Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sputnik redux.

4LAKids: Sunday, Oct 7, 2007
In This Issue:
SPUTNIK REDUX: What's Changed for K-12?
JON LAURITZEN 1938 - 2007
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

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ON OCTOBER 4th, 1957 (…it might have been 10/5 or even 10/6) I remember standing in the middle of Kirkwood Drive and looking up into the northern night sky - and seeing that faint moving star moving right-to-left (how ideologically correct!) across the sky. Sputnik, billed as the "artificial moon" was up there, beeping in Marxist-Leninist triumph. The Space Race was on! Davy Crockett was the past; Space was the Final Frontier.

And America was tragically behind the Soviet Union in Math and Science - and unless we turned it around the godless communists would win and McDonalds would be serving blinis instead of burgers. The future was in fallout shelters. The Soviets got the first dog in space soon thereafter. And the first man. And the first woman. We invented Tang and Velcro and got the first man and our flag on the moon in '69. We won. Cue the music.

But along the way we never caught up in teaching Math and Science - not in K-12 anyway.

In 1990 The National Education Goal on Math and Science was that U.S. students would be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement by 2000. But the Berlin Wall had fallen in '89; if we even tried for that goal we never came close.

ON OCTOBER 4th 2007 - fifty years after sputnik - I sat in a discussion with what passes for the best and brightest thinkers in LA on educational policy and we bemoaned the sorry state of Math and Science education in LAUSD - and admitted that the good and the bad news is that the sorry state of Math and Science instruction is a national phenomenon! It's not our problem exclusively and if we are to fix it in LA -- and we should and must -- we will have figure out how to do it all by ourselves because there are no best practices and/or lessons learned to emulate.

• Schools of Education in the US don't know how to teach teachers how to teach math.
• We Americans don't teach or understand the vocabulary of mathematics; we don't transmit the relevance - we do not show today's youngsters - bright and curious and questioning - WHY they need to know algebra and geometry and trigonometry.
• …not beyond the tired argument that it is the 'gatekeeper to higher education'.
• So the teacher - whether in the late fifties or fifty years further on - solves two problems on the board. I doesn't matter whether the board is black, green, white or smart. Then the kiddos need to solve fifty from the book. "Your teachers and your parents and your grandparents took algebra and barely passed …you need to do the same!"

The National Education Goal for 2000 was missed by a mile; we don't stand much of a chance to meet the NCLB National Educational Goal for 2014 either- every child proficient in reading, math and science. But we need to start somewhere …and promisingly enough - that's exactly where we are.

And that was the good meeting of the day! Earlier a special committee of the school board, the LAUSD Innovation Division and the Mayor's Partnership had what was billed as the long anticipated discussion of the partnership of the school district and the mayor's office. What was discussed was a whole lot of vision and goals and not one iota of plans or specifics for the future.

Two highlights:

• Stephen Rochelle, school principal and ex-officio member of the committee to Kathi Littman, the head of the Innovation Division: "What do see as the role of the principal in these new partnerships?"

• Marlene Canter, the chair of the committee, interrupting: "That's a good question … but we don't have time for an answer right now!"

Followed soon thereafter by a heated discussion over whether it's the "Mayor's Partnership for LA Schools" or just "The Partnership for LA Schools" …with Ms. Canter ruling unequivocally that it's not The Mayor's Partnership - and never was!" Even though the blueprint for the partnership is "The Schoolhouse Framework" - of which the mayor is the credited author. Or that that very meeting's official agenda agendized the item as The "Mayor's Partnership." And if you watch the rebroadcast this Sunday morning 8AM on KLCS you will see the words "Mayor's Partnership" as the title under Ms. Canter while she denies it was ever so.

Lest I be accused of raising the rhetoric let me say this, not an original thought ...but apropos:

• In a substantive debate the audience to the debate learns something about the issues and about the debaters.
• It a really good debate the debaters learn something about the issues and themselves and their audience.

If we don't try to get there we will get nowhere at all.

Onward! - smf

For more about the Partnership for LA Schools visit their website. Note who the named partners in the Statement of Intent are.

SPUTNIK REDUX: What's Changed for K-12?
by Karen Symms Gallagher | | Education

10.03.07 - Los Angeles - Fifty years ago, on Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. It is not an exaggeration to say that this event shook the world, and we still feel its reverberations today.

Sputnik was a dramatic wake-up call to the United States, communicating in stark terms that the U.S. was not entitled to the position of world leader in science and technology that it had enjoyed since the Industrial Revolution, and that a free market economy alone would not be enough to maintain a competitive edge in the Space Age. Sputnik sparked the creation of NASA and an unprecedented boom of U.S. government investment in research and, perhaps even more important, math and science education and high-tech workforce development. These investments assured several decades of world leadership in science and technology.

And yet, if you close your eyes and listen, Oct. 4, 2007, is not so different from the day Sputnik was launched. Once again, U.S. policy circles are buzzing worriedly about our nation's place in the world, concerned over a growing challenge to our present dominance from a huge communist competitor--in this case, China, coupled with fellow burgeoning Asian economic power India.

Once again, our nation's educational system has been called into question, as international assessments indicate that our K-12 students lag far behind their peers from dozens of other nations in science and mathematics.

Furthermore, the impending retirement of baby-boom scientists and engineers trained during the post-Sputnik era has led to concerns over potential high-tech workforce shortages. Only 4.7% of undergraduate degrees awarded in the U.S. are in the field of engineering, compared to a staggering 38.6% of those awarded in China. Clearly, our national commitment to engineering and other high-tech fields has waned. As these jobs are playing a larger and larger part in the world economy, our timing is particularly bad.

This is not demagoguery intended to inspire fear of China, India or other emerging competitors. After all, those nations are doing the right thing for their populations by investing aggressively in education and workforce development and moving their economies beyond lower-wage manufacturing jobs.

Furthermore, their success does not spell doom for the U.S. economy as long as we react accordingly: with public investments that allow our students and workers to compete with their international counterparts. By building a solid bedrock of science and math education in grades K-12, we can assure a problem-solving, technically adroit workforce that will keep the U.S. in a position of global leadership.

A recent report from the National Science Board Commission on 21st Century Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (STEM) serves as a strong call to action in this regard, which all relevant federal, state and local policymakers should read. The report urges robust federal investment in such education programs at the National Science Foundation and the establishment of a nonfederal National Council on STEM Education to facilitate collaboration between federal, state and local initiatives--a crucial consideration in the American system of K-12 education, for which control resides at the local district level. If we are to match our international competitors' singular focus on preparing students to succeed in STEM disciplines, we will need a mechanism like this Council to lead the way.

Thankfully, we are already seeing meaningful steps in this direction. The America Competes Act, signed into law by the president in August of this year, makes important steps by expanding U.S. investments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs, particularly those aimed at preparing more and better teachers of these critical disciplines. Additionally, the budgets of key science agencies like NSF and the Department of Energy Office of Science have already begun to expand thanks to the combined efforts of President Bush and Congress.

Fifty years ago, the U.S. was quite lucky, in a way, to receive a wake-up call as clear and unequivocal as Sputnik. Responding decisively to the challenge was not easy, but it was fairly straightforward. Today, we don't have the benefit of such a dramatic event, which makes the task harder.

It will take vision and sacrifice for the public and our leaders at the federal, state and local levels to respond to the challenge laid out in the National Science Board Commission report in a sustained and meaningful way.

It will be important to keep the salient lesson of Sputnik in our minds--the U.S. can maintain its leadership in science and technology if it has the will to do so.

• Karen Symms Gallagher is dean of the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education and served as a member of the National Science Board's Commission on 21st Century Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.


by Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 5, 2007 - About 5,000 Los Angeles teachers and other employees are expected to receive inaccurate paychecks today, marking another month of persistent problems with a new computerized payroll system.

Supt. David L. Brewer cautioned employees, who have so far been overpaid by $53 million, not to spend the money as the Los Angeles Unified School District prepares to recoup it.

"My job is very simple: get people paid correctly and on time," Brewer said, speaking at a morning news conference. "And that's what I am trying to achieve. We clearly, clearly understand the frustration out there. . . . We are very close to getting this system corrected."

As in past months, the vast majority of the mistakes are overpayments; about 300 others are underpayments, school district officials said. The number of errors this month showed no decline from the last two paydays.

Brewer also vowed that by next month the district would reconcile how much money each of the tens of thousands of employees who have been overpaid owe the district. Amid widespread confusion and distrust over the amounts being tallied by the flawed computer system, district officials have been holding off on recouping those funds. At least 1,500 employees have been overpaid by more than $5,000, district documents show.

With the end of the year approaching, Brewer and school board members have been under increasing pressure to rectify the overpayments before the district issues inaccurate income tax forms that would wreak havoc as employees try to file their state and federal taxes.

To buy more time, the district is considering a plan to designate overpayments as no-interest loans that would not be counted as income, said David Holmquist, the district's interim chief operational officer.

Brewer urged people who believe they have received too much pay: "Don't spend the money! Put it in an interest-bearing account, but don't spend the money."

He added that district officials were continuing to work with union leaders to settle on how and when the money would be recouped.

Brewer said he anticipated that the technological glitch at the root of the problem would be fixed before the next payday in November, but left open the possibility that it could take longer. Teachers and most all of the nearly 100,000 district employees are paid monthly.

A key part of a comprehensive, $95-million technology upgrade, the payroll system has been hampered since it launched at the beginning of the year.

As the scope of the problems became apparent, district officials acknowledged that the system had not been properly programmed to handle all the various assignments and pay scales in the district and that it had been rushed into operation without proper training for clerks and timekeepers.

District leaders were caught unprepared. They scrambled to open emergency hotlines and help centers that were immediately overwhelmed with angry employees, while also struggling to identify the bugs in the complex software programs.

"We didn't roll it out right," Brewer said. "Bottom line, we just didn't roll it out right."

The repair efforts and delays to the next phase of the upgrade are expected to cost about $45 million.

In recent months, the district has appeared to make headway on fixing some of the computer snafus and in improving how effectively it responds to the monthly wave of bad checks. Teacher union leaders, however, have continued to rail against Brewer and his staff for not acting more quickly. They have called on teachers to boycott some after-school meetings and threatened widespread walkouts during class time.

Brewer declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations with Deloitte Consulting, the international firm hired to implement each part of the computer grade, over what, if any, blame the firm deserves for the breakdown.



by Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 4, 2007 - The top attorney for the Los Angeles Unified School District has put the president of the teachers union on notice, warning Wednesday that the union's protests against the district's faulty payroll system could violate labor agreements.

The message, in a letter from district Counsel Kevin Reed to union President A.J. Duffy, is the latest jab in the escalating, but still largely rhetorical, battle over the district's lumbering efforts to correct the pay problems.

It is the second such letter Reed has sent Duffy in recent weeks challenging the United Teachers Los Angeles' call late last month for its members to boycott after-school faculty meetings. Such boycotts, Reed said, are prohibited by the teachers' contract with the district, which states that union leaders cannot "cause, encourage, condone or participate in any strike, slowdown or other work stoppage."

In a previous case between L.A. Unified and the union, a state labor agency ruled that school faculty meetings fall under this clause, Reed said.

Reed said it would be up to the school board whether to take action against the union.

Reed, in the letter, also demanded that Duffy stop threatening large-scale teacher "walk-outs" during the school day. While testifying at a public hearing last week organized by state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), Duffy angrily denounced the district's response to the payroll problems and promised to cripple the district with walkouts if fixes were not made. But, in an interview afterward, the union president said there were no immediate plans for teachers to leave their classrooms.

"Superintendent Reed needs to calm down," Duffy said, when told about the lawyer's latest missive, mockingly referring to Reed as the district's top official.

by Nanette Asimov, Dan Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, October 4, 2007 - For years, California's top educators have claimed that their statewide achievement tests were harder than almost any other state's - an easy explanation, perhaps, for why fewer than half of students score "proficient" in English and math.

Now a new study comparing statewide exams in 26 states reaches this conclusion: California's top educators were right.

"It's harder to pass California's tests than those of most other states," according to the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank in Washington.

California, South Carolina and Massachusetts give the toughest English and math tests in the country, the study concludes. Easiest to pass are those in Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan.

State exams are the engines of No Child Left Behind, the controversial federal education act that requires all students to score at grade level - "proficient" - on English and math tests by 2014.

But it's up to each state to define "proficiency." So a child who is considered a good reader in Colorado because she scored at grade level would be given remedial help in California for scoring low.

"The Proficiency Illusion," as the Fordham study is called, skewers this part of No Child Left Behind. It says states define proficiency "erratically, almost randomly," which makes a mockery of true proficiency.

The study calls for a common set of standards for all states.

"It's crazy not to have some form of national standards for educational achievement - stable, reliable, cumulative and comparable," wrote Fordham's president, Chester Finn Jr., former assistant secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan.


• from the Report - "POLICY IMPLICATIONS: California’s proficiency cut scores are very challenging when compared with the other 25 states in this study, ranking near the top. This finding is relatively consistent with the recent National Center for Education Statistics report, Mapping 2005 State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales, which also found California’s cut scores to be near the top of the distribution of all states studied. Yet California’s cut scores have changed over the past several years—making them generally less challenging, in some cases dramatically so, though not in all grades.

"As a result, California’s expectations are not smoothly calibrated across grades; students who are proficient in third-grade math, for example, are not necessarily on track to be proficient in the eighth grade. California policymakers might consider adjusting their mathematics cut scores across grades so that parents and schools can be assured that elementary school students scoring at the proficient level are truly prepared for success later in their educational careers."

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND is under a national microscope as Congress prepares for its reauthorization. And no aspect of it - including the state tests themselves now - has escaped scrutiny.

Finn said he isn't asking the federal government to prescribe proficiency levels, but says No Child Left Behind should encourage states to agree on what they should be.

The idea, however, is lacking momentum as Congress debates how to reform the education law.

Rep. George Miller, the Martinez Democrat leading the reauthorization debate, has said he wants the federal government and other agencies to help states establish more rigorous proficiency levels. But he still wants states to decide individually what those should be.

"What we're hearing across the country is that No Child Left Behind is not flexible enough," said Tom Kiley, Miller's spokesman.

Meanwhile, even as the Fordham study confirmed the rigor of California's academic standards, it revived a long-standing mystery: why students have consistently improved their performance on the tough California Standards Test over the years, while performing poorly on national exams such as the National Assessment for Educational Progress.

The Fordham study found that California kids also did worse on a national test called the Measures of Academic Progress - even though the researchers had customized the test to evaluate the same material as the state's test.

"It's troubling," said Michael Petrilli, a vice president with the Fordham Institute. "If kids are learning reading and math, it should show up on other tests."

But California's testing director, Deb Sigman, disputed the findings. She said the two tests were not similar, and raised questions about the analysis, including whether the same students took both tests.

►THE EXTREMES IN A NUTSHELL: Comparing Wisconsin to Massachusetts is like comparing Cats & Dogs to Tolstoy

The Fordham Report: THE PROFICIENCY ILLUSION/includes California Report



In a new arguing that the ongoing national push to dramatically improve American high schools has gotten off course, two University of California education professors take aim at what they see as an overemphasis on states’ adoption of higher standards for graduation and more-rigorous tests.

“The push to enhance rigor and standards behind the high school diploma is seriously flawed,” write W. Norton Grubb, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Jeannie Oakes, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the paper. “Any gains come at the expense of other goals for high school reform, including equity, curricular relevance, and student interest.”

▼Follow link below for the entire EdWeek article, the Executive Summary of Grubb & Oakes report and a link to the entire report online



• Why are we having so much difficulty increasing student learning in the U.S.?
• Do we lack knowledge about how to improve K-12 education,
• or are we failing to use what we know?

To be sure, we don't know everything. But many effective practices that are well known among researchers are rarely seen in K-12 schools.

The problem stems in part from a disconnect that exists between research and practice. Unlike other fields, where research is directly connected to production or implementation, educational research in the U.S. is done mostly in universities and by organizations completely separated from schools. As a consequence, many educational researchers are not well-informed of the real challenges practitioners face, which undermines the relevance of their research, writes Deborah Stipek in the Dallas Morning News



Dave Nagel reports in THE Journal that LAUSD is giving up on the '70's era AllCall automated phone dialer telephone notification technology and is crossing the digital bridge into the 21st century … just when LATimes columnist Sandy Banks kicks automated notification around [LOGGING OFF E-MONITORING OF CHILD'S SCHOOLWORK] - and then embraces it as a friend! [RETHINKING E-MONITORING AFTER PROGRESS REPORT]

►And in BRITISH STUDENTS SPURN NUTRITIOUS MEALS the LATimes - and every newspaper in Britain - reports that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who single handedly has turned around nutrition in British public schools - finds himself in a bit of bother. It turns out kids like junk food! Who knew? Whatever happened to gruel? - and "Please sir, may I have some more?"

▲The stories above in 4LAKidsNews - All the news that doesn't fit!

JON LAURITZEN 1938 - 2007
The importance of a life, it is said, is not measured in the date of birth or the date of passing …but in the dash the separates the two.

That "through" spans a awful lot. Jon attended school in a one room schoolhouse in Arizona and taught in multiple thousand seat schools and helped run a 747,000 student school district. He was a history teacher who volunteered to teach math because they needed math teachers - and then went on to pretty much invent the teaching of computer science in this school district.

He was a classroom teacher who during his carrier never aspired to the front office - as if any job is more important than classroom teacher!

He was also a father and a parent and brought that sensibility along with his teacher's perspective to the Board of Education when he was lured out of retirement to serve.

Jon was also always a gentleman in the highest form of that art.

When he ran for school board I worked for his opponent because she was a colleague and a friend to our program at Walter Reed Middle School. I had my picture taken for her ads and my voice recorded on her phone messages.

He trounced us handily - and then, within days, approached me and asked how he could help with our program at Reed? He went on to support us at Reed …and to support every schoolchild in his district.

Jon got it: He never lost track of the kids, he measured every decision and vote and policy against the only rule that matters: WHAT'S BEST FOR KIDS?

Another adversary of Jon's, Mayor Villaraigosa - Jon opposed the mayor's takeover even when his staunchest supporters at UTLA championed it - summed it up second best: calling Jon a "first-rate educator, public servant and neighborhood leader. Jon Lauritzen worked tirelessly to fulfill the promise of a public education: that hard work in our classrooms will lead to success in life."

But the headline in Tuesday's Daily News editorial had it best: "Jon Lauritzen was a teacher's teacher."

Join me and fill your glass and raise it a job well done, a life well lived.

Godspeed Jon Lauritzen.

- smf

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►Wednesday Oct 10, 2007 | 6:00 p.m.
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #6:CEQA Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Meeting. LAUSD has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for South Region Elementary School #6. This report evaluates the potential impacts the project may have on the surrounding area.
The purpose of this meeting is to present the Draft EIR to the community, and receive comments and questions regarding the results of the Draft EIR. Your input is very valuable.

66th Street Elementary School
6600 S. San Pedro St.
Los Angeles, CA 90003

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

► SAVE THE DATE: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20th from 9am to 1pm
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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