Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Elections & Test Scores

8-Article Newsletter Template
Happy Halloween from 4LAKids! 4LAKids: Sunday, Oct 31, 2004
In This Issue:
 •  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 @ Amazon.com
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education
First things first: Did you turn back your clock last night?

Have you found your sample ballot ...and have you
marked that puppy up? Do you know where your polling
place is? Have you decided ...or are you in that group
rapidly nearing extinction: The Great Undecided of 2004?
Have you decided on the ballot measures and the judges?

Elections and standardized test scores are snapshots in
time - and the results impact the future. There are no

The final results of last year's round of standardized
testing is in and the results are not happy. Our school
districts, our local schools, our children — our whole
educational system ...just what exactly are we testing? —
did not fare well.

Or are we testing how well the ballyhooed bipartisan
federal program of education reform exquisitely
mis-styled "No Child Left Behind" can function when
underfunded by $24 billion? Because if that's what we're
testing the final exam is next Tuesday!

It's a single True or False question. And yes, the result
counts one hundred percent towards our final grade.


" John Kerry dará los fondos completos para la Ley Que
Ningún Niño se Quede Atrás y aprobará la ley DREAM o
ley SUEÑO, porque sabe que la educación es la clave del
futuro." / "John Kerry will fully fund No Child Left
Behind, and will pass the DREAM Act, because he knows
that education is the key to the future." — from the
Democratic Hispanic Radio Response to the President's
Weekly Radio Address, delivered on October 30th by
Teresa Heinz Kerry

• 4LAKids supports John Kerry for President and Barbara
Boxer for US Senate.

• 4LAKids urges a YES vote on Measures A (Increased
Local Police) & O (Water Clean Up); we similarly urge a
YES vote on Prop 72 (Affordable Health Insurance) —
all three of these will make a difference for children.

4LAKids is not a PTA publication, but endorses the PTA
position on the statewide ballot measures:

• YES on Prop 61 (Children's Hospitals)
• YES on 63 - (Mental Health)
• NO on 68 - (Non-Tribal Gaming)

My politically partisan friends may argue with this, but
here I go: If you agree with me, please go out and vote
with me. If you disagree, please go out and vote the other
way. If you can't decide, do your homework. Get
informed and vote. We simply cannot allow anyone but
the electorate to decide the future; there is simply no
room in this election for ambiguity, sideline sitting and
politics as spectator sport. —smf

California State PTA Ballot Arguments


By Jennifer Radcliffe - Staff Writer

Thursday, October 28, 2004 - Only 52 percent of Los
Angeles Unified schools met or exceeded state Academic
Performance Index targets this year, down sharply from
the 85 percent that reached their goals in 2003, the
Department of Education reported Thursday.

The LAUSD's decline mirrored poor results statewide,
with only 48 percent of California schools meeting API
targets, compared with 78 percent last year.

But schools in the San Fernando Valley outpaced their
counterparts both in the rest of Los Angeles and
statewide. Nearly 65 percent of Valley schools met their
API goals, including 61 percent of elementary schools, 76
percent of middle schools and 54 percent of high schools.

Superintendent Roy Romer blamed the district's drop
partly on disappointing results from third- and
fourth-graders and the fact that the bar is raised each

"We're making progress. I'm proud we did better than the
state, but I don't think we're doing well enough," Romer

State Superintendent Jack O'Connell called the sharp
declines "unacceptable" and said schools must "redouble"
their efforts, but his office had no immediate explanation
for the drop.

"No one really understands why," said Bill Padia, director
of policy and evaluation for the California Department of

Established by the state five years ago, the index uses
scores from several standardized tests to create an
accountability benchmark.

Scores range from 200 to 1,000 points, with the state
goal being 800 or above. A school that scores below 800
is given a growth target of 5 percent of the difference
between its current score and 800.

The API is one of several measures that determine
whether schools make annual yearly progress, as required
under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools that
fail to make progress, including nearly 180 already
identified in the Los Angeles Unified School District, face
sanctions that include allowing students to transfer and
forcing campus restructuring.

After a year that produced mixed or flat results on state
standardized tests, many schools struggled to improve by
that 5 percent.

Still, LAUSD officials touted double-digit gains among
Latino, African-American and poor students. They cited
parental involvement, teacher collaboration and targeted
remediation efforts for the success.

While the LAUSD had a higher percentage of schools
meeting targets than the statewide average, the district
still lags the state in overall points. The district's API
increased 12 points, to 634, this year and the state API
increased 10 points, to 693.

Board member David Tokofsky said the district is gaining
too slowly and that too few schools are meeting their

"If your school is still below 600 or 650, you should be
concerned about its rate of progress," he said. "We should
also be concerned about the district's rate of progress."

The LAUSD's top performer was Balboa Gifted and High
Ability Magnet in Northridge, whose near-perfect API of
982 ranks in the top five in the state.

Balboa's scores edged up four points this year. The higher
a school's score, the tougher it is to make gains, Principal
Raj Schindl said.

She said she's thrilled that her students and teachers were
able to defend the title as the top performer in the

"There is some pressure, but this is a great school with a
great group of children. They take their education very
seriously," said Schindl, adding that Balboa's waiting list
is 1,200 students.

Colfax Elementary in North Hollywood saw its API
increase 34 points, to 793. To improve academics, the
campus focused on increasing arts education and giving
teachers more time to plan lessons, Principal Joanie
Freckmann said.

"We expected to do well. We were delighted to do that
well," she said. "We are on the move and it's very

At Stagg Street Elementary in Van Nuys, the API
increased 63 points to also reach 793. The school focuses
on teaching values and language arts remediation.

"The bottom line is, if you teach the kids, they do learn,"
said Principal Lisa Gaboudian, who spends her lunch
break teaching multiplication tables to struggling
students. "You just have to be creative."

Both Colfax and Stagg hope to reach or exceed the state's
goal of 800 next year.

Information for more than 850 schools statewide,
including about 32 in the San Fernando Valley, will not be
available until January, after corrections are made to the

Five school districts -- Fillmore Unified, Moorpark
Unified, Oak Park Unified, Rio Elementary and Santa
Paula Elementary -- did not post any API scores because
of erroneous data.

While the corrections probably won't impact the state's
totals, they could dramatically change averages in districts
with large amounts of missing data, Padia said.

"That's just a fact of life that happens every year," Padia
said of the corrections.

In Ventura County, 60 percent of schools met or
exceeded their target scores on the API, with an overall
10-point gain over last year. Still, fewer schools met the
targets than in the previous year.

"We didn't do as well as we had hoped, but we did better
than the state," Superintendent of Schools Charles Weis
said. "I think it's a sign for things to come if we don't
change our strategies and focus."

Weis said Hispanic and poorer students consistently
struggle to make their schools' growth targets.

Sixty-four percent of Simi Valley schools reached their
API targets. Conejo Valley increased its API score to 833
points, up from 828 last year, with 78 percent of schools
meeting the goal. And in the affluent Las Virgenes
Unified district in western Los Angeles County, 92
percent of schools met their targets.

• Fewer than half meet their goals, a sharp decline from
last year's performance. Budget cuts, bigger classes, loss
of focus blamed.

By Duke Helfand and Jean Merl - Times Staff Writers

October 29, 2004 - Fewer than half of California's public
schools met state targets for academic improvement this
year, a sharp decline from last year, when most schools
met expectations, according to data released Thursday.

State education officials voiced concern about the
disappointing results, blaming ongoing budget cuts for
raising class sizes and suggesting that schools were losing
focus after five years of annual testing.

"Frankly, this is unacceptable," Jack O'Connell, state
superintendent of public instruction, said at a news
conference at a Lennox elementary school. "The time has
come for all of us to redouble our efforts. Education
complacency is simply not an option. We need to focus as
never before."

But testing experts said the leveling off followed a
familiar pattern in school assessment programs, which
typically produce sizable gains in the initial years followed
by less growth later on.

The data released on Thursday represented this year's
final installment of state and federal reports based on tests
administered throughout California last spring. The others
analyzed the test results in varying ways, but all showed
that schools were improving at a slower rate than in the

The latest report tells whether schools met their goals on
the Academic Performance Index, which grades campuses
on a scale of 200 to 1,000 based on students' scores in
math, English and other subjects. Schools are required to
reach annual targets as they strive toward the state's goal
of 800.

Separate groups within schools — such as white and
African American students — also must demonstrate
progress each year.

Overall, just 48% of about 6,500 schools statewide met
their improvement targets this year, down from 78% last
year, the data showed. There were no growth targets for
712 schools because they were new, were specialized
campuses or did not test enough students.

Schools statewide lost ground both on overall
improvement and on the growth in their student groups.

The Los Angeles Unified School District lost about as
much ground as the state overall: 52% of schools met
their targets this year compared to 85% last year.

Still, many principals said their campuses were working
diligently to raise test scores and respond to the pressures
brought by the state and separate federal rules that also
demand improvement.

"It's frustrating," said Marrio Walker, assistant principal
at Walton Middle School in Compton, where scores rose
by 11 points this year to 565, one point short of its target.

"We just have to keep going," Walker said of his school,
where teachers have added after-school and Saturday
tutoring programs in recent years and concentrated on
improving students' math skills, among other efforts. "We
feel very good that we are moving in the right direction
and our school is growing."

The principal at Leo Carrillo Elementary School in
Garden Grove said her staff was far from complacent,
even as the school's testing gains showed signs of

Last year, the school's index score jumped by 34 points.
This year, it improved by just one point, from 733 to 734,
two short of its target.

Principal Barb Batson expressed satisfaction with the hard
work of her staff and said she envisioned no major
changes at her campus.

"We are certainly not concerned that it means we are on a
downward path," she said of the latest scores. "The reality
is that as we continue to move up this curve, we're going
to slow down. We can't continue to improve forever."

Testing experts agreed, saying it's virtually impossible for
schools to maintain aggressive growth year after year.

"This doesn't surprise me at all," Pete Goldschmidt, a
senior researcher at the UCLA-based National Center for
Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing,
said of the slower progress in schools.

Goldschmidt said schools will need to focus their efforts
on traditionally "underserved" students, including those
with learning disabilities and others still learning English,
all of whom need to achieve at higher levels for schools to
meet the state expectations.

"It's a tough nut to crack," Goldschmidt said.


POOR PERFORMANCE: The final piece of the annual school report card released Thursday showed that the state's schools lost ground both on overall improvement on the Academic Performance Index and on the improvement of student subgroups.

• 2002-2003
Schools that met targets: 78%
Schools that did not meet targets: 22%

• 2003-2004
Schools that met targets: 48%
Schools that did not meet targets: 52%

• Subgroup Failure Rates:

Source: California Department of Education

Times staff writers Cara Mia DiMassa, Joel Rubin and
Doug Smith and data analyst Sandra Poindexter
contributed to this report.

California Department of Education: Academic Performance Index (API) Reports

• LA Times Editorial: THE DOG ATE MY CAR KEYS

October 28, 2004 – Student attendance translates to
money for California's public schools. That explains the
Los Angeles Unified School District's effort to lure
students to school with goodies like field trips and class
parties, and the threat that poor attendance will lower
grades. But teachers are absent at a rate higher than
students, and the district has no carrot-and-stick for them.
Instead, a new district policy simply asks them nicely to
show up for work and includes a veiled threat of
disciplinary action if they use sick leave inappropriately.

State law guarantees teachers 10 fully paid sick days each
school year and an additional 90 days off at half pay.
About 20% of L.A. Unified's 34,000 teachers take no
more than a day or two off every year, but 25% take their
full complement of 10 and then some. It costs the district
about $122 million each year to replace them with

A day off a month is not outlandish — teachers spend
their days in stuffy classrooms crowded with germy
children. But is it a coincidence that the most common
"sick" days are Fridays, paydays and the day after a
holiday weekend? So many teachers were absent on the
first two Friday paydays of this semester that 1,000
classes wound up without teachers when the district ran
out of subs. Studies show a direct link between the
number of days a teacher is absent and the performance of
the teacher's students.

According to school reports, about 65% of teacher
absences are because of illness or injury. But more than
25% are for other reasons: a midweek fishing trip, a
chance to hit the Nordstrom sale. It's hard to urge
students not to play hooky when their teachers are doing
it. And the absentee problem is compounded by new
demands for training that pull teachers from class several
days each term.

A policy that has no teeth and relies on goodwill won't be
enough to counter the forces that keep teachers away.
Neither will strong-arm tactics that turn principals into the
illness police. District officials might do well to put their
statistics aside and look at the schools where teacher
attendance is consistently high. A supportive principal,
committed staff and well-considered curriculum would
probably do more for teacher morale than another edict
from on high.

• Letter to the Editor: ABSENT TEACHERS

October 31, 2004 – Re "The Dog Ate My Car Keys,"
editorial, Oct. 28: It is not just the teachers who chose to
be out of the classroom. Nowhere in your editorial is
there mention about the number of days teachers miss due
to mandated training, district meetings or other
out-of-classroom activities. At our school alone we have
two teachers who have been out of class a combined total
of 25 days for such training. School has been in session
for only 41 days.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has made it a
point this year of reducing teacher absences. Its mantra:
"Students learn when teachers are in the classroom." Now
just how much learning do you believe has gone on in
those two classrooms?

–Tom Iannucci
Los Angeles

• Letter to the Editor: EDUCATION ALTERNATIVES

October 30, 2004: The Oct. 24 editorial, "A Formula for
Failure," [4LAKids 10/24] lamented that, along with 23%
of eighth-graders failing algebra, we also "encourage all
students to aim for college, then leave so many behind."
This is touchy ground, but maybe it's a disservice to have
a K-12 management mentality that assumes all students
are college material. They're not. Only 25% of Americans
have a bachelor's degree. If we double that number, it still
leaves half our population without a focused, realistic
educational path. Allow all to aim for college, but we
need attractive K-12 and community college programs
geared to the vast number of great kids who will never
earn a bachelor's degree.

Frank Roberts
Chino Hills

• smf notes: To Mr. Roberts' argument I offer a friendly
amendment of two words: ...we need attractive AND
EFFECTIVE K-12 and community college programs....


• from Hear Me NOW (News of Washington), Washington High School, Sioux Falls, SD

by Chelsea Steinborn

Republican or Democratic? As we inch ever closer to the
November elections, it seems the public has gotten too
hooked on supporting “their” party, instead of striving to
find who could best lead our country.

Candidates from both major parties have been edging ever
closer to that coveted center-line. Today, itÂ’s easy to
sway over the line between parties and not even know it.
We should be supporting the one whose ideas tie in
closest to our own.

What matters the most is that you utilize your right to
vote. That’s what it is—a right. Some of us, myself
included, will not be 18 years of age in time for the
election. Those who will be 18 in time should realize how
lucky they are and take advantage of it. People have
fought long and hard for the right to vote. The
presidential election of 2000 proved that even a single
vote truly does count. Let your voice be heard.

For those of you who do not meet the cut off date and
will not be able to vote in the upcoming election, take
part in the school-wide mock election. You will get to
vote your opinion, even if you are under age. The election
will give us a small hint about which way our school leans
in regards to the presidential election. Show a little
interest in the leaders of our country. ItÂ’s your decision
who you vote for.

The younger population of voters is the population with
the worst voter turn out. We should change that. As the
MTV slogan says, “Choose or Loose, Vote or Die.”

- Senior Chelsea Steinborn promises to vote, when


By Jacob Berezin - Opinion Editor of the University High
School Wildcat

October 29 - Every four years we are told that this is the
most important election in our lifetime. This election year
politicians have told everyone that this election is far
more important than the 2000 presidential election which
was also the most important election in our lifetime. But
this election actually is the most important for one reason
and one reason only; the future of our democracy is at

There are two reasons why John Kerry must be elected;
one is that George Bush is the worst president in our
nation's history. The other is, surprisingly enough, is that
Kerry would make a good president.

The attacks of 9/11 brought the country together and
ushered in a sense of unity. Bush abused that unity to pass
the civil liberty destroying PATRIOT Act; so eloquently
titled to insinuate that if you are not for destroying the
Bill of Rights, you are not a patriot. The PATRIOT Act
destroys individuals' privacy and other liberties granted by
the Bill of Rights in the name of national security. John
Ashcroft now has the power to check your library records
and jail you indefinitely without the right to see an

The failures of Bush's presidency do not stop there; the
PATRIOT ACT is just the tip of the iceberg. Bush has
also failed miserably at foreign policy. He took troops out
of Afghanistan to fight in Iraq, a country with no Al
Qaeda connections. Bush has not been able to keep the
peace in Iraq and now BushÂ’s worst fears about Iraq have
come true, insurgents have gotten hold of HusseinÂ’s
explosives. This is not because Hussein gave them to the
insurgents, the Bush administration failed to secure the
weapons bunker.

But wait, thereÂ’s more! Bush can also fumble the
economy just as well as foreign policy. Bush entered
office with a record surplus that Clinton gave him and he
has turned it into a record deficit. Bush is the first
president to lose jobs under his watch since Hoover
during the Great Depression. All of this can be attributed
to his tax cuts for the upper class. BushÂ’s multi-billion
dollar giveaway squandered our surplus when it could
have been used to unsure that social security does not get
terminated. Now we are at war and Bush wants another
round of tax cuts. War calls for sacrifices and Bush has
not sacrificed his tax cuts to stop the deficit from getting
bigger while we are at war.

But none of these issues are the reason our democracy is
at stake. BushÂ’s administration is the most secretive we
have ever seen. Everything is done in secret for fear that if
the public found out what Bush was actually doing he
would lose popularity. On Friday afternoons some
regulation put in place to protect the environment is taken
out and replaced with regulations that allow plants too
pollute with titles such as “Clean Air” and “Healthy
Forests” when these regulations do the opposite.

But there is one final reason to vote for Kerry. He has
good ideas for America. He has shown that he is a man of
principle by standing up to Nixon and telling America that
the Vietnam War is wrong. If there is one man who can
stop the process of destroying our democracy it is Kerry.

The High School Journalism Project of the American Society of Newspaper Editors

• AUTISM CONFERENCE & WORKSHOP: Educating Children with Autism—Services Needed & How to Obtain Them

It has been recognized that children with Autism
Spectrum Disorders can make remarkable gains and lead
happy, productive lives when provided appropriate
educational programs. Preparation for IEP's will also be

Presented by B.J. Freeman, Ph.D. and Kathleen
Jernigan, J.D. on next Saturday November 6th, 2004 from
8:00 - 4:00 p.m at the UCLA NW Auditorium. There is a
registration form and $125. fee. For more information
email: or call: bjfoo7ca@aol.com or jfisher@rcf.usc.edu /
310-440-8543 or 310-670-6071

Clay Aiken from American Idol to assist with inclusion
issues for kids with developmental disabilities. While on
staff at the YMCA, Clay Aiken watched as children with
special needs were turned away from programs due either
to the lack of staff members trained specifically in
working with the disabled or a staffer to participant ratio
that was too high to provide the necessary support. The
foundation serves to bridge the gap now existing for
young people with developmental disabilities between full
inclusion and today's reality.
The Bubel-Aiken Foundation will have a celebrity benefit
fundraiser on Friday November 19th in Century City.
Check out the event website at www.voicesforchangebenefit.org


Intended for: Educators, Architects, school facilities
designers and parents.

Students and teachers need good acoustics to learn. A
recent ANSI standard for classroom acoustics provides
performance criteria, design requirements and design
guidelines for schools. This workshop will prepare
architects to understand and meet the requirements of
ANSI standard S12.60-2002.

This Workshop will discuss:
• Why good acoustics are needed
• What is “good acoustics” for schools?
• What the ANSI standard on school acoustics
S12.60-2002 requires.
• What architects and school designer need to know about
• How to implement good acoustics in new design and
• Examples of successful and not-so successful school
acoustic designs

This Workshop is presented in connection with the 148th
meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. A day-long
series of papers on classroom acoustics will take place on
Thursday November 18th at the Town and Country

When: November 19 2004 9 am to 4 pm
(On site registration starts at 8 am) Registration: $75

Town & Country Hotel
500 Hotel Circle North
San Diego CA 92108

For information and registration, contact Dave Lubman,
phone: 714.373.3050 or e-mail: lubman@ix.netcom.com

• Gifted Ed 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.
Contact Sheila Smith at (213) 241-6500 for additional
Translation will be available.
HARDSHIP: Check with you School’s Title I or Bilingual Coordinator — or with your Principal, GATE
Coordinator or Parent Center Director for information
on obtaining meeting vouchers.
A flyer is available on the LAUSD Master Calendar and
contains the registration tear-off.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Wednesday Nov 03, 2004
South Gate New Elementary School (Tweedy) Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m.
South Gate New Elementary School (Tweedy)
9724 Pinehurst Avenue
South Gate, CA 90280

• Wednesday Nov 03, 2004
Dena New Primary Center Construction Update Meeting
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Dena Elementary School
1314 Dacotah Street
Los Angeles, CA 90023

• Wednesday Nov 03, 2004
Local District 5: Roosevelt & Garfield 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.
Roosevelt High School - Auditorium
456 South Mathews Street
Los Angeles 90033

• Wednesday Nov 03, 2004
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.
Hughes Elementary School Multipurpose Room
4242 Clara Street
Cudahy, CA 90201

• Thursday Nov 04, 2004
Central Region Elementary School #17 Schematic Design Meeting
Please join us for a community meeting regarding the design for Central Region Elementary School #17.
At this meeting we will:
* Review community suggestions and comments from the previous meeting
* Present schematic design
* Collect community input on the design of the project
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School
981 E. 41st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90011

*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.
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