Sunday, October 24, 2004

Things proceed apace

8-Article Newsletter Template
4LAKids: Sunday, Oct 24, 2004
In This Issue:
 •  LA Times Editorial: A FORMULA FOR FAILURE
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  4LAKids Book Club for October & November — ACHIEVEMENT MATTERS: Getting Your Child the Best Education Possible, by Hugh B. Price
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids one Saturday morning a month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
 •  MAKING SCHOOLS WORK: Get the Book @
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education
Things proceed apace.

At Wednesday afternoon's Bond Oversight Committee
meeting the BOC grudgingly approved a Board of
Education initiative to air condition auditoria and
gymnasia in year 'round schools. Our begrudgedness was
not Dickensonian – it wasn't because we don't support A/C in hot, overcrowded schools –WE DO! It was because the
School Board transferred the cost to the bonds AFTER the voters had approved them, AFTER the Board had agreed to the work long ago ...and had voted to pay for it from other funds!

These schools, children, teachers and communities have been promised these A/C projects for years.

In the past two weeks the Board of Ed has voted to use
school construction bond funds for historic preservation at the old Ambassador Hotel and now to fund old unkept promises. The Budget Office is proposing to transfer accounting costs to the bonds, without accountability to the Oversight Committee by "transferring" employees to the Facilities Division – though those people would continue to be accountable only to LAUSD Finance.

There is a mindset at 333 South Beaudry that the BB, K
and R Bonds are golden eggs image which presents a
rhetorical omelet of mixed metaphors!

The Algebra debate returns in today's LA Times editorial: "A Formula for Failure."

Meanwhile back at the (Crawford) Ranch: No Child Left
Behind continues to fester in the Great National Debate.
Yesterday's LA Times' editorial "Left Far, Far Behind" says
it all.

But for those who need to have more said, the adventure
continues in an episode I like to call: "Every Child Stuck
in the Muddle"

Remember earlier this year when the Bush Administration
got caught creating phony television news stories? The
spinmeisters spun political propaganda about Medicare
reform masquerading as real news segments? The GAO
slapped their fingers and made them stop? (4LAKids does
not normally condone corporal punishment!)

Well the Department of Education got caught with their
fingers in that same cookie jar! They even paid to get
Education Secretary Rod Paige a journalism award!

(This story is worth reading if only for the reason that it
includes one the great spin gyrations of the campaign, labeling the investigation as " attempt to distract attention from President Bush's great record on improving public education.")

But, wait — it gets better! Rod Paige and George W. Bush,
co-authors of the "Great Texas Miracle in Education Reform" have left a mess in Texas! See: "A Texas Experiment that Shifts Money from Rich to Poor School Districts is Turning into a Major Policy Disaster". Apparently the reformers in the Lone Star State have attempted what we did so poorly in California ...and produced an even worse result! —smf

October 24, 2004 – For decades, algebra was considered
a gateway course, a filter to sift the college-bound from
the masses of American high school students. Today, it is
considered the great equalizer — no longer the province
of the academic elite, but a linchpin of the campaign to
put college within reach of every child. That's why every
student in California must pass algebra to graduate. State
and national curriculum standards go further and
recommend that algebra be taken in eighth grade.

But the "algebra before acne" movement is encountering
resistance. Despite teacher training, math coaches and a
special path for the math-challenged that spreads two
semesters of algebra over four, 92% of eighth- and
ninth-graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District
failed to score at the proficient level on the state algebra
exam last spring. And 23% of the eighth-graders enrolled
in algebra in the 2003-2004 school year failed. Those
results are forcing district officials to rethink their
ambitious effort to provide equal opportunity by
force-feeding algebra to unprepared, unmotivated

Algebra-for-all is a worthy goal. Students deprived of a
chance to master its problem-solving capabilities are
handicapped educationally. But the mandate ignores the
realities of overcrowded schools, a shortage of qualified
math teachers and spotty early preparation. Too many
students finish seventh grade still struggling with
decimals, percentages and fractions. Few eighth-grade
teachers are prepared to transition them to abstract
thinking. The distractions of big, noisy classes and a pace
dictated by district experts inevitably leave some behind.

The state is feeling pressure to back off a little and bless
algebra readiness programs for low-scoring
eighth-graders. Long term, the real solution is better
preparation in the early grades, so that algebraic terms
and concepts aren't such a foreign language.

But all this raises a larger question: What does it matter if
students learn algebra in eighth grade if they are left in the
dark in high school about such basic college-access issues
as when to take the SAT and how to apply for financial
aid? That happens too often in California, which ranks
last in the nation in the ratio of counselors to students. It
would take more than an A in algebra to understand why
we encourage all students to aim for college, then leave
so many behind.

• LA Times Editorial: Kids and schools are being unfairly
punished by overly rigid educational reform.

October 23, 2004 - The No Child Left Behind Act was a
truly bipartisan effort. Although it is nice to see such
harmony in Washington, that also means neither party is
interested in talking about the school reform measure's
serious defects.

President Bush touts the legislation as a great success,
ignoring that it does more to frustrate schools than to
help them. Sen. John F. Kerry is in a bind. He can't attack
the law head-on because he voted for it, and many of his
Democratic colleagues helped create it. So he pretends it
would be fine if only Bush had put more money toward
education, as the Democrats wanted.

Even if Bush had given schools the extra money, this
fundamentally flawed reform would still be choking on its
own rigidity and out-of-touch definition of success. Not
only does it unfairly punish thousands of schools that are
making real progress, it actually encourages schools to
leave more students behind.

That's because the law measures success so strangely,
dependent only on whether a certain number of students
each year meet an arbitrary level of achievement called
"proficient" that differs from state to state. In California,
"proficient" is a high bar, defined as being on track to
attend a four-year university. Other states came up with
much softer definitions so they would look better under
the law. But that is just one problem with the proficiency

Let's say a teacher starts the year with a classroom full of
children whose skills are woefully low, and by the end of
that year most have improved tremendously. Their spring
tests show them going from a rating of "far below basic"
up two big rungs to "basic," one level below "proficient."
The teacher and school get no credit for this remarkable
achievement under No Child Left Behind. The teacher has
"failed." In consequence, such teachers, and the principals
of their schools, could ultimately be replaced under the

A recent Times analysis by reporters Duke Helfand and
Doug Smith found that more than 1,200 California
schools that had steadily improved their test scores
nonetheless faced disciplinary measures under No Child
Left Behind. The number is expected to grow to
thousands as more students must meet the "proficient"
label in coming years. Wouldn't it make more sense, and
say more about what children are learning, to measure
success based on students' improvement from one year to
the next?

The idea behind having one goal for all was to close the
worrisome achievement gap between disadvantaged
students, who tend to bulge at the low end of the curve,
and the more privileged ones. Truth is, the law gives
schools reason to ignore their most troubled students for
years — and also to give short shrift to top achievers.

One Santa Ana principal told The Times that her school
planned to meet its goal by giving additional instruction to
the small group of students who fell just short of the
proficiency bar last year. If they can be brought up a wee
bit, the school will be labeled a success, even if the rest of
the students make little progress. So what about all the
students at the bottom of the heap, who need the extra
attention even more?

And forget about students who already test as proficient,
even though with enriched instruction they might make
the leap to advanced. Schools get no credit for helping
these students, who are left out of the federal equation.
Programs for the gifted have been cut back at public
schools nationwide as educators put their time and money
toward getting more children to the proficient level.

Rewriting the law to encourage reasonable, incremental
improvement for all students would solve these problems
and more. It would ease the ridiculous demand that
special-education students must make the same strides as
everyone else toward proficiency. The different
definitions of "proficient" no longer would matter because
students would be measured by growth, not by an
imaginary bar. And the law could address the achievement
gap by requiring more growth among the lowest-scoring

Many schools take reform seriously. They are trying like
mad — and improving by any sane definition of the word.
They deserve some credit for it, not punishment.


• LA Times Editorial: October 19, 2004

Rod Paige isn't just an Education secretary, he's an
award-winning journalist.

Of course, his award came from a PR agency that had
been paid $700,000 by the Education Department to,
among other things, conduct a survey rating media stories
about the No Child Left Behind Act. Articles were ranked
by how frequently and favorably they mentioned the law,
and got extra credit for fawning on the Bush
administration and the Republican Party.

Given those conditions, Paige pretty easily got the top
ranking for an essay under his byline in the Seattle Times.
Sometimes if you want something done right, like getting
good press, you've just got to go out and write it yourself.

Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Edward M.
Kennedy (D-Mass.) have asked the Government
Accountability Office to decide whether the Education
Department broke the law in awarding the PR contract.
Congressional appropriations can't be used for
propaganda aimed at boosting a political party or

About $100,000 of the $700,000 awarded to PR agency
Ketchum went to the media survey; $120,000 paid for
two video clips in the format of news stories, with actors
playing news anchors talking up education programs. The
Education Department says the videos were made last
year, before federal budget monitors issued a reprimand
for a similarly misleading video on Medicare.

Lest one think this kind of politics-fueled
misappropriation of funds by the Education Department
was an isolated incident, consider Lynne Cheney's assault
on the "National Standards for History," a guide for
American schools and parents, laying out what children
should learn about the past. The complaint by the vice
president's wife against a government booklet that
mentioned the standards led to the "recycling" of 300,000
copies, at a cost of about $100,000.

Granted, the history standards were a tad heavy on social
guilt in their original version, which was widely faulted
for slighting the U.S. Constitution, using derogatory
adjectives to describe European migrants but not other
groups, and so forth.

The current revision, however, represents the thoughtful
efforts of 6,000 scholars, parents, teachers and business
leaders to tell a balanced story about the past, one with
significant roles for women and minorities and
acknowledging dark moments in the nation's history along
with successes.

But Cheney doesn't like them, apparently feeling they
concentrate too heavily on the negatives and not enough
on white male heroes such as Paul Revere and the Wright
brothers. Cheney has no formal power in the
administration, but to a working grunt in the bureaucracy,
she's still the boss' wife. So the booklets are now history.

As they say these days in the Education Department, let
no political silliness be left behind.•


By Ben Feller, Associated Press | October 15, 2004

WASHINGTON — Two Democratic senators have
asked for an investigation into whether the Education
Department spent public money on political propaganda
for President Bush.

Senators Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Edward
M. Kennedy of Massachusetts asked the Government
Accountability Office yesterday to review whether the
department illegally spent money on a video promoting
Bush's education law, and on news coverage ratings that
gave points to stories that made Bush and the Republican
Party look good.

The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.

The legislators took issue with two aspects of a $700,000
contract the department awarded to the public relations
firm Ketchum in 2003. Both emerged through a Freedom
of Information Act request by a liberal interest group.

One is a video that comes across as a news story, touting
the benefits of tutoring offered under the No Child Left
Behind law. But the video does not make clear that the
report came from the government and that the person
who says she is reporting is not a reporter.

The GAO said in May that a video news release that used
similar tactics to promote the Bush administration's
Medicare law was covert propaganda that violated two
federal laws. The Education Department says it has
stopped using video releases since that report. The
senators also questioned Ketchum's 2003 evaluation of
news coverage and reporters.

The video, the senators said, violates the legal standard
set in the Medicare case. They asked the GAO to recover
whatever money was spent on the video and the news

Department spokeswoman Susan Aspey said the request
for a GAO probe was ''politics and an attempt to distract
attention from President Bush's great record on improving
public education."



by Diana Jean Schemo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 - An essay written by a
third-grade teacher and published in The Portland
Oregonian that criticized the federal No Child Left Behind
law got one of the lowest ratings: a negative 60.

An article in The Akron Beacon Journal that credited No
Child Left Behind with driving schools to close the
achievement gap was praised, earning a score of 55

The gold medal?

That went to a piece that ran in The Seattle Times, signed
by Education Secretary Rod Paige himself, who
"specifically credits President Bush for championing" No
Child Left Behind. It got a near-perfect 95.

"The article would have rated an ideal 100 points if it had
appeared in a more prominent newspaper," said the
evaluation of newspaper coverage commissioned by the
federal Education Department.

The department paid $700,000 to Ketchum, a public
relations and marketing firm, to rate newspaper coverage
of the education law in 2003 and to produce two video
press releases in the format of news articles. The videos
were reminiscent of videos about Medicare that were sent
to television stations around the country and criticized by
federal budget monitors this year as violating the federal
law barring the use of Congressional appropriations "in a
general propaganda effort designed to aid a political party
or candidate."

The Education Department contract has come under fire
from Senators Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and
Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats,
who asked the Government Accountability Office to
determine if the department broke the law.

In their letter to the agency, the senators wrote that the
contract represented "an illegal use of taxpayer funds."

"A comprehensive, nationwide media study identifying
journalists and news organizations writing favorable
stories on President Bush and his political party's
commitment to education has only a political purpose,"
they wrote.

The articles were ranked by how frequently and favorably
they mentioned 11 features of the new law, and according
to the company's written description, whether or not they
portrayed "the Bush administration/the G.O.P. as
committed to education."

Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the Department of
Education, said the videos were done before the
Government Accountability Office issued its ruling and
were no longer in use, but she defended them as an effort
to publicize the new law.

She said, however, that the rankings did not influence the
department's treatment of reporters. She also defended
the rating of reporters in part on their friendliness to the
Bush administration and the Republican Party, saying,
"The fact of the matter is that this president and this
administration championed and led the No Child Left
Behind Act."

"Our general counsel reviewed everything that we have
done," said Ms. Aspey. She rejected criticism of the
contracts as "purely politics."

The videos and evaluations were obtained by People for
the American Way, a nonprofit organization, under the
Freedom of Information Act. The Associated Press first
reported on the contract earlier this week.•


by Virginia Postrel for the New York Times

DALLAS -- PUBLIC policy experiments rarely produce
complete successes or total failures. They usually leave
room for people with different goals or values to keep

Occasionally, however, there's a policy disaster so
catastrophic that everyone agrees that something has to
change. California's convoluted attempt to deregulate
electricity was one example. Texas's decade-long
experiment in school finance equalization -- universally
referred to as Robin Hood -- is another.

''In less than a decade, the system is approaching collapse;
it has exhausted its own capacity,'' write Caroline M.
Hoxby and Ilyana Kuziemko, economists at Harvard, in a
new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic
Research. ''We show that the collapse was predictable.''
(The paper, ''Robin Hood and His Not-So-Merry Plan:
Capitalization and the Self-Destruction of Texas' School
Finance Equalization Plan,'' is available at

As school budgets fall and property taxes rise, Texans
know Robin Hood is in trouble. But most do not really
understand why.

Some blame the very idea of equalization, others say
schools are too dependent on property taxes, and still
others argue that taxes are too low. Some declare that
schooling has simply become more demanding and

''Although it is a financially efficient model, the current
system, as it is now designed, cannot live up to the
standards of our 'outcomes'-based accountability system,''
Lloyd Jenkins, a school district trustee in the Dallas
suburb of Plano, recently wrote in The Dallas Morning

In fact, argue the economists, the Robin Hood system is
anything but financially efficient. Robin Hood does not
just move money from rich school districts to poor school
districts. It does so in a way that destroys far more wealth
than it transfers, and that erodes the tax base on which
school funding depends.

''Our estimates suggest that Robin Hood caused Texas to
lose a net of $27,000 per pupil in property wealth,'' write
Professor Hoxby and Ms. Kuziemko, a doctoral student.
That's real money.

To understand why Robin Hood is so destructive,
consider the market price of a given house. The home's
value depends not just on how big the house is or whether
it has walk-in closets and granite countertops. ''It also
depends on how many property taxes the homeowner is
going to pay and what he or she is going to get in return
for those property taxes,'' Professor Hoxby explains.

Property taxes depress the value of a house. The
amenities those taxes buy, including good schools,
increase the value. The final price reflects the net value of
the taxes the homeowner pays.

Robin Hood essentially raises taxes while reducing
benefits, creating a downward spiral in home values and
property tax receipts. For each district, the state divides
the total assessed value of property in the district by the
number of pupils. (Districts get higher per-pupil
weightings for such factors as students with learning
disabilities or limited English proficiency.)

The state then compares this number with a confiscation
threshold. The district keeps the taxes on the property
base below the threshold. But every single penny
collected on the property value above the threshold goes
to the state.

''When you have these districts that are being told, 'Your
property value above a certain amount will never go to
help your students -- it will go to the state' -- the property
value of those districts will fall,'' Ms. Kuziemko explains.
Homebuyers no longer get as much education for their
taxes, so buyers will not pay as much for houses.

During the 1990's, ''a period of unusually rapid income
growth for the wealthy,'' the economists note, the
property value per pupil actually fell in the state's
wealthiest 5 percent of school districts, even without
accounting for inflation.

That drop was bad news for everyone. Robin Hood
assumed that house prices would stay pretty much the
same, so that property-rich districts would continue to
provide ample tax dollars to the rest of the state. Instead,
every year the tax base became smaller in the rich

To meet its commitments to poor districts, the state
effectively lowered the real value of the confiscation
threshold. Corrected for inflation, the threshold was
$340,000 per weighted pupil in 1994, when the system
was established. By 2002, it had fallen to $305,000.

But lowering the threshold further depresses home values.
A death spiral sets in.

As homebuyers switch from the once-rich districts into
moderately priced districts, property values hit the
threshold in those districts, setting yet another spiral in

And while the state is pushing down the confiscation
threshold, districts try to keep up by raising their property
tax rates, pushing down home values even more.

The economists are quick to note that their critique is not
a condemnation of redistributing school funds. Rather, it's
a brief for bringing well-established principles of efficient
taxation to bear on school finance. Transfers, Professor
Hoxby argues, should be funded through a statewide tax,
while local taxes pay for local amenities.

But even local taxes could be more efficient. Instead of
confiscating 100 percent of everything above a certain
property-value threshold, says Ms. Kuziemko, the state
could take a much smaller percentage of the whole tax

''One of the principles of public finance is that having a
high tax rate on a small base is very inefficient,'' she says,
''whereas having a lower tax rate on a larger base is less

Just as ideological foes of electricity deregulation
exploited the California experience to attack deregulation
in general, some people opposed to redistribution on
principle now point to Robin Hood. But just as
California's complex system was not true deregulation, so
Robin Hood does not represent the only way to transfer
funds to poor school districts.

What was the fundamental reason for the failure,
according to Professor Hoxby and Ms. Kuziemko?
''Lawyers, not economists, designed the system.'' •

• from the University High School Wildcat

by Rajat Deva

October 22, 2004 - As students sit on windowsills, short
of desks and suffering from the summer heat, they
desperately struggle to hear every word their teachers
utter. The students hate it, the teachers hate it: big classes
are a huge problem.

Counselors are continuously working to get all the
University High students to their appropriate classes. But
some classes are still enormous, such as Richard AcreÂ’s
Life Skills class, Kevin Paulsen and Seth FreedmanÂ’s
chemistry classes, along with physical education classes.

Should class sizes remain as they are, University High will
be home to more failures and high school dropouts. To
many teachersÂ’ dismay, students are but nameless children
filling up a classroom.

A variety of different classes have insufficient materials to
undergo the full course study. In many cases, there are
simply not enough textbooks to dole out to students. The
textbooks that are available are often marked with graffiti
and have many pages missing. And when there are
enough textbooks for everyone in the class, there are
sometimes not enough for a class set. Students are forced
to carry around multiple heavy textbooks every day which
is a burden that may lead to future back problems.

Because there are so many students, there isnÂ’t nearly
enough individual time for teachers to spend one-on-one
time with their pupils. The students are on their own:
there will be no help available to them, and they will have
to simply persevere. Individual time with teachers is
almost absolutely essential; students learn so much more
at such a higher level of intellect.

Involved students are restricted to come in for help at
lunch because school clubs get in the way. A profusion of
teachers and students alike have important matters to
attend to after school. This is especially a problem with
students who live far away. Although overcrowded
classrooms is not the schools fault, actions must be taken
to reduce class size. Teachers will soon find themselves
overwhelmed by ludicrous numbers of students they have.

Will we experience the horror of massive amounts of
students packed in classrooms for the rest of this year?
Teachers and students must demand reform.

University High School Wildcat Online

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tuesday Oct 26, 2004
Local District 5: Jefferson School Family
Presentation of Phase III Project Definition
At this meeting we will:
* Present and discuss the SCHOOL PROJECT DEFINITION that staff will recommend to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval
* Review the factors used to identify new school projects, including community input
* Go over next steps in the school construction process
This is the final meeting on Phase III Project Definition before we go to the LAUSD Board of Education for approval!

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Jefferson High School – Auditorium
1319 E. 41st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90011

• Tuesday Oct 26, 2004
Local District 8: San Pedro 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

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
San Pedro High School
1001 W 15th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

• Wednesday Oct 27, 2004
Valley New High School #1
Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 9 a.m.

Valley New High School #1
9601 Zelzah Avenue
Northridge, CA 91330

• Wednesday Oct 27, 2004
Central Region Middle School #5 Pre- Design Meeting
Join us at this meeting where we will:
* Introduce the architect
* Present preliminary design for the school
* Provide an overview of the school facilities, including: number of classrooms, sports facilities, lunch area etc.
* Get feedback on the project design for Central Region Middle School #5

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Le Conte Middle School
1316 N. Bronson Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028

• Wednesday Oct 27, 2004
Local District 5: Wilson and Lincoln School Families
Presentation of Phase III Project Definition
At this meeting we will:
* Present and discuss the SCHOOL PROJECT DEFINITION that staff will recommend to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval
* Review the factors used to identify new school projects, including community input
* Go over next steps in the school construction process
This is the final meeting on Phase III Project Definition before we go to the LAUSD Board of Education for approval!

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Lincoln High School – Auditorium
3501 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, Ca 90031

• Wednesday Oct 27, 2004
Local District 6 Community Meeting
Presentation of Phase III Project Definition
At this meeting we will:
* Present and discuss the SCHOOL PROJECT DEFINITION that staff will recommend to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval
* Review the factors used to identify new school projects, including community input
* Go over next steps in the school construction process
This is the final meeting on Phase III Project Definition before we go to the LAUSD Board of Education for approval!

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Walnut Park School
2642 Olive Street
Walnut Park, CA 90255

• Thursday Oct 28, 2004
Local District 7: Jordan 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.
Jordan High School - Auditorium
2265 E. 103rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90002

• Thursday Oct 28, 2004
Central Region Elementary School #14
Preliminary Design Meeting
Join us at this meeting where we will:
* Introduce the architect
* Present preliminary design for the school
* Provide an overview of the school facilities, including: number of classrooms, sports facilities, lunch area etc.
* Get feedback on the project design

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Rosemont Avenue Elementary School Auditorium
421 N. Rosemont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026

*Dates and times subject to change.
Phone: 213.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616


4LAKids Book Club for October & November — ACHIEVEMENT MATTERS: Getting Your Child the Best Education Possible, by Hugh B. Price
Publisher: Dafina Books, 256 pages ISBN: 0758201206

Hugh B. Price is the President of the National Urban League. On the face of it his excellent book is about closing the Achievement Gap that seperates poor children and children of color from high performing “white” students.

But his message is loud and clear — and every
parent can learn from it: Parents from underperforming schools must insist upon the same level of performance as suburban parents do. Every parent has a right to expect and insist-upon excellence from teachers, administrators and the school district; we must also insist-upon and expect excellence from our own children.

Price lays much of the responsibility for the Achievement
Gap off to what he calls the “Preparation Gap”; the
dearth of adequate pre-school programs in inner city
neighborhoods. But he is not easy on parents. All must
follow the example of archtypical "pushy" suburban parents: Be Involved in Your ChildrenÂ’s Lives and Education Every Step Of The Way!

This isnÂ’t about race and economics; itÂ’s about hard work at home and in the school and in the community!

• from Chapter Eight: DEMANDING – AND GETTING
– GOOD SCHOOLS: What Parents Can Do

Entrenched bureaucracies sometimes change out of
enlightened self-interest. In other words, they see the light
and reform themselves before it's too late, before a more
compelling alternative comes widely available. Other
times, it takes concerted external pressure to force
bureaucracies to change-for the sake of their "customers"
as well as themselves.

For far too long, public educators have kept their heads in
the sand, like ostriches, in the face of an urgent need to
improve urban and and rural schools. Parents, politicians,
and business leaders have grown restless with the sluggish
pace of school improvement. I urge parents, caregivers,
and community leaders to keep up the relentless pressure
to create straight “A” schools for your children and every
American child.

Even parents in comfortable suburbs must stay right on
the school's case. "I made an assumption that in suburbia
the school would place my child where she needs to be,"
says Mane, a stay at home mother from a well-to-do
community in New Jersey: “We moved here from
Brooklyn where my daughter, Taisha., was in an
overcrowded, understaffed kindergarten class. One of the
reasons we moved to this town was for its highly rated
school system When Taisha was in third grade, the school
sent me a notice that she was reading and doing math at
an eighth grade level. I called her teacher and asked him if
there were any special classes my daughter could take at
the school that would encourage her academic talents. He
said, 'Oh well, we do have a gifted and talented

“I didn't RECEIVE that call — I MADE that call!"

"My daughter was testing in the 90th percentile nationally, and if I hadn't found out on my own that she was eligible for advanced classes, she would never be there now."

So regardless of where you live and what your family
circumstances are, here's what you must do in order to
make sure that your children are well served by their
schools and placed squarely on the path to academic

1. BE VIGILANT. Make it your business to ask your
children what's going on at school. Look for possible
trouble spots such as teachers' negative attitudes,
tracking, discipline problems, safety issues, and so on.
Stay in touch with your kids and pay attention to what
they are telling you-and keeping from you.

2. BE INFORMED. Educate yourself about what your
children are learning in school and what the school offers.
Find out if the work they're doing is grade level or better
and whether it meets the academic standards imposed by
the states. Familiarize yourself with the standardized tests
your children are expected to take, when they must take
them, and how they should prepare properly to do well on
them. One school superintendent has the parents of
fourth-graders actually take the state reading exam from
the prior year so they'll better understand what their
children are expected to know for the exam. Read up on
national and state educational policies and regulations,
with an eye to how they will directly affect your children.

3. BE INVOLVED. Join the PTA. Attend parent-teacher
conferences and "meet-the-teacher" nights. Vote in the
school board elections — maybe even run for a seat on the board yourself. No one can fight harder than you for your children's right to a good education.

4. BE VOCAL. Speak up if you see a problem with your
childÂ’s schooling, even if you think there may be
repercussions because of your activism. Go to your child's
teacher or principal if you detect. unfairness in the way
your child is being treated. If you feel you — or your
child or your child-are being punished for your
outspokenness go to your pastor, the local Urban League,
or another community organization.

5. BE VISIBLE. Make sure the school knows that your
are actively involved in your child's education. Become
involved in the governing process of your local school
system. Attend school board meetings and get to know
your local elected representatives

6. ORGANIZE. Meet with other parents to discuss how
you can work as a group to help your children. Start on a
the grassroots level with neighbors, relatives, friends.
Many voices are stronger than one, and work in unison to
ensure that achievement matters much to your children's
school as it does to you.

* * * *

Children want to do well. When large numbers of them
fail its because adults-school administrators, teachers,
parents and their larger community-have failed them.

We all know it doesn't have to be this way. Lousy public
schools can be turned around if the adults mobilize to do
so: If adults will say: “No more excuses for school
failure!” I'm not downplaying the many problems that
many schools and the families they serve face. -Just the
opposite. While these problems may not go away. they
neednÂ’t defeat the efforts of determined parents and
educators to close the Preparation Gap and ensure that
children achieve, regardless of their family circumstances.

Get ACHIEVEMENT MATTERS 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.
 Â• THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - This and past Issues are available with interactive feedback at

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