Saturday, April 17, 2010

Food 4 Thought: Data-driven to distraction

4LAKids: Sunday 18•April•2010
In This Issue:
THE AMAZING RACE [TO THE TOP]: Unreality, redefined
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee: DUNCAN URGES NEW AID TO SAVE EDUCATION JOBS;HEARS RttT COMPLAINTS + Cortines Testimony + Coverage
ODD PRIORITIES: LAUSD furloughs teachers, shortens school year - and buys solar panels!
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.
In the last week I went to two - count 'em - two presentations by authors on book tours.

The first was with Diane Ravitch – on the road promoting THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM. So much has been written about Diane's book and her repudiation of No Child Left Behind – and her warning that Race to the Top is More of the Same. She is right and enlightened and all the rest. Plus her book is a NYT bestseller. Beyond asking you to read it and share the enlightenment I'm finished on that subject for this week. Go buy her book, or borrow it from the library. Download it to your Kindle or i Pad.

The second was by Jan Poppendieck and her book FREE FOR ALL: FIXING SCHOOL FOOD IN AMERICA. School food is the lightweight pop subject du jour – with Alice Waters Jamie Oliver all over it like brown on rice. Free for All is not quite the indictment of national education policy or the NYT bestseller as the previous book ...but, gentle readers, let's go all scholarly+scholastic. Let's do our homework: Compare and Contrast!

Here it gets very interesting – because the National School Lunch Program used to be the Federal Government's sole foray into public education – once the exclusive bailiwick of the states and local governments. For reasons that change every decade or so the feds took an interest in school food beginning in the 1930's. Pellagra, scurvy and rickets in the hinterlands. Food surpluses to deal with. Poor nutrition in military draftees and recruits. Epidemics of Obesity. Feeding the Poor, etc.

For these reasons and others the feds have set standards and subsidized and regulated and mandated; and – by minimally funding – have driven the calorie count up and the standards of fare down. Because the money-per-child is minimal but the volume-of-children is high – and because compliance is the mandate – they have provided business opportunities for businesses that skate along the bottom line.

And remember what the Department of Agriculture said: Ketchup (or catsup) is a vegetable!

So Corporate America got in the school lunch business and the lunch ladies who used to cook and serve became the lunch ladies who warm and distribute. High fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar and the ROI on sweetened beverages is better than milk. You save one-point-two-five-cents-per-meal on food and two-point-eight-cents on labor and you shave four-percent off the cafeteria budget and before you know it Con-Agra/PepsiCo/KFC makes a billion dollars and kids get Pop Tarts and Pizza Hut!

...and a serving of ketchup the vegetable.

One meets the minimum guidelines so Uncle Sam sends a check. Plus fast food is fast, all the more time for teaching-to-the-test! There is no downside ladies and gentlemen; kids are happy and fat and so are Mr. Archer and Mr. Daniels and Mr. Midland.

SO NEXT WE SET SOME STANDARDS in DC for educational content and measurable outcomes – plug in some subsidies and penalties for noncompliance -- and we are data-driven to distraction as the test makers and the textbook publishers and the charter management organizations and vulture capitalists take out their business models.

OMG: Johnny Can't Read ...and the pellagra crisis has turned into the algebra crisis! The billionaires and the Ford Foundation rise up in arms and ride to the rescue ...with the politicians and policymakers right behind.

Stop me if you've figured out the ending already.

If Johnny can't read maybe we should ...because these books are gonna make lousy movies!

Diane Ravitch, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education At Amazon:
Janet Poppendieck, FREE FOR ALL: Fixing School Food in America At Amazon:

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

DENIM DAY IN LA & USA 2010 Wednesday April 21, 2010

Eighteen years ago a convicted rapist was acquitted on appeal based on a defense that his victim was wearing tight jeans – she was “asking for it”.

It is that outrage that prompted the establishment of Denim Day.

Peace Over Violence is presenting the 11th Annual Denim Day in LA & USA 2010, a campaign to raise awareness and educate the public about rape and sexual assault.

This year it is Wednesday, April 21, 2010.

Make a difference by wearing jeans on Denim Day as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

For additional information visit the website at

THE AMAZING RACE [TO THE TOP]: Unreality, redefined
snarky commentary by smf for 4LAKids

April 15, 2010 – YOUR SCHOOL TAXES @ WORK: So yesterday the LAUSD Board of Ed approved eliminating 10 schooldays from the futures of 617,798 kids (a cumulative 34,322 school years of education) and 12 days from the paychecks of 31,876 teachers and administrators to save $147 million – and decided to invest a good deal of the money they saved in solar panels and moving the school police HQ 13 blocks. Plus $50 million for projects to be named later.

They did this in the depth of “a budget crisis of the most unprecedented proportion” -- while the superintendent (whose definition of the crisis that is) was on an airplane to go plead for more money from the federal government.

And at the Washington DC hearing did Superintendent Cortines make a case for the best idea he’s had in recent memory? That LAUSD – the Charter School/School Reform Capital of the World be allowed to apply on its own for Race to the Top funds – separate from the functionally challenged Sacramento budgetary sinkhole …thinking not just out of the box but truly pushing the limits of the envelope?


Was he critical of the judging criteria of RttT?


But it gets better. Here’s some thinking from the Secretary of Education at that same hearing in the article that follows:

"Following his testimony, Mr. Duncan told reporters that he would like to see Congress pass an education jobs package in May, so that school districts could count on the aid as they work out their budgets for the next school year.”

I don’t know how they do it in Chicago, but California school districts are supposed to “work out” their budget three years in advance. We have passed the date teachers and administrators need to be notified whether they have a job or not. School Site Councils are making decisions whether to rehire nurses, librarians, psychologists and clerical staff right now! The Fiscal Year and the School Year begin on July 1. Some students in LAUSD start school on July 6th.

Duncan is using the same federal paradigm for rescue as the infamous “Brownie” ran after Katrina in New Orleans: Too little, too late.

Luckily charter schools will save us.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee: DUNCAN URGES NEW AID TO SAVE EDUCATION JOBS;HEARS RttT COMPLAINTS + Cortines Testimony + Coverage

By Alyson Klein | Ed Week Vol. 29, Issue 29 |

April 14, 2010 – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today urged Congress to pass new aid to preserve education jobs. He testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that deals with education spending on the same day the panel’s chairman introduced a bill that would provide $23 billion for that purpose.

The legislation offered by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would be modeled on the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. That fund was included in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic-stimulus measure approved by Congress last year. The money could be used for compensation and benefits to help districts hold on to existing employees and to hire new staff members to provide early-childhood, K-12, or postsecondary services. It could also be used for on-the-job training for “education-related careers.”

Secretary Duncan’s public support for such aid marks the first time the Obama administration has explicitly called for new federal funding to help schools weather the continuing economic problems facing states and school districts.

“It is brutal out there,” Mr. Duncan told reporters after his testimony. “It is really scary. We’re seeing massive layoffs around the country.”

The ARRA included up to $100 billion for education. But the law only covers fiscal 2009 and 2010, so states and districts are bracing for a major fiscal squeeze—the so-called “funding cliff”—when those dollars dry up. Districts are considering a range of measures, including eliminating summer school programs, reducing staff, trimming benefits, and even shortening the school year.

In December, the House of Representatives approved a measure that would also allocate $23 billion in job aid to schools, but the Senate has yet to consider such legislation.

The House measure also includes $4.1 billion for school facilities, an issue that Mr. Harkin has championed. But he said facilities funding would not be in his version of the bill. Sen. Harkin said in an interview that, while he isn’t “giving up” on the idea of more aid for school modernization, he wants to keep the focus of this package on jobs.


Following his testimony, Mr. Duncan told reporters that he would like to see Congress pass an education jobs package in May, so that school districts could count on the aid as they work out their budgets for the next school year. He said he wasn’t sure if the $23 billion that Sen. Harkin is proposing would be sufficient, but he called it “a good start.”

Sen. Harkin agreed that Congress needs to act quickly, saying the measure “can’t wait until August” when many teachers would already have been put out of work.

“The number of pink slips for educators for educators could easily, easily, top 100,000,” Mr. Harkin said in his opening statement at the hearing. “Job cuts of this magnitude would, of course, have a devastating impact on families throughout the country.”

The senator said the $23 billion figure is roughly half of what was in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund portion of the stimulus package, which covered two fiscal years. The new measure would only cover the 2010-11 school year.

During the hearing, Sen. Harkin said the cost of the bill doesn’t need to be offset by other revenue because it would be considered emergency spending. So far, his measure has attracted more than a dozen co-sponsors, all Democrats.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Senate education appropriations subcommittee, did not support the ARRA. But he left open the possibility that he would back a more limited package aimed only at education, saying that he was taking a look at his colleague’s measure.

During the hearing, the state superintendent of schools in Mr. Shelby’s home state, Joseph B. Morton, urged lawmakers to support Sen. Harkin’s bill. He said he surveyed his districts and found that, without the additional aid, there are likely to be more than 2,800 job cuts in Alabama next year, including nearly 1,600 teachers.

“We know that we need a jobs bill,” he said.

Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the Los Angeles school system, which recently agreed to shorten the school year by five days to help avert layoffs, also testified in support of the measure. He said it could save as many as 3,000 jobs in his district alone.

“Our students and teachers are losing instructional time and taking a pay cut,” Mr. Cortines said. Layoffs are still expected, he added. [Cortines' full statement:]


During the hearing, lawmakers began to push back on the Education Department’s approach to the $4 billion Race to the Top competition, which rewards states for making progress on teacher quality and distribution, standards and assessments, state data systems, and low-performing school turnarounds. The Obama administration has asked Congress to provide $1.35 billion in fiscal 2011 to extend the program.

Forty states and the District of Columbia applied for the first round of funding, but only Delaware and Tennessee were awarded grants. States have the opportunity to compete for a second phase of funding, which will be allocated later this year.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., whose home state was a finalist for the program and was considered a front-runner, sharply criticized the judging system for the competition. She said her state, which placed eleventh in the competition, would have done better if the department had discarded each state’s highest and lowest scores.

Ms. Landrieu also said she was dismayed that the competition placed a premium on getting districts and unions to support state plans. While both the winners had near-universal backing from districts and unions, Louisiana was only able to get 67 percent of districts and 78 percent of its unions on board. That shouldn’t have cost the state its grant, she said.

“Nothing in our application was watered down,” Sen. Landrieu told Mr. Duncan. “The problem is that if you push to get everyone there, you will give us no choice but to water down. … There are many members [of Congress] ... that are absolutely taken aback by the posture of this department.”

Sen. Shelby pointed out that states only receive an additional 15 points out of a possible 500 for having a plan to boost education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

“That seems to be low and is troubling to me,” he said. “Fifteen points out of 500 [for an area that will] drive the nation and the world in the future. …. It seems like it’s upside down; this needs to be changed.”

Sen. Harkin promised to “look into” that issue.

“That doesn’t sound like it should be,” he agreed.

Additional Coverage on this Story

ODD PRIORITIES: LAUSD furloughs teachers, shortens school year - and buys solar panels!
LA Daily News Editorial

April 15, 2009 -- THIS week the Los Angeles Unified School District made some hard choices in the face of budget deficits. All things considered, cutting the school year by one week, or five school days, this year and the next is vastly better than laying off 1,400 people and increasing class size.

It will cost teachers, who agreed to take 12 furlough days to save jobs, and working parents, who will have to arrange care for their kids those days. But when times are tough, these are the kinds of hard choices that everyone - from individuals to public organizations - must make to get by.

But it undercuts the district's cries of poverty when on the very same day that the Board of Education approved a drastic cost-saving measure it also gave a nod to borrow millions to pay for capital improvements, some of highly questionable need. This is money that will need to be repaid - including interest - from the same fund that pays for teachers and general school operating costs.

If roofs were threatening to fall down on students' heads or school buses were in danger of exploding, the district could justify using what amounts to a credit card purchase.

But solar panels? Fancy green school buses? What is Superintendent Ramon Cortines thinking?

For that matter, what's in the air over in LAUSD's facilities offices? Facility administrators have been taken some baffling, as well as suspicious, actions recently.

For example, senior facilities executive Bassam Raslan two weeks ago was indicted on conflict-of-interest charges for allegedly using his district position to hire employees from a company he also runs. As a result, both District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Controller Wendy Greuel are very interested in the department's documentation. Last week, the facilities department decided it was time to do some house cleaning of paperwork. It started purging computer files until a union complaint forced it to halt the conveniently timed data dump.

Now we're supposed to trust that this department "needs" $360 million for new stuff?

Residents might be scratching their heads wondering what happened to the $7 billion in bond revenue that voters endorsed in 2008 for upgrading schools and facilities. The recession, it seemed, happened. Declining home values mean the district won't be able to collect this money until 2016.

But Cortines said these projects can't wait until then. Solar panels can't wait?

In addition to spending $51 million to repair the auditorium at Garfield High School (they must be using the same firm County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was planning to use for his $707,000 office remodel) and $38 million for environmentally friendly school buses, the district also wants to borrow $100 million to install solar panels at 90 schools.

The payoff on this investment won't be realized for more than two decades. The district expects to save about $5 million a year on its $85 million utility bill - and possibly more if power rates increase.

That means it won't really save the district money until at least 20 years at current power rates, and even longer when you factor in the cost of borrowing money.

This seems an odd priority for a school district so strapped it has to cut 12 days worth of pay from thousands of schoolteachers and cheat its students out of two weeks of education.

Of course, this is the same district that spent more than $100 million on a payroll system so flawed it took years and millions more to fix.

And where are the school board members on this? The people who were elected to act as some sort of citizen oversight and representative to the district? They sat by and gave this project a thumbs up. Is it a wonder this district is in such a crisis with priorities like these?

Cortines Response

By John Fensterwald | The Educated Guess |

April 15th, 2010 -- Stanford New Schools, a K-12 charter school in East Palo Alto, comes with a good pedigree. It’s operated by Stanford’s School of Education.

But last month, as this blog noted [Stanford-run charter on ‘worst’ list|] , the state named it one of the state’s 188 persistently lowest performing schools, designated for restructuring. Then on Wednesday night, as Palo Alto Online reported, the Ravenswood School Board voted not to renew the school’s charter. Unless the trustees relent, the school will shut down in June.

Contrary to the perception that it’s next to impossible to close a poor-performing charter, here’s a case where it just might happen. Everyone from the dean of the ed school to tearful parents came out to the hearing to request a charter renewal, to no avail.

The school can make a plausible case, despite its lagging test scores, for an extension. Stanford New Schools is a combination of a charter high school and a new charter elementary. The high school has an impressive record of sending students to college — more than 90 percent – but its STAR scores are low. The three-year old elementary charter’s first two years of tests are also low – less than 20 percent proficiency in math and English language arts. But the school can legitimately argue that a startup deserves at least a little more time.

The board voted 3-2 to deny the charter but subsequently 4-1 to at least consider a two-year extension, under the close watch of the district. The superintendent will present a plan.

Ravenswood itself has been a chaotic district and has been in District Improvement for six years. Having Ravenswood intensely supervise a Stanford operation promises to be humbling, if nothing else.

(Update: The New York Times today did an excellent story on the charter schools and the Ravenswood vote. See here: Charter Extension Denied to Low-Scoring Stanford School|

●●smf - Calling the Irony Police: It was he charter community who commissioned the CREDO National Charter Study from Stanford [] - which thoroughly discredited any evidence of the 'magic bullet status' of charter schools.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
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THE AMAZING RACE [TO THE TOP]: Unreality, redefined: snarky commentary by smf for 4LAKids April 15, 2010 – YOUR S...

ED WEEK TOP STORIES: Duncan Urges Aid to Save Education Jobs, New Definition of Career Readiness, RTI's Unmet Prom...


CORTINES’ SENATE TESTIMONY: “California's Bad News Budget Threatens Education Reform”: Ramon Cortines Los Angeles ...

ODD PRIORITIES: LAUSD furloughs teachers, shortens school year - and buys solar panels!: LA Daily News Editorial ... 1


LAUSD WANTS TO BORROW $360M: By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News 04/13/2010 -- Even as they face a mas...

This week's 4LAKids: EXTRA: The eternal sunshine of a spotted contract

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Thursday Apr 22, 2010
South Region High School #9: Groundbreaking Ceremony
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Location: South Region High School #9
5225 Tweedy Blvd.
South Gate, CA 90280
*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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