike’ excercise in sportsmanship end up
costing the state and the nation every year? — smf

• More children are repeating a grade in school to gain an edge in athletics. Experts worry about fairness and skewed priorities.

By David Wharton - Staff Writer

July 29, 2004 – By eighth grade, Perry Webster had little doubt about his talent as a basketball player, but he also knew that when he reached high school, he might have to ride the bench for a while.

It's something many young athletes go through, waiting to grow bigger and stronger. Webster took a different route.

With his parents' blessing, he chose to repeat his final year of middle school, staying behind as his friends moved on. This tactic, he hoped, might eventually "help me with getting a scholarship for basketball, which might help me with the rest of my life."

So far, the decision has paid off. After growing 2 inches during his second year in eighth grade, Webster became a freshman starter at Mission Viejo High last season and helped lead his team to a Southern Section title.

Nothing prohibits what he did. Experts say this sort of thing has gone on quietly for decades. They also call it troubling.

Repeating a year to gain an athletic edge can skew a youngster's social development, they say, and create unfair situations on the playing field. There is also a matter of priorities.

"We get out of balance when we start putting too much emphasis on sports," said Marty Ewing, former director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. "It fits the caliber of our culture in sport, that being successful by whatever means is good."

The practice of staying back is borrowed from college sports, where for many years the rules have allowed athletes in their late teens and early 20s to "redshirt" a season, practicing with the team but not playing in regular season games, which adds a year to their eligibility.

Researchers don't know how often this happens informally — and with potentially disruptive consequences — among grade schoolers and high schoolers.

Most of the data are anecdotal, and parents are not overly cooperative.

"Most parents aren't going to advertise it," Ewing said. "They give you the socially acceptable response. That makes it hard to study."

But what is known points to an increasingly common practice.

In the 1980s, Texas high school officials didn't need research to spot a pattern. More and more middle school athletes were repeating a grade.

Ultimately, the situation came to a head.

"There was almost an entire class of youngsters held back in one of our schools," recalled Bill Farney, director of the University Interscholastic League, which oversees sports at Texas public schools.

"All the kids repeated seventh grade," he said. "It was a collective decision on the part of the parents. They just sort of decided together."

After that, officials enacted a rule requiring parents to submit evidence — scholastic records or letters from counselors, for example — to show cause for holding their children back. Otherwise, the athletes would forfeit a year of high school eligibility.

"I'm not going to say we've stopped thisÂ…. It still goes on," Farney said. But, he added, the rule has an effect "because there is some fear on the part of parents."

The California Interscholastic Federation stipulates only that an athlete who turns 19 before June 15 is ineligible to compete the following school year.

A state Department of Education official said that although the issue was of some concern, there had been no call to adopt stricter rules.

In the meantime, at Los Alisos Intermediate School in Mission Viejo, where Webster spent an extra year, Principal Jerry Ray sees a growing problem.

"In my first 10 years, we probably had only one or two cases," Ray said. "In the last several years, there have been at least that many per year."

Some school districts frown upon the practice, forcing parents to home-school or move their child to another district if they want to repeat. Ray's district gives parents the final say.

The administrator worries about plucking children out of the educational cycle, taking them away from their peers where they might feel like "fish out of water."

"Until Perry [Webster] came along, I'd never seen a success story, and I'm not even sure whether I'd call him a success story yet," Ray said. "Basically, you're giving up a year of a child's life on a bet that it will work out."

The gamble seems to be paying off for the Clausen family, whose youngest son, Jimmy, repeated sixth grade. A sophomore quarterback this fall at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, he has drawn attention from college recruiters.

The Clausens acted even sooner with their other children. The two oldest boys, Casey and Rick, repeated kindergarten. They excelled athletically and academically in high school and became big-time college quarterbacks at the University of Tennessee. A daughter, Katie, also repeated kindergarten and was a senior volleyball player at Oaks Christian last season.

Their father, Jim, said he had been criticized for holding his children back.

"I never saw the negative," he said. "Even in third grade, my kids were a little older, a little bigger, a little more mature. Maybe at that point they become the ball monitor because of it. We thought it was important for our kids to be leaders instead of followers."

Other issues can influence the decision. Mike Moustakas said his son, also named Mike, repeated eighth grade because of social, emotional and academic concerns.

"He has a September birthday and he was always a year younger than all the other kids in his class," Moustakas said. "We thought he would benefit from getting into a group of kids his own age."

Last season, as a freshman, Moustakas played shortstop and pitched for a Chatsworth High baseball team that finished undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation. In the same infield was another freshman — third baseman Matt Dominguez — who was 11 months younger.

Experts acknowledge that parents consider a variety of factors. Linda MacDonell, assistant superintendent for the Orange County Department of Education, said, "I guess you have to look at it from the parents' perspectiveÂ…. They're trying to do what is best for their kids."

Still, few experts condone repeating, especially if a child has progressed normally through six or seven years of school. Myron Dembo, an educational psychology professor at USC, said it could "lower expectations in academic areas, because the whole emphasis is on sports."

Webster concedes that his second year of eighth grade was hardly enriching in the classroom, even though he took honors courses. "It was the same old stuff all over again," the 16-year-old said.

Parents also can put their child at risk for problems if athletic expectations don't pan out.

"You run into this whole issue of, 'My kid's going to get a college scholarship,' and if he can't play varsity right away, he won't go to college," said Dan Gould, the new director at Michigan State's youth sports institute. "Statistically, you're better off sending him to the library five hours a night. When you look at the number of academic scholarships, your kid has a much better shot."

Even Jim Clausen warned that repeating a grade wasn't right for everyone.

"Just because you're a year older doesn't make you better," he said.

But it might, and therein lies the allure.

In Texas, Farney suspects that coaches quietly encourage any parent who might express interest in giving a talented young athlete another year to mature.

Brian Mulligan, the basketball coach at Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo, is uneasy with the idea but has seen his team benefit from a few such kids.

"Many of them do have an edge," he said.

Webster decided he wanted to repeat after watching his older brother play basketball at Mater Dei in Santa Ana with teammates who had repeated grades.

The teen quickly made friends among the younger kids in his new middle school class. The family even joked about the situation, yelling, "Finally!" when he got his eighth-grade diploma at graduation exercises.

His father, Del, figures that without the extra year, those 2 inches and 10 extra pounds, "he would have played varsity, but he would have been a reserve."

Now, Webster has the chance to be a four-year starter, giving him more opportunity to be noticed by recruiters, and he will be among the older students when he graduates.

"We wanted him to have a chance to be 18 years old his [entire] senior year because he is an athlete," Del Webster said. "We thought physically that would be the fairest and best way to go."
Times staff writers Mike Hiserman and Rob Fernas contributed to this report.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

• South Region Elementary School #3
Phase II Site Selection Update - Local District 6

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:
* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for
this new school project

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Bell High School
4328 Bell Avenue
Bell, CA 90201

• Valley Region Elementary School #8
Phase II Site Selection Update - Local District 2

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:
* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for
this new school project

6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Gridley Street Elementary School
1907 Eighth Street
San Fernando, CA 91340


• Orthopaedic Medical Magnet High School
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new
community school!

Ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m.
Orthopaedic Medical Magnet High School
300 West 23rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007

• Valley Region Elementary School #9

Phase II Site Selection Update - Local District 2

Your participation is important! Please join at this
meeting where we will review:
* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for
this new school project

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Van Nuys High School
6535 Cedros Avenue
Van Nuys, CA 91411

*Dates and times subject to change.
Phone: 212.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616


4LAKids Book Club for August & September—THE HUMAN SIDE OF SCHOOL CHANGE: Reform, Resistance and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation—by Robert Evans
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Paperback: 336 pages ISBN: 0787956112

This book was pressed into my hands by a senior
educator, high in the DistrictÂ’s hierarchy.

We were wary of each other. She undoubtedly viewed me
as a wild eyed parent activist — intent on upsetting the
apple cart. I am a proponent of the bottom-up reforms
espoused by William Ouchi in “Making Schools Work”; a
would-be empowerer of parents and school site

I viewed her as the protector of the status-quo of slow,
steady improvement as measured by test scores — and
the great top-down centrally-driven bureaucracy that is

WeÂ’d both be right. I have no respect whatsoever for
apple carts; I come from the film industry and apple carts
are always the first to be smashed in the big chase scene!
I press Bill OuchiÂ’s book into as many hands as I can. She
and I discussed at length the LEARN reforms at LAUSD,
a too-brief wrinkle-in-time where principals and parents
were empowered ...until the interest waned and the
political will and money ran out. Until other agendas
took hold. Time passed LEARN by before it had a chance
to work or fail.

I expected EvansÂ’ book to be an apologia for things as
they are, instead I found a truly enlightening vision of
where we are in public education and just how difficult
the very necessary change will be. I returned the borowed
copy with many thanks and bought my own.

Evans is a psychologist - and his analysis is of the
teaching profession and the business of public education.
Imagine youÂ’re a teacher. Imagine you are faced with the
challenges of the classroom, the politics of the schoolsite
and the dynamics of the administration, children, parents
and school district. Now mix in the politicians – right, left
and center – and activists, bureaucrats and theorists. All
call for every flavor of reform imaginable ...and embrace a
new one with every lunar cycle! Even if youÂ’re a good
teacher every successful practice you have and every
decision you make is second-guessed and compared to a
rubric that measures success – or lack thereof – in a new
way every day. And all the while your friends from
college are making three times more money than you!

Evans analyzes management styles and models of reform
and suggests strategies for building a framework of
cooperation between leaders of change and the people
they depend upon to implement it. He is no fan of
top-down central-control — but he truly abhors
‘change-of-the-month-club’ reform! Evans does not tell
us to be slow in school reform, only to be thoughtful,
thorough and respectful of the true instruments of change:
Those in the classroom working with young minds.

Two thumbs-up, one for Ouchi and another for Evans!


• Dr. Robert Evans is a clinical and organizational
psychologist and director of the Human Relations Service
in Wellesley, Mass. A former high school and preschool
teacher, he has consulted to hundreds of schools and
districts throughout America and around the world and
has worked extensively with teachers, administrators,
school boards, and state education officials.

• Editorial Reviews:
"A unique, superb, and penetrating analysis of the human
side of educational change. Evans knows the human
realities of change and portrays them vividly in both
individual and organizational terms. His discussion of
hope and realism in the final chapter is a gem." —Michael
Fullan, dean, Faculty of Education, University of Toronto

"Evans certainly understands what gets in the way of real
school change and what the simple, key elements are that
can make it happen. No board member, superintendent, or
school principal should make one more decision or host
one more meeting without reading this book." —Judy
Cunningham, principal, South Lake Middle School,
Irvine, Calif.

"Evans has written a realistic yet hopeful book that sets a
new standard for providing the leadership needed to
implement school improvements. An engaging and
much-needed update of the critical, but often overlooked,
human side of change." —Thomas J. Sergiovanni, Lillian
Radford Professor of Education and senior fellow, Center
for Educational Leadership, Trinity University

"School leaders will find this book realistic about the
difficulties of change, rich in practical advice about school
improvement, and useful in showing how to transcend the
limits of their own experience to practice effective
leadership." —Thomas W. Payzant, superintendent,
Boston Public Schools

Get CHOOSING EXCELLENCE from your local library, bookstore - or order it by clicking here.

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member. Or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think.
• 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.
• Vote.

Contact your school board member

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is Vice President for Education in Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and governance council member at two LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
• In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited.
• This and past Issues are available – with interactive feedback — at

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