Sunday, January 21, 2007

Well, you know, we'd all love to see the plan

4LAKids: Sunday, Sept 21, 2007
In This Issue:
MAYOR POSTS HIS STRATEGY FOR SCHOOLS: Villaraigosa presents 52 recommendations for fixing L.A. Unified.
MUNICIPAL WHIPLASH - The mayor suddenly decides gang crime, not L.A. Unified, is public enemy No. 1
LAUSD HIGH SCHOOLS MAKE GAINS ON EXIT EXAM: District officials say remedial camps helped boost performance over previous year.
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
Much was made of the two city reports last week: The Mayor's New School Plan and Connie Rice's Gang Study. One is lightweight piece of fluff – a framework with no meat on the skeleton – somewhat devoid of original thinking; the other a hard hitting and comprehensive evaluation, a damning indictment of programs "stuck-on-stupid" — complete with concrete proposals and recommendations.

If LA is to be a great city we need to grasp that there is not room for both kinds of thinking; neither is there much room for compartmentalized thinking that doesn't look at education, gangs, crime, race and public safety as being parts of single problem that needs discussion, engagement and resolution in a unified effort.

I was at a conference Saturday discussing Neighborhood Councils and their role in the government of the city. One of the presenters described the citizens of LA as being "more dissatisfied with city government and delivery of city services compared to residents of other municipalities in LA County AND other major metropolitan areas in the US."

That's a significant opinion – and an indictment of a city government trying to take over a school district larger than itself, a district the mayor likes to describe as failing – but whose parents in a recent survey are generally satisfied with. I neither agree with the mayor nor (wholeheartedly) with those parents – The City of LA and LAUSD both have a way to go!

CONNIE RICE'S REPORT runs 131 pages; it has seven pages of executive summary and twelve of recommendations. As evidenced by some of the people who spoke to it on Saturday – including city council staff – few have read even the summary or the recommendations. In their defense Chief Bratton and Controller Chick were familiar and for the most part in agreement with it.

A 4LAKids bullet-point/Cliff-Notes-highlights-of-the-summary follows – filtered through my narrow perspective. I highly recommend reading the whole summary, all the recommendations and the entire report.


• The City of Los Angeles has had a violence crisis for over 20 years.
• Beneath the relative citywide safety and tranquility, extraordinary violence rages in Los Angeles’ high crime zones. A former World Health Organization epidemiologist who studies violence as a public health problem concluded that, “Los Angeles is to violence what Bangladesh is to diarrhea, which means the crisis is at a dire level requiring a massive response.”
• Moreover, Los Angeles is the gang capital of the world. Although only a small percentage of the City’s 700 gangs and estimated 40,000 gang members engage in routine violence, the petri dish of Los Angeles’ high crime neighborhoods has spawned “a violent gang culture unlike any other….”
• The violence from this subset is at epidemic levels: almost 75 percent of youth gang homicides in the state of California have occurred in Los Angeles County, creating … a regional “long-term epidemic of youth gang homicide and violence,” to which the City is the major contributor.
• This epidemic is largely immune to general declines in crime. And it is spreading to formerly safe middle class neighborhoods.
• Law enforcement officials now warn that they are arriving at the end of their ability to contain it to poor minority and immigrant hot zones.
• After a quarter century of a multi-billion dollar war on gangs, there are six times as many gangs and at least double the number of gang members in the region.
• Suppression alone—and untargeted suppression in particular—cannot solve this problem.
• Law enforcement officials now agree that they cannot arrest their way out of the gang violence crisis and that their crime suppression efforts must be linked to competent prevention, intervention, and community-stabilizing investment strategies. This report is about those strategies.
• The City’s small and isolated gang prevention programs cannot reverse an
entrenched epidemic. Comprehensive, neighborhood-based, schools-centered strategies
for effective prevention, intervention, and community development will be needed in
order to substantially reduce gang activity and violence in high crime areas, keep “tipping
point” areas from tipping into routine violence, pull “sliding communities” with emerging
violence back to safety, and keep safe areas safe.

In short, Los Angeles needs a Marshall Plan to end gang violence.


• Top political leaders must issue a strong, unanimous, and sustained political mandate to remove the drivers and conditions that spawn gangs and neighborhood violence.
• City approaches must address the conditions in neighborhoods and the unmet needs of children that allow gangs to take root, flourish, and expand.
• The City must get documented results for current monies spent and generate new resources by ending unnecessary and costly City practices.
• After eliminating wasteful and ineffective approaches, the City should obtain new streams of funding for general prevention, intervention, and suppression and gang specific prevention, intervention, and suppression.
• Additional funds will be needed but should not be sought until competent strategies, rigorous oversight, and accountability frameworks for expenditure of new funds are in place.
• A joint investment among entities of the State, County, City and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will increase the pooled funding and effectiveness for all government agencies.
• LAUSD will be a key institution in any neighborhood based comprehensive strategy. The District will have to radically change its role to become a strategic asset in neighborhood violence reduction strategies. LAUSD facilities will be important centers for any neighborhood violence reduction strategy. LAUSD must develop strategies to prevent and interrupt campus violence, as Santee High School has done. LAUSD also must co-pilot the joint efforts of City, County, and neighborhood institutions to develop comprehensive neighborhood safety plans.
• The City and LAUSD must also vastly increase investment in after school resources and expand and replicate programs like LA’s Best.


• This is the third time that the Los Angeles City Council has officially asked the question, “Why are City gang reduction strategies failing?” And it is the third time that experts have recommended that smarter suppression be linked to comprehensive prevention and intervention and that—above all—the City end the conditions that spawn and sustain gangs and neighborhood violence. The City did not fully enact those prior recommendations and gang activity and violence continued unabated, forcing today’s City Council leaders to repeat the same question in 2005.
• In the meantime, residents of Los Angeles’ most dangerous neighborhoods continue losing children to senseless violence, and residents of safe areas are beginning to see that the threat could spread to them.
• Angelinos do not want to hear about another study. They want to see the problem solved. Now.
• The challenge, the report concludes, is not what to do, but finding the will to do it.

▲The immediate result/fallout/whatever ...beyond the public handwringing, photo-ops and press conferences?
• Déjà vu times two: Chicken Little-like, some city council members immediately proposed raising taxes (Sales Tax/Parcel Tax/Property Tax) and throwing $50 million at the problem – even though Rice advises we must first "get documented results for current monies spent …after eliminating wasteful and ineffective approaches…additional funds will be needed but should not be sought until competent strategies, rigorous oversight, and accountability frameworks for expenditure of new funds are in place"
• Do the math for extra credit: Rice forecasts that it may take a total investment of one billion dollars (to save a two billion dollar annual cost) so the council suggests $50 million / 5%?
• And the mayor's office is actually proposing cutting or eliminating funding to LA's Best and LA Bridges in his upcoming budget, two programs Rice says works.

The coda: The challenge is not what to do, but finding the will to do it.

Onward! — smf

THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT | CITYWIDE GANG ACTIVITY REDUCTION STRATEGY: Phase III Report -The whole report, incl. executive summary & recommendations

MAYOR POSTS HIS STRATEGY FOR SCHOOLS: Villaraigosa presents 52 recommendations for fixing L.A. Unified.


by Duke Helfand & Joel Rubin and Times Staff Writers

January 18, 2007 - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled a sweeping reform strategy for Los Angeles public schools Wednesday, calling for top-to-bottom changes that would include ending the practice of promoting failing students, requiring school uniforms and bringing in outsiders to help transform schools.

The education blueprint — drawing heavily from reform ideas already underway in Los Angeles and elsewhere — amounts to Villaraigosa's fall-back position if the courts rule against his efforts to gain a measure of control over the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In releasing the "Schoolhouse" policy framework at a town hall meeting Wednesday evening, and supporting candidates in the March 6 school board elections, Villaraigosa is hedging his bets: He is seeking a prominent role in the school district through a friendly board majority that could promote his vision of more decentralized schools.

But the mayor — who called for greater collaboration among the city, the district, civic groups, labor organizations and others — did not formally consult the school district's top leadership in assembling his 52 policy recommendations, which are long on promise but short on details.

Only one school board member, Villaraigosa ally Monica Garcia, attended the gathering along with schools Supt. David L. Brewer. Board President Marlene Canter was out of town.

Villaraigosa's top education aides drew up the proposal by researching practices in L.A. Unified and other major urban school districts, including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, and by culling ideas from local charter school operators that have shown success with poor and immigrant student populations.

The mayor's approach would require a massive infusion of money and expertise, both of which are in limited supply. And many of his proposals — including a call for smaller schools and a return from multitrack calendars to a traditional schedule — are being employed by L.A. Unified schools or campuses elsewhere, sometimes with mixed results.

Still, Villaraigosa characterized his Schoolhouse strategy as the best chance for improving a district facing myriad challenges, including crowded classrooms and large numbers of students living in poverty or learning English.

Addressing about 200 parents, teachers and others at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, Villaraigosa said his effort would produce results that are crucial to educational success.

"After over a year of debate, I think most of us agree that the issue is no longer whether we need fundamental change in our public schools. The question is how," Villaraigosa told the invited audience.

"These ideas didn't come from the mountaintop and they are not etched in stone," he added. "But I believe our Schoolhouse provides a framework for reform that the entire Los Angeles Unified School District should follow."

With several young students seated behind him, Villaraigosa spoke for about 15 minutes from a teleprompter, then took mostly polite questions. He drew applause several times but demurred when pressed for details.

Some school board members, who were briefed on the plan just hours before the meeting, cautiously greeted the initiative even as they questioned Villaraigosa's sincerity.

The school district is locked in a legal battle with Villaraigosa over a law that would give him substantial authority over the district — allowing him to pursue the very reforms outlined in his plan. That law was struck down by a Superior Court judge last month, and Villaraigosa has appealed directly to the California Supreme Court.

Canter, who was in New York on district business, reiterated her position that the mayor is not seeking to join with the district leaders for the good of the school system.

"I think it's misleading to the public when you have a mayor who talks about the urgency of partnership…. It would be nice if we could put this conversation aside and have a real partnership," she said.

Canter and Brewer said the district is not at a loss for new ideas — only the resources and strategies to expand reforms through a system that serves more than 700,000 students.

"Many of the initiatives are basically already being implemented," Brewer said in an interview. "The mayor needs to help me find more money for these initiatives."

Villaraigosa departed from the harsh language he has often used to characterize the district as a bloated bureaucracy that fails students. Instead, he struck an even tone in his remarks and in his blueprint, highlighting practices that have shown promise around the nation and acknowledging that L.A. Unified has already embraced many of these approaches, if on a limited basis.

Deputy Mayor Ramon C. Cortines, a former interim L.A. Unified superintendent and a chief architect of the mayor's proposals, said new guidance and energy would help spread promising practices that he found while visiting schools in the district and elsewhere.

"I have said that some of the best practices are in L.A. Unified. What I am suggesting is that we need to be consistent. There is not the accountability, the responsibility or the authority at the local level to carry out these kinds of things. If we are ever going to bring back the middle class in LAUSD, we are going to have to address these issues."

The 25-page policy paper breaks down the challenge of improving schools into six areas that need attention: high expectations, safe schools, empowered leadership, rigorous curriculum, family and community involvement, and more money to schools.

It says that teachers, principals and other school staff should be paid more and class sizes should be reduced — two goals that Villaraigosa believes could be met by streamlining central support operations and increasing daily student attendance, the basis for state education funding.

These ideas, and the framework in general, were greeted enthusiastically by union leaders from United Teachers Los Angeles.

The blueprint also calls for moving more money and resources away from the central administration to schools, and giving campuses greater authority over their resources — ideas that are drawn from the charter school movement and that have become increasingly popular in mainstream education circles in recent years.

Villaraigosa calls for changes that have shown mixed results in Los Angeles and other places, including an end to social promotion — moving failing students to the next grade level. Such an approach was tried in L.A. Unified eight years ago with second-graders and eighth-graders but was ended partly for lack of space. And taking a page from state and federal accountability programs, the mayor's plan could lead to the removal of employees at chronically underperforming schools.

The mayor's plan suggests that the school day be extended so struggling students can receive more help; that foreign languages, such as Spanish and Arabic, be taught as early as first grade; and that student mentor programs and preschool be expanded.

Villaraigosa intends to rally a broad swath of Los Angeles around the schools, inviting the involvement of organized labor, universities, cultural institutions and faith-based organizations. And he would lead an aggressive campaign to raise $200 million for the schools over five years from foundations, corporations and philanthropists.

The multi-pronged effort would start in several clusters of low-performing schools and then expand to every campus, the mayor's aides said.

That mirrors the approach advocated in the education law now winding through the courts. It would give Villaraigosa control over three high schools and the middle schools and elementary schools that feed them — amounting to as many as 80,000 students.

The mayor's new plan.

MUNICIPAL WHIPLASH - The mayor suddenly decides gang crime, not L.A. Unified, is public enemy No. 1

by David Zahniser, LA Weekly

• Ruling? What court ruling?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa started the new year by putting plenty of miles between himself and the politically disastrous court decision handed down last month by Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs, who shit-canned his bid for power over the Los Angeles Unified School District as a violation of not just the state Constitution but also the City Charter, the legal document that says who does what at L.A. City Hall.

“Our New Year’s resolution in 2007 is to make violent street gangs public enemy No. 1,” said the mayor, standing next to Police Chief William Bratton.

The dramatic shift in emphasis was, to say the least, a bit jarring. The mayor had been doing about 90 miles an hour on education issues, spending the first 18 months of his administration talking about test scores, dropout rates, a longer school day and the need to put the mayor in charge of at least three high schools — maybe the whole district.

After such an intense push on public education, Villaraigosa’s decision to make 2007 the year of gangs left many at City Hall suffering a form of municipal whiplash. Villaraigosa rarely broached the topic of crime between June and December, lavishing time on education-oriented town-hall meetings, school-reform photo ops and last-minute lobbying trips to Sacramento, where he twisted a few arms to get lawmakers to sign off on a legally problematic L.A. Unified bill.

But then, last month’s ruling delivered a not-too-subtle message to the Villaraigosa camp: If the California Supreme Court sides with Janavs on appeal, the mayor could have precious little to show for his foray into public education. And with statistics showing a disturbing surge in gang crime — increasing by 42 percent in the San Fernando Valley alone — Villaraigosa just might have decided it was time to pay attention to some duties actually assigned to him in the City Charter.

You know, public safety and stuff.

In a 15-day period, Villaraigosa held five different press events focusing on public safety. But by then, some community activists had already begun grumbling that the mayor had lost focus on his municipal portfolio. One group of African-American leaders, alarmed by last month’s allegedly racially motivated killing of a 14-year-old Harbor Gateway girl, complained that the mayor had gone missing in action.

“He took on the LAUSD and the whole school board, trying to take over the district and make it the centerpiece of his administration,” said Najee Ali, who staged a press conference Friday in Leimert Park to chastise the mayor for his absence. “[Villaraigosa] became so engaged with that battle that he lost focus on other issues in L.A. that have been critical, and the racially motivated gang violence is the best example.”

Hours after Ali’s protest, Villaraigosa’s press shop put out a news release saying the mayor would be in Harbor Gateway the very next day to march with anxious African-American families. But that was only the latest stop in his public-safety publicity blitz. Villaraigosa showed up with Bratton on January 2 at the LAPD’s Central Division downtown to talk about crime reduction in 2006. Six days later, the mayor posed in front of 67 newly hired officers at the Police Academy, promising signing bonuses of $5,000 and $10,000 to ensure that his hiring plan does not fall apart.

Despite the flurry of safety initiatives, Villaraigosa made sure to press ahead with the other pieces of his public school campaign, publicly introducing two of his candidates in the upcoming March 6 school-board race — county administrator Yolie Flores Aguilar on the Eastside and prosecutor Tamar Galatzan in the San Fernando Valley.

The mayor is banking on his slate of school-board candidates to win board seats and then help him reach some form of legal settlement with district officials to preserve his ability to run three low-performing high schools — his major education initiative. An ideal campus for him to oversee might be Grant High School in the East Valley, where two 16-year-olds were shot the very week Galatzan and Aguilar picked up the mayor’s backing.

In a nifty piece of stage management, the mayor introduced Galatzan outside Birmingham High School, the site of a deadly shooting last year. A 16-year-old boy was killed in a gunfight right across the street in September. The gunplay occurred 40 minutes after school let out, forcing school football players to hit the ground during team practice.

With so much anxiety over public schools and gang violence, here’s a modest proposal: If elected, Villaraigosa’s school-board candidates will certainly vote to permit Villaraigosa to go beyond his municipal duties and take over three high schools. So in exchange, Villaraigosa should allow his newly elected school board to take over three LAPD stations in the Valley, where homicides shot up nearly 18 percent in 2006 and restaurant-takeover robberies by masked men have terrified diners.

Civil rights advocate Connie Rice presented a 131-page report this week on the city’s gang crisis, telling council members that they will need to work with other government agencies if they want to tackle the problem effectively. Rice’s report did a funny thing, mentioning city government and L.A. Unified over and over again, as though she thought they too should be working as a team — as equals, not with one seeking to strip the other’s power.

On the day of Rice’s presentation, Villaraigosa staffers handed schools Superintendent David L. Brewer III the mayor’s new plan for fixing L.A. Unified. Brewer received little advance notice, getting the plan just four hours before the mayor went before a televised audience to unveil it. School board member David Tokofsky fared even worse, receiving an e-mail from the mayor's office telling him that his request to attend Villaraigosa's Wednesday night education speech had been denied.

The mayor's policy paper focused mainly on non-controversial concepts: paying teachers more, making schools smaller, securing more contributions from the business community and getting more of everything – gifted programs, arts classes, foreign language lessons, etc. Once his speech ended, Villaraigosa's press shop returned to the theme for 2007, announcing that the mayor planned another trip to Harbor Gateway to talk about cracking down on – you guessed it – violent gangs.

When Villaraigosa has focused on public-safety issues, he has reaped success only dreamed of by his predecessor, former Mayor James Hahn, a man truly obsessed with public safety but politically inept. Unlike Hahn, Villaraigosa won approval of a five-year plan to hire 1,000 police officers, persuading the council to hike monthly trash fees from $11 to $28 by 2011. Where Hahn had sought a sales-tax hike, Villaraigosa deftly found a way to hit up homeowners and renters in buildings with fewer than five units.

For now, however, a majority of those extra officers are a concept for the future. Roughly half of the police hiring sought by Villaraigosa won’t occur until after his likely re-election. But then, Villaraigosa — always the master of marketing — has a tendency to speak in the present progressive tense, as in “We’re planting 1 million trees” or “We’re hiring 1,000 officers.”

As he appeared with Villaraigosa, Bratton was all too willing to call the hiring plan what it was: an incremental plan that won’t boost his department significantly for years. Standing in the LAPD’s Central Station, Bratton told his officers they shouldn’t expect reinforcements to provide much help in 2007 — a comment that somewhat undermined the mayor’s upbeat pitch.

Since his election, Villaraigosa has always been one to criticize L.A. Unified for making only incremental gains in its test scores, which rose gradually over six years under former Superintendent Roy Romer, especially in the elementary grades.

Yet Bratton too has been the master of steady, incremental progress — the type that adds up to solid double-digit gains over a four-year stretch. Villaraigosa endorsed Bratton’s leadership wholeheartedly two weeks ago, saying the chief deserves a second five-year term. Romer, on the other hand, is back in Colorado, making incremental progress on his John Deere power mower.


by Harrison Sheppard, Sacramento Bureau | LA Daily News

1/16/07 -- SACRAMENTO - While Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's bid to reform Los Angeles Unified remains stalled in court, a new effort to break up the district is expected to be launched today in the state Legislature.

Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, plan to introduce a bill that would reorganize the LAUSD into about 15 districts of no more than 50,000 students each.

"We believe once you start getting over 50,000, you begin to go down that same track of not being size-efficient, and you start losing accountability to the parents and community," Runner said.

The bill is identical to one that Runner and former Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge, introduced last year that was blocked in committee and then set aside as the mayor's plan gained momentum.

Villaraigosa's plan, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last year, calls for a Council of Mayors to ratify the hiring and firing of the LAUSD superintendent. It also creates a mayor-controlled partnership to run the district's lowest-performing schools.

But a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, ruling in a lawsuit filed by the LAUSD board, declared the measure unconstitutional last month, and the mayor is now appealing.

But Runner said he believes the appeal ultimately will fail, and breaking up the district should be the next reform to be considered.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu ez, D-Los Angeles, a co-author of the mayor's LAUSD bill, does not support breaking up the district.

"In this case, smaller isn't beautiful," said Steve Maviglio, a Nu ez spokesman. "It would be an administrative nightmare, invite dozens of lawsuits, possibly affect desegregation plans worked out long ago, and create dozens of new fiefdoms."

A spokeswoman for Villaraigosa said he believes he will prevail in court and is focused on reforming the district, not breaking it up. The mayor plans to release a detailed policy framework tonight outlining his reform plans, spokeswoman Janelle Erickson said.

"We remain confident that the law is on our (side) and are moving aggressively forward with our planning and preparations for the mayor's partnership schools," she said.

School board President Marlene Canter said she doesn't think it's the appropriate time to consider breaking up LAUSD, which is in the middle of a massive building program.

"Timing is everything, and this is not the right time as far as I'm concerned," Canter said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has previously declared his support for breaking up the district, as well as for Villaraigosa's bid to gain partial control.

Runner said if his bill fails, he might consider legislation revising the process for citizen group petitions for breakup so the state Board of Education would have less ability to keep them off the ballot.

Runner said his bill is aimed specifically at L.A. and would not deal with other districts. Currently there are 10 districts in California that have more than 50,000 students, according to California Department of Education data.

► smf fyi: If AB 1381 were to be implemented, the mayor’s demonstration project/”clusters of schools” would create another district exceeding 50,000 students needing breakup.

LAUSD HIGH SCHOOLS MAKE GAINS ON EXIT EXAM: District officials say remedial camps helped boost performance over previous year.
By Paul Clinton, Staff writer | Daily Breeze

Friday, January 19, 2007 - Los Angeles Unified's class of 2007 has already surpassed its class of 2006 when it comes to passing the dreaded high school exit exam, registering a 6 percentage point gain in the number of students passing the state-mandated hurdle for a high school diploma.

By this month, 78 percent of the graduating class had passed both the English-language arts and mathematics sections of the California High School Exit Exam. A year ago, 72 percent had passed. By August, 87 percent of the class of 2006 had passed and more than half of area LAUSD high schools were above the state average.

District officials credited the improvement to students' increased familiarity with the test and a series of after-school boot camps offered a year ago to more than 26,000 students in danger of failing one or both test sections.

"Our district is continuing to do a good job of supporting the students and assisting them," trustee Mike Lansing said. "I think we're making some good progress, especially for the largest urban district in the state."

The district improved the performance across the board for each ethnic group and will seek more resources to help recent immigrants. The test creates a language barrier for students who often arrive from Mexico or Central or South America to attend high school, board members said.

Board member David Tokofsky will lobby state legislators to increase the amount of funding in the state budget for remedial classes.

In his initial budget proposal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger included $5 million. Tokofsky said he'd like to see that number double by the release of a revised state budget in May.

"It's a brother-can-you-spare-a-dime amount of money," the retiring board member said. "For kids who don't speak English who have arrived in this country in eighth, ninth and 10th grade, there ought to be some assistance so those kids can pass that exam and that will be more than the $5 million."

A year ago, the district began offering remedial boot camps similar to a program offered by a professional testing preparation company. High school seniors who hadn't passed received 20 hours of after-school preparation.

The district spent $10.3 million. About $1.3 million came from the state; $7.7 million from federal Title I low-income lunch funds; and $1.3 million in hourly district funds.

The district spent about $390 per student, district records show.

In the first year the test was a requirement for graduation, 2,092 in LAUSD failed to pass the test. The district's 87 percent pass rate fell short of the 91.4 percent of California students who passed.

Students at San Pedro High, where 94 percent of the class of 2007 has passed, Carson High (92 percent) and Westchester High schools (also 92 percent) surpassed the typical California test-taker from 2006.

And at Wilmington's Harbor Teacher Prep Academy, with 300 students pursuing a curriculum that prepares them for careers in education, the class of 2007 scored a perfect 100 percent.

Banning High (89 percent), Narbonne High (87 percent) and Gardena High (84 percent) came in below average.

Students are given six chances to pass the exit exam. A student who doesn't pass can still attend a community college or a district adult school and continue taking the test.

The exit exam tests students' command of English-language arts at a ninth-grade level and mathematics at an eighth-grade level.

"For the small percentage who don't pass, it's not like they're out on the street," Lansing said. "There are options."


►L.A. TEACHERS UNION ENDORSES SECOND INCUMBENT: The vote in favor of one-term trustee LaMotte sets up a battle with Villaraigosa.

by Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

January 19, 2007 - The Los Angeles teachers union Thursday night endorsed one-term Board of Education incumbent Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, setting up a pivotal confrontation with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as he tries to win substantial influence over the school district at the ballot box.

Last month, the union endorsed another incumbent, Jon M. Lauritzen, for the Los Angeles Unified School District's west San Fernando Valley board seat. If the union prevails in both races March 6, the board majority will still consist of trustees who opposed Villaraigosa's school-intervention efforts. Villaraigosa and his allies are expected to spend millions of dollars to prevent that from happening.

The union's House of Representatives met in emergency session to debate and finally to cast ballots. Winning an endorsement required a 60% plurality.

LaMotte, whose District 1 covers much of South Los Angeles, cleared the hurdle easily despite sharp disagreement over her record. The endorsement comes with the potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money and regiments of teacher foot soldiers. Without union backing, some observers questioned whether LaMotte would have a viable campaign, especially given the mayor's displeasure with her.

"At times it's been a tug-of-war, but overall our members see her as an ally who could support our interests," union Vice President Joshua Pechthalt said.

In the 5th District, teacher and neighborhood activist Bennett Kayser, 60, fell short of winning the endorsement, receiving 57% of 144 votes cast.

If he had won, the union would be in another high-stakes, high-cost battle with Villaraigosa. The mayor has endorsed Yolie Flores Aguilar, 44, the executive director of the Los Angeles County Children's Planning Council. Both candidates waited outside as delegates debated. Finally, Kayser, a delegate, came in to cast his own ballot, but it wasn't enough.

District 5 includes Silver Lake and Eagle Rock but stretches across the Eastside and Latino-majority cities, including South Gate, Maywood and Cudahy.

LaMotte, 73, has been a sharp critic of the mayor — once likening his school district takeover ambitions to the Tuskegee experiments, in which white researchers studied the effects of venereal disease on black men rather than curing them. She was part of the school board majority that filed suit against the law giving Villaraigosa substantial authority in the school system. That ongoing suit has delayed and may ultimately overturn the law.

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles helped craft that legislation with the mayor, but the rank and file opposed the bill in a referendum after it had become law. And the leadership itself has other pressing priorities, including winning a favorable contract settlement. In that climate, it was hard to part company with an incumbent who had often sided with the union.

The union leadership fought off a move to endorse LaMotte in December, to bring more pressure to bear on her during contract negotiations. But this week, they also decided that LaMotte should wait no longer.

In a letter to teachers, she promised to include them in decision-making at their schools, and added, "in meetings with your union leadership I have also reiterated my support for your contract demands."

Some delegates were decidedly unenthusiastic, recalling LaMotte's reluctance to challenge the transfer of a popular teacher from Crenshaw High. The transfer was later rescinded by then-Supt. Roy Romer.

LaMotte's opponent is charter school founder Johnathan Williams, 39, who also serves on the state Board of Education.

So far, Villaraigosa has not endorsed anyone in the race. If he opposes LaMotte, he will be bucking most of the black political establishment. Political insiders say he has a clear preference for Williams and may rely on well-funded proxies and Williams' own Rolodex of admirers.

Years ago, Williams headed a UTLA chapter, and he insists he's a friend to teachers. But the union's Pechthalt portrayed Williams' defining characteristic as operating the nonunion Accelerated Charter School in South Los Angeles. The rapidly growing charter school movement, Pechthalt said, threatens to "siphon off resources" from other public schools and establish a nonunion beachhead in the district.

In District 3, the battles lines are clear because the mayor has endorsed openly against Lauritzen, the union's choice. Villaraigosa is supporting prosecutor Tamar Galtazan. The other candidate in the Valley race is teacher Louis Pugliese.

By Linda Jacobson, Ed Week

January 17, 2007 - After serving as second in charge of education policy for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration, Scott Himelstein has been named the governor’s acting secretary of education. Mr. Himelstein replaces former Secretary Alan Bersin. He will act as a policy adviser and be responsible for operations of the office of the secretary.

by Mitchell Landsberg, LA Times
January 20, 2007 - By the time a musical instrument arrives at the Los Angeles Unified School District repair shop, it might be dented, cracked, scratched, bent, chipped, smashed, warped, jammed, gouged, rusted or snapped.

Read the entire Column One piece on the LAUSD musical instrument repair shop.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
THE LAUSD SERVER WAS DOWN AS OF THIS POSTING: check the calendar links below for meetings, community outreach events and ongoing goings on!

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


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: 213-241-6387 213-241-6180 213-241-6388 213-241-6382 213-241-6385 213-241-6386 213-241-6383

...or your city councilperson, mayor, 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.
• Register.
• Vote.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
• In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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