Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dollars and nonsense.

4LAKids: Sun., June 14, 2009 Flag Day
In This Issue:
LET'S GET REAL ABOUT THE DROPOUT CRISIS: With more-focused and realistic goals, we could succeed in turning around the biggest school problems.
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.
The oft quoted: "Education is the civil rights issue of the Twenty-first Century" was repeated again by Secretary Duncan is his National Public Radio interview on Tuesday.

4LAKids dares to differ: Public Education is THE issue of the Twenty-first Century.

THE URBAN EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP [] hosted a provocative discussion last Wednesday Night - with a cast that ranged from Green Dot's super-salesman Steve Barr to UTLA consigliere/strategist Joel Jordan - with players in the spectrum between including LA county superintendent Darline Robles, LAUSD chief instructional officer Judy Elliot, 'Father of Prop 98' John Mockler, Families in Schools activist Maria Casillas, LAAMP+LEARN veteran Virgil Roberts, charter school operator Judy Burton and other LA education lights - including a classroom teacher from the Mayor's Partnership. The subject was Education Reform in LA in the 25 years since 'A Nation at Risk' - moderated Fred Friendly-like by David Abel of New Schools Better Neighborhoods.

There was in the room an uncertain restlessness that comes from investing a lot of effort what is often painted by many - including some present - as a failed enterprise. Barr and Jordan and Mockler's previous disagreements and type-A personalities flashed - agreeing to disagree - on their best behavior and uncomfortable in that role.

The consensus (if there was one) is that reform in LA has been slow- in fits and starts - with levels of accountability ranging from totally nonexistent to misplaced-ay-best.

Mockler ("No Child's Behind Left"): 1. Under Serrano the legislature is wholly responsible for education in the state.
2. Under the constitution the legislature controls education revenue and funding - and Ed policy by extension.
3. The legislature has gamed the system to be responsible and controlling …but totally unaccountable.

Former LAUSD staffer Lucy Okumu: "Nobody in LAUSD is accountable to anyone!"

"Perhaps," Superintendent Robles suggested, "we need to have a bonfire and throw the entire Ed Code in it!"

Dr Elliot called on everyone to invest in the change they want.

And Judy Burton warned: "Don't wait for the answer. Just do it."

Most agreed that LAUSD is and has been too invested and focused in its spheres of influence. Most called them "Silos"; Barr - always agent provocateur - calls them "Tribes".

Mocker argued the reform is-and-has-been well underway - we are looking at the wrong data in the wrong way. More kids are doing poorly in Algebra because many more of them are taking it. 25 years ago algebra and college prep science wasn't offered in inner city schools to students of color; now many many more kids are taking and passing them. High Standards and High Expectations are the victory.

The sole classroom teacher expressed frustration that being a classroom teacher is a dead-end career unless one gives up the classroom for administration …and suggested that theend is just as dead (if not more so) at charters and partnership schools.

The mid-last-century factory model of education was resurrected as Bill Allen from the LA County Economic Development Corporation argued that public education's role is productivity. The product of Public Education is employable young people; Business is the customer. Politically incorrect? Sure. Totally incorrect? Probably.

And Steve Barr claimed that he has haS - or perhaps is - the answer in Green Dot's aggressive "hostile takeover/take no prisoners" model of reform. We need look no further -- and Arne Duncan believes it and him.

In the end it was just another meeting with minds well met with nothing solved. With maybe the Right People at the table …and maybe not. We don't have the answers. We cannot agree on the questions. Unless you believe Steve.

There is no money. We need to invest deeper, not more.

KEEPING THE PROMISE+PREMISE OF CHARTERS. Quite by accident this week's theme has become charter schools - a subject to which 4LAKids ambivalence churns. The LA Times 'Charter Wars' Dust Up ("ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS A DRAIN...?" below) is worth reading in its entirety if you haven't - bearing in mind that the Time's editorial board HAS made up its mind. Counter editorialist Shafer argues correctly that proliferation doesn't equal success.

In my own neighborhood a local charter - one I support - had its charter renewed last week by the County Board of Ed over the objection of county staff and the LAUSD board and staff. The objections were fiscal - the support had been political - and I worry that children always lose at the intersection of money and politics.

They still may - votes of school boards rarely solve budgetary issues - especially ones over which they have no control or oversight. Charters will be challenged in the economic times to come - without the support of school districts or deep pocket supporters meeting payroll is going to be problematic for some.

THE POLITICS OF CHARTERS AND MONEY are there for all to see in the "¿Chartergate?" article from the Sac Bee below. It involves the Mayor of Sacramento, a charter operator that’s really a community development corporation, politics, the Obama Administration, a lot of money and two whistleblowers - one paid off, one fired. Read it between the lines and connect the dots (if you can find them) between charter schools and basketball - the non-contact sport played by Mayor Johnson, Secretary Duncan and the President in their time off. Tell me where in the article you found the words "children", "students" or "kids" …or the part about positive educational outcomes.

It wasn't a good week to be an Inspector General.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! -smf

Arne Duncan on NPR's Talk of the Nation - 9 June 09

John Koch | from the Huffington Post

June 10, 2009 - Our daughter, Andie, is starting Kindergarten in the fall, at Wonderland Elementary-- one of the best public schools in the city, the state, and if you ask the parents, many would say the world. My wife and I are the envy of many of our soon-to-be cash-strapped friends who are shelling out upwards of $20K a year for private schools, miles from their homes. Wonderland is the equivalent of having a private school education in the comfort of your own neighborhood, paid for by taxpayers and the state of California. As a way to prep Andie for the big transition she has to make, we took her to the Wonderland Renaissance Festival, where we saw kids smiling in costumes, reciting poetry, crafting jewelry; many of them were even fencing. (That's right, fencing.) Friendly moms and dads manned the buffet line and a jovial principal shook hands and engaged parents. A community was coming together right here in LA-- it was like a beautiful moment from Thornton Wilder's Our Town, if everyone dressed in biker jeans and Ed Hardy T-shirts.

The kicker was meeting Ms. Brier, a kindergarten teacher right out of central casting. She's exactly what you'd imagine an ideal kindergarten teacher would look like: bright smile, soft features, warm, nurturing, armed with that perfectly comforting lilt in her voice-- the one that let's you know everything is going to be OK. If a bird chirped on her shoulder, you would have thought she was a Disney character. We watched Ms. Brier work the beaded jewelry table and patiently guide our daughter through the steps necessary to craft a necklace. Andie's connection with Ms. Brier deepened over each multi-colored bead she placed on a string-- her confidence grew as Ms. Brier complimented every step of her work. We interviewed the parents of Ms. Brier's students and found out not only did she look the part-- Ms. Brier is at the cutting-edge of K-6 education, with a Masters Degree from Pepperdine in Education. She worked with the United Way and IBM and was instrumental in getting computers to Early Childhood Centers. She crafted an innovative technology curriculum and helped non-profit agencies write technology grants. Parents whose children have had Ms. Brier as a teacher describe her as "exceptional," "bright," "innovative," and "smart" with "high-performing students." There was just one problem. She had just received her pink slip by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

How could that be? We were told at an orientation weeks earlier than Ms. Brier was one of three teachers Andie may have in her first year, now she was being laid off? What did she do wrong? "Absolutely nothing," says Wonderland Principal Donald Wilson. "She is one of the best teachers I have. It's part of the restructuring due to the budget cutbacks. "

"Are you cutting her class?"


"Well, who is going to teach the class?"

"Another teacher with more seniority will fill the position," the principal continues.

"So let me get this straight: you already have a highly-qualified teacher that every parent loves, whose students are thriving, who is very passionate about teaching, but she's being fired because of an issue with seniority?"

"That's correct," says Principal Wilson.

"Well, how many days is Ms. Brier shy of being of tenured?"

"About three," he says gently, sensing that I am about to grab one of the fencers' swords and challenge him to a duel.

It turns out Ms. Brier's story gets even worse, LAUSD's decision grows more insane, and our schools, even the model ones like Wonderland, are in real jeopardy of failing forever.

Here's LAUSD's logic as to why Ms. Brier was given a "Reduction in Force" pink slip in March of this year: You need two years of teaching to be tenured, and therefore, spared from the layoffs. Ms. Brier has been teaching in the LAUSD since March 22, 2006. By my math, that means she's been a teacher almost 3 ½ years. By LAUSD's math, she is still shy of tenure and considered a "Probationary 2" teacher. The biggest frustration in this is that LAUSD seems to be unable to give a straight answer as to why Ms. Brier was given the boot. The rules are not easy to find, and even more difficult to comprehend.

Clearly LAUSD doesn't have a great track record for accurate record keeping, here is what Superintendent Ramon Cortines told the LA Daily News shortly after he took the position: "I'm dealing with situations that, on the face of it, I can't believe that person is on the job. But there is no data or information at all that says the person is outstanding, or mediocre or whatever."

Ms. Brier believes her Probation 2 status is due to the fact she was initially hired as a long-term sub for a teacher who went on an extended maternity leave and eventually decided not to return to work. On November 2, 2006, she was officially hired full-time in the same classroom she opened as a long-term sub. The good news for Ms. Brier is that you only need to teach 75% of the school year for a year to count towards tenure. 75% of 180 days is 135. In 2006-2007, Ms. Brier worked 139 days out of 180 days from Sept. '06-June '07 as a permanent teacher. However, the LAUSD is quick to cite State Education Code Law which states that you have to be physically present in front of children for 135 out of 180 days. Being present as a long-term sub doesn't count. They also deduct sick days. During her first official teaching year, Ms. Brier was involved in a near drowning accident, hospitalized and traumatized. She also came down with a case of first-time teacher strep throat. She recalls missing about 7 days in total that year. Her kindergarten students would be able to tell you 139 -7 =132, which makes her three days short of having that whole year count.

Three days means a great teacher with a Master's Degree from Pepperdine with a passion to make a difference (not to mention $100,000+ in students' loans) is booted out of the system. Ms. Brier makes less than $50,000 a year. She works a second job waitressing, and tutors kids during weekends and summers just to make ends meet. How long can she go without a job? Her hardship pales in comparison to the hundreds of children who will not have the opportunity to have her as a mentor, as a friend, as an advocate and as a conduit to better understanding the world.

When he was running for office, President Obama said, "I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences. The stakes are too high. We can afford nothing but the best when it comes to our children's teachers and to the schools where they teach." He was talking about Ms. Brier.

The problems facing the LAUSD are too complicated and complex to be resolved by June 30th, which is Ms. Brier's last scheduled day of work. Some people blame the union contract, some the LAUSD, others the state government, and just about everyone blames Schwarzenegger. No one is leading. No one has solutions.

Ms. Brier's fate lies solely in the hands of Superintendent Cortines. On the LAUSD website, Cortines wrote: "This District is about our children and I never want anyone to forget that. Budget crises come and go but the education of our students is our legacy. We will work to honor the commitment we have made to our students and their families every single day."

This is his chance to shine and deliver on that noble promise. He may not be able to save every teacher. I am asking him to save one, one teacher who deserves the chance to stay in the LAUSD system. If she doesn't, we may lose her forever. And that is the tragedy.

Maybe she'll try something easier and potentially more lucrative-- apply those technology skills to some industry that will reward her financially for her skills/knowledge/performance. Years from now, she'll be sitting on panel somewhere paraphrasing David Mamet, "Yeah, I used to be a teacher. It's a tough racket." And who could blame her?

If you have any doubts Ms. Brier needs to stay at Wonderland and continue the remarkable influence she has in the lives of children, read a note from one of the dozens of parents that have contacted me. This is from Barbara Somlo, Ph.D whose son, George, is in currently in Ms. Brier's class:

"Ms. Brier works extremely hard with our kids making it a fun and safe learning environment with great results. George started the year being very shy and since then he became more confident and definitely interested in learning. I had several meetings with her to teach me the methods she uses in class - she's always been available and very helpful. Beyond the day-to-day duty of a Kindergarten teacher, she went the extra mile. Ms Brier put together a Poem Reading event for the parents to hear their kids reading their own poems; arranged a theater play, developed a web site and created a class-book available on Shutterfly, just to mention a few."

Last week Ms. Brier voluntarily met with a placement officer who pointed to (gasp!) the Education Code as to why she is in this predicament. United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is filing a class Action suit against LAUSD and is calling Ms. Brier as a witness claiming her days in the classroom as a long-term sub should count towards tenure, especially given the fact she opened the year as the primary classroom teacher. But by the time this is resolved, my daughter and the dozens of students who could have been positively shaped by her tutelage, will be graduating college.

To get involved to help Ms. Brier, please email me at and agree to add your name to a petition. You can also contact Ramon Cortines directly at (213) 241-7000. His email is

* John Koch is vice-president of communications for ID, an entertainment public relations and brand communications firm.
* In the interest of full disclosure, smf attended Wonderland Avenue School – back when dinosaurs roamed that part of Laurel Canyon.


By Melody Gutierrez | Sacramento Bee

Published Friday, Jun. 12, 2009

St. HOPE Public Schools' board of directors announced Thursday that embattled executive director Rick Maya will leave the nonprofit and receive a severance package of $98,916.

The move ends months of speculation. Maya resigned from the board of directors April 3 and was later put on paid administrative leave as executive director of the nonprofit that operates Sacramento Charter High School and PS7 Elementary School.

A former Bank of America executive, Maya was highly acclaimed by St. HOPE when he was hired in December 2007 to replace Kevin Johnson, who stepped down as director last year to focus on his winning mayoral bid.

Maya will receive four months of severance pay totaling $56,916. He also will receive $42,000 to work as a consultant to the charter over the next six months. St. HOPE officials said the four-month settlement constitutes one-third of Maya's annual salary.
St. HOPE board members called the split mutual and amicable. However, the eight-page letter Maya wrote in April when he resigned from the board of directors suggests otherwise.

Maya outlined a list of legal and ethical concerns about the operation of the charter schools. Among the claims was that a board member had deleted Johnson's e-mails during a federal investigation into the misuse of public funds at St. HOPE Academy.

Maya wrote that board members loyal to Johnson had ignored the "highly inappropriate and potentially unlawful incursion into our e-mail system."

Johnson's mayoral spokesman, Steve Maviglio, said the incident involved an information technology person from St. HOPE working to organize Johnson's e-mail to separate his mayoral campaign and St. HOPE communications. E-mails deleted from one account were fully backed up by another, Maviglio said.

However, Maya's claims – which The Bee reported in May – prompted Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, to call for the U.S. attorney's office to take action.

Walpin's office had conducted the investigation of St. HOPE Academy's use of AmeriCorps funds and alleged that Johnson and officials with St. HOPE Academy improperly used some of the $847,673 in federal money received between 2004 and 2007.

The U.S. attorney's office later negotiated a settlement that called for Johnson, St. HOPE and its former executive director, Dana Gonzalez, to repay more than $400,000 in grants.

Walpin opposed the settlement and recently asked Congress to review the case.

Following the initial investigation, U.S. Attorney Larry Brown asked a branch of the FBI that polices the integrity of federal inspectors general to review Walpin's performance. Brown had questioned Walpin's decision to make his investigation public without consulting the U.S. attorney's office.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama's office announced that Walpin will be removed from office. The removal is effective in 30 days.

William O. Hillburg, a spokesman for the inspector general's office, would not comment on Walpin's removal or whether his handling of the St. HOPE investigation played a part.

While not discussing the details behind the decision, deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest said "the president lost confidence in Mr. Walpin's performance."

Kenneth Bach, an assistant inspector general, was named acting inspector general.

Brown has not commented on whether federal investigators are revisiting the St. HOPE case and looking into the deleted e-mails.

At the time Maya's letter was released, he said, "The deliberate destruction of evidence is a serious allegation and will be treated accordingly."

Maya's departure was announced Thursday during a St. HOPE board meeting.

"During his stay, Rick provided us with guidance in critical areas, and we appreciate the contributions he made to our organization," said Tracy Stigler, the board's chairman.

St. HOPE will transition from having an executive director to using a superintendent – a position that will be filled at least temporarily by Sacramento High School principal Ed Manansala.

Sacramento City Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Tom Barentson said Maya's departure had been expected. The district authorizes the charter that allows St. HOPE to operate the high school and PS7.

"They make their own personnel decisions and thought they needed to make a change," Barentson said. "We've been working with (other staffers) who have really picked up where Rick left. I've been pleased with how we have been able to move forward."



WASHINGTON (AP) — An inspector general fired by President Barack Obama said Friday he acted "with the highest integrity" in investigating AmeriCorps and other government-funded national service programs.

Gerald Walpin said in an interview with The Associated Press that he reported facts and conclusions "in an honest and full way" while serving as inspector general at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In a letter to Congress on Thursday, Obama said he had lost confidence in Walpin and was removing him from the position.

Walpin defended his work on Friday. "I know that I and my office acted with the highest integrity as an independent inspector general should act," he said.

Obama's move follows an investigation by Walpin finding misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star. Johnson and a nonprofit education academy he founded ultimately agree to repay half of $847,000 in grants it had received from AmeriCorps.

Walpin was criticized by the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento for the way he handled the investigation of Johnson and St. HOPE Academy.

Related news feeds on the Walpin/St HOPE/Johnson Controversy

Dust-Up From the Los Angeles Times Online: Lisa Snell and Ralph E. Shaffer


Point: Lisa Snell

Ralph, charter schools are the way to go. In a March speech on education policy, President Obama championed charter schools, praising their innovation and urging states to lift caps on their growth. Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have called for doubling the number of charter schools across the country. They want high-quality charter schools with proven track records to replace lower-performing schools.

Many urban school leaders in such places as Philadelphia, Newark and Oakland are embracing charters and developing specific plans to close low-performing schools and replicate high-quality charters. For example, the current issue of the Economist reports that, in Newark, 17 schools run by 12 charter-management groups teach almost 10% of the 48,000 children the city's school system and that these numbers will soon double. Similarly, Philadelphia schools chief Arlene Ackerman has called for replacing 45 low-performing schools with higher-quality charter schools. School leaders have called for an expansion of charter schools because the evidence demonstrates that these schools are improving outcomes for the most disadvantaged and lowest-performing students.

Charter schools should not be viewed as a fiscal drain on school districts. Instead, they should be viewed as high-quality public schools that offer parents more options and raise school districts' overall quality. Districts should embrace higher-performing charter schools and work to replicate and imitate these schools, which are adding value to their students' education.

Look at Los Angeles and Oakland, where charter schools have had a positive effect on public education. In Los Angeles, more than 70% of charter schools outperform their nearby district schools. Ten of Los Angeles' 12 recently recognized California Distinguished Schools are charter schools. Statewide, 12 of the 15 highest-performing public schools serving low-income students are charter schools. Similarly, in Oakland, the highest-performing schools are charters that have raised achievement for disadvantaged students.

In addition, these charter schools are improving performance for middle- and high school students where traditional public schools have often made the least progress. A recent study by the California Charter Schools Assn. found that the gains made in Oakland charters were most pronounced among middle- and high school students, and that these gains are increasing over time. Similarly, the March 2009 Rand Corp. study on charter schools in eight states found that charter students are more likely than traditional public school students to graduate high school and enroll in college.

The evidence that charters outperform district schools is coming in from across the nation. In New Orleans, where more than 55% of students are enrolled in charters, these schools continue to post faster achievement gains in reading and math for disadvantaged students. In Boston, a 2009 study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that Massachusetts charter schools are outperforming traditional public schools in both math and English.

In California, there is a strong demand from parents for more charter schools. In 2008, charter school enrollment in Los Angeles increased by 8,000 students, and many campuses have long waiting lists. The California Charter Schools Assn. reports that the number of charter schools would need to triple to accommodate all of the students currently on waiting lists in California.

Parents are desperate for more high-quality education options. Charter schools are not a fiscal drain on districts. They are public schools with impressive track records that should be viewed as a legitimate part of a high-performing public school system.
● Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at the Reason Foundation.

Counterpoint: Ralph E. Shaffer

Lisa, charter school proponents argue that the competition provided by their unproven system forces traditional public schools to improve. Competition can be beneficial, but proliferation is not competition.

And charters are proliferating. The 700-plus California charters divert upward of $2 billion a year of scarce state funds from traditional public schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District loses nearly $7,000 in state money for each student who transfers to a charter. With almost 50,000 LAUSD kids in charters, it costs the district close to $350 million annually. Statewide, charters are responsible for about $1.5 billion in per-pupil revenue lost to school districts. That doesn't include additional hundreds of millions for construction.

A Pulitzer-hungry Times reporter should ask, "Where does all that money go?"

Despite the massive amount of money taken from traditional districts, the charter system is filled with low-performing schools. On average, charters score lower than conventional schools. Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter School Assn., admitted in March that on the latest tests, charter students had a median score more than 20 points lower than students at traditional schools. Charters are further behind now than in previous annual reports.

A disproportionate number of the lowest-performing schools on the California State University system's college readiness test are charters. At the top, except for small, specialized academies, public schools or conversion charters lead the list.

If charters are such a stimulus to improvement, why isn't that reflected in a rapid improvement of those low-performing charters?

On Wednesday, Lisa, you credited nearly every reform that has occurred in Oakland Unified to the competition offered by charters. You wrote, "Competition from charter schools has led Oakland to embrace district-wide reform." That ignores the efforts of Oakland teachers, who have consistently demanded change.

Lisa, you tout the fact that Oakland is the state's most improved district, and your implication is that somehow the "success" of schools like American Indian Public Charter have forced the district to improve. Were that the case, Oakland would be without the frills that American Indian has banned -- computers and other technology -- and without traditional music, drama, art and athletic programs. Perhaps that's why American Indian had only 18 students in its 2009 graduating class and the school has no waiting list.

Here's another "frill" that school banned: In a city with a very large black population, there was no attempt made at American Indian to have students watch the president's inauguration. That would have been a rare opportunity for discussions relevant to Oakland and those students. Is that the no-frills example, Lisa, that you think Oakland Unified should emulate?

The charter "reform" conservatives really want to expand to public schools is one in which a principal in the mold of American Indian's Ben Chavis can fire college-tainted liberals "at will." That's the change critics of tenure -- think tanks and right-wing talk-show hosts -- want for Oakland, the LAUSD and every other district.

Fire "at will." Whatever happened to the promise that charters would "empower" teachers? When a principal can fire "at will," empowerment and innovation are gone.

With a popular, pro-charter president ready to throw gobs of money to charters and teacher organizations -- the California Teachers Assn., the National Education Assn. and the American Federation of Teachers alike -- that make sweetheart deals with charter organizers, the struggle to prevent the total destruction of American education by the home-schooling, voucher and charter juggernaut is probably lost. Our kids are not the only ones who will suffer. America loses.

Charters are not the kind of schools I would want my grandchildren to attend. Instead, they are in conventional schools that offer a well-rounded education, without forcing a particular ideology on them or using long-outdated teaching methods. Most public school districts recognize that there is more to education than standardized tests, which only turn out standardized students who score well on a test. But what have they learned?

● Ralph E. Shaffer is a professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona.

THE GREAT CHARTER SCHOOL DEBATE: Who do they educate? How much freedom to they deserve?

LET'S GET REAL ABOUT THE DROPOUT CRISIS: With more-focused and realistic goals, we could succeed in turning around the biggest school problems.
Commentary by William Berkson | Education Week

June 11, 2009 -- The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Russell Baker observed many years ago that politicians are often solemn without being serious—solemn in their pronouncements, but not serious about solving the problems. In education policy, there’s an additional wrinkle: Politicians’ pronouncements are regularly full of grandiose ambitions. The message is, if you don’t shoot for the moon you’re defeatist and shortchanging children.

I’m all for aiming high for the long term, but if a program doesn’t have realistic short- and medium-term goals, what results is failure. We’ve had a hundred years of grandiose pronouncements, and still have a 30 percent high school dropout rate. It’s time for a change, for programs that don’t promise the moon, but that do work.

The biggest piece of unreality in education is the one-size-fits-all idea about the goals of secondary education. According to this implicit and sometimes explicit idea, we should have one standard for high school graduation: All students should be college-ready. The reality is that no country has been able to meet this standard. And we don’t know how to meet it either.

Bill and Melinda Gates, in an interview with public television’s Charlie Rose, bought in to this widely accepted goal. And then they spoke almost despairingly of the difficulty of meeting the goal. It would take, they said, a huge upgrade in the skills of teachers around the country to accomplish this, a massive personnel problem. They are right about what it would take, but wrong about the goal itself. With more-focused and realistic goals, we could succeed in turning around the biggest school problems, and not in the dim and distant future.

The reality about sorting or tracking is that it is cruel and counterproductive to sort children at too young an age. We now sort too much in the first three grades, when lagging children can, with intensive instructional effort, often catch up and stay up academically, and for life. But it is equally true that at age 15 some students are ready and eager to take college-level courses—Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses—while other students have trouble making change and understanding a newspaper.

So shall we tell those students who can’t make change or read a newspaper that now they are going to read Shakespeare and solve physics problems? Research has shown that such students do not actually learn more when they stay in high school another two years. They cannot follow the lessons, and so they are bored, and more importantly, humiliated by their inabilities. So they are going to walk out of school, whatever the latest pronouncement on high standards is.

And when they walk out, the labor market will not take them seriously for a career-track job until they are 22 or 23 years old. In the meanwhile, they create huge social problems, filling the prisons and parenting children they lack the finances or capacity to raise to thrive in our complex society.

The irony is that focused solutions can work, if we get serious about solving the dropout problem.

It is first of all a problem of “winning the hearts and minds.” And there is a critical weakness in our current system for motivating these students: the lack of a credible link between school and work for the student who is not bound for college graduation. To be motivated, students with weak academic skills need to see programs of studies they can believe they will actually complete, and that will lead them to a respected place in adult society. When such credible programs are in place, then these students will be motivated, will stick with their studies, complete them, and be much better off in life.

The first step to such credible programs is to develop a Core Skills Standard, a standard for academic skills in language and mathematics that would indicate whether a person had the capabilities necessary for a career-track job in our economy. This standard would not be something the government or anyone else created and imposed. Rather, it would be government’s job to ascertain what the realities of the labor market are. To do this, the federal government could create a commission of “consumers” of postsecondary student talent—leaders from business, the military, community colleges, and other areas—and have that body determine the actual academic-skill level needed for career-track jobs. Once this was done, the commission could certify exams—either existing or new ones—as validly testing for this core standard.

With the core-skills standard in place as a linchpin connecting the worlds of school and work, we could build an effective school-to-work program. Exams could be given at age 15 to test for achievement of the standard. Those who were not able to pass it—and the college-bound would do it pretty easily—would have as a central goal of their further education bringing themselves up to speed on the missing skills. They would be able to retake the exams until they could pass the core-skills standard.

This further education would include time in workplace and apprenticeship programs. Building successful apprenticeships would be a big undertaking, involving business, and training and rewarding mentors in the business world. But it is a realistic goal, as it has already been done in countries such as Germany.

Such a program could have a unique motivational power. First of all, students would be able to see what the real world actually demands, and the benefit of better academic skills for advancement in the world of work. Let’s give them the opportunity to see reality sooner, in a protected and guided environment. Second, since mentor relationships, like coaching relationships, are more personal, they have a power to inspire that is difficult to achieve in the classroom alone. In effect, a good apprenticeship program would expand the teacher corps by hundreds of thousands.

The Core Skills Standard, it is important to note, could also be a powerful motivation before the age of 15. Every child, parent, and teacher would know that it represented a real standard, not an artificial one. And teachers would be able to tell young children honestly: “If you master the next step in this material, you are on your way to a respected place in society when you grow up. And I can help you. I’ve done it for others like you, and I can help you, too.”

Furthermore, such a standard would not hold anyone back from aiming for more academically demanding professions. And we already have standards in place for these: the SAT and ACT college-entrance tests, the AP and IB programs, and course standards set by universities. For these high fliers, there is no need for new standards, even though there is a need for specialized programs to help them, as well.

The core-skills standard, joined to a strengthened school-to-work program, would convince students who might drop out that they could succeed in their studies. It would give them respect, dignity, and hope, and so could successfully motivate them to complete their studies.

But making this a reality requires giving up “one size fits all.” What do we prize more, grandiose talk, or success for students with diverse talents and interests?

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
SOME L.A. TEACHERS GET A REPRIEVE FROM AX | L.A. school superintendent Ray Cortines announced today that the LAUSD is rescinding layoff notices for 505 teachers.

THE MYTH THAT COLLEGE IS FOR EVERYONE: It’s both “impolite and impolitic” to say so, but the modern idea that everyone should get a college education is, frankly, dumb.

WHY TOTS SHOULDN’T WATCH TV | If you have a baby or a toddler, turn off that TV. A new study finds that when children are exposed to a lot of TV before the age of 2, they are deprived of interaction with adults, which can lead to delays in brain and language development.

NATION NEEDS MAJOR REFORMS IN EDUCATION - The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international comparison of 15-year-olds conducted by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that measures applied learning and problemsolving ability. In 2006, U.S. students ranked 25th of 30 advanced nations in math and 24th in science.

POLL: MOST SUPPORT MORE TAXES FOR EDUCATION: Support strongest among Democrats.-- The majority of Sacramento-area residents are willing to pay higher taxes to fund college education, according to results of a new Sacramento State survey released Tuesday.

PUSH IS ON FOR A ‘COMMON’ EDUCATION STANDARD FOR U.S. SCHOOLCHILDREN: The state-by-state system leaves many students 'inadequately prepared,' Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday at a Monitor breakfast.

TRUTH IN TEACHING - Editorial/New York Times -- Education reform will go nowhere until the states are forced to revamp corrupt teacher evaluation systems that rate a vast majority of teachers as “excellent,” even in schools where children learn nothing.

SCHWARZENEGGER THREATENS TO SHUT DOWN STATE GOVERNMENT: The governor says that if a budget deal isn't reached, he won't approve emergency borrowing to tide California over.

SCHWARZENEGGER SEEKS ONLINE REVOLUTION IN SCHOOLS -- In the state that gave the world Facebook, Google and the iPod, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says forcing California's students to rely on printed textbooks is so yesterday.

LAUSD CANCELING SUMMER SCHOOL: DO WE REALLY WANT TO GO THERE? - Who thought of this bright idea? Can the School Board really be serious? The city of Los Angeles has enough problems controlling summer youth violence when summer school is in.


GOOD BYE, MR. HAUSKE - 83-YEAR OLD VETERAN PRINCIPAL TO BE HONORED BY LAUSD SCHOOL BOARD Lloyd Jonathan Houske, principal of Cahuenga ES retiring after 58 years of service.

L.A. SCHOOLS CHIEF PROPOSES GUTTING WATCHDOG’S OFFICE | - Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines has proposed gutting the district's watchdog Inspector General's Office with a budget cut of 50 to 75 percent, described as potentially "catastrophic" to the department's operations.

THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING… gallows humor from 333 S. Beaudry

CALIFORNIA CRISIS SLAMS K-12 HARD | Education Week | California educators, already reeling from billions of dollars in spending cuts to public schools this year, are scrounging for even more ways to save money in the final weeks of the academic year as the state’s finances continue to melt down.


OpEd: SPEND THE FEDERAL STIMULUS MONEY ON SMALLER CLASSES: The LAUSD could avoid crammed classrooms by not laying off more than 2,000 teachers. - By Maria Elena Durazo and Steve Zimmer

UTLA FILES 14 COMPLAINTS AGAINST LAUSD - Claims stimulus money is being spent the wrong way. Los Angeles teacher union officials filed 14 complaints against the L.A. Unified School District on Monday, claiming it allowed schools to spend too much federal stimulus money on out-of-classroom jobs, which they said would boost class sizes and jeopardize

THE CARDINAL MAKES AN OFFER - Archdiocese offers summer school to public school students - More than 135 campuses in Los Angeles County will be open to students in grades K through12.

ADD IT UP: VALLEY MATH CHAMPS - The sixth-graders @ Sutter MS won the National Award!

The news that didn’t fit from June 14

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
8:30 a.m. Monday Jun 15, 2009 Hollywood High School New Athletic Field Lighting Event

10:00 a.m. Monday Jun 15, 2009 Maclay Middle School New LASPD Substation: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

6:00 p.m. Monday Jun 15, 2009 Esteban Torres High School (East LA HS #2) and Central Region Elementary School #19 Construction Update Meeting

6:30 p.m. Tuesday Jun 16, 2009 South Region Middle School #3: Pre-Demolition Community Meeting

6:30 p.m. Tuesday Jun 16, 2009 Valley Region Elementary School #10: Construction Update Meeting.

Further Details:
or phone: 213-893-6800
Phone: 213-241-5183


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!
• 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 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 has served a PTA officer and 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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