Sunday, June 03, 2012

Butch to Sundance: "Who are these guys?"

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 3•June•2012
In This Issue:
 •  “A wheelbarrow of frogs”: LA GROUPS WANT TEST SCORES PART OF EVALUATIONS - Between a quarter and a third of evaluation score + smf’s 2¢
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE: What will California schoolchildren, your school district and YOUR School get when the initiative passes?
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 •  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.
Hollywood Publicists have a tagline for it: “Be afraid …be very afraid”.

The same wonderful folks who mismanaged the Cortines Sexual Harassment Incident (I’m saving the word ‘Scandal” to characterize their mismanagement of it -- which they actually outsourced to a crisis management firm) are the same folks who are in charge of educating our children. The editor of The Wave – a South Central local newspaper goes as far as to say: “The Los Angeles Unified School District needs to be shut down entirely. It’s a hell hole. It’s a place where pernicious sexual activity seems to abound .… now we, the taxpayers, have to pay for the superintendent having sex with his boyfriend at home!!!” |

These folks, to whom accountability and transparency are values to be loudly embraced and applied elsewhere, want to evaluate and hire and retain classroom teachers employing rubrics, formulae and algorithms – using data sets, test scores and common core standards, etc. The current policy regarding openness/ transparency/accountability in hiring and evaluating superintendents looks exactly like “Do as I say, not as I do!” to me. And that, gentle readers, is a sterling example of worst practice parenting technique, classroom management and all-around leadership. There are words for this and one of them is hypocritical. My thesaurus is helpful: deceitful means intended to deceive or cheat while deceptive means causing one to believe what is not true or likely to mislead someone. Choice is all the rage, you choose.

By David Fonseca

June 2, 2012 :: A new coalition of parents and teachers has proposed a method that partly relies on test scores but is heavily weighted toward in-room observation.
The 15-member group, "Our Schools, Our Voice," has proposed a method that would base 25 percent of a teacher's evaluation on standarized test scores, 60 percent on classroom observation and the rest on student and teacher feedback.

The evaluation method would be introduced over a period of two years, and would only count students' test scores if they attend a teacher's class for more than 85 percent of the class year. Additionally, during the first two years, teachers could opt to have the school's overall scores used in their evaluation if they were higher than their own classroom scores.

The LASUD and United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents teachers, have been locked in a contentious battle over the use of standardized test scores in teachers' evaluations.

In April, the District for the first time ever unveiled its own value-added scores, which ranked the ability of schools to help students of all demographics raise their test scores over time. Shortly thereafter, the District began releasing to teachers their own confidential value-added scores.
The district has been adamant about the importance of evaluating teachers based on test scores, citing the drastic need to improve student performance.

Teachers, however, have argued that standardized tests are too volatile a metric to be used evaluate student performance. Issues of poverty, parent involvement, language spoken at home—or even the student's health on the day of the exam can all impact how a student performs, effectively blurring the picture of how a teacher is performing.

Earlier this year, UTLA proposed its own self-evaluation method, which would allow but not require teachers to include student test scores.


1. As I note following “15-member group” is an off-the-shelf Astroturf grass roots organization right out of the ®eform, Inc. playbook – much like the anonymous “parents” behind the Stull Lawsuit.

2. And it seems like the whole debate is moot. The teacher evaluation, appraisal and retraining piece has already been contracted out – outsourced – to a company from Utah called TrueNorthLogic (“TrueNorthLogic provides K-12 product solutions that are designed to be easily configured and aimed at bringing an effective educator to every student.’)…a outside vendor/consultant and purveyor of business-school-tested/buzzword infused/data-driven magic bullets with a name that brings up images of the television series “Northern Exposure”(fish-out-of-water uptight Yankee doctor amongst the locals) …or maybe “Twin Peaks”.

Northern Exposure, Twin Peaks …or the Stepford Wives? Check out TrueNorthLogic’s corporate “About Us” Page: Have you seen a less diverse classroom scene since Dick and Jane?


THE FIRST, A LINKED LEARNING SYMPOSIUM at Roybal Learning Center featured excellent presentations – mostly by students – of great work tying classroom instruction and career technical education (CTE) to the real world by students in various small schools/small learning communities throughout LAUSD. The auto shop students showed a fully electric VW Bug that promised to blow the doors off a Prius! Young photographers showed exceptional work. Young entrepreneurs are out there – doing well by doing good in their communities. And teachers showed how true collaborative efforts produce results.

Linked Learning relies on four “C”s: Collaborative Learning, Communications, Creativity and Critical Thinking Any reader of these page knows I’m shouting “Hallelujah” – but any observer of current LAUSD leadership realizes that those four things are not tested or evaluated – and are not high priority. There is federal money to promote Linked Learning and CTE, it was spent on the symposium – but that’s about it.

This is evidenced by the opening remarks from Gerardo Leora, number two person in the Education Branch – who spoke instead of A-G and Common Core Standards, missing the point entirely and leaving early before the good stuff began.

An example: RIGOR @ THE PREP - The students of Mr. Owens Digital Imaging & Video Classes at George Washington Preparatory High School were put to the test when Dean McGill asked then to create a poster to educate everyone of the meaning of "Rigor". Not only that, they were then asked to create an animation to tell the story on how the idea came about. After one month straight of non-stop student/teacher collaboration this video was completed and premiered to the ILC board and the new on-campus advisors. |
None of this is easy, none of it is magic – but it IS working …if only the Powers that Be would notice. And believe.

THE SECOND EVENT SATURDAY WAS THE SAVE THE ARTS BENEFIT SHOW AND ART AUCTION AT ROBERT F. KENNEDY COMMUNITY SCHOOLS IN THE HISTORIC COCOANUT GROVE THEATRE. This was a great event, with student and teacher and professional performers celebrating the value of Arts and Music Education in LAUSD.

The event could’ve been better attended but …set in the jewel of a performance space it had the intimate and eclectic feeling of cabaret (without the cabernet!) about it.

The Academy Awards of 1939 (and the first Golden Globes) were held in the Cocoanut Grove – and portions of that evening in ‘39, with scenes from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were restaged – and honors were presented to founders of the LAUSD Arts Branch. [Earlier in the week PTA honored outgoing-but-never-retiring Arts Ed Branch Director Robin Lithgow - a friend to every child in the the District - at our annual luncheon.]

There was the bittersweet shadow of a wake upon the proceedings: LAUSD’s fabulous Arts and Music Education Program is on the chopping block – it may soon be no more. As one of the hosts said at the curtain call; “Our show is over, but our work is not.”

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

“A wheelbarrow of frogs”: LA GROUPS WANT TEST SCORES PART OF EVALUATIONS - Between a quarter and a third of evaluation score + smf’s 2¢
By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess |

6/01/12 :: Two Los Angeles education groups have offered separate teacher evaluation frameworks that they hope will help break the impasse between Los Angeles Unified and its teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles.

“There is frustration that, even after years of discussion, there still is no new system in Los Angeles,” Mike Stryer, a former Los Angeles Unified teacher who helped create the plan for Our Schools, Our Voice Coalition, said at a news briefing Thursday.

Our Schools, Our Voice Coalition [not to be confused with Our Chilldren, Our Future – which is a good thing. – smf] wants teacher observations to comprise 60 percent of a teacher's evaluation score, followed by student test scores at 25 percent. Source: Our Schools, Our Voice. (Graphic:

The biggest barrier – at this point seemingly uncrossable – is disagreement over the inclusion of student standardized test scores in the evaluation. The district uses a method, Academic Growth over Time, that measures a teacher’s impact on student test results. Superintendent John Deasy wants to include the AGT score in the evaluation, although he has not said how much weight it and other factors would have. UTLA remains adamantly opposed, ¬and devoted considerable space in a 53-page evaluation proposal released in March to argue why, as unsuitable and inaccurate measures, “standardized test scores should play no part in high stakes decisions leading to dismissal.”

Both Our Schools, Our Voice Coalition – with parents, education advocates, and some Los Angeles teachers – and Teach Plus, a national network of teachers with a chapter in Los Angeles, support phasing in AGT, but with conditions. Among requirements under the Our Schools, Our Voice Coalition plan, AGT wouldn’t count unless a course’s curriculum matched the standardized tests and there was a statistically significant sample size. AGT wouldn’t count for probationary teachers. And all test results would remain confidential, inaccessible to the public and the press (no more providing data for publishing in the Los Angeles Times). Use of test scores would be phased in, counting 10 percent the first year, reaching a maximum 25 percent after three years. Teach Plus also advocates starting at 10 percent, working up to a third of a teacher’s evaluation, if benchmarks for test integrity and reliability are met, said John Lee, executive director of Teach Plus Los Angeles.

What the union, the district, and the two outside groups all agree on is that classroom observations should constitute the biggest piece of an evaluation: 60 percent under Our Schools, Our Voice’s plan and at least half, Deasy has indicated, under the district’s. The district is currently training principals in uniform observation rubrics and piloting observations in 100 schools involving 700 teachers. Teach Plus wants teachers to help evaluate their peers in areas requiring content expertise but in a capacity of providing classroom guidance, separate from a formal evaluation with consequences. UTLA favors an expanded use of Peer Assistance and Review, a panel of teachers who counsel teachers needing improvement and recommend dismissal for those who “have been given a real chance to improve but are unable to meet clearly defined standards.” Under the Our Schools, Our Voice recommendations, a mentor will be assigned to a teacher identified as needing intensive support for at least a full year.

Like the district’s eventual plan, Our Schools, Our Voice proposes student surveys (beginning in the third grade), parent surveys, and a measure of contributions to the community – each counting 5 percent. And Our Schools, Our Voice includes a new, intriguing element: a way to identify and reward, with up to a bonus 10 percent score, those teachers who help close the achievement gap for Hispanic students, African American students, and English learners in the bottom quarter who make marked progress.

The release of both organizations’ recommendations is intended to prod UTLA and the district to start talking. But at this point, leverage is more likely to come from the courts or the Legislature.

On Tuesday, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, there will be arguments in a suit brought by the nonprofit EdVoice on behalf of Los Angeles Unified and UTLA over the failure to include standardized tests in evaluations. EdVoice makes a good case that the Stull Act, the 40-year-old state law on teacher evaluations, requires test-score use, but districts like Los Angeles Unified have ignored the provision. A victory by EdVoice – and indirectly for Los Angeles Unified, though named as a defendant – might force UTLA to back off its unqualified opposition to the use of test scores.

Until now, Los Angeles Unified has argued that it has the exclusive right to determine the requirements for an evaluation. It exercised that right in setting up the pilot evaluations, despite the opposition of UTLA. But later this summer, the Senate will likely take up AB 5, sponsored by Democratic San Fernando Valley Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes, which would replace the Stull Act. As currently written, most aspects of an evaluation process would have to be negotiated with unions, which could stretch out adoption of a new system for months, if not years.


••smf’s 2¢: LA Groups? The Byrds were an "LA Group". The Doors. The Beach Boys.

The ‘Teachers” in Our Schools, Our Voice Coalition and the anonymous “Parents” in the EdVoice lawsuit are AstroTurf grass-roots organizations brought together by folks with money and an agenda to contest the issue du jour. There is absolutely nothing wrong with folks, or money or agendae – as long as they stand out there in front of the camera and say “We’re Eli Broad and Bill Gates and Richard Riordan and Steve Poizner and Antonio Villaraigosa and the Walton Family and we approve this message”.

I’m a parent leader with a fair set of credentials and qualifications.

When folks stand up and say they “represent parents” I get suspicious, especially when they do it at a press conference, photo op or media event.

“Parents” are a very eclectic and diverse group …with more opinions than members.

The same goes for “Teachers” …only more so. Every teacher in LAUSD is a UTLA member – but only about 20% vote in UTLA elections.

My favorite recent definition if this kind of diversity came from Speaker of the House Boehner last week when he characterized his Republican caucus as “a wheelbarrow of frogs”.

Parents and Teachers? Like that!

By Tami Abdollah. KPCC Pass/Fail |

31 May 2012 :: John Deasy runs a school district of more than 664,000 students with a budget of nearly $7 billion that is currently $390 million short. But, at the moment, he’s worried about toilet paper.

“Did you get the delivery of toilet paper yesterday?” he asks Principal Reginald Sample of Dorsey High on one of his recent visits. (They did.)

No detail seems too small for L.A. Unified's Superintendent Deasy, who spends a few days each week making staccato surprise visits to the district’s more than 760 schools. The visits leave administrators rushing to catch up and some teachers squirming uneasily as he quizzes students on what they’re learning while class is in session.

When the Boston native completed his first year as the official head of L.A. Unified in April, multiple publications wrote retrospectives on his time at the helm. But Deasy, 51, has emphasized looking forward, and he says there’s no time to waste:

“I’m not going to be interested in looking at third-graders and saying ‘Sorry, this is the year you don’t learn to read,’ or to juniors and saying ‘You don’t get to graduate.' So the pace needs to be quick, and we make no apologies for that."


It’s 8:19 a.m. on a recent Wednesday morning and Deasy is riding through Downtown L.A. in a silver Crown Victoria with a driver who is taking him to four schools in the next three hours and 11 minutes. Seven minutes have gone by and Deasy has made four phone calls.

Deasy’s long working days are now somewhat of district lore: He wakes up at 3 a.m. for a run and gets into the office by 4 or 4:30 a.m., usually finishing up his day by 9 or 10 p.m. About three times a week he goes out to visit schools, making a few stops each day.

The first stop today is Los Angeles High School, which earlier this year had its principal die and on this day has an interim principal in place. The school was also recently visited for the Western Association of Schools & Colleges accreditation, and staff is working on a couple changes to the provisionally accepted public school choice plan. He talks to interim principal Linda Kay about the differences between two bell schedules and what would work best.

“Let me suggest you do it this way,” Deasy says. “What honestly feels like it could work best for L.A. High? What makes the most sense?”

Deasy often asks administrators, “What do you need from me?” As the former chemistry and biology teacher brusquely walks through campus, he picks up a pair of gym shorts left on the floor of a hallway and pops them into a locker.

The school’s public school choice plan was accepted a few weeks later and the school will now begin implementing it. L.A. High also has a new permanent principal in place, and Kay will stay on as a mentor through the end of the school year to ensure a smooth transition.

“The ability to talk to him on what would be positive, how he could help L.A. High School, I felt, was very important,” said Kay in a later interview.


As the district has wrestled with cuts because of increasing reductions in state funding, Deasy is working to restructure L.A. Unified so that it’s more agile at the classroom level.

“It’s why we have shrunk the bureaucracy and have driven a service-center culture, and that is painful to do in a system where bureaucracies are designed to perpetuate themselves,” said Deasy at an interview last month on the 24th floor of the district’s Downtown headquarters. “That is really kind of the center and heart of what we’re attempting to do.”

Instead of eight local districts, there will be four, plus one for most fragile and struggling schools and the most innovative ones, he said.

The district’s hiring for these administrative positions involved a “dramatically different” process from what it’s been in the past, Deasy said. Administrators were asked to analyze instruction, to examine data, and they are asked questions about video clips of teachers in the classroom, Deasy said.

“It’s never good to look backwards, but if we had the funds we had had eight years ago with this restructuring that would have been a really exciting time,” Deasy said. “So, instead, it’s a very challenging time. Not because of how we’re doing it, but because of what we have to spend to get it done.”

On the 24th floor, the remnants of cutting are visible: Rows of cubicles sit empty.

“We have removed 56 percent of all the people so we could fund schools,” Deasy said. “Less than half the central administration is left in two years.”

At the core of Deasy’s efforts is ensuring each student is prepared to enter college when they graduate. He has worked to up the requirements for graduation. But he is criticized sometimes for working too fast or being too sweeping.

“You need to ask the student [if it’s too fast],” Deasy said. “You get one chance to read at grade level, you get one chance to complete algebra…you get one chance to graduate…If you were to go to the parents in many of the organizations that I meet with, they’re saying that we’re moving way too slow.”

“There’s so much more I’d like to do,” Deasy said. “I know that’s probably impossible to believe.”


In a chemistry class at L.A. High, students are in small groups experimenting with pennies and salt water.

“What’s on the surface of the penny?” Deasy asks leaning down next to the students. “Acid,” a student says.

“What did you learn?”

“How to clean pennies.”

A few doors down the hallway in an honors English class, students discuss “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison. “What did you learn?” Deasy asks two boys talking over the lesson. “What is the symbolism of the trees?”

Afterward, Deasy recaps the visit: “It’s better, but there’s an unbelievably long way to go,” he says. “These are just snapshots.”

He runs down the list of classes he popped into in his 45 minutes on campus. The chemistry experiment was “just a task and not complex,” without enough “context” on how the copper penny and sodium chloride fit together. The worksheet required the students to observe a reaction “with very directed responses,” Deasy says. “So much could have been done with that. Why the reaction took place? What are the implications?”

The honors English class impressed him with students working as “elbow partners.” Deasy was able to have “conversation in significant depth on motif and symbolism” and students were able to draw out the symbolism between the trees and what they represent, and the lynching, or taking of life. “That was very rich."


At Dorsey High, the school’s principal Reginald Sample has been working with staff to come up with a new plan to improve its academics. Otherwise, Deasy may reconstitute the school — replace its entire staff — though people may reapply for their jobs.

According to the district’s most recent data from 2010-11, 80 percent of the school’s students were not proficient in English language arts, and 95 percent were not proficient in math. The school's more than 1,500 students are about 55 percent black and 44 percent Latino, with about 71 percent identified as economically disadvantaged.

After a 15-minute talk with Sample, Deasy is ready to check out classes. He walks over to one class taught by the school’s union representative and history teacher Noah Lippe-Klein. Deasy pays a private visit to the teacher who he’s been told has been working to rally teachers to avoid reconstitution.

“I’m very, very concerned that this faculty thinks everything is going to be OK,” Deasy said. “I told him I think you’re leading people off a cliff.”

Lippe-Klein has taught at Dorsey since he started with L.A. Unified 13 years ago and lives just a couple blocks away. He said he has been working countless hours with other teachers to try and come up with a good public school choice plan and does not believe reconstitution is a good alternative.

“A lot of us are deeply worried about the kind of impact that would have on the school,” Lippe-Klein said. “Dorsey’s proficiency rates are not where we want them to be, but there’s a lot of teaching going on campus that is really strong. Lots of teachers are super committed to the community or are alumni that have lived in the community for a really long time and work their butts off to meet the needs of the kid.”

Dorsey has until October to come up with a plan or face reconstitution.

“He’s coming in, wanting to see transformation,” Sample said later in an interview. “And I can’t be mad about that.”

In a 10th grade geometry class, Deasy leans down next to a student working on a problem. He asks him what he’s learning. Then tells him to explain it: “Teach me.”

When the student appears confused, Deasy prods him.

“What’s the biggest clue to figure out what that angle is?” he asks. “Do all obtuse angles when cut by two parallel lines have the same angle?”

Because of its 595 API score, Sample says he sees many neighborhood students stand out on the school steps waiting to take a bus elsewhere each morning. And yet, the school also features some standout teachers, and struggles to hold on to them.

David Wu is in the middle of teaching an honors chemistry class when Deasy enters the room. “He’s one of the most amazing teachers I’ve met in my entire life,” Deasy whispers. He turns to the teacher, who has been accepted to USC Business School, and tells him to “please delay for a year…think about it.” Wu is speechless.

Afterward, Deasy stops to talk to Albert Ha who is teaching biology class to ask him to rethink attending Harvard Medical School.

“I have to stop by when one of our best is going to go somewhere else,” Deasy says. “I get nervous.”

Ha also doesn’t know what to say, but smiles in embarrassment in front of his class.

But Deasy says that there’s not much else he can do: “I show up…write a note to the teachers,” Deasy says. “I’m worried about the exodus of teachers going to business or medical school.”


The third stop of the day is at Stevenson Middle School, a partnership school that has struggled in the past, Deasy says. While he tours the classrooms, he asks the principal to evaluate some of the classes:

“Would you put your kids in these classes?”

“To be honest, no,” Principal Leo Gonzalez says.

“That’s the level you need to be…” Deasy says.

Throughout the campus are murals of college letters, mascots and symbols painted on the walls.

“There’s more of an academic feel to the school,” Deasy says as he walks out. “There’s definitely a big difference, but there’s always room to grow. The school is more under control and teachers are able to focus more on instruction.”


The final stop is Belvedere Middle School, and Deasy discovers Principal Ignacio Garcia is out at a local district meeting.

The visit doesn’t start well. A student is caught outside of class after the bell sounds and Deasy has the student lead him to class. The door is locked and when it’s opened, the teacher is clearly upset with the class, and is having students sit quietly for two minutes.

Down the hall another teacher is reading out loud from John Steinbeck’s “Mice and Men.” A student sits with his head on the table, others don’t appear to be focused on the lesson. Deasy tells one student to take his hat off as he walks by him in the last row, and another to put his drawing book away.

“I’m so distressed,” Deasy says as he walks out of the classroom.

In the next class, Carlos Tejada is talking to students about the Renaissance and about their exam the next day. He tells them that they can either write the definition of a word or draw a picture if they can’t define it. The exam will also include questions on the Bubonic plague, and he asks the students to define it and explain how it’s transferred. They have a hard time with that.

Deasy stands to the side in the dark room starting to grow visibly upset as the lesson continues. After several minutes, he quickly walks out of the classroom, his face flushed red.

“If [L.A. Times columnist] Sandy Banks puts an article in the paper, it’s because of crap like this,” Deasy says in the hallway. “It is so disrespectful to have no expectations of children. It’s every classroom I’ve seen.”

Deasy walks over to the main office: “Could the principal give me a ring when he comes in?”

Tejada did not respond to requests for comment. Principal Garcia got the message when he returned from his meeting.

“I called [Deasy] back, but he must have been very busy, because he didn’t call me back,” said Garcia in a later interview. “He did call, however, District 5 administrators, who in turn called me with information.”

Garcia said none of the teachers approached him to tell him Deasy visited their classroom, and he wasn’t told which teachers were visited. He learned second hand.

“It’s a very short period of time in which to make an assessment,” Garcia said. “Now of course, Dr. Deasy is a special person because he is very experienced in education, he’s quite an authority and a very bright man, but it does take more than a really short period of time to really assess a setting. I don’t have the details of what transpired. I wasn’t given the names of people that were observed.”


When Deasy is walking through a school he is constantly chatting with everyone he sees. Saying hello to students and staff alike. He asks nearly every high school student he talks to where they’re going to college.

But off campus, Deasy has sometimes been criticized for not communicating more openly and broadly. He said he’s always working to get better at communication.

“Communication isn’t bringing a Twitter expert to school,” said Scott Folsom, a longtime parent advocate who watches the district closely. “Communication is drilling in and figuring out how you actually speak to parents and the predominant parent in LAUSD is a first generation Latino-Latina immigrant, struggling really hard.”

Deasy said he needs to connect more with parents and community members in his second year.

“I would say that’s where I personally fell short of my own personal goals [last year] and I don’t intend to fall short about that again,” Deasy said.

School board president Monica Garcia said the district as a whole struggles to communicate with its multifold “stakeholders.”

“Every member of the LAUSD, especially the superintendent, we always have to work on better communicating out what we’re trying to do,” Garcia said.

But she also said Deasy can’t always take the time to get everyone on board.

“John Deasy has a job where cannot wait for consensus, in order to get to serving kids,” Garcia said. “He is always challenged with executing today and building for tomorrow…Things are moving all the time. The scope and scale of the job is incredible.”

Others have brought up teacher morale as a major issue for Deasy to address this next year. The budget, after four years of continuing cuts, remains a heavy challenge for L.A. Unified, but it has also negatively impacted employees who received more than 11,700 preliminary pink slip notices in March, and have had to do a lot more with less: fewer colleagues, less funding, and less support.

“People are very tired,” Deasy said. “I think people are exhausted. I think peoples’ morale is really challenged. Yeah, we take solace in the indicators of what’s happening around attendance and achievement and those are good things, but that can’t be sustained with the fraction of the workforce we have working here.”

School board member Steve Zimmer said sometimes Deasy’s urgency to improve the district can prevent him from “stopping or pausing."

“He brings an incredible passion to our work. It is charged with the most authentic and heartfelt social justice and civil justice urgency,” Zimmer said. But “he needs to be more conscientious of the morale of the organization and the people within that organization, that actually are going to deliver on the civil rights and social justice. Because the inconvenient truth of being superintendent is that he doesn’t get to teach every class. He gets to lead a structure that has to get the energy and urgency down to that classroom level, and to do that, you have to make sure that people are taken care of, and that people feel part of the mission.”

Zimmer said such a change in Deasy's next year at the helm is key because the stakes are so high: “John Deasy represents the last, best hope for change in this public school district."

•• smf’s 2¢: On Dec 1, 1862 Lincoln wrote to Congress: “` In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail.”

I am given to injecting the narrator as a character and witness, wandering off topic and metaphorical excess. It’s my style. It comes from having Melville and Virginia Wolff as literary hero+heroine.

(Did he say heroin? See?)

Lincoln faced challenges impossible to overstate. His turn of phrase here – “the last best hope of earth” equals his own best work (“The better angels of our nature”, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right…”, and those 277 words at Gettysburg) and is on par with his Elizabethan mentors Shakespeare and the translators of the King James Version.

In an interview with KPCC for the article above - where he’s pretty frank about some of Deasy’s shortcomings and even holds Dr. D’s feet ever-so-gently to the fire - Steve Zimmer concludes:

“John Deasy represents the last, best hope for change in this public school district."

This cheapens Lincoln’s rhetoric to cliché, presents an impossible challenge to the already impossible Dr. Deasy, and disappoints those of us who believe(d) that Steve Zimmer might be breath of fresh air, a hope.


By Marc Maloney, SI&A Cabinet Report |

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 :: A new report on chronic absenteeism confirms its status as a major barrier to pupil success but says efforts to define the scope of the problem are hampered by a dearth of absenteeism data.

“The Importance of Being in School,” by researcher Dr. Robert Balfanz of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, found only a handful of states measure and report on chronic absenteeism, which the report defines as missing at least 10 percent of school days in a given year – California being among those who do not keep up with the reporting.

Finalchronicabsenteeismreport may16

“Because it is not measured, chronic absenteeism is not acted upon,” Balfanz notes. “Like bacteria in a hospital, chronic absenteeism can wreak havoc long before it is discovered.”

The report estimates up to 15 percent of students nationwide are chronically absent, meaning as many as 7.5 million students miss enough school to be at severe risk of dropping out or failing to graduate from high school.

The report splits absenteeism into three broad categories:

• Students who cannot attend school due to illness, family responsibilities, housing instability, the need to work or involvement with the juvenile justice system.

• Students who will not attend school to avoid bullying, unsafe conditions, and harassment.

• Students who do not attend school because they, or their parents, do not see the value in being there, they have something else they would rather do, or nothing stops them skipping school.

The study differentiates chronic absenteeism from truancy or average daily attendance, the attendance rate schools use for state report cards and federal accountability.

At the school level, average daily attendance rates largely mask the problem. The report notes a school can have an average daily attendance rate of 90 percent and still have 40 percent of its students chronically absent, since different students comprise that 90 percent on different days.

The true magnitude of the problem likely is understated, Balfanz reported, as his research could find chronic absenteeism reports for only Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Another variable is the different ways in which states measure chronic absenteeism. There are differences in the number of days missed and whether transfer students are included in the counts.

The six states reported chronic absentee rates from 6 percent to 23 percent, with high poverty urban areas reporting up to one-third of chronically absent students. In poor rural areas, one in four students can miss at least a month’s worth of school.

Chronic absenteeism is most prevalent among low-income students, with gender and ethnic backgrounds apparently not a factor. The youngest and the oldest students tend to have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism, with students attending most regularly in grades three through five. The absenteeism rates begin to rise in middle school and continue to climb through grade 12, with seniors often having the highest rate of all.

The negative impact on school success are also noted in the report, which found significant numbers of students in low-income neighborhoods miss staggering amounts of school, sometimes from six months to more than one year, over a five-year period .

Balfanz called out a number of big states, including California and New York, for not collecting individual attendance data and the need to calculate chronic absenteeism.

“Because we don’t measure or monitor the problem, we generally don’t act on it,” said Balfanz. “Left untreated, the problem will likely worsen achievement gaps between rich districts and poor districts and curtail the positive effects of promising current and future reforms.”

Balfanz calls the data reporting problem structural, running from the school to the state to the federal level. Schools know students are missing but don’t examine the data by student to determine individual absenteeism rates.

The impact of missed days is dramatic: chronically absent students are less likely to score well on achievement tests and less likely to graduate. Students who miss 10 percent of school days on average score in the 30th percentile on standardized reading and math tests, compared to those with zero absences, who score in the 50th percentile.

After evaluating data from multiple states and school districts, researchers concluded consistently high chronic absenteeism is the strongest predictor of dropping out of high school, stronger than course failures, suspensions or test scores. Data from Georgia showed a very strong relationship between attendance in grades eight, nine, and 10 and graduation, with as much as a 50 percentage-point difference in graduation rates for students who missed five or fewer days compared to those who missed 15 or more days.

The report’s other findings include:

• Students who are chronically absent in one year likely will be so in subsequent years and may miss more than a half-year of school over four or five years.

• Urban schools often have chronic absentee rates as high as one third of students, while poor rural areas are in the 25 percent range.

• While the problem affects youth from all backgrounds, children in poverty are more likely to be chronically absent. In Maryland, chronic absentee rates for poor students exceeded 30 percent, compared to less than 12 percent for students from more affluent families.

• Chronically absent students tended to be concentrated in a relatively small number of schools. In Florida, 52 percent of chronically absent students were in just 15 percent of schools.

• In some school districts, kindergarten absenteeism rates are nearly as high as those in high school.

• In a nationally representative data set, chronic absence in kindergarten was associated with lower academic performance in first grade. The impact is twice as great for students from low-income families.

Despite the connections between absenteeism and lack of success in school, the report does offer an encouraging note about attendance.

“Students need to attend school daily to succeed,” it says. “The good news of this report is that being in school leads to succeeding in school.”

To reduce chronic absenteeism, the report suggests instituting aggressive attendance campaigns, and having the federal government, state departments of education, and school districts regularly measure and report the rates of chronic absenteeism and regular attendance for every school.

It also says mayors and governors must play critical roles in leading inter-agency task forces that bring health, housing, justice, transportation, and education agencies together to coordinate efforts to help every student attend every day.

To view the entire report, see

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EVENTS: Coming up next week...

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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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