Sunday, November 24, 2013

Testing, testing 1-3-2

4LAKids:Sunday 24•Nov•2013 Happy Thanksgivukkah
In This Issue:
 •  A COSTLY GIFT …..from the past
 •  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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 •  4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
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Between California’s kerfuffle with the federal mandate for standardized testing and LAUSD’s shenanigans with iPads – both in the name of the Common Core State Standards – the Common Core could get a bad name.

There is plenty of cause for concern about the Common Core [“Common Core Unrest Obvious in 17 States”] but on the Left Coast we choose our own battles, controversies, shenanigans+kerfuffles.

If you haven’t been following it, the US Department of Education and the California Dept of Education (and Governor Brown and Ed Secretary Duncan) have issues – dating from previous Ed Sects and Governors over previous standards, API v. AYP and teacher evaluation that can best be boiled down to: “Who’s in charge of public education in California?”

After all, the feds provide 11.8% of school funding …why shouldn’t they run the show?

Earlier this year the legislature – egged-on the governor and the state Dept of Ed and the teachers unions - did away with federally mandated high-stakes standardized testing for this year, signaling The End of the World as the feds and the testing companies know it.

The C.O.R.E. districts (including LAUSD) panicked – they had made their own Mephistophelean deal with Duncan and the Feds. “OMG: How can we evaluate teachers using standardized tests if there are no standardized tests?”

Arne and The Feds have threatened to withhold federal education funds – as much as $3.5 billion – if California doesn’t restore the tests. (The message here was very mixed and from the first both sides sought cover …even Arne said he wouldn’t withhold that much!) But the threat of the carrot and the stick paid off first with one compromise: to give one test in either English or Math – and then last week’s offered compromise to test in both subjects.

“Offered Compromise” over-describes and under-explains the situation – because it has been offered to the citizenry and the media and the education community – but not yet to the Feds. This was a trial balloon – or a test case for the testing of the test. (see: CALIFORNIA SWITCHES TESTING PLANS …BUT MAY STILL RISK LOSING $3.5 BILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDS Stay tuned, but hold that thought; we will be returning to this twisted strand of the story later in this essay.

TUESDAY BEFORE LAST in an endless and fairly well documented meeting the LAUSD Board of Ed and Superintendent Deasy labored and gave birth to a convoluted and not-very-well-documented compromise over three hours that seemingly gave everybody everything they wanted in terms of iPads+Laptops. In actuality the compromise only authorized the superintendent to go to the Bond Oversight Committee and ask for the iPads for phase 2 and laptops for the woefully-named Phase 1L …plus a few more extra items like 49,000 keyboards and 2000 carts + 67,000 iPads for testing and 28,000 iPads so every teacher and administrator in the District could have one.

ON WEDNESDAY The Oversight Committee approved the 25,000 Phase 2 iPads to equip 38 schools and the Phase 1L laptops to equip 7 high schools …and sent back the “but wait …there’s more!” extras

● We sent back the keyboards because there was no cost detail attached to the program. No blank checks.
● We sent back the teacher and administrator iPads because we question whether all those people need all those iPads now …when most students won’t have them until 2015-16.
● We sent back the testing iPads+carts questioning the estimate of need – especially as no inventory has been made of all the computers the District already owns+operates in classrooms.

TO BE CLEAR: The oversight committee did not say “No way/No how.” We simply ask for more justification and detailed cost estimates and a delivery timeline.
● We also request a through program review and evaluation of Phase 1 and then Phase 2: What are the educational goals? Are we meeting them?
● We requested a review of all the Pearson software content no later than March 1. Show me the content.
● We want to see a plan for maintenance, replacement and continuation of the Common Core Technology Program when the Apple/Pearson contract expires in 2016.
● We want to see the legal questions definitively answered (They are still working on that Parent Responsibility Form…and what about taking them home?) …as well as the strategy for bond finance of short term assets.
● We want to see the impact of the iPads project on the facilities build and repair program: What won’t be doing if we buy all these iPads?

During the presentation District staff attempted to offer last minute/back o’ th’ envelope cost estimates – and the BOC chair shot that down. He didn’t say: “Do your homework!” – but he might as well have. As representatives of the voters and taxpayers the Bond Oversight Committee doesn’t want guestimates – we want boring through detailed cost projections and needs assessments.

The Times wrote; “The [Oversight Committee] vote is advisory, but Supt. John Deasy has been unwilling to oppose the panel.”

The Daily News: “’I’ll be finalizing my recommendation to the board over Thanksgiving break,’ Deasy said. ‘I am considering adjustments after listening to the concerns raised by the Bond Oversight Committee.’”

The superintendent can ask the Board of Ed to reject the Bond Oversight Committee’s recommendations; he does so at his own peril. The Board could accept the superintendent’s proposal and reject the BOC’s advice. I believe that would break hard won faith and trust with the voters and taxpayers. There is a glaring example of the Board working outside Bond Oversight Committee advice - and its name is “Belmont Learning Center”|

…Or the superintendent and his team can return next month, next year or when the time is right with the numbers which we ask and with a convincing argument for what he asks.

REMEMBER HOW YOU WERE HOLDING THAT THOUGHT ABOUT TESTING? The new testing paradigm, if accepted by the feds, simplifies the ask for the iPads and the pressure for testing. There will be one test – not two - combined English and Math, given in a single 3½ hour sitting, lightening the demand on computers, students and teachers.

Don’t let this get by without chewing on it: The Smarter Balanced Field Test to be given this spring will be the farthest thing from “high stakes”. The old California STAR Tests never counted for much except evaluating schools and (in Dr. Deasy’s dreams) teachers. No college admissions officer or prospective employer ever asked to see a student’s STAR results. This year the test scores for students, teachers and schools will not be known; it is a Test of the Test solely for the benefit of the Testers. And perhaps practice for the kids and teachers. As it is not even a full test how can it serve to benchmark future results? Why do the feds even care except that it shows they can make us do it? I fail to see the benefit to the taxpayers and voters. The Smarter Balanced Field Test is a distraction subtracting from instruction.

RETIRED PRINCIPAL AND LONG TIME 4LAKIDS READER/FREQUENT CORRESPONDENT DAN BASALONE writes from retirement in Idaho: “While I am glad to hear that the Board passed Monica Ravitch's motion to scale back the distribution of the iPads, the entire program needs to be taken off the table.

“LAUSD has experience with the payroll fiasco of a few years back to draw from when getting involved in a billion dollar program. The payroll technology was presented as a 70 million dollar investment and years later the total cost was far greater. Look what is happening with the Affordable Care Act.

“Has a survey been taken to see where students already have personal computers in sufficient quantity at schools and where there is a technology gap which could be filled with longer library hours and computer center hours. Weren't community schools where libraries and other facilities stayed open longer a goal of the District in years gone by? And, isn't this an area where the Mayor of Los Angeles could better support schools by making the area around schools be safer for students and parents to use during evening hours?

“While I don't currently work in LAUSD, I do have a very real interest in the schools of LAUSD after serving for 40 years in the District.

“Hmmm...which company will hire Deasy has a high priced consultant when he is fired at LAUSD...will it be Apple, Pearson or Microsoft? Isn't anyone in the LAUSD ethics office concerned about sweetheart contracts? Why aren't teachers and local school administrators selecting the methods to deliver curriculum to their students with parental input where appropriate? There are many older schools in LAUSD that could certainly use the one billion dollars that the citizens in LAUSD voted to build new schools and refurbish older schools. Deasy is not an educator, nor is anyone on the Board who supports his corporate schemes. Smaller class size, more counselors, especially college counselors in high school, librarians, art, music and PE teachers in elementary schools along with principals and assistant principals in all schools would improve education..not drill and test technology. Test scores in Grades 1 - 3 increased dramatically when class size was reduced to 20 to 1. Didn't that experience teach the Board Members anything?

“The Board needs a true educator as Superintendent. One who will support and enforce the policies of this new Board majority. The electorate voted for change..and the major change that a Board makes is that of naming a Superintendent who will reflect the change.”

OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST THIS WEEK: The California Legislative Analyst Office reported Wednesday the minimum funding guarantee for schools next year is likely to be $8 billion higher than current spending. The LAO is suggesting existing debts should be priorities before new programs or service expansions are considered. Among the current obligations that should be at the top of the list, he said, are those owed to schools – the $6.2 billion in appropriation deferrals and $4.8 billion in unpaid mandate claims.
However… (there is always ‘However..’) The LAO is predicting that even its healthy revenue projections for Proposition 98 funding will not be enough to fully fund the Local Control Funding Formula in eight years, as the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown is counting on

LAST WEEK AN LAUSD MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER POSTED ON HIS FACEBOOK PAGE: “Thinking a lot about the "almost fight" today between two of my 7th graders today. I stopped being a PE teacher and tried to just be an empathetic adult, helping these two boys-becoming-teenagers process their intense feelings, pain, and anger with each other. I was very proud of the courage it took to hang in there and keep talking through the tears Mr. S and Mr. R. Your willingness to try to dialogue gives me hope. Of course, it would give me even more hope if LAUSD would fund a real counselor and PSW for every school, so our youth could be properly supported in their growth.”

smf: Thank you Daniel for being the adult who was/is/will be there for those young men as they grow. As people and committees in Beaudry grapple with policy and process and bulletins [Ignoring the speed-bumps: THE CHALLENGE OF AUTHENTICALLY IMPLEMENTING SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICY IN LAUSD] you are doing the real work

I agree that every school needs those missing staff members: counselors and PSWs and nurses and librarians – but in the long run it isn’t just the school that needs those folks.
●it’s the kids – whether they are Early Childhood Ed kidlets or nineteen year old seniors struggling to get those last few credits.
●It’s educators like yourself who need the support.
●It’s the City of Angels we aspire to be that needs the support …the community our schools are the vibrant, throbbing heart of.

There is no app for that.

Children, especially middle-schoolers are rarely appreciative – it’s not in their job description. For Thanksgiving I am thankful that you are there. And for Chanukah/The Festival of Lights I celebrate the light that you and your colleagues light every day. And as it’s Budget Season – let’s get you and yours, our schools and these kids the things you need – not the shiny sparkly things from the Apple Store.

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Chanukah.
The two are not expected to occur simultaneously again until 2070, then 2165, then in another 70,000 years.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf


By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News |

11/19/13, 11:44 AM PST :: Debra Duardo, a former high-school dropout who went on to earn her doctorate and to head LAUSD’s dropout-prevention program, was announced Tuesday as the recipient of a $75,000 fellowship from the Durfee Foundation.

Duardo, executive director of the Student Health and Human Services Division, will plans to use the two-year award to decrease chronic absenteeism, a strong predictor of dropout rates.

“Congratulations to Debra on this richly deserved honor,” said Superintendent John Deasy. “She has done remarkable work in addressing the problem of student drop outs. Largely through her efforts, the LAUSD is making considerable strides in reducing the drop rate and keeping students focused on graduating.”

Duardo was hired as a Los Angeles Unified as an attendance counselor in 1996, after working 12 years for the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women.

Duardo was among six recipients of the fellowship, which is awarded to civic leaders working to improve life for Los Angeles residents. She is the first school district employee to receive the award.


Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Update | Week of November 25, 2013 |

Nov. 21, 2013 :: As the LAUSD Board of Education moved forward with its Common Core Technology Project to provide iPads to all students last week, it took a step backward in the decision to not restore Title I funding to schools within the 40 – 49 percent threshold. In a 3-3 vote with one member abstaining, Tamar Galatzan’s and Monica Ratliff’s resolution, which would have allowed 23 schools to regain the Title I funds that they lost in 2011 when the cut-off for participation was raised from 40% poverty to 50% by Superintendent Deasy with Board acquiescence, failed. While we have disagreed with Ms. Galatzan on occasions in the past, we support her and Ms. Ratliff in this effort. Despite the pleas of children, parents, teachers and administrators, the Board was unable to reach a majority vote, thereby compelling the resolution to fail. It would have cost only $1.4 million to include these 23 schools in the budget, or a reduction of less than $5 per student at the schools that are currently in the program.

When one looks at the ever escalating costs of the iPad project, it is mind-boggling to try to understand why Board Members would be so divided about a million dollars. To the 23 schools, it means the loss of counselors, clerical support, library aides, after-school programs and other supplemental activities. We’re guessing that the schools would gladly give up some of their iPads to get back some tangible resources that have proven their effectiveness. We are aware that the construction bond money being used for the devices cannot be spent on salary or personnel, but we are just as sure that the $1.4 million needed could be found elsewhere. How can one justify committing the District to a $1 billion project that has a shelf life of 3-5 years, requiring new curriculum purchases after 3, when schools are still suffering from the budget cuts of 2009 that reduced staffing, resources and maintenance?

We understand that Board Members must represent their districts, but they must also act in the best interests of all of the children in LAUSD. In this case, they acted with blinders on, only looking at their respective areas and adamantly refusing to give up anything, even if it was for the greater good. We know that this is a difficult issue with compelling arguments on both sides, but on a day when a vote was taken to barrel ahead on an ill-prepared plan for iPads costing $1 billion and rising, it seems irresponsible, uncompassionate and miserly to deny these 23 schools a few extra dollars. Board Member Bennett Kayser, who abstained from voting, intends to raise the issue at the meeting of the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee on December 12, 2013. Hopefully, this will result in an agreement to revisit the motion at the full meeting of the Board of Education in January. If not, the old adage, penny-wise and pound-foolish, seems especially appropriate.

By Michael Hiltzik, LA Times Business columnist |

5:14 PM PST, November 20, 2013 :: One thing about cautionary tales -- the cautions just seem to proliferate as time marches on. That certainly seems to be the case with the Los Angeles Unified School District's increasingly fraught involvement with education by iPad.

In the latest development documented by my indefatigable colleagues Howard Blume and Stephen Ceasar, it turns out that the district costs for the software on its thousands of student-friendly tablets could be $60 million a year higher than anticipated.

That's because the licenses for the educational programs installed on the devices expire after three years. Originally, the district was led to believe that once the programs were paid for, they belonged to LAUSD, lasting "as long as the iPads themselves," as Blume and Ceasar write. But no. As LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff extracted from a district staffer, "at the end of three years, that content is going to disappear or we're going to be violating something by attempting to use this content."

The most obvious lesson to be learned from this is the necessity of dotting your i's and crossing your t's when you contract for any goods or services with a vendor. That sort of fiasco can happen whether you're a public body purchasing chalk, floor wax or electricity.

But what's more important is that this belated discovery that software commonly isn't sold but leased (anyone who owns a computer running on Microsoft Windows and using Microsoft Word should know this already), gives the lie to a fundamental rationale put forth for moving from books to computer tablets. That rationale is that books go out of date but software is infinitely upgradable.

Yes, but at a price. The question is whether that price is worth it, and the answer in this case is no. At issue is the tablet-based English and math curriculum, which is hardly subject to cutting-edge changes. As I've pointed out in the past, the text of, say, "Romeo and Juliet" has been pretty much locked down since 1709. Even if you're inclined to teach by multimedia, the Bax Luhrmann MTV-style movie version came out in 1996 and isn't likely to get upgrading unless it's for 3-D. (And who needs that?) And it isn't as though high school calculus needs rethinking, even with new discoveries in particle physics.

The aspect of technology-based teaching that never gets the attention it deserves is the cost of ownership. Tablets need to be fixed or replaced, for hundreds of dollars a shot. And as the LAUSD has discovered, software isn't forever. Think of the teachers and real pedagogical tools that could be paid for with $60 million a year, and how much added value they'd provide to students.

Here's a question for LAUSD Supt. John Deasy, who has pronounced the iPad program "an astonishing success." Does he still think so? Feel free to deliver your answer via iPad-compatible digital video, Mr. D.


By Howard Blume, LA Times |
Roosevelt High allowed to use iPads after two-month hiatus
Story | November 23, 2013 | 8:30 AM
Two months after losing iPads because of a security breach, Roosevelt ... using the devices again last week. The iPads remain out of service at two other schools ... within a day or two of getting the iPads, more than 300 students at the Roosevelt ...


By Karin Klein, LA Times |
Other school districts buy iPads too, though more cheaply
Story | November 23, 2013 | 8:00 AM
... District is way out in left field to be buying iPads for its students, consider this: According ... briefly vents frustration with the cost of iPads, noting that she could buy a Google Chromebook ... there have nonetheless been purchasing iPads with their own funds from various sources

A COSTLY GIFT …..from the past

By Alan Warhaftig in Teacher Magazine |

Originally Published: October 1, 2005

You know the story. Four [now twelve] years ago, the boxes and wires were installed. The boxes were speedy G3 iMacs running OS 9 with 128 megabytes of RAM; the T1 connection was wicked fast, boding a limitless future. Today, those nifty boxes are, well, G3 iMacs with 128 megs of RAM, at least $200 shy of being able to run Tiger, the current Macintosh operating system—and, even then, running it slowly. Upgrading would demand more than $100,000 for a school with 500 computers, an impossibility in an era of shrinking budgets.

Four [twelve] years ago, education technology appeared to be all upside; it had been bought with money allocated specifically for that purpose. Few understood that though the boxes and wires had been purchased with one-time funds, the costs of maintaining them were ongoing. The concept, well-known in the business world, is “total cost of ownership,” and these days schools are learning painful lessons about TCO.

The problem is deeper than stretching funds to buy toner for printers and $300 bulbs for digital projectors. The former technology coordinator is back to teaching five periods, or, in other schools, math classes are three students larger because a teaching position has been diverted to technology. The nice young man who goes around fixing computers is now paid under Title I—money that could be used for many other purposes—and he still doesn’t have medical insurance.

Technology is a commitment with an embedded logic: Once installed, it must be maintained, so budgets have to include network access and security, software licenses, repairs, and, ultimately, hardware replacement. It’s a far cry from the initial impression of “free money,” placing technology on a collision course with other priorities.

A reorientation of priorities would be justified if the result were improved learning, but the effect of instructional technology to date has been far more modest, to put it kindly. Installing networks and hardware was a significant accomplishment, but what has been done with the capability they provide? Most professional development focused simply on using computers and applications; curricular integration was the holy grail to be pursued later. Constructivist bromides about project-oriented learning were neither helpful nor convincing.

Good ideas have surfaced occasionally, but several years into the rollout, just what constitutes an appropriate use of technology in the classroom has yet to be defined.

Computers may be fabulous, but are webquests and similar online projects a means to achieve adequate yearly progress? To what extent should multimedia presentations replace the essay in the 21st century?
The now-graying technology in schools was rolled out without serious consideration of its relationship to a school’s core mission. True believers, dazzled by the possibilities, forgot what K-12 education is supposed to accomplish—and how they themselves had become educated. Superintendents and board members regarded technology’s benefits as self-evident, certain that good things would happen when computers arrived, a classic confluence of vendor hype and the “ready, fire, aim” propensity of the education establishment.

In Teacher’s August/September 2005 issue, Kevin Bushweller wrote about the absence of a national standard for face-to-face contact in online courses. The rush to implement technology in general has often been half-baked, with too little effort to identify effective practices and belated consideration of how much technology the schools can afford to sustain. My experience with nonvirtual schools is that many fine teachers don’t use instructional technology much, and not because they’re technophobes. Most have not been persuaded that altering their curricula will improve learning. First and foremost, IT must stand for “instructional time,” and the best teachers are frustrated by how little remains after days lost to standardized testing, final exams, and school activities.

So under what circumstances should teachers use instructional technology? I would like to propose a common-sense rule: Use technology in academic classes only if it allows you to teach what you’re supposed to teach better than you could do it without technology. If this dictum were followed, technology might find its proper place in education—as a beneficial tool rather than a monster demanding to be fed.

● Alan Warhaftig teaches English at the Fairfax Magnet Center for Visual Arts in Los Angeles. He still does.

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


TWEET: When I find myself in times of trouble, Julie Andrews comes to me, Speaking words of wisdom: Do Re Mi. |

Nov 22, 10:30 AM, PST: by smf Nov. 22, 2013 :: That other November 22nd was a Friday also. At 10:30 am I was...

IMPACT OF FEDERAL FUNDING ON PUBLIC EDUCATION: 1 in 4 U.S. students at districts and/or schools that depend on...

TEACHERS & ADMINISTRATORS TOGETHER: NEA and AASA Executives Call on Congress to Get Serious About Investing in...

Mass. gives schools option of putting off CCSS tests. Asked if CA might follow suit, BdofEd Pres Kirst replies: "No"

Deasy on iPads:“I am considering adjustments after listening to the concerns raised by the Bond Oversight Committee.”

Deasy on iPads: “I’ll be finalizing my recommendation to the board over Thanksgiving break.". more>>>

THE 2 TEST COMPROMISE: California students will take ½ of English+½ of math test in this spring's Test o' th' Test.

4 STORIES + A PRESS RELEASE ON “TESTING THE TEST”: The headline says students will be tested …that isn’t quite...

LAUSD iPAD PROGRAM GETS MIXED REVIEW FROM COMMITTEE: By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News | http://...

L.A. UNIFIED COMMITTEE VOTES TO CURTAIL EXPANSION OF iPAD PROGRAM: The Bond Oversight committee authorizes $45...

TWEET: A Twitter Party for Arts in Schools! Join us TODAY at 11AM. use hashtag #KIDSCRE8 GO VIRAL FOR THE ARTS/TWEET IT ON!


iPads: THE STORY CHANGES YET AGAIN AS PARENTS, TEACHERS PROTEST: iPad software licenses expire in three years,...

Some Kids “Aren’t Brilliant”? THIS DUNCAN BLUNDER IS BIGGER THAN IT FIRST APPEARS: by email from deutsch29 ...

TEACHING AS PIECEWORK? @howardblume:Giving "stronger" teachers more students - and presumably more pay. From Fordham:

NEWS FLASH: @LASchoolReport: #LAUSD Bd of Ed met in open session but forgot to turn the camera on. Board now retired behind closed doors.

TWEET: @HowardBlume Today 3PM KPFK 90.7:a talk w @DianeRavitch, interviewed during recent LA visit. She pulls no punches on topic of Ed ®eform

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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