Saturday, February 25, 2006


4LAKids: Sunday, Feb 26, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  STUDY SHOWS PROGRAM HELPS GRADUATION RATES: Students in LA's BEST are Less Likely to Drop Out of High School, a Report Says.
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids the second Saturday morning each month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
 •  The Blueprint for Effective School Reform: MAKING SCHOOLS WORK � Get the Book @!
 •  THE BEST RESOURCE ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FUNDING ON THE WEB: The Sacramento Bee's series "Paying for Schools."
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education.
■ smf opines: Anyone who reads the Daily News when they write about LAUSD knows the drill. The first day they print an article, the next day the Editorial Board puts its own curious spin on the story. Never was that better defined than this week in the quantum leap to confusion that follows.

With apologies to Niccolo Machiavelli and the Plotters of Byzantium � to searchers for conspiracies everywhere when the pure science of Unintelligent Design explains it all � I give you the Tuesday/Wednesday one/two punch:


By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer LA Daily News

Feb. 21, 2006 � With Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Roy Romer nearing retirement, the game has begun to find his replacement, and the name bandied about town the loudest and most consistently: Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg.

The former school board and City Council member remains coy on the topic, but sources say she has been campaigning hard for months - even before Romer announced his intended early departure - to head up the second-largest school district in the nation.

"It's not something I really want to do. However, depending on who they're looking at and whether or not somebody thinks that I could be useful, I won't say I won't work on the inside," said Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, who will be term-limited out of the Assembly in December.

"I'm not interested in the job. I'm not ready to throw my hat in the barrel at this time. I'm not subtle. If I wanted the job, I'd be out there saying I want the job."

An often controversial public figure, Goldberg acknowledged she has been talking about education issues with business, education and political leaders in town, which may have fueled the rumors.

Others in the running include a variety of current and former Los Angeles Unified administrators, although Romer won't step down until the fall.

But it's the liberal Goldberg who's generating the most reaction. Because of her long and close links to United Teachers Los Angeles, many local leaders believe the job is hers if she wants it because of support of the teachers union. Her nephew David Goldberg was recently elected into the UTLA leadership.

It is her close ties to the union that is the biggest concern of her critics should she become superintendent.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a longtime champion of reforming the LAUSD and a supporter of a mayoral takeover of the school district, avoided criticism of Goldberg but stressed the need for the next superintendent to be a strong administrator - experience that the assemblywoman lacks.

"I get along with Jackie very well, although we often disagree with each other," Riordan said. "I think the district needs a superintendent that can put accountability up and down the line from the parents to teachers to principals."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who for months has bashed the district as "failing" and is working to take control of it, said Monday that he wants to be involved in selecting Romer's successor.

"Jackie Goldberg is a former teacher and school board member and she has a great deal of experience for the job," said Villaraigosa, who held the Hollywood Assembly seat now occupied by Goldberg until 2002.

"I'd like to see an agent for change, someone who will look to ensure lowering the dropout rate, improving scores, empowering parents and teachers and cutting bureaucracy."


A.J. Duffy, president of UTLA, said the union is not pushing a candidate behind the scenes for the position. He added that the idea that the union has any clout in choosing the next superintendent and the perception that it has three board members in its pocket - Julie Korenstein, Jon Lauritzen and Marguerite LaMotte - is completely inaccurate.

"These folks do not belong to us and there are times where they do not represent our views; but when we endorse and support and give money, we believe we're endorsing people who believe in public education and are the keys to reform," Duffy said.

In fact, Duffy said Goldberg getting the job was "highly unlikely," and he believes the next superintendent will be Latino.

"I think that the board and the public may lean that way since it makes sense when a huge preponderance of our kids are Latino," he said. "It makes sense, but again, I would hope that the district would go for the most qualified person."

Board member David Tokofsky believes that with her educational and political background, Goldberg could easily be a finalist.

"Jackie's resume, experience and political network would immediately make her in the final 10, unless of course Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are submitting their resumes if their wives will let them," he said. "She's a Sacramento 'Survivor,' she's an L.A. 'Idol' and maybe she'll be 'Dancing with the Stars.' This superintendent's show is going to be the best reality television show."

Ed Burke, chief of staff for Lauritzen, who's in the hospital recovering from surgery, said Goldberg had the qualities of a good superintendent.

"She's not a bad choice at all. Certainly she has the background. She was on the school board, she's been in education all her life, she was on the City Council so she can certainly work with those people; she was in the Legislature and she has a passion for education," Burke said. "I don't have a vote, but I certainly would put her high on the list. A lot of the people here have positive feelings about her."

Romer, who has 16 months remaining on his contract, announced last week that he would like to leave by fall but would stay until a replacement was found.

The former governor of Colorado and head of the Democratic National Committee came on board in June 2000, taking on a job few wanted to get near.


But he established a significant legacy by driving the passage of four school construction bond measures and a $19 billion construction program to build 160 schools. He has also been credited with turning around decades of failure and beginning to improve student test scores.

The board is scheduled today to appoint Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler Inc. to conduct a nationwide search for the next superintendent. But, already a "usual suspects" list of names is emerging:

� LAUSD Chief Instructional Officer of Secondary Instruction Bob Collins, who was recently up for the superintendent position for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas.
� LAUSD Chief Operating Officer Dan Isaacs.
� Former LAUSD local district superintendent and current West Covina Unified Superintendent Liliam Castillo.
� Former LAUSD Deputy Superintendent Maria Ott.
� Former LAUSD Deputy Superintendent Maria Casillas, who now heads the nonprofit Families in Schools.
� Former mayor of San Antonio, and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Henry Cisneros.
� Other names being thrown about include LAUSD local district Superintendent Richard Alonzo; former local district Superintendent Judy Burton; former U.S. secretary of education and Houston school district Superintendent Rod Paige; and Carlos Garcia, who departed in July 2005 as superintendent of the Clark County School District.

"This is an important part of the process. Early on you want to think out of the box and raise the names of all the people that might be good for the job," said Caprice Young, who heads the state charter school association and who had served on the school board when it selected Romer as superintendent.

The board needs to determine its vision and find the best person to carry out that vision, said Young.

"There always are names that get floated throughout the process, but the most important thing is for the board to seriously think about what they need in a superintendent to make their visions for the district actually happen," she said. "The biggest frustrations board members have is to pass a policy only to have it implemented badly or not implemented at all."

Goldberg said she hopes whoever succeeds Romer will have a less top-down management style.

"Romer was great in that he got certain things moving again - he got schools built, he focused at least on the elementary level on academics, which was sorely needed," Goldberg said. "I don't agree with all of his methods, I think he was way too top-down, but I think he deserves a lot of credit for the things he's done."



LA Daily News Editorial

February 22, 2006 - When campaigning for mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa talked a good game about shaking up the Los Angeles Unified School District. Since taking the oath last year, he has talked endlessly about mayoral control without spelling out how he would fix the schools.

Until now.

At long last, the mayor's plan for education reform is starting to take shape, and it's a brilliant bit of strategic gamesmanship. Its top-secret code name: Operation Jackie.

Admittedly, we're still working out the details of this theory, but Operation Jackie's broad outline is quickly becoming clear.

With the mayor's blessing, the school board names Jackie Goldberg - former schoolteacher, LAUSD board member and city councilwoman who is currently a term-limited member of the state Assembly - as new superintendent to replace the retiring Roy Romer, the world's greatest builder of new schools.

Like Villaraigosa, Goldberg is deeply connected with United Teachers Los Angeles, the powerful union that controls a majority of the board, and she brings unquestioned left-wing credentials.

Unlike Villaraigosa, however, the polarizing Goldberg lacks the ability to reach out and work with people on the other side of the aisle. She also has no executive experience, which could be a serious liability for someone trying to manage a massive bureaucracy responsible for the well-being of 700,000 kids.

But this all could be part of the brilliance of Villaraigosa's super-duper, top-secret strategy.

Think about it: The district is in crisis, with a restless public fed up with the slow rate of reform. Villaraigosa hopes to put the LAUSD under mayoral control, and another movement is afoot to break it up.

What better way to hasten reform than to put the LAUSD under the leadership of a superintendent who's not only inexperienced, but also highly controversial? Sometimes you really have to break something to be able to fix it once and for all. It's a corollary to "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Operation Jackie is positively Machiavellian.

At last we know why Villaraigosa has been so slow to articulate his plan for education reform. He's simply allowing it to unfold before our eyes. First the LAUSD's crisis is exacerbated, and Romer and his team abandon ship. Then the mayor rides in on a white horse to save the day.


But Operation Jackie has just one problem: Goldberg has been working the education turf hard in recent weeks but wants no part of it. At least that's what she says. "I'm not interested in the job," she insists. "I'm not ready to throw my hat in the barrel at this time. I'm not subtle. If I wanted the job, I'd be out there saying I want the job."
But wait, there's hope yet!

"I won't say I won't work on the inside," says Goldberg.

Ever the dedicated public servant, if called, she will serve.

And if Villaraigosa wants to take control of the LAUSD, called she will be.

It's all part of his plan.


By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Feb 23 - Apparently committed to the $208 million performing arts high school envisioned by billionaire Eli Broad despite its soaring costs, the Los Angeles Unified board hopes to secure money for the project from philanthropists and civic groups.

Finding themselves in a situation they generally concur is irreversible, board members said Wednesday it's time to ask the community to help build and operate one of the costliest high schools in the nation.

"We need to step up the civic commitments from Eli, the mayor and everybody who wants this to be a signature school for the city," board member David Tokofsky said.

"When the Disney Hall was in trouble, everybody in this town came together to make that happen under the leadership of (former Mayor) Dick Riordan, the (Board of) Supervisors and the philanthropists.

"We should do no less for the most central high school in this whole district."

Board President Marlene Canter met last week with Broad to update him on plans for the 1,700-student school, which has skyrocketed to four times its original cost. It was Broad who pushed the board to create a landmark performing arts high school rather than a traditional campus on the site, which sits at the entrance to the $1.5 billion Grand Avenue Civic Center development he has championed.

Broad declined to comment on the meeting, as did Canter. But she said the time had come to turn to others for help.

"As board president, I'm calling on everyone from the architect and contractor to the leaders of the Grand Avenue project and arts community to find new and creative ways to help us fund construction of this flagship school," she said.

The board is expected to approve a $171.9 million bid by PCL construction at its March 7 meeting.

Superintendent Roy Romer has urged the board to accept the bid rather than waste time re-designing the project in the hopes of cutting costs.

"I think we have to approve this contract, then we need to turn to the community and say come down and help us finance this," Romer said. "I don't think it's inappropriate for this district to have one signature place. We're spending $19 billion and we're being frugal, but this one place we're going to make an investment for history and for students."

The architecturally unique, 238,000-square-foot school is designed with four small learning communities - music, dance, performing arts and visual arts - along with a theater, free-standing library and a tower.

Broad has pledged $3.1 million for construction and $1.9 million for operations. That money is contingent upon the school being built as designed by the architectural team hand-picked by Broad.

The project site used to house LAUSD's headquarters until the district moved to a Broad-owned building on Beaudry.

Board member Julie Korenstein, who said she struggled for years to get the money to renovate the auditorium at Van Nuys High School, said she's uncomfortable with the inequity of resources.

"In the San Fernando Valley, there's no school being built that comes close to that in cost or design. It's really frustrating that one school would get so much," she said.

"At this point in time, it's taken on a life of its own, but the problem is we're really far down the way now and to pull back now, we'll lose many years, and students need a place to go to school. I'm very conflicted."

The current plan to complete the Grand Avenue school by 2008, three years behind schedule, needs to be approved now in order to attract donors, said Araceli Ruano, chair of Discovering the Arts and an L.A. County arts commissioner.

Discovering the Arts - created in 2004 by Romer and former school board member Jose Huizar - has taken the lead in developing relationships with elected officials, the business community, philanthropists and foundations to help raise money for both the construction and operation of the school.

"Individuals and foundations who support these types of capital projects, do so for projects that have a vision, a plan, a timeline and a budget for construction," Ruano said. "We're mobilizing and this is the critical next step."

So far the group has committed to raising $1.5 million for the school. With 19 high-profile members from the entertainment, arts and business communities, Ruano said it hopes to expand their network of potential donors.

by Chris Moran, San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer

February 22, 2006 - Students who don't speak English have less than a 40 percent chance of becoming fluent even after 10 years in California's schools, researchers studying the effects of Proposition 227 estimated in a report released yesterday.

Voters approved Proposition 227 in 1998 to require English learners to be taught �overwhelmingly� in English for a year and then transferred to English-only classrooms. It allows parents to enroll their children in bilingual education if they visit a school and sign a waiver exempting their children from the law.

The difference in results between English-only and bilingual education instruction is �minimal or nonexistent,� the report found.

Students in bilingual education receive part of their instruction in their native language, and the primary language of 85 percent of non-English-speaking students in California is Spanish.

�We believe that 227 focused on the wrong issue. It's not about the language of instruction. It's about the quality of instruction,� said Robert Linquanti, co-author of a five-year evaluation of the initiative for the California Department of Education.

The report found the state's 1.6 million non-English-speaking students have benefited from Proposition 227 because it cast a spotlight on their underachievement. Since then, English learners have shown steady improvement on state test scores.

Proposition 227 did not occur in a vacuum. In the late 1990s and early this decade California has reduced class sizes in early grades and instituted annual testing to measure students' English fluency, while Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act that requires English learners to improve test scores as quickly as English-speaking students.

Advocates of bilingual education maintain that studies show that becoming fluent in a language takes four to seven years.

The finding released yesterday that said a student has less than a 40 percent chance of mastering English after a decade is based on a sophisticated statistical technique known as survival analysis, commonly used to study the effectiveness of treatments for disease.

Linquanti said the key to increasing the success rate for English learners is teacher training and a greater emphasis on language development in all subjects, not just English classes.

�We have to see every teacher as a teacher of language as well,� Linquanti said. That means, for example, asking students to solve problems through group discussions, emphasizing specialized vocabulary and incorporating more writing into lessons.

Math, science and social studies teachers need to rely less on lecturing � the so-called �sage-on-the-stage� method � and encourage students to write, answer open-ended questions and debate, serving more often as a �guide on the side,� Linquanti said.

Non-English-speaking students are classified as English learners until they pass tests to earn redesignation as fluent speakers. This fluency marks higher functioning than basic conversation. It signifies mastery of what's known as �academic English,� a level that allows students to read, write and speak as well as native English speakers in English-only classes.

The performance of English learners is crucial in San Diego County, where 117,000 students � nearly one in four kindergarten-through-12th-graders in local public schools � do not speak English fluently. About 9.2 percent of local English learners were redesignated fluent last school year.

Proposition 227's call for English-only instruction has been adopted to varying degrees throughout the county. Other than in foreign language courses, Oceanside no longer teaches a single student in a language other than English. San Diego city schools went from teaching 15,000 English learners at least in part in their native language in 1998 to fewer than 6,000 last year.

At the same time, state statistics indicate that an even greater percentage of students in the San Ysidro and South Bay Union school districts are in bilingual education today than when Proposition 227 was passed.

The study's authors report wide variation from district to district in the percent of students who ultimately earn redesignation. Local districts annually report the percentage of students who become fluent but do not compile 10-year rates similar to that calculated in the study.

The authors said it's difficult to make precise comparisons between bilingual education and English-only instruction because the state still doesn't have the ability to track individual students.

REPORT: Effects of the Implementation of Proposition 227 on the Education of English Learners, K�12 Findings from a Five-Year Evaluation

� American Association for the Advancement of Science Press Release

Feb 18, 2006 --There is a good story behind science, but no one is telling it in American classrooms. According to Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, science continues to be taught from K-12 to the college and university levels, in fragmented, incoherent bits and pieces rather than a coherent narrative, a history of nature.

"What's totally lacking in the teaching of science is what I call a history of nature, what happened from the Big Bang on," said Goodenough. "In the past few decades, the history of nature has really come together as an integrative story, with theories of the Big Bang, plate tectonics and advances in understanding biological evolution all tying the story together. Studies have shown that humans learn best when information is packaged in the form of a story. But the Historical Sciences �cosmology, evolutionary biology and earth science � exist independently in their own domains. There is no linkage."

Over the past year, Goodenough joined five other distinguished scientists in a review of the 50 State Science Standards for a project funded by the Fordham Foundation. She said roughly half of the states failed and another twenty percent graded out as "C."

"What we found was troubling, both as parents and as scientists," she said. "Only 19 states have produced Standards that we would regard as meritorious � as parents, we would be satisfied to have our children educated in such contexts -- while 16 were highly flawed and 15 were flat-out unacceptable. In some cases a lackluster presentation of evolution contributed to a poor outcome, but the dominant and unsurprising pattern was that states with weak Standards overall were also weak in evolution. Moreover, we understand that teachers often tend to 'skip over the evolution sections' so as to avoid conflict � in some cases, conflict with their own views."

Goodenough presented her Plenary Lecture, "The History of Nature: Why Don't We Teach It?" from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Feb. 18, 2006, in the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis for the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Goodenough said that a primary concern is that students come to understand and appreciate both how science is done and some of what scientific inquiry has discovered. But another basic concern is that science education, both as articulated in the Standards and as practiced in American schools, basically fails to convey to students what Goodenough refers to as the scientific worldview: a narrative account, with supporting empirical evidence, of current understandings of the origins and evolution of the universe, the planet, and life (including humans), as brought to us from what are often called the historical sciences.

The current version of the No Child Left Behind Act requires that states must test student knowledge of science starting in 2007-2008, and Goodenough fears that there will be more emphasis on "teaching the test" and less on overall understanding of the scientific perspective.

"One can find material on the Big Bang and stars in physics sections, and material on plate tectonics in geology sections, and usually some units on fossils and evolutionary theory in biology sections, " she said. "But no attempt is made to bring the historical sciences together into a comprehensive framework in the way that a student taking American History would come away with an overview of what happened during our country's 400 years' existence." The "epidemic" of scientific illiteracy would diminish, Goodenough believes, if such a framework were a mainstay of scientific curricula.
"As things now stand, K-12 students go into science classes and hear about cells one day and atoms another day but lack any opportunity or guidance for integrating these understandings into larger contexts," she said. "While this is not a problem for the 'science types' who soak up cells and atoms no matter what, most students find science classes tedious and boring and drop out as soon as they've met the requirements."

Goodenough co-teaches at Washington University a course called the Epic of Evolution: Life, Earth, and the Cosmos, that presents the scientific worldview to science-disaffected students who take it as a required elective. She and her colleagues have taught it for five years.

"The students report that their interest in, and mastery of, scientific concepts is greatly enhanced when such larger contexts are provided," she said. "We've become convinced that a robust and mindful grasp of the scientific worldview generates a more abiding commitment to scientific inquiry, to environmental sustainability, and to societal responsibility."

Goodenough said that many students report an appreciation for the scientific enterprise that failed to take hold when research was presented solely as the "engine" for technological advancement. They also report that an understanding of their own lives in the vast evolutionary context that made those lives possible instills a new and valuable framework for existential orientation and informed environmental awareness.

"Even our graduate-student teaching assistants invariably express appreciation for having been exposed to the 'big picture' in a rigorous and memorable way for the first time," she said.

She urged educators to think of "Big Picture" science instruction and hopes that high schools might consider a similarly team-taught course as a capstone experience.

STUDY SHOWS PROGRAM HELPS GRADUATION RATES: Students in LA's BEST are Less Likely to Drop Out of High School, a Report Says.

By Tanya Caldwell, LA Times Staff Writer

February 23, 2006 �Officials at a Los Angeles after-school program are touting a new UCLA study showing its students have a slightly better chance of finishing high school than their peers.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, philanthropist Eli Broad and LA's BEST officials plan to release results of the study at a news conference today.

The study found that students in LA's Better Educated Students for Tomorrow, or LA's BEST, were about 6% less likely to drop out of high school when compared to other students. Researchers said that showed a 20% change from what they said is a 36% district dropout rate.

The Los Angeles Unified School District's dropout rate is controversial, however, with some sources putting the figure at closer to 50%.

Denise Huang, who conducted the study for UCLA's National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, compared students in sixth through ninth grades who were enrolled in LA's BEST with those who weren't. Those who participated are now in high school.

Researchers said they think students who participate in the after-school program are on the right track toward graduation.

"If we were to conduct a study right now" on today's sixth-graders, Huang said, "I would expect it to be the same result, or even better."

Carla Sanger, LA's BEST president and CEO, called the program's retention rate one of the most important factors in educational progress. "The predictor of life success," Sanger said, "is more related to years of school than it is to test scores."

LA's BEST is a free after-school enrichment program for children ages 5 to 12. The nonprofit organization, which serves LAUSD students in the city, operates on campuses in which at least 70% of the students get free or reduced-price lunches, Sanger said. In addition to the LAUSD, LA's BEST is supported by the city and the private sector. Nearly a quarter of its funding comes from private donations, Sanger said.

Students receive help with their homework and participate in such activities as drill teams, dance, math clubs and field trips.

"It is far, far more than any kind of baby-sitting," said Sanger, who added that New York and Chicago are starting similar programs.

LA's BEST began in 1988 with 10 schools and one staff person. Today, there are more than 24,000 students in the program.

►Sidebar: TO THE CONTRARY from National Public Radio Online on LA's BEST:

According to law enforcement agencies, the most likely time for young people to get into trouble is between 3 and 4 p.m. The hours immediately after school are when more an increasing number of minors have sex, use drugs, and become violent or are targeted by violence. To respond to this reality, thousands of after-school care programs have been launched across the country at public schools. Among the most successful and long-lived is called LA's BEST.
LA's BEST is a lot more than just after-school care for elementary school students. The three-hour program that runs from 3-6pm every day for some 17,000 kids in low-income neighborhoods is composed of three so-called blocks. The first block is nutrition and homework assistance. The second is cognitive learning programs, such as this workshop run by a NASA rocket scientist, teaching kids about motion and ratios. The third is a variety of activities suggested by the students themselves. At a few LA schools students can participate in folklorico, the preservation of long-standing cultural arts such as native dance and music.
Of the thousands of after-school programs across the country, LA's BEST is one of if not the most thoroughly tested and evaluated. It's been studied, studied and studied again, during its ten-year tenure. Among the findings:
- Students enrolled in LA's BEST for four years or more showed improved scores on standardized math, reading and language tests.
- Kids attending LA's BEST spoke more and better English.
- Kids and parents said the kids felt safer after school in the program than before they joined it.
- A greater percentage of kids told researchers they aspired to attending college after taking part in the program than before they entered it.
Because more American children are raised in single-parent homes, or homes where both parents work, and because there aren't the kind of cohesive neighbor relationships of yesteryear, there's a great need for more after-school programs. Even with significant public and private support, LA's BEST still has a much longer list of kids who want in, than the expanded number it already serves. In the state of California, for example, government-funded after-school programs serve 440,000 kids. But one-and-a-quarter million more children ages 5 to 14 need subsidized care while their parents work, according to a survey of law enforcement agencies.

▲The complete report from UCLA's National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing cited in this story is not yet publicly available.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has created a silly sing-along video and a serious online petition:


For all children to succeed, schools need high academic standards, rich curricula, quality professional development for staff, help for struggling students, adequate funding and a fair system of assessment and accountability.

The No Child Left Behind Act has failed to live up to its promise. Our children are paying the price. Congress and the administration need to listen to parents and teachers. It's time to make some constructive changes and get NCLB right.

Sign the Online Petition


Feb 22, 2006 �The Los Angeles Board of Education yesterday authorized School Board President Marlene Canter to negotiate and enter into a contract with Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler, Inc. (HR&A) to assist the Board in its search for a new Superintendent of Schools who will continue the exceptional progress made under the leadership of current Superintendent and former Colorado Governor Roy Romer. National searches for leaders of this stature typically take nine months or more. Superintendent Romer, who has led the district since July 2000 and whose contract expires in June 2007, will stay on until his successor is found.

"Selecting a Superintendent is the most important job of a board of education. Searches for big city Superintendents are intensive exercises and take a great deal of time. We are acting proactively by beginning our search now for a bold reformer to ensure LA schools continue on their upward trajectory and we realize our vision of becoming one of the top performing urban school districts in the country,� said Board President Canter.

Under Superintendent Romer's leadership elementary test scores have increased dramatically and the Academic Performance Index (API) for the district has grown by 33 percent. He also launched the largest school construction project in the nation to eliminate overcrowding, busing and year round school calendars.

The next Superintendent will build on this momentum of progress and usher in the next phase of reform. HR&A has proven that they are able to identify both traditional and untraditional candidates for one of the most challenging and important positions in the country.

In the coming weeks HR&A will, in consultation with the Board, devise and publish a community outreach strategy to gain valuable input and insight from the diverse community of the 27 cities spanning more than 770 square miles that comprise the Los Angeles school district.

To maintain the integrity of the search process, maintain confidentiality, and to respect the privacy of candidates for the position, Los Angeles Board of Education members and Governor Romer will be referring all inquiries regarding the search to HR&A.


February 8, 2006

� Adequately funding public education is the best investment we can make for our students� future and for the future of California. The Governor�s 2006-07 budget proposal, while a start, falls short of fully funding education and keeping the promise made to public schools and students.

� California�s schools and students need, and voters expect, the Governor to keep his promise to repay the money borrowed from Proposition 98. That money is desperately needed to restore class size reduction programs, to buy up-to-date textbooks, and to attract and retain high quality teachers and other educators.

� According to a 2006 Education Week report �Quality Counts� California ranks 43rd in the nation in per pupil spending. California�s schools also continue to have some of the largest class sizes and the greatest lack of librarians, counselors and other critical support staff.

� The budget proposal fails to address more than $3.2 billion owed to schools for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years. The Governor has a constitutional obligation to fund Proposition 98 and repay the money that was borrowed from our schools and students.

� The budget proposal to fund Proposition 49 with Proposition 98 monies violates the commitment the Governor made to voters in the 2002 election that Proposition 49 would not affect the current budget, and falsely implies that the money owed to schools under Proposition 98 is being repaid.

� The Governor also promised to pay schools for unfunded mandates. Yet his proposal for 2006-07 pays for only a fraction of the unreimbursed state mandates.

� The Education Coalition will continue to work with the Governor and the Legislature to restore the funding that has been cut from our schools and adequately fund all of our classrooms so all students have access to the best education possible.

▲ THE EDUCATION COALITION consists of organizations representing more than a million parents, teachers, school employees, school board members and administrators: Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the California Association of School Business Officers (CASBO), the California County Superintendent Educational Services Association (CCSESA), California Federation of Teachers (CFT), the California School Boards Association (CSBA), the California School Employees Assocation (CSEA), the California State PTA (CAPTA), the California Teachers Association (CTA), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

►FORCE FOR REFORM: The LAUSD's failures drive public's demand for change

LA Daily News Editorial

WHEN announcing his proposal last week to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District, Assemblyman Keith Richman said, "The district bureaucracy is a behemoth and unresponsive and not accountable to parents or the community."

Then, right on cue, district officials went out and proved him right.

Last Thursday, the LAUSD brass announced that the price tag for paying off the district's unchecked benefits for its employees has doubled since just 18 months ago. Now, district number-crunchers predict, the figure is going to hit $10 billion.

And, of course, the district has done little to sock away money for this eventuality. Money for spiraling benefit costs will necessarily have to come at the expense of everything from teachers to textbooks.

But runaway benefits - the result of a board that's addicted to union campaign cash and can't say no at the bargaining table - are only part of the LAUSD's problem.

Other parts include anemic performance at the middle-school and high-school levels, an unquantified dropout rate that could be as high as 50 percent and a wasteful building program that lacks proper oversight or safeguards. All of which is compounded by a remote bureaucracy to which families have little access let alone control.

Yes, the district has managed to make some improvements at the elementary-school level, but progress has been way too limited and slow to dampen public discontent. No wonder Richman is going ahead with his effort to break up the LAUSD into a dozen pieces.

As long as the LAUSD bureaucracy continues to leave the people of L.A. feeling disconnected, powerless and frustrated, the people of L.A. are likely to latch on to any proposal that might bring them relief.


Re: "L.A.'s costliest school" (Daily News Feb. 16 | 4LAKids Feb 19)):

It's interesting that even with Eli Broad funding the performing-arts school project, costs are doubling and spiraling out of control, with "no other way to go," said the vice chairman of the oversight committee that reviews the LAUSD's construction spending.

But isn't "billionaire Eli Broad" a construction contractor and famous builder? How did he get to be a billionaire? Probably with a wise use of money in building things. Did anyone ask him how to build the performing-arts school of his dreams for a reasonable price? Why can't he do it?

- Denise Nardi
Woodland Hills


From Rick Orlov's column, LA Daily News

Feb 20 � With the announcement by LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer that he wants to leave his job this year, everyone gets a chance to see if the Board of Education has learned any political lessons from the past six months.

The question being posed to them, privately so far, is how they should select a successor and whether they should consult the two most vocal critics of the district - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Controller Laura Chick.

Villaraigosa is expected to soon unveil his plan on how he wants to gain control of the district. And Chick has been poring over boxes filled with audits sent by district officials to try to head off her effort to conduct a separate audit.

Some school board members are said to be adamantly opposed to including either one in the selection process - even as Villaraigosa says he expects to play a role.
However, other officials are urging the board to do what it did when it selected Romer - establish a special panel of a variety of interests that would include Villaraigosa and Chick.

"It's the old adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer," one official said. "If they are involved in the selection of the next superintendent, they might be willing to give us some more time to make changes."

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►► 4LAKids Tune In Tip! ◄◄

with John Cromshow

Friday, March 3, 2006 at 2:00 p.m.
KPFK 90.7 FM and on the web at

� LAUSD School Board Election Special featuring...

� Interviews with the candidates

� "What can a school board member do to improve education?"

� Comments by Los Angeles teachers
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


What can YOU do?
� E-mail, call or write your school board member: � 213-241-6387 � 213-241-6180 � 213-241-6388 � 213-241-6382 � 213-241-6385 � 213-241-6386 � 213-241-6383
...or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think!
Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
� 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.

� GET INVOLVED! Click on the [LINK] below to send a letter to the California legislature encouraging them to fully release Prop 98 funding to the California schools.

"To the Honorable Legislators of the State of California:

"California is in a severe budget crisis. It is the driving force behind the decision to once again suspend Proposition 98. We as concerned citizens of California urge you to not suspend Proposition 98 or defer its obligations to future years. Education already holds a large I.O.U. from the State of California.

"The outcome of suspending and deferring Proposition 98 is that it does not provide California Public Education the proper amount of funding and attention it needs so that our children can be competitive in the future global environment. In addition, as the cost of living in California continues to outpace the national average, it is even more important that California Public Schools offer children a superior level of education in order to continue to attract top talent for California businesses. Without a solid state educational system, top talent, and their families, will seek employment outside of California causing businesses to either relocate or rely on outsourcing to find qualified candidates. Rather than compromising education, we, as concerned citizens ask the Legislatures of the State of California to respect and abide by the entire essence of Proposition 98.

"Thank you for taking the time to consider the issues of inequity and inadequate funding for public education. We are confident that you will do what is necessary to address these needs as you deliberate the use of State revenues in developing a balanced State budget."

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or 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. Quoted and/or cited content copyright � the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright � 4LAKids.
� To SUBSCRIBE e-mail: - or -TO ADD YOUR OR ANOTHER'S NAME TO THE 4LAKids SUBCRIPTION LIST E-MAIL with "SUBSCRIBE" AS THE SUBJECT. Thank you.  � THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - This and past Issues are available with interactive feedback at

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

this just in: NCLB – Let's Get It Right!

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has created a silly sing-along video and a serious online petition:


For all children to succeed, schools need high academic standards, rich curricula, quality professional development for staff, help for struggling students, adequate funding and a fair system of assessment and accountability.

The No Child Left Behind Act has failed to live up to its promise. Our children are paying the price. Congress and the administration need to listen to parents and teachers.

It's time to make some constructive changes and get NCLB right.

Sign the Online Petition

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Yes. No. Wait and see.

4LAKids: Sunday, February 19, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  L.A.'S COSTLIEST SCHOOL: District to finance magnate's arts vision
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids the second Saturday morning each month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
 •  The Blueprint for Effective School Reform: MAKING SCHOOLS WORK � Get the Book @!
 •  THE BEST RESOURCE ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FUNDING ON THE WEB: The Sacramento Bee's series "Paying for Schools."
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education.
There has been a blizzard of announcements the week past from the Mayor about taking over the school district and from Assemblyman Richman on breaking up LAUSD. I choose not to go there, but if you click on the link below you may.

In a telling moment on the State of How Things Are in LA and LAUSD, the four candidates for the vacant Board of Education seat were lined up in debate. A debate - quite unlike most - held before a student body of Virgil Middle School; true stakeholders in the outcome.

One of the students asked each candidate: "Yes or No; do you support mayoral takeover of the school district?"

All save Candidate Monica Garcia, endorsed earlier by the mayor, said no. Ms Garcia said she would have to wait until the Mayor unveils his plan, in April �after the election.

The student reminded her that it had been a yes or no question.

The election is March 7th. "Wait and see" is not on the ballot. �smf

Google News Search: LAUSD Takeover & Breakup

By Peter Schrag � Sacramento Bee Columnist

February 15, 2006 - The legal challenge to the California High School Exit Exam filed last week was almost as predictable as the rising of the sun. There was no way the state was going to deny diplomas to thousands of otherwise qualified students without facing a suit. But it was still a shocker.

The suit's named plaintiffs include several Richmond High School seniors. One, Liliana Valenzuela, has a grade point average of 3.84; the suit says she's 12th in a class of 413 students. Another, Laura Echavarria, has a GPA of 4.0.

According to the complaint, both took the English-Language Arts part of the test three times and failed it each time. In addition, the plaintiffs include eight or nine at other schools who had high averages and got praise from teachers, but couldn't pass either the English or math part of the test.

What's going on here? The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court by Arturo Gonzalez of the heavyweight law firm of Morrison & Foerster, demands that the state allow the students, plus thousands of others who have met all other formal requirements, to get their diplomas this spring without passing the test.

Part of the explanation is that many of the high grades came in English Language Development courses for immigrants and others with limited English skills. One of the plaintiffs, who also attends Richmond High and who is also a Mexican immigrant, has only been in the country since November 2004. Can a student who's been here just 14 months and has trouble with English really expect - and sue for - a high school diploma? The ELD courses may be important steps to English literacy, but they're not the equivalent of regular English classes. Understandably, the schools want to encourage students to stay in school.

But to allow them to believe that they're academic successes when they can't read and write at the 10th-grade level - which is where the test is pegged - is a fraud on students, parents and the society at large.

Gonzalez is right that the state, from the governor down, has acknowledged that schools serving disproportionately large numbers of poor and immigrant students, students who face the greatest hurdles, have fewer resources, inferior facilities and fewer qualified teachers. How, he asks, can the system then punish them for its own inadequacies? In 2004, when the governor settled Williams v. California, a suit based on those inadequacies, the state promised to provide better resources, but that process - getting enough books, repairing buildings, reducing multi-track programs in overcrowded buildings - is barely under way. You don't grow thousands of qualified teachers overnight.

As detailed in Bee reporter Laurel Rosenhall's insightful recent stories, many have been in class with endless strings of substitutes; many attend the worst performing schools in California. Some can't get the remedial help they need. After two or three failures, many are deeply depressed.

Gonzalez says that if "we lose this case, many more will give up and drop out. We'll start losing the class of 2007."

Yet a victory would eliminate one of the most important elements driving schools and the state to provide the resources that will allow students to meet high academic standards. The failure of students with high grades to pass the exit exam seems itself evidence of the flabby standards the state is trying to end. Maybe they should be suing their schools.

The Legislature approved a bill last fall by Assemblywoman Karen Bass that would have allowed students to get diplomas by fulfilling a yet-to-be-determined state-approved alternative performance assessment. The governor vetoed it.

The suit cites the bill as evidence of the Legislature's concern about the effects of the exam.

California is just one of two states -the other is Texas - that doesn't allow otherwise qualified seniors to substitute some other assessment for the exit exam. Gonzalez points out that private school students don't have to pass the test. One mother, said Gonzalez, unsuccessfully begged her priest to let her daughter finish in parochial school.

The situation isn't quite as dire as the suit suggests. Although tens of thousands of seniors hadn't passed one or another part of the test at the start of this academic year, many of Gonzalez's plaintiffs had another chance even as he was filing the suit last week. Others will have an opportunity next month. That's too late for most four-year college applications for next fall, but in time for graduation. The court could decide the suit is premature.

Years ago, Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, suggested that there be two diplomas, one for those who passed a tough exit exam, a lesser one for those who hadn't. They could then all cross the graduation platform, which is what many of them really want. Ultimately, that may be the way things will go.

▲ According to the Los Angeles County Office of Education 80% of the school districts in the county have figured out a way for students who have passed all the graduation requirements but not passed CAHSEE to participate in graduation ceremonies. LAUSD is not one of them. - smf


By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

February 13, 2006 � After four years of complaints from parents, teachers and administrators about President Bush's No Child Left Behind education reform plan, a bipartisan commission is being created to take a "hard, independent look" at the law's problems and its promises.
The Commission on No Child Left Behind, to be announced Tuesday, will travel the USA, holding public field hearings and roundtables, culminating in Washington, D.C., in September.

The commission will send recommendations to Congress in advance of NCLB's expected renewal in 2007.

Supported by the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, the panel will be co-chaired by former Georgia governor Roy Barnes and former Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson.

The law's "ideas and motives were good," Thompson says, "but the way it's implemented right now leaves a lot to be desired."

Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2002, NCLB aims to raise the basic academic skills of public school children. A cornerstone of Bush's domestic agenda, it focuses on closing the "achievement gap" with low-income students. But critics, including the National Education Association, American Association of School Administrators and the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, say it relies too much on testing and punishes schools with even a few students whose skills don't rise steadily year by year.

Those groups and others also say NCLB imposes new requirements, such as expanded testing, without giving schools enough money, and it does little to help schools hire good teachers.

Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington non-profit that extensively has studied NCLB, says its stringent testing requirements for disabled students and English language learners "don't make a lot of sense" to teachers.

NCLB is a "a grab-bag of good provisions and troublesome provisions. I hope that they would find some way of improving the troublesome provisions to save the good intentions of the act."

Now in its fifth year, the law also has been applied unevenly by the federal government, according to a study released today by the Civil Rights Project.

State legislators in Virginia and Utah have recommended repealing NCLB or exempting states from requirements, but Thompson and Barnes say the commission will not consider such proposals.

"Education leaders in the nation agree that it's a good approach," says Barnes.

Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor, says NCLB "caused some rancor out in the hinterlands."

He wants to hear from those on both sides. "It's time for somebody to take a real hard, independent look and make some recommendations."

A list of commission members was not available Monday but is expected to include a teacher, a civil rights leader, a former urban schools administrator and a corporate CEO, among others.

Barnes says the commission won't focus on funding, which is a "purely political" question.

"That is not the scope of this commission. That's a discourse that needs to take place, but not here," he says.

Jennings says funding is important.

Bush has proposed $3.2 billion in education cuts in his 2007 budget, just as NCLB's testing provisions kick in.

Bush is "signaling that in his view, it's a matter of just demanding (improvement) and not helping to pay for it," Jennings says.

Saying it's "the right time" to study the law, he hopes the commission finds ways to improve it. "If they're perceived as just being a commission to whitewash the problems of the act, they're not going to amount to anything."


by Dan Davis for the University Daily Kansan

Friday, February 10, 2006 � Many problems face our president. Yet, the most pressing threat to our way of life is that which is posed to our educational system. This threat comes from our own Congress in the form of the No Child Left Behind Act. The time has come to remove this blight from our educational system.

The first abuse of this law is its demand of 100 percent compliance by all students to score at advanced levels on standardized testing. This means that English as a Second Language and special education students are expected to score at or above the national average. To illustrate the harm of this plank in the gallows that is the No Child Left Behind Act, imagine this:

You have just moved to Portugal. After two months of attending school there, you are given a test over the finer points of the Portuguese language. If you do not score 70 percent or greater on this test, your school will lose its funding.

Is this fair?

The next problem with this legislation is its lack of a standard measuring tool. Each state can choose its own test, but all must make the same progress on these random tests. Therefore, the states with easier tests succeed, while the states with higher standards cannot make the same percentage of progress. This fallacy within the legislation punishes higher achieving schools. This failure to make required progress will then lead to the consequences of not reaching Adequate Yearly Progress.

The punishments for not reaching A.Y.P. are ineffective because they do little or nothing to change many districts. After two years of not reaching A.Y.P., Title I schools � those schools with the poorest students � must allow students to go to other schools in the district. This is all well and good if there is another school in the district at that level, but the punishment will do nothing of value in districts with only one school at certain levels. This provision will drive up costs in several districts by forcing busing from one side of a district to another.

No longer can we expect our students and educators to slave and toil with the yoke of the No Child Left Behind Act upon their backs. The time has come to stand up and fight this burdensome legislation. Because of its ineffective punishments, poor measuring tools and harmful practices towards students who need a little extra help; the No Child Left Behind Act will indeed leave all children behind.


Harvard Civil Rights Project finds that the program suffers from unevenly applied standards.

by Gil Kaufman,

Feb 14, 2006 �A new Harvard University study finds that President Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind education act might need a new name, perhaps something like Not As Many Children Left Behind � Except Some Who Are Underprivileged or Minorities or Live in States That Don't Want the Results to Make Them Look Bad.

The study from the Civil Rights Project at the university, titled, "The Unraveling of No Child Left Behind: How Negotiated Changes Transform the Law," found that the program designed to level the playing field for all students sometimes benefited white, middle-class children over minorities in poorer regions. The program suffers from unevenly applied standards based on changes demanded by unhappy states, according to author Gail Sunderman.

"It was intended to help improve the performance of minorities and lower-income students and narrow the achievement gap, but I don't think we have any evidence of that," Sunderman said. "What we found was that rather than address those flaws outright, the Department of Education has adopted a political strategy to try and quell political opposition to the law that is growing on the local level."

In light of figures that showed that only 50 percent of black and Hispanic students were graduating from high school, the act was intended to create national standards that would lift the numbers across the board. But Sunderman found that with the exception of Vermont, every state had asked for changes or somehow bargained to reduce the number of schools and/or districts given a failing rating. In the case of Washington state, more than 18 changes were requested to the existing law.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, children in all racial and demographic groups have to boost their scores (using pre-determined goals) on standardized math and English tests every year, or else their schools will face sanction. In the worst cases, schools may be shut down.

"Because every state can get its own combination of changes to the act, there is no longer any clear uniform standard governing the program," Sunderman said. That has led to situations where schools in mostly white districts are able to avoid the penalties placed on those in largely poor or minority districts by taking advantage of the more than two dozen rule changes the states have requested.

Sunderman said many of those changes came as a result of the upsurge in schools that were tagged as "needing improvement" under the act, including some that were previously considered to be top performers. During the first two years of the act, the administration strongly rejected any attempts to alter the parameters of measurement.

"There's been a lot of pushback from the states, with a lot of them adopting resolutions voicing dissatisfaction with the law," she said. "Even Utah, a staunchly Republican state, has argued against it and tried to have it eliminated. The states are in opposition to the expanded federal role in education and the lack of adequate funding for the program."

The first shift in policy came after the administration realized that the small tweaks to the rules it made in 2003 and 2004 regarding the counting of students with disabilities and limited English skills were not enough to satisfy angry states. In 2005, a new version of the act was unveiled amid increasing criticism, with some of the strongest opposition coming from Republican states.

As an example of the kind of uneven rules being applied across the country, Sunderman said in some cases rural Midwestern regions were given extensions on deadlines for teacher qualifications that were not available to poorer rural areas with larger minority populations in the South.

The report concludes that the changes have helped reduce, temporarily anyway, the number of schools identified as needing improvement, while not necessarily raising educational standards.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that one of the act's hallmarks, its requirement that schools with consistently failing grades serving mostly poor children offer their students either a new school or private tutoring, is going mostly unused.

In New York City's school system, the nation's largest, less than half of the 215,000 eligible students sought free tutoring for the school year that ended in June 2005, according to the Times. And even with those low numbers, the city's participation rate is better than the national average. Across the country, about 2 million students were eligible for tutoring in the year ending 2004 and only 226,000, less than 12 percent, received it.

New York city and state officials could not identify the single reason why the program has failed, but pointed to many factors. Among them: too little federal money allotted for tutors, poor advertising to parents, too much paperwork and a failure to penetrate the neighborhoods with the highest number of underprivileged, failing students.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education could not be reached for comment at press time.


Full Report (60 pages)


by Rob Capriccioso, from

Feb. 15 - In an effort to shed light on the hows and whys behind students� success at completing college, the U.S. Education Department has released a new report called �The Toolbox Revisited."

The longitudinal study, which its author calls a �data essay,� explores the high school class of 1992 as it moved from high school to higher education and compares its success, favorably, to the high school class of 1982 tracked in an earlier report, �Answers in the Tool Box.�

Both reports provide support for efforts to improve the quality of high school curriculums and the participation in those curriculums of larger (and more diverse) proportions of students. New data indicate that progress is occurring � the eight and a half year graduation rate for the 1992 cohort rose to 66 percent, from 60 percent for the 1982 cohort.

The report�s author, Clifford Adelman, a researcher with the department�s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, says that the 8.5-year span is the appropriate one to look at, since there have been big changes in enrollment patterns and student demographics in recent years. A much larger proportion of high school seniors of all race and ethnicity groups continued their education into college, while postsecondary attendance patterns among traditional-age students have become far more complex, with more with nearly 60 percent of undergraduates attending more than one institution, and 35 percent of this group crossing state lines in the process.

Students� use of community colleges is also a big area of change and growth. �One out of eight undergraduates based in four-year institutions utilize community colleges to fill in pieces of their curriculum, and another eight percent �swirl� back and forth between the four-year and two-year sectors,� according to the report.

Adelman says that the academic intensity of a student�s high school curriculum still counts more than anything else in his or her precollegiate history in providing momentum toward completing a bachelor�s degree, but many high schools fall short on that score. Latino students, for instance, are far less likely to attend high schools offering trigonometry than white or Asian students. And students from the lowest socioeconomic status quintile attend high schools that are much less likely to offer any math above Algebra 2 than students in the upper economic quintiles.

�If we are going to close gaps in preparation � and ultimately degree attainment � the provision of curriculum issue has to be addressed,� Adelman says in the report. �The highest level of mathematics reached in high school continues to be a key marker in precollegiate momentum, with the tipping point of momentum toward a bachelor�s degree now firmly above Algebra 2.�

But high school preparation is only part of the story, according to the report, which indicates that colleges, universities and community colleges should do a �great deal more� to interact with and inject themselves into a student�s early collegiate world, calling on them both to strengthen their institutional policies surrounding academic advising and course scheduling services.

Along those lines, the report says that in order to foster completion of college, advisers should target every first-time student to complete no less than 20 credits by the end of their first calendar year of enrollment.

�We saw the same consequences in the original Tool Box, though now we understand better that the chances of making up for anything less than 20 credits diminish rapidly in the second year,� says Adelman.

The report also indicates that �excessive no-penalty withdrawals and no-credit repeats appear to do irreparable damage to the chances of completing degrees.� Based on his research, Adelman says that institutions should �think very seriously about tightening up, with bonuses of increased access and lower time-to-degree.�

�More than incidental use of summer terms has proven to be a degree-completion lever with convincing fulcrum,� Adelman adds. �It�s part of the calendar-year frame in which students are increasingly participating. Four-year and community colleges can entice students into fuller use of summer terms with creative scheduling.�

While the U.S. Department of Education commissioned the report, it does not purport to agree with all of Adelman�s opinions. �The views expressed herein are those of the author,� according to the report, �and do not necessarily represent the positions or the policies of the U.S. Department of Education.�

Upon release of the report on Tuesday, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings appeared especially keen on the high school aspects of the research, which mesh with the Bush administration�s recent budget proposals. �Students who enter college should be ready for college-level work. And it�s the job of high schools and middle schools to prepare them for it,� she said, tying this message to President Bush�s proposed American Competitiveness Initiative, which is intended to support rigorous instruction in math, science and foreign languages in the early grades and more challenging course work in high school.

REPORT: The Toolbox Revisited � Paths to Degree Completion from High School Through College

►SCHOOLS FACE 'DEATH SPIRAL': Districts must choose between students' needs, teachers' benefits.

USA Today Editorial

Febraury 14, 2006 - Until last week, Los Angeles school officials had thought their unfunded health care obligation for retirees was $5 billion. Then they scrubbed the numbers. The new estimate: $10 billion. That's bad news for taxpayers who will foot the bill and for children whose education will be limited by the cost.

At least Los Angeles' school leaders are trying to calculate their future debts. Most school districts have no idea what they owe retired or soon-to-retire teachers. Instead, nearly all plod along with annual budgets, signing labor agreements that ignore exploding long-term liabilities.

Thanks to generous contracts negotiated years ago, when health care costs were largely an afterthought, tens of thousands of teachers about to retire have been promised lifetime benefits for themselves and spouses, something available to very few of the taxpayers who pay the cost.

As health care costs soar, these contracts represent financial time bombs. They will leave schools with less money to hire teachers, less money for raises � less money for everything. The health care squeeze is �the single most important issue facing districts nationwide,� Tom Henry, a financial adviser to California schools, told USA TODAY.

New federal accounting rules are forcing them to do just that � ensuring that thousands of communities will receive the kind of news Los Angeles is getting.

School boards will pretend they are shocked: Who knew? The teachers' unions will claim they did nothing wrong. Politicians and taxpayers will demand accountability.

Unless or until there's a national solution to soaring health care costs (don't hold your breath), maintaining high quality of schools will involve taxpayers digging deeper, teachers being willing to make concessions, or possibly districts following the lead of companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection to shed pension obligations.

The teachers argue that in many cases, health care deals were offered in lieu of salary increases. They have a point, but the teachers are not blameless. Many contracts were negotiated with school boards elected with union backing.

In some school districts, teachers might have to start or increase medical co-pays. In others, they'll have to lose their district-provided coverage when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

Doing nothing threatens to send many school districts into what Henry describes as �a death spiral.� Already, health care benefits are smacking against budgets. Los Angeles sets aside $1,000 of its $5,500-per-student budget to cover health care costs for current and retired teachers. To cover the newly estimated $10 billion liability would require $2,087 per student.

The health care situation facing school systems mirrors the squeeze facing public and private employers more generally, as well as the financial strains on Social Security and Medicare as the baby boomers retire.

In all these cases, the sooner action is taken to bring promised benefits in line with revenue, the less painful the solution will have to be. That's a lesson schools can teach the rest of the nation.



By Juliet Williams, Associated Press Writer

Feb 15, 2006 - SACRAMENTO (AP) -- A moderate salary raise for new teachers boosts the chances they'll stay in the profession, but mentoring programs and training are even more effective, according to a new report.

Providing just $4,400 more in annual pay increases the chances an elementary teacher would stay by 17 percent, according to the report released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Teachers who were part of the state's Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program were 26 percent more likely to stay in teaching, according to the study, "Retention of New Teachers in California." The program costs the state about $3,370 per teacher.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which co-sponsors the beginning teacher program, has found similar results, said its director, Mike McKibbon.

"It makes an enormous difference in setting up the first two years as place to learn and grow and get better, rather than the way we used to do it, which was kind of a rite of passage," McKibbon said.

Still, money plays a role. The report said teachers in better-paid districts were less likely to leave their jobs or transfer to another district.

The policy institute said nearly a quarter of new hires in California leave the profession within five years, a rate that will make it even harder to fill an anticipated teacher shortage of 100,000 in the next decade.

Unless the state does something to reduce the departures, about one-fourth of new hires will simply be replacing other recently hired teachers who have left public schools. That will leave fewer experienced, highly qualified teachers, the report says.

The report's authors used data that tracked teachers who earned their California teaching certification during the 1990s.

The support program for beginning teachers received about $88 million in state funding this year and has been supported by Democrats and Republicans, McKibbon said.

"To their credit, they've seen beginning teachers as a place for investment," he said.

Other programs to integrate teachers also have shown promise, such as internships in hard-to-staff schools and a program that moves teachers' aides into programs where they can earn a teaching credential. That program has about 2,500 students this year, McKibbon said.

Sen. Jack Scott, D-Altadena, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he was not surprised that the study found mentoring and tutoring programs to be effective.

"I'm convinced that teachers generally are not in the profession for money, and I think the more strengthening we can do, the more mentoring from seasoned teachers, the better," Scott said.

Earlier this month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said he will sponsor legislation to spend $53 million for teacher coaches in the state's lowest-performing schools.

He also encouraged financial incentives to recruit teachers to work in those schools and said the state should reopen teacher-recruitment centers that were closed during budget cuts several years ago.

▲On the Net:
�Public Policy Institute of California:
�Commission on Teacher Credentialing:

L.A.'S COSTLIEST SCHOOL: District to finance magnate's arts vision
L.A.'S COSTLIEST SCHOOL: District to finance magnate's arts vision

By Rachel Uranga, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

A lavish performing-arts high school backed by billionaire Eli Broad would cost $172 million to build - double the original estimate and even more expensive than the Belmont Learning Center structure, the nation's costliest high school, says a new construction report.

Costs of the labor and materials have skyrocketed since the project, three years behind schedule, was proposed for the site of the Los Angeles Unified School District's old headquarters at 450 N. Grand Ave.

Officials defended the soaring price tag, which would total $208 million with land and site-preparation costs, saying they would have to spend even more to downsize the project or significantly change plans for the 1,700-student school, originally planned for completion in 2005.

"Nobody is happy that it's costing millions more than the last estimate, but I don't see any other way to go," said Scott Folsom, vice chairman of the citizens bond oversight committee that reviews the LAUSD's construction spending. "Occasionally public construction is to build the great, grand building - and this is it."

With completion now expected in 2008, the school will include a theater, a free-standing library and a tower at the gateway to a $1.5 billion Grand Avenue Civic Center development championed by Broad.

According to the new figures, the cost of constructing the arts campus would exceed the $132 million in building costs for the Belmont Learning Center, a badly bungled project downtown whose total price tag reached $300 million, which would make it the nation's costliest high school.

LAUSD officials originally planned to spend $54 million to convert their former administration building into a traditional high school to help relieve crowded conditions at other downtown campuses.

But Broad intervened, lobbying hard for a performing-arts school in the entertainment capital of the world. He was heavily involved in hiring Wolf Brix and Coop Himmelblau, renowned Vienna architects, to create a landmark campus.

In 2002, Broad committed $1.9 million for the school's operational budget. And last year, after being approached by Superintendent Roy Romer and former board member Jose Huizar, he contributed $3.1 million to ensure the construction of a 150-foot tower that serves no functional purpose but is key to the concrete building's stark design.

Since pledging the $5 million, Broad has not been approached for additional funding, said Karen Denne, a spokeswoman for the Broad Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education.

Meanwhile, the price tag kept rising - first to $81 million, then to $172 million, plus $36 million to prepare the site.

By comparison, the district plans to spend a total of $270 million to build three schools on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel.

The performing-arts campus is included in the district's $19 billion school-construction program, proposed to ease overcrowding and put all of the district's 775,000 students on a traditional calendar.

While some expressed concern that bond money would have to be allocated from other projects, others say the downtown school can be completed without affecting other plans.

"Whenever school costs go up dramatically like this, there is a lot of politics going on, and it leaves me a bit uncomfortable," said LAUSD board member Julie Korenstein, who supported converting the former headquarters into a campus.

"It causes me some alarm when you spend so much money on one school. Which ones do you leave off your list?"

However, LAUSD Facilities Director Jim McConnell said the district has created a $120 million contingency fund that will cover rising construction costs.

"We are putting nothing at risk," McConnell said. "This is the time to plant the flag for the school. It's the right time, the right school, ... and I think we've got to be unabashedly supportive."

But Tom Rubin, a consultant to the bond oversight committee, said he has become increasingly concerned about the cost overruns on school-construction projects.

"We have a lot more schools to build, and there has to be attention paid to the schools to come," he said. While high-profile projects have been scrutinized, many of the smaller schools have fallen below the radar.

But some officials say the debate about the cost of the performing-arts project obscures its prominence in a desperately needy area.

"It will complete Grand Avenue as the center for the arts in Los Angeles," said the school board president, Marlene Canter. "This community has suffered for far too long with severe overcrowding. They want this school."

The community itself is frustrated with delays in building schools downtown - first Belmont and now the performing-arts center.

"I am angry that people think that this community does not deserve a school of this caliber," said Richard Alonzo, local superintendent of the downtown and surrounding region. "If Mr. Broad were to offer any kind of support of this nature for a public school anywhere else in the city, people would embrace it."

▲ First: This project, which is expensive, fits within the school construction budget approved by the voters. The money is there � it fits within the overall program contingency. That cannot be said for the $5 billion unfunded pension and benefits obligation identified in the 'Death Spiral' story above.

I have said much already on this subject, but the Daily News may not have been listening. The role of oversight, defined in the California Constitution and the Bond Oversight Committee's Charter and Memorandum of Understanding is not of approval or control of the purse strings. It is to Review, Advise and Verify.

� REVIEW scheduling, budgeting, planning and construction of projects to be funded by the bond measure.
� Based on such review, the Committee will ADVISE the Board and public of their findings relative to scheduling, budgeting, planning and construction.
� VERIFY that work is completed and bond funds are expended in accordance with the bond measure.

The "scope creep" (if you will) of High School No. 9 from $56 million high School to the currently budgeted $117 million Visual & Performing Arts High School was approved by the Board of Education in August 2005 and ratified by the voters in Measure K on Nov 5, 2002. The decision to change architects from Martin to Coop Himmelb(l)au was questioned by the Oversight Committee when it was done; the Board approved over our objection � that is their right as elected officials.

The escalation in costs after the hiring of the architect has been beyond the Oversight Committee's purview. � Plan approval delays in Sacramento. � Unforeseen environmental hazards on a site the district has owned and occupied for decades (welcome to LA!). � And cost escalation and shortage of materials and labor triggered by the delay: Asian Tsunami, Katrina rebuilding, Iraqi War and Chinese Olympic Construction. Believe me, if the BOC had foreknowledge, oversight and control over those things it would have gone differently!

I have problems with the way the Visual and Peforming Arts High School project was presented and sold to the school district and the public, not with Eli Broad's vision. I have problems with the flavor of philanthropy practiced behind closed doors like a back room deal. I would have preferred Mr. Broad had come before the Board and the public and said: "I have a vision for a great school that combines arts and education for the schoolchildren of Los Angeles and here is a bunch o' money to help us all get there!' It didn't happen that way. But it's not too late!

Los Angeles has a history of building architecturally significant schools. The soaring gothic towers of Marshall High School and the late lamented LA High. The streamline moderne of Hollywood and Venice High Schools. In the post-WWII building program Richard Neutra designed cutting edge schools for LAUSD that shifted the global paradigm in school design in schools like Kester Elementary and Emerson Middle School.

In public architecture societies celebrate themselves; schools are the buildings where we shape young minds and build our own future. An important building housing the Los Angeles High School for the Visual and Performing Arts says how important the arts are to us as a society and a city and to our future. It says how important we think the young people in the school are �and how important their work is. �smf

HS#9: The Architect's Vision

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
� Tuesday Feb 21, 2006
Valley Region Hesby Span K-8: Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Encino Elementary School
16941 Addison St.
Encino, CA 91316

� Wednesday Feb 22, 2006
Cahuenga New Elementary School #1
Project Update Meeting/Introduce the Principal
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Hollywood - Wilshire YMCA
249 S. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

� Wednesday Feb 22, 2006
South Region Elementary School #3: Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) Hearing
Please join us at this public hearing to discuss the findings of the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA). The PEA determines if an environmental clean up action is necessary to ensure the health and safety of our children. We will be collecting your comments and questions regarding the PEA for this project.
6:00 p.m.
Ellen Ochoa Learning Center
5027 Live Oak St.
Cudahy, CA 90201

� Wednesday Feb 22, 2006
South Region High School #2: CEQA Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Meeting
LAUSD has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this new school project. This report evaluates the potential impacts the project may have on the surrounding area.
6:00 p.m.
Edison Middle School
6500 Hooper Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90001

� Thursday Feb 23, 2006
Central Los Angeles High School #11 (aka Vista Hermosa)
Pre-Construction/Project Update Community Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Plasencia Elementary School
1321 Cortez Street
Los Angeles, CA 90026

� Thursday Feb 23, 2006
East Valley Area High School #1B: Design & Construction Update Community Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Lankershim Elementary School
5250 Bakman Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91601

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


What can YOU do?
� E-mail, call or write your school board member: � 213-241-6387
Vacant Seat | Election March 7th | VOTE! � 213-241-6180 � 213-241-6388 � 213-241-6382 � 213-241-6385 � 213-241-6386 � 213-241-6383
...or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think!
Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
� 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.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or 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. Quoted and/or cited content copyright � the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright � 4LAKids.
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