Sunday, July 15, 2012

Microsoft+China; Penn State+Miramonte, Stockton + San Bernardino

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids:Sunday•15•July•2012 St. Swithin's Day
In This Issue:
 •  One-half turned away in “summer squeeze”: LAUSD OFFERS LIMITED SUMMER SCHOOL CLASSES
 •  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?

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The lessons-to-be-learned, dots-to-connect-and money-to-be-followed-in the child abuse scandals at Penn State, the Catholic Church and LAUSD; in the failures of leadership at Microsoft and in American public education; and in fiscal mismanagement the bankrupt municipalities of California are many and varied. Some connections are obvious, others not so much to the point of nebulousness. And I am not about to attempt to connect it all in a neat package.

If there is a package it’s not neat – but my thinking is in that direction. All are failures of institutions.Of reporting and accountability, of leadership and vision, of accounting and fiduciary responsibility. All are of a piece; all predate the current recession but are complicated by it.
• Berndt was at Miramonte for 30 years, Sandusky at Penn State for 43.
• The Stockton/San Bernardino boom-and-bust is a decade’s long cycle, classic economic bubbles.
• The business models of Microsoft in the past decade and the Drill, Kill and Test model of Asian education were always suspect. The Singapore Model worked in the twentieth century corporate-managed city-state …but when brought to scale in twenty-first century China, was neither scalable nor manageable nor durable.

It is simple to say that there always have been child predators. It is easy to say there have always been well meaning leaders who make bad decisions or lead in the wrong direction: the biblical Books of Kings chronicles four centuries of them. There have always been governments who spend more than they take in; history abounds municipal failures and bankruptcies. New York City almost went bankrupt in 1975 – saved, ironically, by the teacher’s union investing in municipal bonds. (I can’t see that union bailing out Mayor Bloomberg in 2012!)

Check out the Vanity Fair article on Microsoft [Stack Ranking, Microsoft’s Downfall?] and the Times editorial on the Chinese Education [following]. Weigh Microsoft’s practice of Stack Ranking against Value Added Teacher Assessment. Seeing as how we are piling things on the scale: put on data-driven (rather than peer-reviewed/research based) decision making and the drive to privatize, deregulate and deunionize public education. Add on Race to the Top and high-stakes standardized testing and then Common Core Standards -- which is Standardizing the Standards … and the Curriculum. And the Tests… and the Textbooks and the Teachers. Because, after all, teachers are content delivery vehicles. Connect this back to the beneficent billionaires and their surrogates, prophets and profiteers who support all this ®eform.

Don’t be afraid to jump to the odd and/or obvious conclusion.

Become informed.

JUDGE FREEH'S 267-PAGE REPORT ON PENN STATE [] says top university officials forged an agreement to conceal Sandusky's sexual attacks more than a decade ago. "Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh wrote. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

“All of us here today understand that it is the duty of adults to protect children and to immediately report any suspected child sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities.”

LAUSD is currently investigating – on their own – thousands cases of “possibly” unreported child abuse and/or teacher misconduct. …including 604 in the past 4 years –even though state law requires immediate reporting to police or child protective services – plus the office of teacher credentialing -- and despite the fact that LAUSD is NOT supposed to investigate, just report.

SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN CALIFORNIA DO NOT HAVE THE OPTION OF DECLARING TITLE 9 BANKRUPTCY LIKE CITIES DO – California has a special mechanism similar to bankruptcy for taking over and restructuring school districts. 12 school districts in California, including Inglewood Unified are on a watch list for possible failure this year, 26 districts, including L.A. Unified, in LA County may not have sufficient cash in the current and two subsequent fiscal years. (And then there’s San Diego Unified, who manages to pass “balanced” budgets while slipping closer and closer to insolvency with every board meeting!)

School districts and cities have the ability to negotiate low cost short term loans against anticipated revenue (TRAN: Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes) to meet payroll and operating costs – even when the state delays payment. Charter schools do not – when they miss payroll they go out of business and close their doors on that day – with students reverting and returning to their local school district. We can anticipate a lot of this in the future, especially if state revenues and cash flow do not pick up.

When a school district in California goes into receivership the superintendent is fired and the board of education creases to have trustee authority (they get to keep their offices and salaries.) A Receiver is appointed to operate the district – accountable to the state – which lends operating funds – and the County Office of Education, overseen by a state agency called the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team/FCMAT. Collective bargaining agreements can be abrogated, and the receiver is responsible for seeing that children are educated in accordance with the Ed Code and standard accounting practice …in that order.. The receiver runs the district until the operating loan is repaid. FCMAT ran Compton Unified from 1993 to 2003 – when Compton was taken over for fiscal and educational failure.

In Inglewood the teacher’s union – even though their contract could get tossed out – currently supports state takeover – taking a “How can things get any worse than they are now?” attitude.

It’s an attitude that might get resonance here in LAUSD.

THE IMMEDIATE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED are that we in LAUSD must get much better at electing and choosing leaders -- and our electeds and their chosen need to get more effective at running a school district. We must do better at identifying and reporting adult aberrant behavior and keeping kids safe. And we need to be much better at maximizing and accounting-for our fiscal resources – and prioritizing and expending them.

In the long term there are no easy answers, just hard work. We are a community and the business of communities is communion and communication. Among ourselves. For the children

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf



LA Times Editorial |

July 15, 2012

The people of a large and mighty nation wonder why their schools can't do more to imitate those of another large, powerful nation across the Pacific Ocean. But this time it's not the United States seeking to emulate the schools of an Asian country — it's China seeking to emulate ours, at least to some extent.

China is pushing for more emphasis on building creative skills and less on high-stress, high-stakes testing, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Under the existing system, a single entrance exam determines whether students attend college, and which one. Talk about teaching to the test: The last year of high school is often given over to cramming for the exam. In at least one classroom, students were placed on intravenous drips of amino acids in preparation for the test, in the belief that it would help their memories and provide an energy boost; in another sad case, a girl was not told about her father's death for two months to avoid disrupting her studies.

The recent backlash against the tests includes complaints that students are being fed facts by rote rather than being taught to think critically and create. Two years ago, Premier Wen Jiabao lamented the failure of Chinese schools to turn out innovative thinkers with strong analytical skills. "We must encourage students to think independently, freely express themselves, get them to believe in themselves, protect and stimulate their imagination and creativity," he said. He even quoted Albert Einstein's famous line about imagination being more important than knowledge.

DATABASE: California schools guide

This isn't the first time that a nation with a top-ranked education system has sought to reproduce some of the qualities that have long marked American schools. Ten years ago, Japan embarked on a series of major reforms to reduce stress, de-emphasize memorization and foster more creative thinking. It shortened the school calendar (from six days a week to five) and adopted curricula that encouraged children to create their own projects. More control was placed in local hands, a move away from centralized authority. A few years earlier, Singapore took similar steps.

The reason these nations are concerned isn't just that they want their students to feel fulfilled and happy. The ability to innovate, and to analyze and solve problems, is seen worldwide as crucial for adapting to the fast-changing global economy. But it is all part of a long-standing tension between the need for academic rigor and the need to foster creativity.

The pendulum swing between the two has been particularly wide in the United States. During the 1990s, Americans lamented the lower academic standards here, especially when compared with nations such as Japan. The sense that American children were falling behind in the developed world — bolstered by international test results in which the United States ranked as mediocre, and given a sense of urgency by the numbers of disadvantaged and minority students who were leaving school without even basic skills — resulted in the 2001 passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, with its heavy emphasis on standardized tests and rigid benchmarks of progress.

Now, even though academic performance among U.S. students is still lagging, many parents and educators are complaining that the push toward a standard curriculum and standardized tests is bleeding lessons of liveliness, and that schools do too little to foster creativity and analytical thinking. They're not entirely wrong. In keeping with the tests, which are mostly multiple choice, schools have assigned less writing and project work. Teachers have tried to make sure they go over every speck of material that might be on the tests, and because the approved curriculum tends toward the broad and shallow, there's a lot of short-answer information to cover but not much depth to explore.

Aiming higher on academics shouldn't have to mean leaving deeper or more open-ended thinking skills behind. No one in the American school reform movement ever told teachers they had to abandon their own creative instructional skills or drop critical-thinking lessons from the school day, but the relentless emphasis on covering tested material obviously pushed them in that direction.

The switch over the next few years in many states, including California, to the so-called common core standards, which emphasize learning fewer things in greater depth, should help somewhat but still falls short. State and federal officials endlessly debate the role of test scores in teacher evaluations, but they pay too little attention to enabling teachers and students to take academic risks — considered essential to building creativity — while ensuring that vital academic material is still covered. It's not easy to figure out how schools can balance creativity with academic rigor, productive thinking with knowledge. The nations that do so will have the competitive edge in the future.

One-half turned away in “summer squeeze”: LAUSD OFFERS LIMITED SUMMER SCHOOL CLASSES
By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer | LA Daily News |

7/09/2012 05:41:20 PM PDT/ Updated: 07/09/2012 06:19:33 PM PDTA line of students snaked out the door of the Canoga Park High School attendance office Monday morning, with scores of teens hoping to get a seat in Los Angeles Unified's smallest-ever summer school program.

It was the start of the four-week session, but any first-day cheer was tempered by the grim reality of 10,000 students scrambling for just 5,000 slots in the district's drastically scaled-back summer program.

"We're trying to squeeze in as many as we can," Assistant Superintendent Alvaro Cortes said. "Almost every class has from the high 30s to the low 40s as far as the number of students enrolled."

With a bare-bones budget of $1 million, the district's Beyond the Bell branch is offering summer school at only 16 of its high schools. Classes are limited to core subjects and enrollment to failing students - seniors get priority - who need to make up credits to graduate.

Friends Veronica Hernandez and Samara Vasquez, both 16, weren't thrilled at the prospect of spending the summer studying rather than relaxing, but figured there would be fewer distractions than during a traditional school year.

"I'm really hoping it's going to be simpler," Hernandez said of her math class.

Brianna Rojas, 15, found herself at the end of a long line as she arrived at Canoga Park High about 8 a.m., hoping to enroll in a history or English class.

"I need these classes for credit recovery," she said. "I don't know what I'll do if I don't get in."

But half of the 10 classes on the Canoga Park roster - core subjects like health, English, math and U.S. and world history - were already full by the time Rojas arrived.

"In past years, we'd ask students what they needed and would create the classes," said Judy Vanderbok, the principal for Canoga Park High's summer school program.

"This year, we were told what we'd be offering.

"I'm taking all the kids, then I'm going to call Beyond the Bell and ask to start new classes. But I don't know what's going to happen."

There are alternatives for students who got aced out of a seat in Los Angeles Unified but still want to make up a class or two.

Options for Youth operates a system of charter schools around Southern California and is still enrolling students in its guided independent study program.

"Most students are there to retake classes they failed or catch up on classes they need to stay on track to graduate," Deputy Superintendent Bill Toomey said.

Options for Youth has about 18,000 students enrolled in summer school, up from about 13,000 last year and 10,000 in 2010.

"We've seen a steady increase since the districts' budgets got hit," he said. "Some of the students are from surrounding districts, but the bulk are from LAUSD."

The district's current program is a far cry from just a few years ago, when Beyond the Bell had a $42 million budget for summer school. There were credit-recovery classes then, too, but students could also take courses to get ahead academically or simply to enrich their education.

But as the state's budget crisis shrunk education funding, Cortes found himself facing an increasingly bleak bottom line. Not only were course offerings limited this year, but he had to cancel online classes because the district couldn't provide the technical support. Those courses were converted to traditional classes instead.

Next year, he said, will be even worse.

"We've been told not to expect any money next year," he said. "So this could be the last year of summer school. But we're going to battle this thing."


Traditional L.A. Unified schools may have to give up computer labs, parent centers and other rooms to charters under a court order.

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

July 12, 2012 :: Los Angeles school officials are fighting a court order, which took effect Wednesday, that would set aside more classroom seats for charter schools — even if that means traditional schools will lose space for parent centers, computer labs, academic intervention and other services.

Under state law, school districts must offer space to charters that is "reasonably equivalent" to that provided for students in traditional schools. Charters are independently run and are exempt from union contracts and many rules that apply to regular campuses.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green required the school district to make new offers based on a different formula than one it had been using.

Charter advocates see the ruling as ensuring long-overdue compliance with the law — with the potential to provide huge cost savings as well as hard-to-find, quality classrooms.

Locating and paying for classroom space is "one of the largest burdens for charter schools throughout California," said attorney Ricardo Soto, who represents the California Charter Schools Assn., which sued the Los Angeles Unified School District. "Charter schools are growing. Their enrollments are growing. We were very glad that the judge found in our favor."

L.A. Unified officials predicted severe consequences in the years to come. The school system has more independent charters, 186, than any other in the U.S., comprising 14% of total enrollment — more than 93,000 students.

"The district will be forced to cut the vast majority, if not all, intervention and enrichment spaces as well as displace children from their neighborhood schools," attorney David Huff said.

For next fall, the hardships would affect just a handful of traditional campuses — because only five charter schools have said they want to consider new, expanded offers right away.

Neighborhood schools could lose 27 "set aside" classrooms, including those used for academic intervention, testing, music, psychologists, counselors and a college/career center, Huff said.

On Tuesday, the district asked the court to reconsider its decision. The school system is also preparing an appeal.

At issue is how to determine the number of classrooms provided to charters. The district, for example, allots its high school space based on 30 students per classroom; it did the same for charters. Under that formula, the school district provided a seat for every eligible charter student whose school applied for space — a vast improvement in district offers compared with past years.

But the charter association said the district also should factor in rooms not being used for regular classes, such as those for small numbers of severely disabled students, parent centers and computer labs.

Charters would receive more space under that calculation, the association said.

The association suspects that the district is using its formula to conceal under-utilized rooms that should be available.

In court documents, the association said that the district has crowded classrooms partly because of union contracts and how it allocates resources. Charters, the association asserted, should not be forced to have large classes just because the district has them.

The fight over classroom space has persisted for years. Most charters have had to find or build their own campuses. Many have also complained that district offers have been unacceptable.

Groups from neighborhood schools have often protested against charters sharing their campuses, but such arrangements also have proved manageable.

The association and L.A. Unified reached a settlement in 2008 over access to campuses. But charter advocates returned to court to enforce the agreement, most recently in May, alleging that L.A. Unified was failing to comply with legal obligations.


By John Fensterwald, EdSource Today |

July 8th, 2012 :: Gov. Jerry Brown has named Bruce Holaday, who for five years ran the military charter school in Oakland that Brown founded, the next member of the State Board of Education.

The governor’s nontraditional appointment to the 11-member board was long in coming. Former member Greg Jones resigned 18 months ago, and two other members’ terms expired in January.

Holaday, 59, currently does fundraising and designs teacher workshops and programs for at-risk youths as the director of educational advancement at Wildlife Associates, a nonprofit in Half Moon Bay that offers conservation education to schools. For most of his career, Holaday has taught and been an administrator at military schools, although he didn’t attend a military academy or serve in the military.

For 28 years he held various positions, including English teacher, development director, and administrator of a large summer school and camps, at the Culver Academies, a century-old private military school in Northern Indiana. Then, in 2004, Brown, who started the school in 2001, and the board of Oakland Military Institute hired him as the fledgling school’s superintendent. In 2009, he helped found Newpoint Tampa High School, an online charter school in Florida.

“My background is not typical for this position,” Holaday said in a telephone interview. “The governor knows my background, and he seems to think I might be helpful in a number of ways.”

One way may be to help rethink the state’s accountability system, a topic on the agenda at Holaday’s first State Board meeting next week. Brown has criticized the use of standardized tests and quantitative measures as sole gauges of a school’s success and cited the importance of softer, qualitative measures like participation in extracurricular activities and sports, discipline records, and parental satisfaction. He has pointed to the work of the Oakland Military Institute in building character.

Serving boys and girls in grades 6-12, the school stresses discipline and leadership as key elements of achieving the school’s mission of preparing all students for college. The vast majority of its graduates have gone on to four-year schools; only a handful of students annually apply to West Point and the military academies.

Students wear uniforms. Boys keep their hair cut short; girls wear theirs in buns. All march in formation daily. The school has ties to the California National Guard.

A backlash against the Vietnam War wiped out dozens of military schools in the 1970s, but within the past decade there has been a resurgence of the military model in magnet and charter schools attracted to its “clear and distinct purpose and direct approach to behavior and values,” said Holaday, comparing it with the Boy Scouts when done well.

“The heart and soul of good military schools are patterns of ritual and traditions, knowing that each year the traditions will go on,” he said. “A lot of day-to-day responsibility is given to kids. It’s a good thing to hand over reins to kids, who rise to the occasion in wonderful ways.”

The military model “is not for everyone, and I would not impose it on anyone else,” he said, but other district schools could find aspects useful, such as its success in creating a school culture.

During Holaday’s tenure at Oakland Military Institute, the school’s API score fluctuated in the mid- to upper 600s, below the state’s target of 800. There was some tension with parents who wanted a more hard-edged military school, as this 2007 article from the East Bay Express indicated.

Holaday attended public schools and graduated with a B.A. in English and education from the University of Illinois. He also has a Master’s in education from the University of Indiana. He grew up in Champagne, Ill., home of the university where his father was a professor of drama. His mother had a Ph.D in French. He didn’t have to travel far for the job with Culver Academies; it’s on the same lake in Indiana as the family’s summer cottage.

Holaday’s appointment requires a two-thirds vote of the State Senate.
Nominees to the CSU Board of Trustees

Also on Friday, Brown appointed the founder of a bilingual radio station in Fresno and a corporate attorney to the California State University Board of Trustees.

Hugo Morales, 63, a graduate of Harvard Law School, migrated from Mexico at age 9. He has been executive director at Radio Bilingüe Inc., which he started in 1980. In 1994, he received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called “genius award.” He received the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1999. Lupe Garcia, 43, of Alameda, has served in multiple positions at Gap Inc. since 1999, including associate general counsel, senior corporate counsel, and corporate counsel. She is a member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
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Munger does not appeal but Jarvis Taxpayers takes it up: COURT OF APPEALS ASKS STATE OFFICIAL WHY SHE PUT BROWN’S TAX INITIATIVE FIRST...


One-half turned away in “summer squeeze”: LAUSD OFFERS LIMITED SUMMER SCHOOL CLASSES: By Barbara Jones, Staff Wr...

WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY AND CRIMINAL DOES CALIFORNIA DESERVE?: by Paul Murre, President, California College Demo...

Theatre Review: FIRST-RATE EDUCATION IN ‘A CHILD LEFT BEHIND’: By Philip Brandes, LA Times | ...

LAUSD FIGHTS COURT ORDER TO GIVE MORE SPACE TO CHARTER SCHOOLS: Traditional L.A. Unified schools may have to giv...


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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