Sunday, April 23, 2006

After the Firestorm: News actually about education | 4.16.06

4LAKids II : Sunday, April 16, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  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.
This is not continued from part one; this is the good stuff, the real stuff. There will be only one reference to the mayor's takeover plan and that was it.

I wonder if this entire crisis isn't just a way to divert us from the real issues. The lack of nurses. Immigration rights. Preschool. Not enough teachers. PE. How to run our neighborhood school. The impossible challenges of the eleventh grade.

Count the eggs before you hide them; make sure they all are found.

Read onward. �smf


by Valerie Ulene | The M.D. Column | Our Health from the Los Angeles Times

April 10, 2006 � Schools are under an incredible strain to simply educate children � let alone medicate them � so it's hardly surprising that dispensing drugs at school leads to an alarming number of errors. The surprise is that parents and doctors don't work harder to prevent them.

The laws requiring schools to dispense drugs were designed to protect children with medical problems, such as asthma and diabetes. Such kids wouldn't be safe at school if their medications weren't available.

But a large, and growing, number of children are taking a wide variety of medications, including psychoactive drugs, that frequently have little to do with safety. Instead, the drugs are often prescribed � at least in part � to improve attentiveness and concentration and to enhance academic performance.

The resulting burden for schools is enormous. About 5% of children receive medication during a typical school day. Each year, the Los Angeles Unified School District dispenses about 450,000 doses of medications.

Despite strict guidelines, drugs dispensed in the school setting are accompanied by a high rate of errors. In one survey of about 600 school nurses, published in 2000 in the Journal of School Health, almost half reported that medication problems had occurred in their schools during the previous year.

"One of the biggest errors in schools is missed doses," says Ann Marie McCarthy, a professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Iowa who helped conduct the survey.

Also, 11% of the nurses responded that a student had received a higher dosage of medication than he or she should have, and close to 10% said that at least one student had received the wrong medicine.

Some people blame the large number of medication errors on a shortage of school nurses and the schools' reliance on other staff members to administer medications. In the survey conducted by McCarthy, errors were about three times more common when nonmedical personnel dispensed medications.

Although it is clearly the schools' responsibility to develop reliable and safe ways to deliver medications, it is unrealistic � and unfair � for them to shoulder the responsibility alone. Parents should not ask the schools to provide nonessential medications. Use of over-the-counter products such as pain relievers and decongestants, for example, should be severely limited. If parents choose to use them, they should be administered before school starts. If a child is unable to get through the day without more medicine, parents need to consider whether the child is too sick to attend school.

When a child requires medication, the child's doctor should select � whenever possible � a drug that does not need to be administered in the middle of the day. In some cases, extended-release formulations of the same medicine are available.

Sometimes, of course, children will need medication at school. Then, the child's doctor should provide the school with a written statement authorizing the staff to dispense the medication as well as information about possible side effects. Medication changes should be reported immediately to the school.

Unless a school is directly notified about a change by a physician, a child may continue to get a medication that has been discontinued or school personnel may overlook a switch in dosage.

"Parents really need to understand that there's not a miracle system out there," says Julia Lear, director of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, a policy resource center at George Washington University. Considering that many schools seem to be struggling to educate children, they probably shouldn't be counted on to medicate them as well.


Dr. Valerie Ulene is a board-certified specialist in preventive medicine practicing in Los Angeles. She can be reached at

▲ Dr. Ulene is right on; but the problem she identifies is just the tip of the "shortage of school nurses" iceberg. The meds dispensed at schools are, for the most part, dispensed not by school nurses but by office staff � clerical workers, not health care professionals. In LAUSD, while a nurse is assigned to every school � these are part time assignments. Small schools often only have one nurse-day a week. Yet of course children have asthma attacks, are stung by bees, suffer allergic reactions, fall from playground equipment, need insulin injections, require prescribed medication � need medical attention � five days a week! At year round schools nurses aren't even assigned beyond the traditional nine-month school year.

School nurses fill an important role beyond dispensing Band-Aids and meds. They monitor vaccination records and health records. If they have time they identify, screen and refer students whom may need medical, dental, vision, audiometric or mental health care. They can teach proper nutrition, hygiene and healthy habits to children, parents and teachers. We know that schoolchildren are principal vectors of diseases like influenza; if there is an avian flu pandemic you and I won't get it from a chicken or songbird �we'll get it from a kindergartener.

The reason for the shortage is that school nurses don't loom large in school district budgets � nurses don't produce increased test scores. Schools with some budget control often "buy" additional nurse days, but many schools don't have that latuitude. At the school site council at my daughter's school the enlightened principal made one thing clear to us as we started work on the budget: She simply would not come to work at a school that didn't have a nurse. I'm going to suggest that maybe the school district should cop that attitude: A nurse on every campus from first bell to last at every school in the District. If the teacher and administrator's unions asked for that they'd find parents with them shoulder-to-shoulder. And if we do it in LA other districts will follow. The state would come along. And test scores would improve as attendance improves and student, family and community health improves. �smf


USA Today Editorial

April 10, 2006 � The demonstrations and debates about immigration that continued Monday across the USA have provided what educators like to call "a teachable moment" in the nation's schools. Unfortunately, some school administrators are applying the wrong lesson plan.

Instead of channeling anxiety about immigration � or anxiety about potential expulsion of illegal immigrants � into constructive discussion, they've taught their students about government's power to trample free speech.

School districts in at least three states � California, Colorado and Arizona � banned the wearing or carrying of flags, including the American flag, on school grounds. They say the flags are provocative and could incite violence. In most cases, the evidence has seemed thin at best.

Perhaps the educators needed to do a little more legal homework before they acted.

In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that neither students nor teachers "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." The issue then was three students in Des Moines who had been suspended for wearing black armbands to peacefully protest U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The school argued that concern over possible conflict and disruption should give administrators power to muzzle even unspoken political comment. The court wisely set a higher standard, that mere anxiety about the possibility of disturbance "is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression."

Principals, focused on the difficult task of maintaining order, can easily miss that message, and too often, they do.

In recent years:

�Students in a Texas school were suspended for simply wearing black armbands to mourn the victims of the school shootings in Columbine, Colo., and to quietly protest what they viewed as their school's authoritarian overreaction.

�An honor-roll student in a Louisiana high school had to go to court to enforce her right to wear a similar armband to protest the school's mandatory uniform policy.

�A middle school student in Kansas was suspended for privately doodling a Confederate flag during class.

�An Alaska high school suspended a student for displaying a sarcastic sign about drug use at a public event off campus.

Most of these students have won when they've gone to court, and that reality already appears to be inspiring a retreat from the bans on flags in California, Colorado and Arizona.

Rather than ban flags, schools should be looking for ways to make the most of a rare public-policy issue that has ignited student interest and passions. The subject matter � immigration and free speech � is tailor-made for history classes, which too often do a poor job of educating students about American values. And wouldn't students be drawn to assemblies where speakers discussed immigration's effect on the community?

One lesson: Maintaining order cannot become a facile excuse for trampling the freedoms that make so many immigrants eager to come to the USA in the first place.

Reply to USA Today Editorial [above] by Daniel Shinoff and Paul V. Carelli IV

April 10, 2006 � Recent events at California's secondary schools have called into question the authority and wisdom of some school administrators who have temporarily limited student expression because of violence and police clashes concerning the immigration issue.

But those administrators should not be admonished. Instead, they should be applauded for putting student safety first.

While students do have First Amendment rights, schools have broad powers to restrict student speech in order to enforce discipline and administer the school. The most recognizable example of this is a teacher telling students to be quiet at their desks while the teacher is speaking. How could students learn if teachers had no power to quiet their classrooms?

School officials have seen a direct link between student expression � whether it be through speech, banners, badges, flags, or other symbols � and violence that has occurred on campuses. Given this connection, school officials have reasonably decided to cool off the tensions among students by limiting the students' expression. It is not only constitutionally allowable for officials to do so, it is their duty, too. These school officials may very well be preventing another violent incident such as those that have occurred in Columbine, Colo., and elsewhere.

Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has given school administrators its blessing to curb speech that disrupts class work, causes substantial school disturbance or places students in danger. So long as circumstances might reasonably lead school officials to forecast trouble, student speech may be restricted. Ultimately, school administrators are placed in the very difficult position of being required to determine on a moment's notice what language or action crosses the line.

The school administrators at issue have correctly decided that a student's safety is more important than the right to speak freely. One can only imagine a parent's outrage if his or her child were injured because of another student's speech creating a dangerous atmosphere. That parent would say to school administrators, "Why didn't you do anything to prevent this?" Would the nation's schools really be better off if the law required the response to be, "I'm sorry, our hands were tied by the First Amendment"?
� Daniel Shinoff and Paul V. Carelli IV are attorneys with the San Diego-based firm of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, representing school districts throughout California.


Editorial from the Los Angeles Times

April 14, 2006 � Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes Proposition 82, which would raise taxes to fund universal preschool. His main Democratic opponents, state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly, support it. But on the issue of universal preschool, they all agree: It's wonderful. And they're all wrong.

As the campaign gears up � Schwarzenegger, Angelides and Westly issued dueling statements Wednesday about Proposition 82 � voters will become familiar with mantras that universal preschool will return a profit for every dollar spent, be a great equalizer, improve scholastic achievement and reduce dropouts. But the research is less clear. Preschool does benefit poor children, and the state should help their parents pay for it. Yet, despite many studies and the $2.3 billion a year Proposition 82 would spend on three hours daily of public pre-kindergarten, little is known about how long lasting the benefits are or what it takes to get them.

The chief research cited by actor/director Rob Reiner, the driving force behind the initiative, is a Rand Corp. study suggesting that for each dollar spent on universal preschool, Californians can expect $2.62 in savings on jails, special education and other services. But that study is based mostly on a successful Chicago program for impoverished black children. Preschool was only one part of the program, which provided parent education, healthcare, social services and long-term assistance. The Rand study extrapolates what that may mean in a far more limited California program with a very different population.

The Chicago experiment shows that weaving an extensive social services net for struggling families that includes preschool has big benefits. But it says little about what a half-day of preschool would accomplish for California kids. Universal preschool does not appear to raise test scores. In Georgia, which has had universal preschool for more than a decade, preschool-educated children fared much better academically in kindergarten, but the advantage faded by third grade. A recent nationwide study by a UC Santa Barbara professor showed similar results, as has other research, though the study also found preschool graduates were somewhat less likely to be placed in special education or held back a grade.

Part of the initiative's high cost stems from its requirements that preschool teachers must have a bachelor's degree and a teaching credential and be paid the same as public schoolteachers. But do preschool teachers need as much education as, say, high school math teachers, and should they be paid as much? Several studies suggest college-educated teachers interact better with preschoolers. But those interactions don't necessarily lead to more success for children. A study in Georgia found former preschoolers did equally well once they reached school, regardless of whether their preschool teachers had a two-year, technical or bachelor's degree.

Supporting Proposition 82 because it would provide untold benefits to California students, as Angelides and Westly do, is misguided. And opposing it because it would raise taxes, as Schwarzenegger does, is simplistic. There are better reasons to raise taxes, and better ways to improve educational achievement.

►$2.8 MILLION IN PUBLIC MONEY ALLOCATED TO PRO-PRESCHOOL ADS IS MISSING: State contractor sues subcontractor; police and auditor notified

by Mark Martin, SF Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

April 14, 2006 � Sacramento � Nearly $3 million in public money earmarked for pro-preschool commercials is missing, marking a weird twist in the controversy surrounding a move by a state commission headed until recently by director Rob Reiner to air the commercials while Reiner was working to get a preschool initiative on the ballot.

The new head of the First 5 California Children and Families Commission and the commission's lead advertising firm acknowledged Thursday that $2.8 million owed to Spanish-language television stations for commercials aired last fall is unaccounted for. The firm, GMMB Inc., filed a lawsuit Thursday against a subcontractor, Durazo Communications, alleging that it gave the money to Durazo, which now says it cannot account for the funds.

The commercials were part of a $23 million advertising campaign that began in November touting the benefits of preschool. The ad campaign began at the same time Reiner was collecting signatures for an initiative that will be on the June ballot to increase income taxes on the wealthy to pay for universal preschool in California.

The commercials have led to criticism by some lawmakers that Reiner was using public money to benefit his political goals. The Legislature has ordered an audit of the commission's finances, and Reiner quit the commission last month.

On Thursday, Hector Ramirez, Reiner's replacement as commission chairman, said the commission had notified the auditor and the Los Angeles police about the missing funds.

"The money, it appears, might have been used for other things,'' Ramirez said.

According to Ramirez and allegations outlined in a fraud lawsuit filed Thursday in state Superior Court in Los Angeles, GMMB had hired Durazo to help place Spanish-language commercials with television stations across the state. GMMB, which has won more than $169 million in contracts from the commission, has paid Durazo more than $30 million.

But, according to the lawsuit, Durazo has conceded that of $4.3 million it was paid for the last round of commercials, it can't find $2.8 million owed to television stations.

GMMB issued a statement Thursday noting that it contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles district attorney's office and the state commission when it learned of the missing money. The lawsuit seeks to recoup the money.

Phone calls to Durazo Communications were not returned.

Ramirez noted that the commercials the commission paid for have aired, and he characterized the missing money as a dispute between GMMB and its subcontractor.

"We did get what we paid for,'' he said.

Ramirez said an attorney for the commission was investigating the issue and the commission had also notified the state auditor.


►BETTER TEACHERS, BUT STILL TOO FEW: More classes in the state are being taught by qualified instructors, but inner-city schools continue to lag, a federal commission is told.

By Carla Rivera, LA Times Staff Writer

April 12, 2006 � Public schools in California have made great strides in increasing the overall number of classes taught by highly qualified teachers, but the state still lags in finding experienced teachers willing to work at high-poverty schools in inner cities, a national panel heard Tuesday.

In addition, though the state will need 100,000 new teachers over the next decade to meet the demands of a growing student population, there is little consensus over how best to recruit and retain them as well as ensure they have the necessary skills to improve student achievement.

These were just a few of the conclusions that emerged from a hearing Tuesday at Cal Poly Pomona to explore the effect of the federal No Child Left Behind Act on teacher quality. It was the first in a series of five public events set to be conducted around the country by the Commission on No Child Left Behind. The independent, bi-partisan group will propose improvements in the law to Congress, which is scheduled to reauthorize the act next year.

The statute currently requires that all teachers become "highly qualified" by the end of this school year. To be considered highly qualified in California, teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree, be fully licensed by the state and demonstrate knowledge of each subject they teach.

Policymakers are especially concerned with how teacher quality affects the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their middle-class peers.

"Unfortunately, too many of our disadvantaged and minority children are taught by less experienced, less qualified teachers than their more advantaged peers," said the commission's co-chairman, former Georgia Gov. Roy E. Barnes. "Nationwide, high-minority and low-income schools have twice the rate of inexperienced teachers as low-minority and high-income schools. These stark facts translate into the children most at risk of academic failure receiving the least amount of support."

The participants, who included administrators, teachers, activists and researchers, agreed that teachers hold the key to improving student outcomes. There was also consensus that inexperienced teachers excel with professional development, mentors and better pay.

But views diverged on how best to identify good teachers and ways to match them with low-performing schools.

California has made some gains. In 2002-03, according to state figures, the percentage of core academic classes taught by highly qualified teachers was 48% for all schools; 60% for elementary schools and 44% at the secondary level. By 2004, the percentage of those classes taught by highly qualified teachers had risen to 74% for all schools; 78% for elementary schools and 73% for secondary schools.

But while the compliance rate was 81% at middle-income elementary schools, it was 75% at high-poverty elementary schools. At secondary schools, 61% of academic classes were taught by highly qualified teachers, compared with 81% at middle income schools.

Data suggest that the lowest achieving students are five times more likely than higher achieving students to have under-prepared teachers through their school careers.

"There has been great progress in a short period of time, but I think everyone would agree that we have to accelerate the process," Gavin Payne, the state chief deputy superintendent, told the commission.

Payne said the Department of Education has limited ability to require districts to equally distribute experienced teachers.

And the "elephant in the room," Payne suggested, is the need for 100,000 new teachers in coming years as the student population grows and veteran teachers retire. Successful recruitment initiatives, such as the governor's teaching fellowships, have been gutted or eliminated due to budget cuts, said Payne, adding that the federal government must increase funding to help the state develop more teachers.

Supt. Don Iglesias of the San Jose Unified School District, an urban area with a highly diverse student body of 31,000, told the panel that schools must improve the leadership of principals and other administrators and develop nurturing environments to retain good teachers in struggling schools.

"Teachers with high skills want to move to the suburbs because they receive more recognition for their achievements," said Iglesias. "This is not just about money, but about how we treat the people that do the work."

Russlynn Ali, executive director of the Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based advocacy group, complained that the No Child Left Behind law has failed to provide oversight and direction that would resolve such issues as the inequity in teacher distribution and the importance of teacher quality.

by Lucas L. Johnson II, Associated Press Writer

April 10, 2006 � Franklin, Tenn. (AP) - At Moore Elementary School, fourth-grader Michael Turri looks forward to 30 minutes of jump-rope at the start of the day.

"It really gets my brain going," said the 10-year-old. "You need to do this stuff to get through life."

That's one of the approaches this suburban Nashville school takes to thwart a growing childhood obesity problem. Students at Moore are required to take PE every day.

Now, some state lawmakers are pointing to Moore as a model for the state in a plan to set tougher phys ed standards for all schools.

"Our students are a little less overweight, and their academic scores are high," said Moore Elementary PE teacher Kathy Clark. "I want the same for every student in Tennessee."

Illinois is the only state that requires PE every day from kindergarten through high school. In Alabama, it's a must until eighth grade, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

In other states - California, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New York, South Carolina and Vermont - standards are being developed for health and PE programs.

In 2003 only 28 percent of U.S. high school students attended a daily PE class, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. About 38 percent watched TV for three hours or more each school night.

Before Tennessee dropped PE in 1992 - under pressure to focus on the basics - students had to take 30 minutes a day until fourth grade, two hours a week until eighth grade and one high school credit.

Now, elementary and middle schools require only some physical activity, and high schools have so-called "lifetime wellness" classes - a combination of health and physical education.

But there's no set time or curriculum, said state Sen. Bill Ketron, a Murfreesboro Republican who's sponsoring a bill to make daily PE mandatory again.

An effort at stricter PE standards has been slowed by cost, because many schools would probably have to hire more teachers. A compromise would expand a pilot health program to all school districts.

The health program - which includes counseling, health and nutrition services - would simply encourage all students to build strength and flexibility and take part in aerobic exercise to develop lifetime health habits.

"What good is an education if you don't have your health," asks Ketron.

Gov. Phil Bredesen has said he wants to spend $45 million over the next three years to fight diabetes and obesity. Tennessee is third in the nation for childhood obesity and among the top five for Type II diabetes in children, according to the American Heart Association.

Ketron and health officials believe added activity would not only improve physical fitness, but test scores as well. A California study shows that students who have PE in school do better in math and reading than those who do not, according to the heart association.

Doug Winborn, professor of health and human performance at Middle Tennessee State University, said the successful program at Moore Elementary proves that PE doesn't crowd out academics.

"In Franklin, they are consistently at the top of the state in standardized testing," Winborn said. "We hoped other school systems would see the light and follow suit, but it appears the only way to have a daily physical education is to mandate it."
▲ Bills in the California Legislature: AB 1779 (Karnette), would require 20 minutes of PE every day in elementary school (hopefully not at the expense of recess, which is unstructured) and AB 1845 (Chavez), would require four years (rather than the current two) of PE in High School �smf

►S.F. SCHOOL COUNCILS HELP CHART IMPROVEMENT COURSE: District�s decentralized model seen as effective, given focus on students.

By Jeff Archer, San Francisco for EdWeek

April 12, 2006 - Parents at Lowell High School worried that incoming students were falling through the cracks as they made the transition to the 2,600-student school here. So they hit on an idea: match up every 9th grader with an older student as a mentor.

�We said, we can�t double the number of counselors,� said Richard Shrieve, who has a son at Lowell. �But we have a bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds who know the ropes, and they can talk to these kids better than adults can.�

Last fall, all 650 of the school�s freshmen were assigned mentors through the program, which is part of Lowell High�s improvement plan. A teacher and a social worker on the staff coordinate the recruitment and training of the mentors.

Peggy Semien, a paraprofessional at George Washington Carver Elementary School in San Francisco, works on phonics with a group of 2nd graders. The school's council decided to keep its paraprofessional positions, which have been cut in other district schools.

Such examples of shared decisionmaking and site-based management are not unusual in the San Francisco Unified School District, where the two leadership principles are central to the 56,000-student district�s strategy for raising student performance.

Administrators have honed an annual planning process that gives wide latitude to each school�s community in deciding how best to use its resources�so long as the choices made are aimed at meeting agreed-upon academic goals. Mr. Shrieve calls it �channeled energy.�

The approach has its challenges. Some local leaders doubt that all schools, particularly those serving low-income populations, are able to elicit high levels of community involvement. In addition, tight budgets have meant that many of the decisions that schools make simply are about what to cut.


But few oppose the process. Many say it not only works well in a city where people like to have their say, but that it�s also sound education policy. Since 2003, San Francisco has made the greatest gains among California�s seven largest districts in the state�s system for rating academic performance.

�As long as you have some accountability, and some monitoring of how they�re using their resources, then I think most of the time schools make very good decisions,� said Arlene Ackerman, the departing superintendent who was the chief architect of the site-planning model.

California has long required that schools have committees that include staff and community members, along with principals, to inform school policy. San Francisco has sought to go a step further by having site councils act more like policymakers.

The empowerment comes in the yearly drafting of academic plans�documents that spell out how schools intend to meet such districtwide goals as ensuring student safety and closing the achievement gaps between students from different socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.

District leaders spell out what each plan must cover, such as teacher training and special education services. Programs must be justified with student data. Councils also are required to hold public meetings to hear from the larger school community as they draft their plans.

�It�s more grassroots, in that they�re coming up with their observations and their strategies,� said Myong Leigh, the district�s director of policy and planning. �It�s within a system of bounded discretion, but a lot of the problem-solving happens at the school site.�

To make the system work, the district had to overhaul the way it allocates resources to schools, adopting what�s known as weighted-student funding. Each school�s budget is determined by its total enrollment, plus additional money for students with particular needs, like those learning English.

The method allows more flexibility than the traditional practice, in which schools get specific numbers of staff positions�not money�based on their overall enrollment. Schools can decide whether they want to spend money on a teacher, a librarian, or computers. ("�Weighted� Funding of Schools Gains Favor," Nov. 3, 2004)

To be sure, schools in San Francisco still have plenty of mandates. They all must use the same state-adopted textbooks, for instance, and cannot go above state-imposed class-size limits. The district also requires the lowest-performing schools to take part in certain programs. (Read the related story, "Kinder and Gentler," this issue.)

Still, many school leaders here say they are able to tailor their programs to their needs. For example, George Washington Carver Elementary School has opted to hold on to its paraprofessionals, while other schools have traded many of those positions for other priorities.

Emily Wade-Thompson, the school�s principal, said doing so made sense at Carver. About 70 percent of its students live in poverty, and the use of paraprofessionals to work with teachers allows for a classroom ratio of about 10 adults for every child.

�Every school is unique,� said Ms. Wade-Thompson. �But for Carver, putting our money into people resources seemed the best way to go.�

School site councils use different techniques to gather opinion and feedback on such decisions. Many send home surveys. A popular method at the community meetings held to draft their plans is to have parents identify priorities in breakout sessions, and then ask them to vote for their top concerns.

It was parent input, in fact, that led the site council at Lowell High to propose a student-to-student mentoring program. Mr. Shrieve, who is the vice chairman of the school�s council, said its work seemed perfunctory before the district put the academic-planning process in place.

�The principal pretty much decided everything,� said Mr. Shrieve, who also sits on a districtwide parent-advisory committee. Now, he added, �with the schools I�ve been associated with, the council is the policymaking body for the school.�

While that may be the ideal, many activists in the city say it�s often not the case. Sandra Fewer, who directs a parent-organizing group and serves on the executive committee of the citywide PTA, said the academic-planning process doesn�t guarantee community engagement.

Typically, she said, schools serving higher-income families get the most parent involvement in deciding how to spend money. She recommends that school leaders be trained in how to make their schools inviting to a broader section of the population.

�Since they�ve had the weighted-student formula and site-based budgeting, there are more parents involved in it,� Ms. Fewer said of the planning process. �Before, it was a complete mystery to 100 percent of parents. And now, I�d say it�s a complete mystery to 80 percent or 90 percent.�

Dennis Kelly, the president of United Educators of San Francisco, an affiliate of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, said having schools decide their budgets can get ugly when cuts are made. Employees not represented on site councils, such as �nonclassified� staff members, sometimes are the first to go, he said.

�It�s a wonderful process when you have money,� said Mr. Kelly, whose union has threatened to strike this month. �But when you�re taking money away, it becomes a cannibalistic process that is destructive to morale in the schools, and rends the fabric of the institution.�

While similar debates occur in other districts that have pursued decentralization, San Francisco deserves credit for keeping the focus on academic-improvement planning, said Marguerite Roza, a senior fellow at the Center for Reinventing Public Education, located at the University of Washington in Seattle.

�I think they�ve got it right,� she said. �This idea was sort of pushed by some business-thinking people who said, �If we bring this process into education, it will work.� But a lot of places forgot to connect it to the core thing, which is student learning.�

� Coverage of leadership in EdWeek is supported in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation, at


1. School site councils, including the principal, teachers, and parents, attend training by the district on the process of drafting an annual improvement plan.

2. Each school gets its budget figures for the next academic year, based on its enrollment and students� special needs.

3. In a pair of community meetings, each school presents its performance data and budget numbers, and gathers public comment on priorities for spending its resources.

4. School councils incorporate that information into their plans and present them to teams of central-office administrators for review.

5. If changes are recommended, the plans go back to the site councils for revision, after which the central office approves the final documents.

SOURCE: San Francisco Unified School District


smf notes: A small part of the following is 'inside the beltway' for DC eleventh graders who read the Washington Post � but most of it is universal. My daughter enters her junior year next year - this is for her and for eleventh graders, their parents and teachers everywhere be taken with the grain of salt present in all blood, sweat and tears.

Do good work and be of good cheer. Your senior year is supposed to be the best year of your life!

By Jay Mathews, Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 �Two weeks ago I wrote a story for The Post about the horrors of high school junior year. One student compared 11th grade to having her feet nailed to the bottom of a six-foot-deep pool full of . . . . Well, I better not say what she said it was full of. My editor cut that from the story. But you get the point.

I did not have enough space in that article to explore ways to handle what is, in my view, our kids' most difficult year. All the worst emotional, intellectual, occupational and familial pressures seem to peak in the 11th grade, when students are too young and inexperienced to make confident judgments about what must and must not be done.

I can't promise to make that grade easier, but for years I have been interviewing teenagers and the adults they blame for their troubles, and I was an 11th grade parent myself three times. That has given me some ideas for keeping the stress of junior year to a minimum. Here they are:

1. Do your homework and listen in class

That sounds dumb, simple and parental, doesn't it. But it is the key to a less painful junior year. To succeed in school, you don't have to be brilliant. You just have to show up and do the problems and essays and reading you are asked to do. Give that first priority, and everything else falls into place.

It is best if you study at the same time and the same place every day. Some days may be worse than others, but a two-hour homework time block, if you follow that schedule every day, including weekends, should keep you on track. Two thirds of college freshman say they never did more than a hour of homework a day in high school, so two hours should give you a competitive advantage and a sense of confidence that will relax you. (If you think you need a three-hour block, go for it, but actually using the full two-hour block every day, and working ahead of schedule when you run out of daily assignments, will bring rewards that will surprise you.)

2. Think of the SAT or the ACT as just another test

Your parents, and the companies that market test-prep courses (including Kaplan Inc., a major part of The Washington Post Co.), have led you to believe that the SAT or the ACT will make or break your college dreams. That simply isn't true. If you do your homework, pay attention in class (see number 1) and go over a few of the practice tests in the school library, you will do fine. A score in the 2000s on the SAT or the 30s on the ACT will give you a shot at an admission letter to Yale, just as drawing a 7 or a 4 will improve your Super Bowl pool chances, but getting in will still be a matter of chance. If you get a lower score, you will have plenty of opportunities to get into good colleges that cater to students with your interests. There are fine schools that are happy to see a score over 1500 on the new SAT and over 20 on the ACT.

3. Two extracurricular activities are enough

Joining French club and the debate team and Safe Rides and the volleyball team and church choir and Key Club and volunteering at the hospital every Friday is a bad idea. That is too many activities. The colleges don't want to see thick resumes. They want evidence of deep passion for some pastime. Two activities would be fine, as long as your commitment to them is strong. So pick a sport you like (see number 6 below) and something else that you enjoy, and focus just on them. If you like basket-weaving, enter your stuff in the county fair. If you write poetry, organize a regular Thursday afternoon reading in the junior class corridor. And with all extra time you have, . . .

4. See your friends

And when I say "see," I mean be in the same room with them and talk and laugh and play music and watch dumb DVDs and work at being 16 years old. Telephoning and instant messaging don't count. You are 21st century Americans, so I can't stop you from doing that stuff, but I think you will be more cheerful and less stressed if you have regular times to interact in person with your friends, just as we primates have happily done for several million years.

5. Remember that getting into a good college is not that difficult

It may not be a college that your grandmother has heard of, but you have a better choice of colleges and universities here than in any other country in the world. You might pause for a moment and appreciate that. Notice all those young people moving here from China and Korea and the Philippines and Egypt and Nigeria and other places? They know that you can get a splendid education in the United States with nothing more than a basic understanding of English and a willingness to work hard. The vast majority of colleges accept most of their applicants, and some good ones still have empty spaces in September.

6. Exercise regularly

You say, "Who has time for that?" Make time. Every study ever done shows that people who make a regular effort to get their bodies moving briskly feel better and do better the rest of the day. If you pick a sport that requires some physical effort, then you are taking care of this and half of number 3 at the same time.

7. Go to bed an hour earlier than you usually do

My wife suggested this one, and I can hear what you are saying -- "That sounds like my mom. She doesn't know anything either." But it will cut back on the exhaustion you sometimes feel, and if you have already done your two-hour block of homework, why stay up? Rather than going past 11 p.m. to instant message all of your computer-addicted friends, leave an away message saying you are doing your homework so they don't think you are a total sleep freak, and then hop into bed with a book that you WANT to read about something unrelated to school.

8. Pay more attention to how you feel about yourself then how others feel about you

If you carefully read Post columnist Carolyn Hax, who dispenses wisdom to people under 30, you know what I am talking about. You cannot be attractive to other people if you don't like yourself first. To do that, just follow all the suggestions above.

9. Treat others as you would want to be treated

This taps into religion and ethics and making a world we all want to live it. My own children grew weary of my asking, when they came home from school, if they had learned the Golden Rule. But I think they eventually figured it out, and that lesson still pays dividends.

10. Remember that this will likely be the hardest year of your life

I don't expect anyone to follow any of the suggestions above, but perhaps the best defense against stress in junior year is to recognize that it is going to be over soon. Senior year has its difficulties, but your grades won't count as much, the SAT or ACT ordeal will be history, and you will have more time for friends.

In college, you will be able to follow your own dreams and interests more than you are able to now. You will still be busy, but you will be happier about it.

The same goes for the rest of your life. Just consider 11th grade crazy, to use a favorite junior year adjective. That is usually a temporary condition. The rest of your time on the planet is unlikely to be so bad.

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.
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