Saturday, June 21, 2008

2 Schools: 12 miles and a world apart

4LAKids: Sunday, June 22, 2008
In This Issue:
1 School District/1 Local District/1 School Boardmember/2 Schools—12 miles and a world apart: ACADEMY CHEERED BY GRADS + GRADUATION DAY AT LOCKE HIGH
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:
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
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.
There's always lots of drama during the last weeks of school.

Graduation. Turning in your books. Report cards. For some: summer vacation or summer school or camp; the beach, the backyard pool or the municipal pool. The mall or the streets. For others back to year-round school on July 1.

Some educators will retire. Some kids make up their minds to pack it in …the gold ring is too far a reach, not worth it. Whatever. Some teachers and administrators may decide the same. Employees are being laid off because we can't afford to keep them. Some vacancies are going to be unfilled. Some lemons will dance.

The media batten down their critical hatches and fire their broadsides: The Daily News ran an M-F series on LAUSD this week and miscalculated often daily is — coming up with six attacks!

Good things happened this week. Yes - the Lakers lost, but on Monday evening LAUSD won The California Environmental Leadership Award. Not one minute of media airtime or drop of ink was spent in LA on this - although the news made outlets in Europe and Asia and Biloxi, Miss. The photo-op of Arianna Huffington and Julie Korenstein together should have made the front page …if only for the hair.

Up and down the district happy students Culminated, Matriculated and Graduated …and happy parents beamed. On Tuesday I spoke to fellow fifth grade alumni at my old elementary school - "old boy" to the youngsters - fifty years separating our graduation dates. There are Presidents of the US and doctors and lawyers and scientists and (please) teachers among them — such are crossing every stage in every school.

Next week's graduates – those who graduate from year round programs – had a harder time. They should get extra strands in their tassels.

On Wednesday the Bond Oversight Committee heard from an ex-convict who through a special LAUSD training program went from jail to a construction job building schools. It's a program the district doesn't like to call "handcuffs-to-hardhats" – but it works. John Harriel is a Graduate in the purest sense of that title.

This is good stuff. But we hide our light under a bushel.


TWELVE MILES OF THE 110 FREEWAY separate Harbor Teacher Prep Academy from Locke High School.

Of the seniors who graduated from Harbor Teacher Prep Academy High School this week seventy percent earned their college AA degrees at the same time (actually a few minutes before!) as their high school diplomas. They represent the future of education in this district and this nation. Even as they crossed the stage they didn't celebrate their individual success but their building a Community. They are showing us the way.

To the north the Locke High School graduates probably overcame the greatest adversity and the greatest challenge of them all. They are few and rightfully proud - 20% of the starting cohort. The challenges they faced were adult apathy complicated by political wrangling, poverty, race, transiency and the soft bigotry of low expectations. Multiple bureaucracies conspired against them; entrenched and holding the high ground of the status quo and order; armed with conventional wisdom, blinded in the media glare of often self-righteous and self-serving public indignation.

Locke, the great social justice answer to the Watts Riots.

"We've tried everything at Locke," they say. Whoever they are …and stuck with none of it.

Locke was a dinosaur-on-life-support of a comprehensive inner city school; large, unfeeling, disconnected. Harbor Teacher Prep is the new direction, small, connected autonomous, challenging, and entrepreneurial. Mammalian.

Locke was; Harbor Teacher Prep is. The school board is poised to pass a resolution Tuesday to universally create Small Schools throughout the district, creating a District of Small Schools by 2020. A great and laudable objective.

I would feel better about it if they weren't so much in a hurry to pass their resolution and decide on the language for the next school bond so they can go on vacation for July and August. Until 2012 LAUSD is a year round school district.

Onward! - smf


1 School District/1 Local District/1 School Boardmember/2 Schools—12 miles and a world apart: ACADEMY CHEERED BY GRADS + GRADUATION DAY AT LOCKE HIGH
►ACADEMY CHEERED BY GRADS: Students say Harbor Teacher Prep fostered relationships as well as academics.

by Melissa Pamer, Daily Breeze Staff Writer

June 19, 2998 - The 64 graduating seniors at Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy are far more eager to crow about the community they've built than the multitude of academic accomplishments they've achieved.

At a commencement ceremony held Thursday evening in Narbonne High School's auditorium, the red-robed students couldn't contain their emotions.

The $1 million in college scholarships the class of 2008 has earned over the next four years - as well as the fact that 70 percent of them received associate's degrees from Los Angeles Harbor College in Wilmington before they were given their high school diplomas - came in for hearty cheers.

But it was the friendships that got the strongest response.

Student speaker Minerva Esquivel, bound for UCLA, described the dread she felt at coming to the academy, expecting not to fit in.

"It took me almost two years and several reality checks to accept who I was," Minerva said. "I was no longer an oddball. I was part of the HTPA family."

Eric Romo, who will attend Harvard University in the fall, reminded his classmates that he was a "reserved geek" when he came to the school. He became someone who can't shut up in class, tells bad jokes, and dresses like George Washington at the prom.

Maybe he's still a geek, he admitted. But it's the chance to become who he wanted to be that mattered.

"Anyone who's ever visited our school can attest that there's something special there," Eric said. "It makes the best of everyone."

For the beleaguered Los Angeles Unified School District, the 313-student school is a bright spot. The academy was founded in the 2002-03 school year with the intention of sending students, who would earn associate's degrees by taking Harbor College courses simultaneously with high school classes, on to the teaching program at California State University, Dominguez Hills. It was hoped that they would complete their bachelor's degrees and return to LAUSD as instructors.

That remains a goal, but, with the school's initial graduates just now beginning to finish college, it's unclear if that target is being achieved, academy administrators said. At the graduation, Eric said he guessed only 10 of the seniors would become teachers.

"No matter what we're going to do, we're all going to be teachers," said Eric, whose five brothers and sisters attended Narbonne High School in Harbor City. "If you're an engineer you're always going to be instructing someone else. Whatever I do, I want to make teaching part of my life."

Since Harbor Teacher Prep first opened the doors of its "campus" - a handful of cramped trailers parked on the tennis courts at Harbor College - the school had earned a wall full of awards for academic achievement and has shown high scores on standardized tests.

Peer tutoring and mentoring are a crucial part of the school's plan, and students are encouraged to take "ownership" of the success of fellow kids, administrators said.

"If you struggle, we're not going to let you drown," said Minerva, who worked as a teaching assistant in a sociology course for underclassmen.

Part of the school's ethos, Minerva said, is that "you don't really know something until you can teach it to someone else."

The academy is part of a growing national "Early College" movement to create small high schools on college campuses. Harbor Teacher Prep receives support from the Middle College National Consortium, a group of 31 schools that embrace college-campus secondary education. The school has also won grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has funded the Early College movement.

The academy outpaces all other early-college high schools in graduating seniors with associate's degrees, said Terry Born, who advises and evaluates schools for the consortium.

"They have created a community that does not permit failure," Born said of the academy.

This spring, more than 250 eighth-graders applied for just over 100 slots in next year's freshmen class.

The school gives preference to those who say they want to become teachers, said Principal Mattie Adams, a 26-year veteran LAUSD administrator, counselor and teacher. Overall, officials seek to select students who are motivated and capable of working hard, not just those who are the most academically qualified, she said.

"This being LAUSD, we're not allowed to cream the top," she said. "Even low-achieving students can be successful if they work hard."

School officials interview every student who applies, making clear to the kids that work at the academy will be challenging.


"We've shaped this culture of high expectations from the beginning," said Adams, who presided over small learning communities at both Narbonne and Banning high schools. "The kids know we are not accepting failure; we are not accepting laziness."

The school makes it easy for students to build relationships with one another - and teachers - in weekly student-run meetings called "advisories." The Friday sessions are a sort of emotional homeroom where students can share and get advice on things that are troubling them.

That sense of community - along with a culture of high expectations - is something that should be a model for other LAUSD schools, according to school board member Richard Vladovic, who was instrumental in the academy's creation and who backs the expansion of "small learning communities" within the massive district.

"It's an amazing story, but it can be replicated," Vladovic said.

Himself a former LAUSD teacher and administrator, Vladovic supported the creation of the academy in hope that it could provide instructors to area schools.

"I'm hoping we get more teachers," Vladovic said. "But if we've got to save a kid, I'm not going to mind if he doesn't end up being a teacher."


►GRADUATION DAY AT LOCKE HIGH: For the Few Who Persevered at the Troubled L.A. School, It Was Time to Celebrate. For Those Behind Them, Change Is Coming.

Editorial from the Los Angeles Times

June 20, 2008 - In a week of culminating glory for high school graduates and their parents, few have more bragging rights than the 300 or so seniors who walked the stage Thursday at Alain Leroy Locke Senior High School. The graduates of Locke are exceptional in the most literal sense. Of the 1,558 freshmen who started out almost four years ago, these were all who managed to reach Thursday's ceremony.

The numbers are so startling, they beg to be placed next to each other so we can grasp them: more than 1,500 freshmen, about 300 graduates. Some of the latter didn't even receive their diplomas, as they haven't yet passed the high school exit exam. That's not surprising in a South L.A. school at which 11% of students test as proficient in English and 2% in math.

Parents and school officials in Irvine or San Marino would be breaking down school wallsgiven these kinds of numbers. Why haven't we heard the shouts of outrage about Locke from one end of the Los Angeles Unified School District to the other, and especially in the boardroom?

Maybe now it's easier to understand why so many parents in the Locke neighborhood pleaded for the Green Dot charter organization to take over, and why enough teachers signed a petition to bring that about. With the school year over, Locke now shifts to Green Dot, to make what magic it can at a campus beset not only by low academic achievement but vandalism, violence and a pervasive sense of lassitude. Many teachers have tried through the years; there has even been faint progress on scores. But numbers as humiliating as Locke's demand dramatic, not incremental, intervention.

Nor was this year's graduation rate unusually abysmal. In the previous five years, Locke has enrolled somewhere from 1,200 to 1,400 freshmen, according to the state’s database. From there the numbers dwindled with each higher grade. Perhaps 600 to 800 sophomores. Maybe 500-plus juniors. And about 300 seniors.

In fairness, not all of those missing students dropped out. Close to 200 of the missing this year are seniors who need a few more courses to graduate; they might pick those up this summer. Some were held back a year. And Locke is located in a part of the city with a high rate of transience; some moved elsewhere.

Strange, though, isn't it, that hundreds of students supposedly moved out, but none moved in to take their places? Could it be that part of the reason for the transiency is that families left to find better educations for their kids? That maybe they would make more of an effort to stay in the neighborhood if it had a good school? Or even a safe one?

Locke made headlines last month when a fight grew into a brawl involving hundreds of students. At that point, it was revealed that the district had all but abandoned the school after the charter petition succeeded. Security had been cut by half. Fights were common. And when Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines walked the campus, he found teachers screening movies for their students and presiding over classroom card games instead of teaching.

A bad year

If you had spent the last 10 months at Locke, seeing each day what these teenagers saw and experienced, you would marvel anew at the graduates' -- and their teachers' -- resilience. There was tension between teachers who favored Green Dot and those who opposed the change. Some teachers who didn't want to join the charter operator, or couldn't get a job with it, grew apathetic about the school, and it didn't help that the district's payroll system was dysfunctional. Principal Frank Wells, who had improved campus security, was gone -- escorted off campus after supporting the Green Dot takeover.

With the reduced security force, students with a bent for trouble knew they were unwatched much of the time and took advantage. They gambled openly in the quad, brazenly roamed the halls during class time and covered everything with graffiti, enough to cost the district several hundred thousand dollars to paint over -- and over. One teacher tells about a water fountain near his classroom that was painted at least 20 times during the school year.

The Fire Department responded to calls three times, twice to extinguish major blazes that damaged classrooms. Teachers say that doesn't count the hallway fires they put out themselves.

And the fights, the fights -- usually small, but a recurring part of campus life. They were staged in out-of-the-way spots, behind buildings where staff seldom thought to look, but they also broke out in class, right before teachers' eyes. And when teachers called security, there was a good chance no one would come. Little wonder that one-third of the school's teaching force turns over in a typical year.

Bruce Smith, an English teacher who circulated Green Dot petitions and who is staying on at the school, said weapons checks at the front gate grew spotty this year. And in the past, there were times when security was handled so clumsily that it was more the problem than the solution, he said. Case in point: Smith's class on "The Odyssey."

Smith had spent five weeks coaching his ninth-grade students through Homer's epic. They were on the final, passionate verses. Odysseus and Penelope were romantically reuniting when security guards marched in, announcing: "You have been selected for a randomized check for weapons." They called selected students to the front of the class and waved a metal-detecting wand over them.

A good day

The graduates of Locke, and their friends and families, are deeply aware of how rare they are. So although there were about 300 students in the seats set up on the athletic field Thursday afternoon, they were cheered on by a crowd that filled the bleachers on both sides despite the searing sun overhead. Cousins, uncles, neighborhood pals, holdingflowers and giant balloon bouquets. Close to 10 fans for every grad.

One young man, carrying a stuffed Winnie the Pooh and a vase of stargazer lilies, said he was there to watch his wife graduate. A middle-aged man had come to see his niece graduate. He remembered that in his days at Jefferson High, most students took a diploma. What's happened since then, he wondered.

Even the guest speaker, Councilwoman Janice Hahn, alluded to it. In a typical commencement speech in which she urged the graduates, "If you have a dream, follow it," she also took a moment to note that "you are here while so many are not."

The very existence of these teenagers in their white caps and gowns, cheering as an angel-voiced girl sang the national anthem, marked something extraordinary at Locke.

Eyes forward

A few days before the graduation ceremony, in a portable building tucked out of sight, Ronnie Coleman was plotting the future. Locke's new principal, fastidious about selecting the right teachers -- she insists on watching them teach a class to see if they have the intangible quality it takes to reach students -- was behind on her hiring. She was figuring out how to provide advanced electives online during summer school and laughing about all the conversations with students it took to calm their biggest concern about going Green Dot: the uniform of khaki pants and a polo shirt.

She also worried about the seniors who celebrated Thursday without having passed their exit exams. Would they attend Green Dot's summer schoolto prep for another try?Letting such students "walk" for graduation can be a mistake, Coleman said. Many seem to think the important part of graduation isn't the diploma but the ceremony, the cap and gown and the pictures taken by thrilled grandmothers.

Meanwhile, Green Dot founder Steve Barr strolled the campus, talking about the new turf he hopes to fund for the athletic field, the school newspaper he wants to start, the video cameras that will be planted in the hidden nooks to cut down on crime. A teacher reminded him that graffiti vandals won't just go away and that neighborhood transiency is a fact of life here. With a confident grin, Barr replied that the kids would be watched every moment and that if he can make this school good enough, no one will want to leave the area.

But Barr has never attempted a challenge like Locke -- a school of more than 2,000 students that draws almost solely from its surrounding neighborhood. What will he do with the parents who show up on the first day of school with no idea that they were supposed to sign up their children beforehand? Public schools can't turn those people away. What about the kids who just don't try? Up to now, Barr has opened 500-student schools that were sought out by involved parents and their motivated children. Locke will face the true test of a charter school, if it strives to turn around the same failing campus with the same students.

As Barr walked to the street, he sighed. "They're such good kids," he said. He squinted up at the school's name, in narrow silver letters over the security-gated front entry. "We can pull this thing off, right?"

By Jaana Juvonen | Op-Ed in LA Times

June 21, 2008 - These are facts of life for seventh-graders in L.A. County public middle schools, according to a new report sponsored by the United Way of Los Angeles: 48% are bullied; 13% carry a weapon to school; 71% do not have a caring relationship with a teacher or another adult at school. Perhaps it's no surprise then that statewide assessments published in May reveal that only 5% of the 98 middle schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District meet California's academic standards.

Can anything be done? On June 24, the school board will vote on a resolution intended to fix the problems by reducing middle schools from an average size of more than 2,000 students to an average size of 400 over the next 12 years. Large campuses would be turned into smaller, administratively independent schools sharing some spaces and coordinating services, and the construction of new, smaller campuses would begin.

The resolution's goal is laudable: Smaller schools encourage better relationships between students and teachers, which results in better attendance, safer schools and better teacher-parent connections. But downsizing is a long and expensive process -- and it's not the only way to get middle schoolers back on track.

Consider cost first. The resolution doesn't include a price tag, but according to The Times, new schools in Los Angeles cost $500 or more a square foot these days -- that's expensive, especially in a district facing looming budget cuts.

Even leaving aside the funding for new buildings, smaller is generally costlier. That's because, unless teachers take on multiple roles (teaching more than one subject, acting as administrators as well as instructors), smaller schools create less cost-effective teacher-student ratios. In New York City, where the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $51 million in school-size reduction efforts, the high schools are struggling because it's hard to implement changes in teachers' scope of work.

So what are the alternatives? It helps to reconsider middle schools from the ground up.

Developmental psychologists know that sixth- to eighth-grade students are emotionally better off -- and therefore better able to learn -- in stable situations, without multiple transitions and constant changes. Not only is the transition from elementary school to middle school dramatic, but everday experiences are alienating in most middle schools, where students face as many as 100 different classmates and six teachers daily as they move from one period to the next. Teachers work with 120 students a day, and parents barely get to know the parade of teachers grade by grade. This is true even in middle schools with 400 students, when teachers teach one subject for one grade level.

All of this means that a simple and cost-effective way to improve middle school is to keep the same teacher for each subject across more than one year -- one teacher for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade English, for example. Most teachers are qualified to teach more than one grade in their subject, and research shows that when middle school students have the same teachers for multiple years, students have more positive attitudes toward school, their attendance and achievement improve and disciplinary problems decrease. Teachers like it better too, possibly because they aren't wasting time each year starting over with a new set of students.

A more fundamental structural change that would promote stable relationships and continuity is to eliminate separate middle schools. Research demonstrates that sixth- to eighth-grade students feel safer in K-8 schools compared with separate middle schools. Moreover, students who change schools between fifth grade and sixth grade incur greater achievement losses in middle school and when they transition to high school.

The LAUSD has only eight K-8 schools, compared with 74 middle schools. Some of the largest existing middle schools could be converted and, with more grades per campus, the number of students in each grade would fall -- automatically achieving smaller middle school classes.

Carving big schools into small ones is one way to go. But the LAUSD board would be wise to not commit to this costly option without considering the alternatives. Size matters, but the good things it fosters can also be achieved by other more immediate and cost-effective measures.

• Jaana Juvonen, a professor and chair of the developmental psychology program at UCLA, was the lead author of the 2004 Rand Corp. report, "The Challenges Facing the American Middle School."

2004 Rand Corp. report,


New York Times Editorial

June 19, 2008 - To get the well-educated, highly skilled workers that the country needs, states must strengthen public school curriculums, especially in math and science. States also need to adopt high-quality tests that show how students are performing from year to year.

Still there is a danger when schools focus too much attention on test preparation at the expense of high-quality classroom instruction. A disturbing new study from an influential research institute at the University of Chicago shows that that is happening far too often in Chicago schools — and likely in many others across the country.

The study, conducted by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, looked at how Chicago high schools dealt with the ACT, the well-known college-entry examination that Illinois students are required to take as a part of the state’s testing regime.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test that measures what students learn at school and how well they are prepared for the first year of college. This is not a test that is easy to game. Performance depends on what students have been taught and the strength of their skills.

Some test preparation can still be helpful if kept in perspective. Indeed, students can benefit from learning general test-taking skills or becoming familiar with a specific test that they are about to take. But some schools and teachers in the consortium study went way overboard.

They required their students to spend enormous amounts of valuable class time practicing on a preliminary version of the test. By cutting instructional time, they were actually making it less and less likely that students would perform well on the test. Thinking that test preparation matters more, some students also blew off the actual course work.

The obvious cure in Illinois, and in other states, is to carefully limit or dispense with test preparation in class. Teachers should instead be working on the high-level academic skills that students need to perform well, not just on tests, but in college and long afterward.

Testing is the only real way to measure student progress and teacher effectiveness. But as the Chicago case shows, teaching to the test can be self-defeating.


• The Times gets is so right, and then blows it in the penultimate line: "Testing is the only real way to measure student progress and teacher effectiveness."

This is hocum and hogwash, testing is the easy way. There are student portfolios and teacher evaluation (Report Cards?) and peer review to evaluate the evaluators.

True evaluation is never a True/False or Multiple Choice or bubble-the-bubbles solution. Test scores are not the outcome; "The well-educated, highly skilled workers that the country needs" — a successful productive reasoning society is the outcome. Folks who can read the NYT and separate the wheat from the chaff ...even there.

- Give 'em a B! - smf

by Fabio Banegas - Eastern Group Publications Staff Writer

Under a banner bearing the program’s slogan, “Join the building team,” the Los Angeles Unified School District on June 12 celebrated the graduation of 73 contractors who are now prequalified to bid on jobs for the district’s ongoing construction campaign; the largest construction program in the nation’s history.

The ceremony opened with words by David L. Brewer III, LAUSD’s Superintendent, who told the small business graduates, “We want to stimulate the economy; we want to make sure that you all are part of this stimulus plan.”

The Small Business Boot Camp Program will allow these contractors to get “everything in place, so they can get prequalified to bid in LAUSD’s projects,” explained Veronica Soto, LAUSD’s Director of Contractor Relations and Business Programs.

As part of the prequalification process, twice a year in three different locations — Central Los Angeles, East L.A. and the San Fernando Valley — the LAUSD offers an eight-week Boot Camp that provides contractors with resources to help them become prepared on the requirements for submitting estimates and contract bids for LAUSD’s building and modernization projects.

“It is not difficult to get the certification, the only thing it requires is time and dedication,” Esteban Torres, a 2003 graduate of the Boot Camp told EGP. Last year, Torres’ company completed $37 million worth of building projects for the LAUSD. Torres is the Operation Manager of Torres Construction, a family-owned business based in Eagle Rock since 1976.

“The only requirement for admission is that the candidates be licensed by the state of California,” said Soto. Once admitted, the Boot Camp provides seminars and workshops, each building on the others, which aim to instruct the potential contractors on how to meet all the requirements to work in the public sector.

“Because the rules are the same, then they can go bid for work on other public projects, such as community colleges and the airport,” she added.

The crucial areas covered in the classes are: workers’ compensation, general liability insurance, bonding, how to bid for LAUSD projects, labor compliance, scheduling and safety.

There are many established businesses that do good work but don’t have formal contracting experience, especially with government agencies, explains LAUSD.
To help them formalize their business practices, the school district’s small business program has partnered with other agencies, such as California’s EDD (Employment Development Department) and the IRS, “so they have an understanding that they have to [follow certain rules such as] pay their workers the prevailing wage required by the government and get their books and finances in order,” said Soto.

“We are changing the LAUSD. We are building 132 new schools and have another 20,000 modernization projects in the works. We want all our communities to benefit from the $20 billion for this renovation,” LAUSD Board President Mónica Garcia told EGP. According to Guy Mehula, LAUSD’s Facilities Executive, “The District delivered in the last six years 72 brand new schools, one a month, and in the next four years we have 60 more to go, that’s more than one a month.”

This aggressive building and modernization plan will not only benefit contractors in helping them with the growth of their companies but also the school district. “The more they bid for our work, the better prices our district gets,” explained Soto. “Also, the quality goes up because when more competitors come in, then we eliminate bad contractors. It’s the rule of competition,” she added.

“Regardless of how small a construction company is, there is a place for every contractor to work with the district, as long as they want to compete and do business properly. With projects ranging from $2,000 to hundreds of millions, we welcome all of them,” said Soto.

LAUSD "We Build" Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program

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

Experts say the exit exam is having a huge effect on dropouts.
The UC-led report showed that middle school experiences and teacher quality were also major factors.

Debra Duardo, the LAUSD director of dropout prevention and recovery said there were no surprises in the new data, and the dropout project study confirmed what district officials have assumed about the barriers that keep students from graduating.

"The study overlooks the district's recent success in keeping students in school, and on track to graduate, after they miss their normal graduation date.

"If they don't do it in four years, maybe they can do it in five years," she said.

The number of students graduating from Los Angeles public schools has declined for two straight years even as enrollment in the 12th grade has been rising sharply, new state data show. The graduation slump began when California started requiring students to pass an exit exam before they could receive a diploma.

The data caught educators by surprise after they were quietly posted on the state Department of Education website. Separately, new research released this week indicated that only 48% of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District graduate on time.


Youths who take the exam multiple times can choose just the best results. Some people see a reduction in stress, but others say the move will mostly help the affluent because of the test's cost.


Phil Holmes has taught English for decades, first to the privileged but lately to the disadvantaged. His method and his intensity make a solid connection with both extremes.


Campuses stress that the event marks a transition to more education, not the end of the process. At a Santa Ana school, it's 'promotion' and in Los Angeles it's 'culmination activities.'

Schools throughout the country in recent years have eliminated or scaled back eighth-grade graduations, concerned that over-the-top ceremonies too closely resemble high school graduations and imply finality rather than a mere transition to further education.

4LAKids disagrees - Middle School/Junior High or whatever - this is a milestone and the kids deserve the recognition. This is a big deal when you're 14!


Local school workers are mobilizing to take a midnight ride to Sacramento Monday to urge California legislators to stop the devastating cuts to school budgets that loom as the result of the governor’s proposal to reduce the state’s education funding by more than $4 billion for the upcoming school year.

Hundreds of Los Angeles Unified School District teaching assistants, cafeteria workers, clerks, custodians and others are signing up to board buses at midnight Monday to travel overnight and spend the day lobbying state legislators about the impact the governor’s budget cuts will have on local classrooms and communities.


The former treasurer of a parents' booster group at a West Los Angeles middle school is suspected of stealing $65,000 raised by parents and students, police said


From KPCC Public radio: In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the approach to special education is simple: Provide support and services and place disabled children with the rest of the students. In the second part of our series, KPCC's Patricia Nazario goes behind the scenes with a single mom bringing up her three sons. L.A. Unified covers the cost of their special education needs.

RAND's CALIFORNIA PRESCHOOL STUDY: Adequacy and Efficiency of Preschool Education in California

California's sizeable achievement gaps in English-language arts and mathematics in second and third grades have early roots, with the same groups of children that lag in academic performance in elementary school trailing in measures of school readiness when they enter kindergarten. Participation in effective preschool programs has the potential to narrow these gaps, but the state's current system of publicly funded early care and education programs are not designed to maximize the child development and school readiness benefits. New data collected for the project on preschool use and quality shows most California children attend center-based preschools, but quality of programs falls short.

BRAND NAME CHARTERS: The franchise model applied to schools

"In the business world, when the owners of restaurants or retail stores want to expand, they choose between two models: corporate-style growth with central management or franchising. "

If you don't think that some charter schools are a high-growth-model for-profit instruments to privatize public education and maximize return-on- investment, read on.And not just any business model, ...Retail!


A Memphis entrepreneur's documentary compares high-achieving students from India, China and America. It has drawn mixed reactions from academics.


Los Angeles Unified elementary school teachers have had a tough time this week dealing with the district's computerized grading system.

Administrators at Lockhurst Elementary have advised teachers to fill in grades and comments by hand, if necessary, said Rod Wylie, who teaches third grade at the Woodland Hills campus.

"It just frosts me that this is happening now," Wylie said. "It's a real inconvenience to do it by hand. We used to, but it seems like wasted time when the technology is available to input and print."

"The culprit was an old system working at capacity and the lingering effects of a probable virus infestation," said Tony Tortorice, chief information officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District.


Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is being recognized for building more new healthy green schools than any other school district in the country. LAUSD is creating a healthy, high-performing learning environment for tens of thousands of children and teachers while helping to protect the environment for people throughout the region.


· DAY 1: Criminal negligence: District officials failed public in school sex scandal

· DAY 2: Dance of the lemons: Dud teachers, administrators keep turning up in L.A. schools

· DAY 3: System failure: Cost of LAUSD payroll fiasco will linger on

· DAY 4: Charter chaos: Tale of rescinded offers is a saga of mass confusion

· DAY 5: LAUSD has two superintendents - one actual, one a figurehead

· DAY 6: For the sake of the LAUSD, Brewer should resign.


Democrats tapped a teacher from upstate New York to make the case that their party will do more for working Americans than Republicans will.

Jeff Alberici, an eighth-grade history teacher in Auburn, N.Y., was chosen to deliver the Democrats' Saturday radio address — an unusual choice for a weekly task usually performed by elected officials.

The News that doesn't fit from June 22

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Monday Jun 23, 2008
G R O U N D B R E A K I N G • C E R E M O N Y
Another New School in our Community!
Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
Valley Region Elementary School #6
14859 W. Rayen St.
Panorama City, CA 91402

• Tuesday Jun 24, 2008
Central Region Middle School #7: Pre-Construction Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Nevin Elementary School
1569 E 32nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90011

• Thursday Jun 26, 2008
Central Region High School #16: Pre-Demolition Meeting
6:00 p.m.
49th Street Elementary School
750 East 49th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90011

*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 Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He is a Community Concerns Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools.
• 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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