Saturday, December 29, 2007


4LAKids: Sunday, Dec 30, 2007 HAPPY NEW YEAR '08
In This Issue:
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.
Ramnath Subramanian, a sixth-grade science teacher writes the El Paso Times on school reform and suggests a New Year's Resolution that resonates far beyond West Texas and echoes beyond the cusp of '07–'08:

In his book "The Great Game," John Steele Gordon informs the reader about an interesting exchange that took place between famed banker J.P. Morgan and a congressional committee's counsel regarding the workings of Wall Street.

"Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?" the counsel asked.

"No, sir," Morgan replied. "The first thing is character."

Character demands that its owner speak the truth plainly and directly.

The Truth Is Simple: Public education in America, based primarily upon money and test scores, is in shambles. Whether one looks at failing schools, or at passing schools that are graduating students who are ill-prepared for college, the lack of character is near-ubiquitous and deeply troubling. These facts must be acknowledged before any reform initiative can take shape and move forward.

SUGGESTED NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION FOR TOP SCHOOL-DISTRICT OFFICIALS: Recognize that delivering a robust education makes larger demands on "character" than it does on political and managerial acumen.

Subramanian adds in clever afterthought: "It would not surprise me if one day the El Paso district appointed an 'associate superintendent of difficult issues.' This person's job would be to smooth out the daily wrinkles in the muddle of education."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We must recognize that only talented and engaged principals, teachers and parents —working together and not at-odds — given full autonomy and a clear sense of direction, can assuage the crisis in education.

J.P. Morgan redux: "When you expect things to happen - strangely enough - they do happen."

Something to ponder as we venture onward into 2008. ~smf

• LOST IN THE CATSKILLS DILEMMA: There is an old Catskills Comedy Circuit joke about a couple of little old ladies complaining about the food at one of the upstate resorts.
- FIRST LOL: "The food here is so terrible!"
- SECOND LOL: "Yes …and the portions are so small!"

4LAKids' favorite education-critic mavens at the Daily News bring us a similar shtick this week: LAUSD is remiss because it doesn't file as many applications as it should for the Federal Lunch Program (MILLION$ IN FEDERAL FUNDS LOST…) — and there is a danger that LAUSD may be aiding and abetting fraud in sending in too many applications (SCHOOL LUNCH SYSTEM FOUND OPEN TO FRAUD). To which I'm sure many kids would add that the food is pretty bad and they aren't given enough time to eat it!

The Federal School Lunch Program is probably the most convoluted bureaucratic minefield in public education; not run by anyone in education but instead by the Agriculture Department - the wonderful folks who subsidize the growing of tobacco and pay farmers for not growing other crops. The nutritionists who declared in September 1981 that ketchup on a hamburger in a school meal qualified as a serving of vegetables!

The Daily News Editorial LAUSD'S MEAL PROGRAM HAS PROBLEMS is correct, there is much wrong with the school lunch program in LAUSD - but most of it lies in Washington DC administrivia - perhaps with a small squeeze of blame assignable to the teacher's union - who negotiate the kids' meal periods! ~smf

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

December 26, 2007 - Los Angeles Unified School District is forfeiting millions of dollars in federal funds because just half of its eligible students are taking advantage of a lunch program in which kids eat for free or at reduced prices, the Daily News has learned.

While 74 percent of the district's 700,000 students are estimated to be eligible for the federal program that subsidizes meals for low-income students, only 37percent of those in middle schools and high schools participate, LAUSD officials said. Despite higher participation by elementary students, the total rate lags far behind that in other large urban school districts - adding pressure on the LAUSD as it strains to boost food services on an increasingly tight budget.

"What is outrageous is that this is an absolute necessity and a valuable service, ... and I'm concerned we have a low participation rate because administrative costs are great, and we haven't made the necessary investments," school board President Monica Garcia said.

"Here is a resource that would help our children to learn, and we're not getting it done. It is a great reflection of the kind of change we need and how our overall mission of graduating more students can improve by taking advantage of resources available.

"It's a reflection of a system that's not fully functional."

While officials had no exact figure for the overall funds the LAUSD is losing out on, they noted that the district receives $2.07 to $2.47 for each free and reduced-price meal served. More than 500,000 LAUSD students are eligible, so if only about half participate, it equates to a loss of more than $100million per year.

Officials attributed the dismal participation rate to a variety of factors, including shorter lunch periods, a social stigma associated with the special lunch tickets and long lines that dissuade many students from eating at all.

"At the elementary level, the kids have a longer lunch period and more access to a meal, but in high school they have the tickets, but many choose not to use them, embarrassed that they are on free lunches," LAUSD's business manager, Michael Eugene, said.
"There are households who may be eligible (but) choose not to be in the program. They could be in poverty, and we wouldn't know."

According to a study this year by the Council of the Great City Schools, LAUSD's secondary-student participation rate ranked 12th lowest among 20 of the country's largest urban public school districts.

Just 41.8 percent of LAUSD's secondary students who qualified took advantage of the program, according to 2004-05 data from the council - far short of the 66.2percent in the district with highest participation.

The council estimated LAUSD's total participation rate at 53.3percent, well below the median 59.6percent nationwide and even further behind the highest rate of 89.1percent.

"We're very concerned about students not participating in the program because we know, in some cases, our students may not have a breakfast or lunch if it wasn't for this program," said Dennis Barrett, director of LAUSD's food services.

And for the district, if more students participated in the program, the additional federal funds would allow the LAUSD to achieve its meal-program goals.

In lean financial times, the superintendent has been forced to go back into the budget this year to find $80million for cafeteria worker benefits approved by the school board.

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, said he believes the LAUSD is losing a "substantial amount."

"It is evidence that the district needs to work on both sides of the equation at the same time - both the revenue side and ... nutrition side," Casserly said.

"They are pretty aware of their shortfall on the revenue side after they started to benchmark their participation rates against other major cities' (rates)."

District officials said they hope to significantly improve the participation rate by introducing an electronic system that would eliminate students' use of paper tickets and offer more anonymity when kids get subsidized meals.

The school board is expected next month to consider whether to buy the system, which would be rolled out at schools over the next couple of years. The district is also considering creating multiple lunch periods to gain shorter lunch lines, more available seating and better-quality food.

In the past two years, the district also has changed the application form to apply to an entire household, rather than individual students, and it has started mailing applications directly to parents and making them available at school sites.

District officials also have launched a campaign to encourage kids and parents to apply, and applications are sent in both English and Spanish, Barrett said.

At about 135 schools with a high percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals, a program allows parents to fill out applications only the first year, Barrett said. An additional 154 schools were added this year.

"The administrative challenge for LAUSD is significant," Garcia said. "Some may argue that's not our role, but we have to be more aggressive in reaching out and targeting these students."

The district also has to determine a way to boost its lunchtime efficiencies at school sites that might have as many as 3,000 students vying to get meals from fewer than a dozen lunch lines in just 20 minutes.

"The milk and fruit they get at these schools may be it," she said.


by Naush Boghossian and Lisa Friedman, Staff Writers| LA Daily News

December 26, 2007 - While the $8.2 billion national school lunch program is designed to provide meals to needy students, the system is fraught with loopholes that leave it open to rampant fraud.

A recent government report said verification remains a problem in the program that provides about 6.6 billion meals to kids each year at a cost of about $10.2 billion.

To participate in the program, parents complete applications listing their income. Random verification checks are performed, but from 2005 to 2006, the study found slightly more than one student in five students who applied and got served was actually ineligible - at a cost of $935 million.

"Several data sources suggest that a significant number of ineligible children are receiving free or reduced-price meals," the auditors wrote.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials, who sought verification for 8,000 applications last year, said they are in full compliance with the law.

"Is there a potential to falsify income in any system in which you gather individual data and don't review 100 percent of the applications? Yes, that risk exists," said Michael Eugene, LAUSD's business manager.

"(But) since we're in full compliance, our major focal point is to get meals to those students who need it."

The federal government requires school districts to audit 3percent of applicants from families whose income falls within $100 of the cutoff - those believed to be the most prone to reporting errors.

A child from a family of four making $26,845 or less qualifies for the free-lunch program, while $38,203 is the limit for reduced-price lunches.

Last year, LAUSD sent verification letters to about 8,000 households. Of those, 1,700 didn't respond, 176 went from the free to the reduced-price category, and only 36 were changed to full-pay status, said Dennis Barrett, director of food services at LAUSD.

Those who didn't respond - nearly 25 percent of those sent verification letters - were removed from the program.

But Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the program should have more safeguards to limit potential fraud.

"We all know that there's going to be some level of fraud," Coupal said. "There should be more significant consequences for defrauding a program like that, and we rarely see that kind of consequences flow from fraud.

"The ultimate goal is to make sure that taxpayers aren't being ripped off while at the same time trying the achieve the objective of the program."

The last time Congress examined how the government verifies the income of families applying for free and reduced-price lunches was in 2004 as lawmakers prepared to reauthorize the program.

A number of federal audits found vast discrepancies between the census counts of low-income households and the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

A study five years ago in New York City's school district, only one larger than the LAUSD, found about $100 million in potential losses.

While the Bush administration proposed strict new verification measures, advocates for the poor questioned the veracity of the studies and accused the administration of swiping tater tots out of the fingers of poor children.

"The kinds of steps that were being considered were the types of things that would drive a lot of eligible families away," said Zoe Neuberger, a senior policy analyst at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank in Washington, D.C.

Those intent on eliminating government waste, however, argued - and still do - that maintaining a program's fiscal integrity is critical.

"Showing a pay stub shouldn't be too much to ask," said Brian Reidl, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank who in 2003 estimated tighter income verification measures could save the program and the country $12 billion over 10 years.

He and other conservatives argued that schools either boosted free-lunch participation or turned a blind eye to likely inaccuracies because the numbers act as a measure for poverty rates - which in many cases determines how much a school gets in funding for everything from books to teachers.

Neuberger said she doesn't expect Congress to take another big crack at income verification until the next reauthorization of the program in 2009.

But she and others said they don't expect a severe crackdown.

"There are fairness concerns; there are budgetary concerns," Neuberger said. But, she added, "There is almost agreement across the board that it is important to make the free and reduced-lunch program accessible to kids."



Daily News Editorial

December 28, 2007 - It's hard to know what's worse - that hundreds of thousands of LAUSD students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches don't get them, or that tens of thousands who do get them shouldn't.

While 74 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District's 700,000 students could be eligible for subsidized meals for low-income students, only 37percent of those in middle schools and high schools participate.

The district receives between $2.07 and $2.47 for each subsidized meal served. But since only about half of the 500,000 students who qualify participate, that amounts to a loss of $100 million a year - funds that could be staving off hunger and providing the basic nutrition that schooling demands.

Meanwhile, a recent federal report finds that slightly more than one in five students who received a subsidized lunch last year weren't, in fact, eligible for the benefit. Nationwide, that fraud amounts to a $935 million hit, at least.

Compounding the problem is that the federal government uses the number of students receiving subsidized meals to determine how much special funding districts can get for everything from books to teachers. That gives schools little incentive to crack down on fraud.

So when school districts such as the LAUSD have needy kids not getting their aid, the districts themselves will lose valuable funding. Meanwhile, wealthier districts stand to get more than they deserve through fraud.

The problem is double-edged: To qualify for the meals, parents must fill out forms documenting their income. Some eligible families are too proud, or too uninformed to do so, and don't. And some shameless families that don't need the help take advantage of loopholes and lax enforcement to get a "free" lunch.

Under federal law, school districts must verify income levels for only 3 percent of the program's enrollees. For the LAUSD, that means checking up on some 8,000 students - out of roughly a quarter-million each year.

Even when families are caught taking advantage of the system, there is no serious consequence. In the LAUSD, they're no longer allowed to keep getting free or reduced-price meals, but that's all.

There are no easy answers to this problem. The LAUSD is looking at ways to protect the identity of kids getting subsidized meals, so as to reduce the social stigma and encourage more to participate. But it's hard to know whether that would make a difference - other districts don't seem to have the same problem with getting their kids to participate.

Meanwhile, tougher enforcement measures could help deter fraud, but can also have the effect of deterring eligible families from applying.

Still, the amount of money wasted - and the vast extent of needs left unmet - bespeak a compelling need for reform.

VEGETABLES OF MASS DISTRACTION: More than you wanted to know about the Federal School Lunch Program + The scoop on the Lunch Program @ your school.

by Gary Walker | The Argonaut

Friday, December 28, 2007 - Parents and teachers at Kentwood Elementary School, Orville Wright Middle School and the magnet school at Orville Wright continue to bask in the afterglow of the December 11th vote for independence from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which many view as a critical first step for their schools and students to reach their full academic potential.

As the next phase of navigating these uncharted waters begins, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has promised to continue to act as a guidepost on the challenging road to autonomy.

According to representatives of the university, LMU will continue to play a key role in assisting schools that join the Innovation Division, a subdivision of the school district that was created over the summer to provide guidance and support to schools such as those in Westchester that opt for autonomy.

"It is our mission to be involved in the community around us," said Shane Martin, dean of the LMU School of Education. "Our Family of Schools is a perfect example of how LMU is transforming the way universities work with their neighborhood schools."

"It's a great day for the kids and the schools in Westchester," Drew Furedi, executive director of LMU's Family of Schools added. "The vote in favor of autonomy really demonstrates the deep commitment to taking a hard look at what things are working and figuring how to support the things that are working and make them even better."

School district officials have given their blessing to autonomy for Westchester, where there are seven schools.

"[The vote on December 11th] was another important step forward for our families and students as we continue to work together to ensure that children in these schools — which are our highest priority — graduate from high school and are college prepared and career ready," said school superintendent David Brewer. "That's why we created our Innovation Division for Education Achievement as part of our efforts to transform the LAUSD into a high-performing, world-class district."

School board member Marlene Canter, whose district includes Westchester, feels that autonomy is more than just about the acquisition of academic freedom and having hands-on management of a neighborhood school.

"This is a way to create innovation within the district," Canter said. "What I was hoping to do [with autonomy] was to create an access point for partners that could help us create better schools, and autonomy is a great way to create innovation within the district."

Furedi, who has been actively involved in helping to shape conversation surrounding the topic of academic independence since his arrival at LMU this summer, believes that the vote at the three schools was more than just a watershed moment for Westchester.

"We saw strong, overwhelming support from parents in the vote, and you also saw a lot of engagement among parents, teachers, staff and community members during the runup to the actual vote," he pointed out. "In the few days since, we've seen more engagement and excitement in trying to put this into context."

Over 98 percent of the parents who voted at Kentwood cast ballots in favor of autonomy. Of the votes cast by parents at the Orville Wright magnet school, over 95 percent voted yes, and the middle school's percentage was 90 percent. (* see note below)

Furedi listed two reasons he thinks that the decision to pursue freedom from the Los Angeles Unified School District is important and should be viewed in a wider context.

"This is about a community saying, 'We are taking absolute responsibility for the excellence and success of our schools.' That's different from how public education has worked in the past," he explained. "The other difference is, here is a university saying that we are redefining what a university partnership looks like."

Ingrid Lamoureux, who heads the Parent-Teacher Association at Orville Wright, is thrilled that the university has offered to be actively involved with the reform movement.

"I and the [Orville Wright] PTA look forward to collaborating with LMU," said Lamoureux. "Drew Furedi has been a dream to work with."

Stephen Rochelle, the principal at Orville Wright, also feels that having a prestigious university on board is a distinct advantage for his school and others in Westchester that chose autonomy.

"LMU has the infrastructure, the research teams and the resources," Rochelle noted, "and what better partner to have than a university of its caliber?"

The university has begun working with the Innovation Division to continue to design the next stage of autonomy and what it could look like in Westchester.

"Literally right after the votes were tallied, we started working on pulling together foundational data and information around instruction and operation of schools," Furedi said. "We've already begun taking apart the budget to see what the real numbers are going to show us in terms of funding, and we're looking at individual success and talents of students in order to frame a conversation to figure out a way to unlock the greatness that's there, using research based methods and data to figure out what's best for our kids."

Canter, who also has been publicly supportive of autonomy for Westchester schools, believes that autonomy can be "a sustainable way to reform from within the district."

Schools that choose autonomy will chart their own plan for academic improvement, and while there will be discussion, suggestions and comparing notes among all the principals and teachers in Westchester, each school will be responsible for designing its own academic blueprint.

"I think that's the really exciting part of working with the whole group of schools," said Furedi. "It's exciting for each school to be working with several other schools that might have slightly different programs, but taking into account what the specific needs of their students are.

"It's about maintaining the individual character of a school, but really making more intentional use of a professional learning community," Furedi said.

The remaining five schools in the Westchester area are slated to vote in January. Proponents of autonomy believe that sustaining the momentum of having three schools that have joined the Innovation Division is critical.

"There's a palpable energy and excitement among the parents and teachers that there are schools that have [voted for] autonomy already, and there's an excitement about that," Furedi said. "And I think capitalizing on that energy is very important."

One of the challenges that must still be overcome is that for some, change remains a risky proposition.

"[Change] is difficult, and we realize that," said Furedi.

Canter agrees.

"It's always hard in the beginning," the board member stated. "My hope is that [the December 11th vote] ignites parents to see that now they finally have a vote."

Orville Wright principal Rochelle is looking forward to both the excitement and the challenges of autonomy.

"This is the most important work of our time," Rochelle said.

He contemplated the possibility that Westchester could be used as a reform model for the school district.

"If we are successful, could this be replicated throughout LAUSD?" he asked.

Furedi reiterated that the university will continue to be a partner as Westchester parents and teachers explore autonomy in 2008.

"But it's going to take everybody working toward the same goal," Furedi said. "The idea behind autonomy is to give all of the stakeholders a voice in improving their schools, not for the university to become the new LAUSD."


* 4LAKids note: Note the qualifier: "…of the parents who voted".

The parent turnout for the I-Division vote in the LMU Partnership Schools was far better than the parent turnout for the Mayor's Partnership elections across town — but the actual percentage of parents voting in the affirmative to support this program…
• Kentwood: 45%
• Wright Magnet: 17%
• Wright MS: 12%
…falls far below a majority, a consensus or a mandate.

The low turnout for the Wright Magnet parents is especially worrisome because of the parent commitment required to get students into magnet programs!

The successes in LA of the Magnet Program, Permits with Transportation (PWT), and Schools for Advanced Study (SAS) – and start-up charter schools like Green Dot, KIPP, College-Ready, Accelerated and the rest – rely upon and leverage one hundred percent of a school or program's parents opting-in.

That level of commitment is lacking in the I-Division schools.

‘You have to deal with the politics. I don’t think that you can avoid it.’

by Gene C. Johnson Jr., Staff Writer | Los Angeles Wave Newspapers

At the close of 2007 — during which a power struggle between Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the L.A. Unified School District resulted in a new mayor-friendly majority on the school board, and a judge’s ruling reaffirming that board’s legal authority over public education — no individual has been closer to the most city’s most politically charged issue than David L. Brewer.

Unanimously selected by the LAUSD board to be superintendent and awarded a four-year contract in November 2006, Brewer has now concluded a year of assessment in terms of the needed changes for the school district. During an exclusive interview with the Wave in his downtown office, the 61-year-old retired Navy Admiral explained why he is calling 2008 his “year of execution.”


A: I’ve stabilized a major crisis, that’s the payroll system — a crisis that I inherited. My first year was clearly centered around assessments. We have created several new positions. I have cut the budget by $95 million and 500 positions. I was able to use those deficiencies to create some new positions, [such as] a deputy for Professional Learning, Development and Leadership — which I found that we were severely lacking in this entire organization — not just in teachers and principals, but in the entire organization. The other thing is that any type of organization has to have innovation, what we call research and development. So we created an innovation division. Through that particular division we’re going to … segue way into partnerships with the community. Like I said when I first arrived here: education is the responsibility of the entire community. This give the community — what we call network partners — an opportunity to come in and work formally with our students. Here’s a key point: I did not arrive at the beginning of the school year. I arrived at the middle of the school year. So for all points and purposes, I had one-half of a school year in order to get this done. So I think we moved pretty fast. This is the year of execution. This will be my first full year. The board did not approve of these positions until July. People have to take that into consideration and put everything into context. When you arrive in the middle of the school year, you don’t have the same opportunities to execute as quickly. But we are going to execute this year.


It relates in terms of its intensity. This is a very intense job. I have to apply a lot of the same skills, change management, leadership, etc. — even with the media. We had a lot of media training in the Navy and … this [endeavor] is media-intense. I think that has been one of the biggest surprises for me is how much media attention I get.


I take it in stride. For me, it’s an opportunity to speak to the public. Because as I’ve said before, the community should come to realize that education is everybody’s responsibility.


Again, in my assessments, one the first things I found out very quickly is that African-American males are the lowest performing in the school district. So I immediately began to focus on that. We have two outstanding boys’ academies right now. One at King-Drew and one at Jordan [high schools]. We’re going to benchmark and replicate those because we realize that, not just for African-American males, but males in general — because you can’t segregate by race — so all of our boy’s academies will have boys. So, in essence, that’s one of the things that we’ve already accomplished. And they’re doing well, by the way.


I’m very supportive of the mayor’s [education] initiative. In fact, we’re working with him and helping him to choose his family of schools. He’s choosing two families of schools. Again, by creating our Innovation Division that facilitated that process, that relationship. People don’t understand that you have to create the organizational construct. You have to create the structure and the systemic changes, everything else is just ideas. And even if you tried to execute them, they would not be executed effectively. We have the Innovation Division, so the mayor can now segue way in with his partnership for L.A. schools.


Here’s the key: literacy. Literacy is the key. For Latinos, it’s English-language learners —as well as several other ethnic groups. So we are focused like a laser on language acquisition in terms of English-language learners. And in terms of African-Americans, it’s standard English. African-Americans, many of our kids speak the language of the streets, but they don’t speak academic English. So we’re treating that as language acquisition — a second language acquisition. Not to take away from your [African-American] culture, do your own thing. But when you come into that classroom, you’re going to speak academic English. We recognized that very quickly and so that’s why we [had] a national summit on language acquisition Dec. 13-14 for English-language learners and Spanish English-language learners, because we found out that they are [among the] lowest-performers in the entire school district. Unfortunately, African-Americans are our lowest performers.


That [charter schools] started back in the late ‘90s. L.A. [the school district] actually asked charter schools to relieve overcrowding. They continued to proliferate. I call it the vacuum theory. If you have an academic vacuum, somebody’s going to fill it. And what charters are doing is filling that academic vacuum. However, we treat charters as partners. Our best traditional schools are still better than the best charters. That’s a point that’s missed. One of the best schools in the entire state is Balboa Magnet. There aren’t any charters that can compete with that. Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies is number 47 in the nation. What they do at the Watts Learning Center is very intense in terms of curriculum and instruction. More importantly, they take these kids on field trips — to Africa. We do have great charters. Watts Learning Center is a school that, as a part of the language acquisition summit … will be brought into that process. We want to see what they are doing at Watts Learning Center in order to drive student achievement among African-Americans. They have one the highest academic performance index of any elementary school in the entire district — charter or traditional — and they are a charter school. This is why we have to study charters — and benchmark and replicate what they do.


I work half-days, you know. I work 12 to 14 hours a day. Being given my military background, I get up early in the morning, have my physical fitness workout just about every morning. I lift weights. I alternate between lifting weights — upper body and then I’ll run the next day, lower body and then run. It’s the “Body for Life” [program] by Bill Phillips.


When we’ve begun to meet some of student achievement goals. I’m focused on student achievement. And it’s very hard to do in the district because of all of the politics. There’s so much politics in L.A.


Well you have to deal with the politics. I don’t think that you can avoid it. So to the extent that you deal with it, that’s one thing. But my job is to, really, improve student achievement here in Los Angeles and to make sure that our children graduate college-prepared and that’s my vision. I will know when we are successful when see a higher percentage of students who are proficient and advanced as opposed to basic and below. Right now we are at 33.4 percent in proficiency and advancement. So that means we have to get to at least 50 to 60 percent proficiency and advancement. When we cross that threshold, then we can say whatever programs we put in place have taken … effect. One of my best attributes is that I know how to manage change. I know how to find efficiencies in an organization.


This year it’s high priority schools. In other words we’re looking at our lowest-performing schools and we’re going to create a plan — strategies and tactics — to improve student achievement in our high-priority schools. The following year we’ll take those same strategies and tactics and begin to permeate those into the entire system so that we can raise student achievement for the rest of the district.


We just hired an executive chef from USC to help us with menu development. Plus the [LAUSD] board had already passed a policy several years ago taking junk food and sodas out of the school district. Also we need to teach our families, and children nutrition — and get more physical education for children. This school year will be the year of execution. I invite the entire community to come in and help us. We’re going to find ways for most people to come and help us, in terms of educating our children. L.A. Unified School District was not structured to accept help. People would come and volunteer, but nothing would happen. That’s why I created the Office of Parent and Civic Engagement.


by Howard Blume | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 26, 2007 — You'd be hard-pressed to find a person more qualified to assist charter schools than the new director of the charter division for the Los Angeles Unified School District. In recent years, José J. Cole-Gutièrrez has personally helped dozens of these schools find loans and locations, and aided in myriad other ways, while also lobbying on their behalf before state and local officials.

But that has created thorny conflicts of interest that limit -- at least for a year -- what he could be allowed to do. On the advice of the district's ethics officer, Cole-Gutièrrez could have to abstain from dealing in any way with at least 10 charter schools. Case in point: As general manager for the California Charter Schools Assn., Cole-Gutièrrez aided a local charter school now being investigated by the school system's inspector general.

He also has preemptively recused himself from negotiations over a contentious lawsuit between his former and his current employer. This litigation pertains to the district's policy on providing classroom space to charter schools. About a dozen charters operate in district-owned property, but most of the rest are pressuring the district to help out more.

Charters are public schools that function under their own board, independent of many rules that govern traditional campuses. L.A. Unified has 128 charter schools, more than any school system in the country. With more than 47,000 students -- close to 7% of the district total -- these schools have become a major thrust of local reform.

This year alone, 26 charter schools opened and 38 others are up for renewal prior to June 30. To oversee this burgeoning reform landscape, L.A. Unified has allocated 27 employees and a budget of nearly $4 million. Overseeing it all, as of this month, is Cole-Gutièrrez.

The trade-off with conflicts is worth it, according to his supporters, who characterize his skills as sorely needed and his integrity as beyond dispute.

"José's strengths will allow L.A. Unified to partner with charter schools in ways the district wishes to and should," said Brian Bauer, executive director of Granada Hills Charter High School. "He's a collaborator and a sharp person who really looks at issues objectively -- removing personality without striking the humanity from the conversation."

Among some senior district officials, however, there are misgivings.

"He's been so identified with one part of the movement, as an advocate," said one senior administrator, who like other critics, requested anonymity for fear of repercussions. "The operators of charter schools are going to make it difficult for him to be anything other than an all-out advocate. He's going to feel a lot of pressure from folks he's been working with a long time."

The district's ethics officer, Yea-Lan Chiang, wrote a memo to the school board identifying Ivy Academia in Woodland Hills as among 11 charters Cole-Gutièrrez "lobbied LAUSD on." Cole-Gutièrrez is also listed as having helped develop seven other charter schools from scratch.

The school district's inspector general is investigating whether Ivy Academia, a 4-year-old school with high test scores, improperly commingled for-profit and nonprofit activities.

A high-level district source said Cole-Gutièrrez was among Ivy's advocates. Besides the alleged wrongdoing, the Ivy Academia case is also a test for a crucial question: What is the obligation of charter schools to reveal detailed budgets and other documents?

Ivy Academia's founders have denied any wrongdoing, while asserting that they have cooperated with investigators and complied with all disclosure requirements.

"In this case," said the district source, "José might have to recuse himself indefinitely."

Cole-Gutièrrez, who will make $137,496 a year, declined to discuss which charters he worked with or what he did for them. He said he's actively cooperating with the ethics office to stay within appropriate bounds.

Overall, he said, it's invaluable to have worked intently with so many schools. "I know their mission and passion," he said. "And knowing that story is tremendously helpful as I do this work."

When Cole-Gutièrrez "has to make decisions we don't like," said Caprice Young, head of the charter schools association, "we will trust that he's doing the best for all the students."

He will lead a division with a sometimes conflicting mission -- that of policing charter schools while helping them succeed. Young asserts that L.A. Unified has misfired on both prerogatives.

"The bureaucracy has focused on the creation of new regulations as opposed to ensuring that charter schools are fiscally sound and academically successful," Young said. The petitions required to start a charter, she added, "have gone from 75 pages to nearly 500."

More of the new district schools under construction, she said, should be given to proven charter organizations rather than falling under the same bureaucracy that has failed to turn around existing traditional schools: "If you have the choice between replicating lousy schools and providing space so that good schools can thrive and expand -- that's a no-brainer."

But here Cole-Gutièrrez could be limited initially. That's because he took part in discussions that ultimately led to the filing of litigation against L.A. Unified over access to school sites. Once he began discussions about switching jobs, he removed himself from involvement in the litigation, both sides say.

The previous director, Gregory McNair, will step in to handle matters involving a conflict. McNair, an attorney, left the post at his own request to return to work in the general counsel's office. McNair has critics in the charter school community, but colleagues in the district describe him as smart and fair, and they credit him with building the division as much as limited resources would allow.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

The Hayward Daily Review reports Superintendent Dale Vigil of the Hayward Unified School District said he has considered rejecting state aid under the Quality Education Investment Act which would go toward class size reduction and intervention programs at two schools because hidden costs to run the program would encroach upon the district's general fund..

Attorneys from a San Francisco-based civil rights firm Public Advocates sent a letter to the district claiming they would be violating state and federal laws if they refused the funds even if accepting the money would cost the district money (more)


The Washington Post reports the debate over the formula for rating the nation's public schools has stalled efforts in Congress to revise the No Child Left Behind law. At issue: What's the best way to measure whether schools are doing their job?

Unlike questions on the state math and reading tests taken by millions of children, this one has no clear answer. Reaching consensus in the coming election year is expected to be difficult. Without congressional action, the 2002 law will stay as it is.


The Los Feliz Ledger reports that Dorothy Lee, a 12th grade art teacher at John Marshall High School has won a $25,000 grand prize in a national Classroom Makeover Contest.

"Driver……… Moooovvve that bus!"


All the news that didn't fit from Dec. 30!

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The three horsepersons of the apostrophe

4LAKids: Sunday, Dec 23, 2007 ¡HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
In This Issue:
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up...
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.
I am waging a losing campaign, tilting at a windmill; questioning the outcome of the I-Division elections giving over a small and as yet indeterminate number of schools to the mayor's partnership. 5, 6 or 7 - something like that. What is wrong with me? This is all so Last Week …someone should call People for the Ethical Treatment of Dead Horses.

It was a democratic process. Teachers voted. Parents voted. Majority rules, right?

• Except the rules say that when teachers didn't vote, their non-votes count as a "NO!"
• And parents who didn't vote, they don't matter. Unless to prove the media's alleged 'parental apathy'.
• But Parents Are Equal Partners in their Children's Education, right? Except when they're not.

And though the election protocol specifically called for administrators and classified employees to submit letters of support or petitions — the Innovation Division did not seek them at those seven schools.

"As a matter of fact," Dr Michael O'Sullivan, the president of the administrators' union says, "they deliberately avoided seeking such input. As far as I am concerned, that invalidates the entire odoriferous process."

The teachers' union managed to extract an interesting compromise with its own procedures. UTLA President AJ Duffy explains that the UTLA House of Representatives met and authorized by special vote the 50%+1-of-qualified-teachers threshold for acceptance of the I-Division partnerships — UTLA rules normally require a ⅔ vote to deviate from contract language. Whether the HofR had this authority is another subject of dispute within UTLA.

Becki Robinson, a candidate for the UTLA presidency who argues for the ⅔ rule harkens back to another time in an unpublished letter to the Times: A time "...before the Mayor and the Union and the Mayor and the District made back-door deals to serve their own purposes. If the election rules change for any one of the prospective "Partnership" schools, then the rules should change for EVERY school and ALL the elections should be re-run."

There are other issues about how what Times' columnist Steve Lopez called "last week's banana republic-style elections" were conducted — small, ugly, petty process issues. There have even been allegations of politicians giving gifts to YES voters.

Democracy is not pretty process, and it gets messier the more you try to tidy it up.

WHEN YOU LOOK at all the woeful data about students not reading at grade level and wonder what it all means consider SILVER LININGS SCARCE IN DECLINE OF READING - following.

BUY A CHILD A BOOK THIS HOLIDAY! Buy yourself a book. Read them together; share books with your friends. Start a book club at a middle school …some of the best writing out there is young adult fiction.

Have happy holdays and be safe and warm. Find Hope and Peace and make them one.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

More than you probabaly want to know about the I-Division elections

Editorial by John Sledge | Birmingham, Alabama Press-Register

December 20, 2007 - Three years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts published "Reading at Risk," a troubling survey of literary reading in America. Combing through reams of statistical data, the NEA found that fewer than half of Americans over the age of 18 read even one novel, short story, play or poem in the previous year, and concluded that this decline spelled trouble for a free society. The report unleashed a flurry of cultural commentary and the grim prediction that literary reading would be extinct in 50 years.

There were critics, of course, some arguing that the study did not take into account the importance of other types of reading -- magazines, newspapers and online material -- and that it overstated its case. Some even declared that a teenager who simultaneously emailed and listened to an iPod while reading his school assignment was in fact developing superior multitasking skills that would later stand him in good stead.

But with the recent publication of an even broader and more comprehensive survey, "To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Conscience", the NEA's earlier conclusions are convincingly reinforced. Americans are reading less of anything than ever before, the new report finds, and the consequences are far-reaching and profound. "It's no longer reasonable to debate whether the problem exists," Sunil Iyengar, director of research and analysis for the NEA told The New York Times. "Let's not nitpick or wrangle over to what extent is reading in decline."

In the report's preface, Dana Gioia, chairman of the NEA, summarizes the findings in no-nonsense language. "The story the data tell is simple, consistent, and alarming," he writes. And the story is that despite modest gains in reading skills at the elementary-school level, "all progress appears to halt as children enter their teenage years." Nor do matters improve at the collegiate level or even among adults no longer in school. All across the board among adults, reading is in precipitous free fall.

Gioia emphasizes that more is at stake than whether or not Americans are familiar with "Romeo and Juliet." "As this report makes clear," he argues, "the declines have demonstrable social, economic, cultural, and civic implications. All of the data suggest how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals." According to Gioia, readers make more money, participate more fully in politics, and volunteer more often in their communities, and their children do better in school. Furthermore, they are less likely to go to prison. In short, declares Gioia, "Books change lives for the better."

The body of the report presents the findings in a series of easy-to-read charts and graphs. Among the statistics:

Nearly half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure.

The percentage of 18- to 44-year-olds who read a book fell 7 points from 1992 to 2002.

Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers.

The percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period.

65 percent of college freshmen read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all.

The percentage of non-readers among these students has nearly doubled -- climbing 18 points since they graduated from high school.

15- to 24-year-olds spend only 7-10 minutes per day on voluntary reading -- about 60% less time than the average American.

By contrast, 15- to 24-year-olds spend 2 to 2½ hours per day watching TV. This activity consumes the most leisure time for men and women of all ages.

For those who do read often and well, this report finds, the advantages are immediate and real:

More than 60% of employed Proficient readers have jobs in management, or in the business, financial, professional, and related sectors.

Only 18% of Basic readers are employed in those fields.

Proficient readers are 2.5 times as likely as Basic readers to be earning $850 or more a week.

84% of Proficient readers voted in the 2000 presidential election, compared with 53% of Below-Basic readers.

If the report is clear about the trends and their implications, it is hazier on exactly what society can do to reverse the decline. But there's no doubt about what we as individuals can do -- buy books and more books, fill our houses with them, read them, read them aloud to our children and place them in their hands, and provide the quiet space to absorb them.

The rewards, as this report demonstrates, will be tangible and dramatic for a lifetime.

"To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Conscience"

by Steve Lopez | LATimes columnist

December 16, 2007 - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he's trying to fix public education, and for that, he deserves a pat on the back.

But his attempts so far don't always inspire confidence. And I'm not just talking about his sloppy legislative power grab that was laughed out of the courts earlier this year. The latest example was last week's banana republic-style elections at seven campuses the mayor wants to control.

Roughly 90% of the parents at the schools skipped the election. And that was despite enticements that included raffle tickets for Jordan High parents who came to hear the mayor speak. Hizzoner himself picked the winning tickets for a TV, a camera and a Target gift certificate.

It's not clear whether the low turnout was due to all the usual reasons for parental disengagement, or if parents simply couldn't tell exactly what the mayor was trying to sell. But either way, the numbers are a little scary.

Meanwhile, some teachers were still contesting the voting rules days after last Tuesday's elections, and results were in dispute at more than one school. By week's end, the mayor's claim of a clean sweep was shakier than his assertion that he knows how to make low-performing schools better.

To give him his due, he seems to have won clear control of at least five schools that were desperate to get out from under the control of the Los Angeles Unified School District. That's amazing when you consider that the mayor never explained what he'd do differently, other than vague promises of more autonomy and resources.

"It's all these wonderful things about doing more for the children," said Jordan High's Miranda Manners, who teaches English as a second language. "But there are no nuts and bolts involved."

I spoke to Manners in the classroom of art history and French teacher Audrey O'Keefe, another veteran who thought the pitch by the mayor and his team deserved a grade of Incomplete.

They voted against Villaraigosa's Partnership for Schools, a nonprofit that would take over management of Jordan and the six other schools from L.A. Unified. Although Villaraigosa eked out a 54-51 win at Jordan, the teachers union is crying foul. It claims more than 50% of all certificated employees had to vote yes, not just 50% of those who voted.

Conveniently enough for the mayor, there doesn't appear to be any provision in the election rules for contesting the results. Jeez, even Florida had an appeals process.

Manners and O'Keefe say the campaign at their Watts school seemed all but rigged, with the mayor's minions bringing free Starbucks and pastries to pitch meetings and pro-mayor paraphernalia adorning the polling place on election day.

"I was furious," O'Keefe said of the shenanigans.

But her bigger concern was the absence of a clear plan to help teachers overcome disengaged parents, students who aren't up to snuff after years of social promotion and gang violence so prevalent that the high school is occasionally in lockdown.

Allowing teachers to help manage their own school is intriguing, they said.

"But who will do all that work, and how do you decide who's directing it?" asked O'Keefe.

On Friday morning I went to Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights to get some answers. I was hoping to meet with the mayor, but his office sent me Marshall Tuck, executive director of the partnership.

Tuck, a bright young do-gooder with a Harvard MBA, spoke passionately about the shameful mediocrity of urban public education in America. At Roosevelt in 2003, he said, there were 1,800 freshmen and 786 seniors, meaning the dropout rate was astronomical.

Understood, but how's the mayor going to change that?

Tuck answered in generalities for the most part. Being vague was part of the mayor's political strategy all along, because a specific plan might have alienated those whose support was needed. And besides, the mayor was selling the fuzzy idea that each school would design its own plan.

Sounds good in theory. But when Tuck talked about handing control over to a council of teachers, parents and administrators, I found myself wondering how they'd ever reach consensus on anything. It's an exciting proposition, but frankly a terrifying one, as well, given the different agenda each party will bring to the table, not to mention the possibility of opposition to specific reforms by the teachers union.

But let's say they get it together at Roosevelt, where faculty and staff voted 152-62 in favor of the mayor. How will the school change?

Hopefully, Tuck said, the energy level will get a boost when beaten-down teachers and parents who've lost faith become reengaged. Maybe a few of the small-learning centers at Roosevelt can be moved off campus to ease overcrowding. There could be more money for teacher training and computers, and with stronger connections to businesses and service agencies in the area, Roosevelt students might find new ways to prosper.

"We don't pretend to have all the answers," Tuck admitted. But it is time for a bold change, he said, and any success the mayor's team achieves can be a model for the rest of the district.

It could also help Villaraigosa in his lust for higher office, and don't think that isn't part of the calculation. Get a few benefactors to pour money and resources into a handful of schools, bump up test scores a bit and take your bows.

Meanwhile, students at roughly 1,000 other schools in the district will be looking on like kids whose house got missed by Santa.

For one Roosevelt teacher, voting for a new direction was a no-brainer.

"I don't trust the district," he said flatly, giving me his frustration, his logic and everything but his name.

The teacher wanted a say in what to teach his students. And the bureaucracy is a nightmare in every way, he said, telling the story of his broken classroom door. It took weeks to get someone to look at it, he said, and it'll take weeks for a second person to come and actually fix it.

In the meantime, he waited so long for someone to fix a broken window, a second window was broken. A repairman showed up, fixed the first window and left without fixing the second one. He said he didn't have a requisition order for two windows.

The teacher said the mayor's team didn't do a very good job of explaining its plan, but he voted for "the lesser of two evils" because he saw nothing to lose.

It would have been better all around, I think, if teachers and parents voted for something new and specific rather than against something old and broken. For the sake of the kids, though, let's hope the mayor's promised improvements materialize someday.

In the Roosevelt courtyard, Tuck spotted a supportive teacher named Jorge Lopez and they shook hands to celebrate the victory. Lopez then said something the mayor should take to heart.

"Now comes the hard work."

►MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE IN ENGLISH INSTRUCTION : Experts point out that total immersion does not produce the best results
by Rubén Moreno | translated from La Opinión

Friday, December 14, 2007 -- Almost ten years after voters in California passed Proposition 227, experts in education emphasize that the formula of learning all the subjects only in English does not produce the results expected in the schools. This is especially true for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which contains a high percentage of students classified as English learners.

“The data tell us that the way in which it has affected students hasn’t been the best. Before, only 29% of students were in bilingual programs,” said Patricia Gándara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), to La Opinión, after participating in a panel during a summit that the school district is holding until today about English and academic performance.

Currently, more than 250,000 high school students in California are English learners, and 83% of them speak Spanish as their first language. In LAUSD, 38% of the students are still acquiring the language and another 20% speak nonacademic English.

“The difference between {sic} standard English is that students only speak one language where the vocabulary is in English, but that is a combination that has received the influence of other languages, whereas English learners speak it as a second language,” explained Norma LeMoine, the director of the division in charge of closing the academic gap in LAUSD. {Translator’s note: This paragraph is not clear in the original Spanish.}

According to LeMoine, using the example of an immigrant student who has arrived recently without any knowledge of English, “it takes that student two years to acquire the ability to communicate, but it takes him from five to seven years to learn the language proficiently.”

“It would be an advantage for students to be in a bilingual class. For them it would be easier to learn English, but we are also stealing their language from them when we know that all people have an incredible capacity to develop several languages, even three or four at the same time,” added Gándara. “We are stepping on the richness this country has by impeding the growth of Spanish.”

Proposition 227 has required for a decade that instruction in California classrooms be completely in English and, in the case of those who don’t understand the language at all, that the immersion period not exceed a year, during which they must acquire the language. Only in those cases is instruction in the native language allowed in order for the students to have education exclusively in English a year later.

“What is lacking is an appropriate policy for learning English on the part of the state, which limits the materials and methods we can use to teach academic English in the schools,” said Mónica García, president of the LAUSD school board. “As a district we haven’t exerted pressure, but there has to be more awareness on the state level and greater outreach to experts so that they can inform us.”

The same as many analysts, García agreed that there is also a “lack of trained teachers” who are aware of the type of students they have to teach.

“The teachers don’t have an understanding that the students are native. This problem has historical roots,” said María Brenes, executive director of La Lucha del Pueblo, when she referred to the fact that the English the students speak is influenced by many cultures, which means that the children make errors in grammar and syntax.

Another of the arguments expounded during yesterday’s sessions has to do with the fact that children who come from low-income families or families where their parents don’t speak English also take longer to feel confident in the language, although the root of the situation is much larger than a simple racial matter.

“Many people say that it is a cultural problem, but that is only one part. White students and those who are better off economically are also behind the statistics about other states,” said Jeanne Oakes, a professor at the Institute for Democracy, Access and Education at UCLA.

The summit, in which more than 200 local and national experts are participating, ends today and it will help LAUSD to assess the scholastic needs in order to improve the performance of the students who are learning English and are still not proficient, in a school district where 93 different languages are spoken.

from the EdWeek blog | Mary Ann Zehr is an assistant editor at Education Week

December 20, 2007 - California will be the last state to fully comply with requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act that a state's English-language learners must be tested in English proficiency each year in grades K-12.

I reported recently that all states and the District of Columbia had cleared an initial hurdle in putting such tests in place. (A blog entry on the same subject is here.) But my article didn't mention one nuance.

California is still lacking one small piece of the English-language-proficiency testing system required by the federal government. The state is testing English-learners in kindergarten and 1st grade only in speaking and listening and not also in reading and writing, as required.

But Deb Sigman, the director of standards and assessment for the California Department of Education, told me in a telephone interview this week that the California legislature decided in August to allocate $1.4 million for the creation of a literacy test for ELLs in kindergarten and first grade. Field testing is expected to begin in 2008, and full implementation is scheduled for the 2009-10 school year. Ms. Sigman said the test will likely be administered individually and be given to about 416,000 ELLs.

California will be the last state to comply with the English-language-proficiency testing requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act, noted Millicent Bentley-Memon, a senior education program specialist for the office of English-language acquisition of the U.S. Department of Education, in an e-mail message to me. She said all other states are testing ELLs in grades K-12 in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Ms. Sigman pointed out that children entering kindergarten aren't exactly expected to "read."

"There's some language [in the legislation authorizing the test] about making sure it is developmentally and age-appropriate," she said. "There's an attempt to keep the testing time down."

District Press Release on A+ ELL Summit

By Paul Clinton, Staff Writer | Daily Breeze

December 23, 2007 -- Inspections required by state law found textbook shortages, deteriorating campuses and underqualified teachers at eight local campuses in Los Angeles Unified and Centinela Valley school districts.

County auditors singled out Hawthorne High School's campus for special scorn, detailing the dirty fountains, rotting wood, leaky roof, exposed wiring and pervasive bird droppings in a 24-page memo released last week.

Many of the restrooms were locked when the campus was inspected at a time when students were attending classes, records show.

A second Centinela Valley Union High School District campus, Leuzinger High in Lawndale, also was listed in poor condition because of broken and cracked windows, doors and locks that don't operate properly, trash stored in heating vents and one classroom with a wobbly wall.

President-elect Gloria Ramos said the newly constituted board will walk each of the three high schools during the holiday break.

"There's definitely some investigation we need to do," Ramos said. "Every single member is interested in getting the sites up to par."

The Los Angeles County Office of Education is required to audit the schools under state laws known collectively as the Williams legislation.

The laws stem from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2000 claiming the state's poorest children are being denied equal educational opportunities.

Under the laws, districts must provide schools that are clean, safe and functional, instructional materials that can be used outside of the classroom, and teachers with proper certification in classrooms with at least 20 percent of pupils learning English as a second language.

In the county, 594 schools in 38 districts were inspected.

The inspections were completed during the 2006-07 year.

In addition to the two Centinela Valley schools, three LAUSD schools - Banning High in Wilmington, Westchester High and Meyler Street Elementary near Torrance - were in poor condition.

Pervasive graffiti, mold in bungalow classrooms and dirty floors were found at Banning, according to a report.

At Westchester High, inspectors identified condemned bleachers (with rotting wood) and cement walkways broken up by tree roots.

Meyler Street was credited as a clean campus, but dinged for dry rot, peeling paint and blocked emergency exits in classrooms.

Repairing LAUSD's aging campuses has been a continuous process, said Kevin Reed, the district's general counsel.

"Folks in operations will respond immediately to get those conditions fixed," Reed said.

County education officials identified Gardena High School as one of five that hadn't supplied enough textbooks to its students by the eight-week mark in the 2006-07 school year.

Audits of teachers certified to provide instruction to English language learners found five schools with less than 80 percent compliance.

Of the teachers with at least 20percent of English language learners in their classrooms, Narbonne High in Harbor City and Carson High had 71 percent and 79percent of those teachers authorized.

Many of the teachers at those schools who haven't earned the credential are veterans, Reed and other officials said. LAUSD requires teachers entering the district to possess the credential.

"We continually push it with the teachers," Carson High Principal Ken Keener said. "When the more veteran teachers got their credential, this was not even a consideration. So they have to go back and get the credential."

Fewer than 2,500 of the district's 32,000 classroom teachers still haven't earned the credential, said Deborah Ignagni, administrator of certificated employment.

Centinela Valley fared worse, the data shows.

Hawthorne High, Lawndale High and Leuzinger High had 74percent, 62 percent and 79 percent, respectively.


1. All schools are subject to the Williams requirements.
2. County Offices of Education only inspect schools in the lower ⅓ of base API.
3. All other schools are still required to comply - There are no exceptions.

(smf notes: There is disbelief within portions of the parent community as to the efficacy of the LACOE inspections process and therefore of the authenticity of these results.)

The Los Angeles Unified School District operates a total of 575 schools 294 (51 percent) of which are considered low-performing and subject to county superintendent review under the Williams legislation. With the support and cooperation of school district staff, LACOE visited and monitored all 294 schools in 2006-07.

►FACILITIES: LACOE inspected schools to determine if facilities are clean, safe, and functional. Of the 294 of LAUSD schools inspected, LACOE found:
• 151 schools in “good” condition
• 119 schools in “fair” condition
• 24 schools in “poor” condition

►TEXTBOOK SUFFICIENCY: LACOE visited schools to determine whether each pupil, including English Learners, has a standards-aligned textbook or instructional materials, or both, to use in class and to take home. In some cases, schools were surveyed prior to the actual visits through the use of a teacher questionnaire.
• Of the 294 schools visited, 35 were found to have instructional materials insufficiencies.
• Of the 35 schools with insufficiencies, 1 did not resolve them within the eight-week period. As authorized by law, the county superintendent requested that the California Department of Education, with approval from the State Board of Education, purchase the necessary textbooks on behalf of the district. The district resolved the insufficiencies prior to any action taken by CDE.

►TEACHER ASSIGNMENT: LACOE monitored the 294 schools to determine if teachers have proper assignments and certifications, focusing on those in classrooms with 20 percent or more English Learners. LACOE found:
• 36,202 classes had 20 percent or more English Learners
• 4,054 of these classes had teachers who lacked proper authorization to instruct ELs

SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY REPORT CARD : California public schools are required to prepare annual School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs), which provide important information about each school and communicate a school’s progress in achieving its goals. As required by the Williams legislation, LACOE reviewed 294 schools’ SARCs to verify whether Los Angeles Unified SD provided accurate data relevant to facilities maintenance and textbook sufficiency in their SARCs
published in 2006-07. All SARCs reviewed were verified to be accurate in terms of textbook sufficiency data reported, HOWEVER, the SARCs could not be verified on facilities maintenance reporting because the data provided did not come from LACOE’s evaluation instrument.

The Executive Summary LACOE/Williams Report on LAUSD Schools (does not include specificity or detail

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
PAY 2 PLAY + SDUSD GETS AN ADMIRAL OF THEIR OWN — A valley sports league protests LAUSD's misbegotten policy to charge for after school playground use by kids and San Diego gets an retired navy flag officer to head their schools too.


LAUSD TOLLS MIGHT SURPASS $210 MILLION: New payroll system continues to drain the District.

LAUSD TRIES TO STEM THE OUTFLOW - An effort to bring neighborhood children back to neighborhood schools.

Obituary: MARNESBA TACKETT: A LONG LIFE WELL LIVED IN PURSUIT OF LA EQUALITY: As chair of the Los Angeles NAACP’s Education Committee, Tackett raised money to pay for the Supreme Court briefs submitted by Thurgood Marshall in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. case that desegregated the nation’s schools in 1954.
That done, she turned her attention to the Los Angeles Unified School District, which she found was just as discriminatory as the district in Topeka.. She had textbooks with stereotypical presentations of blacks removed from the classrooms and she filed and won a lawsuit, Crawford vs. LAUSD, to make the Jordan High School facility and environment more conducive to the educational process.

SCHOOLING ANTONIO: The mayor learns to settle for less. than a total takeover of L.A. Unified - or - MAYOR V DISSES ROMER. While the mayor touts his takeover of the cluster of schools as an issue of accountability, some parents have expressed skepticism about the plan, calling it little more than a political ploy and worrying that students under the plan will suffer if the mayor loses reelection in 2009 or runs for governor in 2010.

States' Evidence: WHAT IT MEANS TO MAKE 'ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS - or - "GAMING NCLB" - Avoiding becoming a Program Improvement school, district or state - through legislation rather than education - and without risking losing the federal funds!

LINK TO: More news than fits for this week!

EVENTS: Coming up...
The NextGen program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is great! When kids 17 or younger sign up for a free membership, any adult who accompanies them to LACMA is admitted free and is entitled to members benefits and discounts. Foe more info:



An educational workshop for teachers encompassing the history, geography and culture of Northeast Los Angeles will be presented in conjunction with the third annual "Lummis Day: The Festival of Northeast Los Angeles" on two consecutive Saturdays in February, (2/2 and 2/9).

Titled “A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: CHARLES LUMMIS AND THE CULTURE OF THE ARROYO SECO,” the workshop will be presented as an LAUSD-approved one-point credit class and the curriculum will include seminars and presentations by poets, authors, naturalists, a Native American storyteller, and historians. A broad cross-section of Arroyo locations will serve as classrooms for the program, which will include docent tours of the area’s museums, field studies and nature walks through urban wilderness areas.

Carmela Gomes, a retired LAUSD teacher who serves as Educational Director for the Lummis Day Community Foundation, has designed the 15-hour course in cooperation with the Los Angeles Unified School District and will lead eight additional presenters representing a broad cross section of disciplines and interests for this uniquely multi-disciplinary curriculum. The course is aimed at allowing teachers to impart a sense of “place,” community pride and unity among Los Angeles students.

For further information call or email Carmela Gomes at 323-257-1900 or

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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.