Saturday, August 18, 2007

from the pot - in which nothing melts - into the fire

4LAKids: Sunday, Aug 19, 2007
In This Issue:
FERRIS BUELLER'S OFF DAY: Summer-school students pillory Sacramento’s latest crop of dropout reforms
ASKED & ANSWERED: DAVID L. BREWER III: ‘First, we want to empower parents’
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:
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.
Jack O'Connell, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, strayed from the path of political correctness and smack dab into reality on Wednesday. Not the reality of unscripted TV, but the reality of staring into the cold hard eye of The Truth and not blinking.

"Once again, these annual test scores shine a glaring light on the disparity in achievement between students who are African American or Hispanic and their white or Asian counterparts. We know all children can learn to the same high levels, so we must confront and change those things that are holding back groups of students."

This achievement gap cannot always be explained away because of the poverty that has been so often associated with low performance, he said.

"The results show this explanation not to be universally true. In fact, African American and Hispanic students who are not poor are achieving at lower levels in math than their white counterparts who are poor. These are not just economic achievement gaps, they are racial achievement gaps. We cannot afford to excuse them; they simply must be addressed. We must take notice and take action."

So there you have it, it's not socioeconomics, demographics, immigration status, language skills or poverty, it's race. The other things just complicate the issue. And to fill in one more missing piece of the politically incorrect Truth: it's gender. African American males are at the bottom rung of the ladder.

The bad news is that we really always know this all along – the worse news is that no one really knows how to address it. There are promising solutions – like The Village Nation at Cleveland HS – but they take hard work, dedication, cold cash and time – investments always do. And just like real reality there're no guarantees.

Onward – smf

Miracle in California - THE VILLAGE NATION: Three teachers turn test scores around at Cleveland High School from the Oprah Winfrey Show website


by Jessie Mangaliman | San Jose Mercury News

Saturday, August 18, 2007 - When the first wave of state achievement test results are released every year, educators have a stock answer for the vexing disparity in achievement between African-American and Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts: poverty.

But this year, new data in the Standardized Testing and Reporting program (STAR) shows that even when poverty is not a factor, the performance of black and Latino students still lagged behind.

"These are not just economic achievement gaps. They are racial achievement gaps," said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction. "We cannot afford to excuse them. We must take notice and take action."

O'Connell, who released this year's STAR results during a news conference Wednesday, revealed a picture with some familiar aspects. Overall, students across California showed slight progress, improving their scores in science and reading, while holding steady in math. And, just as in years past, the results once again underscored the achievement gap.

But the new data in the STAR report - the cornerstone of the state's standardized testing program designed to measure the performance of public schools and individual students in math, reading and science - only deepen the questions about why that gap exists.

Statewide results show African-Americans and Latinos who are not poor perform at lower levels in math than white students who are poor. The same data on a county level was not immediately available.

"This year's results offer both encouragement and reason for serious concern," O'Connell said. "But the data also show the persistent achievement gaps in our system that California simply cannot afford to accept - morally, economically or socially."

Speech praised

Every year since the California Standard Tests were first administered in 2003, the issue of the achievement gap has been a hallmark of the report. Santa Clara County schools do better than the rest of the state, but they, too, have to grapple with the achievement gap.

O'Connell's forceful address drew praise from educators. He is convening a statewide summit on the achievement gap in November.

"Leaders have waxed eloquent about proficiency for all kids," Russlynn Ali, the executive director of the Education Trust West, a research advocacy organization based in Oakland. "But we've not seen a state chief take ownership of the problem of the achievement gap. That's what's new here."

Ali and some educators in San Jose said they are hopeful that O'Connell's promise to work "like a heat-seeking missile" to find a solution will send an important public message.

In math, for example, 30 percent of African-American students who are not economically disadvantaged scored at proficient or above; among Latinos in the same group, it was 36 percent. Among low-income white students, it was 38 percent.

"We often conflate race and poverty when we talk about the achievement gap," said Ali, who sits on the governor's committee on education excellence. "What this new data tells us is something else is happening."

Educators have only theories about just what may be happening. Poverty clearly plays a role in student achievement - children from poor families tend not to have the same support network, and their more poorly funded schools have fewer resources than those in wealthier neighborhoods.

Beyond that, some researchers point to cultural differences among races that may cause parents of one ethnicity to focus more on children's academic achievement than those of another ethnicity. Others say access to preschool education or the parent's own educational level - factors that can vary among ethnicities - also may be important.

In Santa Clara County, African-American and Latino students have made small, steady gains on their performance scores over the years, but in a trend that mirrors the state, their scores remain well below Asian and white students, according to this year's STAR report.

"It's a group of students we absolutely have to pay attention to," said Don Iglesias, superintendent of the San Jose Unified School District. "We have to make sure we're giving them what they need."

Dale Russell, director of standards and assessment at the Santa Clara County Board of Education, said the overall performance gains, however modest, indicate that more and more students are studying higher levels of math than in previous years.

Better than state

In Santa Clara County, 54 percent of the students scored as proficient or advanced in English/language arts - less than a percentage point more than last year. Statewide, the level was 43 percent, up from 42 percent last year. In math, 60 percent of county students across all grades scored at proficient or advanced. Again, the county surpassed the state mark - 41 percent, unchanged from last year. In fifth-grade science, 51 percent of Santa Clara County students scored at proficient or advanced, up from 45 percent the previous year. Statewide, that level is 38 percent, up 3 percentage points from last year.

But scientists at the National Center for Research on Evaluation Standards and Student Testing, a federally funded program, said that with incremental improvements each year, California is unlikely to reach performance goals and projections established under the No Child Left Behind Act, a federal school-grading system.

California is not alone. The yearly improvements that many states have made in student performance may not be enough to meet federal goals that take effect in 2013, said Christie Bosgardin, a researcher with the center.

O'Connell and other education officials across the country have been lobbying Congress for "a realistic modification" of federal goals.

Bright spots

There is some good news. When the Academic Yearly Performance report - another school performance indicator - is released in December, San Jose Unified is projecting that three schools in the district will be taken out of federally mandated program improvements because of gains in STAR scores this year.

At the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, parent Elizabeth Alvarez said school districts have effective models to help low-performing students, if only they will choose them.

Alvarez, a mother of four school-age children, is a community leader with PACT, or People Acting in Community Together, a group that helped push the Alum Rock district to open three small schools in recent years.

Those schools, Alvarez and other parents have said, have greatly improved achievement among Latino and immigrant students in the district. Much to the dismay of Alvarez and others in the community, the district recently rejected a proposal for a charter school for fifth-graders who are reading below grade levels.

"We know small schools work," she said. "Why aren't we doing more of them?"

Link for O'Connell's statement and all scores.


by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer LA Daily News

Thursday, August 16, 2007 - Los Angeles Unified students made little academic improvement in test results released Wednesday as district officials acknowledged that significant work lies ahead in getting all students prepared for college.

More than two-thirds of district students in nearly all grade levels are not proficient in English-language arts, according to 2007 Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, results.

And while more students achieved proficiency in math - particularly in the elementary grades - the numbers still lag far behind those typical in the state.

Test results also showed no inroads in efforts to reduce racial achievement gaps.

"Clearly we have to focus on math and English-language arts. And clearly English-learners are languishing," said the Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent, David Brewer III.

"We'll use this data to target middle schools, and high schools will clearly be a focus for me, and we'll continue to refine our efforts in the elementary school areas where we need to."

Districtwide, 31 percent of students achieved proficiency in English-language arts - just one percentage point more than last year.

Statewide, students also showed a 1-percentage-point gain, with 43 percent proficient in English.

In math, 31 percent of LAUSD students achieved proficiency, up 2 percentage points from last year. Statewide, 41 percent of students achieved proficiency, up 1 percentage point from the year before.

The results raised concerns for some district officials, as school officials had begun instituting an "A-G" curriculum - a series of classes designed to prepare students for college.

The curriculum will be available to all students who request it in the 2006-07 school year, and it will be implemented slowly after that. By 2012, it will be required for all students.

"It is a concern. The superintendent wants everyone to be proficient and advanced," said Esther Wong, assistant superintendent of planning, assessment and research at the LAUSD.

"We need to strengthen the professional development for the teachers and the instructional piece."

But Brewer said he expects, in the coming years, to see a "natural increase" in student scores as they begin to take more rigorous courses.

The key is to get more rigorous and high-quality instruction in the classrooms as early as the fifth and sixth grades, Brewer said, as well as greater staff support and professional development.

He pointed to the disparity in achievement on the STAR test Algebra I exam between seventh-graders - a staggering 61 percent of them were proficient - and students in higher grades.

The results dropped precipitously - to 21 percent of eighth-graders found proficient, 9 percent of ninth-graders, 4 percent of 10th-graders and 5 percent of 11th-graders.

"We've got to push this rigor earlier and earlier in the process, and the more we're going to see the secondary scores begin to improve," Brewer said.

Under the STAR program, tests are designed to assess how well students achieve identified state-adopted standards for each grade level and subject.

The results are reported as performance levels: "advanced," "proficient," "basic," "below basic" and "far below basic." The top-two categories are the designated targets for schools to be consistent with federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

Statewide, five-year gains either slightly increased or remained steady, but a broad achievement gap remained.

While all student subgroups have continued to improve since 2003, the gap in achievement between African-American or Latino students and non-Latino whites was relatively unchanged.

The results also showed that Latinos and African-Americans under the poverty level are achieving at lower levels in math than their white counterparts, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said.

O'Connell said this year's test results "offer both encouragement and reason for serious concern," referring to gains in science but generally flat test scores and no improvement in reducing the achievement gap.

"But the data also show the persistent achievement gaps in our system that California simply cannot afford to accept - morally, economically or socially. These are not just economic achievement gaps; they are racial achievement gaps."

And while some education experts predict a plateauing of test scores, O'Connell said he hopes students will continue to increase in proficiency.

"We have to be more strategic and targeted in our work," he said.

Brewer said his response to the test scores - his first as superintendent - will be to impose strong accountability, particularly through learning teams at each campus to tailor strategies to combat each school's weaknesses.

"We're going to start working with each school toward some stretched but achievable goals," Brewer said.

And he said he will target English-learners, middle and high schools, and he will put a greater focus on math.

"If we target the right areas, we're going to start to see - in the next two to three years - dramatic changes," Brewer predicted. "It's going to take at least one year to adjust to the cold shower they will get this year."

FERRIS BUELLER'S OFF DAY: Summer-school students pillory Sacramento’s latest crop of dropout reforms

by Doug Lasken | LA Weekly

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - It’s good politics these days to decry the high school dropout problem. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been vocal on the subject for two years as part of his campaign to run the Los Angeles Unified School District, but his attempts at control have been rebuffed. Although he backed successful candidates for the five-member elected school board, we never did hear what his solutions to the high dropout rate might be.

Now it’s the turn of the state Senate in Sacramento to chime in. In reaction to California’s significant numbers of school dropouts — about 150,000 a year, including 35,000 who abandon school annually in Los Angeles — state Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has introduced new laws that would cajole, reward and scare California’s public schools into actions intended to increase graduation rates.

As a veteran high school teacher in L.A. who has been through many attempted cures of the public schools, I usually approach such ideas cautiously. To help assess Steinberg’s ideas, I decided to go to an often-neglected source: students.

As it happens, I recently taught two classes of ninth-grade English in summer session at an LAUSD high school in the west San Fernando Valley, and my students, primarily black and Latino, with a sprinkling of Iranian and other white students, were exactly the at-risk kids Steinberg’s bills target. Every one of them failed ninth-grade English the first time. A few have enviable excuses (i.e., trips abroad with affluent parents). Those few will pass summer session with no trouble.

But most of these students failed their regular courses because they either did not try to pass, or tried to pass but couldn’t. When their midterm report cards were a week away, I was already looking at failing about a third of them (roughly the dropout rate of Los Angeles Unified, by some estimates).

What better students to assess Senator Steinberg’s bills?

To augment the ninth-grade views, I also visited a colleague’s class down the hall and spoke with 11th- and 12th-graders who were retaking 10th-grade world history, which they all failed. In each classroom, I wrote summaries of the proposed bills on the board, and we discussed each one.

The students’ comments were illuminating.

We began with Senate Bill 219, which would add dropout data to a school’s all-important Academic Performance Index (API), the annual report card for every school in California. The API can be punitive in that the results for each school are made public. But in addition, the API is folded into an annual progress report required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Under this tough federal law, in extreme cases of failure year after year, schools can be “reconstituted” — a drastic process in which some or all faculty and administrators are asked to “reapply” for their jobs. All can be fired or transferred.

About 5 percent of California’s schools have undergone “reconstitution,” including a few in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. If SB 219 became law, not just test scores but also dropout rates would be factored into the API scores used to decide if a school gets “reconstituted.” Some schools’ API scores could tank if dropout rates were included.

My ninth-grade students were almost unanimous that Senate Bill 219 would not lower the dropout rate. “It’s not the teachers’ or principal’s fault if students don’t graduate. If we’re lazy and don’t do the work, it’s our fault,” said Samantha, and her sentiment was repeated dozens of times.

A few students wondered how, in the extreme case of reconstitution, anyone would know that the teachers who replaced the transferred teachers would be any better. And what about the schools that received the transferred teachers? Wouldn’t it harm those schools to absorb teachers who, in theory, are substandard and have failed to improve?

Unlike the ninth-graders, the older kids were not unanimously opposed to SB 219. Five, out of about 60, thought it would be a good thing to hold teachers accountable by adding dropout rates to measure whether a school should be reconstituted. These five blamed uncaring, ignorant and mean-spirited teachers for some dropout cases. Tenth-grader Lawrence opined, “Some teachers want us to drop out — it’s less work for them.” Most of these older students heartily agreed that bad teachers exist. But only a few thought such teachers were a major factor in the dropout rate. This view was summed up by Angelica, who said, “We all know there’s some bad teachers, but kids just use them as an excuse to stop working.”

Next we turned to SB 405, which would give two gifts to schools with high dropout rates. First, such schools would be awarded more college-oriented Advanced Placement and honors classes, in accordance with the theory that students are bored and drop out because they are not challenged.

This idea received more scorn and derision than any other, from both the 9th-graders and the older kids.

Student after student called it a “stupid” idea, because why would you put someone who was “not intelligent enough,” as characterized by Brian, who was “lazy,” per Juan, or who was “already having trouble with regular classes” (Sean) into a “really difficult class where you had to work really hard?” — summed up by Yolanda.

In fact, regular high school classes are quite difficult for many students. As Matthew put it, “If there’s a high dropout rate, why would you give kids harder classes? They don’t drop out because they’re bored; they drop out because they think they can’t do well.”

One 11th-grader, Tony, asked, “Is this an idea any adult would believe for himself? Does any adult want his job to be harder, to keep him from quitting?”

It would be fair to say the kids were incredulous that any adult would think adding more-demanding classes could lower dropout rates. That incredulity increased when I told them that the idea is accepted as gospel by most education officials and politicians — not just in California, but nationally.

The other provision of SB 405 would support “career tech” classes. I put this in terms of classes that could lead to a job. For the first time, my students showed substantial approval for Steinberg’s ideas.

There was near unanimity that classes that trained students for specific jobs could be strong motivators to graduate (I say “near” because one student, Kenneth, speculated that “teaching kids job skills would not help, because once the students learn the job, they can drop out and still get a good job”). One enthusiast, Abraham, shouted, “If they offered auto shop, I’d come to school every day!”

Of course, teaching job skills raises the question of whether the Los Angeles economy can come up with another 35,000 jobs each year for all the students who currently drop out, and whether high school–taught vocational skills are really enough to land a decent job.

Finally, we considered SB 406, which would put limitations on the hours a student can work at a paying job, under the assumption that many kids drop out because their jobs are demanding. Under this law, a student with a grade average lower than C+ whose attendance had dropped to less than 90 percent would be limited to 20 hours of work per week. Students with a C average or lower whose attendance had dropped to below 80 percent could not work at all.

Some students were perplexed by this bill. While they agreed that afterschool jobs can make it very difficult to study, they pointed out that kids often need money to support themselves, and sometimes their families, so this law might actually make them drop out.

But other students pointed out that by requiring a C+ average, high schools would in fact be teaching job skills, since the ­discipline and focus needed to pass a class is also prized in the workplace. One student, Bianca, argued that “a C+ average requirement would save businesses the trouble of getting rid of irresponsible students.” Another student, Frank, asked, “If athletes need a C average to be on a team, why shouldn’t someone with a job?”

My purpose here is not to praise or scorn Senator Steinberg’s bills using student opinion, but rather to point out that there is such a thing as student opinion. And since it’s these very summer-school students who are making the decisions about completing high school or dropping out, we can assume they know something about their own ­motivations.

►Doug Lasken teaches high school English and debate @ Taft HS and is a testing consultant to the State Board of Education. CLICK HERE for his bio.

ASKED & ANSWERED: DAVID L. BREWER III: ‘First, we want to empower parents’

'THE BOTTOM LINE [IS] WE HAVE TO GET THE POLITICS OUT OF EDUCATION,"SUPERINTENDENT DAVID L. BREWER III SAYS. 4LAKids doesn't want to nitpick semantics with the superintendent in his dialog with parents – but public education is the most politically charged arena out there! When we parents did battle with the mayor over AB1381 we wore yellow T-shirts that said "PARENTS NOT POLITICS" – what they really should've said was PARENTS AT THE TABLE, NOT POLITICS IN THE BACK ROOM – because the policy of public education is critical to the future just as surely as our children are the future. Parents are the authentic voice for children in the discussion.

By MARISELA SANTANA, Staff Writer Los Angeles Wave

16.AUG.07 - Nearly one year after being named superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, David L. Brewer III is certain of at least one thing: the more politics are set aside, the better LAUSD can perform in the business of education. In a wide-ranging interview that took place as he traveled to San Diego last week for a conference, the retired U.S. Navy vice admiral spoke candidly about matters including his goals for the massive 900-school district, his relationship with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and how he is addressing the issue of African-American student achievement.


It goes with my guiding principles. … First, we want to empower parents. We’re using an airline analogy: If you are on an airplane, the flight attendant says if we lose oxygen pressure, and the oxygen masks come down, and you’re sitting next to your child, who do you put the oxygen mask on first? You put it on yourself and then you put it on your child. Empower yourself, empower your child. And so what we’re saying is that if parents don’t have an education, then they should get one. And then the second component is that we want you to know how to engage the schools in terms of educating your children. The research shows that at the elementary school level parents tend to be fairly engaged. But as they enter higher grades, parents tend to stop being as engaged. Parent advocacy then needs to turn into parents asking themselves, “What do I need to do in my home to make sure that my child is learning calculus? I don’t have to know calculus to make sure that my child learns calculus, but I do have to understand what I need to be doing to create a homework environment at home, making sure that that television is off, and making sure that the child is getting the research that he or she needs to learn that particular complex subject.”


When we look at the research and the data, unfortunately, African-American students are still the lowest performing in our school system. While they only comprise [12] percent, now with over 75 percent being Latino, and of the lowest performers, African-American males are still the lowest performing. As a result we have to focus on that, but obviously you can’t just focus on one race. So when we aggregated all of the data, and we looked at it, it’s basically the lowest performance of boys, both African-American and Latino boys. And so what that is forcing us to do, is to create new paradigms within the context of guiding principle No. 3, have to have innovative approaches to go after this problem. Two of our principals have done this already. I’ve advocated for boys academies. We have to create boys academies in order to go after this problem. Now, I can’t create enough all-boys academies across the system to cover this problem, so what we’re looking at now, is boys academies within the middle schools and high schools. Two schools have already done it. Jordan High School and King-Drew Magnet High School. … I have this philosophy: Think big, start small, scale fast. Thought big: boys academies. We started small, a few pilots. Once we validate and refine, then we’re going to scale fast, and we’re going to see if this paradigm works, then you’re going to see these types of models at other schools. … But keep in mind, that it still boils down to high-quality instruction.


I doubt if that’s accurate. No one has really been able to document that properly. We think it’s about 27 percent. If anything, this is a classic example: I was at an elementary school recently where there were 20 students in a class in the first semester. After Christmas, there were 17 students in the class. So everyone scrambled to find out what happened to these three kids. The school went into the neighborhoods to find out what happened and they found out that the three families all went back to their home countries. You don’t know if a student has moved, or a family has left, or if a family just moved to a neighboring school district. So you don’t know. So it is extremely difficult sometimes to figure out who is a dropout or who has just transitioned out of the area.


The mayor and I had been collaborating long before. People have to understand that. The mayor and I collaborated very quickly to get the crosswalk from two blocks away from Santee High to right in front of Santee because of a safety issue. And so we collaborated very quickly in response to a request from students at Santee. We were collaborating already. … By creating the Innovative Division, take for instance Loyola Marymount is working with Westchester, to create a family of school concept we’re going to partner with them on. UCLA is going to do something very similar. So within that concept, the mayor will become a part of that overall collaboration and partnership initiative that we have. In a week or two, we’re going to announce a statement of intent with the mayor to form a partnership. … We’re leaning forward on the collaboration side and the mayor will certainly be part of the overall partnership concept.


I have to put it out there that I love my job. I have learned that in L.A., politics is a contact sport. … If we set aside politics, then I think you can find that I’ll be around for quite a while. But the bottom line, we have to get politics out of education. In other words, we need to focus on children, not adults. We need children issues, not adult issues. … So we just have to get the politics out of that. Once we get the politics out of it and we can get down to the business of educating our children, then I think we’ll get by.


No, I never envisioned myself as being the superintendent. Initially, as I’ve said previously, over time I would say back in the ’90s, it became quite evident that school districts were looking toward military officers to find superintendents of schools. I had one personal friend, as well as one who became a superintendent, that was John H. Stanford up in Seattle. That was back in the ’90s when I became an admiral, and then there was [Lt. Gen.] Julius W. Becton Jr. who became superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C. Of course, that was a very highly publicized situation. … But clearly, having been focused on education most of my life, it was not necessarily beyond the realm of possibility that I could have become a superintendent. That has always been an option, but not something I had seriously considered.


First my parents. David and Mildred Brewer had the biggest impact on me, education wise, because both of them were educators. Education was a daily routine in my household. When you have parents like that, it has to be. My father was very good in math and science, even though he was in the culinary arts, he had to take chemistry and all of that and so that kind of engendered my interest in math and science. And my mother was an elementary school teacher, she kept me on task. She had a strong interest in music and so I took music through the 12th grade, as well as did very well in math and science in terms of my academic performance. That leaves me to the best teacher I had, that was Mrs. Lessie Brayboy Weaver, who was my music teacher. She not only taught us music, she taught us about life, she taught us about current events. I remember she sat in front of the class one day and finished a New York Times crossword puzzle in less than an hour. She actually sat there and did it. It was her way of telling us that we had to exercise our minds. It was amazing. That is a defining moment from my school years. That’s not to say I didn’t have other great teachers, there were others. There was Mrs. Audrey Williams and there was Mrs. Butts, I don’t remember her first name.


No, if I visited a school a week, it would take me almost three years to see all of them. Just to put that in perspective, you’re talking about, essentially 920 schools. I will get to as many as I possibly can. But that’s not even the point. It’s my job to empower our local district superintendents. That’s their job, and I will get to as many of our schools as I can. But it’s them, who we’ve pulled more resources for and given them more responsibilities to them. … And even then, the local supes will be challenged. … But rest assured I will be very much involved with student achievement and in the schools, depends on how long I’m here, I should get to all of them over time.


Yes, but we will know for sure when we get the results of the California High School Exit Exam later this year. My biggest concern, right now, is that we have 68,000 ninth graders and I graduated about 28,000 seniors. A lot of that is driven by economic migration out of L.A. and some of it is driven by dropouts. But I believe we’re going to have to come up with x-goal. We’re going to start with an x-number of ninth graders, then we want to see a y-number of graduates. And so we know that 28,000 is low. I don’t know if the right number should be 40,000 or 45,000. I’m not sure. We still have to figure that out. But I can tell you that we do not graduate more seniors than we have ninth graders. We usually graduate less. We’re going to change that.


The number one priority is to make sure that we have quality instruction taking place in the classrooms. In the final analysis, along with everything else that we do, if we don’t have high-quality instruction in these classrooms, and we are not facilitating learning in these classrooms, nothing else happens. The number one priority is always going to be high quality instruction. Teaching and learning. They are what we call eternal principles. They are principles that span the generations and when it comes to education, there’s two principles that are eternal. That is teaching and learning. Socrates, centuries ago said it, that as long as there is a teacher with something to teach, and a child with the will to learn, education will occur. That is the bottom line. That relationship between the teacher and the student, that’s what’s going to drive education. The parent’s job is to motivate that child to learn. You have to have a child that is motivated to learn and a teacher who wants to teach. When you have that combination, you have learning. Parents, and community, have to create a learning environment in the home for the children. I say community, too, because the community plays a major role as well. Children are tangible. You can stand up all you want and talk about being a successful doctor, or person, but a child is not going to believe you until he or she sees it. I just had four students shadow me for a day. I wanted them to see what … I’m not trying to brag here, but to see what a successful person does on a daily basis. They had to get up with me at 6 a.m. and go work out with me. I explained to them why I do this everyday. I said, if you are not physically fit, then you are not going to be mentally fit. You’re not going to be able to deal with the stress of a job. … I wanted to get kids to ask themselves “can this be my reality, I don’t see this in my environment, but can this be my reality?” My point is I want to encourage the community to engage our children at that level, let them shadow you. But more importantly, let them see, not only what you do at your job, but who you are and what you did to be who you are.

Students told me, and the others who were there, that they really didn’t think that adults cared about them until that day. What they saw that day, showed them that [adults] really cared about them. “We are so inspired by what we saw,” they said. It wasn’t a show or anything like that. It was just interaction. We showed them how hard we worked for them. We went with Supervisor Yvonne Burke to a children planning council meeting and we were talking about disadvantaged youth and foster care kids. [School Board member] Yolie Flores Aguilar was there, too. And so I went to that meeting, to talk to them about some of things we’re doing for those kids. The kids shadowing me, got to see what we as adults were thinking about, and how much passion we had for this and how we were struggling with the tougher issues and how we were forthright and determined to find solutions. So they saw that. In fact, one of them got up at the end and told us, that she didn’t know how much “you all cared about us” until she sat through that meeting.


Well, it goes back to a theory in physics. If you create a vacuum, something is going to fill it. And so, the bottom line is that the vacuum is some of our lowest performing secondary schools and so if you have a significant number of low performing secondary schools, in essence, someone is going to come around and fill it. It goes back to 2001, when it was said that if the district wasn’t going to change, then the district would be surrounded with charter schools. And so, at that time, we had a lot of low performing schools. We have much fewer low performing schools now because we’ve had this tremendous increase in performance at the elementary school level. Our elementary schools are doing extremely well. They’re not quite up to state average, but their progress has been significant. But we’re still having problems at the secondary level, the middle schools and the high schools and that’s where you see the explosion of charter schools. My job is to see that the charter schools are here. What we need to do is partner with them. But let me clarify, that the best schools in the school district are not charter schools. The best schools in the district are still some of our traditional schools. … The problems is that we have 65 secondary schools which are not doing well. So we are going to focus on those 65 schools and create what we call, an Innovation Division, to try new paradigms and models of school governance structure as well as instructional practices inside of those schools. More importantly, we’re going to take all 65 of those schools and put them into a Transformation Zone and basically restructure them. Part of that is going to require us to partner with some charter. We’re already talking to [Green Dot founder] Steve Barr. You’ve heard about the Locke controversy. The Locke controversy was not so much of a controversy, because I’m the one who basically introduced the idea to Steve. Why not come in and partner with us, instead of sitting outside, why not come inside so we can basically benchmark and replicate what you do across the system. That is the problem in education. We have some of the best students in the nation here in L.A. Unified. It’s been well documented. … We’ve won National Academic Decathlon 10 times out of the last 19 years. You don’t do that unless you have some of the best students in the nation. So how do you benchmark this across the system. This is the challenge, this is why we’ve created the Innovation Division, so we can start looking at some of these paradigms and models. … If it works there, why can’t it work here. Absolutely.


It’s been something that wasn’t anticipated. But the biggest challenge has been changing the culture to a culture of performance and results. More importantly, changing the culture to teach the culture how to change. In my previous [career] in the Navy, we found ourselves in a crisis, in terms of retaining sailors. That’s when we realized that we hadn’t changed our culture. … Once we learned how to change, then you go on to do those things that will help you to change to a much higher performing organization.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
►UNION'S 'BIG IDEA' FOR LAUSD: Proposed charter-like model would give schools more control - "Los Angeles Unified's teachers union stepped into district-reform efforts this week, proposing a charter-like model that would give campuses greater control over budgets, hiring and curriculum…", says the Daily News in this Page 1 'above the masthead' story! Except the new UTLA plan is an old plan that's been on the table in some form or another since spring. But (calm down Duffy!) in UTLA's defense: Maybe it's time the plan – which puts control for a school's budget and accountability for the school's performance at the school site – gets some consideration?

►49 DAYS WITHOUT A BUDGET: 4LAKids lays out the cost to LAUSD and kids in the classroom of the budget impasses in Sacramento.

►LONG-TERM SUBSTITUTES TO CUT COSTS FOR LAUSD: But the Teacher's Union Opposes the Proposal, Which Would Shuffle Instructors After Winter Break. The Daily Breeze's take on "Renorming" - a complicated issue that's even more convoluted than first it seems – filtered and spun through UTLA.

►Williams: WE'RE STILL FAILING OUR STUDENTS - Camille Esch's Op-Ed in the LA Times isn't as upbeat as the "'upbeat progress report' on the results of the settlement of Williams vs. California, a class-action suit brought on behalf of the state's most-neglected students" …even though the report comes from the plaintiffs themselves! "Sometimes," Rick Nelson said; "if you can't please everyone, you've got to please yourself."

►THINK TWICE ON RANKINGS + THE EDUCATION CONSERVANCY - The Education News column in the Dallas Morning News (what a concept!) and some College Admission Folks take on the annual silliness of the US News and World Report College Ranking – which are out ….but won't be reported here!

►WHY THE RUSH TO MANHATTANIZE L.A.?: There seems to be little public debate about the dramatic remaking of Los Angeles into a left-coast New York. At first blush Joel Kotkin's OpEd in the LA Times about city planning seems a bit off topic for a blog about public education – until one confronts and connects the dots.

►NOTHING WILL HAPPEN WITH NCLB – Arianna's hard to figure and No Child Left Behind is nobody's darling. Here the Huffington Post takes NCLB on ...and the right, the left and the conventional thinking!

Jump to the articles above on 4LAKidsNews!

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►Tuesday Aug 21, 2007
SOUTH LA AREA NEW HIGH SCHOOL #3: Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) Hearing
6:00 p.m.
Budlong Elementary School
5940 S. Budlong Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

►Thursday Aug 23, 2007
Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
West Adams Preparatory High School
1500 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007

►Thursday Aug 23, 2007
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #5: Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) Hearing
6:30 p.m.
Miles Avenue Elementary School
6720 Miles Ave.
Huntington Park, CA 90255

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


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

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• 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 immediate past 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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