Sunday, April 22, 2012

What if they run it up the flagpole and nobody salutes?

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids:Sunday,22•April•2012 Earth Day
In This Issue:
 •  THE LEGISLATIVE WEEK IN REVIEW: From student success to teacher removal
 •  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?

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 •  PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
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 •  4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
NotYetLAUSD [], 4LAKids favorite if slightly off-color anonymous blogger, writes provocatively under the headline: WTFLAUSD. (Why The FrownLAUSD? When’s The Furlough?)



“We will reach 100% graduation in LAUSD, no matter how low we have to tunnel. We will slap the finest labels on our curriculum. PS. Harvard's graduation rate is 98%. Most elite private colleges average a 90% graduation rate.” (smf: The Harvard 4 year grad rate is actually 87%. Only 9 US colleges do better than 90%. )

THE SPIN + THE ORWELLIAN NEWSPEAK have become the lingua franca; an LAUSD Tweet is 140 characters in search of a message.

LAUSD’s PROPOSED REVISIONS TO THE GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS were rolled out as “raising the bar”, L.A. Unified’s new flavor of A thru G will make everything great and usher in A Great New Wonderful Tomorrow -another magic bullet to solve the ills of public education.

Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Jamie Aquino announced the proposed revisions to the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (CIA) Committee of the Bd of Ed (twice) and to handpicked parents and community groups to what he characterized as favorable reviews (smf was with the parents group – my recollection is that reviews were discouraged.)

Gerardo Loera, LAUSD Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction presented the plan to the CIA: “Raising the Bar for Graduation Standards” in a PowerPoint [] and Dr. Aquino spoke enthusiastically from the horseshoe to close the deal.

Except nobody bought it.

Lowering the number of credits needed to graduate from 230 to 170 (the state minimum), eliminating Health Education and Technology classes, getting rid of required electives while continuing to recognize the grade of “D” as passing raised nothing but the ire of the board members and committee members present, public commenters, academe and the media …Yet Dr Aquino continued to represent the move as positive. (Aquino did quietly admit that the Health Ed Cuts may not stand – but then continued to advocate for them after the meeting.) Darn the naysayers, full speed ahead!

And nobody accepted for a moment that it was Loera’s plan or even Aquino’s: It was branded as Dr. Deasy’s plan from the get-go: “Superintendent John Deasy this week announced plans to…” |

Q: What if they run it up the flagpole and nobody salutes?
Now we know:
A: “In an email Deasy said he believes the lessons taught in health class are too critical to be offered as simply an elective. ‘We use this course for our work on many, many issues, like anti-bullying, healthy nutrition and lifestyle, etc. Given this, I feel that it must remain in the plan’.” |

This is (im)Plausible Deniability – as evidenced by the exact same story/different headline in Contra Costa: “LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy overrules staff to keep health-class requirement for high schoolers.” |

Remember the First Homework Policy? Bad staff work? … it’s like that.

[On Saturday – after Dr. Deasy’s Friday pronouncement about the critical nature of Health Ed - the District stiil posted a “Do you think health education should remain a requirement for graduation?” survey on the LAUSD Facebook page |]

THE GOOD NEWS is that worst part of a bad idea has apparently been jettisoned.
THE BAD NEWS is that under the current requirements – according to the standards this year’s graduates must meet – 170 credits is not even enough credits to even be a Senior …let alone a Graduate.

Across 4th Street from LAUSD Beaudry they shoot the television drama “Mad Men”. It’s going to take Don Draper himself to spin Deasy’s A-G Plan as a move in anything but the wrong directions.

LET US TRAVEL BACK IN TIME TO SEVEN YEARS AGO: 2005 – when the A thru G Graduation Requirements were the flavor of reform that would save us all. LAUSD would put every student in the District on the college track – by making the college entry requirements for UC and CSU the standard for receiving a high school diploma. There was loud public pressure supporting this from a small vocal minority – the community organized by community organizers: Families in Schools, Alliance for a Better Community and Inner City Struggle – supported by UCLA/IDEA – all well meaning folks – folks with an agenda and grants from Gates Broad and the usual suspects. [see By The Numbers - HOW TO TELL IF YOUR DISTRICT IS INFECTED BY THE BROAD VIRUS #29: A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms |]

THE VERY BAD SITUATION WAS THIS: LAUSD wasn’t offering access to college prep curriculum – the A-G courses – in “those” schools … you know, the schools where “those” kids go. And they were absolutely right. Opportunity was being systemically and systematically denied to students of color. It was 1968 all-over-again: The soft bigotry of institutionalized low expectations/ El suave intolerancia de las bajas expectativas institucionalizadas.

At the same time LAUSD was building itself out of the hole of overcrowded schools and inadequate facilities; there was light at the end of the tunnel. The solution was simple: Make sure all students in all schools have access to a college prep curriculum. Great thinking; well thought.

But if going to college is a good idea for all kids, why not make it a rule? What do Boards of Ed do if not make rules? ALL KIDS MUST TAKE THE COLLEGE PREP COURSES TO GRADUATE!

Almost immediately someone said there would have to be opt-out provisions – for kids who don’t want to go to college – and this was added to the Board of Ed Policy | BUT BY MUTUAL AND UNSPOKEN AGREEMENT BY THE MAJORITY OF DISTRICT STAFF AND THE SPECIALLY INTERESTED IT WAS CONCEDED THAT THIS WOULD BE LIKE A PARENT REQUESTING EXEMPTION FROM A SCHOOL’S STUDENT UNFORM POLICY: WE KNOW BEST AND IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN!

And gentle readers, I’m not speculating here – I was there in the endless meetings of The A-G Task Force back in the day where the difficulties in implementing A-G were discussed, debated, addressed – and many solved. The challenges to master scheduling. The shortage of qualified teachers. The shortage of science classrooms. The difficulty in coordinating with Small Schools and Small Learning Communities. The difficulty in communicating with parents and counseling the students.

Solutions were planned. There would be Bridge Programs from elementary-to-middle and middle-to-high school. There would be Individualized Graduation Programs for every student. There would be Summer School and Intervention and Credit Recovery and every other imaginable support. Parents would be brought on as partners in their children’s education – a college going culture would be cultivated. Elective classes supporting A-G would be strengthened. Career and Technical Ed curriculum would be aligned with A-G; there would be Multiple Pathways.

LAUSD was totally going to do this!

The dilemma of the D grade – and perhaps not enough time in the six period day and the eight semester plan would be addressed later (Small Schools, SLC’s and the block schedule presented problems …but hey: We had seven – and then six – and then five years to work out the kinks!) Some decisions were put off ‘til later.

But then the money got scarce and meetings stopped happening and the leaders of the mission drifted away and superintendents came-and-went and the members of the board changed and we were all distracted by other things and …OMG: It’s 2012 already? Where did the time go?

Welcome to Later: Here we are making up another plan On the QT/On the Cheap.

The math the Instruction folks use to add up graduation credits needed divided by hours in the day over classes offered ignores that many students don’t pass the FitnessGram Test and must take PE in the 11th and 12th grades. Additionally PE is a class that state law says must be offered to all students in all four years of high school – LAUSD is relying upon a very interesting mandatory/voluntary opt-out paradigm.

Boardmember Kayser is suggesting a two tier graduation standard (something akin to the spurned-and-ignored opt-out option: one A-G, one not) Opponents are horrified. It’s tracking and discrimination and reeks of profiling and elitism. If done well this is hogwash; back in the storied golden age we had Courses Of Study and Major Sequences in high school. There were Science Majors and English Majors and Arts Majors and Industrial Arts Majors – and it said that right on your diploma, in Old English script.

AND HERE’S THE VERY, VERY SCARY NUMBER: It truly doesn’t matter what our graduation or drop-rate has been up ‘till now. Only 15% of LAUSD students to date have qualified to meet the A thru G standards. And we’ve been working on this for seven years. We are looking at a 15% graduation rate.

¡Onward/Adelante! – smf


Themes in the News by UCLA IDEA Week of April 16-20, 2012 |

04-20-2012 :: The Los Angeles Unified School District is considering changing its graduation requirements. Current district policy requires the incoming class of 2016 to graduate college-ready, meaning students would have to pass the minimum sequence of subject-area courses required for eligibility into a University of California or California State University campus, known as a-g. However, faced with collapsing budgets and diminished support for teachers’ professional development, class size reduction, summer school, facilities and more, proponents want to pare down course offerings and graduation requirements.

The proposal, which will come before the full board in May, calls for eliminating all non- a-g electives and reducing the required number of credits to graduate from 230 to 170. District officials say requiring fewer credits will create flexibility in students' schedules so that they can make up failed courses (Los Angeles Times, Daily News, KPCC, ABC 7, CBS).

In 2005, the board passed a resolution to graduate all students college-ready, to create educational equity across the district and to close the achievement gap. While LAUSD’s new proposal is in keeping with the letter of that resolution, it strays from the spirit of expanding opportunities.

Seven years ago, most schools in South and East Los Angeles did not offer a full complement of a-g courses, or they rationed those classes to a small proportion of students whom schools considered college material. After parents and students organized and demanded greater access to college prerequisites (the opportunity to take and succeed in the a-g sequence), the board passed a resolution mandating a-g for all students and stipulated that the requirements be accompanied by "necessary learning supports, realignment and dedication of resources necessary beginning early in a student's education so that they are prepared to successfully complete the A-G course sequence at all grade levels from K-12." (

But those “necessary learning supports... at all grade levels” never fully materialized. Indeed, some conditions have deteriorated dramatically, such as access to summer school, tutoring, and small class sizes. Without these and other supports, students are not passing their college-prep classes at acceptable rates. And, unless this pattern changes, once new graduation requirements are enforced, graduation rates will drop.

Some critics of LAUSD’s new plan believe that reducing the number of required credits and eliminating non- a-g electives will result in students from historically underserved neighborhoods becoming less engaged in school, less likely to graduate, less likely to be accepted to the most competitive colleges, and have fewer prospects for success if they do get to college.

The new “flexibility” created by the district’s proposal appears designed to allow students to make-up classes instead of finding some way to provide the k-12 resources that prepare students to pass their a-g classes the first time around. Of course, schools with lots of resources and with a history of high achievement might take good advantage of the new flexibility by adding more varied and engaging curriculum. But elsewhere, parents, students, and educators worry that their schools are falling into a cycle of failure, remediation, and poor prospects for college.

As members of the public and LAUSD officials deliberate about the policy in the weeks ahead, they would do well to consider several questions:

• If the proposed policy is implemented, will schools that presently experience high rates of failure in a-g classes add more credit recovery classes and subtract elective and advanced coursework?
• If they do, will students in these schools receive as full and rich an education as students at other LAUSD high schools?
• Is it acceptable to have some district schools that provide more varied and higher-level coursework than others?
• What can be learned from Los Angeles schools that already graduate substantial proportions of their students college-ready?
• What conditions prevail at these schools and their feeder schools?
• What does the district need to do to foster those conditions across all schools?


A “D” FOR DEASY?: Strive for A's Not D's

by Rebecca Joseph, Associate Professor, California State University, Los Angeles in the Huffington Post |

04/19/2012 4:43 pm :: Superintendent John Deasy this week announced plans to adjust pre-approved changes to the graduation standards for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the country. This choice partially delays a brave plan LAUSD school board members passed in 2005 to raise graduation standards. Intended to go into effect next school year, the LAUSD school board graduation plan would have made it necessary for LAUSD students to take the required classes to make it four year public colleges, which includes raising the passing grade from a D to a C.

Earlier this week Deasy introduced a plan that would allow students to continue to receive D's on their transcripts for one additional year while reducing the credits to graduate from 230 to 160. While he keeps the college readiness standards, I believe his basic plans are flawed.

Academic scholar Mike Rose famously wrote, "Students will float to the mark you set." With D's in the teacher arsenal, they allow students to float near the bottom. With lower units to graduate, many other students will float at the bottom because failure will become a viable option as they can spend significant time during the school year repeating core classes rather than advancing.

Many brave school districts and charter schools around the country are eliminating D's, requiring college readiness standards, and pushing kids to take more rather than fewer units to graduate. Their students are doing better. They are not dropping out. They are not repeating classes multiple times. They are going to college.

In high schools across California, when students receive D's in core college readiness classes, they can graduate from high school. However, they cannot qualify for any of our public four year colleges for two reasons. None accept D's in core college readiness class, and all have minimum GPA standards. Moreover, to qualify for the University of California system, they must also complete 11 out of 15 required college readiness classes by the end of 11th grade. Truly competitive students take more the 15 classes, including honors and AP classes.

Currently, college readiness among LAUSD students is dismal. Less than 50% of seniors take the required college readiness classes to qualify for a public four year university in California. Even worse, only 15% of students who started in 9th grade and made it to graduation last year qualified for admissions to a University of California or California State University campus.

One of the major reasons is the huge prevalence of D's.

The D is a grade I've never quite understood. If students do enough work to get a D, then how hard is it for the teacher and student to work towards a C? If they do so little work that they get a D, then don't they truly deserve an F? At least with an F, they are forced to retake a class.

Yet for one more year D's will become a default grade for thousands upon thousands of teachers and students.

I meet LAUSD kids all the time who have received many D's. They are so much smarter than these grades. Some are happy with these grades, while others want to remake their records. Yet in these tough economic times, they have limited ways to make up these grades. Because of severe budgets, LAUSD has cut summer school for most students and has proposed severe cuts to other ways kids can remediate their grades-including adult school and online courses.

Moreover, budget cuts have led to significant counseling cuts throughout the district, state, and country. When I visited several high schools in March to promote college access, I met schools with limited resources to help kids make it to four year colleges. They help students graduate but stop there for the majority of students.

Sadly, a high school diploma is no longer enough to help most students make a decent living. There are fewer and fewer jobs available where high school graduates can receive living wages, career advancement, and benefits. Unemployment rates for these students are staggering. Additionally, research shows California's economy needs 100,000 more college graduates every year to make our economy more viable. Finally, community colleges in California are increasingly challenging places for students with low GPAs to make it through to AA degrees or four year colleges.

To help decrease the high school dropout and college readiness rates, Deasy should be focusing on increasing rigor in academic instruction. Rather than embedding it into the school day, he should be emphasizing multiple paths towards academic remediation, including support classes, smaller class sizes, tutoring, and summer and adult school. He should be increasing not decreasing intensive academic and college counseling in schools.

Our schools need to promote higher standards. LAUSD should and can become a leader in the country of a movement to move kids towards true college readiness. Keeping D's in place for an additional year and cutting core services allows the low bar to remain in place, and in my mind, is more indicative of the grade the Superintendent should receive for his current efforts.

• An Associate Professor at California State University, Los Angeles, Dr. Rebecca Joseph believes that college should be an option for all and devotes her teaching, research, presentations, evaluations, and service to helping all students receive a high quality, college ready education. She also helps students and schools focus on empowering students throughout the college readiness, application, and admissions process. She is an expert on helping student write powerful college application essays to communicate their unique stories as well as helping kids prepare to transfer to four year colleges. Dr. Joseph is a member of NACAC, WACAC, AERA, and NCTE and an expert for Unigo. She can be followed on twitter @getmetocollege and on her website

LAUSD's TOO HIGH GRADUATION BAR: The district's policy requiring students to pass a college-prep curriculum to graduate was a product of magical thinking rather than wise educational leadership

LA Times Editorial |

April 19, 2012 :: There's a lot more to improving education than just raising the bar and expecting everyone to reach it, as the Los Angeles Unified School District is discovering about its ill-conceived, 7-year-old policy to require students to pass a college-prep curriculum in order to graduate.
The district's intentions were good. Not only were too few students attempting the so-called A through G curriculum — a required series of high school English, math, social studies and other courses required for entry to California's public four-year colleges and universities — but the numbers attempting it were much lower among disadvantaged black and Latino students. Before the policy was adopted, many school administrators assumed these students were incapable of or uninterested in a future in college and steered them toward a less rigorous course of study.

What the district should have done is to undertake a thoughtful overhaul of the curriculum, preparing students before they entered high school for the more challenging academic course load and continuing with tutoring and support as they moved from ninth to 12th grades.Instead, under political pressure from justifiably frustrated community groups, the school board merely passed a resolution calling for all students to be required to pass the full college-prep series of courses, starting with the freshman class of 2012.

The resolution was a product of magical thinking rather than wise educational leadership. It created no plan for how the new bar would be reached — a plan that should have started with an intensive focus on lower-school math, because the single biggest obstacle to completing college prep was that so many students arrived at high school unprepared for algebra and flunked it repeatedly. Board members and teachers who protested that the resolution would lead to high dropout rates were roundly booed.
As Times staff writer Howard Blume reported Wednesday, the administration now wants to scale back on graduation requirements, with Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino echoing some words familiar from seven years ago: "We face a massive dropout rate" if the policy goes forward.

An abysmally small percentage of students who graduated from L.A. Unified schools last year — 15% — qualified to enter a four-year college. The district could certainly improve on this, yet the school board has little choice at this point but to ease the requirements; it would be unfair and counterproductive to hold students to a standard they have not been prepared to achieve. But in its next move to improve educational outcomes, the board should focus first on a coherent plan for improving instruction, not on an arbitrary bar.


By Karin Klein, Editorial Staff, LA Times |

April 19, 2012, 6:00 a.m. :: The call to lower graduation standards in the Los Angeles Unified School District reminds me of a conversation I had with a representative of the construction industry seven years ago, back when the school board was first considering requiring all students to take the full series of college-preparatory classes in order to earn a diploma.

His group favored the switch to a college-prep requirement because the sequence of courses known as "A through G" would also prepare students better for jobs that don't require a college degree. Precious few of L.A. Unified's graduates could pass the written test for his group's apprenticeship program in construction because they lacked the math skills.

I asked him what was required to pass that test, and he said Algebra I and some Geometry. That was curious because those courses already were required for a high school diploma in L.A. Unified; the college-prep requirement added a third year of high school math to that, Algebra II.

When told that the students already had to pass the two courses he had mentioned to graduate, he at first refused to believe that was true. Then he said that although the students might be taking the courses, they sure weren't learning the material.

There's the rub. The schools and the state can set all the requirements they want, but until we pay attention to whether students are actually learning what they need to learn rather than filling a seat in a class that meets a certain requirement, we will continue the frustrating reality of high school graduates who theoretically qualify for college but have to take remedial courses once they get there, and who cannot pass a basic test to drive a delivery truck or work on a construction site.

THE LEGISLATIVE WEEK IN REVIEW: From student success to teacher removal
By Kathryn Baron , Thoughts on Public Education |
John Fensterwald co-wrote this article.

4/20/12 :: One day after Democrats on the Senate Education Committee rejected his sweeping approach to getting rid of poorly performing and badly behaving teachers, Republican leader Bob Huff mentioned an often cited but much disputed quote of the late Albert Shanker in letting the Democrats have it.

“The Senate Education Committee’s actions exemplify the comments made by Albert Shanker, former head of the United Federation of Teachers, who stated, ‘When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.’ Once again the Democrats on the committee have chosen to put the demands of some union bosses over the safety of our children,” Huff said in a press release. (Shanker’s wife, Edith, denies he ever made the statement.)

UPDATE: I contacted Shaker’s biographer, Richard Kahlenberg, who wrote Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy. His email response regarding the authenticity of the quote: “I tried to track down the quotation for my biography of Al Shanker but I was unable to confirm it, so it may well be apocryphal.”

Democrats passed a much narrower bill, SB 1530, that pared away the due-process procedures for teachers being charged with offenses involving drugs, sex, and violence against children. Not that they got much love from union reps, who accused legislators from both parties of “grandstanding” on the issue.

Huff issued a chart showing that the Democrats’ bill wouldn’t alter the sometimes laborious dismissal procedures for teachers accused of a raft of other vile offenses that don’t fall into the new category of “serious and egregious” acts.

The odd thing is that, after the Democrats gutted an identical version of Huff’s bill in the Assembly this week, leaving in only two small reforms, the Republican co-sponsor of AB 2028 waxed poetic on the bipartisan achievement in a press release. “It was great to see Assembly Democrats today set politics aside and work with us to pass these vital reforms to get those who try to harm our kids out of the classroom,” said Assemblymember Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita.

Not wanting to get caught in this dogfight, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy testified for both the Republican and Democratic versions.


“I am a community college success story,” proudly proclaimed Jessie Ryan at a news conference Wednesday after the Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the Student Success Act. SB 1456 starts the process of implementing some of the 22 recommendations in the Student Success Task Force report, which was released late last year.

Ryan, the associate director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, grew up with a “struggling, single welfare mother,” and said community college was truly her “gateway to opportunity.” She was admittedly fortunate that her college helped her develop an education plan and held an orientation that put Ryan “on a path to success.”

SB 1456, by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), chair of the Education Committee, calls on all the state’s 112 community colleges to provide all students with the type of support Ryan received. More than half of all community college students fail to receive an AA Degree, earn a certificate, or transfer to a four-year college within six years, and the figures for Latino and African American students are even worse.

But the big drivers in the bill for boosting success were tempered amid an outcry from students and the reality of state finances. Provisions requiring students to declare a goal and not to exceed a certain number of units in order to be eligible for Board of Governors (BOG) fee waivers will not take effect unless colleges have the resources to provide the needed support services, said Lowenthal. Just looking at one of those, counseling services is daunting. On average, there are 1900 students for each counselor.

The bill would create a new fund which repurposes the $50 million in the matriculation fund to provide colleges with some money to focus on education planning and advising, but it’s not nearly enough, and the chancellor’s office said they’re looking to schools to develop innovative programs to help students make good decisions about which classes to take.
“These reforms are about doing the most we can with what we have,” said Erik Skinner, Executive Vice Chancellor of programs. “The next step is to make the case for more investment.”


Gov. Brown’s effort to eliminate funding for home-to-school transportation at the time of the mid-year trigger cuts sparked legislation by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) to introduce legislation protecting school bus service.
AB 1448 requires transportation funding for next year to be “at least equal to the appropriation provided in the budget for 2011-12.” The bill holds a special place for Los Angeles Unified, which, under a court-ordered desegregation plan must provide transportation.
Budget uncertainty marked many bills that came before the committees this week leading to one surprisingly stinging exchange between two lawmakers. During the debate on AB 1448, Assemblymember Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), asked fellow education committee member Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) why the democrats were trying to protect the school transportation funds when they were the ones who supported putting it in the trigger cuts when they approved the governor’s budget plan last year. Williams retorted almost before she could finish, noting that republicans forced their hand. “With all due respect,” said Williams, “that wouldn’t have happened if you had the courage to vote for taxes to support our education system.”

See also:

KINDERGARTEN FOR ALL COMES OF AGE: Bills would make Kindergarten Compulsory,
Kathryn Baron, ToPED |

April 17, 2012 :: For being so young, kindergarteners have incited more than their share of quarrels in California. State lawmakers and governors argued for a decade about how old kindergarten students should be, before voting in 2010 to raise the age to five. At the same time, they created Transitional Kindergarten (TK) for those who miss the new ........[continues>>>]

Click here for a list of education bills and their status

By Franny Parrish, Originally published in the LASLA L.A. School Library Aides GoogleGroup.

Franny Parrish is the Library Aide/Librarian In the Julie Korenstein Library at Charles Leroy Lowman Special Education Center, an LAUSD K-12 school serving special needs children in North Hollywood

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 :: He was almost 17 when I met him. I heard him before I saw him, screaming with laughter at the top of his longs as he raced through the halls on an adult size tricycle, safety helmet jauntily placed on his head, with one of the older aides chasing after him, desperate to keep up. It was quite a sight. Turning on my heels I chased after them to ask if she needed help to stop this little guy before he hurt himself or someone else? Was he okay? Oh no, she said, Fernando was just fine, he was just so excited at the ease of the mobility he was experiencing, and he was soooooo pleased with himself that he had mastered pedaling! Silly me. He was laughing after all, maybe a tad on this side of maniacal, but he WAS laughing.

I walked back to my library thinking about the simple tasks in life and those little accomplishments that we take for granted, walking, feeding ourselves, pedaling a bike, and for these students these are every day struggles. Just as I sat back down at my desk I heard him, maniacal laughter, pure joy, exhilaration in his voice. He passed by the library, looked at me and waved, narrowly missing running into the wall. He never missed a beat and Mila was there to keep him on track. This was Fernando.

Short, 4' and counting, Fernando seemed taller because he walked on his tip toes, slight of build, hint of a mustache, beautiful brown eyes with eyelashes that any movie star could only wish to have. He wasn't Antonio Banderas, but he was definitely charming, on most days, in a way that Señor Banderas would have appreciated. He had his moments. For almost an entire year, every day, I would see him after nutrition or PE lying down on the yard, refusing to get up. We weren't sure what the issue was. Maybe he just wanted to do things at his own pace and time, not ours. Sometimes they just picked him and carried him in to the classroom, but most times he eventually made it on his own.

When Miss Josie would come to the library for reading it took a lot to get him there. He had to sit on his own chair apart from the others as he had developed a new habit of grabbing you by the hair and not letting go. (Trust me from personal experience it was not pleasant to be on the receiving end.) To make the experience of coming to the library more pleasant for Fernando, I often would play Mariachi music for the class as they were walking or being wheeled in to the room. Fernie LOVED mariachi music along with most other styles, but he seemed to come alive when he heard it. He would often ask me to sing Skidda Ma Rinky Dink... Mariachi. Yeah. Tough call, and I even asked friends who were composers and writers if they could figure out an arrangement of the song to surprise Fernie. No one could figure it out. No matter,I just added a few yips into the song and he was happy.

Once reading time was over, discussions done, Skidda Ma Rinky Dink sung, students, aides, and teacher filed out. Who was still there? Fernie. The only way I could get him out was to turn off the lights, whip on my sombrero, and start singing while backing out of the room so he would follow me. In his raspy voice, most times unintelligible, he would try to sing along and begin to leave. It became a weekly routine. The hat never weighed heavy on my head.

Talking with Fernando was usually one way. You never really understood what he was saying and, as is the case with many of these children, you really don't know how much they comprehend. Just before Thanksgiving when Fernie was around 20-21, I asked him, at his teacher's urging, what was he going to have to eat for Thanksgiving. As he gathered his air, you could tell he was working to get the words and strength together to answer me, he said "Turkey!" "That's great! And what will you have to go with the turkey?" Again, Fernie took his time, and in his raspy, squeaky, voice said "Pappas! (translation - Potatoes)

"This is turning into quite a meal.", I said to Fernie. Then I asked the final question, "And what will you have to drink with all this wonderful meal Fernando?" This time, there was no hesitation in his answer. Like an arrow shot straight from it's bow, he grinned and shouted out "CERVEZA!!!!" There wasn't a dry eye left in the room as all the adults laughed until our sides hurts. Fernando was laughing too. He knew. He had me forever in his heart.

Fernando died yesterday. He was 22. June would have been his last month with us here at Lowman. He went home a month ago after school not feeling well. He had pneumonia. He never could get enough air. I know that this is the hazard of working here at Lowman, but still, this time it really hurt. I can't go to the funeral or the viewing as it just doesn't seem natural to see him that way. For me, I will prefer to remember him like this, laughing boy, sharing a story with my fellow Library Aides of one child who made a difference in my life.

Thanks for letting me tell his story.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not neccessariily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources




LAUSD tweets: Dr. Deasy says he will NOT recommend eliminatIon of health ed grad requirement

L.A. UNIFIED GRADUATES: Diplomas, yes; learning, maybe: By Karin Klein, Editorial Staff, LA Times | http://lat.m...

A THRU G IN LAUSD: Magical Thinking, not Educational Leadership: LAUSD's TOO HIGH GRADUATION BAR: The district's...

A “D” FOR DEASY?: Strive for A's Not D's: by Rebecca Joseph, Associate Professor, California State University, L...






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REPRESENTING KIDS …OR ADULTS? + smf’s 2¢: by Patrick Riccards in Eduflack |

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

*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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