Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reconstituted, not fresh squeezed

4LAKids: Sunday 13•Dec•2009
In This Issue:
THE SKY HAS FALLEN: Next Year's Budget –or- Chicken Little served up by Colonel Sanders Crispy? Grilled? ...or Original Recipe?
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:
4 LAKids on Twitter
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.
ON MONDAY Education Secretary Duncan summoned Superintendent Cortines and UTLA President Duffy - and seven other pairings of urban superintendents and teachers’ union honchos - to D.C. for a little “Come-to-Arne”.

Grinch-like, Duncan made no holiday promises and gave no yuletide gifts to the inner-city educational programs that need them most. Chicago and New York were not invited - apparently their mayor-controlled/union-leadership-in-line models were not in need of the secretary’s help or absence thereof. Most telling, Cortines and Duffy did not share their plane flights, a meal, a cab ride or each other’s company on the junket.

ON TUESDAY the superintendent proposed and the Board of Ed agreed to the most disagreeable school district budget imaginable.

WEDNESDAY the superintendent announced the reconstitution of Fremont High School - apparently a day early because a LA Times reporter got wind of the plan - turning what at first blush appeared to be a proactive decision into a knee-jerk reaction.

► There is no question that the reconstitution - essentially the forced resignation of the entire staff and their selective rehiring/replacement/central authority taking over, dismantling and rebuilding the school - is legal under NCLB/ESEA. Reconstitution is the poison pill/ultimate sanction/nuclear option of school reform.

“Effective July 1, 2010, the leadership of the school will report directly to Cortines.” Central control doesn’t get any more central than that.

► Fremont - a Program Improvement School (PI 5+) for 12 years - is a candidate - if not the poster child - for reconstitution.

► But why now?

● Timing: Fremont was NOT on the list of Public School Choice schools - LAUSD’s list of ‘failing/giveaway schools‘. There is no new test data to be data-driven-by since Fremont was not listed. (Re; the new schools with no track record on the list: 4LAKids has not forgotten that PSC started out as a giveaway of only the new schools ...another argument for another time!)

● Timing: If the budget was the opening salvo in in contract negotiations, this was a surprise attack/flanking maneuver. The Maginot Line.

● Timing: The supe claims otherwise, but the move was originally scheduled to coincide with a visit to LAUSD by Ed Sect Duncan. Merry Christmas Arne?

● Timing: The NCLB part of ESEA is probably not long for this world. If you read "Cortines unveils plan to dismantle and rebuild Fremont High" [] you will see that Duncan’s own record with reconstitution in Chicago is shaky at best.

● Accountability/Transparency/Parent+Community Engagement: Where was the public discussion? Rolling out a thing like this as a surprise - let alone a day early because the press found out about it - says little for communication. Parents and students and staff are pissed off …and they have every right to be. Accountability is not a dress code; saggy pants and bare midriffs are not the reasons why Fremont is a PI 5+ school.

This is obviously one of those things the board of ed and the supe discuss and decide upon in their closed session meetings under cover of them being personnel matters. The board and the supe and the unions need to move beyond considering the Education of Our Children as a labor issue …with the union contract being the governing instrument of the school district.

THURSDAY Arne Duncan came to town for a photo-op and education roundtable with Mayor Tony, his Christmas gift already opened.

Also THURSDAY The Times editorial board knocked it out of the park with their Learning About Ethics editorial. On the same day I received an impassioned email newsletter from the California Charter Schools Association bemoaning Assemblymember Brownley’s bill requiring charter school accountability for the public funds they spend. The Brownley bill passed - but the G├╝berrnator, who also got the CCSA email, promises to veto it.

Returning to an earlier theme:
● Education Reform is not about test scores or school uniforms,
● Transparency is not bare midriffs and
● Accountability is not dress codes.

FRIDAY I got a phone call from a reporter often cited in these pages, complementing the commentary but suggesting a reformat to republish less material in its entirety, instead providing summaries and excerpts with links to the original articles. The reasoning was reasonable - visits to the original website creates click-through revenue, revenue which pays writers and allows struggling newspapers and magazines to continue their mission. (The newspapers industry’s own trade publication, Editor & Publisher, ceased publication last week)

● I am a big fan and reader of newspapers, in print and online. ● I am a subscriber. ● I’m a member of public broadcasting stations plural. ● I am a fan of newspaper reporters. (Sam Zell and Rupert Murdoch are on their own.)
● I am not a fan of “click here to read more” - and as a writer I am loath to edit or break up another writers work.
● The Fair Use Doctrine permits the way 4LAKids has operated because 4LAKids receives no economic benefit from the content shared -
● However I am willing to compromise a bit of my altruism if it means reporters will still report and share their truth and pay their bills. I will try; like most things I attempt the effort will be imperfect. And content behind firewalls and “Inside LAUSD” will be re-published entire.

¡Onward - Hasta adelante! -smf

THE SKY HAS FALLEN: Next Year's Budget –or- Chicken Little served up by Colonel Sanders Crispy? Grilled? ...or Original Recipe?
by smf for 4LAKids

9 Dec. 2009 - …OK, it's not that bad. This is the preliminary first-cut at a very ugly budget for very ugly times – a pro-forma as required by law. And the second play in a game of brinkmanship by the District in union contract negotiations – the first being securing agreement to furlough days from small unions that have have no bargaining chips.

In business school (and real life) you learn to never allow budget talks and union contract negotiations to overlap. But the number of business school graduates on the 24th floor of Beaudry (that aren't outside consultants) is improbably zero.

As UTLA president A.J. Duffy put it: "Today contract negotiations began." On a sour note in the key of F.

ON ANOTHER FRONT US Education Secretary Arne Duncan summoned Superintendent Cortines and President Duffy – and seven other pairs of urban superintendents and teachers union presidents - to D.C. on Monday for a little confab, heart-to-heart and "come-to-Arne". Hearing from those folks must've been an eye-opener for Duncan – he hears a little too much from the Bill Gate's, Steve Barr's and Eli Broad's of this world. While both said the meeting was good, they came away with no promises and certainly no assurances of more federal money for public education in LA.

And perhaps more telling, they traveled separately and and had no contact outside the Dept. of Education.

AS PART OF THE COST SAVINGS Superintendent Cortines has proposed closing, eliminating or consolidating all schools of less than 400 students – even while acknowledging that many of these same schools have some of the highest APIs in LAUSD – formerly the Great Indicator of Success.

Apparently the Bottom Line is now the GIOS.

This means that schools like Ivanhoe ES (354 students, 917 API), Mount Washington ES (345 students, 898 API), Fairburn Ave. ES (388 students, 957 API), and Valley View ES (218 students, 827 API) are on the chopping block.

Ann Street School (146 students, 97% economically disadvantaged,754 API) , a gem that serves kids in an isolated housing project surrounded by industrial warehouses north of Chinatown is doomed.

Remember the Small Schools Resolution? So do I.

A 2006 research review of relevant studies of school size [] found:

● On average, research indicates that an effective size for an elementary school is in the range of 300-400 students.
● Academic Achievement - Student achievement in small schools is at least equal, and often superior, to student achievement in large schools.
● Student attitudes toward school in general and toward particular subjects are better in small schools compared to large ones.
● Small schools have lower incidences of negative social behavior than do large schools.
● Effects on Minority and Low-Income Students - The effects of small schools on the academic achievement of ethnic minority students and students from low-income families are especially positive. In other words, large schools have a more negative impact on minority and low-income students than on students in general.
● School size has a particularly strong influence on student attitudes about school among low-income and minority students.
● The social behavior of ethnic minority and low-income students is even more positively impacted by small schools than that of other students.

Updated Media Coverage of LAUSD's Budget

City leaders and U.S. secretary of education applaud L.A. superintendent's strategy. The union president objects.

By Howard Blume | LA Times THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN EDITED - read the article in its entirety at

December 11, 2009 -- L.A.'s top school official on Thursday unveiled his plan to shut down Fremont High and start over from scratch -- a move denounced by the teachers union but applauded by city leaders and the nation's secretary of education.

After quietly alerting the Fremont staff Wednesday afternoon, Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon C. Cortines spoke separately with students, parents, city leaders and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was in town to promote such school turnarounds.

Fremont, Cortines said, has shown "some promise, with some of the finest teachers and the right principal . . . but it needed to be given a nudge because the status quo is not acceptable.

"There has to be a sense of urgency," he said.

The plan for Fremont, located in Florence south of downtown, includes dismissing the entire staff as of June 30. Those interested in returning would be interviewed before then by hiring committees that will probably include parents, instructional specialists, skilled teachers and Principal Rafael L. Balderas, in his first year at Fremont. Cortines himself would help develop an "elect to work" agreement for all hires. Under the union contract, Fremont's displaced teachers have the right to a district job elsewhere.

* Such reconstitutions are new to the nation's second-largest school system.
* Boston College education professor Dennis Shirley called the reconstitutions harmfully "disruptive," and said "policymakers seem to think there's this limitless pool of people who want to work in the most impoverished and struggling communities."
* In Chicago -- where Duncan served as superintendent -- reconstitutions were neither uniformly successful nor easy to replicate, said Dorothy Shipps, an associate education professor at the City University of New York.
* Talking to parents, Cortines …talked of shared accountability that would include imposing a dress code.
* "I don't want the pants hanging down around the ass of the young men on this campus and I don't want the midriff showing," he said as some parents nodded their approval.

EASTERN GROUP PUBLICATIONS Editorial | Eastside Sun / Northeast Sun / Mexican American Sun / Bell Gardens Sun / City Terrace Comet / Commerce Comet / Montebello Comet / Monterey Park Comet / ELA Brookyln Belvedere Comet / Wyvernwood Chronicle / Vernon Sun

December 10, 2009 -- The first signs of what promises to be a war of words, shouts and picketing has taken place this week in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The LAUSD school board has adopted a budget the District hopes will help it close a projected $1.2 billion deficit through 2012.

This budget calls for the furloughing of at least 5,000 district personnel. It appears that this time around the threats of layoffs will actually come to fruition. Last spring, LAUSD threatened to layoff as many as 8,000 teachers, but through a combination of cuts in other areas and the use of stimulus dollars, that threat never came remotely close to being acted on.

It doesn’t seem that will be the case this time around, however.

But if it is, and the District really has no plans to layoff workers, then they should not be causing so much uncertainty among District employees and even greater mistrust by the public in the school board’s budget proposals.

Clearly, however, if the budget is anywhere near the dismal financial reality being painted by the District, tough compromises will have to be worked out between the District’s unions and District negotiators. Hopefully it won’t come down to a standoff that will just disrupt our schools and not solve anything.

There comes a time when we all have to accept the inevitable and start working together to come to the least disruptive solutions. Any less, is a disservice to the teachers, students, and the District.

By The Associated Press

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters outside his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif., that he would veto an Assembly version of legislation designed to improve California’s chances of securing funding from the federal Race to the Top program. Mr. Schwarzenegger said the Assembly measure fails to meet federal guidelines and will not bring the reform California schools need.

Sacramento, Calif. -- The California Assembly on Thursday approved a controversial package of legislation that would allow the state to compete for a piece of the $4.3 billion being offered by the Obama administration to reform the nation's worst-performing schools.

By a 47-25 vote, the Assembly approved legislation by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, that would lift the cap on the number of charter schools in California, revamp the state's academic standards and target federal funding to the worst-of-the-worst failing schools.

The legislation is intended to clear the way for California to compete in the Race to the Top program. The state is eligible for up to $700 million.

But education reformers say Brownley's legislation is a weak effort that would allow schools to keep failing poor and minority children.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday he would veto the legislation if it hits his desk, calling it a watered-down package rather than real school reform.

He supports a bill by state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, that would give parents more authority to intervene in failing schools or to move out their kids. The California Teachers Association opposes that measure, which narrowly passed the state Senate last month.

Legislative leaders are trying to work out a compromise. Without one, schools that have already lost billions of dollars in state funding in the last few years won't be eligible for the extra federal funds.

"We anticipate further discussion and amendment as the bill continues moving through the Senate, which is its next step in the process, not the governor's desk," Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement following the Assembly vote. "The governor says he wants compromise. The reality is compromise is already driving the process."

The first applications for the Race to the Top program are due Jan. 19.

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

“Cleary (sic), a fresh start is needed,”: LAUSD SUPERINTENDENT ANNOUNCES RESTRUCTURE OF FREMONT HIGH SCHOOL FOR... (Official LAUSD Press Release)



CAL STATE ENROLLMENT DEMAND WILL RISE AS SPACE DECREASES -- Nearly 56,000 prospective students will be denied acces...

LEARNING ABOUT ETHICS: Whether public or charter, if a school gets tax dollars, it must be open about its spending....

LAUSD WILL SHUT DOWN FREMONT HIGH AND START OVER + smf 2¢ + more: By Howard Blume – LA Times LA Now Blog Decemb...


IS MY KIDS MAKING ME NOT SMART?: Stay-at-home fatherhood dulls my intellect to a nub. Excuse me while I ponder the ...

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY MIDDLE SCHOOL NIGHT: Wed, Dec 16th -- Featuring presentations on East Valley Middle Schools: Byr...

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY MIDDLE SCHOOL NIGHT: Wed, Dec 16th -- Featuring presentations on East Valley Middle Schools: Byr...
• SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Meets Wed Dec 16 @ 10AM at LAUSD Beaudry in the Boardroom
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...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.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD. He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee and the BOC on the Board of Education Facilities Committee. He is an elected repreprentative on his neighborhood council. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.