Saturday, May 20, 2006


4LAKids: Sunday, May 21, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  THE TAKEOVER KING � Is Mayor V betraying his old-time union allies? Or rescuing L.A.'s troubled public school system?
 •  A SCHOOL OF DREAMS: After Visiting 14 High Schools, Students Tell Superintendents What They Want In An Ideal Place To Learn
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids the second Saturday morning each month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
 •  The Blueprint for Effective School Reform: MAKING SCHOOLS WORK � Get the Book @!
 •  THE BEST RESOURCE ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FUNDING ON THE WEB: The Sacramento Bee's series "Paying for Schools."
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education.
"Breakup or mayoral control? Charter schools, waiver schools, vouchers, more money?

"There are as many ideas for how to fix public education in L.A. as there are people in the 700,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District. But when it comes to setting kids on the right educational course, there's no match for a great teacher.

"Most of us have had at least one, that teacher even more dedicated than the rest, who made a difference in our lives. The one who made algebra come alive, who made reading exciting, who set our hearts afire for the arts or the Revolutionary War.

"No matter how poor the neighborhood or how dismal the school, great teachers can change everything. They make students want to learn, to grow, to excel. They raise self-esteem and test scores. In just a semester, they can change lives.

"This is Teacher Appreciation Week in America, a time to give thanks to all the men and women who teach in our schools, especially the best of the best. The teachers who come early and leave late, the ones who are as idealistic about their profession on the last day of their jobs as they were on the first.

"It's not easy. Teaching today - especially in the LAUSD - can be dispiriting. Excellence is all too rarely rewarded, and mediocrity all too readily accepted. For the teacher who wants to make a difference, uncaring bureaucrats, indifferent parents, out-of-control kids and blas colleagues can all lead to demoralization.

"But there's always the upside: Reaching the kid deemed unreachable. Passing on a love for learning, creating opportunities.

"Great teachers rise to the challenge. And as we debate the future of public education in Los Angeles, we should pay special heed to their advice. The great teachers bring priceless wisdom and experience to the education-reform table."

▲The foregoing editorial "EDUCATION HEROES: HONORING OUR TEACHERS" appeared in the LA Daily News a week ago Monday � and though I shared it with my fellow PTA leaders at the state convention I neglected to include it in last week's 4LAKids. It really isn't too late because every week should be Teacher Appreciation Week in America. In the tone of the opening two paragraphs, 4LAKids often doesn't see eye-to-eye with the DN editorial board �but here they got it absolutely right and they get to have the first word! ―smf



By Joel Rubin, LA Times

After months of enduring attacks from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Board of Education has launched a public relations offensive to highlight the district's accomplishments and slow momentum for a mayoral takeover of the schools.

In recent weeks, board members have gone to Sacramento to ply lawmakers with information about district gains in test scores, high-performing schools located in their legislative districts, and the new campuses that have been built as part of an ongoing construction project, as well as the district's solid finances.

"When the mayor traveled to Sacramento on Monday, in part to rally support for his takeover plan, he found that the board had been there first."

[article continues/click below]

LA Times | May 20, 2006 | L.A. SCHOOLS STATE THEIR CASE

THE TAKEOVER KING � Is Mayor V betraying his old-time union allies? Or rescuing L.A.'s troubled public school system?

Written by David Zahniser, LA Weekly

May 17, 2006 � In the most ingenious television commercial of the 2005 Los Angeles mayoral campaign, a man in a suit runs away from the camera, at night, through a darkened forest. "Been looking for Mayor Hahn? So have the 740,000 students in our Los Angeles schools," intones the voice-over, as a flashlight shines on the fleeing, faceless pol. "In four years as mayor, he's only been to two school board meetings, and one was a staged campaign event."

Bankrolled by the California Teachers Association, the $500,000 ad had "Blair Witch Project" written all over it, featuring shaky camerawork, grainy black-and-white footage and a devastating message: Not only was Mayor James Hahn out of touch on public education, but he was actually afraid to engage the issue.

Unleashed two weeks before the May 17 election, the ad focused on the earnest face of a teacher from 10th Avenue Elementary School, then zoomed in on mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, standing tall in a classroom surrounded by elementary school children. With a background of delicate piano music, the kind that accompanies a happy ending in a Lifetime network television movie, the 30-second spot concluded with a simple slogan: "Villaraigosa. He'll be there."

One year has passed since the state's largest teachers' organization threw its money, clout and media savvy behind Villaraigosa. As it turned out, the attack ad was prescient: Villaraigosa did make education his top priority. The mayor is there, and everywhere, on the issue of public schools, campaigning as though the election had never finished. But his policy agenda did not turn out quite the way the CTA planned.

Villaraigosa made a mayoral takeover of the Los Angeles Unified School District � the nation's second-largest school system � his No. 1 policy initiative. And the opponent in the campaign is no longer Hahn, but L.A. Unified and the powerful teachers' unions � which strongly oppose mayoral control. City Controller and Villaraigosa aide-de-camp Laura Chick, so effective in her blowtorching of Hahn during the last campaign, has already spent months turning the flame on L.A. Unified administrators, priming them for Villaraigosa's attack. The sharp criticism has already caused Superintendent Roy Romer to accuse Villaraigosa of "trashing the district" to further his political agenda.

Asked recently to respond, the mayor paused for nearly half a minute, just as he used to do on the campaign trail, as though he were leafing through an invisible mental Rolodex, searching for the appropriate soundbite. Back when Hahn used to attack him, Villaraigosa relied on the same biting response: "Those are the words of a desperate and failed mayor." As he walked briskly with his security detail in tow, Villaraigosa finally settled on a response to Romer, one that rang oddly familiar: "Those are the words" � Villaraigosa's voice was now drained of emotion � "of frustration and desperation."

Villaraigosa's bid to take over L.A. Unified has become the defining issue of his new administration, the first major test of whether he can defeat a special interest that has been a lifelong ally. Mayoral takeover is deeply intertwined with Villaraigosa's past, allowing him to tap his own painful memories as a onetime high school dropout inspired by an influential public school teacher. But it is just as closely linked with his future � namely, his ambitions for the governor's mansion and beyond.

If Villaraigosa fails to seize control of the district, a sprawling bureaucracy that covers Los Angeles and 26 other cities, he will experience his most public defeat since his loss to Hahn in 2001. If he wins, he just may create a wedge issue large enough to divide, or at least distract, the Democrats and the powerful CTA � political allies for a generation � just as they are supposed to be uniting to defeat Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Villaraigosa came to the issue of municipal takeover almost by accident, embracing the concept late in the mayoral campaign as he and Hahn were competing to see who could be tougher on education. Yet as a former teachers'-union organizer, he seems almost uniquely qualified to lead such a campaign, the type who could pull a Nixon in China � a phrase he has used to describe himself. Bewildered teachers' union leaders have offered no angry challenges to his plan, voicing instead a mixture of confusion and disappointment in the man they consider an ally. That response has stunned some at City Hall, who argue that the unions would not have been so sanguine if mayoral takeover had been initiated by Schwarzenegger. "If they wanted to take him out at the knees, they could do so," said one council aide. "How long are they going to wait?"

With Villaraigosa briefing state lawmakers this week on mayoral takeover, the CTA and United Teachers Los Angeles � the 48,000-member union that represents L.A. Unified � now face the prospect of mobilizing yet again, this time to thwart Villaraigosa's will in Sacramento. The CTA may in fact be the last line of defense for the institution known as the L.A. Unified's Board of Education � a seven-member elected body that would become a political eunuch under Villaraigosa's plan. As a result, the CTA's message on the mayor � from top administrators to rank-and-file teachers � has grown considerably more complicated in the year since its withering commercial.

As the mayor's campaign has progressed, L.A. Unified teachers like Mary Rose Ortega have found themselves fielding the same question from educators up and down the state: What's with Antonio? Ortega should know. A resident of Highland Park who taught in low-income neighborhoods for 30 years, Ortega has been a loyal foot soldier for Villaraigosa through six different elections. She telephoned voters on his behalf, walked door-to-door for his campaign, and even became his representative on a 30-member advisory panel that is developing ways of improving the district. Yet Ortega, now a member of the CTA board, has no answer for colleagues who fear that if Los Angeles loses its school board, Fresno, Sacramento and other districts will be next to fall.

"They're not happy, because they feel he's doing an Arnold to us, basically," said Ortega, referring to the governor who tangled with the CTA last year and lost big. "There has been this trust that teachers have held for Antonio for a long time, and he's losing it. It's the same with Arnold. We tried to trust him, and he stabbed us in the back. Now they don't trust him. If Antonio does this, he will lose all trust with teachers."

To achieve victory, Villaraigosa has embarked on a complex and potentially risky strategy that seeks to avoid an ugly fight at the ballot box with the CTA and United Teachers Los Angeles, which together spent nearly $1 million on his behalf in his last campaign. Steering clear of an electoral battle, however, means placing the entire question of mayoral control in the hands of the state Legislature � a group whose members have their own reasons for keeping the CTA happy.

Villaraigosa laid out his takeover strategy last month in a 35-minute State of the City address that, instead of offering the usual numbing statistics on the accomplishments of the past year, put forth a vision for how a school district would operate under the supervision of City Hall. The superintendent would be chosen by a council of 28 mayors, with Villaraigosa controlling 83 percent of the vote, and the school board would be handed a radically reduced portfolio � disciplinary issues, school transfers and parent surveys.

Villaraigosa had been promising an election for months, one involving every voter within L.A. Unified. By shifting the action to Sacramento, Villaraigosa lobbed a grenade into the halls of the Capitol � forcing lawmakers to scramble on an issue that, under the mayor's original plan, was never supposed to be up to them.

Lawmakers almost immediately ran for cover. Assemblywoman Karen Bass, a West Los Angeles progressive who had stood with Villaraigosa only days before at a movie screening on the union movement in Los Angeles, said through a spokeswoman that she needed to research the issue. Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza, a Long Beach Democrat whose home page contains a large picture of her with Villaraigosa, would not issue a statement. State Senator Alan Lowenthal, whose district takes in southeast Los Angeles County, was flat-out uncomfortable coming to the phone. "He wants to sit down and get his head around it," said Lowenthal spokesman John Casey.

None of the responses was surprising. After all, the mayor was asking state lawmakers to choose between him, a growing force in the Democratic Party who just might waltz into the governor's mansion in 2010, and the CTA, the group that spent $50 million to defeat Schwarzenegger's four reform-oriented ballot measures in November. Furthermore, a third of the state Assembly is now up for grabs, since term limits are forcing out the bumper crop of 2000. Termed-out lawmakers are trying to jump from one house to the other. And each candidate who wants to prevail in the June primary will be seeking the endorsement of Villaraigosa, who in turn just might need them to support his mayoral takeover, particularly if a takeover bill takes two years to pass.

Keenly aware of the delicate balancing act needed to engineer such a takeover, Villaraigosa offered an olive branch to the education lobby in his State of the City address, largely avoiding the denunciations of L.A. Unified that marked his earlier speeches, and referring to his own background as a UTLA organizer. Standing in the gymnasium of the Accelerated School, a charter school in South Los Angeles, a visibly nervous Villaraigosa tried to put a less-threatening face on his plan by appealing directly to teachers.

"Change is never comfortable. I understand your fear," said the mayor, as his speech was broadcast live during the dinner hour. "It's hard to risk what you've got, when you've never had what you deserve."

Two weeks later, Ortega � the woman who held a campaign party for Villaraigosa in her Highland Park home � sounded unconvinced. "You see, we trusted him. And you know, sometimes you can trust people too much."

(Article continues)

■ "THE TAKEOVER KING" runs 16 pages and 7600 words. Click here to read the entire article online.

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

May 18, 2006 � A week after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa snubbed City Councilman Alex Padilla by endorsing his state Senate opponent, Padilla retaliated Wednesday by exposing the fragility of the council's support for Villaraigosa's school-takeover plan.

The move came as the council debated the mayor's budget. Padilla introduced a last-minute motion noting that the plan contains "no allocation for any changes in governance in the Los Angeles Unified School District."

While the motion would not have torpedoed the mayor's efforts - and money still could have been made available for school issues - it garnered a split 7-7 vote when it was introduced Tuesday.

The tie prompted the council to revisit the issue Wednesday, when it voted 8-6 against the resolution.

"Can we say `politics'?" political consultant Rick Taylor said about Padilla's resolution.

"I'm sure he's upset and he's not happy with the mayor, whom he thinks he's been supportive of in most of his efforts.

"It's kind of smacking the mayor - not in a mean, hard way, but Padilla took a stand finally. Getting an 8-6 vote is impressive, and it made the mayor sweat it out for a day."

Padilla, who said he opposes mayoral takeover of Los Angeles Unified, denied that the motion was politically motivated and said he simply wanted assurance there would be no negative financial impact if Villaraigosa eventually takes control of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"I thought I was asking a pretty simple question," Padilla said. "I asked the question very much more out of a fiscal-planning standpoint."

But the move raised questions about the level of council support for a mayoral takeover.

During a protracted debate, Councilman Ed Reyes emphasized that his support of Padilla's motion in no way indicated he opposes the mayor's effort to take over the LAUSD.

"What I'm saying with my vote is the fact is there's no money in this budget to deal with this change of dealing with the school district and all the politics that goes along with it," Reyes said. "It does not mean, at least from my vote, that I do not support the mayor."

Councilman Jose Huizar cautioned his colleagues that their vote would send a message to the public that the council is divided in its support for the mayor's plan - when, in fact, those discussions had not yet taken place.

"What I'm most concerned about is, the public's going to say the council doesn't support the mayor's initiative," Huizar said. "The public is going to get that message after only a few minutes of discussion. This council - and the public deserves (it) - should totally discuss this initiative."

A second motion that moved on to committee for discussion stated that no city money would be used if the Legislature approves a bill allowing a public vote on changing the LAUSD's governance.

"With the majority of LAUSD students scoring below proficiency in both math and reading, it's surprising that some would choose to defend the status quo," said Villaraigosa spokeswoman Janelle Erickson.

School board President Marlene Canter said the mayor's LAUSD agenda is fueled by "politics and power," and she felt that the budget discussions during the City Council meeting were appropriate.

"I think it was an appropriate question to ask and to consider, but I don't take the vote as symbolic of anything other than a budgetary issue," Canter said. "I don't think it's symbolic of what the end game is going to be."

For now, city and school district officials said they are awaiting the reform recommendations to be released June 30 by the Joint Commission on LAUSD Governance - a commission created by Padilla and Huizar, former school board president, in April 2005.

The 26-member commission was charged with recommending whether the district should be subdivided, placed under the authority of the mayor or have full-time board members. The City Council allocated $500,000 from its budget to fund the commission.

The relationship between Padilla and Villaraigosa has a somewhat strained history.

Just last week, Villaraigosa backed Assemblywoman Cindy Monta ez, D-San Fernando, in the closely watched race for the 20th state Senate District seat representing the north San Fernando Valley.

Padilla endorsed former Mayor James Hahn in the 2001 race against Villaraigosa. In last year's rematch, Padilla backed Villaraigosa, but the endorsement came so late in the campaign that it had no real impact.

Political consultant Taylor said Padilla's motion likely had more to do with standing up for himself and firing back against the mayor than creating a political rift on the council.

"It's symbolic for him to step up, be bold and stand up for himself," Taylor said, "because he's been criticized for not being the boldest guy on the face of the Earth."

▲HOW THEY VOTED: Here's how the City Council voted on the motion to clarify that the city's 2006-07 budget contains no allocation for any changes in governance in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

YES: Cardenas, Garcetti, Hahn, Padilla, Perry, Reyes, Smith
NO: Greuel, Huizar, LaBonge, Parks, Rosendahl, Weiss, Wesson.

YES: Garcetti, Hahn, Padilla, Perry, Reyes, Smith
NO: Greuel, Huizar, LaBonge, Parks, Rosendahl, Weiss, Wesson, Zine
ABSENT: Cardenas

▲smf notes: Besides the obvious, there is another political dynamic in play here: The Mayor's plan has no role whatsoever for the City Council in his takeover scenario; the takeover is by the Mayor only. Yet, by the plan's very nature � and from the comments of City Councilmembers on both sides of the issue � there are obvious fiscal implications for the City of LA, a city already running on a deficit. With no oversight from the Council. In actuality, with oversight from no one.

But this isn't about power.

A SCHOOL OF DREAMS: After Visiting 14 High Schools, Students Tell Superintendents What They Want In An Ideal Place To Learn
By Ryan Haggerty, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette

Thursday, May 18, 2006 � Late starting times, working water fountains, eliminating home room and study periods are hardly the stuff of dreams.

But combine those modest measures with small classes, online courses, challenging academic standards and opportunities for internships and work-study positions, and the result would be a "school of dreams," according to a group of students from South Fayette and 13 other high schools who participated in a recent seminar.

The 24 students presented their recommendations for creating the ideal high school May 4 at The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, Downtown. They were addressing a forum of about 35 regional superintendents who are working to reform Southwestern Pennsylvania's high schools.

Megan Rooney, a South Fayette junior, said she enjoyed the experience and especially liked working with students from other high schools.

"We got to know together and discuss topics to make high schools better and to get students involved with their education," she said.

Among the suggestions her group submitted for their "school of dreams" were more diversity and tolerance to educating students about different cultures so that everyone would be treated the same.

They also favored better use of time during the school day by eliminating homeroom periods and reducing study halls.

And, they said the quality and commitment of teachers is important.

"We think it's important for our teachers to be involved in the classroom and want to be in the classroom, not just be there to present a PowerPoint lesson," Megan said.

She also was pleased how their suggestions were received by the administrators.

"They took notes and we felt that we got our points across to them," Megan said. "They loved all of our ideas."

The students, who visited each other's schools during the winter and early spring, noted numerous differences among districts, but agreed that the key to a successful school was the quality of its teachers.

Teachers must be willing to change their instructional styles and challenge their students, said Nick O'Neill, 16, a junior at Quaker Valley High School.

"Sometimes, reading from a book is not the best way to teach," said Nick, who moderated a Power-Point presentation outlining his group's findings. "Change it up a little bit. We don't like to have the same thing over and over again."

Many of the students who spoke at the conference addressed the need for educators to reach out to students who are in danger of slipping through the cracks, and to make high school relevant for students who might not go on to college.

"As I look around my classroom, I see kids who are not going to go to college, who are going to go right into a career," said Sarah Spiering, 17, a junior at Burrell High School. "We're in world cultures, and they say, 'What do I need to know this stuff for?' I think it's very important for teachers to show them that they need to learn this stuff."

Nick outlined ideas that could spark the interest of disengaged students, including a student-exchange program among local high schools, on-site tutoring sessions during and after school and greater opportunities for real-world learning, such as internships with local businesses.

Although the conference allowed students and administrators to debate strategies for improvement and development, it also provided students with an opportunity to point out the disparity in resources which prevents many districts from changing the status quo.

"At my school, I don't get too many choices as far as teachers and classes because we can't afford to pay for more teachers," said Justin Wideman, 17, a junior at Wilkinsburg High School. "Most of the schools we went to, they get a lot more tax dollars than we do, so they have better facilities."

And better lunches, according to Justin.

"I'm a person who likes his lunch, and when I went to South Fayette [High School], their lunch was awesome," he said.

Emily Hitechew, 15, a sophomore at Pine-Richland, said the differences among high schools were apparent from the varying reactions of visiting students.

"We were at a much smaller school, South Fayette, and their class sizes were much smaller than ours," she said. "But when Shaler students came to our school, they said that our class sizes were much smaller than theirs."

Dr. James Manley, the Pine-Richland superintendent, said he and his colleagues would listen to their students' recommendations.

"At the end of the day, we're going to have the characteristics of the ideal high school," he said. "This has bonded us together as superintendents. All of these schools are important, not just our school or our students."



by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

May 16, 2006 � Woodland Hills - After a two-month tug-of-war for control of Parkman Middle School, teachers will sign off today on a first-of-a kind agreement that will give them charter-like authority without having to become a charter campus.

Few details were released, but those involved said the school will be renamed Woodland Hills Academy and will have three concentrations of study: Humanities/art, medical/health care, and law/government.

"We're elated and grateful that the district, the teachers union and teachers have come together for the beginning of serving and bringing true education to our students," said Colleen Schwab, one of the Parkman teachers who had petitioned to become a charter school.

"Look at what happens when teachers are allowed to take an active part in a school site. We have made an impact on what teachers can do in terms of bringing true reform, improved education offerings and school-site decision-making to a school."

The memorandum of understanding hammered out by the teachers union, Los Angeles Unified officials and the school's faculty grants Parkman greater flexibility over budget and curriculum issues without the district having to surrender jurisdiction over the high-performing school.

Concerned that the breakaway effort at Parkman would spark similar campaigns at other San Fernando Valley campuses, district officials scrambled to strike a compromise with teachers chafing under Los Angeles Unified's constraints.

School board member Jon Lauritzen, who had proposed a one-year moratorium on charter applications in order to evaluate the swelling movement, said he's encouraged by the Parkman model.

"We hope to be able to look at where we can create situations like Parkman - where we make a positive situation that's not necessarily a charter," he said. "There are a lot of good ideas that have come from charters that we'd like to take a look at and implement some of those programs in our regular schools."

Although the district ultimately persuaded Parkman not to defect, its effort proves that charters are making a difference by forcing traditional public schools to compete, said Caprice Young, a former LAUSD board member who now heads the California Charter Schools Association.

"I think the teachers and parents at Parkman planning to go charter has forced the district and the union to think more progressively about its policies," Young said.

United Teachers Los Angeles was interested in expanding the Parkman model to other campuses as part of the school-based management program it's devised to counter the growing popularity of charters.

"I believe we have an agreement with the district to bring on line the first model to be expanded on later of the school-based management schools, which are similar to charter schools," UTLA President A.J. Duffy said.

But Superintendent Roy Romer said the best way to approach school-site autonomy, at least for now, is on a case-by-case basis.

"That's an ongoing debate and we'll be having that discussion in the months ahead," he said. "Parkman has some issues and we want to solve those. Whether any generalization comes out of that to other schools is an ongoing discussion."

While school board President Marlene Canter and Romer each said they will monitor Parkman's progress, they noted that the school's academic performance has improved steadily over the past six years, and they expect the trend to continue.

"I'm a big believer in building upon your success," Canter said. "The whole concept of decentralization is a big word; it was tried many, many times. There are ways to give more autonomy without sacrificing the gains we've made as a district."

►MIDDLE SCHOOL DROPS PLAN FOR CHARTER: A compromise with L.A. Unified will grant educators greater autonomy at the campus in Woodland Hills.

By Erika Hayasaki, LATimes Staff Writer

May 17, 2006 � A San Fernando Valley middle school Tuesday dropped plans to convert itself into a charter campus, agreeing instead to a plan giving teachers greater control over curriculum, finances and hiring.

"It gives charter-like control to local schools without forcing them to go through the burdensome and cumbersome process of becoming a charter," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Duffy praised the arrangement at Parkman Middle School in Woodland Hills, saying it will spark "new models that are every bit as creative as charters, and in some cases take the best practices from charters."

Charter schools are publicly funded but independently run and are free to try innovative teaching techniques to raise student achievement. Schools must apply to become charters and receive approval from the district, county or the state Board of Education, which can take months or years.

Relinquishing central management of schools is typically an unwelcome alternative for the Los Angeles Unified School District, and not everyone is convinced that charters lead to improved academic achievement. The teachers union also has concerns about charters, which for the most part are not unionized.

So the Parkman plan appealed to both the district and the union as a way to give teachers greater authority while maintaining some control of the campus.

Under the plan, Parkman will be renamed "Woodland Hills Academy." School staff will redesign the campus into three academies: Humanities and arts, law and government, and medical science. It will also bring back a counselor and the music program it recently lost because of budget cuts.

"The goal was to bring more resources and funding to the school," said Colleen Schwab, one of the Parkman teachers who pushed for reforms because the school was losing students and staff. "This way we don't have to worry about the management part of it, so we can actually work on the instruction."

Schwab said teachers applied for charter status several months ago, submitting a 245-page application to the district.

Concerned that the breakaway effort would spark similar campaigns at other schools, district officials came up with the compromise.

Los Angeles Board of Education President Marlene Canter said Parkman is an example of how schools can work with their local superintendents to create plans to improve, rather than abandoning the district.

Teachers at the school "were not feeling empowered," she said. "They came to the table with a proposal of how they can really help to make their school great."

The district has approved 100 charter schools since its first in 1993. It has 86 operating charter schools, with 14 more set to open.

Duffy said UTLA would like to expand the Parkman model to other campuses, so more teachers can gain control over their schools' bell schedules, professional development, curriculum and budgets.

"It's time to stop putting money into charters, and let's really study them and let's see where we can level the playing field," Duffy said. "We're looking at creative models that may just grow out of their own."

District officials say they will consider similar requests for site-based autonomy on a case-by-case basis.

Caprice Young, president of the California Charter Schools Assn. and a former L.A. school board member, said the agreement accomplished what charter schools are pushing for: more autonomy. She said the growth of charters across the state has put pressure on the district to give in to the desires of teachers and administrators.

"The charter school movement isn't about charter schools," Young said. "It is really about providing the freedom and accountability that school sites need to do the right things for kids."

► smf notes: What is missed in this coverage about the political dance � local control, autonomy, governance and decentralization is one key point: This is the first true application of Small Learning Communities in a LAUSD Middle School � the place where that concept can make the biggest difference. Even the W&M Gates Foundation hasn't got this yet! The adults actually came together and crafted a compromise that's best for kids!

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
►HIGH COURT TO GET EXAM CASE: State out to restore graduation requirement

by Becky Bartindale, San Jose Mercury News

Fri, May. 19, 2006 � Superintendent Jack O'Connell will appeal directly to the California Supreme Court today to have California's high school exit exam reinstated as a requirement for graduation, and he hopes to know soon whether the court will settle the question before students receive diplomas.

"We need an ultimate resolution, and we need it quickly," O'Connell said, arguing that a judge's ruling last week temporarily suspending the test had created widespread confusion among students and schools.

Graduation ceremonies are a few weeks away in the state's 1,000-plus high schools. Because of the time pressure, state lawyers are bypassing the normal appellate channel, which ordinarily would begin in the San Francisco-based 1st District Court of Appeal.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman last week barred the state from denying diplomas to seniors solely because they failed the exam. He concluded that evidence supports the claim that some hadn't had an opportunity to learn the math and English material because of inequalities in the education system.

The high court could agree to stay Freedman's ruling -- an act that would restore the exam as a graduation requirement -- and review the substance of the legal challenge immediately, or first seek guidance from the appellate court. The latter would mean that Freedman's decision probably would stand for this school year because of the timing.

In his ruling, Freedman concluded that students would suffer great harm by being deprived of a diploma, both emotionally and practically. The prospect of having to spend a fifth year in a high school without sufficient educational resources or attend a community college instead of a four-year university shows ``significant risk of harm," Freedman wrote.

Arturo Gonzalez, a lawyer representing the students who challenged the exit exam, said Freedman's decision made clear that the harm to students greatly outweighed the harm to the state. "I can't imagine any justice on the California Supreme Court would be eager to deny tens of thousands of students their diplomas," he said.

But O'Connell argued Thursday that Freedman's decision also harms the state and its students, and creates confusion about what is required to graduate.

The decision will discourage students from seeking the extra academic help they need, the superintendent said.

Having the exam requirement suspended ``at the bottom of the ninth with two outs" undermines "the credibility of the education community."

"Unless you have consequences, kids won't take it seriously," he said.

O'Connell said the ruling also has created uncertainty for juniors who haven't passed the test. Those students must decide whether to take a remedial exit exam course this summer or take the exam this summer if lawmakers approve money to offer it. And seniors who haven't passed won't know whether to sign up for adult school or other programs to prepare them to take the exam again, he said.

by David M. Herszenhorn, NY Times

April 18, 2005 � Rhonda Johnson paused outside Public School 92 in District 5 in Harlem, where her daughter, Raanesha, was spending the midwinter vacation in a special class for fifth graders at risk of being held back. The class is a new tutoring effort central to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's pledge to end social promotion.

Raanesha is precisely the sort of child - a poor black student at one of New York's worst-performing elementary schools - who Mr. Bloomberg hoped would benefit most from his overhaul of the school system.

But when asked the question that will hang over the mayor's head in the coming months - are New York's public schools any better? - Ms. Johnson expressed a view widely echoed in numerous interviews with parents and in opinion polls across the city. "I haven't seen a difference," she said. "Really, no, I haven't."

From the moment he won control of the schools, less than six months after taking office, Mr. Bloomberg has urged voters to judge him on education. "I want to be held accountable for the results, and I will be," he said in June 2002 when Gov. George E. Pataki signed the law putting Mr. Bloomberg in charge. "I do promise you that you will see in the very near future that we are going in the right direction."

With the mayor's re-election campaign now under way, retracing some of his steps through the school system over the last three years - to districts where he made major announcements, schools that he singled out as models or in critical need of repair - shows that the academic results so far have been mixed at best. On much of the school system, the main impact of the changes has been shock and tumult: start-up difficulties, dizzying and at times conflicting policy changes, high staff turnover.

For Mr. Bloomberg and his schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, some of the shock and tumult has been precisely the point. In their view, a badly broken, maddeningly bureaucratic system that overwhelmingly failed the city's students - especially poor black and Hispanic children - has been permanently dismantled.

But across the city, reading scores in the third through eighth grades have been flat since the mayor's overhaul began in 2003. Math scores have risen steadily since 2000, though officials inside and outside the system trace the progress to changes made by the former chancellor, Harold O. Levy, and say recent gains are a continuation of that trend.

Since Mr. Bloomberg took charge, overall attendance rates have not changed - with improved numbers at new small high schools offset by declines in old larger schools. School safety remains a murky picture. The four-year graduation rate has risen, yet the number of students receiving a Regents diploma, meaning they met a set of state requirements including Regents exams, has declined.

At some of the signature stops that Mr. Bloomberg made to highlight his ambitious plans for the schools, a picture emerges of two years of extraordinary upheaval. To some degree, the mayor's travels reflect his willingness to tackle the most difficult problems in the most troubled schools. And, of course, there are schools across the city where principals expressed optimism. At the same time, the mayor's inability so far to achieve clear-cut success, even where he had personally shone a spotlight, helps explain why many New Yorkers fail to see any change and why some say things are actually worse. [.....Article Continues]

BLOOMBERG'S SCHOOLS: MUCH TUMULT, MIXED PROGRESS continues.... Click here to read the entire article online.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►Monday May 22, 2006
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
South Park Elementary School
8510 Towne Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90003

►Tuesday May 23, 2006
CENTRAL REGION MIDDLE SCHOOL #9: Site Selection Update Meeting #2
Local District 5
Join us at this meeting where we will review:
* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project!
6:30 p.m.
Malabar Elementary School
3200 E. Malabar St.
Los Angeles, CA 90063

►Thursday May 25, 2006
SOUTH REGION SPAN K-8 #1: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
Local District 8
At this meeting we will present and discuss the site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of education for this new school project.
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Banning High School � Auditorium
1527 Lakme Avenue
Wilmington, CA 90744

►Thursday May 25, 2006
Please join us for a community meeting regarding the design of Valley Region Montague Charter Academy Addition.
At this meeting we will:
* Present schematic design drawings
* Receive community input on the design of the project
6:30 p.m.
Montague Charter Academy
13000 Montague St.
Pacoima, CA 91331

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


What can YOU do?
Click here to find 'em:].
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 � an effort that is patently unconstitutional and will never survive a court challenge. Their time, the mayor's time, the board of education's time � all of our time, thinking and hard work - is better spent working together rather than at odds to continue and support the very real efforts at reform already begun. Their time is better spent helping LAUSD find a new superintendent, guaranteeing an improved funding stream for all California schools and helping kids in the classroom, on the playground; during, before and after school.

� E-mail, call or write your school board member: � 213-241-6387
- office vacant - � 213-241-6180 � 213-241-6388 � 213-241-6382 � 213-241-6385 � 213-241-6386 � 213-241-6383
...or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think!
Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
� Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
� Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
� Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
� Vote.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
� In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright � the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright � 4LAKids.
� FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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