Sunday, October 03, 2004

Looking back towards the future

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4LAKids: Sunday, October 3rd, 2004
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For an hour or so of empty time last week I found myself
waiting between meetings in a downtown school district office that had been vacated a year or so back by an educator. This previous occupant had moved to another office ...but had left behind a sizable collection of books on education and ed. reform that were “out of date” — ideas whose time (or at least previous owner) had passed them by.

I am fascinated by old ideas ...IÂ’m an old guy! I loved
“RAISING AMERICA”, a history of the Children’s
Movement in the US. And I just recently read Maria
Montessori’s seminal “THE MONTESSORI METHOD”,
a century-old blueprint for pre-school reform that was big
in Europe and came late to the US. My daughter went to
a Montessori pre-school — putting her there was best
thing my wife and I ever did for her ....other than the
really lucky hiring of Pat, the-British-cabaret-singer-turned- nanny who shepherded our little family through those first three years!

In the empty office I picked up a ten-year-old-report on a
convocation of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences dealing with the Crisis in American Education. That crisis has been ongoing either since the 1959 launch of sputnik or the 1973 publication of “A NATION AT RISK” with its cold-war-rhetorical-saber-rattling: “If a foreign power had attempted to impose upon America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

A double-dog-dare challenge worthy of a schoolyard
Tolkien did we let it slip by unanswered?

Ten years back we as an nation basked in the afterglow of
the fall of the Soviet Union. The cold war - which started
with sputnik - was over and won; been-there/done-that,
got the t-shirt! That crisis was over ...but we never really
responded to the challenge of the education crisis. The
first President Bush - “the Education President” -
promised action-rather-than-studies on ed. reform ...but
other priorities took hold. Gulf War I, the tech bubble,

Ten years ago we were pretty much where are now. Bush
I’s ‘action mission’ - questioned extensively in the AAAS
paper - is back as Bush II’s “No Child Left Behind”,
NCLB is itself an all-goals-and-no-funding re-packaging
of Clinton’s “Goals 2000”. The theories of top-down
reform imposed from on-high have been made real. The
grandiloquent mission of “World Class Standards” and
“High Stakes Testing” are driven by the carrot-and-stick
of NCLB.

Except, as Albert Shanker, the late President of the
American Federation of Teachers and New York Times
columnist in his 1995 AAAS essay “Education Reform:
What’s Not Being Said” pointed out: There are no
universal single World Class Standards!

Shanker wrote: “The reference to "world-class" is ironic
because none of the nations with more successful school
systems have a single set of performance standards. They
have a common curriculum throughout most or all the
elementary grades and a relatively high floor of
achievement, but that is not the same as having a single
set of performance standards. Moreover, all of those
countries put students into different tracks, beginning in
the fourth or seventh grade, on the basis of their having
met different performance standards. There is a common
curriculum within these secondary tracks and, again, a
high floor of achievement, but even within tracks there is
not a single performance standard.

“And none of the "world-class" countries believe that
whether or not students achieve is strictly attributable to
what the adults in the school system do.

“If we set a single standard, we essentially have two

“One is to set the standard high. That is desirable,
especially since we are talking about ‘world-class.’
Unfortunately, most of our students would not reach it.
The very highest standards in other nations, those for
university entrance, are reached by a maximum of 30
percent of the students. Of course, because they have
multiple Standards and paths to success, this is not
considered a 70 percent failure rate. But it surely would
be here. Even a much smaller failure rate would produce
intense pressure to lower the standard, and we would
effectively be back where we started.

“The other choice is to set the standard low, perhaps
slightly higher than the minimum competency standard we
now have but at a level that would be attainable by
virtually all of our students. We could then congratulate
ourselves for raising the floor of achievement, but we will
have missed an opportunity to raise the ceiling and to
move up the middle as well. If we can do better by all
students by acknowledging that they, like all humans,
differ in their capacities, motivations, and interests, then
why settle for a new minimum competency standard
disguised in "world-class" rhetoric?” —from
DAEDALUS, The Journal of the American Academy of
Arts & Sciences (Fall ‘95)

Theodore R. Sizer of Brown University and the
Annenberg Institute in his 1995 AAAS essay “Silences”
opined that at single-subject convocations the participants
talk constantly about the same things. Only later do they
think about the other things: The silences, the unasked
questions about the unsaid things. The elephant in the
corner of the room.

Ten years later the silences still need to be filled. —smf

• smf notes: I have much respect for Speaker Núñez, his
experience in LAUSD and his voice on behalf of Los
AngelesÂ’ children and education issues has been
invaluable in Sacramento. His assembly district borders
on the Ambassador site - indeed children from his district
would be included in the nine-block-radius attendance
area of the proposed Ambassador schools.

However Núñez’ embrace of the Romer compromise
seems soft ...he makes it clear that he would really prefer
to level the hotel and start again! I would hope that the
Assembly Speaker - in his endorsement - would have
brought a plan to finance the $15 million cost of the
superintendent’s proposal to the table — to relieve the
limited school construction bond funds of the burden to
fund the reuse/restoration. Fifteen million dollars would
fund construction of a Primary Center in that
neighborhood — a community that needs many new
kindergarten classrooms beyond the Ambassador site to
implement full-day kindergarten as the voters have
authorized and the school board has mandated. —smf

• The Assembly speaker voices support for preserving
parts of the historic L.A. facility while leveling others for
a school complex. —by Jean Merl , Times Staff Writer

October 2, 2004 – A compromise plan for building badly
needed schools on the site of the Ambassador Hotel won
over a prominent friend Friday: state Assembly Speaker
Fabian Nuñez.

At a news conference at the jampacked Berendo Middle
School, Nuñez made it clear that his first choice would be
for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which owns
the property, to level the historic hotel altogether.

But the Los Angeles Democrat said he had decided to
embrace a plan backed by Supt. Roy Romer and school
board President Jose Huizar that would preserve parts of
the hotel while leveling others for a 4,200-student school

The plan, known as Heritage K-12, "is the best way to
proceed with this project without delay," Nuñez said as
some of Berendo's students waved "Room to Grow" signs
behind him and Huizar, who joined the legislator at the
news conference.

"It balances the needs of these kids with respect for the
historical and cultural heritage of the site, and reuses
these historical features to improve the educational
opportunities at the school," said Nuñez, who worked for
Romer as the district's lobbyist from 2000 to 2002.

Since its release two weeks ago, the plan has drawn fire
from both sides in the debate over the fate of the storied
hotel. The Ambassador drew some of Hollywood's top
acts to its Cocoanut Grove nightclub and hosted many
prominent guests. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in
its kitchen pantry after winning the California Democratic
presidential primary in 1968. The hotel closed in 1989
after falling on hard times.

Romer's plan would demolish virtually the entire hotel and
its outbuildings, preserving only the Cocoanut Grove and
the Paul Williams-designed coffee shop beneath it. Parts
of the Embassy Ballroom would be incorporated into a
library. A committee would be appointed to decide how
to preserve the assassination site.

Members of Kennedy's family, including his widow, Ethel,
and seven of his children, have opposed saving any part of
the hotel. Maxwell Kennedy, a son who lives in Los
Angeles, said this week that he intended to lobby Romer
and each of the seven school board members before the
board's scheduled Oct. 12 vote on the hotel's fate.

Preservationists said the plan would not save enough of
what they see as the historically and educationally
valuable hotel; those who want the
kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools built as soon as
possible decry the time and expense the plan would entail.
About $15 million of the $318.2 million earmarked for the
schools would go toward preserving or re-creating parts
of the hotel.

Nuñez challenged the Los Angeles Conservancy, which
has led the battle to save the main building and convert it
to classrooms, to "come to the table" with money for
preservation, and urged both sides to "set aside their
differences and allow the school board to proceed with
this proposal."

Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues for the
conservancy, said his organization had been working to
procure up to $40 million in tax credits. The district's
apparent lack of interest in saving much of the hotel,
however, has dampened enthusiasm among potential

"We have compromised and compromised and
compromised," Bernstein said, referring to the
conservancy's agreement to sacrifice the hotel's
bungalows, cabanas and other features. He said the
conservancy and others continue to push for saving the
main hotel building.

"It's not about choosing between needed school seats and
historic preservation," Bernstein said. "We really can
accommodate both."

But Huizar said he hoped Nuñez's support would
"encourage others to come forward and be a part of
history in the making."

Though at least two of the board members oppose the
plan, Huizar said he was optimistic that a majority would
"see the merits of this plan" by the time the board votes.

Joining Huizar and Nuñez, some Berendo students
provided a glimpse of what life is like in the crowded,
largely Latino neighborhoods near the Ambassador.
About 900 sixth- through eighth-graders must be bused
from their homes near Berendo, five blocks south of the
hotel site. Even so, the school operates on a year-round
schedule with three tracks that subtract 17 days from the
academic year to squeeze in 3,200 students.

Sixth-grader Franklin Lee, who could attend high school
at the Ambassador site if the complex opens on time, in
2008, looks forward to more spacious, quieter

Seventh-grader Luz Cruz wants to go to school with
friends who now are bused to distant campuses with more
room — and she dreams that students no longer will have
to share lockers.

"Sometimes things get stolen," Luz said, "and nobody
likes that."


The Bond Oversight Committee will make its
recommendation to the Board of Education on the
Ambassador school construction proposals at a special
meeting this Wednesday afternoon, October 6 in a special meeting at Los Angeles City Hall - 27th Floor - Bradley Tower -
at 1PM.

Call the BOC office @ 213.241.4700 for further
information and parking info.

Nuñez’ official statement

September 29, 2004 · According to NPR’s Morning
Edition software companies are claiming huge gains in
test scores in schools because of their computer
programs. But is there evidence to back this up?
Baltimore Sun reporter Alec MacGillis, recently
investigated the use of technology in schools. MacGillis
says that No Child Left Behind gave schools more leeway
to spend federal money on technology, but that in many
cases the software products are unproven and the glowing
claims are questionable.

• Education software companies zero in on schools
pressured to improve by the No Child Left Behind law --
with potential downsides for the neediest students.

By Alec MacGillis - Sun Staff

September 19, 2004 - Earlier this year, two salespeople
drove deep into the coal country of southern West
Virginia on an improbable mission: selling expensive
education software in one of the poorest corners of
America. Logan County does not look like promising
sales territory. Its mines have laid off thousands,
methamphetamine labs abound, and every spring flooding
creeks threaten impoverished hollows. Its population has
dropped 35 percent in the past four decades.

But for Ron Dellinger and Samiha Lamerson, the two
salespeople from Plato Learning Inc., the region's despair
was not an obstacle. Far from it. For companies selling
education software, the poorer a place is, the better.

The reason is simple, Dellinger said: Poor schools "are
under the gun from No Child Left Behind."

No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature
domestic policy achievement, is transforming public
education with its emphasis on testing and accountability.
Less noticed, though, is that it is turning poor schools
into a lucrative target for the growing education software
industry -- with potentially negative implications for the
very low-income students that the law aims to help.

Billions of dollars in federal funds are up for grabs as
companies rush to capitalize on the 2001 law by telling
struggling schools across the country they can comply
with its tough standards by buying the companies'
products. In pitches often sweetened with dinner cruises
and other perks, software vendors make sweeping claims
for computer programs and on-line networks that promise
to assess students' weaknesses, raise test scores, and
organize the data required by the law. "We're filling the
needs of schools to help them 24-7, to supply what
students need," Lamerson told school officials gathered at
an alternative vocationalhigh school tucked between
fog-draped hills along Logan's Guyandotte River.
However, software claims of success tend to be based on
dubious studies, often performed or paid for by the
companies themselves -- a problem that is acknowledged
even by the Bush administration. While encouraging
schools to use education technology to comply with No
Child Left Behind, the administration is paying for
millions of dollars in studies to determine which education
software programs really work.

"We're spending all this money on technology in schools
and we don't know where it's effective, what the
conditions are for effective teaching and learning," said
Susan D. Patrick, the U.S. Department of Education's
director of education technology.

Desperate not to run afoul of the law and suffer sanctions,
including state takeover, many besieged educators are
succumbing to the pitch anyway, buying instructional
programs that often cost more than $100,000 per school
or district-wide management programs that run into the
millions. And by spending much of the law's funding on
software, they are leaving less for such improvements as
smaller class sizes, after-school programs or bonuses for
talented teachers.

The new digital divide

Meanwhile, many experts in education technology worry
that the push to sell test-preparation software to poor
schools could deepen exactly those inequities that the law
is meant to address. The law, they say, is creating a new
"digital divide" just as low-income districts are finally
catching up in their access to computers: While poor
schools tend to buy software with repetitive math and
reading exercises that produce few lasting gains, wealthier
ones are using technology in ways that contribute more to
in-depth learning.

The divide is on display in Maryland, where struggling
schools in Prince George's County and on the Eastern
Shore are spending heavily on software to try to raise test
scores, while better-off schools in such places as Howard
County are relying on teachers for instruction in

In Baltimore, schools are being bombarded with pitches.
But for now they're holding out, restrained by budget
deficits and by memories of wasted spending on education
software in previous decades.

To some educators, the rush by software vendors to take
advantage of No Child Left Behind points to one of the
law's biggest flaws. While the federal government is
setting tougher standards than ever before, Washington
remains reluctant to dictate how districts should spend
funding provided by the law to meet its requirements.

Research results not ready

The law's pressures encourage districts to buy software to
raise their scores, but the government's research on
instructional software won't be done for two years. The
government is spending millions developing a Web site
and computer program that could help districts analyze
test data, but it is not requiring that districts make use of
these rather than buy their own. This conflicted approach,
mixing stringent standards with little guidance, sows
confusion among local school officials and creates
openings for vendors.

"The whole gist of [the law] is to attempt to impose some
kind of national consistency, which is a good thing in the
long run, but some [districts] aren't seeing it that way
now," said Craig Cunningham, a research associate at the
University of Chicago's Center for School Improvement.

Education software executives dismiss concerns about the
value of their products, saying their programs can help
struggling schools improve their performance on annual
tests and set failing students on the path to success.

"We can look with pride at teachers who get teary-eyed
when they talk about what it does for their students," said
John Murray, CEO of Plato Learning, which is based in
Bloomington, Minn. Everywhere he goes, he said, "there
are people talking to me about the way our systems help
them turn kids into good, productive citizens."

Some experts also defend the value of software spending
by struggling districts. The programs can be a good
option for schools that can't afford other improvements,
such as hiring more teachers to reduce class size, they

"There are big efficiencies in augmenting what teachers
are doing [by buying] technology," said Dale Mann, a
Long Island-based education researcher who has studied
software's effects for companies.

While software vendors reject characterizations of their
instructional products as simplistic test-prep material,
they concede that they are focusing their marketing on
schools that are desperate to raise students' scores.

"That's where the pain is. You go where the pain is, and
you talk to the pain," said Catherine Pena, a saleswoman
for the software company Curriculum Advantage, during
this year's national education technology convention in
New Orleans.

Administrators at failing schools "do not have a choice
with No Child Left Behind," she said. "They have to do
something. That's why we're here - to help them."

John Kernan, a member of Plato's board of directors,
spelled out his strategy in blunter terms in a quarterly
conference call with analysts last year. Kernan, then CEO
of the Lightspan software company, which merged with
Plato last November, told analysts that No Child Left
Behind's emphasis on failing schools promised big
earnings for any company focused on selling to
low-income districts.

"School districts are required to spend their money on the
poor kids," Kernan said, according to a transcript of the
call. That meant, he said, that his company's "strategy No.
1" for higher profits was: "Lightspan equals poor kids
equals federal money."

Millions at stake

The potential payoff for the industry is huge. Under the
law, the federal government, which funds about a third of
all school spending on computers and software, sets aside
$700 million per year for education technology, most of it
for poor districts. But companies are even more eager to
tap into a much larger pot of money, the law's general
federal funding for needy students.

While it is not as much as Bush's critics say was
promised, this general funding for low-income students
has increased by nearly half under the law, to almost $25
billion. Partly to encourage schools to use education
technology, the law also gives districts more flexibility in
how they can spend the money, making it easier for
software companies to make a bid for it.

The federal government says it is unable to track how
much general No Child Left Behind funding is being spent
on technology. But industry leaders and market analysts
put the annual total at more than $1.5 billion and say total
school spending on education software, from all sources,
is up nearly 10 percent this year to about $2.3 billion -
despite budget cuts at the local level.

Software spending is expected to grow at an even faster
rate as more of the money makes its way through the
bureaucracy, as state and local budgets rebound, and as
more of the law's mandates kick in, making schools even
more anxious for answers.

"It's a big opportunity for us," said Murray, whose
company has seen its sales increase 10 percent in each of
the past two years, to about $150 million. "No Child Left
Behind ultimately is a good fit for Plato and other
education technology companies."

The law also means new business for other sectors of the
education industry. Test-writing companies have won big
contracts to create statewide exams. The
multibillion-dollar textbook industry is counting on the
law's new curriculum guidelines to boost sales.

And the law's requirement that failing schools offer
private after-school tutoring has created opportunities for
companies such as Baltimore-based Sylvan Learning,
which are rushing to get on states' lists of approved
tutoring providers. The tutoring market is expected to
grow to more than $1 billion.

But no sector has generated as much ambivalence among
educators as the education software industry. Most
educators agree that tutoring programs, if done right,
could be helpful. There is less consensus about the value
of software spending - and much more discomfort about
software companies' aggressive pursuit of school funds.

Invoking the law

Zeroing in on individual school districts, schools and even
teachers, software vendors link their products explicitly to
the pressures of No Child Left Behind, which passed with
bipartisan support late in 2001.

The law requires that schools test students annually in
grades three through eight, and once during high school,
and make "adequate yearly progress" toward having all
students proficient in reading and math by the 2013-2014
school year. Notably, school-wide scores must be broken
down into each of several groups - including minorities,
English as a second language learners, and special
education students - and show progress in each.

Struggling schools initially receive extra federal funding.
But if they continue to fail, they must pay for private
tutoring and allow students to transfer, cutting funding
allotted to their old school. The worst performers face
sanctions including staff overhauls or state takeover.

For software vendors, the law creates demand on two
fronts: for classroom products that promise to assess
students' weaknesses and prepare them for tests with
math and reading drills, and for expensive
data-management programs that can track the reams of
test data and student information that must be reported.

Many districts already have data systems in place, but
salesmen are persuading them that those need to be
overhauled for No Child Left Behind. While recognizing
that some districts do need to keep closer track of student
data, education technology experts worry that the huge
purchases - often for more than $10 million - are diverting
money from classrooms.

"Millions [of federal dollars] are being poured into some
districts, but they have to spend the majority to enhance
systems to record data," said Jan Van Dam, board
president of the International Society of Technology in
Education, which promotes the effective use of
technology in schools. "The sad part is that you're not
going to accomplish what you really want to, to improve
achievement for children."

'They're making a killing'

Karlene Lee, technology director for the Las Vegas
schools, put it more sharply: "No Child Left Behind is a
boon for" companies selling student data software, she
said. "They're making a killing."

The attempts to capitalize on the law are not subtle:
McGraw-Hill, a textbook publishing giant that has
expanded into software, is marketing a new program
called "Yearly Progress Pro" - its name taken straight
from the law.

Often, software vendors come bearing gifts, free product
samples to pique districts' curiosity and win their
gratitude. LeapFrog SchoolHouse, in a partnership with
Wal-Mart, announced last year that it was providing its
$20,000 assessment software packages for elementary
school students free of charge to 50 districts.

And two years ago, Plato formed a partnership with the
National Association of Black School Educators, headed
at the time by Andre J. Hornsby, now the CEO of Prince
George's public schools. The company pledged $3 million
in matching grants for urban schools that bought Plato

The selling goes on wherever there are struggling schools
with federal money to spend:

# In South Florida's Broward County, the fifth-largest
school district in the country, officials have been so
deluged with advances by software firms that they have
set aside one day each month for sales presentations. The
waiting list is so long that vendors are now being
scheduled for April.

# Pearson Digital Learning, the country's largest
education software company, sends an "eBus" equipped
with 13 computers and an Internet satellite connection to
demonstrate its products at urban schools. Its itinerary
has included Washington, Newark, N.J., and Bushwick, a
poor neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.

# In Las Vegas, officials of the country's sixth-largest
school district say that vendors have been most aggressive
in marketing to the state's failing schools, on the
assumption that they will be receiving more money to
help them improve.

# Similarly, in Maryland, the pressure is by far the
heaviest in the two districts with the largest numbers of
poorer students and failing schools, Prince George's and
Baltimore City.

Prince George's has responded, spending millions of
dollars on various programs in the past few years despite
budget problems that forced it to cut in other areas. The
$3.9 million deal it signed last year with the Grow
Network for a new "instruction management" program to
analyze student test scores costs about as much as the
county's mandatory summer school, which was replaced
with a voluntary program last year for lack of money. It's
also roughly equal to the cost of hiring 75 teachers to
reduce fourth-grade class size from 31 to 25, which was
delayed for a year due to budget constraints.

Baltimore administrators have mostly held back from
major purchases, figuring the financially strapped system
can't afford costly software at the moment. But that hasn't
stopped vendors from trying to win them over.

"I'm inundated. We get a lot of stuff," said Mary
Yakimowski, Baltimore's chief of educational
accountability. "And of course everything is 'in line with
No Child Left Behind.'"

The face is familiar

Often, software vendors help their cause by hiring as their
salespeople former teachers and school administrators.
When Ron Dellinger showed up at Logan's Ralph Willis
Vocational Center in his Mitsubishi Galant for a monthly
meeting of administrators from the state's southwestern
region, he was 360 miles away from his base in
Martinsburg at the other end of the state.

But many at the meeting knew him: Before joining Plato
three years ago, he was a county school superintendent
and director of one of the state's eight education districts.

Just the weekend before the Logan meeting, Dellinger
had visited the racetrack in Charles Town, W.Va., with
Rick Powell, the director of the southwestern school
region, who was presiding over the meeting. Powell
opened the meeting by joking about the trip to Charles
Town and telling the dozen assembled administrators that
"Ron needs no introduction, being a former

Dellinger, dressed in a crisp navy blue suit, assured his
audience that he was "an educator, not a salesman." He
introduced his Plato partner, Lamerson, a curriculum
consultant based near Frederick, Md., who proceeded to
give a 20-minute exhibition of Plato software on a
computer hooked up to a projector.

Clicking through Plato's offerings, Lamerson said the
company had a solution for nearly every requirement of
No Child Left Behind. Its software could assess students
every few weeks so officials could track their readiness
for the annual test and assign drills to attack weaknesses.
It could organize the school's data by the demographic
groups identified in the law. Its Focus program was
"developed specifically" for the law's Reading First

The audience needed little reminding about the pressures
of the law. Several counties in the southwestern region
have schools that are under warning status for failing to
meet goals.

"Everyone wants to meet the requirements, and they'll do
everything they can to meet them," said Sammy Dalton,
principal of a Logan County elementary school.

The salespeople, meanwhile, knew full well which
districts were most likely to look to Plato for answers.
Dellinger said in an interview that one Plato division
tracks federal grant awards to schools and sends him a
weekly update. "If we see they get funding, we'll revisit
them with a phone call," he said.

When Lamerson's presentation was done, school officials
oined the salespeople for a prime rib luncheon prepared
by a school secretary and her niece. Dellinger reminded
the administrators that he had laid out product brochures
for them.

"But don't feel obligated," he said.

Larger audience

Even as they send salespeople from school to school,
companies relish the chance to pitch products at
education technology conventions to thousands of
educators at a time.

Conferences are held annually in most states, but the
industry's mecca is the National Education Computing
Conference. This year, a record 17,500 teachers, school
administrators and vendors attended the four-day event in
June at the New Orleans convention center, where 450
companies showed off their wares in a
120,000-square-foot exhibition hall.

By day, educators thronged the hall, where the biggest
companies competed to have the tallest banners, like car
dealerships. They sat in canvas chairs as salesmen wearing
microphone headsets demonstrated software on enormous
projection screens. At the end of the sessions, audience
members were rewarded with lottery drawings for free
software and electronic toys.

Company salespeople and executives on the floor said
they were seeing even greater interest from educators
than in previous years, thanks to the demands - and
additional funding - of No Child Left Behind.

"Everyone's out there looking for the magic bullet," said
Laura Hunt, a saleswoman with Riverdeep, an
Ireland-based company that outdid its rivals by setting up
black leather couches.

Nearby, Kirk Gibbs, a salesman with Pearson Digital
Learning, was also upbeat. "There's considerably more
money available," he said. "With high-stakes tests, a lot of
administrators are under pressure to make things happen."

Riverboat entertainment

By night, vendors entertained educators at open-bar
parties in hotel ballrooms and packed chartered riverboats
for two-hour spins down the Mississippi River.

On a cruise aboard the Cajun Queen sponsored by the
software company, a brass trio played
Dixieland standards and educators dined on jambalaya
with free beer and wine as the boat eased past the French
Quarter and the sun set behind the New Orleans skyline.

Among those on board were three officials from the
Madison County, Ky., school district, which has been
shopping for software to teach technology skills. It's an
area that will be assessed under No Child Left Behind
starting in 2006 - and the specialty of,
based in Portland, Ore.

The district's technology director, Charles Bryant, sat
back after his dinner on the top deck and insisted the
cruise wouldn't affect the district's decision on whether to

"But," he added, "we are looking for something like this."

Back in West Virginia, things have been looking good for
Plato, said Dellinger. While waiting to hear from officials
in the Logan meeting, he recently got word that the
school board in Pleasants County, in the northwestern
corner of the state, had approved a $58,000 purchase of
Plato software for its alternative high school.

At about the same time, Dellinger drove to the other side
of the state, to Pendleton County deep in the Shenandoah
range, to pitch the school superintendent, whom he'd
recently run into at a statewide conference.

"I just think you have to stay out there," Dellinger said,
"and let them know you're interested in helping any way
you can."

POOR SCHOOLS, RICH TARGETS: the entire Baltomore Sun series on the Educational Software Industry and NCLB

• The Los Angeles Board of Education postponed action on the Small School Learning Communities proposal to redesign existing high school configurations into smaller learning communities of approximately 350 to 500 students. The action will be addressed at the next scheduled board meeting October 12.

• More public comments on the Central Los Angeles Learning Center No. 1 Project (Ambassador site) were heard by members of the Los Angeles Board of Education. Following public input, a few board members made statements and asked questions of the District's staff regarding the project. The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the Central Los Angeles Learning Center No. 1 Project (Ambassador site) at its next scheduled board meeting October 12.

• Board members unanimously approved the renaming of Manual Arts Elementary School No. 1 (the Science Center School) to the Dr. Theodore T. Alexander, Jr. Science Center School in honor of the late Associate Superintendent of the LAUSD.

• The Los Angeles Board of Education also unanimously approved the renaming of Robert Fulton Middle School to Fulton College Preparatory School. The name change reflects the school's recent decision to include grades 9-12.

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Conference: IMAGINE, ACHIEVE, BECOME. MAKING IT HAPPEN - Saturday Dec. 4th
LAUSD is conducting a one-day conference on
gifted/talented education in December to provide
educators and parents/guardians with an opportunity to
discuss issues of importance to the development of quality
educational opportunities for students designated as

The 31st Annual City/County Conference "Imagine,
Achieve, Become: Making It Happen" will be held
Saturday, December 4, at the Los Angeles Convention
Center in downtown Los Angeles. The event is sponsored
by the LAUSD Specially Funded & Parent/Community
Programs Division, Gifted/Talented Programs;
Professional Advocates for Gifted Education (PAGE),
California Association for Gifted (CAG), Central Cities
Gifted Children's Association and the Eastside
Association for Gifted Children.

More than 40 sessions will be offered to parents, teachers,
administrators and community members. Guest speakers
will include Diane Paynter, James Webb, Karen Rogers,
Sandra Kaplan, Dr. Paul Aravich and the Perez family.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Pre-registration is
required. Early bird registration must be postmarked by
November 19. Cost is $65. The cost to register after the
November 19 postmark will increase to $75.
Checks should be made payable to PAGE. School
purchase orders will not be accepted. There will be no
refunds after November 15, 2004. On-site registration is
available on a first-come/first-served basis.

Translation will be available.

HARDSHIP: Check with your school’s Title I or Bilingual Coordinator — or with your Principal, GATE Coordinator or Parent Center Director for information on obtaining a meeting voucher.

• Contact Sheila Smith at (213) 241-6500 for additional

GATE Conference flyer and registration form.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Tuesday Oct 05, 2004

• Local District 5: Roosevelt and Garfield School Families
Phase III Community Meeting - Defining New School Projects
Please join us at a community meeting regarding the additional new school seats for your area.
At this meeting, you will:
* Hear about new school projects being built in your area
* Learn about new opportunities to alleviate school overcrowding
* Continue to help define new school construction projects in your community
* Find out the next steps in this process
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Roosevelt High School Auditorium
456 South Mathews Street
Los Angeles 90033

• Local District 1 Phase III Community Meeting - Defining New School Projects
Please join us at a community meeting regarding the additional new school seats for your area.
At this meeting, you will:
* Hear about new school projects being built in your area
* Learn about new opportunities to alleviate school overcrowding
* Continue to help define new school construction projects in your community
* Find out the next steps in this process
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Northridge Middle School
17960 Chase Street
Northridge, CA 91325

Wednesday Oct 06, 2004

• Park Avenue Elementary School Welcome Back Celebration
Please join us to celebrate the return to operations of Park Avenue Elementary School!
Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
Park Avenue Elementary School
8020 Park Avenue
Cudahy, CA 90201

• Local District 4 Phase III Community Meeting - Defining New School Projects
Please join us at a community meeting regarding the additional new school seats for your area.
At this meeting, you will:
* Hear about new school projects being built in your area
* Learn about new opportunities to alleviate school overcrowding
* Continue to help define new school construction projects in your community
* Find out the next steps in this process
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
King Middle School
4201 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Thursday Oct 07, 2004

• Los Angeles New Elementary School #1 Groundbreaking Ceremony

Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
Los Angeles New Elementary School #1
4043 Ingraham Street
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Local District 5: Jefferson School Family
Phase III Community Meeting - Defining New School Projects
Please join us at a community meeting regarding the additional new school seats for your area.
At this meeting, you will:
* Hear about new school projects being built in your area
* Learn about new opportunities to alleviate school overcrowding
* Continue to help define new school construction projects in your community
* Find out the next steps in this process
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Jefferson High School Auditorium
1319 E. 41st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90011

• Local District 2: Grant, North Hollywood and Van Nuys School Families
Phase III Community Meeting - Defining New School Projects
Please join us at a community meeting regarding the additional new school seats for your area.
At this meeting, you will:
* Hear about new school projects being built in your area
* Learn about new opportunities to alleviate school overcrowding
* Continue to help define new school construction projects in your community
* Find out the next steps in this process
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Grant High School
13000 Oxnard Street
Valley Glen, CA 91401

Saturday Oct 09, 2004

• LACES Sports Facility Complex Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Please join us to celebrate the completion of a new sports facility complex at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES)!
Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES)
5931 W. 18th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90035

*Dates and times are subject to change.
Special Meeting re: The Ambassador Project/Central LA Learning Center #1 this Wednesday, October 6 iat Los Angeles City Hall - 27th Floor - Bradley Tower - at 1PM. • Phone: 213.241.4700
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 of 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 three 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.
 Ã¢Â€Â¢ THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - This and past Issues are available with interactive feedback at

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