Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sending the Mixed Message, Loud + Clear

4LAKids: sent Sunday, April 30, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  Mixing the Message: PARKMAN CRADLE OF REFORM? Four parties enter the ring in school-control battle
 •  SCHOOL TAKEOVER VIEWS MIXED: Parents in poor areas appear more eager for the mayor to take charge than those in more affluent neighborhoods
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

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 @ Amazon.com!
 •  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.
I SUPPORT THE IMMIGRATION PROTESTORS, I welcome these New Americans as members of our society � with all the rights thereof � including to apply for citizenship and peaceably assemble. If they have insurance they should get driver's licenses. If their kids are in school they should be able to vote is school board elections. But kids belong in school. Schools in California are not part of the problem; they are perhaps the most vital part of the solution. K-12 schools accept and educate children no matter their immigration status.

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction advised last week that kids should stay in school and not walk out for the Immigration protests scheduled for Monday. He went as far to say that the state would not compensate school districts for loss in attendance due to the protests. That was his responsibility as guardian-in-chief of California Schoolchildren � who are in the state's care when they are � or should be by law � in school. His concern is and must be for their safety. And for the integrity of their education.

The State Senate voted a resolution supporting the walkouts and commending students who would walk out. That was reckless and unconscionable. Their hearts were in the right place, but their votes were not � in so advocating they put young lives in peril. And, to a lesser extent, the budgets of schools.

The State Senate, in advocating lawbreaking by schoolchildren behaved beyond foolishly and as public trustees become culpable if something goes awry. Hopefully it will be grand day out and the protests will go without mishap. The United States Congress and the President will see the error of their ways and the day will mark the dawning of a Great New Wonderful Tomorrow. Hopefully.

IN ANOTHER MIXED MESSAGE, the lines between the Charter School folks, LAUSD, UTLA, teachers, parents, the community and the mayor seem to be drawn and redrawn in the sand in Parkman Middle School � with everyone pretty much in agreement that some more school site control and accountabilty is the answer. Except for Superintendent Romer, who has returned to his "not on my watch" stance.

AND IN SACRAMENTO the legislators can't make up their mind whether to carve up LAUSD or hand to the Mayor. The unconstitutionality � let alone educational merit � of either option notwithstanding.

Finally, in my role as a PTA leader I had a long and frank exchange of ideas on the telephone midweek with Marcus Castain, the chief-architect-of and a true-believer-in the mayor's plan. We agree on much and have agreed to disagree on the rest �but any and all dialog is important and welcome. �smf

■ APPARENTLY 4LAKids HAS BEEN BLOCKED TO SOME OR ALL SUBSCRIBERS ON LAUSD.NET; this may or not be remedied by the time this issue goes out. 4LAKids has been published weekly without fail for almost three years � most past issues are available at http://4lakids.blogspot.com



by Clea Benson � Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau

State Senate Democrats on Thursday encouraged students and workers to strike on Monday as a part of a protest organized by immigration activists.

Even as education officials and other public figures urged California students to go to school Monday, senators approved a resolution officially recognizing the nationwide protest, which will include rallies in cities throughout California and the United States.

Boycott organizers are speaking out against federal legislation that would make it a felony to be in the United States illegally and in favor of bills that would enable many immigrants to establish legal residency here.

The protests have sparked controversy, in part because organizers are asking students to stay out of school.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell, both Democrats, have publicly urged parents to send their children to school Monday.

But Democratic senators who supported the resolution, which passed on a party-line vote, compared the immigration demonstrations to the civil-rights and anti-Vietnam War protests of earlier times.

Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, said students could learn a valuable lesson by attending the rallies instead of school.

"Frankly, I think my generation and the generation just after mine in the 1960s, there was a whole lot more education going on in the days they took off from school to stand up for a principle," said Kuehl, 65. "There was a whole lot more work being done for the good of society by people who took a day off of work in order stand up for something."

Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, opposed the resolution.

"It is irresponsible for this Legislature to advise that students stay out of school for any reason, especially since there are viable alternatives," he said.

Cox said students could protest during hours when they were not required to be in school.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 113, by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, does not specifically ask workers and students to stay home, but says the boycott "is to educate people in California and across the United States about the tremendous contribution immigrants make on a daily basis to our society and economy."

Romero said it was important for the Senate to support the boycott.

"I ask us to simply recognize the existence of new Americans," she said.

The measure passed 24-13 after about 45 minutes of impassioned debate.

Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, recalled how her grandfather came to the United States from Mexico legally in the 1940s under a guest worker program but illegally overstayed his work permit.

Though he was in the United States illegally, he was always able to find someone to hire him, she said.

"That happened in the 1940s," Escutia said. "It still happens today in the 2000s. ... Perhaps we ought to recognize the great American secret. We all rely on the labor of someone who is here illegally, and in essence we all become co-conspirators."

Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, said he opposed policies that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to stay in the United States.

"Blurring the distinction between legal and illegal immigration is an insult to the millions of legal immigrants who right now are obeying our laws, doing everything we ask of them, who are waiting in line to become Americans helplessly as millions and millions of people cut in line in front of them," he said.

The Assembly did not vote on the resolution.


From CBS2.com

(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES The state�s education chief wants parents to send their children to school Monday, in spite of calls for students to join a boycott over immigration legislation.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O�Connell made the statement Thursday, just a day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer and Cardinal Roger Mahony sent parents a letter to ask that students stay in school and only participate in late-afternoon demonstrations.

"I will not support requests for waivers from school districts for money lost due to students walking out of school to protest," O'Connell said. "Our students can't afford to miss school. Our schools can't afford missing students. And our state can't afford to rest for one day until we close the gap in achievement that threatens the futures of many of our immigrant students.�

The March 25th Coalition, which organized the rally of a half-million people in downtown Los Angeles, has urged the boycott of school and work on Monday to show support for immigrants. Marches and rallies are expected to be held throughout the Southland that day.

Rally organizer Nativo Lopez, who is organizing many of Monday�s rallies, says that students should show support for changes in immigration laws by skipping school.

"We've unequivocally called on all families to participate in the `Great American Boycott' and the marches and that translates into not going to work, not going to school, not shopping and not selling," Lopez said.

"In short, non-cooperation with the system, disengaging with the system. We're unequivocal in that message so we're proceeding as planned and we're re-doubling our efforts to have successful events throughout California and throughout the country," Lopez said.

The immigration rallies and marches are opposing House bill 4437 by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., which would require employers to verify Social Security numbers with the Department of Homeland Security, would increase penalties for immigrant smuggling and stiffen penalties for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the United States after having been removed.

Mixing the Message: PARKMAN CRADLE OF REFORM? Four parties enter the ring in school-control battle

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer - LA Daily News

April 27, 2006 � Nine months after teachers at Parkman Middle School organized to stop the exodus of students - and funding - from their campus, the school has become an unlikely but key battleground for reforming Los Angeles Unified.

Adjacent to Warner Center and drawing students from an affluent neighborhood, Parkman began to lose students to the burgeoning charter movement, so teachers put together their own charter proposal.

That prompted a tug of war for control of Parkman, with teachers wooed by promises of greater independence and more money from L.A. Unified School District officials, their union and the charter movement. And now Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's push for control of the LAUSD has escalated the stakes.

"We feel that we're in the middle of a wrestling ring," said Parkman teacher Bruce Newborn, one of the charter petitioners. "In one corner is the district, in another corner the school board, in another the union - and the California Charter Schools Association in the fourth. And everyone wants a piece.

"We started this thing with such pure intentions. Nothing was done with politics in mind. It was about putting education back in the hands of people who truly matter - the parents, teachers and students. We never envisioned it was going to be what it has become."

United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy has stepped into the fray, saying he wants to give schools a way, without becoming full charters, to pare down bureaucracy and gain greater local control over budget and instruction.

District officials are resisting the growth of the charter movement, unwilling to relinquish central management and give schools greater autonomy.

Now, district officials are negotiating with Parkman's teachers on a package designed to persuade them to abandon their charter campaign. If the teachers agree to the proposal, they will withdraw their charter application.

The offer includes giving resources to the school to create small learning communities, giving teachers a greater voice on budget and curriculum, reviving music and counseling programs and accommodating staffing demands, despite drops in enrollment.

District officials have tentatively scheduled a signing ceremony for May 4. If teachers reject the plan, they are still set to appeal to the board May 23 for charter status.

"I think they want to start offering this as alternatives to charters," Newborn said, "and if it works, I'm sure it will spread."

District officials concede it's difficult to compete with a proposal from the UTLA for greater classroom autonomy and with the political momentum of Villaraigosa.

"It would be deceitful if we said we weren't responding to the pressures," said board member Jon Lauritzen, who had proposed a moratorium on charter applications but decided last week not to pursue the proposal.

"A lot of the initiatives we had put forward are things that have been in the hopper for some time, but we're moving a little stronger at this point because of the outside influences," he said.

"The current staff under (Superintendent) Roy Romer still is very much in favor of a strong central administration."

The staff is in the process of revising its policy to increase the flexibility of district-affiliated charters, said Gregory McNair, chief administrative officer for the district's charter schools office.

The popularity of charter schools - independent public schools exempt from some state laws - is believed to be the greatest impetus for districts to move toward greater local control at the school site.

The district received 35 charter applications in November. Fourteen were approved, 10 remain in the pipeline, and the staff is recommending rejection of 11 of the applications, McNair said.

Caprice Young, former school board president, who heads up the California Charter Schools Association, said charter satisfaction among parents, students and teachers is forcing the LAUSD to compete.

"What we're already seeing is, because of charter schools, the teachers union and district for the first time are willing to consider flexibility," Young said.

School board President Marlene Canter said the board's intent is not to curb the growth of charters but to move toward greater autonomy of all schools.

"We are going to use it as a model and learn from it and look at some of the other schools to make sure they attract families from their neighborhoods," Canter said. "We're definitely moving in the direction of creating partnerships for reform, and that takes time."

Duffy argues that district officials' moves are timid at best.

The union leader said they should attack the issue aggressively because 100 of the 750 schools are now charters, and more charter applications are in the pipeline.

In fact, he said he believes that his proposal to give all schools many freedoms like those of charter schools, but without the burden of self-management, will appeal to teachers, slow the increase of charters and eventually reverse the trend.

Charters simply drain the general fund of money without necessarily producing greater academic achievement than traditional public schools, he said.

"I'm very concerned. The district is afraid to be bold and innovative because they're afraid of giving up the power and authority to local school sites," he said. "But we're not going to stop, and they need to know that," Duffy said.

In his reform package, Villaraigosa not only calls for the significant growth of charter schools, but also for giving other schools greater local control.

"Mayor Villaraigosa believes schools need local control in order to succeed," said spokeswoman Janelle Erickson. "We need to decentralize the bureaucracy, giving more decision-making power to principals, teachers and parents so they can shape their school to fit the unique needs of their students and children."

But Romer said he has no interest in making Parkman a pilot program for a counter-charter movement. He said his goal is simply to address the school's challenges.

He emphasized he does not favor autonomy at the school site. "I'm interested in solving the problems Parkman faces. You don't need to change governance out there," Romer said. "I'm not interested in making Parkman an illustration of a new form of school."

He did, however, admit that the district must address the issue of negative impact on schools that lose students to nearby charters, but he didn't elaborate on any plans.

"When you have a proliferation of charters where you're undermining a public school, I don't like that," Romer said. "It seems to me when you're creating charters, you ought to look at the degree they're undermining existing schools, and we ought to address that at some point."

It's time for the LAUSD to move toward "diversifying its portfolio" by offering different approaches to curriculum and instruction, said Penny Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Southern California and co-director of its Center on Educational Governance. While centralized approaches work at some schools, they don't work for all, she said.

"It is the politics of the time that are providing the catalyst for the change, but the greatest thing is we're moving toward a change," she said. "There's so much pressure now on the board and the superintendent to show the community that they are in charge and do know how to run a school district. ... (They) are paying attention."

SCHOOL TAKEOVER VIEWS MIXED: Parents in poor areas appear more eager for the mayor to take charge than those in more affluent neighborhoods

By Scott Gold, LA Times Staff Writer

April 23, 2006 � One day last week, at 2:39 p.m., a horn signifying the end of another day at Jordan High School echoed across Watts, past the carcasses of trucks in a defunct warehouse, across a vacant lot littered with abandoned sofas, past the tired-looking man selling oranges on the corner.

Nearly 2,000 students tumbled out, virtually all of them poor and dark-skinned. Among them were the faces of a school doing its best with the hand it's been dealt: the boy who tests water quality in a nearby creek as part of an urban ecology project, the girl with college plans and a shy smile carrying a dog-eared literature textbook.

But among them too were reminders that throughout Los Angeles, the hallmarks of public education are often high dropout rates and pitiful test scores. A police officer asked one boy why he had ditched school earlier that week; the boy just shrugged. Another student, no more than 4 1/2 feet tall, exited with a notebook under his arm and a T-shirt that read: "I'm rich, Bitch."

If Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is going to assemble the political will to seize control of public schools, it's likely to start here, in the city's lower-income communities.

In wealthier neighborhoods and at higher-performing schools, interviews with parents, students and educators reveal a response to Villaraigosa's plan that is tempered and skeptical, even, at some schools, hostile. There, the plan is often seen as excessive, a power grab, the replacement of a bloated bureaucracy with an even bigger one.

"I think we're on the right track," said Linda Ross, president of the 31st District Parent Teacher Student Assn. in the San Fernando Valley. "I don't think that we need to make such a radical move."

In the halls of power too � in the teachers union, where there are fears that Villaraigosa would become too powerful, and in the offices of the Los Angeles Board of Education, where administrators say they have made significant gains in recent years � the mayor's plan has been assailed as downright undemocratic.

But at some of the area's worst schools � in South and East L.A., in the Boyle Heights neighborhood where the mayor was born � the plan has been met, if not with a firm endorsement, with a chorus of: "Why not?"

"We need to try something," said Deborah Anderson, 39, a South Los Angeles resident. "These schools are failing us."

Anderson goes to work each day, dropping off and picking up students at Jordan High, a hulking fortress on East 103rd Street where more than 2,300 students are enrolled. In 2004-05, there were 743 suspensions there, and the state has given Jordan its lowest ranking � a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 � when comparing its academic performance to that of other schools in the state.

Anderson's daughter, 8-year-old Whisper, attends nearby 99th Street Elementary School.

Five decades after the U.S. Supreme Court banned racial segregation in public schools, 99th Street has not had a white student in at least five years, according to district statistics.

Nineteen percent of its students met the "proficient" or "advanced" levels in the California Standards English-language arts test last year � about half of the state average, though the state gave the school's academic performance a rating of 7 out of 10 in 2004 when compared with other schools with similar demographics.

Even as her grades have remained decent, Whisper has become increasingly recalcitrant. She frequently lashes out in anger, Anderson said, and sometimes just walks out of school when she "doesn't want to listen anymore." For that, Anderson said she lays the blame squarely at the feet of the school district, which she said is widely viewed in her neighborhood as slack and out of touch.

"I was raised old-fashioned, where you go to school to learn, not to play," she said. "They need more of that today. I want some tough love back in these schools."

On Tuesday, in his first State of the City address, Villaraigosa announced that he would ask the state Legislature for the right to take the helm of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which includes more than 850 campuses and 727,000 students.

If the proposal were approved � by no means a sure thing � he would become the dominant force on a "council of mayors" that would oversee the school district, hire and fire the superintendent, and help oversee the district's $13-billion total budget.

In poor neighborhoods, many parents say school administrators have taken the easy way out by giving up on their children, by declaring students unable to learn and unsuited for college. As a result, perhaps, many of the details of Villaraigosa's proposal have resonated there.

At Jordan High, students even applauded the mayor's proposal to require uniforms. Several said percolating tension on campus can boil over just because a student arrives with a piece of white gold jewelry or a new pair of Air Jordan sneakers.

"Some people get jealous of what people have got," said Jeffrey Gomez, a 14-year-old ninth-grader at Jordan High whose family emigrated from Honduras and landed in Watts. "If they're in uniform, they'll all be wearing the same thing."

But even at schools such as Jordan, support for the mayor's proposal is by no means universal.

Students, predictably, are not thrilled with his plan to lengthen the school day, and parents worry about that too, wondering about the strain on teenagers who have jobs or are needed at home to take care of siblings.

Renewed gang violence has raged in Watts in recent months. Omar Khan, a retired engineer and a Jordan High chemistry teacher for the last five years, said extending the school day past the afternoon would give rise to practical issues that would be unthinkable in much of the city, such as random gun violence associated with gangs.

"In the winter, it gets dark around 5 o'clock," he said. "Think about what could happen."

Khan said parents would be wise to question Villaraigosa's motivation.

"He is like an ambulance chaser, without really caring," Khan said. "And the children are going to be the political football."

Still, at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, which has more than 5,000 students, a political revolution doesn't sound so alarming.

Last spring, 45% of its students failed math, and the dropout rate has been more than two times the state average in recent years. Like Jordan, the school received the state's lowest score � a 1 out of 10 � when its academic performance was compared with other schools in the state.

"The way it is now, nobody cares," said Lydia Ramirez, 40, who quit her job two years ago solely to help usher her son Juan through Roosevelt. "For all these years, who has been accountable? At last, we'll have someone."

Villaraigosa's sales pitch will be far tougher at the region's better-performing schools, where progress is seen as slow but steady, benefiting from special-interest "small learning communities," magnet programs and, in the case of Riverside Drive Elementary School in Sherman Oaks, an army of ferocious parent advocates.

Riverside Drive is, in theory, comparable to schools throughout the region. But 65% of its students met the "proficient" or "advanced" levels in the California Standards math test in 2004-05 and 59% in the Englishlanguage arts test, figures that are well above the state average.

When the school's copying machine recently began wheezing � clearly on its last legs � Principal Pamela Briscoe asked the district for a new one. Officials told her she would have to pay for it out of her own budget.

Unable to afford it, she turned to Jane G. Poole, president of the school's Parent-Teacher Assn. and a liaison to the school's booster club, which raises about $90,000 each year to pay for extra teachers' aides and enrichment programs. But the parents couldn't afford the $12,000 machine either.

Poole then found out that schools Supt. Roy Romer would be speaking at a Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce luncheon. She attended, cornered one of his deputies and went home with assurances that the district would buy the school a new copier.

"Children have no power," she said. "We're it, man."

As Poole talked on a green bench outside the school, children filed in wearing stylish shoulder bags and pink mukluk boots, past large renderings of paintings by Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau.

Inside, third-grade teacher Kris Nevills said it was not surprising that the reaction to the mayor's proposal has been so different in lower-income communities.

"The children from this neighborhood don't have the same problems," she said. "They have the right food to eat. They don't have to lie on the ground at night because of gunfire. It makes a big difference."

But that doesn't mean the mayor should take over, not in Watts or Sherman Oaks, Nevills and Poole said.

Among the concerns raised by parents at Riverside Drive: that teachers were not consulted adequately before the mayor's announcement, that splitting the district into dozens of sub-districts would weaken individual schools and that Villaraigosa would not be the mayor forever � and no one knows what the next mayor's educational philosophy would be.

"I believe in this mayor. I like this guy," Poole said. "And I wish we could save the world with Antonio Villaraigosa. But I don't think we can."



Op-Ed by Julie Korenstein in the LA Daily News

4/24/2006 � Shame on you, Mr. Mayor. There is an ancient Greek word, hubris, which dates back to Homer's "Odyssey" that is "associated with the lack of knowledge, overconfidence and lack of humility."

The responsibility of being the mayor in the second-largest city in the nation is a huge task. There is a great deal that needs to be done. As you plot out your course, how will you be looked upon in the annals of Los Angeles history? Will you have been a good leader, or someone who destroyed public education? Sometimes political ambition can be very destructive.

There are 727,000 K-12 students, as well as hundreds of thousands of pre-K and adult-school students, whose well-being is being put at risk while you play out your power grab. The Los Angeles Unified School District � which includes 27 cities, not just Los Angeles � is being threatened by a mayor who somehow believes that he has found the magic bullet to cure all of the problems public education faces.

Mr. Mayor, the LAUSD student population is made up of students who speak 91 languages. Approximately 300,000 are English-language learners, students who are transitioning into a new language. Some 85,000 are learning-disabled students, a population larger than the entire San Francisco school district, with approximately 76 percent of our students at the poverty level. The LAUSD serves more than 500,000 meals each day, sometimes the only nourishment a child receives.

Now let me tell you what we have accomplished over the past five years. LAUSD elementary school scores have increased an incredible 197 points. Our middle schools' scores increased over 130 points, and our high schools' increased by 104 points. All have exceeded the percentage increase in statewide averages.

We are building 165 schools � larger than the entire San Diego school district. This is the largest school construction program in the history of the United States. In the past two years, we have built and opened 55 brand-new schools. Mr. Mayor, when did the city of Los Angeles have such an incredible construction and cleanup program that will benefit communities for generations to come? Talk is cheap. The LAUSD is doing the work.

We are also in the process of implementing full-day kindergarten in all of our elementary schools. All of our K-3 classes have been reduced to 20:1 student-teacher ratio. The LAUSD has approved 100 charter schools with more than 35,000 students. Mr. Mayor, who made you the public-education "guru" when your children attend private schools? It appears that you have decided to allow the Board of Education to continue to be elected, but you have seriously diminished the authority of an elected officer.

Apparently you do not believe that the voters are intelligent enough to select individuals who are capable and competent to run a school district. What happened to our democratic system? Dictators can make swift decisions, but they may be devastating. According to the California School Boards Association, the mayor's decision to take control of the LAUSD "not only violates core principles of representative government, it diverts attention from the real issue at hand � improving academic achievement."

An elected school board acts as an oversight committee. Moving full responsibility from the Board of Education may result in graft and corruption. We are the taxpayers' watchdog.

Mr. Mayor, you have suggested that each school establish its own working rules, attendance hours and individual calendars. Will each child within one family have different calendars and times? Will each school take care of its own payroll, transportation, maintenance and operations?

Are you suggesting that every school will be able to select any vendor for any of its services? As someone supported by labor, are you recommending contracting out, which would negatively impact unions? How many people are you planning to lay off? How will this affect the safety of children on our campuses when anyone can come in and out and work on a school? Mr. Mayor, please do not forget that many LAUSD employees are parents of our students. Their jobs put bread on the table for their children.

Shame on you, Mr. Mayor. Do not experiment with our children's lives for your political ambition. Be careful how you use your power. Remember, power corrupts. Do not drop a nuclear bomb before you know the consequences.
▲ Julie Korenstein represents the Sixth District (San Fernando Valley) on the LAUSD Board of Education.

►MAYOR'S LAUSD REFORM PLAN NEEDS REVISION: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is on the right track in seeking reform for a badly broken district. But he's off the mark in several areas.

Daily Breeze editorial

April 23, 2006 � Over the past week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has revealed more of the details of his bid to take over the under-performing Los Angeles Unified School District.

Villaraigosa is a textbook progressive Democrat who volunteered with the farm workers movement and worked for the United Teachers Los Angeles. As Assembly speaker, he was known as a strong advocate of higher education spending and he was cool to accountability reforms.

That was then. Now, determined to be remembered as a great mayor who confronted Los Angeles' worst problems, Villaraigosa has come to see the UTLA-dominated education establishment -- including many of his longest allies -- as perhaps his biggest obstacle. He won't put this in such stark terms, of course.

"We need to dare the education establishment to stop apologizing for failure and to chart a bold new course for change. ... The culture of complacency in the LAUSD has to change," Villaraigosa said on April 3. "Reforming our public schools is not only the central challenge facing cities like Los Angeles -- it's the civil rights issue of our time."

There's nothing to dislike in such rhetoric. But the details of Villaraigosa's plans for reforming LAUSD seem fraught with problems. Among them:

� An eye to extending the school day to 5 p.m. and putting employees on a 12-month work calendar. Beyond the difficulties of funding this and getting hard-working teachers to drastically change their schedules, such a reform would have to confront the vast majority of parents who support keeping summer breaks intact.

� Creating a council of mayors, including all 27 cities whose boundaries overlap with those of the LAUSD, to oversee the district. That sounds inclusive, but the plan to assign voting rights based on proportional representation gives the Los Angeles mayor overwhelming power to override concerns of other cities, including those in the South Bay such as Carson and Gardena.

� Asking the state Legislature to grant Villaraigosa the power to oversee the district without putting the matter to the voters who would be affected. Even minor boundary changes have historically been subject to popular votes. Shouldn't such a major overhaul as this also be put before the people?

Of course, that's not saying UTLA's latest proposal for reforming the district, which essentially calls for an end to No Child Left Behind-style monitoring of school performance, is a more reasonable alternative.

The mayor certainly gets high marks for boldness, but he will need to listen to all the stakeholders -- parents, teachers, community leaders -- before settling on a final blueprint. The current proposal needs some major reworking.

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



by David S. Broder, Op-Ed columnist, The Washington Post

April 23, 2006 -- Between them, Sandra Day O'Connor and Roy Romer have had enough successful careers to satisfy half a dozen ambitious individuals. O'Connor was a rancher, a lawyer, a leader of the Arizona Senate and, most famously, the first woman to be a justice of the Supreme Court. Romer was a successful businessman, the governor of Colorado and the chairman of the Democratic National Committee; since 2000 he has been superintendent of schools in Los Angeles.

When I saw them over coffee in Washington last week, the two senior citizens were proverbially breathing fire about the younger generation. What had stirred them was not worry about the youths' clothes, language or morals. It was a lot more basic -- a concern that these young people are coming out of school uninformed about the basics of American government and unengaged in the civic life of their country.

Civics instruction, O'Connor said, "was routinely required at several levels in high school, and it was integrated into the grade-school curriculum as well. And that just has disappeared."

The trend has been in place for some time, she said, citing a 2003 report from the Carnegie Corp., but it may have been accelerated by the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires a concentration on math and reading skills.

The 2002 legislation was not intended to push other subjects out of the schools, but, Romer said, "Quite often, the tests that states will use for No Child Left Behind will be only on certain core subjects, such as language arts and math and sometimes science, and school systems, if not careful, can be warped into the neglect of social studies."

O'Connor and Romer are the national spokesmen for a concerted pushback against these trends calling itself the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools ( http://www.civicmissionofschools.org/ ). Twenty-nine national organizations and a dozen notable private individuals have lent their support; foundation money as well is behind it.

There are signs that the effort is beginning to succeed. Coalitions have been formed to promote the cause in at least 18 states. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation's report card, has agreed to test students on their civic knowledge every four years instead of every eight.

Two veteran representatives, Republican Mike Castle of Delaware and Democrat Dale Kildee of Michigan, have agreed to form a congressional caucus aimed at turning students into more knowledgeable citizens.

The challenge is heightened by the influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal, into this country. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, has added an amendment to the stalled immigration reform bill creating a fund and incentives for preparing those recent arrivals for the duties and privileges of citizenship. But obviously, with voting participation as low as it is -- especially among young people -- many native-born Americans also need training in civics.

Their latest enterprise could be as valuable a contribution to this society as anything that Romer and O'Connor ever have done. He is concerned about political apathy and cynicism; she worries about preserving the independence of the judiciary. Together they are reminding us that democracy, representative government and the rule of law don't just happen; they take work -- and the understanding that the public schools must provide.

smf notes: Superintendent Romer comes to the "There is more to curriculum than Reading and Math/There must be something besides testing" parade late in the game �but welcome! Hopefully he will shine some of this new-found enlightenment in LAUSD before he leaves.

►L.A. UNIFIED ACHIEVES QUALITY IN QUANTITY: The state names 32 campuses as California Distinguished Schools, almost triple the district's highest previous number.

By Hemmy So, Times Staff Writer

April 26, 2006 � An unprecedented 32 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District were recognized as 2006 California Distinguished Schools on Tuesday, almost triple the district's record number in 2004.

Twenty-five are Title I schools, which receive federal assistance and enroll students living below poverty levels.

"To have 32 Distinguished Schools in this district is a real milestone," Los Angeles Schools Supt. Roy Romer said at a news conference. "This is just another sign of the increasing excellence of this district. We're on the way up."

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced that 377 public elementary schools from 190 districts had earned the distinction, the largest number of elementary school awardees in the 21-year history of the California School Recognition Program.

"These schools are the best of the best," O'Connell said. "They share a vision of excellence and they have brought that vision to life."

About 5% of California's public schools are selected each year from a pool of campuses that apply for the distinction. Applications have risen from 650 for the 2000 awards to 997 for those in 2006.

The program alternates each year in recognizing elementary and secondary schools. Honorees keep the title for four years. Schools seek the award for the honor; no additional funding is involved.

Last year, six L.A. Unified middle and high schools won the award. In 2004, the district had 12 distinguished elementary schools.

When Romer became superintendent six years ago, he urged the district to revamp elementary instruction, focusing on reading and math.

Test scores have risen on those campuses, but secondary schools have not made the same gains.

L.A. Unified spokeswoman Stephanie Brady said the district did not push elementary schools to apply for Distinguished School recognition, but left the decision up to each campus.

Though exact numbers were unavailable, program officials said that based on the increased number of applications generally and the high number of L.A. Unified schools that were honored, it seemed likely that more Los Angeles schools applied than in the past.

To qualify as a Distinguished School, campuses must meet certain test score requirements based on their Academic Performance Index � a score issued to all California public schools that is based on standardized test scores.

Campuses with API scores between 731 and 799 must either meet or exceed growth target scores, and significant subgroups such as special education students must achieve 80% of that growth. Most schools with scores of 800 or above automatically qualify.

Fifteen of L.A. Unified's 2006 Distinguished Schools achieved the state API goal of 800 or higher.

Teams of local educators from across the state, under the direction of the state Department of Education, also consider more qualitative factors such as visionary and collaborative school leadership, strong core curriculum, strong professional development for teachers and family involvement.

Two evaluators score an application based on those factors using a scale of one to four for each factor.

"We calibrate them and help them identify driving criteria on each theme so it ends up pretty standardized as we read across applications," said Mary Gomes, a consultant for the California School Recognition Program.

Romer attributed the district's Distinguished School achievement not only to good management by school administrators and active participation by teachers, parents and students, but also to the district's drive to bring "discipline and rigor in math and in science."

School board members heralded Multnomah Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, where they held a news conference, for exemplifying characteristics of a Distinguished School.

Since 1999, Multnomah's API score has risen from 616 to 747, a growth rate just above the California average of 126 for that time period.

Principal Beth Bythrow credited the school's academic improvement to regular internal reviews of test score data and structured teacher training.

At Chapman Elementary in Gardena, a Title I and 2006 Distinguished School, Principal Jan Hite said one of Chapman's greatest strengths was community involvement, a factor in Distinguished School recognition.

In addition to generations of families having attended Chapman, Gardena's mayor has participated in the school's literacy night, and the local librarian serves on Chapman's library committee, she said.

School district officials at Multnomah saved their greatest praise for the students, who couldn't hide their affection for the school.

"We've been working really, really hard," said student council member Eva Hu, a fifth-grader with a knack for geometry. "We've gotten a lot of honors since we first entered this school and winning this, I was sort of crying on the stage."

Click here for additional information and a complete list of schools.


[cut, paste, sign and mail]
�or fax to: 213/978-0750
��or email: mayor@lacity.org

Hon. Antonio Villaraigosa
Mayor of the City of Los Angeles
City Hall � Room 303
200 North Spring Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,
I do not favor a mayoral takeover of LAUSD. The Constitution of the State of California clearly states that "No school or college or any other part of the Public School System shall be, directly or indirectly, transferred from the Public School System or placed under the jurisdiction of any authority other than one included within the Public School System." The City Charter of Los Angeles clearly vests authority over the schools with the Board of Education: "The Board of Education shall have power to control and manage the public schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the state." As an LAUSD stakeholder, I support this separation of powers.
I value my right to participate in electing the school board and support the authority of the school board to continue to act in its officially authorized role as policy-maker for the district. I also support the board�s authority to determine the district budget and appoint the superintendent. I likewise support any positive efforts of the city, neighborhood councils, non-profits or any other parties interested in furthering the goal of creating better neighborhoods and schools.

Mayor Villaraigosa, there is much you can and must do to help the schoolchildren of LA. You can address and confront the issues of violence and safety in our communities. You can help assure kids safe routes to-and-from school, adequate recreation and park facilities, libraries, and after school opportunities. You can work with the Board of Education rather than at odds with them � you can make a difference.

Let�s work together, rather than have (your words to the press) �a war�. Every day parents, teachers, administrators and community members work tirelessly to bring peace and harmony to our schools and communities and to improve the academic achievement of students.

We would like to work together with you and with the city to improve the lives of our children and urge you to take this opportunity to build unity of purpose between parents, teachers and other educational stakeholders. Together we can all do a better job.

Mr. Mayor, most essential right in a democracy is to vote for and against our elected representatives � and to address them for redress of grievances. We insist upon the right to elect the Board of Education and the Mayor � and for them to have the power, authority and responsibility given them by us through the State Constitution and City Charter. The Board of Education runs the schools; The Mayor and City Council run the city. We hold you and them accountable � and when-and-if you and/or they fail in their task 'We the People' insist upon the right to throw the rascals out!



►WRITE YOUR ASSEMBLYPERSON AND STATE SENATOR [link below to find them]. Tell them what you think about their wasting their time, effort and the taxpayer's money on the mayor's attempt at takeover or makeover.

� 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.
� To SUBSCRIBE e-mail: 4LAKids-subscribe@topica.email-publisher.com - or -TO ADD YOUR OR ANOTHER'S NAME TO THE 4LAKids SUBCRIPTION LIST E-MAIL smfolsom@aol.com with "SUBSCRIBE" AS THE SUBJECT. Thank you.

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