Sunday, April 04, 2010

El soñador

4LAKids: Sunday 4•April•2010 Happy Eastover
In This Issue:
REPLICATING ESCALANTE: We need more teachers like the famed East L.A. educator. But how do we re-create the magic?
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?

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PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
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"You can't be a good teacher unless you see the potential in every student." - Jaime A. Escalante

When choosing whether to believe the truth or to believe the legend - go with the legend.

The immigrant from Bolivia who goes from being busboy to the Best Teacher in America in only 103 minutes and 9270 feet of film.

The class of gangbangers and Latino misfits right out of "Bienvenido de nuevo Kotter" who defy the odds and go on to ace the AP Calculus exam.

The made for public television docudrama with an unknown cast that gets green-lighted for theatrical release by some studio executive and makes a fortune and its actors stars.

Life is never as simple as the above because 'happily', 'ever' and 'after' never are ….but for brief shining moments it can be. All of the above is about Jaime Escalate and how he believed – fearlessly, relentlessly and uncompromisingly in that opening quote.

It really happened – not quite that simply, but really.

"By the rivers of Babylon we sat down. And we wept as remembered Zion."

Happy Eastover Everyone; there were miracles in those times. There are miracles in these times. Pearl Buck, another immigrant dreamer tells us the young don't know enough to be prudent; and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.

¡Onward/Adelante! -smf

●● 2¢ more:

● THE INTERDISTRICT PERMIT ISSUE right now is being argued about the money. The Seagulls in "Finding Nemo": "Mine, mine. mine!" LAUSD is depending on getting 80% of those students – and 80% of the ADA money that goes with them back. 80% is like a quota – someone in Budgeting is fixed on 80%. One can argue that parents are the best interpreters of students' interest; someone else might say teachers. Nobody that doesn't have a 241 telephone prefix is going to say that budgeteers are.

Until it's about the best interest of the the students it's all a waste of ink and pixels. Remember "Field of Dreams"?... "If you build it they will come"? We have built the schools, now we need to build the programs. And the trust . Then they will stay.

● The recent FACILITIES/NEW CONSTRUCTION BROUHAHA – with indictments and audits and investigations of investigations – with Cooley and Gruel and Laura Chick and Cortines and Garcia all bringing in their 2¢ worth is worrisome. And perhaps diversionary.

By Jay Mathews | Washington Post Staff Writer

This report was published Dec. 12, 1982, in The Washington Post.

LOS ANGELES -- Garfield High School, a drab block of concrete in the middle of a low-income, Hispanic neighborhood in East Los Angeles, has been known for high absenteeism and youth gangs, but never for higher mathematics. Perhaps that is what fooled the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J.

In the May 19 national advanced placement calculus test, which is so difficult that only 2 percent of graduating high school seniors ever attempt it, a startling total of 18 Garfield students passed. Many had similar correct answers and seven made the top score of five, what one Garfield teacher compared with "walking on water."

Sensitive to the slightest hint of invalid scores, the service, which composes the Scholastic Aptitude Test and other national examinations, demanded a retest for 14 of the students, but the results were the same. It had stumbled across, not a cabal of cheaters, but the students of Jaime Escalante, 51, a Bolivian immigrant who has performed a miracle in a tough, big-city school.

In the process, he also has shown what a rigidly organized classroom routine and a deep devotion to teaching might do to solve what is becoming a national crisis.
In the third decade since the Soviets put the first artificial satellite in orbit, science and mathematics in American high schools have fallen on hard times. Qualified teachers are quitting in droves for better-paying jobs in private industry.

In California, according to a recent study by University of California researchers James W. Guthrie and Ami Zusman, 750 science and mathematics high school teachers are retiring each year, but only 250 students in the state university system currently are training for such jobs.

Some school districts are trying to retrain athletic coaches to fill the gap, but students still graduate woefully ill-equipped for the new era of high technology, thus adding to the unemployment rolls at a time when high-tech jobs are going begging.

To motivate his students, Escalante uses a Spanish word, ganas, which loosely translates as "the urge" -- the urge to succeed, to achieve, to grow. It is difficult to teach, and impossible to legislate, but a look at one remarkable teacher can show how it grows and the forms it comes in.

Garfield High School sits five miles east of downtown Los Angeles, drawing students from long, flat blocks of small stucco and frame houses, the homes of middle- and lower-income families, almost all of Hispanic descent. The community, said principal Henry Gradillas, "does not have that great love for education. They have large families, they have to go to work, they start families early."

Escalante's routine includes a five-minute test at the beginning of every class. He insists that homework be done; he has taped the assignments for the whole year into each textbook so no one can claim forgetfulness. His tests are long and difficult, and after-school work is usually a must.

Escalante came to the United States in 1964, with 11 years' experience as a teacher in Bolivia. But he could not speak English well and could only find a job as a busboy in a Pasadena restaurant. Within six months he had been promoted to head cook. He studied electronics in his free time at Pasadena City College and soon won a job with the Burroughs Corp. as a technician. The money was good, "but I hoped to go back to school and teach again."

When a friend told him of a possible National Science Foundation scholarship, he applied, and scored first in the qualifying examination in mathematics, physics, chemistry and English. After a year of courses at California State University at Los Angeles, and at Fullerton and the University of Southern California, Escalante had his teaching credentials. Local school officials asked him if he wanted to teach "Anglos, blacks or Chicanos." He picked Garfield.

That was in 1974. The school had not had anyone pass the advanced placement calculus test for several years. As Escalante worked his way to higher responsibilities in the mathematics department, eventually becoming chairman, he treated the 3,000-member student body as if it were a farm club for the Dodgers. He kept asking other teachers: "Do you have any kid who could do calculus? Do you have any stars?" Those with potential he brought into his classes, then loaded them down with special assignments.

Students who reject the system, who refuse to try to learn after repeated chances, usually are ejected from Escalante's class. Earnest but slow learners are moved to desks near Escalante's desk and receive his after-hours attention: personal tutoring before school, at lunch and after school. He withdrew from his desk several cans of fruit juice and soft drinks and a plastic bag full of breakfast cereal--all gifts from students who worried that he might be missing a meal.

By 1979, Escalante's efforts began to bring results. In that year, four Garfield students passed the advanced placement calculus test, giving them a full semester of college credit. Eight passed in 1980, and 14 passed in 1981. As this year's test date approached, Escalante was driving the 18 students who would take the test like a well-disciplined team of show horses. They were doing two hours of work at school and two hours after school, solving at least 30 problems a day.

He worked so hard that three weeks before the test he suffered a heart attack. He was hospitalized for a week, defying his doctor's orders by making up more problems in his hospital bed and sending them over to his class.

"He devoted a lot of time, so much time, all unpaid," said Josie Richkarday, the one junior in the group. "He asked nothing in return."

After passing the test, Escalante's students graduated, bound for college careers at Columbia, Berkeley, UCLA, and other schools. Most hope to pursue careers in engineering or computers. The news in August that the Educational Testing Service was questioning their scores angered them, but did not appear to sidetrack them.

Escalante, Gradillas and the students said they all felt that the testing service had questioned the scores because they came from a low-income, Latino school.

Joy McIntyre, a spokeswoman for the service, strongly denied this. She said that the tests were scored by people who did not know the names or origins of the pupils who took the test, and the decision to ask for a retest was based on statistical calculation of the likelihood of so many similar answers.

"We're selling a service, which depends on the fact that there are no doubts about the validity of our scores," said McIntyre, and Escalante said he could see the service's point.

Aili Tapio, who turned down Harvard so that she could enter the University of Southern California as a sophomore, said that Escalante told his students: "You know, in the end, you're going to have to take it again."
Tapio said that she and the other students received only a week's notice of the new test in late August. All of them passed a second time except two, one of whom already had joined the Army. The other had already enrolled at Columbia.

This year, Escalante plans an even grander assault on the calculus test. He says that the Educational Testing Service should be warned.

"I've got 42 calculus students this time," he said. "I expect at least 35 of them will pass."


This article is the basis for Matthews' book: "Jaime Escalante: The Best Teacher in America" & the film "Stand and Deliver"

Matthew's Op-Ed/Obit of Esacalante is HERE.

REPLICATING ESCALANTE: We need more teachers like the famed East L.A. educator. But how do we re-create the magic?
Los Angeles Times Editorial

April 3, 2010 - The death this week of the great East L.A. math teacher Jaime Escalante revived the question that first came to mind when "Stand and Deliver" hit movie screens in 1988: Why can't we just replicate the Escalante magic thousands of times over? Imagine what educational heights might be attained.

Unfortunately, it's not so easy. Escalante was a mold-breaker, a force of nature in the classroom. Years before the term "achievement gap" was coined, he took under his wing the low-income minority students who weren't considered star material by conventional thinking and pushed them to the top levels of achievement. His keen mind, passion and initiative are not simple qualities to clone.

But Escalante's death reminds us of the importance of finding, training and retaining excellent teachers. Study after study shows that the quality of teachers and principals is the key factor in how well students learn. It's also the aspect of education that is most consistently undervalued by the school reform movement, which has emphasized standardized tests and curriculum.

The components that make up a great teacher are not a mystery, and there is much that policy leaders could do to bring us closer to the ideal Escalante personified.

Effective teachers tend to have been first-rate college students, often attending selective universities, according to research gathered by the National Council on Teacher Quality. In fact, there's also a correlation between students' SAT scores in high school and their effectiveness as teachers years later. Good teachers possess excellent verbal ability and real expertise in the subjects they teach. They keep discipline in the classroom while making it clear that they care about their students.

Yet according to a 1998 report by the California Research Bureau, students who enter teacher training "tend to have graduated in the bottom half of their high school and college classes." Many teachers are teaching subjects that are outside their areas of expertise and certainly outside their college majors. Lack of student discipline is the top complaint made by teachers in surveys.

It's true that teachers receive neither the pay nor the prestige that usually attracts the best and brightest; people like Escalante, who will throw aside more lucrative job possibilities in math and the sciences for a teaching career, are not the rule. But it doesn't have to be that way. Even without the admittedly necessary improvements in teachers' working conditions, Teach for America has shown that top-drawer college students can be drawn into the profession. In 2009, more than 35,000 college seniors applied for 3,600 slots in the public service program, which trains new graduates and places them in hard-to-staff urban schools. More than 11% of all seniors at Ivy League schools applied. Studies have found that these new teachers were at least as effective as more experienced, traditionally trained teachers. They often stay in the profession well after their initial two-year stint has ended.

The National Center for Teacher Quality, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, argues that teachers colleges can similarly raise their standards for applicants, though they might not get quite as many Ivy League candidates. Countries with better education systems and better success rates with low-income minority students have higher standards for entering the teaching profession. Finland admits only the top 10% of high school graduating classes, the center reports, and Singapore the top third. Further, according to the center, raising standards for entering teaching programs, as Britain and Massachusetts have, does not result in teaching shortages. On the contrary, higher standards appear to make the career more attractive.

Teacher programs can train prospective educators in many of the skills that are most closely correlated to success, including sharpened verbal proficiency and dexterity at maintaining class discipline. But many of these programs, taught by professors rather than seasoned public school teachers, are out of touch with the needs of today's schools. They still emphasize educational philosophy and theory over practice, and give students too little opportunity to observe, critique and imitate a range of effective teaching techniques.

If the Obama administration wants to address shortcomings in the nation's teaching corps, it should fret less about whether students' standardized test scores are included in teachers' performance evaluations and place more emphasis on reforming the areas where effective teaching starts: the admissions policies, curriculum and instructional practices at the nation's teaching colleges. States should hold these training programs accountable for how well their graduates perform, just as public schools are responsible for the academic achievement of their students.

Once teachers are in place, it's up to policymakers and the schools themselves to retain and further train them. One area that the federal Race to the Top program has rightly stressed is the need for better evaluations of teachers and rewards based on those evaluations. A key aspect of Delaware's winning application for federal funds was its plan to coach principals on how to evaluate teachers. It also will provide bonuses for the most effective teachers who work in high-need schools and devise other merit-based rewards, including career ladders for instructors. Letting teachers interact with and be evaluated by their peers is equally important, but it has not been given the attention it deserves.

Perhaps even more vital to staffing our schools with vibrant teachers is unshackling them from lock-step curriculum and instructional methods. Even Escalante struggled with administrators who were wary of his unconventional methods, and that was before the days of standardized tests. Many of the nation's top college graduates have shown interest in teaching, but they are unlikely to stay in the classroom long if they are deprived of the chance to exercise their brains and creativity on a daily basis.


By Andrew Blankstein and Jack Leonard | LA Times

April 2, 2010 -- The indictment charges Bassam Raslan with nine counts, accusing him of conflict of interest. But it also takes the school district to task for failing to prevent the alleged crime even though it knew of his interest in the company.

"LAUSD management knew of this but did not direct Mr. Raslan's supervisors to take action or implement specific policies to prevent" the conflict, the grand jury said. "LAUSD senior management did not implement any effective means of preventing conflict of interest other than relying on those committing the crime to self report."

The indictment comes three years after a Times investigation raised questions about the ability of Raslan's company to win lucrative school district contracts while he worked as a regional director of construction.

Details about the contracts, including how much money was involved, remained under seal Thursday, and prosecutors said they could not provide more information because state law prevents them from discussing secret grand jury testimony.

L.A. Unified hired Raslan, 52, to help oversee its $20-billion school construction effort. He worked as subcontactor rather than adistrict employee. The district has relied heavily on contractors to supervise construction, defending the practice as a way to attract higher-quality employees while providing the flexibility to quickly increase or reduce their numbers as needed.

The indictment is the latest black eye for L.A. Unified's building program. An internal audit completed last year found that consultants working for the program cost taxpayers 70% more than if district employees had done the same work. The audit also found that some contractors did not meet required qualifications.

Raslan's attorney, Daniel V. Nixon, described his client as a vital member of the construction team.

He said district officials were well aware of Raslan's co-ownership of the consulting company, TBI Associates.

"He is outraged at the fact that criminal charges have been brought against him," Nixon said. "Mr. Raslan's conduct at all times was in accord with district policy, was open and fully understood by people at the district."

Nixon insisted that state conflict of interest laws apply only to employees or officers with a public agency -- not contractors, like Raslan -- and he vowed to vigorously fight the charges.

Deputy District Atty. Max Huntsman said an appellate court has ruled that some contractors are subject to the same conflict-of-interest rules and that the prosecution was appropriate.

"He made decisions that concerned money that went into his own pocket," Huntsman said. "That's a conflict of interest."

David Holmquist, the district's general counsel, said L.A. Unified plans to examine the evidence collected by the grand jury before passing judgment.

"We are very interested in reviewing the grand jury's findings and revealing through our own investigation any wrongdoing," Holmquist said.

A district spokeswoman said TBI is still operating as a subconsultant on four construction management contracts.

Raslan founded TBI in 2002 with two other men, who worked for the district. They aimed to profit from the enormous need for construction managers on the building program that was underway, according to the grand jury indictment.

The Times found that the district was using consultants for about 70% of the staff managing the school construction program. Many of those consultants were paid high hourly rates to make key decisions about how money was spent.

In TBI's case, the district was billed nearly $500,000 for 25 consultants in one month during 2007. Of those, nine consultants worked under Raslan, who approved time cards for five, records showed.

The Times found that Raslan repeatedly signed timecards for one TBI contractor after his direct supervisor refused to sign them, suspecting that the hours were padded.

The indictment, issued Tuesday in L.A. County Superior Court, describes a series of failures by the district as the reason why law enforcement authorities didn't learn about Raslan's activities until September 2006.

In August 2003, L.A. Unified distributed a policy against conflict of interests in hiring. The grand jury said the policy clearly prohibited what Raslan was doing. But the district failed to say that any violation was a crime and should be reported to police, according to the indictment.

About the same time, one of Raslan's business partners at TBI, Ivan Kesian, was fired by the district for a conflict of interest, the grand jury said. The indictment does not explain the conflict or say whether it was similar to Raslan's.

Despite Kesian's firing, Raslan remained in his post and continued to recommend the hiring of TBI employees without telling his supervisors about the conflict, the indictment alleges. The grand jury said his supervisors did not realize he was recommending his own employees for hire.

In December 2005, James O'Reilly, then director of construction, discovered what Raslan was doing. But O'Reilly did not believe Raslan would participate in hiring panels or influence panel decisions so never took action, the indictment says.

The grand jury said Raslan was not ordered to report his finances under the district's conflict of interest policies until 2006.

The indictment covers a period from 2004 to 2007 and involves the work of nine TBI employees.

Raslan's attorney said his client has taken a leave of absence from his duties with the district but continues to work for TBI. But Holmquist, the district's general counsel, said Raslan had been placed on unpaid administrative leave.

The head of the district's construction program resigned in September after Supt. Ramon C. Cortines made cuts as the district faced a massive deficit. District officials said they have assumed greater oversight of the building program since then.

"The whole idea is to become more efficient in all areas," Holmquist said.

April 03, 2010 -- SMMUSD HDQTRS — More kids who attend local public schools on inter-district permits could be allowed to stay put if the Los Angeles Unified School District board approves a proposal next week to modify the district's strict new permit policy.

In an attempt to net $51 million in extra state education funding, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines in February said the district would stop issuing permits to most students who live inside its boundaries but go to school in neighboring public school systems including the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The policy shift was expected to require about 10,000 of the 12,250 students who receive out-of-district transfer permits from LAUSD to return to their home district. At SMMUSD, more than 1,200 students receive transfer permits from LAUSD.

Cortines had said the district would boost its enrollment by making it more difficult to get permission to transfer.

But under a proposal supported by two LAUSD board members, additional permits would be issued, decreasing the new policy's impact on districts like SMMUSD that stand to lose hundreds of students next school year.

The proposal, which will come before the panel for a vote on Tuesday, would grant additional permit exemptions in order to allow students entering 10th, 11th and 12th grades to keep their transfer permits and remain at their current high schools. Under Cortines' original plan, only high school students entering their senior year would have been allowed to remain at their out-of-district schools. (Cortines' plan also allows students entering 5th and 8th grades to remain at their current schools. Those exemptions would not be changed under the proposal before the school board.)

"It was our feeling that high school students should be allowed to finish their years at the school in which they're currently [enrolled]," said Tom Waldman, chief of staff for LAUSD board member Tamar Galatzan, who supports the measure.

SMMUSD Board President Barry Snell said the proposal doesn't go far enough.

"I'm happy to hear that there is some movement toward trying to limit it, but I think that all students should be allowed to complete their education at the school they're currently attending."

SMMUSD superintendent Tim Cuneo has said he supports grandfathering in all the district's students who receive transfer permits from LAUSD, as well as their siblings.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors endorsed a similar idea this week, approving a motion by Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the Westside, urging Cortines to allow all students to continue receiving permits in order to complete their education at their current schools.

But Waldman said Galatzan isn't likely to support such a significant revision to the district's new permit policy.

"Right now this is as far as we'd like to go to expand it to high school students," he said. "Other than that we're supportive of the superintendent's policy."

Under Cortines' plan, students with a parent who works within the attendance boundary of their child's out-of-district school would still be allowed to receive transfer permits.

Students seeking the permits from LAUSD were allowed to apply through the district's Web site beginning April 1.

Ellen Morgan, an LAUSD spokeswoman, said the district plans to respond to permit requests within five business days of when applications are submitted, though that window could be extended.

Students whose applications are rejected are allowed to appeal decisions to LAUSD and then to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
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EVENTS: Coming up next week...

Tuesday, April 27th thru Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Time is from 6:00 a.m. till 6 p.m. each day.
Los Angeles Sports Arena (Free Parking)

The RAM event on the Sports Arena floor will become a health clinic for
a seven-day period
to serve the residents of Los Angeles County who are uninsured or underinsured.

They have a Website for additional information:

for more information visit:

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


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. He is an elected Representative 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 as 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.
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