Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Environmental Impact of the Preschool Exit Exam upon NCLB, etc.

4LAKids: Sunday, March 19, 2006 PART I
In This Issue:
 •  LA MAYOR DETAILS PLAN FOR SCHOOLS: Villaraigosa would keep an elected board�in a lesser role�and hold power to appoint superintendent & top educators
 •  CHAOS REIGNS AT A MODEL SCHOOL: Newly opened South L.A. High has Macs, a chef's kitchen and a ballet studio. It also has drugs, guns � and gangs.
 •  SECRET WEAPON DISCOVERED!: Scientists Say Parents Partnering with Teachers Can Change the Future of Education
 •  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.
It's been a busy week in LaLa Land, out on the edge of the faultline � my home town. In our tradition of "All the News ... whether or not it fits" it was another two part 4LAKids week!

The poor school board candidate who was unsure of his past and his academic credentials bowed out � except the city clerk won't let him. He must suffer the indignity of further defeat and the electorate doesn't even get the choice of none-of-the-above! The school district paid 100% for this month's special city-run election (out of the classroom money) and they got zilch/nada/nothing for it! In the Mayor's Great New Wonderful Tomorrow of LAUSD/City of LA cooperation it's obvious that their bureaucrats can stick it our bureaucrats big time.

The Mayor announced his plan to takeover the schools: LA MAYOR DETAILS PLAN FOR SCHOOLS. Except there's no plan, just a kinda-sorta takeover. Hizzoner'll be in charge of some things, like picking the superintendent; the school board will be in charge of other things � undefined, but presumably dealing with the public. My guess is that the Mayor will be in charge of Things That Go Well and the Board will be in charge of Stuff That Doesn't. Mayor Villaraigosa has had his own commission with numerous sub-committees meeting in secret working on this for a while [see: GARCIA SERVES ON MAYOR'S EDUCATION PANEL] and has benefited from the School Board-City Council joint commission which has met in public �and this "plan" is The Plan? Now he's off on a fact finding junket? The good news is that the trip isn't being paid for from the classroom money. Not yet.

Last Sunday there was the Times Article on Santee Dairy High School [CHAOS REIGNS @ MODEL SCHOOL]. The article was accompanied by photos of two students in handcuffs for truancy. "We really want you in school young people, so we bring you back in shackles."

Elsewhere the magazine Edutopia published the exceedingly excellent SECRET WEAPON DISCOVERED � this smoking-gun evidence of Weapons of Mass Instruction should be required reading for everyone from Roy Romer to the newest probationary teacher's aide. An essay test on it needs to be administered to all Superintendent candidates. Please download it complete with the footnotes, resources and study guides and pass it on. Put it in the principal's box. Leave it in the teacher's lounge. E-mail it to ten people with a e-mail address in the next ten minutes or children now in preschool will be doomed to fail the CAHSEE.

For fans of footnotes and proper English usage 4LAKids passes along HIGH STANDARDS FOR WHOM. And 4LAKids adds it's own input to PUNDITS PUMMEL PRESCHOOL PLAN. And stirs up OBJECIONES AMBIENTALES, both in Part II.

Did I mention the CAHSEE? Saving Recess? Cafeteria Food? All in Part II!

Read on gentle reader, and thank you for all you do everyday for kids. You too Antonio �you've got us talking! - smf

LA MAYOR DETAILS PLAN FOR SCHOOLS: Villaraigosa would keep an elected board�in a lesser role�and hold power to appoint superintendent & top educators
by Duke Helfand & Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writers

March 18, 2006 - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday outlined his most detailed plan yet for taking control of the Los Angeles schools, saying that he would keep the elected Board of Education but in a reduced role and appoint the superintendent and other top district leaders.

Villaraigosa, continuing his steady criticism of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said mayoral oversight would bring public accountability to a system lacking a "sense of urgency" or a "culture of reform."

"I don't see, frankly, right now the kind of leadership in that school district that is really engaged in reforms and making the bold decisions we need to get results," Villaraigosa said at a City Hall news conference. "What we have isn't working, pure and simple."

Villaraigosa's comments drew a sharp rebuke from the school board's longest-serving member, Julie Korenstein.

"What I want to hear from [Villaraigosa] is why he thinks this will help improve our schools?" she said. "I don't have a clue why he thinks it would make things better if he could appoint the superintendent and senior staff. Is the city run that well? Isn't it running a large deficit? I don't get it at all."

Villaraigosa offered the fresh details of his takeover plans on the eve of a trip to New York City, where he hopes to study how Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won control of the nation's largest school system.

Villaraigosa will spend Monday and Tuesday visiting schools and meeting with Bloomberg and his lieutenants, labor leaders, business executives and others.

He also expressed interest in visiting other cities where the mayors have had a hand in the schools, including Chicago, Cleveland and Boston.

"There are many in Los Angeles who think that bold change won't work," Villaraigosa said. "New York is showing us that we can do it."

Bloomberg won control of New York City's schools nearly four years ago after he persuaded the state Legislature that he could rein in the bureaucracy and improve academics in the system of 1.1 million students.

A state law replaced the city's elected Board of Education with an advisory panel, allowing the mayor to appoint the majority of its members.

Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman, named his own schools chancellor, former federal prosecutor Joel I. Klein. The two reorganized the school system, trimming the bureaucracy, and introduced new reading and math programs, and ended the practice of allowing many failing students to advance through the grades.

Critics accuse Bloomberg and Klein of pressing their agenda while ignoring the concerns of teachers, administrators and parents.

Villaraigosa envisions a hybrid of the New York model: He said he would keep the elected school board intact � but in a lesser capacity that has yet to be defined � to give voters a say in the schools and to avoid legal snags that could arise from appointing some board members.

As with Bloomberg in New York, he would appoint the district chief and his advisors. He said his team would redirect money and other resources to schools, and give parents and teachers a greater say over school budgets, creating what he called a "culture of excellence."

He said the ultimate goal would be to reduce the school district's dropout rate, which Los Angeles Unified officials have pegged at 33%, and improve test scores throughout the system � including high schools, where scores have not budged for several years.

School Board President Marlene Canter put a positive face on Villaraigosa's nascent plans, saying she hoped that the mayor's call for an elected school board would clear the way for more collaboration.

"I hope this is a step toward putting politics behind us," she said, adding that she was "thrilled that he's recognized the reality that elected school boards represent the people."

But Canter also dismissed as impractical the mayor's plan to take some authority away from the school board, indicating that it could trigger power struggles that would do little to advance the cause of education.

Another of California's largest school systems, Oakland Unified, has struggled with this delicate balance of power.

In 2000, Oakland voters approved an amendment to the City Charter that gave Mayor Jerry Brown the authority to appoint only a few additional members to the elected school board.

Without Brown in control over a majority of the board, little got done as elected members squared off against his appointees.

Brown said he has counseled Villaraigosa against a similar plan, saying that unless he has complete control, he won't have enough power to make significant changes.

The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said that any power-sharing structure could ultimately backfire in a school district in which the needs of children and billions of dollars are at stake.

"If I had a problem at a school that I needed to work on, would I go to the local school board elected person? Or would I go to the mayor?" asked A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. "As a citizen, and a consumer of public education, I'm confused already."

* Times staff writer Lynn Doan contributed to this report.

CHAOS REIGNS AT A MODEL SCHOOL: Newly opened South L.A. High has Macs, a chef's kitchen and a ballet studio. It also has drugs, guns � and gangs.
By Erika Hayasaki, LA Times Staff Writer

March 12, 2006 � Administrator Maureen Cologne thought she had stumbled upon a missing cellphone two weeks ago after touching a smooth object wedged between a stack of chairs at the Los Angeles Unified School District's newest high school. During the random classroom search, about 40 students watched her pull out a loaded handgun instead.

"What was terrifying," Cologne said in an interview last week, "was why?"

At most urban high schools, the incident could have been considered an anomaly in an otherwise normal school year. But since South L.A. Area High School No. 1 opened in July on the old Santee Dairy site just south of downtown, nothing has been normal.

During its first week, as staff haphazardly opened five small schools on the pristine campus with little or no guidance, more chaos reigned outside. On the second day of classes, someone fired shots in front of the school. A day later, a student with an AK-47 was arrested after school in front of the campus, police said. Campus police said students jumped on officers and tried to steal their guns during a lunchtime brawl three months ago. And students said the police pepper-sprayed them as they tried to avoid the melee.

The school has earned a dubious distinction: It ranks No. 1 among district high schools for crime, with 218 reports since school began, including theft, assault and weapons possession.

"We've taken out knives and brass knuckles. We've had kids selling meth in classrooms," said police officer Veronica Perez, who has been stationed on the 2,900-student campus since it opened. "We are the busiest school in the district, and there's only two [campus-based officers] here."

Supt. Roy Romer and district officials had hoped the state-of-the-art school, with its heated swimming pool, rubber track, ballet studio, fully equipped chef's kitchen and shiny Macintosh computers, would become a pride of the district. It was intended to relieve overcrowding and serve as a model for implementing small learning communities, a reform effort aimed at boosting student achievement and graduation rates at all district high schools.

"This was, for three years, Romer's talked-about flagship [small learning community] site," said Board of Education member David Tokofsky. "It was his dream, and it has turned out to be a nightmare."

Romer said the district was trying to open new schools against long odds. Changing the culture on campus and in the community, he said, is a "slow and painful process."

"Opening a new school is challenging," Romer said. "Doing it with the kind of unrest we have among those youngsters is also a challenge. But that doesn't mean you don't do it."

The attendance boundaries are part of the problem of South L.A. Area High School No. 1, which draws students from some of the city's toughest neighborhoods around Belmont, Jefferson, Manual Arts and Fremont high schools. Police say youths cut through more than 50 gang territories to get to school. There are 18 documented gangs represented on campus, and, staff members say, each is posturing for recognition and a spot on the quad.

Students carry weapons because "they have to go through somebody else's turf to get to and from school," said Dean David Hickman. "The district never asked us, who are on the ground, how to build a school."

Dan Isaacs, the chief operating officer of L.A. Unified, said the district's primary concern is "building schools where we can find land and where there's a density factor."

For years, because of overcrowding, students in the Santee area endured long bus rides to schools outside of their neighborhoods. Others attended neighborhood campuses teeming with students. Isaacs said that gangs exist all over the city, and it is nearly impossible to build schools on land that doesn't touch gang turf.

"It's kind of like saying, 'Should we build a school where there's no grocery stores?' " Isaacs said. "It's not a manageable issue."

Two weeks ago, after school was dismissed, a student was stabbed at the Burger King across the street. On Monday, at lunchtime, police inadvertently pepper-sprayed a dean as he was breaking up a fight between gang members.

Last week, a janitor carrying a bottle of orange cleanser scrubbed graffiti off a freshly painted stairwell. Students had also tagged the school's stylish umbrella-covered picnic tables, signs advertising the fashion academy and many of its glossy new textbooks.

When it opened, the school did not have a staff handbook outlining emergency and curriculum guidelines. Teachers and principals whipped one up amid the confusion.

During a recent lunch, Officer Perez spotted a boy with a studded necklace bearing the initials of his tagging crew. Many taggers don't just spray graffiti, Perez said; they also carry weapons.

"We're not going to have this here," Perez told the boy, taking it from around his neck. "These are not your initials."

Co-Principal Vince Carbino, who is known for handing out his cellphone number to students, approached. He told Perez he got seven calls over the weekend warning him about possible campus violence. Such tips, he said, helped police make an arrest in the Burger King stabbing.

Despite these tactics, Perez and others wish the district would deploy more officers to the school.

"They're so focused on the small learning communities," Perez said, "they don't realize safety has to be the focus."

Isaacs said the district provides plenty of support. In addition to the two school officers stationed on campus, four district motor officers patrol its perimeter. He said the school also receives support from the Newton Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

"What occurs in a community sometimes spills into a school," Isaacs said. "Our campuses are a lot safer than the communities they are in."

When the school opened, teachers and administrators received scant training in creating small schools. Staffers scrambled to figure out how to carve five mini-campuses with distinct identities out of a large school that had no identity.

For Co-Principal Brenda Morton, establishing a safe school culture has been a demanding dance, and its choreography keeps changing.

Even though students are divided into groups, they come together at lunch. In December, several lunchtime brawls resulted in 34 students arrested and 10 hospitalized. To quell the fighting, administrators split lunchtime into two 35-minute periods so that fewer students congregate on the quad at once.

But because students skipped class to attend both lunch periods, administrators changed the schedule, again, to allow more time between lunches. The first lunch now begins at 9:40 a.m.

After students got into fights in restrooms, the principals decided to lock classrooms during instruction. Now, adults escort students who need to use the restroom, but only if it is an emergency.

The principals of the five small learning communities are slowly building semi-autonomous groups, each with about 20 to 30 teachers and 600 to 700 students.

The principals have each claimed a wing of the school, in some cases converting classrooms into offices, each with its own clerk, counselor and principal.

"Everybody had to settle their turf, teens and teachers included," said administrator Cologne. She is the head of the school's public service and social justice academy, in which more than half of her teachers are in their first year in the profession. The halls of her academy are decorated with student-designed posters that read: "Black and Brown=Peace" and "What Are We Fighting For?"

The idea behind small learning communities is that students will remain in their campus wings, taking classes with the same group of teachers for their high school careers. Yet at South L.A. High, many youths are shuffling among academies because they need courses that they can't get in their small schools.

The campus remains overcrowded. It opened as a year-round school, and there are no immediate plans to change that. The Board of Education approved a plan last week to open eight charter schools in the area. It hopes that the plan will ease enrollment.

"It's a journey, it's a process," Co-Principal Morton said. "We're still in its infancy."

Sophomore Jilman Gomez, 15, is frustrated with the new system. He said he is enrolled in the same world history class that he already passed with an A last semester. He is also enrolled in an English course at a lower level than he needs.

"It's wrong," he said. "You should be able to take the classes you need."

The students in administrator Jan Hackett's fashion and design academy came from seven middle schools and 22 high schools.

"I don't think they acknowledged this [school] was theirs," she said. "This was just a place they were sent."

Hackett spent 12 years at Taft High School in Woodland Hills.

"Nothing has ever been this complex, this difficult, in my entire career," she said.

Despite the challenges, Hackett sees the concept beginning to work. She raves about her design class, equipped with new sewing machines and cutting tables, and the yearbook class with its 40 Mac laptops. She now knows most of her 600 students by name.

"One thousand percent," Hackett said, "I believe in this."

Kennetta Bradley, 15, believes in it too. She transferred to the school last year from nearby Jefferson High after being hit in the head with a bottle and shoved to the ground during a series of riots that roiled that campus last spring. In December, when fights broke out at her new school, Bradley was pepper-sprayed while standing in a stairwell.

"It got in my lungs, my eyes, my nose," she said. "My face was all flush red. I was scared."

Afterward, her mother asked, "With all of the fighting, do you still want to go there?"

Bradley thought about the contemporary-style campus, with its clean restrooms and its counselors who helped her enroll in community college classes. She thought about how much fun she had in the travel and culinary arts academy, especially in cooking class. She thought about her teachers, who helped her more than the rotating substitutes she had met at Jefferson.

Bradley told her mother she wanted to stay, as long as she remembers that when violence breaks out, "you just got to stay your distance."

Times Photo of Truants in Handcuffs

SECRET WEAPON DISCOVERED!: Scientists Say Parents Partnering with Teachers Can Change the Future of Education
By Roberta Furger from Edutopia magazine's March 2006 issue

When my daughter was in kindergarten, her school's principal issued an invitation to the adults assembled in the multipurpose room for back-to-school night. "We need your help," she announced to the crowd of moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas. Our first opportunity to get involved, she told us, was to join the School Site Council, the group of parents, staff, and community members charged with plotting the direction of the school.

Bright eyed and ready to make a difference, I marched up after the meeting and volunteered. The principal smiled, handed me the meeting schedule, and said, "Great. I'll see you next Monday at 3:30."

That was twelve years ago.

Since then, I've clocked hundreds of hours as a parent volunteer: Besides a five-year stint on the School Site Council, I've participated in technology committees, hiring committees, and school-reorganization committees. I served two terms as PTA president, managed cookie dough and cheesecake sales, organized flea markets and family math nights, drove on field trips, volunteered in the classroom, and coordinated class parties and teacher-appreciation days. And although I have lingering frustrations about involvement that at times seemed superficial (we spent less time talking about student achievement than we did planning parties and raising funds), I know the time was well spent. It benefited the school and, without question, it benefited my kids.

For me, there was never a question about getting involved in my children's schooling. My mom had volunteered as the school nurse and later the school librarian when I was young, so it seemed natural and right that I, too, would get involved. And although I've always been employed full time, I've had the good fortune over the years to work for employers who have allowed me the flexibility to adjust my hours or take time off to accommodate my volunteer activities at school.

But for many parents, getting involved at school -- or even fully supporting their child at home -- is anything but straightforward or easy. Many work in jobs that offer no flexibility for illness or other family crisis, let alone the "luxury" of volunteering at school. Others never finished high school, or had such a miserable K-12 experience that they feel ill prepared to support their own child.

Language differences are another huge impediment for many parents. The number of school-age children who speak a language other than English at home increased by 161 percent between 1979 and 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Nationwide, these children account for roughly 19 percent of all K-12 students (though in the western United States, they represent nearly onethird of all school-age children).

Although many schools embrace the linguistic and cultural differences of students and their parents, in many others, the parents' inability to communicate in English is an incredible barrier to participation. Just like English speaking tourists flummoxed about the institutions of a far-off country, immigrant families often feel bewildered by the U.S. public school system. They don't care any less about their children or value education less than English speaking parents, but understanding how the system works, let alone finding a role for themselves in it, is not as straightforward as marching up to the principal and saying, "Sign me up."


Such was the case in 1998 at Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, in Sacramento, California, where a high percentage of Southeast Asian immigrant families in the school community spoke little English, lived in poverty, and were almost completely disconnected from the school. Each morning, they walked their children to the schoolyard gate and then stood outside and watched until the students lined up and headed into class. Parents rarely attended school functions (which were conducted mostly in English), seldom met with teachers, and had little understanding of how to support their kids at home.

Students' attitudes reflected their parents' disconnect. Test scores were among the lowest in the district, and attendance rates were dropping. In one year, there were 140 suspensions. As often happens in struggling schools, a culture of blame developed. Parents felt disrespected and marginalized. Teachers said they were unsupported in their efforts to serve the high-need students. Far from being partners, teachers and parents were adversaries. The students, many of whom were failing, were caught in the middle.

"We had to do something differently," recalls Carol Sharp, who was principal at the time. "We had to connect to this community."

That's exactly what the staff at Susan B. Anthony and eight other area schools began doing in 1998. Working with a local community-organizing group, Sacramento Area Congregations Together, the district instituted a pilot program in which teachers visited the homes of their students twice a year. Working in teams of two (teachers often paired up with an interpreter or the school nurse), the school staff reached out to parents and began to forge relationships with the previously marginalized community.

For the first time, teachers shared coffee and sometimes even a meal with their students' families. They listened as parents talked about their hopes and dreams for their children and saw firsthand the daily challenges many of them faced. Parents, for their part, began to better understand their role in supporting their children's education. They were introduced to strategies for working with them at home. And they received an invitation: Come to school. Help in the classroom. Be our partner.


Those few words opened the door to a home-school partnership that transformed the struggling school community. Within two months of the first round of home visits, 600 family members came to school for a potluck dinner and parent meeting -- a trend that continued at subsequent events. Working together, parents and teachers addressed students' behavioral issues early on, enabling the school to reduce suspensions to 5 in the year following implementation of the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project. Student achievement improved, and test scores began to climb. At Susan B. Anthony and at many of the other initial pilot schools, home visits quickly became part of the school culture.

Throughout the district, in fact, schools were transformed by home visits. The pilot program proved so successful that the state enacted legislation to provide $15 million in annual funding for schools throughout California to conduct them. Parents and educators from as far away as Boston and the South Bronx have traveled to Sacramento to learn about the model program.

As dramatic as they were, the outcomes at Susan B. Anthony Elementary School and its counterparts throughout Sacramento shouldn't have been a surprise. Parents have a profound effect not only on the life of an individual student but also on the entire school community.


In "A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement," published in 2002 by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Anne T. Henderson and Karen Mapp reviewed years of research on parent involvement, and their conclusions are unequivocal. When parents are involved in school, students of all backgrounds and income levels do better. When their parents are involved, kids are more likely to earn higher grades and score better on standardized tests; they attend school more regularly, have improved social skills, and are better behaved in school; and they are more likely to continue their education past high school.

The deeper the partnerships, the greater the opportunities for broad-based and lasting change. Henderson and Mapp also found that high-performing schools share a critical common trait: a high level of involvement with families and with the community. These high-performing schools, say Henderson and Mapp, focus on building trusting, collaborative relationships among teachers, families, and community members. They recognize, respect, and address families' needs, as well as class and cultural differences. And they embrace a philosophy of partnership in which power and responsibility are shared.

It sounds good. It makes sense. But, unfortunately, partnering with parents isn't the reality in many schools throughout the country.

In their 2004 action brief on the parent-involvement provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the Public Education Network and the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education cite several reasons for the low level of parental involvement in many schools, including a less-than-welcoming atmosphere, language and cultural barriers, insufficient training for teachers, and lack of parent education or parenting skills.

The most recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher (the insurance company has conducted an annual teachers' survey since 1984) sheds additional light on this issue. According to the study, new teachers consider engaging and working with parents their greatest challenge (beating out obtaining supplies and maintaining order and discipline in the classroom) and the area they are least prepared to manage during their first year of teaching.

Less than half of the new teachers surveyed were satisfied with their relationship with parents, and a quarter said they were not prepared for the responsibility of engaging parents in supporting their child's education. Principals aren't much more positive about their interactions with parents; only half of those surveyed expressed satisfaction with those relationships.

Perhaps in recognition of the importance of partnering with parents -- and the difficulty some schools have making this a reality -- the federal government requires that schools receiving Title 1 money have a comprehensive parent-involvement policy. But just as you can't mandate that children be friends and play nicely or that employees always collaborate, you can't mandate that schools and parents work together -- even for the sake of kids.


Some school communities are working through the challenges, though, and finding new and valuable ways to reach out and partner with parents. Berea Middle School, in Greenville, South Carolina, for example, not only has developed a laptop initiative using Title 1 funds that provide low-income students with much-needed access to Webenabled computers, it also reaches out to the school's parent population at the same time. In order to participate in the laptop program, parents are required to attend workshops that teach them how to use and take care of the new computers as well as how to use the laptop to support their children's learning.

"What they've done is transform the entire school into a learning community," explains Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. At Berea, parents, kids, teachers, and administrators are all learning new skills in support of student achievement.

C.P. Squires Elementary School, in Las Vegas, Nevada, is another success story. The school combined its resources with those of a neighboring middle school to create a comprehensive program for supporting students and their families. Children at both schools participate in a variety of academic and enrichment classes after school, and their parents, many of whom speak Spanish, attend English-language classes. Through this whole-family program, both schools have been able to reach out to parents and provide them with an opportunity to further their own education -- a strategy that benefits parents, students, and, ultimately, the entire school community.

Throughout the country, parents and educators are partnering in reform efforts for schools and school districts that go well beyond the typical parentinvolvement program. In Oakland, California, for example, parents team with teachers, community members, and school administrators to form design teams that develop a common vision for newer, smaller schools. Working with district staff, design teams research best practices, visit schools throughout the country, and ultimately create plans for small schools that are both academically sound and relevant to the diverse community of learners they hope to serve.

In the Bronx, parent groups teamed up with the local teachers' union and the school district to tackle one of the most challenging issues facing struggling urban schools: supporting and retaining teachers. Together, the three groups, once at odds over most education issues, developed a program that pays veteran teachers extra money each year to support and assist colleagues. Parents, whose initial efforts led to the innovative program, are part of the school committees that hire the lead teachers. The program has been so effective in supporting and keeping teachers, in fact, that it is being expanded to schools citywide next fall.

The Oakland and Bronx programs are examples of what Dr. Joyce Epstein, director of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University, identifies as the fifth type of parent involvement (see "Six Types of Parent Involvement" for the full list): involving parents in the decision-making processes at school. Although such partnerships are difficult and require all parties to move out of their comfort zones, they provide the greatest hope for deep and lasting changes in our schools.

As I've spent time in school communities throughout the country, I've seen firsthand the power of such partnerships to turn around failing schools and transform entire communities. I've seen immigrant parents become school leaders and frustrated teachers become positive, effective educators through such partnerships. And, perhaps most importantly, I've seen how children in even the most challenging of circumstances can thrive academically when the adults in their lives partner to improve schools.

True partnerships aren't easy. They require trust, respect, and willingness to compromise and, ultimately, to share power and responsibility. Although some might argue that's a lot to expect of parents and educators, given what's at stake -- our children and our schools -- is it right to expect any less?

►Roberta Furger, contributing editor to Edutopia and a former executive editor of the Edutopia Web site, wrote "NCLB Confidential" in Edutopia's November 2005 issue.

DOWNLOAD a .pdf of the article, suitable for sharing � with all the whistles and bells.


By Donald B. Gratz | from the Phi Beta Kappa/Kappan Professional Journal Vol.81 No.9 pp.681-687

� Poor implementation and unintended consequences are fueling a growing rebellion against high standards and tough tests, Mr. Gratz points out. Donald B. Gratz is senior associate and coordinator of national school reform, Community Training & Assistance Center, Boston.

REFORMS IN EDUCATION TEND TO FOLLOW A PATTERN. First, the statements of the problems are more compelling, complete, and accurate than the proposed solutions. Second, the reforms overpromise, but underdeliver. Third, even the most promising initiatives usually fail when tried on a broader scale. Some are "adopted" in name but not truly implemented; others are implemented too quickly, too rigidly, with too little attention to differences between schools, or with too little regard for unintended consequences. Finally, too many education reforms are driven by political ideology rather than by what actually works in schools. Given this pattern, it is hardly surprising that most reforms have little lasting impact on schools.

If success were easier to measure, of course, the most successful practices could be identified. But educational accountability is still in its infancy, consisting primarily of average scores for an entire school on national or state tests. Testing is often handled poorly, and the tests are changed regularly, so reliable long-term data are rarely available. In fact, while we know much about how children learn, few districts can demonstrate what works for which students in which settings. In the absence of proof, opinion reigns, and reform ideas proliferate. How are we to know whether the remedy is a new wonder drug or more snake oil?

The biggest current reform initiative is "world-class" standards and accountability. But as with past reforms, the compelling ideas underlying the standards movement are being distorted by poor implementation and political opportunism. Indeed, because many states are implementing standards and accountability for political rather than educational purposes, this reform will likely follow the familiar pattern. Standards will be adopted in word but not in deed by politicians and educational opportunists. They will be misused and abused for political gain. Voices of moderation will be drowned out, and negative outcomes will be obscured. When they fail to produce the promised results, teachers and students will be blamed.

An emerging rebellion -- driven by negative consequences for children, parents, and teachers -- will cause political support to wane. Stories of overstressed children and teachers will replace the success stories now so popular in the press. Politicians will find new villains to excoriate. The original ideas will be lost or judged failures, the good discarded along with the bad. Finally, the movement itself will be abandoned in favor of the next hot idea. Some effects will certainly linger, but the promised results will not be achieved.

If standards and accountability are to avoid this fate, they must be more than just a world-class sound bite for political leaders. If standards and accountability are to improve schools and help children learn rather than punish teachers, schools, and children for political advantage, advocates must ensure that the standards are appropriate, the tests are fair, and the implementation is reasonable. They must wrest control from the politicians and opportunists who are currently calling the shots and reshape the movement to serve educational rather than political ends.

Purposes and Professional Standards: Standards grow out of the century-old debate over tracking, the 50-year-old discovery of the impact of teacher expectations, the 40-year struggle for educational equity, and the timeless desire for highly skilled (but compliant) workers to drive the nation's economic engine. These trends have converged to create support -- temporarily and for various reasons -- from politicians, educators, and business leaders.

Standards have two primary purposes. The first is economic: to address the concern that America is losing its competitiveness and the belief that both the country's and the students' best interests require demanding more from each child and each school. Fed by fear that we are falling behind other countries and fueled by international studies of achievement, the need to push students to learn more and faster has become a national obsession. Our students can't compete because of poor preparation, the argument goes. America is falling ever further behind, and our economy will suffer.

The second purpose of standards is to address the disparity between high- and low-achieving students. Proponents argue that raising standards for all students, teachers, and schools -- especially in urban schools where students fall way below current standards -- will improve education for poor and minority children. America's growing income gap is made worse, they say, by a growing education gap. Expecting little of students places them at great disadvantage. All children can live up to much higher expectations, and most will.

THIS ARTICLE (with footnotes!) CONTINUES�.


by Sue Pascoe , The Palisadian-Post (Pacific Palisades)

March 16, 2006 � Gary Garcia, an assistant principal at Paul Revere Middle School, has been serving on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's ambitious Advisory Council on Education since late July.

''The 30-member committee, along with 30 support advisors, is charged with providing recommendations on how to improve the performance of the Los Angeles Unified School District as well as studying the feasibility of the Mayor taking over as the superintendent of school.

''The group has held six meetings and continues to gather information to present to Villaraigosa, who took office last July.

''Garcia graduated from Whittier High and Loyola Marymount University and received his master's in administration from Cal State Northridge. He taught for seven years at Hamilton High, then became the school's magnet coordinator. Some years, 100 percent of the magnet students were accepted to college. During that time Garcia also taught an after-school studies class for the low-performing freshmen at Hamilton.

''About 11 years ago, Garcia started teaching and still teaches an Upward Bound course in literature and history at Occidental College. Upward Bound is a federal program that takes high school students with potential and place them in a college situation.
'' 'It's a fabulous program,' Garcia said in an interview. 'Many of the students that are brought in may not have graduated or wouldn't go to college, without a program like this one, which gives them mentors and other students to model after.' He regrets that the funding for this program is being cut, because he understands the importance of such support; he was one of the first of his family to go to college.

''After his fourth year of teaching, Garcia ran for the L.A. school board in 1988 and then withdrew from the race to lend his support to another candidate. Even though he dropped out, his name was left on the ballot and he received 10 percent of the vote, which threw the race into a runoff.

''Garcia knew Villaraigosa when he was employed as a union representative for the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). After Villaraigosa was elected, the mayor announced he wanted a blue ribbon education panel. Garcia sent his resume and was instantly called.

'''I'm excited to be a part of what the mayor is doing,' said Garcia, who is in his fifth year at Paul Revere. 'He's committed to improving the schools. This is not a political move on his part; it's a real passion of his. Maybe some of his motivation comes because he was a dropout.'

''The education panel has been split into a variety of subcommittees. Garcia is on the strategic long-term planning committee, which meant they contacted cities like Boston and Memphis plus Chicago and New York, where the mayors have become head of the school districts.

''According to Garcia, New York and Chicago's schools were low-performing and equated to L.A.'s schools before Roy Romer took over as LAUSD superintendent. Garcia thinks that based on test scores, L.A.'s schools are ahead of where New York and Chicago were when they were taken over by their respective mayors. Those schools made some initial gains, but have now hit a wall. 'For those schools to reach the next level it's going to be much harder to get the results they want,' Garcia said.

''He also questions how Villaraigosa could take over on the level where LAUSD currently is and get the results he desires without more money for education.

The State of California spends $7,000 to $8,000 per student, which is half of what many East Coast states spend. The counter argument is that the failing schools in Washington, D.C., receive more money than any school district in the country.

'' 'If money's not the answer, why is Harvard-Westlake charging $25,000 a year per student?' Garcia asked. 'If you took the entire student body attending Harvard-Westlake and put them in an inner city school, they wouldn't fail.'

'''It illustrates the complexity in school reform,' he continued. 'Education is a triangle and in order for it to be successful all three corners of the triangle: the student, the parents and the school have to participate.'

''Garcia feels that the teacher and administrator unions are misinterpreting what the mayor is trying to do. ''He's saying, 'You're working hard, how can we help you? Let's push education to the forefront, let's move it, get it going. I don't want to wait.''

''Garcia uses the analogy of a salesman and his boss. The salesman tells his boss that he made 30 calls today, but the boss asks, 'How many sales?' That's the boss's bottom line. Garcia feels the same should be true in education. There are people working hard in many of the low-performing schools and they shouldn't be faulted for that, but if something isn't working it's time to change. Garcia's mantra is 'Whatever it takes.'

''When Romer took charge of the LAUSD, he emphasized starting with the elementary schools and making substantial changes, but that same effort wasn't given to the high schools. Villaraigosa is now focusing on an area that Garcia says hasn't been given a lot of attention: dropout rates. LAUSD is now trying to track them, but even on the state and federal level there are no accepted, coordinated ways of reporting on the problem.

''The mayor is already working on several issues. One is ensuring that students don't come to school hungry, by implementing a state health-care program (although it's not fully funded). Another is the safe passage program to help kids get home from school safely. Designated stores or homes will let children know they can go there if they feel threatened. A third issue is joint-use facilities planning, so that LAUSD and the city have better coordination. And finally, helping to mentor students.

''Another problem that needs to be addressed, according to Garcia, is the school board. 'Many people don't realize that the school board is a part-time entity'the salary is just $24,000 a year'and yet they work on a larger budget than most cities. Then if something goes wrong, they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.'

''Would Garcia like to see the mayor take over the school district? 'I would worry because of the succession,' he said. 'Who would be the next mayor be? People didn't force this passion for education on Antonio. It's his own passion.'

What can YOU do?
� E-mail, call or write your school board member: � 213-241-6387
[office is vacant/stay tuned!] � 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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