Sunday, September 30, 2007

Compare and contrast.

4LAKids: Sunday, Sept 30, 2007
In This Issue:
HOW TO GRADE THE TEST ON NAEP & NCLB: MODEST RISE, MIXED RESULTS ...OR SWEEPING GAINS? Are we grading the kids, the teachers, the schools or NCLB?
Pay 2 Play: DISTRICT FACES $3.8 MILLION IN ANNUAL COSTS: Nonprofit youth groups across the city would have to pay to use LAUSD facilities and athleti
LAUSD BACKS EDUCATION REFORM LAW: Representatives lobby in DC for the reauthorization of NCLB but seek provisions to expand English-language learning
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.
Slightly below the headline and to the right in Thursday's LA Times "MAYOR'S BID TO CONTROL SOME SCHOOLS GETS $50-MILLION GIFT" was another article - about a $200 million gift to Claremont McKenna College. [see LINKS below] No mention was made in either article - or the sidebar about similar $200 million-plus gifts to higher education - of the similarity and/or the lack thereof of the philanthropy. That was the optional homework for the reader: to decode and deconstruct.

There are questions to answer and issues to address in both gifts. Philanthropists do not give without attaching strings - in both cases there are conditions that seen ominous to some.

The Claremont McKenna gift comes from a successful alumnus with an agenda - $200 million to a program serving 1,140 students - the size of a moderate LAUSD elementary school. The LAUSD gift actually goes to The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a partnership formed by the mayor to support two high schools to-be-named-later and their feeder schools - serving perhaps 30,000 students.

The CMcK donation with its attached strings goes directly to the college. The LAUSD gift goes to the Partnership, then to LAUSD and from there to the schools - with controls and strings attached at every step of the way.

The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools is undefined as of this writing other than it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. The Partnership is easily confused with The Mayor's Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability - a political action committee first intent on promoting mayoral control of LAUSD and lately funding school board candidates to promote the mayor's vision.

• A Google search of The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools produces no substantitive results except about this news story.
• The Mayor's Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability website has not been updated since February 15th. On April 14th the mayor's initiative was Ruled unconstitutional by the Appeals Court
• The draft memorandum of understanding between The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and LAUSD includes by reference "The Schoolhouse" [see LINKS below} the plan generated by The Mayor's Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability.

44LAKids is embarrassed by its own cynicism.

We welcome and encourage any and all donations, monetary and in-the-classroom/on-the-playground 'sweat-equity' - to any and all educational programs; whether a gift, an endowment, a contribution to - or an hour at the school. A new libaray or a book for the libraray, a purchase at a bake sale - or on one of those affinity credit cards.Target has given $200 million to public education over the past ten years, each contribution direct to a neighborhood school. And whether looking at a gift horse in the mouth or bewaring gifts bearing Greeks 4LAKids fully realizes that fifty million dollars can and will make a difference at LAUSD.

But we also must remember the Watergate-era admonition: "Follow the Money".

This generous gift comes from a land developer/shopping mall operator; the political and fiscal clout exercised by developers in Los Angeles is historic and palpable.

(See the movie "Chinatown" or "Friends In High-Rise Places: Developers Make Big Plans For Westside, Write Big Checks For Antonio"- see LINKS below])

While it is true that these particular donors have no projects currently underway with or in the City of Los Angeles or LAUSD they do have three projects - Continental Park, Skypark and Plaza El Segundo - adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport that stand to benefit from the proposed $11-24 billion LAX expansion. [see LINKS below] They contributed heavily in the past to the mayor's campaign to elect the current school board majority. They have partners in other ventures.

Much argument has been made of late about keeping the politics out of public education; politics has always been here and always will be. But now we are staring straight in the eye at Political Money in Public Education.

Do we blink? Jess Unruh - the consummate California politician - said "Money is the mother's milk of politics." Mother's milk - as we all know - is a good thing. In moderation.

Onward/Hasta adelante! -smf

LINKS: Claremont McKenna Receives $200-Million Gift/ The Schoolhouse/Developers Make Big Plans For Westside, Write Big Checks for Antonio/CDC

CBS2 News + The Associated Press

Sep 26, 2007 (CBS) LOS ANGELES-- A $50 million donation -- the largest ever made by individuals to Los Angeles schools -- was announced Wednesday as part of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's campaign to raise money for his plan to control two clusters of schools.

Richard and Melanie Lundquist, who own Continental Development Corp., will donate the money over 10 years to the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit organization that will fund the mayor's planned oversight of two low-performing high schools and the middle and elementary campuses that feed into them.

The donation may also be spent on other schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District and the district's Innovation Division for Educational Achievement, according to the mayor's office.

"It's time to raise expectations. It's time to meet the goals we set. It's time to match the commitment of New York and Chicago and make the investment in our children," said Villaraigosa, who announced the donation at Gratts Elementary School.

The Lundquists' donation will be the cornerstone of the mayor's campaign to raise the money he needs to implement the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

"This donation is directly connected to the education reform effort Mayor Villaraigosa has been leading for the last two years," Melanie Lundquist said. "We would not be investing this $50 million if Mayor Villaraigosa had not been tackling school reform head-on."

Melanie Lundquist will work with the partnership's staff three days a week on fund-raising goals, and Richard Lundquist will serve as a senior adviser.

"It's time my generation answers this call before we become the first to give our children an education that is less than what was given to us," Melanie Lundquist said. "We simply cannot abandon our children."

The two Los Angeles high schools that will participate in the partnership are expected to be selected next month from among the 20 lowest-performing schools in the city.

The $50 million will be spent on numerous programs including bonuses for teachers in hard-to-hire schools; a district-wide Teacher Empowerment Program that allows teachers to apply for grants for their classrooms; a campaign to hire mid-career professionals as teachers; expanding college preparation programs and LA's BEST; leadership training for principals; school uniforms; and a plan to expand the Teach For America program within the LAUSD.

Education has been a major issue for the mayor since he took office two years ago. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation last year that would have shifted some decision-making authority from the seven-member school board to the mayor. The law, however, was unanimously rejected this spring by a state appellate court panel, which questioned its impact on voters' rights.

Three days after the mayor's two chosen candidates won seats on the LAUSD Board of Education, giving his allies a 4-3 majority on the panel, Villaraigosa said he would not appeal the ruling.


MAYOR'S BID TO CONTROL SOME SCHOOLS GETS $50-MILLION GIFT: A South Bay real estate developer and his wife to give $50 million over a 10-year period.
by Duke Helfand and Howard Blume | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

September 27, 2007 -- A South Bay real estate developer and his wife announced Wednesday that they would donate $50 million to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's campaign to run a group of public schools in what is believed to be the largest private gift to the school system.

Richard and Melanie Lundquist plan to give $5 million a year over 10 years to the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit organization established by Villaraigosa to oversee two high schools and the middle and elementary schools that feed into them starting as soon as July 2008.

The money, and future donations, could prove a powerful incentive for schools to join the mayor's plans -- each school community must vote to opt in. His office has launched a sometimes rocky campaign to build support among teachers and parents, some of whom are leery because of antagonism spawned by his unsuccessful effort to gain direct control over the Los Angeles Unified School District through the Legislature.

The announcement, in the library of Gratts Elementary School near downtown, also provided Villaraigosa with a compelling kickoff to what he hopes will be a sweeping fundraising campaign, one in which Melanie Lundquist said she would play a leading role.

The Lundquists, who made their fortune in commercial real estate, said they have no business interests before the city or school district, and were motivated only by a desire to improve a system they each attended 40 years ago. He graduated from Narbonne High School in Harbor City; she attended Grant High in Van Nuys.

"This gift is given solely from the heart because we love children," Richard Lundquist said during a ceremony staged with 19 third-graders and a giant ceremonial check that he and his wife signed.

But the funds come with a condition: The schools must show progress on several fronts, including test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, safety, parent satisfaction and other measures still to be determined

"This money is going to be spent with great thought and conscience," Melanie Lundquist said. "It will flow as long as the performance is there."

The donated funds are expected mainly to benefit schools that enlist in the mayor's "partnership" plan. The schools have yet to be selected.

Villaraigosa said that schools in the partnership can likely expect expanded training for teachers and administrators, a renewed emphasis on pre-kindergarten services and additional after-school programs. Materials provided by his office cited other likely incentives, including bonuses for teachers who work in "hard-to-hire schools," increased instructional time and more college preparation programs.

The Lundquist gift alone won't go that far if spread among some 30,000 students who could be part of the Villaraigosa schools. A larger pool of money already is arriving at about 80 of the district's lowest-performing schools. These funds, as much as $1,000 per student for seven years, are part of a lawsuit settlement between the California Teachers Assn. and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A yet-to-be-named governing board, headed by Deputy Mayor Ramon C. Cortines, the mayor's top education advisor, will control the Lundquist money as well as oversee the partnership schools. Cortines and another Villaraigosa advisor said the board would likely include a teacher, parent, contributor and school district representative.

"I intend to consult with all," said Cortines, speaking about who would sit on the governing board and how it would work. "We need to model what we say: a partnership."

The donation is the Lundquists' latest for Villaraigosa's educational initiatives. Their El Segundo company, Continental Development Corp., gave $100,000 earlier this year to the mayor's successful campaign to elect three new school board members. Villaraigosa supported a slate of winning candidates that gave him a majority of allies on the seven-member Board of Education. In turn, they agreed to let him lead reform at the still-to-be selected schools.

Villaraigosa was joined at Wednesday's news conference by school board President Monica Garcia, a staunch loyalist, and L.A. schools Supt. David L. Brewer. The mayor presented the Lundquist gift as the largest private donation ever to the school district.

"I want to fire you up," Villaraigosa said at the event. "I want you to get excited. . . . I'm committed to raising a lot more money than this."

The mayor's reform initiative received a mixed response this week among parents elsewhere in the city.

A 10-member team from his office sought to explain his plan Tuesday to about 50 people at the All People's Christian Center south of downtown. One person in the audience, a teacher from nearby Santee High School, dismissed past reform efforts and questioned Villaraigosa's motives.

"For many years, we've been lied to," said social studies teacher Ron Gochez. "There are not even trash cans in this community. . . . This is all political," he added, referring to speculation that Villaraigosa may run for
governor in 2010.

Marshall Tuck, a senior education aide to Villaraigosa, did his best to make the mayor's case, insisting that the challenge of education reform was, in fact, filled with political pitfalls.

"I disagree with what you say about the mayor," Tuck said. "We'll be very clear on what we can do and on what we can't do."

HOW TO GRADE THE TEST ON NAEP & NCLB: MODEST RISE, MIXED RESULTS ...OR SWEEPING GAINS? Are we grading the kids, the teachers, the schools or NCLB?
By Sean Cavanagh and Kathleen Kennedy Manzo | EdWeek

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 -- Test scores among 4th and 8th graders across the United States rose in both reading and mathematics on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, gains that occurred amid intensifying debate on Capitol Hill about the effectiveness of ongoing federal efforts to raise achievement in those subjects.

Fourth grade math scores on NAEP, called “the nation’s report card,” rose from 238 to 240 from 2005 to 2007, while 8th grade performance climbed from 279 to 281, both on a 500-point scale.

Those gains continued an overall upward trend in NAEP math scores in both grades that dates to the early 1990s, while reading scores have been more stagnant over that time. While the gains in math were smaller than in some previous testing cycles, they were still statistically significant, as were the increases in reading.

In reading, the subject that has seen the greatest investment of federal and state education spending over the past several years, 4th graders’ scores have risen from 219 to 221, also on a 500-point scale, since 2005. Eighth graders’ average mark increased from 262 to 263, which was a statistically significant gain, though that test score dipped slightly from the NAEP reading test given five years ago.

The latest results emerge as Congress considers various ideas for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires schools to test students annually in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

Bush administration officials have previously sought to draw a connection between NAEP gains in reading and math and NCLB requirements that schools make yearly progress in those subjects. But federal lawmakers are hearing from critics of the law who say that it has reduced teaching in other areas, and from those who want schools to be allowed to be judged by other measures than simply reading and math test scores.

Because states design their own reading and math tests, and set their own thresholds for whether students are deemed “proficient” in those subjects under the law, the NAEP results are heavily scrutinized by elected officials, researchers, and others who see the national assessment, which is given to a sampling of students, as a more uniform measuring stick of achievement. Students’ scores on NAEP are grouped into three categories: “basic,” “proficient,” and “advanced,” though a percentage of students with the lowest test scores are consdered to be “below basic.”

A total of about 700,000 students across the country participated in the reading and math NAEP exams, which were given from January through March. The new test results show not only nationwide trends in reading and math, but also state-by-state scores in both subjects.

In math, a number of states saw significant test-score gains in both the 4th and 8th grades, including Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. Overall, 22 states and the District of Columbia saw higher 4th grade scores in math than they did in 2005. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia saw increases at the 8th grade level.

Math and science education advocates have worried in recent years about whether high-achieving students are being sufficiently challenged in those subjects. NAEP gains in science, for instance, have been greatest among relatively low-achieving students. (EdWeek: "NAEP Scores Show Few Budding Scientists," June 7, 2006.)

But the recent NAEP showed students at all three achievement levels in 4th grade and 8th grade math—from basic to advanced—making statistically significant gains.

In reading, on the other hand, students scoring at the lower percentiles showed the greatest improvement in general.

At the 4th grade level, students in the bottom 10th percentile improved their average score to 174, a 3-point improvement over the 2005 results, while students in the top percentile rose only a point, from 263 to 264.

Minority Students’ Scores Up

Students on the math NAEP were tested in a variety of different content areas, including algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis. A student at the 8th grade level, for instance, would reach the proficient level if he or she could convert a temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius, use a formula to solve a problem, or choose the right equation related to sales and profit.

In reading, students were asked to perform a variety of reading-comprehension tasks designed to gauge their literary experience, ability to gain information from text, and skill in performing reading tasks. Fourth graders, for example, were tested on their skill in recognizing facts, understanding vocabulary, and providing an opinion based on text passages on the test.

Among 4th graders, one-fourth were deemed proficient in reading, while another 8 percent reached the advanced level on the assessment, which is considered a rigorous test of reading comprehension. One-third performed at the basic level, leaving a full third of students in the below-basic category.

White 4th graders gained 2 points over the 2005 reading test, scoring an average 231 points, while the scores of their black peers increased 3 points, to an average 203, narrowing the gap between the two groups by 1 point. The performance of Native American students was equal to that of their African-American peers, but unchanged since 2005. Hispanic students scored 205 points on average, a 2-point increase over the most recent test, and Asian students improved by 2 points, to 232.

Eighth graders scored an average 263 points in reading, a 1-point increase over 2005, which is considered statistically significant, but the same as in 1998. Students in the bottom 10th and 25th percentiles were the most improved, increasing their score by 1 or 2 points since 2005.

The proportion of 8th graders scoring at the proficient level or better was 34 percent, the same as in 2005.

White students’ scores have improved by 1 point since 2005, to 272 points, the same level they had in 2002 and 2003. Black students saw a 2-point improvement, to 245, over the past two years. Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students maintained statistically the same marks as in 2005, scoring 247, 271, and 247, respectively.

In math, the score gap between both blacks and Hispanics and their white classmates remained roughly the same, though all three groups in the 4th grade and 8th grades improved their scores in that subject from 2005 to 2007.

Just three states—Florida, Hawaii, and Maryland—and the District of Columbia saw gains at both the 4th and 8th grade levels in reading. Since 2005, the scores for 4th graders have improved in 18 states. The scores of 8th graders have increased in six states.

Massachusetts and New Jersey scored highest among the states at the 4th grade level, with an average 236 and 231 points, respectively. Among the older students, Massachusetts, Montana, Vermont, and the Department of Defense Schools scored highest, at 271 points or better, and saw nearly four in 10 of their 8th graders reach at least the proficient level.

by Sam Dillon | New York Times

September 25, 2007 | America’s public school students are doing significantly better in math since the federal No Child Left Behind law took effect in 2002, but reading achievement has not shown similar gains, and has even declined among eighth graders, according to results of nationwide reading and math tests released today.

The results also showed that the nation has made only incremental progress at best in narrowing the historic gaps in achievement between white and minority students, a fundamental goal of the federal law.

The tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and administered by the Department of Education, will be carefully scrutinized by lawmakers and educators debating whether to reauthorize the law this year, and if so, what changes to make.

They offer ammunition to both sides of the issue: the business leaders and other groups who support the law’s renewal, and the teachers’ unions and groups who say the law’s strict emphasis on standardized testing hurts schools.

The federal law requires states to administer reading and math tests every year in grades three through eight, with the goal of bringing every student to “proficiency” in math and reading by 2014. But the law lets each state write its own tests and define proficiency as it sees fit. In all but a few states, the standards for proficiency have been set lower than the national assessment tests do.

The national tests were given to 700,000 fourth- and eighth-grade students in all 50 states earlier this year.

“Overall, we’re doing well, but it’s clear that results are better in math than in reading,” Darvin Winick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, the group set up by Congress to oversee the tests, said in an interview. “Probably the educational establishment needs to look at middle school reading to see why we’re not making progress there.”

The average math score for the nation’s fourth-grade students is at its highest level in 15 years, and the percentage of fourth-graders in public schools scoring at or above proficiency rose to 39 percent this year, up eight points since the federal law took effect. The latest results show that eighth-grade students’ math performance has also improved, though not as quickly as that of younger students.

The reading results, though, were sobering. On average, reading scores for fourth-grade students have increased modestly since the law took effect, but in about a dozen states the percentage of students who read at the proficiency level has stayed the same or fallen. Eighth-grade reading scores have declined slightly, on average, since the law took effect, and in 18 states, including Connecticut, the percentage of students performing at the proficient level in reading has fallen. The biggest declines came in West Virginia, Rhode Island and New Mexico.

“Substantial improvement in reading achievement is still eluding us as a nation,” Amanda P. Avallone, an eighth-grade English teacher from Colorado who sits on the assessment’s governing board, said this morning at the Washington news conference where the results were announced. The conference was carried live on the Internet.

The new test results showed minimal progress in narrowing achievement gaps between white and minority students. On this year’s reading test, for instance, which uses a 500-point scoring scale, black fourth-grade students scored 27 points lower on average than white fourth-graders; the gap in 2003 was 31 points.

Federal officials said each point on the test is roughly equivalent to one-tenth of a school year’s worth of learning.

In eighth-grade math, the gaps between the latest average scores of white and black students and between white and Hispanic students were as intractably wide as in 1990.

The achievement differences from one state to another were striking. Massachusetts, for instance, has made spectacular progress in math and good progress in reading at both the fourth-grade and eighth-grade levels since the law was passed. And in New Jersey the percentage of students showing proficiency in math has risen significantly among both fourth- and eighth-graders.

But in other states, achievement has stagnated. The percentage of New York’s eighth-graders who were found to be proficient in math declined to 30 percent this year from 32 percent in 2003, for instance.

Because the federal law allows the states to set their own proficiency levels, there are wide variations among states, with some defining proficiency minimally as the achievement level required for a student to move on to the next grade, while others define it in relation to the high levels of achievement in the world’s best educational systems.

That has had the perverse effect of giving the states an incentive to set the bar low, because schools in states with high standards are less likely to meet them and thus are more likely to face sanctions, even if their students are doing much better than students in states with low standards.

A state’s average scores on the national assessment do not affect its standing under the federal law. But the national test is virtually the only common yardstick by which educators and lawmakers can measure achievement nationwide, and compare proficiency levels across state lines.


• NAEP/NCLB: US STUDENTS SCORE SWEEPING GAINS ON TESTS: Elementary and middle-school students are making significant improvements in math skills, while their gains in reading are more modest, according to national test results.

by Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

September 26, 2007 -- Washington -- American students – black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor, male, and female – are improving in math and reading, especially those at the elementary level, where most of education reform has focused.

Those are the modest but positive results from Tuesday's release of the most influential test in US education, the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Fourth-graders are reading at higher levels than in all previous assessments, and most racial/ethnic groups are showing improvement. The achievement gap between black and white students is still large, at 27 points, but has never been lower.

Gains are even more striking in mathematics, where the average score for fourth-graders has increased 27 points over the past 17 years, with improvement across all performance levels. (A 10-point gain is roughly equivalent to gaining a grade level.)

The timing of the biennial release of fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading scores – as Congress takes up renewal of a controversial education law – could not be more politically charged.

"Student achievement is on the rise," said Secretary Margaret Spellings, after the release of the 2007 NAEP scores. "No Child Left Behind is working. It's doable, reasonable, and necessary. Any efforts to weaken accountability would fly in the face of rising achievement."

Officials releasing the report were more guarded in saying how much of the national gains could be attributed to the new federal law.

"We know what happens but not why," says Darvin Winick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the test. "It's clear that the focus on reform in this country, particularly at the elementary level, has had a very positive effect."

That includes what the states are doing, as well as the federal government, and all those involved in a 25-year movement to improve schools through greater accountability.

But what has changed is the degree of transparency of data on student achievement – a key factor in driving education reform, he adds.

"The data transparency that we have in this country now on school performance is dramatically different than it was before these reforms began. It is not very common to see disaggregated, group-by-group data on the front pages of almost every newspaper in the country," he adds.

At a time when public opinion is shifting against the 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, lawmakers favoring an ongoing strong federal role in local education face tough obstacles. The law uses federal funding to mandate annual testing. Schools that cannot demonstrate "adequate yearly progress" face penalties.

Many Democrats worry that testing has gone too far and is putting too much pressure on teachers, who are among the most reliable party activists.

Many conservative Republicans say Washington doesn't belong in local schools and the law should be radically changed or phased out.

For the first time, most Americans now have an unfavorable view of the law, according to the 2007 PDK/Gallup Poll released this month. Nearly half of those surveyed say they would blame the law if large numbers of schools fail to meet the requirements, rather than blame the school.

"The basic political dynamic is this: Good news is not going to change the minds of those who oppose the law. This is not an empirical fight; it's an ideological fight. But bad news would have put some wind in the sails of the critics," says Andrew Rotherham, a former education adviser to President Clinton and codirector of Education Sector, an education policy think tank.

A closely watched result in the NAEP test is the number of students still performing below basic levels. The biggest gains this year are among fourth graders, but more than 70 percent of eighth-graders now test at or above basic levels. Eighth-grade reading skills, however, have been flat.

"The good news is that there's continued increases in math and reading scores in general, except for eighth-grade reading," says Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the Center on Education Policy in Washington, which has conducted the most systematic and long-range studies of NCLB. "The data show that we can get substantial increases in elementary school achievement, but these increases are being lost in middle school and certainly high school."

With this week's NAEP scores, "we can claim partial victory, but we need to get on to the harder problems," Mr. Jennings says.

"This report will be used by the Bush administration to say the law ought to be renewed as it is, but the critics will find some grounds to say the law must be substantially changed, and both sides may be right," he adds.

Moves to reform the 2002 NCLB are furthest along in the House, where the Education and Labor Committee is reworking draft legislation that shifts emphasis from standardized testing by allowing schools to use other measures to demonstrate adequate yearly progress.

"For members of Congress who are under a lot of pressure to scrap the law or dramatically overhaul it, the NAEP results will give them some cover to make changes in the law, but to keep it in a recognizable form," says Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

California NAEP Scores

Pay 2 Play: DISTRICT FACES $3.8 MILLION IN ANNUAL COSTS: Nonprofit youth groups across the city would have to pay to use LAUSD facilities and athleti
by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

September 29, 2007 -- Hundreds of nonprofit youth groups in the San Fernando Valley and across the city would have to pay to use Los Angeles Unified facilities and athletic fields under plans quietly set to launch next year.

The move comes just two years after district officials abandoned similar efforts after a broad public outcry that it could force youth groups to cancel thousands of worthwhile after-school events.

Superintendent David Brewer III, who is reviewing the options, said a fee is needed to offset the $3.8 million a year the district pays for utilities, maintenance and other costs involved in making the facilities available.

"We're one of only very few school districts that do not charge, including the city, so all we're doing is coming in line with everybody else," Brewer said.

"It was a real good deal as long as we could afford it, but now we can't afford it any more. We are at a point of reality, where everybody else is, including the city."

Members of some community groups say they understand the district's challenge but that the proposed fees are simply too high for their shoestring budgets to cover.

"I don't think anybody is so foolish to think we shouldn't be contributing a little bit toward the field usage," said Drew Bracken, vice president of Northridge City Little League.

The league has about 650 kids on 50 teams that each practice up to four hours a week. That means the league would have to pay $2,000 a week for the 12-week season.

"Once they open it up, what's going to happen next year and the following year?" Bracken said. "Are they going to charge more money?"

LAUSD staff members have recommended that Brewer impose fees that are in line with those charged by the city. They would take effect before the permit-application deadline of Jan. 15, which would give groups several months to plan how to absorb the costs.

A focus group of representatives of various organizations - including athletic teams and the city - held three meetings to get input on the best way to deal with the financial challenges.

Although most participants opposed any charges, three recommendations were drafted by Alvaro Cortes, assistant superintendent of Beyond the Bell, which oversees after-school programs at the LAUSD.

"We're the last bastion of free civic center permits. We have never charged youth groups until now," Cortes said.

"Is it a problem? Yes. But right now other people charge more - the city charges, other entities charge."

The LAUSD issues about 2,850 permits annually to youth organizations. The district's facilities are used about 55,000 times over the course of a year.

Cortes said that if parents feel the fees make it too expensive to have their students join athletic teams or after-school groups, other options for meeting locations include free after-school programs at lower-income elementary and middle schools.

"We're in a financial situation which is difficult and part of it is that we have to come to terms that it's costing us close to $4 million per year and we have to recapture the costs in some way," he said.

Mary Ann Lapointe of West Hills attended one of the focus group session and said she feels any fees would amount to double-paying because she already is a city taxpayer.

Lapointe works with The Good News Club, which teaches morality and character in the context of the Bible at 24 schools.

The group wants to have activities at every school - but a fee would make that challenging.

"L.A. Unified basically has the money. They're operating with $6.2 billion and it seems like they can find the money somewhere," Lapointe said.

"It would feel like paying the school district when we feel the schools truly belong to the community."

Bracken said the Northridge City Little League charges parents about $150 per child to join, but that fee could increase if the district starts charging for field usage.

The league also could consider sharing field time with other groups to try to make the finances work. Currently, it operates a snack bar to stay afloat, he said.

"It could lessen the quality of baseball we're giving and you may not get as many kids playing," Bracken said. "We can't afford it, but we'll figure it out. We'll succeed and the kids will still have a great time.

"I'm not even going to comment on some areas of Los Angeles that aren't as affluent."

• smf opines: This concept was voted down by the previous board two years ago in spite of the identical arguments - and the same 'everyone else does it' protests. In a park-poor city like LA - with the gang wars raging and the afterschool opportuniities few and far between this makes absolutely no sense at all!

LAUSD BACKS EDUCATION REFORM LAW: Representatives lobby in DC for the reauthorization of NCLB but seek provisions to expand English-language learning

by Tina Marie Macias | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 28, 2007 -- WASHINGTON -- Representatives from the Los Angeles Unified School District kicked off a two-day lobbying trip to Capitol Hill on Thursday by advocating reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind education reform law, which Congress will consider before the end of the year.

"I'm here representing 700,000 children who absolutely need critical attention on No Child Left Behind. Your work to better serve English-language learners . . . is super, super important," L.A. Board of Education President Monica Garcia told aides to lawmakers.

Peter Zamora, co-chairman of the Hispanic Education Coalition, made up of organizations seeking to improve educational opportunities for the nation's Latinos, emphasized that the majority of the district's English learners are native-born, many of them second- or third-generation citizens.

"As a political matter, these people are Americans. They are future voters. They are our future economic machine," Zamora said.

Members of the lobbying group, which included Supt. David L. Brewer and two board members, are advocates of a new version of the act. They wrote the portion of the draft legislation that would expand the teaching of English-language learners.

The law, the Bush administration's signature domestic effort that was signed in 2002, emphasizes annual testing to ensure that all students achieve grade-level proficiency in math and reading by 2014. Its accountability provisions have been controversial, though -- particularly the performance benchmarks set for schools.

But flaws aside, the law "allowed for students we failed for so long to come out of the shadows," board member Yolie Flores Aguilar said, and English learners were among them.

In L.A. Unified, 94% of English-language learners are Spanish-speakers. All told, state records list English learners in Los Angeles speaking 55 different languages. More than 266,000 L.A. Unified students are English learners, about 37.6% of the total enrollment.

The school district last year redesignated 13.4% of its English learners as fully proficient in English, well above the state average. The district is concerned, however, that under No Child Left Behind, it has been and could continue to be labeled as failing for taking students out of the pool of English learners. The rules of the law require that all groups improve, including English learners. But the group of English learners changes from year to year, with some of the best students exiting as lower-performing students enter.

The English-learners group is among the lowest-scoring in the school system. Only 16% of English learners in elementary school scored proficient or better in English Language Arts on state standardized tests. This compares with 61% of students who started off as English learners but achieved fluency. The numbers are more stark at the secondary level for those students who have yet to master English. Only 3% tested as proficient or better in English Language Arts; only 4% were proficient in math.

Draft legislation reauthorizing the law was released last week, and Garcia said the purpose of this trip was to persuade legislators to support that draft.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Lakewood) said she was pleased to have met with the group but did not say whether she would support the law's reauthorization. "As the second-largest school district in the nation . . . with a sizable number of English-language learners, it's very important that LAUSD's perspectives be heard in Washington as Congress works to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act," she said.

Provisions recommended by the district would allow student testing in another language if 10% of the enrollment of that language group isn't fluent in English.

Brewer also took issue with the requirement that 95% of students be tested. Schools that fall below that participation rate also are labeled as failing federal standards.


by Regan Morris | The New York Times

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 26 — The Cocoanut Grove nightclub, where Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. entertained starlets, world leaders and Hollywood producers, will be razed in November to make way for a school auditorium.

The nightclub is the last remaining piece of the fabled Ambassador Hotel complex, where every American president from Hoover to Nixon stayed and where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan B. Sirhan.

After initially planning to preserve the nightclub, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted Tuesday to demolish it because it is considered too weak to withstand an earthquake. The board said it would build a replica to serve as an auditorium. The move angered conservationists who had battled for years to save the Cocoanut Grove and the Ambassador, which was demolished last year.

“All of the players from history were there,” said Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, a historic preservation group. “F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed there. Judy Garland performed there.” The proposed auditorium will include original doors and moldings from the nightclub, said Guy Mehula, chief facilities executive for the Los Angeles Unified School District. The district bought the 24-acre Ambassador site in 2001 and plans to build three schools for 4,200 students there. The hotel closed in 1989.

Mónica Garcia, a school board member, said 3,800 students in the neighborhood are bused to far-flung schools and that the three new schools are desperately needed.

But officials said the district could not preserve the nightclub and meet safety standards.

Ms. Dishman, the conservancy director, said that school officials had flouted California law and that the conservancy would consider legal action because the district had broken an important promise.

“We’re standing up for the Ambassador and for the Cocoanut Grove,” she said. “But we’re standing up for so much more.”

FLIP SIDE: Garfield is a special place for Los Lobos. They're helping rebuild the auditorium with a benefit concert Oct 14 @ the Gibson Amphitheatre

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tuesday Oct 2, 2007
SOUTH REGION HIGH SCHOOL #2: Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Meeting
The purpose of this meeting is to:
* Obtain comments from the community on the RAP
* Provide information on the environmental investigation and proposed method of clean-up of the site
6:00 p.m.
Edison Middle School
6500 Hooper Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

• Thursday Oct 4, 2007
Please join us at an Open House to showcase our new classroom building!
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
San Fernando Middle School
130 N. Brand Blvd.
San Fernando, CA 91340

• SAVE THE DATE: GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL BENEFIT CONCERT WITH LOS LOBOS - Oct. 14, 6 p.m. Gibson Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. Tickets, $39.75 to $69.75, available at Ticketmaster, (213) 480-3232 or

Assemblymember Anthony Portantino's CHILDREN'S HEALTH FORUM: CHILDHOOD OBESITY & DIABETES @ Washington Elementary School, 1520 Raymond, Pasadena

The Assemblymember (AD 44) invites you to join him for a health forum to obtain information surrounding the prevention and treatment of Childhood Obesity and Diabetes. Presentations and demonstrations will be offered. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Jarvis Emerson in his district office (626) 577-9944

*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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