Sunday, April 15, 2012


Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sun. 15•April•2012 41"46'N 50"14'W
In This Issue:
 •  Transitional Kindergarten: NEW HOPE + YOUNGER STUDENTS IN LAUSD CATCH UP
 •  THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS Article 26: The Right to Education
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not neccessariily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  Follow 4 LAKids on Twitter - or get instant updates via text message by texting "Follow 4LAKids" to 40404
 •  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.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. The media is in a frenzy of reminiscence+reflection - it is as if the ghost ship has been raised from the seabed and refloated to continue her4 journey a century later.

The story of the Titanic is not just epic but An Epic - as surely as Gilgamesh and Beowulf. John Jacob Astor, Ida & Isadore Strauss and Molly Brown; Rose and Jack: the lookouts, the dance band and the deck chairs.

CLOSE UP: A life ring on the calm and frigid sea, floating from the nineteenth into the twentieth century - from man's technological mastery of nature into the unintended consequences thereof.

For those drawn like the curious passersby who slow to stare at a roadside catastrophe, who try to make sense of the senseless: Ignore the centennial outpourings and read or reread Walter Lord's 1955 A Night to Remember - 150 thin pages of as good as non-fiction storytelling gets.

MILLSTONES+MILESTONES pull you down if you get too attached to them. Last week's edition of 4LAKids marked the 400th issue to have been posted on the library/mausoleum of past issues. Close to eight years of newsworthy-and-not-so accounts of goings-on, nefarious and otherwise, at LAUSD and in the world of public education. Before it was posted online 4LAKids existed as an e-mail newsletter - those ruminations and meanderings were e-mailed into the ether and are hopefully lost in that forgotten and chilly sea. In those years I , cleverly disguised as the editorial "we", have got it wrong and right, telling it as it appears or appeared to be.

I worked my way from curious outsider to curious insider. On rare instances I took Gandhi's advice and was the change. Mostly I listened and took sketchy notes and read what others wrote and wrote my piece on Saturday night or Sunday morning. A friend once asked if I ever stopped to sober up before hitting the "send" button. I love that question …but I refuse to answer.

I was at an event a few weeks back and a politician was being complimentary. Afterward a friend chided me on how nice it is to have one's past accomplishments recognized - especially when the failures and the missed opportunities and chances lost seem so prominent. Thank you Eric and Natalie.

Jackson Brown wrote a lyric when he was something like 17 years old:
"These days I sit on corner stones
and count the time in quarter tones to ten.
Don't confront me with my failures, I had not forgotten them."

In these pages I endorsed Mayor Tony in his second run for mayor. My endorsement made no difference, but it galls me because he made me a promise he did not keep. I had known Antonio Villaraigosa for years - he was neighbor in our Jack Smith Wonderland/Cloud Cuckoo Land of Mt. Washington. I knew him to be a somewhat self-serving/absorbed politician …the enormity thereof has proved itself out. But enough about him, let's talk about me.

I was sucked into the abyss of LAUSD well over a decade ago. The principal of my daughter's elementary school volunteered me to sit on a textbook adoption committee. It all seemed innocent enough. It had taken me three semesters to pass Algebra I, with all that experience who better to select the algebra text?

Linda Pacheco was an excellent principal, she came to our school as a curtain call - to shore up an excellent program that had had a bit of a rough spot. Not to reform, remake or reconstitute it …but to pilot it through troubled waters.

She convinced me to serve as Mt Washington's School's PTA president …and then announced she was retiring. When I balked at serving without her she reminded me that it was she that was retiring - not me - and that I didn't have a choice. Just like when she explained to my wife and I why she had placed our daughter Alana in the fifth grade class that was best for Alana and the school and the teachers …rather than in the class with the teacher we thought we wanted. She was leaving because it was time to - she had done all he could for us - and was off into the sunset and glorious grandmotherhood. And because she had weathered the Zacharias-to-Cortines I upheaval - the LAMP and LEARN reforms - and saw the Riordan Reform Board/Romer/NCLB Reforms as something best avoided.

I rewrote and circulated on the internet and by email a well received essay on How to Play the Magnet School Points Game - The hidden keys and secrets of gaming the Options Brochure. I wrote a letter in the form of a cautionary children's tale for adults ("The Brave Little Copier") that made me (in)famous at the new LAUSD HQ on Beaudry Avenue. (The story also got the school new copier!)

Things led to others. I went to lots of meetings and served on lots of committees mainly because I was asked (I didn't learn the expression "voluntold" until much later). Sometimes I had an agenda - I wanted to be on the Bond Oversight Committee because my daughter's elementary school needed an auditorium and the ceiling tiles in her middle school kept falling on the students. I wanted to be on the Facilities Committee because of the candidates available I had an understanding of Construction, Facilities and Instruction and the politics thereof.

I had studied Poli Sci in college - and for a brief time out of college (before I succumbed to the siren call of the show business) I worked for a builder/developer - right down the hall from the other new kid in town: Eli Broad and KB Homes.

In the show biz I learned to drive a project and meet a payroll and stay on budget and deliver a product. A mentor told me of THE FOUR "P"s OF PRODUCTION - they are really the same in any enterprise.
  1. PROTOCOL: Respect the work of others; Show up on time. Standing around and waiting in case you are needed is a critical job skill. Hire the best people and hope you don't need all their skills …because if you do they'll raise their rate next time.
  2. PACE: Keep moving forward, not too fast, not too slow. Anything worth having is worth waiting for. Meet deadlines and set realistic deadlines. Don't tell the art department the real deadline.
  3. POLITICS: Always be aware of who's in charge and who thinks they are in charge. And who the client is.
  4. PERIPHERY OF ACTION: Stay behind the camera.

IN MY EXPERIENCE AT LAUSD I've participated in the Councils of Reform.

I was on the Small School Learning Community Task Forces at Marshall High School and at the central district - putting me in the unenviable position of approving a plan I helped design (I abstained!)

I conspired with David Tokofsky and the superintendent's team to create Full Day Kindergarten; we got it approved on the ballot and I worked on the FDK Design and Implementation committee. We probably could've done better, but we did well.

I worked with the committee to design and implement the A-G Graduation Requirements - and wasn't alone in forecasting the inherent conflict with Small Schools and Small Learning Communities (which by their themed nature rely upon student elective classes) and A-G - whose rigorous requirements pretty much precludes electives. I also warned that the real CSU/UC A-G Standards (which don't accept "D" grades as passing) and the LAUSD A-G standards (which accepts them) are not just incompatible, they are mutually exclusive. In A_G Committee discussions this issue was always put off for another time; now it is another time and District leadership is prepared to eliminate electives (and Health Education) - and by extension small schools with a themed focus - in favor of A-G …with the "D" grade issue put off 'till next year.

When I was in high school we had majors and courses of study; recently there has been discussion of Multiple Pathways and Career Technical Education. Today we have only A-G. One size fits all; any color you want as long as it's black.

Of all the flavors of "choice" debated in public education, I think the ability of students to choose for themselves elective programs and classes is the most important; Dr. Deasy and Dr. Aquino don't agree. When a student is allowed to make an informed decision about his or her course of study leading to a high school diploma it isn't tracking and it isn't limiting - it's empowering.

A-G is a laudable goal - alongside 100% Graduation and No Child Lift Behind. It relies upon the assumption that every student in the District can, will and wants-to pass Algebra II with a "C" or better - and in so doing will be whisked into the UC or CSU system and a college degree.

That every student should have that opportunity is the promise, premise and guarantee. I agree with the superintendent that any employee who doesn't believe in that opportunity for every student has no place in LAUSD.

But that every student will is hogwash.
Kids will drop out.
Kids will run off and join the circus.
Kids will dream outside the walls of the school.
Kids will need to get jobs to support families - families they are a part of and families they will purposefully or accidentally start.

ALONG THE WAY at my many meetings of many committees and task forces and commissions I shared what I had learned and heard at one committee with the other committees -- and with you on these pages - and in public and in quiet private discussions with folks who would talk and with folks who would listen.

Communications. Networking. Transparency. What a concept.

OF ALL THE MEETINGS I ATTENDED the most promising were of Romer's Focus on Student Achievement Council - big picture open and frank discussions of policy and programs and curriculum and challenges and issues between staff and stakeholders, senior management and the occasional board member. Central Office and Local District and school site and unions and community members and private sector and (OMG!) students and parents - with every meeting ending with "what do we want to discuss next time?". The meetings were often contentious and always respectfully of other folks opinions. Everything on the table with a great deal of give and take. Nothing was ever decided - but the superintendent always heard what was happening, who was thinking what. There was Development, it was Professional.

Stealing from this week’s AALA newsletter: “Thoughtful decision making on such issues must be grounded in research and incorporate recommendations from all those who must implement or are otherwise affected by the policy. The challenge is that not everybody will agree on what the policy should be despite everyone’s best efforts.

“Here is where transparency, flexibility and trust are so critical.

“In a truly collaborative culture, staff members and parents are willing to try something new if they believe they will be heard and their views respected. Taking the time to build such a culture often means the difference between schools’ long-term success or minimal improvement, at best.

“Decision making at all levels has a direct impact on students in ways that are both obvious and not so apparent. Students carefully observe adult behavior. Adult treatment of others—adults and students alike—affects how students think, behave and treat each other. Therefore, District and school leaders must be deliberate in making nonemergency decisions and always be sensitive to how they communicate the decisions they have made.” |

COMPARE AND CONTRAST THIS with last week's meeting of the Parents as Equal Partners Committee at the Parents Community Services Branch Office - with all the parent reps hand picked, pre-selected and appointed; the bylaws subject to approval of the powers-that-be, no troublemakers need apply. The presentation presented was about A-G and getting rid of electives and Health Ed and [sometime in the future] the grade of "D". The Parents as Equal Partners Committee members were told that their previous recommendations (keep Early Childhood Ed and Adult Ed) had been heard - but rejected. And what was discussed today could be neither approved nor voted upon - it was for information only - please share with your constituents.

Roberts Rules of Order and the Brown Open Meetings Act were used to stifle rather than facilitate debate. Uniformed school police patrolled in the hallway lest anything untoward happen - or should the audience step out of line or speak beyond the allotted two minutes or cross the barrier into where the appointed+approved sat. Outside there was a ruckus and a demonstration - some parents are no so compliant for compliance sake. It was all very Chicago '68 …as produced by Pee Wee's Playhouse.

P3 of 4: Know who the client is. The District has never been good at engaging parents; this was parent engagement by invitation only. I don't know what these parents were being equal partners in - but the ones outside were not buying into it.

Please put on your life belts …and women and children to the boats.
Gentlemen - if you'll join us in Hymn 528:

…..still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

¡Onward/Adelante! -smf


By Tara Kini , Thoughts on Public Education/TOPEd |

3/13/2012 :: M’Kala Payton, a junior at Fremont High in Oakland, has seen her teachers set rat traps in her school and throw away the corpses. Her football team plays on a field that is only 90 yards long. She is learning videography on an outdated camera that takes cassette tapes – and that’s at a so-called specialized “media academy.”

The obstacles M’Kala faces are all too common for low-income students of color. That’s why she joined Youth Together, an East Bay youth leadership organization that is among dozens of groups in the Campaign for Quality Education. And that’s how we met; I am one of the attorneys representing M’Kala and her peers in Campaign for Quality Education v. California, a suit challenging California’s inadequate and inequitable system of school finance as unconstitutional.

M’Kala and I had lunch together at the State Capitol last month. We were there for a Senate hearing on Gov. Jerry Brown’s education budget proposal, which includes a recommendation to switch to a new weighted student funding formula. Later that day, M’Kala and 13 other students and youth organizers bravely stepped up to a Senate hearing room microphone and addressed their legislators face to face, providing compelling testimony before the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.

She did a great job, but she only had one minute to explain why she and six million other California students need the Legislature’s help – and need it now. I’m sharing our conversation so others can hear more of her story.

Question: What evidence have you seen that low-income schools like yours aren’t getting adequate or equitable funding?

M’Kala: We’re broke and other people aren’t. As part of Youth Together, I once got to compare our school, Fremont, to a school a few miles down the road, Piedmont High. We visited and the environment there was completely different. There was some care put into that school. They have music classes and we don’t, even though we have a whole bunch of rappers and singers at my school who would love to have music. Our creativity is not being utilized. I also saw garbage bins full of books at Piedmont. We don’t have enough books for everybody at my school, and the ones we do have are really old and beat up. Our school facility is garbage compared to theirs, our bathrooms are filthy. I realized that the conditions that are part of my every day are not normal.

In history class, we talk about how there should be no second-class citizens. But at Fremont, we totally feel like second-class citizens. Why can’t we have what the kids at Piedmont have?

What do you think of Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to fund schools according to a weighted student formula?

M’Kala: I have one big problem with it. I want to make sure that the money actually gets spent on us. The way the budget proposal is now, districts with more low-income students and English learners will get more funding – true – but there is nothing in there keeping the districts from using that money however they want. What if they get it, and then don’t end up using it to help the schools with low-income students and English learners? Accountability for how the districts spend the money needs to be in there somewhere, or we won’t make any progress. Low-income students and English language learners will still be at a disadvantage.

Overall, I do think it makes sense to give more to the students who need it most. At Fremont, there are huge numbers of students from low-income backgrounds or who are learning English who have more needs. Weighted student funding would help us catch up – but again, only if the districts actually use the extra money on us.

No matter what, our schools need more funding. We have one counselor for over 160 students. Students are behind on credits, but they are not able to take the classes they need to graduate or to get to college. Our librarian was fired because of the budget cuts.

That’s an interesting take on the governor’s proposal. We’ve heard him say that districts will be held accountable – but he is referring to measuring outcomes after the fact. Seeing if low-income students and English learners have improved on the back end isn’t the same as holding the districts accountable for how they spend the money on the front end. So if your school were to receive additional funding, what do you think it should be spent on?

M’Kala: Besides more counselors, I would spend it on a more rigorous curriculum. I’m a junior, and there’s only one AP course I can take.

Also, I think we should hire a school psychiatrist. The things we have to see and deal with every day are kind of crazy. I’ve had multiple classmates killed in the past two years in shootings and drive-bys. It’s hard to come in and focus on your classes after that.

I’d spend money on a whole new facility. When I come to school every day and it’s dirty and not well taken care of, it doesn’t feel like school. It feels like a jail cell, and I have the urge to walk out.

Why did you get involved with Youth Together?

M’Kala: I feel like some people believe education is a privilege, but it’s not. It’s a right. I shouldn’t have to fight for an education just because I go to Fremont, but I do it because otherwise things are never going to change.

My older sister got a 4.0 all through high school. But when she got to college, she found it difficult to keep up, because Fremont didn’t prepare her for the workload. I know, because I went to 7th grade in Fairfield. When I moved back to Oakland in 9th grade, I was learning the same things I learned in Fairfield. We’re two years behind kids in those places! How are we supposed to succeed?

What are your goals for the future?

M’Kala: I want to be an English teacher. I’ve only had one teacher who had any empathy for me. She taught ethnic studies, and made school feel relevant to me. She’s black like me, she grew up in Watts, and I call her my second mother.

I think that understanding is one of the most important things about being a teacher, and that’s something I want to pass along. In Youth Together, I get to be a part of solving the problem, and that’s something I want to keep doing.

Tara Kini is a staff attorney at Public Advocates Inc. and a former high school teacher. She is part of the team litigating Campaign for Quality Education v. California, a state constitutional challenge to California’s inadequate and inequitable school finance system.
M’Kala Payton is a junior at Fremont High School’s Media Academy and a member of Youth Together.


By Tami Abdollah/KPCC |

April 12, 2012 | The California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education voted today to reject the governor's proposal to eliminate transitional kindergarten in his budget.

The party-line vote — with Democrats rejecting the governor's plan and Republicans against or absent — matches a March 13 vote by the state Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. Gov. Jerry Brown's 2012 budget proposes to save the state $224 million by pulling the plug on the new program that begins this year. Such a change, however, would require the Legislature action to change the current statute.

"It's good news for California kids, families and schools," said Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian, of Palo Alto, who authored the Kindergarten Readiness Act, which provides for the program. "...Unfortunately, I think the proposal has created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around the state."

In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the Act, which works to ensure California's kindergarten entry date aligns with new development data and the cut offs in most other states across the country.

Since 1951, California has had its kindergarten cut-off date set at Dec. 2. (Only Michigan Vermont and Connecticut allow children into school as late as Dec. 1; a handful of other states do not specify the cut-off date in statute, but those districts typically line the date up with the first day of school.) If your kids are 5 years old after that date, they enter kindergarten a year later.

Under the new law, the date is moved forward to Sept. 1 gradually over three years. This year the cut-off will be Nov. 1. Next year it will Oct. 1. And in 2013, the cut off will be Sept. 1. The roughly 125,000 children born each year between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2 would instead be sent to a "transitional kindergarten" class structured to be more developmentally appropriate before entering traditional kindergarten the following year.

The law was written so that the cost savings of roughly $5,740 the state pays out per child for attendance would instead pay for their transitional kindergarten class. And because the law is phased in and results in smaller classes, the program offsets its own costs for 15 years.

Supporters of the program say keeping 125,000 kids in school prevents ripple effects on teacher staffing and parents' work schedules that would result from simply leaving the kids out of school for an additional year.

The governor's budget proposal anticipates a cost savings of nearly $224 million n 2012 by cutting the transitional kindergarten program. The money would then be used to support the general cost of education.

But H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the governor's Department of Finance, said the governor's proposed cut is necessary during tough economic times. Republicans have also expressed concern over beginning a new program when existing fiscal needs can't be met.

"At this particular time, when we're dealing with the state's overall fiscal challenges, now is not the time to implement a brand new program with the attendant costs associated with it," Palmer said. He said the governor's office has heard anecdotally that a number of districts were concerned about the details of accommodating a new program.

California allows parents to request a school board allow their child early admission to kindergarten before age 5. Children who have completed kindergarten are automatically eligible for first grade unless their parent requests the child remain in kindergarten for an additional year.

Meanwhile, LAUSD and other districts have already begun pilot programs in preparation for the law's implementation this year; the expansion of the program is on hold because of the governor's proposal.

Simitian said he found it "a very good sign" that both houses' subcomittees had decided to reject the proposal, but also said anything can happen.

"In budget lore there's an old phrase," Simitian said. "A governor proposes, the Legislature disposes."


By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer |

April 14, 2012 5:37 AM GMT: Ask the parents of a youngster born late in the year about enrolling their not-quite-5-year-old in kindergarten, and they'll likely describe the dilemma about whether to send their kid to school or hold him back.

That quandary will be resolved this fall under a new state law that gradually moves up the date that kids are eligible to enroll in kindergarten. The Dec. 2 milestone that has been in place for decades will be Sept. 1 by 2014.

The law also mandates the creation of transitional kindergarten, giving those younger students an additional year to master the academic, social and developmental skills required of today's kindergartners.

"It's an amazing, amazing, amazing program for children who aren't developmentally ready and need that extra year to grow," said Michelle Adams-Fix, who teaches TK at Winnetka Avenue Elementary School, one of 109 Los Angeles Unified schools participating in a pilot transitional kindergarten program.

"We follow the kindergarten curriculum, but the students aren't required to master the skills," she said. "They can proceed at their own pace."

The kindergarten of finger-painting and sandbox play that most baby boomers remember has evolved over the years to an academic class with math and English-language standards and even homework.

As the goals grew more rigorous, the developmental differences became more obvious between youngsters who turned 5 early in a calendar year and those who mark their 5th birthday 10 or 11 months later.

"We used to say that kindergarten was the 'get-ready year' for real school," said state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who authored the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010. "Now, kindergarten is real school."

Since 1987, California has required children to turn 5 by Dec. 2 in order to enroll in kindergarten.

Under the new law, the cutoff shifts to Nov. 1 this year, to Oct. 1 in 2013 and Sept. 1 in 2014. Youngsters whose birthdays fall between the cutoff date and the previous threshold of Dec. 2 will be eligible for TK - an estimated 125,000 statewide by 2014.

"It's not that there's anything wrong with these kids," said Winnetka Elementary Principal Annette Star. "The idea is that they get another whole year of readiness."

Star said she's been tracking the youngsters who were enrolled in last year's TK class at Winnetka Avenue Elementary, part of the pilot program that Los Angeles Unified launched in anticipation of the new law. Nearly all of them, she said, are now at the top of their traditional kindergarten class.

Among those youngsters is Krystal Sanchez, whose mother, Angelica, raved about the play-based math and English-language lessons taught in TK that helped her daughter excel in traditional kindergarten.

"In kinder, she already knows her numbers, her sounds," Sanchez said, "Her self-esteem is high because she's prepared with what she learned in the transitional program."

She's so impressed with TK, Sanchez said, she hopes to enroll her younger daughter, Jasmine, in the class in the fall.

But the future of transitional kindergarten - in Los Angeles Unified and statewide - remains uncertain.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to eliminate transitional kindergarten, saying that would save the cash-strapped state some $224 million this year alone. The Assembly subcommittee on education finance voted last month to reject Brown's efforts, a move that was matched on Thursday by a Senate panel.

However, Brown said in a radio interview Friday that the state budget deficit will likely exceed the $9.2 billion shortfall his administration predicted earlier this year.

And Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the Legislature may reassess the future of the program when updated revenue figures become available in mid-May.

But Simitian maintains that TK essentially costs taxpayers nothing extra since the money the state pays local districts for student attendance - about $5,209 per elementary student in LAUSD - would be spent on transitional rather than traditional kindergarten.

"You take the savings from the date change and reinvest those savings in the same kids," he said.

Despite the funding uncertainty, LAUSD hopes to continue operating the 109 existing programs and add 100 more each of the next two years, said Nora Armenta, the district's executive director of Early Childhood Education.

First priority will be given to youngsters within a school's attendance boundaries, with any vacant seats open to students in surrounding neighborhoods, she said.

The new law does not apply to private schools or to most charter schools, meaning they'll still be able to set their own enrollment and curriculum criteria.

Van Nuys-based OneGeneration child-care center anticipates increased demand and plans to add a TK kindergarten class to its preschool offerings for the fall semester. Monthly tuition cost will be $890.

"We'll be taking children to the next level, bridging the gap between preschool and kindergarten," said Beth Finney, director of child care at OneGen.

TK Video produced by the staff at the Los Angeles Daily News

By Dyan Watson, Rethinking Schools - Spring 2012, Volume 26 No.3 |

Dear Caleb,

When you were almost 2, we would drop off your cousin, Sydney, at her K-8 elementary school. The ritual went something like this:

“OK, Syd, have a good day.”

“OK,” she’d groan as she grabbed her backpack. “Bye, Caleb.”

“Bye,” you’d wave and grin with your entire body.

“Bye,” Sydney would say one last time as she shut the door. I’d roll down the car window.

“Byeeeee,” you’d sing.

“Bye,” Sydney would laugh as she caught up with friends.

I’d roll up the window as you said “bye” a few more times, then start to whimper. “It’s OK, sweetie, she’ll be back before you know it. And you’ll be off joining her before I know it.”

And it’s true. Before I know it, Caleb, you will be throwing your backpack on and waving goodbye as you run off across the playground. I think about that moment often and wonder about the condition of schools you’ll enter. I worry about sending you, my black son, to schools that over-enroll black boys into special ed, criminalize them at younger and younger ages, and view them as negative statistics on the dark side of the achievement gap.

Son, my hope for you is that your schooling experiences will be better than this, that they’ll be better than most of mine.

For three years of my K-8 schooling, from 7:40 a.m. until 3:05 p.m., I was black and invisible. I was bused across town to integrate a white school in Southeast Portland, Ore. We arrived at school promptly at 7:30 and had 10 full minutes before the white children arrived. We spent that time roaming the halls—happy, free, normal. Once the white children arrived, we became black and invisible. We were separated, so that no more than two of us were in a class at a time. I never saw black people in our textbooks unless they were in shackles or standing with Martin Luther King Jr. Most of us rarely interacted with a black adult outside of the aide who rode the bus with us. I liked school and I loved learning. But I never quite felt right or good. I felt very black and obvious because I knew that my experience was different from that of my peers. But I also felt invisible because this was never acknowledged in any meaningful way. I became visible again at 3:05 when I got back on the bus with the other brown faces to make our journey home.

Caleb, I want your teachers to help you love being in your skin. I want them to make space for you in their curricula, so that you see yourself as integral to this country’s history, to your classroom’s community, to your peers’ learning. I want your teachers to select materials where blacks are portrayed in ordinary and extraordinary ways that actively challenge stereotypes and biases. Most of all, Caleb, I want your teachers to know you so they can help you grow.

One day a teacher was trying to figure out why I was so angry since I was generally a calm, fun-loving kid. She said to me: “I know you, Dyan. You come from a good family.” But did she know me? She knew that I lived on the other side of town and was bused in as part of the distorted way that Portland school authorities decided to “integrate” the schools. But did she know what that meant? My mom—your grandma—got us up at 6 a.m. in order for me to wash up, boil an egg just right, fix my toast the way I liked it, and watch the pan of milk so that it didn’t boil over, so I could have something hot in my stomach before going to school. You know Grandma, she doesn’t play. We had to eat a healthy breakfast before going to school, and we had to fix it ourselves. Maybe that’s what that teacher meant by “good family.” My teacher didn’t know that we had to walk, by ourselves, four blocks to the bus stop and wait for the yellow bus to come pick us up and take us to school. It took us a half hour to get to school. Once there, I had to constantly code switch, learn how not to be overly black, and be better than my white counterparts.

Caleb, I want your teachers to know your journey to school—metaphorically and physically. I want them to see you and all of your peers as children from good families. I don’t want you to have to earn credit because of whom you’re related to or what your parents do for a living. And I don’t want your teachers to think that you’re special because you’re black and have a family that cares about you and is involved in your life. I want them to know that all children are part of families—traditional or not—that help shape and form who they are.

The summer before beginning 4th grade, I started teaching myself how to play the clarinet. It was the family instrument in that both of my older sisters played it when they were younger. For years I wanted to be a musician. It was in my blood. My grandfather was a musician, all of my uncles can sing very well, and my dad—your grandfather—was a famous DJ in Jamaica once upon a time. At the end of 5th grade, my band director took each member aside to provide feedback on whether or not she or he should continue music in middle school. My teacher told me that I just didn’t have it and should quit. I was devastated. I had dreams of becoming a conductor and I loved playing music. I learned to read music and text at the same time before entering kindergarten, so I couldn’t understand what my teacher saw or heard that made him think that I, at the tender age of 11, didn’t have what it took to pursue playing in a middle school band. He knew nothing about me. Had never asked any questions about me, our family, my aspirations. He didn’t seek to make me a better musician.

Caleb, I hope that you will have teachers who realize they are gatekeepers. I hope they understand the power they hold and work to discover your talents, seek out your dreams and fan them, rather than smother them. I hope they will see you as part of a family, with gifts and rich histories that have been passed down to you. I hope they will strive to know you even when they think they already know you. I hope your teachers will approach you with humility and stay curious about who you are.

When I was in 4th grade, my elementary school held a back-to-school night that featured student work and allowed families to walk the halls and speak with teachers. In each classroom was a student leader, chosen by teachers. I’m not sure what my role was supposed to be. But at one point, a couple came in, desiring to speak with Mrs. S. She was busy, so I thought I’d chat with them while they waited. As I approached them, they recoiled in fear and, with panicked looks, turned away from me and said, “Mrs. S.?” My teacher looked away from the folks she was working with and said, “It’s OK, she’s not like the rest.” I don’t remember what happened next. All I remember is that this seemed to be one of the first in a long line of reassurances that I was special and not like other black boys and girls. For many years afterward, I was told on more than one occasion, “You’re not like other blacks.” This was supposed to be a compliment.

Caleb, I pray that your teachers will not look at you through hurtful racial preconceptions. I pray that they will do the work necessary to eliminate racist practices in themselves and in those around them. I pray that they stand up for you in ways that leave you feeling strong and capable. I pray that they will nurture your spirit, and that you, in turn, will desire to be a better you.

Son, I end this letter by sharing a story that Grandma has told me many times, that I hope will one day resonate with you. On the first day of kindergarten, many of the kids were crying and clinging to their parents. But not me. I was ready! I wanted to be like my three older siblings and go to school. So I gave my mom a hug, let go of her hand, waved goodbye, and found my teacher. And remember how I told you that my oldest sister taught me how to read before I went to school? The teacher found this out and used this skill, along with my desire to be at school, to teach the other kids the alphabet and help them learn how to read. I believe, in part, that is why I became a teacher. She saw something in me and encouraged me to develop my passion—even at this young, sweet age.

That, my son, is my hope for you. I hope your teachers will love you for who you are and the promise of what you’ll be.



Dyan Watson ( is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education and Counseling at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. She is an editorial associate of Rethinking Schools and co-editor of Rethinking Elementary Education.


adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 |


(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.


NOTE: 48 countries originally ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (of the 58 countries that were members of the UN at the time), including the United States. Essentially all of the world's countries have ratified it since then, but in any event its core provisions are binding international law regardless of the existence of treaty ratification or state of war.

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EVENTS: Coming up next week...
The Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee of the Bd of Ed debates the future of the A-G Graduation requirements, student electives and Health Education in LAUSD. 10AM in the Beaudry Boardroom. |

Saturday, April 28, 2012 8:30a.m. - 12:00p.m. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts 450 North Grand Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90012The Arts Education Branch, in conjunction with Parent Community Services Branch and Special Education, will sponsor a Family Arts Summit for Elementary Schools. The Family Arts Summit will provide an opportunity for the Arts Education Branch to inform parents and community about the importance of quality arts instruction in a student’s education, how to identify quality instruction in LAUSD schools, and how to bring more arts experiences into their homes. Additionally, the event will allow all families to participate in arts learning, engage families of differently abled students and provide families information that will support the Parent Community Services Branch’s goal of increased parent and community involvement. Workshop leaders will include selected community-based presenters and District and school site arts personnel with exemplary instructional or parent involvement models. |

*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: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 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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