Sunday, February 10, 2008

Eli's comin' | well + good

4LAKids: Sunday, Feb 10, 2008
In This Issue:
TALES OUT OF SCHOOL: How A Pushy, Type A Mother Stopped Reading Jonathan Kozol and Learned to Love the Public Schools
CHARTERS' COMPETITIVE EDGE: Students succeed when schools have five key components + OTHER KEY INGREDIENTS
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.
• "To me, money is a means to do good. I reached a point in my life where I had enjoyed tremendous business success that afforded my family everything we could possibly want. My wife and I then decided that we could use our wealth to make a difference. So we created the Broad Foundations to do four things: to improve urban public education, to support innovative scientific and medical research, to foster art appreciation for audiences worldwide and to support civic initiatives in Los Angeles." - Eli Broad

[OK English teachers, let's not dispute Mr. Broad's use of "good" for "well". Even Mr. Gates' grammar checker jumps on this - it's an adjective/adverb thing - but Eli Broad has already done well, now he's about doing good and the language - if not the system - can withstand the assault.]

There can be no denying Eli Broad's commitment or his billions. It is all around us; filling the press last week - both with the rollout of the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art at LAMA and in his LA Times editorial about education. [CHARTERS' COMPETITIVE EDGE]

The art and architecture critics are all over Broad's museum and collection; they jump on his artistic vision for LA, bemoaning the building as splashy but pedestrian and the collection for his preference for "investment grade" over "artistic vision".

Broad's taste is architecture has always drawn fire; his championship of the Frank Geary designed Disney Hall took so long to materialize that by the time the concert hall was built it was playing second fiddle to the even more audacious Geary design for the Guggenheim Bilbao. The Coop-Himmelblau design for the High School for the Arts on Grand Ave. draws fire for its cost at the taxpayer's expense (Broad paid and/or fundraised for the museum and the concert hall) …and the Times architecture critic is displeased. To bring up Broad's Grand Avenue Project invites the critics to pile on.

Broad's investment in urban public education is no less a lightning rod, nationally and locally. His Broad Institute trains up future education leaders, bringing in folks from outside education - second-career business and military leaders for the most part - giving them crash course lessons in Education-as-viewed-by-Eli — reinforcing the Goldiloxian business school management theories of X (too hard and authoritarian), Y (too soft and unaccountable) and Z (just right … as taught by Broad mentor Bill Ouchi).

New superintendents, assistant supes and school board members across the country are Broad alumni. LAUSD Innovation Division head Kathi Littman and Beverly Ryder, Executive Director of the Office of Parent and Civic Engagement are Broad Fellows. David Brewer is rumored to be a Broad scholar.

Broad himself says there are three schools of thought in public school reform.

• Vouchers and privatization.
• Charters, competition and breaking up the government monopoly of public education.
• And a Third Way — no magic bullets but instead doing the hard work of fundamental reform.

Broad opposes vouchers and says he favors the third way – but seems to be investing his money, his "means to do good" – in the second. Green Dot. KIPP, etc. His initial sponsorship for mayoral control in LA — and then backing away when the mayor wouldn't go far enough seems contradictory: What is mayoral control if not building up the government monopoly?


In Broad's LA Times editorial below he champions schools like the KIPP schools - which routinely shun misbehaving and underperforming students by making them wear their shirts inside out, forbidding them conversation with teachers and classmates, and denies them a desk and chair. In LAUSD denying a student a desk and chair would violate the Williams Consent Decree inviting court action; to subject a child to silent ridicule would invite administrative intervention and the press.

Broad notwithstanding, the success of charter schools in general is based on a single incontrovertible fact: PARENTS OPT IN. Charters can and do REQUIRE parent participation; THAT is the string attached.

Parents have to want to have their kids in charters. They must apply, they must deal with the lottery; they are invested. A command of the English language and an understanding of the educational bureaucracy comes in very handy. LAUSD programs that require opt in: the magnet program, Schools for Advanced Study, Permits with-and-without transportation and even the Belmont Zone of Choice enjoy similar success. Charters rightly claim not to cherry-pick students …but by their very nature they cherry-pick parents.

As the letters following Broad's editorial point out, that is the point Broad misses. Other writers say the same is true of charter teaching staffs – they have elected to go this route – and this too is true.

The single thing at the schools that Broad supports - the competitive edge he brings that that sets his schools apart is Broad's substantial financial investment; leveraged against the 'sweat equity' of parental involvement these are 'investment grade' investments. Charter and I-Division schools get more money per child to do the job because state per-pupil funding is augmented with outside investors' money. And it doesn't hurt that the millionaire/billionaires/foundations watch their investments and demand a return-on-investment. Wouldn't you?

One wonders how Broad, Gates & Co. will feel when they find their investments are being used to infill state budget cuts …because charter schools too are threatened with the governor's education threatened 10% across the board budget cuts!

Read on, the discussion continues on another plane….

TALES OUT OF SCHOOL: How A Pushy, Type A Mother Stopped Reading Jonathan Kozol and Learned to Love the Public Schools
by Sandra Tsing Loh from the March Atlantic Monthly

Gentle Reader, I give you Sandra Tsing Loh.

You've heard her on the radio — you pull over to the curb to hear the Revealed Truth of a Mom's Life in LAUSD. You don't pull over because the truth in itself is so overpowering, you pull over because she's so funny and so right and you yelling "Yes, Yes, Yes!" like a deranged Molly Blume at the radio makes you a hazard to your fellow motorists and the kids in the carpool.

Sandra is the Molly Ivens of LAUSD.

Now read her repudiation of education guru Jonathan Kozol in the March Atlantic. We all come to Kozol as sort of light in the darkness. Kozol discovered the Achievement Gap - he's made an industry of writing about it and writing about it and writing about it. He's been writing so much for so long he must be right. Right?

LOH: "For four decades, he has made visceral this tragic loss of human potential."

And he never lets us forget it with a new book every year - It's Brando as Kurtz in 'Apocalypse Now': "The horror!"

Follow the link below as Sandra realizes by how far Kozol has missed the point and calls him to task therefore.

"Beating up on public schools is not just our nation’s favorite blood sport, but also a favorite conversational entertainment of the well-off." (Eli - are you reading this?)

"Kozol underestimates the potential of parents as a tool for improving public schools. Or perhaps, after decades of his own lost cocktail-party arguments, he has simply given up on them. Instead of exploring the chaotic and the new, Kozol seems more comfortable retilling the familiar territory of his ’60s civil-rights jeremiads inhabited by only two cartoonish, archetypical kinds of parents:

1) poor, black, eternally noble, Langston Hughes–quoting parents too beaten down by the system to escape horrible schools; and
2) “savvy,” white, affluent parents who successfully connive to get their children into fabulous suburban schools, with nary a look behind them.

If he were a parent and had to navigate our hardscrabble world, both the problems and the solutions might appear different to him."

Sandra continues on, not just a liberal critic eating her liberal mentor or revealing a paucity of imperial clothing - but describing in detail just how wrong Kozol's '60's viewpoint is — and how a single indefatigable parent can make a difference and does make a difference. And just how the small group that Margaret Mead says is the force that changes the world actually changes the world …in spite of the doomsayers and failure decriers, whither from academe, liberal or conservative politics or the mythical suburbs.

Sandra concludes:

"True integration, I think, does not result from a single grand dramatic gesture, like the march on Washington Kozol envisions. True integration evolves from daily, tiny, bridging human moments. To keep this kind of work up for weeks and months and years, there has to be a payoff like improved education for our children. If integration then means gentrification, so be it. In the end, what matters are the children, some of whom, despite reports to the contrary, are doing well."

So gentle readers and English teachers everywhere: We can do well …and do good also.

Sandra's article at 4500 words is too long for this issue of 4LAKids - which I've kept short this week - but please make the leap and follow the link. And thank you Sandra.

Onward/Everforward! - smf

TALES OUT OF SCHOOL: How A Pushy, Type A Mother Stopped Reading Jonathan Kozol and Learned to Love the Public Schools

CHARTERS' COMPETITIVE EDGE: Students succeed when schools have five key components + OTHER KEY INGREDIENTS
By Eli Broad | Opinion in the LA Times

February 5, 2008 - Charter schools -- public schools that have been exempted from selected state and local regulations -- are changing the competitive landscape of American elementary, middle and high schools. Some have had a rocky track record; some have been plagued by mismanagement and poor performance. But overall, the exchange of greater autonomy for greater accountability has worked. Those that have failed to perform have been shut down.

In Los Angeles, which has more charter schools than anywhere in the nation, charters are the key to raising the performance of all public schools. And they offer a lesson that can be applied elsewhere.

Consider the stark reality of the Los Angeles Unified School District: Of the more than 700,000 students in the nation's second-largest district, only 44% graduate in four years. For Latino students, that number drops to 41%.

Now look at the graduation rates of high-performing charter schools, which usually replace lower-performing public ones: Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 12 charter schools in Los Angeles, has an 80% graduation rate. Of those students, nearly all go on to college, and two-thirds attend four-year universities. In the next five years, Green Dot will expand to serve a remarkable 8% of all high school students in Los Angeles.

KIPP schools is another charter school operator that has had similar success. In January, our foundation gave it $12 million to open four schools in Los Angeles. Its students attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; they attend school every other Saturday; they attend school during the summer; and they make a commitment to learn. More than 80% of KIPP alumni nationwide are attending college.

But what is it that makes these schools work when so many other models have failed? Since 2000, our foundation has sought the answer by closely tracking the progress of the $90 million we have invested in public charter schools nationwide.

What we have learned is this: Successful charter schools across the country have five key ingredients in common that enable them to improve student achievement.

Above all, successful charters keenly focus on getting students to achieve to high standards. They don't get distracted by issues like what color to paint the walls, and they don't play blame games, which happens in many urban districts. Instead, they offer a rigorous curriculum, assess student progress frequently and regularly use this data to improve instruction.

Second, "principals" in successful charters are not just effective instructional leaders or master teachers who work closely with their teachers to improve instruction and learning. They are also effective managers of complex school budgets. And unlike many traditional principals, charter principals are empowered to decide whom to hire, whom to fire and how to spend dollars to best meet student needs.

Third, although charter schools still report to a "central office," these offices look quite different from those in traditional school districts. They have minimal staff and rely on the best research-based practices and technology to funnel all available dollars to the classroom. Green Dot, for example, has only two central office staff for every school. The ratio for L.A. Unified is 7 to 1.

Fourth, to meet their students' academic needs, successful charters use research-based practices that have been proved to be successful in educating kids. These include creating smaller schools, offering double blocks of math or reading, extending the school day or enforcing a strict dress code.

Finally, successful charters hold school leaders accountable for student results. The bottom line: Students perform or the schools are closed.

The power of charter schools is that as their success grows and their numbers swell, market forces will pressure neighboring district public schools to improve. If public schools have to compete for students, they will be forced to look to charters as a model of what is working.

Those of us who come from the world of business understand what is at risk if we do not dramatically improve our public schools. Our economy, our standard of living and our democracy could be jeopardized in a global economy in which education has become not the great equalizer but the competitive advantage. Our students need every advantage we can provide them. And public charter schools have the competitive edge.

• Eli Broad is the founder of KB Home and SunAmerica. He and his wife created the $2.5-billion Broad Foundations to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts.

Re "Charters' competitive edge," Opinion, Feb. 5/Letters to the Editor Feb. 9, 2008

►More than 30 years ago, I ran the alternative school system in Boston's inner city that served a predominantly African American K-8 student population.

The five key factors Eli Broad identifies as being central to charter schools having a competitive edge were alive and well in our schools. We had a sixth ingredient: parental involvement.

Our schools were parent-controlled, so I had to answer to parents who were keenly interested in achievement. These parents did not swear by standardized testing, but we had to administer these tests so that our financial partners could gauge the "return on their investment." The Ford Foundation's 1974 report, "Matters of Choice," describes these schools and the fact that our children achieved at a high level on standardized tests.

These 30-year-old lessons, along with the lessons of today's charter schools, will have enduring value when high student achievement and parental involvement are routine in public schools.

Philip S. Hart
Los Feliz

►In celebrating the success of charter schools, Broad attributes much of that success to market forces and competition. I suspect that those things have far less to do with the schools' success than he suggests. KIPP schools, he points out, require students to attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- and also during the summer -- and make a commitment to learn.

One disadvantage of other public schools is that they cannot be selective in terms of who may attend. Unmotivated and disruptive students undoubtedly destroy for other students an appropriate environment in which learning is possible. I can't help but wonder if all public schools wouldn't be equally successful if the students who have no commitment to learning were asked to leave and find some place else to spend their time. This sounds harsh and unfeeling, I admit, but it seems that public schools need to decide who should be there, so that motivated students have a real opportunity to learn. Public schools should not be a place to keep kids off the street and out of trouble.

Jay Stevens
Long Beach

►Broad details the five key ingredients that enable charter schools to improve achievement. Having worked at three charter schools, I was surprised that excellent teaching staff was not one of the ingredients.

I watch charter school teachers go above and beyond the call of duty every day. Charter school teachers wear every hat that a school has to offer, and many hats that traditional schools don't offer. We are routinely thanked by parents for helping their students in ways that our counterparts at big public schools don't.

Broad should not overlook the fact that charter schools attract an exceptionally hard-working and devoted teaching staff that contributes to school achievement in ways that may be hard to quantify with data but that are impossible to ignore.

Julia Fisher
Los Angeles
The writer is on the faculty at Green Dot's Amino Inglewood Charter High School/not an LAUSD charter

by Jason Song, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 7, 2008 - Palisades Charter High School won the Los Angeles school district's Academic Decathlon competition Tuesday night. That means almost another month of studying for the nine-member team before the state competition in March.

"It's a really dedicated, disciplined group," said Chris Lee, one of the team's co-coaches. Lee graduated from Palisades Charter in 1990, the last time the Pacific Palisades school won the local competition.

Palisades Charter faced 64 other teams during the two-day competition, which included 10 oral and written quizzes. The winning students racked up 50,121 points out of 60,000.

Palisades Charter students Kevin Gould, Sun John Ji, Thomas Krane, Jamie Lopez, Marvin Lopez, Preston Mendell, Hannah Moulthrop, Karl Niu and Weylin Wagnon have been preparing since last summer and studying at school until 9 most nights.

Lee said the team wouldn't put in even longer hours -- but wouldn't slack off either.
The top seven Los Angeles Unified School District teams go to Sacramento on March 8 to compete for the chance to go to the national contest in May.

The other schools are El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills; North Hollywood High School; William Howard Taft High School in Woodland Hills; John Marshall High School in Silver Lake; Granada Hills Charter High School; and James A. Garfield High School in East L.A.

▲ Congratulations Pali Hi - and the other six teams - as well as all the participants in the LAUSD Academic Decathlon this year. Historically LAUSD teams other than the city champion win the state championship - and LAUSD teams go on to win national …but no pressure!

And in total abandonment of any pretense at journalistic impartiality: Go Marshall! - smf

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►Monday Feb 11, 2008
Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
Van Nuys High School
6535 Cedros Avenue
Van Nuys, CA 91411

►Monday Feb 11, 2008
6:30 p.m.
Hazeltine Elementary School - Auditorium
7150 Hazeltine Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

►Tuesday Feb 12, 2008
6:30 p.m.
Camellia Elementary School - Auditorium
7451 Camellia Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91605

►Wednesday Feb 13, 2008
7:00 p.m.
The CenterPointe Club
6200 Playa Vista Drive
Playa Vista, CA 90094

►Wednesday Feb 13, 2008
SOUTH REGION HIGH SCHOOL #15: Schematic Design Meeting
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
San Pedro High School - Auditorium
1001 W 15th St.
San Pedro, CA 90731

►Thursday Feb 14, 2008
♥ ¡Happy Valentines Day! ♥

*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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