Saturday, June 04, 2011

Recalculating Route

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 5•June•2011
In This Issue:
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!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
I’m going to put something out there – or perhaps run the proverbial flag up the metaphorical flagpole: What if the data that is driving education reform is telling us – like the voice in our GPS – that we a headed in the wrong direction?

● What if corporate-model charter schools aren’t the answer? (…unless you are looking for an investment opportunity – see: Andre Agassi, L.A. Bankers)
● What if the billionaires don’t have all the answers …just all the money?
● What if firing all the teachers and administrators and starting all over again doesn’t work?
● What if destroying educators’ morale at the same time you are reducing their income and increasing their workload while taking away their support structure is a bad idea?
● What if high stakes multiple-choice testing is a poor way to measure student performance and teacher effectiveness? Not just in second grade (see: News from the Lege) but wall-to-wall? (see: National Research Council Casts Doubt)
Who are the stakeholders? What if Parent Involvement is more than letting them read about it in the paper? And what if we let Students in on the process? Or is it 'Beaudry Knows Best'? (see: Clinton MS + Westchester HS ...and keep an eye on Central High School #9)
● What if the ancient Greeks were right and a well rounded education includes arts and music and civic responsibility and physical education?
● What if No Child Left Behind was a hollow shell based on a failed, fraudulent and thoroughly discredited scheme of education reform that originated in Houston in the 1990s?

These pages are much given to quoting rock ‘n roll lyrics:

There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss…*

If the emperor has no clothes should we let him into our schools?

¡Onward/Adelante! (…but when it is safe make a U-turn) -smf

*…and music+lyrics by Pete Townshend


by Howard Blume, LA Times/LA Now |

June 2, 2011 | 11:09 pm - A group of teachers and students at Clinton Middle School held a protest before classes Thursday over plans to replace most of the faculty before next fall.

Clinton Middle School, south of downtown Los Angeles, has suffered from low academic performance since it opened five years ago. About 6% of its students are proficient in English, about 12% in math.

The Los Angeles Unified School District responded this spring by declaring that the school’s entire staff would have to reinterview for their jobs. Unlike some other forced makeovers, the Clinton decision drew little or no outside notice, nor did district officials call attention to it.

Half-a-dozen teachers and about 25 students participated in the demonstration. Organizers said numerous teachers were too intimidated about their future job prospects to take part. Teachers displaced from Clinton are supposed to have jobs elsewhere, but local hiring committees or principals typically have to select them.

The school’s staff had appealed to district officials for the opportunity to lead reforms at the campus, said teacher Frances Copeland, who also is one of the school’s union representatives. At the very least, the faculty wanted the chance to compete with other bidders to run the campus, an option that nearly all other low-performing campuses have had.

District officials did not respond Thursday regarding Clinton, but they have defended aggressive re-staffing measures at low-performing school as necessary to change cultures. The welfare of students must take precedence over hardships caused to faculty, they said.

Originally, 13 of 54 teachers were invited to return. An additional four were added this week, Copeland said, after the faculty became more vocal about making their grievances public.

“We got our butts kicked very quietly under cover,” Copeland said, adding: “I can understand me not coming back. I’ve got a big mouth.”

Copeland raised a number of concerns over the forced re-staffing, including age and racial discrimination. She said that most of the retained teachers were under 40 and disproportionately younger compared with the current staff. Among the non-teaching staff, she said, all four African American teacher aides were not asked back.

Teacher Marcella Smith said the district has largely ignored the school in the past, when less extreme interventions could have made a difference.

Copeland agreed, saying that the school has been used as a dumping ground for some teachers displaced elsewhere, even if they didn’t want to work in South Los Angeles or didn’t want to teach middle school.

“But most of them did their best,” she said.

She added that teachers were supposed to learn of their fate on May 2, but administrators postponed the notification until May 22 so it would fall after the completion of the annual state testing period for students.

● WESTCHESTER HIGH STUDENTS WALK OUT - Apparently to protest conversion of school to magnet [Updated]
by Howard Blume, LA Times/LA Now |

June 1, 2011 | 1:04 pm - At least 400 students walked out of class at Westchester High School on Wednesday morning. Los Angeles school district officials said the walkout began at 10:30 a.m. and was initiated by current magnet-school students at Westchester. The protest was still continuing nearly two hours later.

District officials said students were protesting the planned conversion of the neighborhood school to be entirely a magnet program. Currently, just a portion of the school is a magnet.

Some faculty members and students have been concerned that neighborhood students could be crowded out of the school if enrollment were based on a magnet-school application open citywide. Magnet programs are designed to promote integration and are based on a complex points system.

District Supt. John Deasy has said that Westchester High is significantly under-enrolled and that there will be plenty of classroom space remaining for local students as well as black students attending through a permit.

[Updated at 9:25 p.m.: Sophomore Robert Sharp said late Wednesday that the protesters were not against the conversion of the campus to a magnet school. Instead, he said, the students are unhappy that "so many good, longtime teachers" are losing their jobs and the students don't believe that is the way to improve the school.]

ASSEMBLY: YES, FIX SCHOOL FUNDING - Brownley's AB 18 gets strong support …for now

By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess |

6/3/11 • A bill that would become the foundation for restructuring the state’s K-12 funding system passed the Assembly this week with near unanimity (a vote of 74-2) – a sign that legislators agree with the concept and are willing to let important details be worked out in coming months.

AB 18, sponsored by Julia Brownley, a Santa Monica Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, would begin to fix a system that study after study has concluded is complex, confusing, irrational, and, by ignoring the high cost of educating the poor and English learners, inequitable.

It is also underfunded, although the bill itself neither provides additional funding overall nor explicitly calls for it. It would, however, put in place what Brownley calls “the architecture” for the Legislature to shift priorities to students in need, when more money under Proposition 98 becomes available in coming years.

It also would make divvying up of education dollars more transparent and efficient by giving school districts control over billions of dollars whose uses have been dictated by Sacramento through dozens of categorical grants; they comprise about a third of school spending.

In exchange for whacking their budgets, the Legislature already has given districts flexibility over some categorical money. AB 18 would accelerate the process and make flexibility permanent.


Starting in 2015-16, Prop 98 would go into three piles of money based on student enrollment, with special education walled off into a separate pot.

Base or general spending, the current revenue limit funding, the largest of the three. Folded into this would be about two dozen categorical programs, worth $2.4 billion, including home-to-school transportation, community day schools, civic education, gifted and talented programs, arts and music programs, and much of adult education.

Targeted Student Equity Funding, with about eight programs now aimed at poor students and English learners, including Economic Impact Aid, the largest. Totaling $2.1 billion, this would be the basis for a much talked about weighted student formula, the extra per-student funding for children in need that the Legislature could make its top funding priority in coming years. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s bipartisan Committee on Education Excellence estimated that adequately funding low-income students, many of whom are English learners, would require an extra 20 percent per student. Assembly Education Committee staff haven’t yet determined if the Targeted Student Equity figure, as now funded, comes close to the 20 percent weight; however, it probably comes up short.

Quality Instruction Funding, combining the popular class-size reduction program and eight other categorical programs, now funded at $1.8 billion, including teacher mentoring and training programs. It could be used for teacher recruitment and retention programs, teacher training, and, assuming districts become bolder, paying for more comprehensive teacher and principal evaluations, or smaller classes, however districts define them. (It’s not clear to me why class-size reduction – a favorite of the California Teachers Association – was thrown into this pile.)

To prevent a food fight among potential winners and losers, Brownley would guarantee every district its current funding level in the first year, and her bill would not affect the affluent basic aid districts that get surplus funding from property taxes. But future legislatures, Brownley said in an interview, may begin to funnel more money into the weighted student funding or professional development.


AB 18 remains “a work in progress,” said Brownley, who is continuing to meet with defenders of existing categorical programs and advocates for low-income and English learners.

Among issues on the table:

Should some programs be protected? Adult education is an obvious example. Given flexibility, 80 percent of districts surveyed have cut adult ed money, some severely. Few districts spend dollars any longer on gifted and talented children.

Are categoricals in the right pot? Money for tutoring and extra programs for the high school exit exam, primarily benefiting low-income students, could easily be added to the weighted student formula money instead of base revenue.

How will the state hold districts accountable for spending professional development money for that purpose, or ensure that money for textbooks and qualified teachers for low-income children, won under the Williams case or established through categorical programs, will be spent on those children?

Will there be enough weight given to English learners and low-income students? Some groups like Public Advocates, which have called for finance reform for years – and are currently suing over it – are supportive of the process, and want to see how the weighted student formula ends up, said Liz Guillen, Director of Legislative and Community affairs.

The one group – and a powerful one – that already is opposed to AB 18 is the California Teachers Association. Spokesman Mike Myslinksi said CTA has two concerns. “There needs to be more research about what the reforms and added flexibility will mean for students before adopting them,” he said. Also, “now is not the time for broad financial reforms – not until adequate resources are in place, and there is adequate money for clean and safe schools.”

Brownley said she agreed that attention must be paid to potential consequences, which is why she continues to meet with education groups on the bill. However, now, in anticipation of more money in coming years, “the timing could not be more perfect.”

“If we continue to invest in a broken system, we will not get the outcomes we want. Let us change to a more rational, equitable, and effective system now,” she said.

STAR TESTS MAY END FOR YOUNGEST: Senate bill would end exam for 2nd graders

By Kathryn Baron | Thoughts on Public Education/TOPED |

6/02/11 • Reading about SB 740, State Senator Loni Hancock’s (D-Oakland) bill to eliminate second grade STAR testing, took me back to my daughter’s initiation into standardized testing. She puked. “She almost made it out the classroom door,” her second-grade teacher told me with a laugh. Since she didn’t have a fever and nothing happened that night, I brought her back to school the next day. Her classmates applauded when she walked in. Was it stress? Perhaps. She’s in college now and says she still dislikes tests.

Hancock shares that aversion. She’s tried twice to pass similar legislation. Both bills died. SB 740 has made it to the Senate floor, where it will be voted on today. (See update below) “The second-grade test is something that has been of concern to her for a long time because of the recommendation of numerous groups that to do an assessment of second graders is not reliable,” said Rebecca Baumann, a legislative aide to the senator.

No high stakes for young children

The National PTA has taken the position that “Standardized multiple-choice tests and school readiness tests should never be used with preschool and early elementary children for any purpose.” The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) developed guidelines urging discretion in testing children 8 and under:

The use of formal standardized testing and norm referenced assessments of young children is limited to situations in which such measures are appropriate and potentially beneficial, such as identifying potential disabilities.

In place of the STAR exam, Hancock’s bill requires the State Department of Education to provide school districts with information on assessments in mathematics and English language arts that classroom teachers can use for purely diagnostic purposes – something that most teachers already do as a matter of course.

Baumann says diagnostic tests are more practical because they can be given several times during a school year to provide teachers with immediate feedback on how each student is doing. STAR test results aren’t released until the school year is over. Plus, diagnostic tests don’t take up as much class time. “It takes six to eight days to administer the [STAR] test,” says Baumann. “The amount of time taken away from instruction at the second grade level is substantial.”

740 is a blunt instrument

Despite its difficult past, the current bill has few opponents on record. The staff analysis lists only EdVoice, a nonprofit organization working for school reform in California. But it’s a vociferous critic. President and CEO Bill Lucia calls it “a blunt instrument approach to taking the second grade out of the API (Academic Performance Index).” Lucia isn’t against having a policy discussion of whether the second-grade test should be included in the API, but says that’s a whole different discussion.

His foremost concern is that waiting until third grade is too late to learn whether students are working below grade level. “We know the consequence of that can be extremely costly,” said Lucia, citing statistics that show a grim path, with students below grade level by the end of third grade being four times more likely to drop out of school, and dropouts being eight times more likely to wind up in prison.

The State Department of Education hasn’t yet taken a position on 740, but State Superintendent Tom Torlakson “is supportive of the concept,” said Erin Gabel, his director for legislative affairs. In fact the Department sponsored a bill by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) that, initially, also eliminated second-grade testing. But Brownley removed that provision from AB 250 in order to get it out of the appropriations committee. The bill passed the Assembly yesterday and is now headed for the Senate.

The main thrust of 250 is to make sure the state is prepared for the Common Core assessments that are set to begin in 2014-15. California has put all curriculum framework, professional development, and instructional materials adoption on hold while waiting for the Common Core standards, but Gabel says that’s poor planning. “It’s imperative that we provide direction and support for classroom instruction. We’re on a tight timeline here.”

Conflicting opinions on NCLB and second grade

EdVoice’s Lucia also argues that Title III of No Child Left Behind requires all English language learners in kindergarten through 12th grade to be tested every year to assess their progress. He says California stands to lose millions in federal funding if second graders are exempt from the STAR test. But Gabel says that’s not so. If it were true, then the state would already be out of compliance because it doesn’t administer the tests in kindergarten and first grade. She said the state has been using the California English Language Development Test (CELDT), which assesses English proficiency, without any pushback from the federal government.

In fact, California is one of just a handful of states that has second graders take the exam. NCLB only requires standardized testing to begin in third grade, so the two panels developing tests for the Common Core standards are also starting with third grade. But just because it’s not mandated, says Lucia, doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. Without second grade scores, he says, we’ll be losing “data to make better informed decisions on what’s working for kids.”

Update: Turns out that SB 740 passed the Senate last night on a vote of 21 to 13, and was sent to the Assembly

● CALIFORNIA DREAM ACT MOVES FORWARD: Financial aid for undocumented students

By Kathryn Baron | Thoughts on Public Eduction/TOPED |

Posted on 6/02/11 • The sixth time may be a charm for Los Angeles Assemblyman Gil Cedillo’s crusade to pass a state version of the Dream Act. By a party-line vote of 46-25, the Assembly yesterday approved AB 131 and sent it to the Senate. The bill would let undocumented immigrants who meet in-state tuition requirements, apply for Cal Grants to attend California’s public colleges and universities, and fee waivers at the state’s community colleges.

AB 131 is part of a pair of bills that together give the undocumented students access to financial aid. It’s twin, AB 130, which passed the Assembly in May, would allow the students to apply for private scholarships administered by the University of California, Cal State University and community colleges, as long as they don’t include any state money.

Only students who meet the requirements for paying in-state tuition under AB 540 would be covered by 130 and 131. The 2001 law applies to any student, U.S. citizen or not, who attended a California high school for three or more years and graduated from the school, or earned a state GED.

“I ask you to do what is justified and fair,” Cedillo said during yesterday’s floor debate, according to the Associated Press. ”This is in the best interests of the state of California.”

Of course not everyone feels that way. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), a long time opponent of the Dream Act and AB 540, said the legislation creates an incentive for more people to come here illegally. ”It will eventually take the limited pool of resources and funds that are available right now to legal lawful residents of the state of California and it will divide those further,” he said when AB 130 came to the floor of the Assembly last month.

As we reported earlier this year, Cedillo successfully introduced similar legislation four times since 2005, and each time Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill. A fifth died in the Senate. This time around Cedillo has an ally in governor’s office. During his campaign, Gov. Brown pledged his support for the Dream Act.


Themes in the News for the week of May 31-June 3, 2011 by UCLA IDEA |

06-03-2011 - In an era when education policy and practice are intertwined with standardized testing, a new report makes official what has been known for years—that high-stakes testing is not an effective “lever” for improving teaching and learning.

“Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education,” published by the highly-regarded Washington, D.C.-based National Research Council, reports on testing and sanctions in school programs over the last 10 years. Drawing on leading scholars from around the nation, the National Research Council creates independent expert reports that synthesize the consensus understandings of the research community. This report concluded that high-stakes standardized tests have created environments where teachers emphasized test-taking skills and limited instruction to what they thought would appear on the tests (Huffington Post, Washington Post, Washington Times, National Academies). Among the “unintended consequences” was that students could improve scores while actually learning less.

UC Berkeley professor Michael Hout, chairman of the committee that wrote the report, said, “It’s human nature: Give me a number, I’ll hit it. . . consequently, something that was a really good indicator before there were incentives on it, be it test scores or the stock price, becomes useless because people are messing with it” (Education Week)

This week’s Theme will post the report’s two powerful conclusions and three recommendations. The full report is a must-read for everyone who wants to know how high-stakes tests influence education opportunity. These data and findings from the National Research Council can be powerful tools for discussion and starting points for consensus in future debates about the role of education testing and sanctions, especially as Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Posted unedited from ‘Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education’:

Conclusion 1: Test-based incentive programs, as designed and implemented in the programs that have been carefully studied, have not increased student achievement enough to bring the United States close to the levels of the highest achieving countries. When evaluated using relevant low-stakes tests, which are less likely to be inflated by the incentives themselves, the overall effects on achievement tend to be small and are effectively zero for a number of programs. Even when evaluated using the tests attached to the incentives, a number of programs show only small effects. Programs in foreign countries that show larger effects are not clearly applicable in the U.S. context. School level incentives like those of NCLB produce some of the larger estimates of achievement effects, with effect sizes around 0.08 standard deviations, but the measured effects to date tend to be concentrated in elementary grade mathematics and the effects are small compared to the improvements the nation hopes to achieve.

Conclusion 2: The evidence we have reviewed suggests that high school exit exam programs, as currently implemented in the United States, decrease the rate of high school graduation without increasing achievement. The best available estimate suggests a decrease of 2 percentage points when averaged over the population. In contrast, several experiments with providing incentives for graduation in the form of rewards, while keeping graduation standards constant, suggest that such incentives might be used to increase high school completion.
Recommendation 1: Despite using them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education. Policymakers should support the development and evaluation of promising new models that use test-based incentives in more sophisticated ways as one aspect of a richer accountability and improvement process. However, the modest success of incentive programs to date means that all use of test-based incentives should be carefully studied to help determine which forms of incentives are successful in education and which are not. Continued experimentation with test-based incentives should not displace investment in the development of other aspects of the education system that are important complements to the incentives themselves and likely to be necessary for incentives to be effective in improving education.

Recommendation 2: Policymakers and researchers should design and evaluate new test-based incentive programs in ways that provide information about alternative approaches to incentives and accountability. This should include exploration of the effects of key features suggested by basic research, such as who is targeted for incentives; what performance measures are used; what consequences are attached to the performance measures and how frequently they are used; what additional support and options are provided to schools, teachers, and students in their efforts to improve; and how incentives are framed and communicated. Choices among the options for some or all of these features are likely to be critical in determining which—if any—incentive programs are successful.

Recommendation 3: Research about the effects of incentive programs should fully document the structure of each program and should evaluate a broad range of outcomes. To avoid having their results determined by the score inflation that occurs in the high-stakes tests attached to the incentives, researchers should use low-stakes tests that do not mimic the high-stakes tests to evaluate how test-based incentives affect achievement. Other outcomes, such as later performance in education or work and dispositions related to education, are also important to study. To help explain why test based incentives sometimes produce negative effects on achievement, researchers should collect data on changes in educational practice by the people who are affected by the incentives.

Report: “Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education”


FORMER TENNIS STAR ANDRE AGASSI TEAMS WITH L.A. BANKERS TO FINANCE CHARTER SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: The Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund is an unusual for-profit investment fund that intends to finance as much as $750 million in charter schools nationwide.

By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times |

June 2, 2011 | Former tennis star Andre Agassi has joined with Los Angeles bankers to create an unusual for-profit investment fund for construction of as much as $750 million worth of charter schools in urban communities across the country.

The goal of the fund is to develop 75 schools serving 40,000 students over the next three or four years while earning a financial return for investors, which include Citigroup Inc. and Intel Corp.

FOR THE RECORD: Charter schools:
An article in the June 2 Business section about a for-profit investment fund to build charter schools -- created by former tennis star Andre Agassi and money-management firm Canyon Capital Realty Advisors -- quoted Canyon Capital fund manager Bobby Turner as saying: "We expect to attract investors who realize that making money and making societal change don't have to be mutually exclusive." In fact, the fund is closed to new investors.


By Lisa Brenner - |

2 June 2011 - What the deuce?!

Former tennis star Andre Agassi has partnered with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors in Century City to finance the construction of $750 million worth of charter schools in urban communities nationwide. According to the LA Times, the Canyon‐Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund hopes to serve 40,000 students by developing 75 schools in the next 3-4 years while "earning a financial return for investors, which include Citigroup Inc. and Intel Corp."

The "unusual" and "novel" business model is expected to "attract investors who realize that making money and making societal change don't have to be mutually exclusive," says Bobby Turner an investment banker whose firm is partnered with Agassi.

North Philadelphia will be home to the fund's first location. The new charter school -- a public school operating "independently of local school boards" -- is set to open in August as "part of the Knowledge Is Power Program (K.I.P.P./ , a network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools."

SoCal real estate is pricier than in other urban markets, and with California providing less funding per student than other states, it is unclear whether the fund will be building locally.

Since retiring from tennis in 2006, Agassi has focused his efforts on education, operating the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas and the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. Said Agassi, a ninth-grade dropout, "I turned pro at 16 and felt profoundly throughout my life the results of my education."

"It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life but also quite a frustrating one," Agassi said of his academy. "I have 650 kids in school and 1,500 on the waiting list."

Traditional funding sources for school like philanthropy and public spending are not enough to support the "the scale Agassi and Turner hope to achieve." The for-profit fund will build facilities, or retrofit existing ones, and then rent the facilities at an "affordable" rate to charter school operators with the intention of eventually selling to them.

Accredited schools receive a certain amount of state funding per pupil. As new charter schools grow, they become financially more secure. By the fourth or fifth year of operation they should be stable enough to borrow tax-exempt money at a low interest rate from the municipal bond market and buy the school from the fund.

"What our fund does is provide a bridge to ownership," Turner said. Investors in the fund profit from the rent and sale. Turner declined to say what the rate of return is expected to be, adding only it would be "market rate."


By Susan Estrich | News |

Friday, 03 Jun 2011 09:30 AM - Former tennis star Andre Agassi deserves enormous credit for recognizing that nothing is more important than ensuring every child gets the kind of quality education that is their best chance for success in a rapidly changing world.

I know, there are high school dropouts who make it to the top. But all the ones I know were blessed with gifts that enabled them to do what the other 99 percent of high school dropouts don't.

Agassi has sponsored a charter school in Las Vegas that, as he puts it, has 650 students and 1,500 on the wait list. That is true of many of the quality charter schools, particularly those located in areas where the rest of the schools are by any measure failing.

Based on his experience with that one school, Agassi has teamed with bankers and investors to embark on a project aimed at building 75 schools over the next three or four years while making money for the investors, including Citigroup Inc. and Intel Corp.

"It's a novel business model," one of the investors said. Indeed. Novel and, from my perspective as a taxpayer and a strong supporter of charter schools (contributions, board membership and the like for the past decade), deeply troubling.

First of all, you aren't going to fix education by building 75 for-profit charter schools over four years. If you're serious about real education reform, the name of the game is transforming public schools, not allowing a few extra children the advantages of charter schools.

I understand that every kid we help matters. But we can't build enough charter schools to deal with the problems millions of kids are facing. The argument for charter schools has never been that they are the answer to the failings of public education. They were intended to serve as laboratories and models, figuring out what works and why, experimenting with new systems of decentralized control and school autonomy so that public schools could learn from the experience.

That is why some of us who have been involved in charter work for years have formed a new organization (nonprofit, of course) called "Future Is Now Schools" (FIN Schools), led by nationally known reformer Steve Barr. The goal is to transform failing public schools in major cities by forming local partnerships.

Second, efforts to build national networks of for-profit schools haven't worked nearly as well as efforts to build fast-food chains. With all due respect to former tennis stars and investment bankers, running schools takes talented principals, dedicated teachers, inspiration, charisma, administrative experience, an understanding of the special issues involved in educating children who face crime while trying to get to and from school and who live with parents (if two) who do not support them, and the ability to deal with the effects of poverty and violence on a daily basis.

When Green Dot Public Schools, the nonprofit organization whose board I have served on for the past 10 years, took over the worst high school in Los Angeles, our biggest unanticipated budget overages the first year were the enormous costs of security and special education. Dedicated teachers and administrators worked 24/7 to address the huge problems we faced.

Public education isn't failing because it's easy; it's failing because it's hard. And by the way, we're not trying to make a dime. It has taken generous support from major foundations to allow us to just break even.

So how are Agassi and his partners going to make money taking on such challenges?

For one thing, they say they will avoid states that (like California) don't provide enough money per pupil for them to make money. Thanks. Go where you're needed least. But beyond that, as a taxpayer whose children are both in college or headed there, I am more than willing to pay what it takes in taxes and contribute what I can charitably to support quality public education.

What I am not willing to do is see my tax dollars, or anyone else's, going not to the classroom, not to efforts to reform public education for everyone, not to efforts to develop a "new unionism" that will allow teachers unions to be partners in reform, but instead to provide an excellent return to investors.

To his great credit, former Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan, one of the investors, made clear that anything he personally earned in the venture would be plowed back into charity. By my research, he's the only one who said that.

I have long understood that there are many reasons why I am not rich. One of them, surely, is that for me, the only return that matters is measured by the achievement of the kids, by the smiles on graduation day when parents who graduated sixth grade, if that, watch their children walk on stage to receive a diploma that is the first step toward college and a new life for themselves and their families.

That's the return I want on my investment, and it's worth more than money.

- Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, feminist advocate, and political commentator for Fox News. She is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Gould School of Law and was the campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential run.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
L.A. PRIVATE SCHOOLS ENDURE THIRD ANNUAL ‘LAUSD-FOR-AN-HOUR-DAY’: Satire by Brock Cohen in The Huffington Post |...

TEST QUESTION: How do you spell ‘blackmail? + smf’s 2¢: by John Merrow , Learning Matters Blog |

THE MANY ASPECTS OF BULLYING: Watts Times writer Jennifer Bihm shares her story of being bullied, tips on how to...

PTA CALL TO ACTION: Help Needed for the federal Family Engagement in Education Act (S 941/HR.1891) to preserve Parental...

MIDNIGHT RIDE TO SACRAMENTO: School workers will board buses to capital to urge legislators to maintain tax reve...


IN CHICAGO’S SCHOOLS, KIDS START DAY WITH BREAKFAST: … if Chocolate Mini-Wheats count as breakfast! by Linda Lu...


EVENTS: Coming up next week...

“Gravestones cheer the living dear, they're no use to the dead”. - (Motola/Marascalco)

On Memorial Day weekends past 4LAKids has recounted the history of this holiday []. We honor sacrifices made and hold ourselves to high standards that they are repaid.

Let us now memorialize an unlikely hero. Not a “last full measure of devotion” hero but a veteran of the war we fight on our streets every day, newly encamped in the bivouac of the dead. Gil Scott-Heron told us in 1970 that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. [] In the years since revolutions have been routinely televised – with television itself losing what Scott-Heron called 'damned relevance'. This is more because of Scott-Heron's poetic influence on popular music+culture than Facebook+Twitter. Three power chords have been replaced by the power of language+pentameter. Through rap and hip-hop the vocabulary of the streets has increased exponentially – not just by the seven-words-you-shouldn't-say but by a lexicon cut+pasted from an AP English text. Parents now worry about what the words actually say – not what they imply. Popular music isn't about holding hands or even spending the night together. Like it or not, it is The Revolution. Godspeed GSH

THIS WEEK HAS SEEN THE ADVENTURE of public education increase if not improve. With the state budget unresolved UTLA and LAUSD made a deal that clings to a hope that the state budget will be solved in way that becomes more unlikely daily. (There is nothing like a get-outta-town-3-day-weekend to focus a negotiator's attention!) It is now up to the legislators and the electorate (should the legislators permit) to save librarians and art+music teachers and nurses and class size and all the other issues on the table – cleared away and refrigerated as left-overs. Hopefully the lege will look as these as programs-to-be-preserved: Libraries and Music & Arts Education, Student Health & Welfare are not categories to be flexed or electives-to-be-chosen-between or employment opportunities and collective bargaining chits to be weighed against API + AYP + Value-Added Assessment.

They are critical: core to the mission!

Categorical Flexibility is a bureaucratic Hobson's Choice/Catch22: “Here's not enough money; spend it as wisely as you can given you don't have enough information, preparation or time.”

However, hope springs eternal - perched befeathered in our souls. Especially as failure seems to be Plan B.

THE LAUSD CAFETERIA SERVICES FOLK are caught between the two 2s in Mr. Heller's Catch. When they serve as many meals as they do there are sure to be leftovers – and they are now addressing that by getting their surplus to the needy. But they are fiscally challenged by decisions they argued against made about benefits awarded to their employees in a bit of social engineering. (see: Health Benefits Push Cafeteria Fund Into the Red, below) Board President Garcia's quote “...we are in the business of needing good schools and good jobs" confuses . Isn’t the “business” about the students?

REPORTS OUT IF DC TELL US WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW (Perhaps the plural of anecdote is data, after all - see: Two Reports: U.S. Reforms Out of Sync with High-Performing Nations + Few Learning Gains From Testing Movement.

THE LA TIMES EDITORIALIZED ON THE OBVIOUS: see: California Must Keep Free Education Truly Free. And if you attempt to tie budget cuts/corporate monetization of public education/billionaire philanthropy [] and New Markets tax credits [EVIL ED, INC.: The Wall Street/Charter School Connection -] , etc. together into a unified theory (or dark conspiracy) you begin to see that America's great gift to democracy: Universal Free Public Education - is increasingly less universal, free or public. One of the reasons Goodwin Liu's appointment to the federal bench was filibustered by Senate Republicans is that he had the audacity to write that Public Education is a fundamental right. Ironically he wrote in support of charter schools – but we don't want any activist judges legislating the obvious from the bench ...not in our tea party!

REMEMBER HOW THE SCHOOL REFORM BILLIONAIRE-OF-THE-MOMENT Jeff Zuckerberg was going to save Newark Schools (and his own reputation) with $100 million last September? Mr. Zuckerberg's reputation is secure, Newark Schools? Not so good. +

Across the state parents rallied and tried to Wake Up California.

And so it goes, and we with it. Brighter days ...or hell in a handbasket? With the parent vote removed from Public School Choice [ ] I'm not sure whochooses.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Stephen Sawchuk – EdWeek Vol. 30, Issue 33 |

“This paper is the answer to a question: What would the education policies and practices of the United States be if they were based on the policies and practices of the countries that now lead the world in student performance?“ - STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: An American Agenda for Education Reform by Mark S. Tucker

May 27, 2011 - The United States’ education system is neither coherent nor likely to see great improvements based on its current attempts at reform, a reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader released this week by the National Center on Education and the Economy concludes.

The NCEE report is the latest salvo in a flurry of national interest in what can be gleaned from education systems in top-performing or rapidly improving countries. It pushes further than other recent reports on the topic by laying out an ambitious agenda for the United States it says reflects the education practices in countries that are among the highest-performing on international assessments.

Among other measures, the report outlines a less-frequent system of standardized student testing; a statewide funding-equity model that prioritizes the neediest students, rather than local distribution of resources; and greater emphasis on the professionalization of teaching that would overhaul most elements of the current model of training, professional development, and compensation.

“I think we have been for a long time caught in a vicious cycle. We’ve been unwilling to do the things that have been needed to have a high-quality teaching force,” including raising the entry standard for teacher preparation and requiring prospective teachers to major in a content area, said Marc S. Tucker, the president of the NCEE.

“We’ve been unwilling to pay teachers at the level of engineers. We’ve been solving our problems of teacher shortages by waiving the very low standards that we have. We have been frustrated by low student performance, and now, we’re blaming our teachers for that, which makes it even harder to get good people,” Mr. Tucker continued.

The paper also states that progress on any one of the reform areas alone is unlikely to result in widespread boosts in student learning. All efforts, it says, are interconnected and should be linked to a coherent vision of what students should know and a system for ascertaining whether they achieve those goals.

The report also praises the United States’ progress on clearer, common academic standards in English/language arts and mathematics as a first step in defining such outcomes. But it notes that the success of that venture will depend on its ability to connect such expectations to the other pieces of the country’s education system.
Major Findings

Once a topic primarily reserved for academics, the “international comparisons” discussion has exploded over the past few years, with policymakers, pundits, and teachers’ unions arguing that better educating students is crucial to the nation’s economic success.

It has also been the subject of considerable federal interest. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped convene a major forum of education leaders from 16 countries in March, and he commissioned the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a forum representing a group of industrialized nations, to produce a report about what lessons could be learned from the results of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. ("International Leaders Urge Nations to Raise Status of Teachers," March 30, 2011.)

The NCEE report draws both on qualitative case studies of other countries’ systems and on the quantitative data and extensive background surveys produced as part of PISA. Much of the analysis incorporates information from the OECD report commissioned by Mr. Duncan, which NCEE also produced.

It builds on the former efforts, however, by contrasting the practices of those countries with undertakings in the United States.

For instance, the report notes that no other country has grade-by-grade national testing, pointing out that such countries as Singapore and Japan tend to use such exams sparingly, only at the end of primary and secondary schooling. The tests are closely linked to curricula and carry stakes for students in terms of progressing, rather than being used for school or teacher accountability.

Such countries also have much higher entry standards for teachers and require greater content knowledge, which is better integrated with training in pedagogy. In general, the report states, such efforts have helped to elevate the status of the profession, which is reflected in higher pay, more autonomy, and additional career opportunities as teachers advance.

Finally, teachers’ unions are prevalent in top-performing jurisdictions such as Finland and Ontario, Canada, but work in a “professional” rather than “industrial” mode. The report says that U.S. teachers must give up blue-collar work rules like seniority rights and recognize difference in performance in exchange for being treated as professional partners, who are given autonomy and trusted to diagnose and solve instructional problems on their own.

The report also takes aim at what it deems “myths” of international comparisons, such as the notion that other countries educate only an elite corps of students, or that their scores are higher because of less-diverse student populations.

The report concludes by calling on the federal government to fund a competition, modeled on the Race to the Top program, to help states adopt a comprehensive system of education practices used by other countries.

States, it says, should be the key level of government to help move toward a more coherent education system—as they have been in provinces, such as Ontario, that are part of federated nations.
On Track?

At an event where the report was released this week, panelists outlined different opinions about whether the agenda embodied in the report reflects or diverges from the current education reform efforts in the United States.

In his remarks, Secretary Duncan highlighted similarities between the two. He noted that, for instance, high-performing systems like Singapore use bonuses, scholarships, and salary supplements to reward great teaching and to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools or shortage areas. The Obama administration has pursued such policies through the Race to the Top and other federal competitions.

“Clearly, our education system is not as far down the track as those of top performers, nor are we anywhere near where we need to be to win the race for the future,” Mr. Duncan said. “But we are not off-track or chugging down an abandoned spur line.”

He also praised the work on the common standards, which was underwritten by experts convened by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have adopted those standards, which draw heavily on curriculum guidelines used in top-performing countries.

Mr. Duncan stated, however, that the federal government would not prescribe a national curriculum as part of its support of the common-standards agenda. That comment came as an apparent rebuttal to a group of scholars and education advocates who have accused the Education Department of overstepping a federal law prohibiting it from mandating a national curriculum. (" 'Manifesto' Proposing Shared Curriculum Draws Counterattack," May 18, 2011.)

Other commentators, though, outlined perceived differences between international practices on teaching and the United States’ current efforts.

For instance, the Obama administration supports the idea of linking test scores to teacher evaluations. But many international education leaders at the March forum raised concerns about such policies.

“The perception is teacher evaluation based on narrow student test scores, and no country thinks that’s a good idea,” noted Vivien Stewart, the senior adviser for education for the Asia Society, a New York City-based nonprofit that facilitates policy dialogues between the United States and Asian nations, in an interview. “The evaluation systems in these countries tend to be fairly broad,” said Ms. Stewart, who is writing a paper about the issues discussed at the forum.

Singapore, she noted, has 16 domains in which evaluation takes place, including a focus on achievement, professional contribution to the school, community involvement, and relationship with parents.

Data on student performance and teaching are widely used to improve practice, but not disseminated in the public way they are in the United States, she added.
Challenging Views

William H. Schmidt, a professor of statistics and education at Michigan State University who has extensively studied other countries’ curricula, generally praised the NCEE report, especially for its focus on defining a specific body of knowledge students should master. Mr. Schmidt, who has also researched vast differences in the math skills of middle school teachers prepared in the United States, said teacher preparation should be the next frontier. ("U.S. Middle-Grades Teachers Found Ill-Prepared in Math," December 19, 2007.)

“We’re really at a precipice here. We’ve got these common standards, a nationally specified set of clearly focused standards. The problem is what comes next,” he said. “The U.S. has such a short attention span.”

The report’s general principles have been debated by other international scholars, however, who have raised concerns that the movement to common standards and tests could lead to more rigid schooling and lockstep expectations for students.

Many of the report’s recommendations also do not fit neatly within current U.S. debates about the use of assessments or how to upgrade the quality of teaching.

For instance, the national teachers’ unions have been among the strongest proponents of less standardized testing for accountability and more autonomy for classroom teachers. But doing away with seniority, which the report characterizes as a relic from “industrial” unionism, could be challenging.

The American Federation of Teachers has been reluctant to discard seniority as a factor in layoffs, noting that evaluation systems capable of distinguishing teachers by performance are not yet widespread.

At the release event, however, AFT President Randi Weingarten said that the union is open to discarding some work rules as long as teachers are treated fairly and maintain due process rights. She pointed as an example to the “thin” contract signed by AFT-affiliated teachers in a New York City charter school and the Green Dot charter-management organization, which among other provisions does not specify work hours for teachers.

And increasing teacher-preparation quality means tackling the perception of teacher education as an easy route to a diploma, a change that will have consequences, noted Mari Koerner, the dean of the education school at Arizona State University, a top preparer of teachers. She described losing teacher-candidates after the college increased the rigor of its preparation programs.

“These sentimental views of teachers [in the United States] drive me nuts,” Ms. Koerner said at this week’s forum. “[Preparation] is not about whether you love children; it is whether you can teach children.”

Read the Report - STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: An American Agenda for Education Reform -

By Sarah D. Sparks- EdWeek Vol. 30, Issue 33 |

May 26, 2011 - Nearly a decade of America’s test-based accountability systems, from “adequate yearly progress” to high school exit exams, has shown little to no positive effect overall on learning and insufficient safeguards against gaming the system, a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academies of Science concludes in a new report: Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education

“Too often it’s taken for granted that the test being used for the incentive is itself the marker of progress, and what we’re trying to say here is you need an independent assessment of progress,” said Michael Hout, the sociology chair at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the chairman of the 17-member committee, a veritable who’s who of national experts in education law, economics and social sciences that was launched in 2002 by the National Academies, a private, nonprofit quartet of institutions chartered by Congress to provide science, technology and health-policy advice. During the last 10 years, the committee has been tracking the implementation and effectiveness of 15 test-based incentive programs, including:

• National school improvement programs under the No Child Left Behind Act and prior iterations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;

• Test-based teacher incentive-pay systems in Texas, Chicago, Nashville, Tenn., and elsewhere;

• High school exit exams adopted by about half of states;

• Pay-for-scores programs for students in New York City and Coshocton, Ohio and;

• Experiments in teacher incentive-pay in India and student and teacher test incentives in Israel and Kenya.

On the whole, the panel found the accountability programs often used assessments too narrow to accurately measure progress on program goals and used rewards or sanctions not directly tied to the people whose behavior the programs wanted to change. Moreover, the programs often had insufficient safeguards and monitoring to prevent students or staff from simply gaming the system to produce high test scores disconnected from the learning the tests were meant to inspire.

“I think there are some real messages for school districts on accountability systems” in the report, said Kevin Lang, an economics professor at Boston University who, during his time on the committee, also served as a district school board member in Brookline, Mass.

“School boards need to have a means for monitoring the progress of their school systems, and they tend to do it by looking at test scores,” he said. “It’s not that there’s no information in the objective performance measures, but they are imperfect, and including the subjective performance measures is also very important. Incentives can be powerful, but not necessarily in the way you would like them to be powerful.”


Among the most common problems the report identifies is that most test-based accountability programs use the same test to apply sanctions and rewards as to evaluate objectively whether the system works. As a result, staff and students facing accountability sanctions tend to focus on behavior that improves the test score alone, such as teaching test-taking strategies or drilling students who are closest to meeting the proficiency cut-score, rather than improving the overall learning that the test score is expected to measure. This undercuts the validity of the test itself.

For example, New York’s requirement that all high school seniors pass the Regents exam before graduating high school led to more students passing the Regents tests, but scores on the lower-stakes National Assessment of Educational Progress, which was testing the same subjects, didn’t budge during the same time period, the report found.

“It’s human nature: Give me a number, I’ll hit it,” Mr. Hout said. “Consequently, something that was a really good indicator before there were incentives on it, be it test scores or the stock price, becomes useless because people are messing with it.”

In fact, the report found that, rather than leading to higher academic achievement, high school exit exams so far have decreased high school graduation rates nationwide by an average of about 2 percentage points.

The study found a growing body of evidence of schools and districts tinkering with how and when students took the test to boost scores on paper for students who did not know the material—or to prevent those students from taking the test at all.

Recent changes to federal requirements for reporting graduation rates, which require that schools count as dropouts students who “transfer” to a school that does not award diplomas, may help safeguard against schools pushing out students to improve test scores or graduation rates. Still, the National Academies researchers warned that state and federal officials do not provide enough outside monitoring and evaluations to ensure the programs work as intended.
AYP and Academics

For similar reasons, school-based accountability mechanisms under NCLB have generated minimal improvement in academic learning, the study found. When the systems are evaluated—not using the high-stakes tests subject to inflation, but using instead outside comparison tests, such as the NAEP—student achievement gains dwindle to about .08 of a standard deviation on average, mostly clustered in elementary-grade mathematics.

To give some perspective, an intervention considered to have a small effect size is usually about .1 standard deviations; a 2010 federal study of reading-comprehension programs found a moderately successful program had an effect size of .22 standard deviations.

Moreover, “as disappointing as a .08 standard deviation might be, that’s bigger than any effect we saw for incentives on individual students,” Mr. Hout said, noting that NCLB accountability measures school performance, not that of individual students

Committee members see some hopeful signs in the 2008 federal requirement that NAEP scores be used as an outside check on achievement results reported by districts and states, as well as the broader political push to incorporate more diverse measures of student achievement in the next iteration of ESEA.

“We need to look seriously at the costs and benefits of these programs,” said Daniel M. Koretz, a committee member and an education professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass. “We have put a lot into these programs over a period of many years, and the positive effects when we can find them have been pretty disappointing.”

Jon Baron, the president of the Washington-based Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy and the chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences, which advises the Education Department’s research arm, said he was impressed by the quality of the committee’s research review but unsurprised at minimal results for the various incentive programs.

Incorporating diverse types of studies typically reduces the overall effects found for them, he noted, adding that the study also addresses a broader issue. “One of the contributions that this makes is that it shows that looking across all these different studies with different methodologies and populations, some in different countries, there are very minimal effects in many cases and in a few cases larger effects. It makes the argument that details matter,” Mr. Baron said.

“It’s an antidote to what has been the accepted wisdom in this country, the belief that performance-based accountability and incentive systems are the answer to improving education,” Mr. Baron said. “That was basically accepted without evidence or support in NCLB and other government and private sector efforts to increase performance.”

Read the Report: Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education


L.A. Times Editorial |

May 24, 2011 - The California Constitution is unequivocal:

"A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence" is essential to the "preservation of the rights and liberties of the people." Therefore, it says, the state shall provide a free education to its children.

That provision — Article IX — was enacted at the Constitutional Convention of 1878-79. Today, California has nearly 10,000 taxpayer-supported public schools serving just over 6 million students. Gratis.

Except for one little hitch. It's true that you can enroll and attend class at a California public school without paying an entrance fee or a tuition bill. But what if the teacher tells you that it's going to cost $90 to purchase the novels that you must read to pass AP English, or that you have to pay $30 for your Spanish workbook? Is your education still free? What if you want to join the basketball team but the school hits you with a $50 uniform fee? Is basketball part of your education, and if so, can the school make you pay to play?

Charging for instructional materials as well as for art, music and sports programs is increasingly common in the state's public schools, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which last year filed a lawsuit arguing that such fees violate Article IX. In December, a tentative settlement was reached with the Schwarzenegger administration, but it was rejected by the judge in the case on technical grounds. So Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has proposed legislation to reaffirm that student fees are illegal and to set up an enforcement mechanism; his bill, AB 165, will be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday.

Not surprisingly, many schools are displeased at the thought of losing the fees. They have already absorbed more than $18 billion in state cuts over the last three years, resulting in shorter school years and larger class sizes as well as reductions in program offerings for students. Further cuts could be ahead if the Legislature rejects Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to extend the 2009 temporary tax hikes. As the crisis has deepened, schools have turned to fees, among other things, to replace some of the lost dollars. Now they're at risk of losing that money too, which they say could require them to cut still more academic programs and extracurricular activities.

California was once near the top of the national list in per-pupil spending, but it is now close to the bottom. So it's tempting to see student fees as a reasonable stopgap measure to help pick up some of the slack. But charging fees to students to offset budget cuts is not legal, just as it would not be legal to announce that in an effort to make ends meet, schools will no longer accept students of Filipino descent, or girls. Student fees deny opportunities to low-income students and put them at an academic disadvantage. Nearly 30 years ago, the California Supreme Court reached exactly that conclusion.

"Under the California Constitution … access to public education is a right enjoyed by all — not a commodity for sale," the court ruled in Hartzell vs. Connell in 1984. "Educational opportunities must be provided to all students without regard to their families' ability or willingness to pay fees…. This fundamental feature of public education is not contingent upon the inevitably fluctuating financial health of local school districts. A solution to those financial difficulties must be found elsewhere."

That was the correct decision a generation ago, and it is the correct decision today. It applies, the court held, not just to lab fees and book fees for traditional academic classes but to extracurricular activities as well, because they are an "integral component" of a child's education. In an effort to find middle ground, some have suggested keeping the fees while providing a waiver for low-income students, but the court rejected that idea in 1984 too. After all, why should poorer families have to request charity every time they can't pay for a workbook? And besides, if the Constitution says schools must be free, then they must be free for everyone, rich or poor.

Schools still have fundraising options that will meet constitutional scrutiny. They can solicit voluntary donations for general needs or for specific programs such as the basketball team or the ninth-grade class trip. While it's true that a voluntary system may not raise as much as a mandatory one, at least it's legal.

The rules banning fees do not have to be carried to a ludicrous level. Just because sneakers are required for gym class doesn't mean the school needs to pay for them. That would defy common sense. Other costs, such as pencils and three-ring binders, traditionally fall on parents as well, and don't seem to cause a significant problem. Furthermore, it would not be reasonable for non-school organizations — such as the PTA or booster clubs or organizations that use school buildings after hours for activities unrelated to regular academic or official extracurricular activities — to be barred from charging fees.

The basic rule, however, is that a public school education is free. It's true that California's schools are underfunded and that they need more money if they're going to provide a first-class education. But charging students to participate in academic and extracurricular programs is not the answer. That's why the Legislature should pass AB 165.


Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | KPCC & wire services |

27 May 2011 - 4:48 p.m. | The Los Angeles Unified School District announced today it has reached a tentative agreement with its largest union, which could save about 3,400 jobs and maintain class sizes in elementary schools at their current levels.

In exchange, United Teachers Los Angeles members would take four furlough days in the coming school year -- three teaching days and one day when students are not in school.

The agreement caps months of heated debate between teachers union leaders and top school administrators. United Teachers Los Angeles staged large rallies urging the district to protect all teacher jobs and cut administrative budgets instead. L.A. Unified said it needed to prepare for a worst-case funding scenario.

The four furlough days will cancel out all but 1600 of the 5,000 preliminary dismissals the school district sent to employees with teaching credentials.

The teachers union said LA Unified could rescind all those notices. The school district did not predict the same.

"While this agreement does not restore all the cuts -- because our schools are still drastically underfunded -- it goes a long way toward providing the resources and personnel for our students to succeed,'' LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement.

The agreement hinges on how much money may land in state coffers. Recent predictions suggest that this year’s picture looks a lot better than last year’s, but if the state budget sinks further into the red, L.A. Unified teachers would have to take six furlough days instead of four. If districts receive unexpected money, they’d subtract employee furlough days.

"This agreement demonstrates that when UTLA and the district collaborate, problems can be solved to the benefit of our students,'' UTLA President A.J. Duffy said.

Teachers and the school board still must approve the furlough deal. Teachers took seven unpaid furlough days this school year.
Additional coverage:



By Jason Song, Los Angeles Times



By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | Daily Breeze/Daily News |




By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

May 30, 2011 - The cafeteria fund for the Los Angeles Unified School District has run a multimillion-dollar deficit since 2007, when board members approved a plan to provide health benefits for part-time cafeteria workers, district officials said last week.

The benefits have helped low-paid workers who need healthcare assistance, and the expense isn't the only one pushing food operations into the red. But the fund's cash shortfall has exacerbated a systemwide budget crunch caused mainly by the state budget crisis and declining enrollment in the state's largest school system.

In the 2006-07 school year, the district's cafeteria fund was close to breaking even and had a reserve approaching $60 million, officials said. Then in August 2007, the Board of Education overrode the advice of its senior staff and approved the extended benefits.

The move was led by a newly installed majority elected with the support of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents cafeteria workers and many other employees.

Over the next three years, food operations exhausted the reserve and still ran in the red by $8 million, $16.5 million and $12.2 million successively, said Megan Reilly, the district's chief financial officer. (That first-year deficit was covered by one-year funding under a state program called Meals for Needy; the general fund covered the deficit subsequently). This year, the deficit is estimated at $20 million; the benefits cost more than $20 million per year.

Federal funds pay for most of the food program, which costs about $290 million annually.

Proponents called the extension of benefits a social justice issue, pointing out that district managers had created staggered shifts to keep cafeteria workers at less than four hours a day, the threshold for benefits. The results, they said, were hard-to-fill jobs and poor service, as well as a less healthy workforce.

"Everything we do has a positive and negative side," said school board President Monica Garcia. "It's a balancing act. We have to be mindful of every dollar, but we are in the business of needing good schools and good jobs."

Opponents said the school system shouldn't add to costs at the price of reducing resources for students. L.A. Unified, they said, was the wrong forum to address a nationwide issue.

Board member Tamar Galatzan, although an ally of the mayor, voted no. "Everyone in this country deserves health benefits," she said. "But it was a very expensive proposal. And it wasn't done at the bargaining table, which is where health benefits are usually negotiated. And no one had any idea where the money was going to come from."

The broader budget crisis has resulted in thousands of layoffs, including those of hundreds of part-time cafeteria workers. About 2,000 remain, earning from $10.65 to $13.24 per hour.

Initially, about 44% of them had other insurance options; now, nearly all use L.A. Unified, which requires no monthly premium, for themselves and family members, including many children who attend district schools. "I used to go to work sick," said Gamaliel Andrade, 33, a food-service worker at Murchison Street Elementary in Boyle Heights. "Now I go to the doctor."

"Don't we all deserve a healthy life?" he asked.

Costs also have risen because of increasing food and fuel prices and declining state support, said food services director Dennis Barrett. In response, the division has simplified menus, prepared more food in a central kitchen, reduced waste and altered food-contracting processes.

L.A. schools served 122 million meals in 2009-10, up from 109 million in 2006-07, despite enrolling about 50,000 fewer students. More meals served means more money for the program. Officials credit faster service and more appealing food for the surge, although critics have recently challenged the school system over food quality and nutrition.

Separately, state auditors said recently that L.A. Unified failed to account properly for $109.8 million in cafeteria funds from 2004-05 through 2007-08. Auditors are working out an estimate for subsequent years.

District officials acknowledged substandard record-keeping but also said the money was not misused. The questioned practices predated the deficits.

Better use of cafeteria funds could have allowed officials to "buy more food or more fresh food and vegetables," said David Jang, a staff services manager in the nutrition services division of the state Department of Education.

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

VALUE-ADDED MEASURES: What’s It All About?: Themes in the News for the week of May 23-27, 2011 by UCLA IDEA | ht...

THE CASE FOR/AGANST CALPADS: 5 advocates, one opponent share their perspectives: By John Fensterwald - Educated ...


The Coalition for Community Schools Presents: A CONVERSATION WITH DAVID KIRP - our first live Video Webinar!: Co...



CALIFORNIA MAY WIN SMALLER GRANT FROM FEDERAL 'RACE TO THE TOP': California's previous plan for schools could h...

Letters: IN PRAISE OF LIBRARIANS: Letters to the LA Times | "Success beyond the stacks," ...

THE THREE Rs, PLUS COAL: The coal lobby gained access to fourth-grader learners through Scholastic Inc., the ven...
26 May



President Obama appoints Dr.Darline Robles + others to Presidential Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

Zuckerbergs $100 million? @Diane Ravitch-Newark Youth speak out: Don't close our public schools!

Remember last September, when Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 Million to Newark Schools? Do you wonder how that's workin' out?…


Charter Schools and New Market Tax Credits: EVIL ED, INC.: The Wall Street/Charter School Connection written+Po...



CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR PUTS THE TESTING JUGGERNAUT ON ICE: from Living in Dialogue/EdWeek by Anthony Cody | http:/...



LAO REPORT: The 2011-12 Budget - Overview of the May Revision: “California now is in a position to dramatically ...

TEN THINGS TEACHERS NEED TO RECLAIM THEIR PROFESSION: By Horace B. Lucido, posted on The Answer Sheet/Washingto...

Mathews: CLOSE BAD CHARTERS FASTER: By Jay Mathews, Washington Post | ●●smf: Mathews, ...

Foshay Learning Center: A MODEL FOR SUCCESS: Nearly 40 years ago, the L.A. Unified school was more like a battle...

President’s Weekly Address: OBAMA URGES ACTION ON NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: By Michael A. Memoli, LA Times Washingto...

EVENTS: Coming up next week... SAVE THE ARTS BENEFIT AT THE HISTORIC COCOANUT GROVE - Saturday, June 11th at 6:00pm

*Dates and times subject to change.

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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! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • 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 Brown: 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. THEY DO!.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. 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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