Sunday, March 02, 2014

The test is dead. Long live the test.

4LAKids: Sunday 2•March•2014
In This Issue:
 •  FORMER L.A. SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT SAYS USING BONDS TO BUY IPADS ILLEGAL – Supt Johnston’s letter, BOC Chairman English’s reply + smf’s 2¢
 •  IT’S A TRUST THING: The ‘algebra of greed’ meets omphaloskepsis
 •  Union Election in Los Angeles: MEET THE CANDIDATES
 •  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 fixation on iPads as the technology to promote school reform drives the question: Is technology in any form the answer?

Any more than open classrooms or television or educational movies or filmstrips synchronized with phonographs or computer labs or white boards or smartboards were the answer? Didn’t making blackboards green change the world of education forever? Remember whole language v. phonics? Scantrons and bubble tests? Spirit duplicators? Xerography? Four-color printed textbooks? High-stakes standardized testing? Full day kindergarten? Mainstreaming Special Ed? Disaggregating significant subgroups? Integrating the schools? Charter schools? Pilot Schools. Magnet Schools? Small Schools? Small School Learning Communities? Busing? Ending busing? The year ‘round calendar? LEARN? LAAMP? Class size reduction? Clear Expectations? The VAPA rotations? Learning walks? Field trips to the Southwest Museum? Field trips to the Helms Bakery? Field trips?

If those were the answers, what were the questions?

Will this be on the test? How much does the test count on the final grade? Is there anything more stale than last week’s next new thing?

How many magic bullets do we need in the bandolier?

The iPads, in their most recent iteration in the iPad debate/debacle are absolute necessities for the Smarter Balanced Tests – leaving the original necessity for the Pearson Common Core aligned curriculum – or the claim the iPads are some sort of civil right - in the rear view mirror. We absolutely, positively need these iPads to administer the new Common Core aligned test!

Theoretically very child in public education in forty-five of the US of A will be taking one flavor or another of the Common Core Test this spring – but the students in LAUSD can only take the tests on iPads, Because, as Dr. Deasy says: “Los Angeles is just like the rest of the nation. Only sooner”.

The California STAR (Standardized Testing & Reporting) Test is no more. Welcome to the wonderful new world of the CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress) Test. Also known (outside California) as the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) Test. Because we can never have enough educational acronyms!

In a presentation to the Board of Ed Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (CIA) Committee on Tuesday we bid adieu to:

• Paper and pencil
• Bubbling answer sheets
• Multiple choice only
• Months before results are available testing.
In favor of:
• Testing on electronic device
• Computer adaptive based on student’s skill and knowledge
• Multiple choice, short and extended constructed response and performance tasks testing.

(When asked “How long will it be before CAASPP results will be available? – The answer was unknown …not a good sign!)

But wait. There’s more! As in: More Testing:

Here is the schedule for state standardized testing in LAUSD for this spring:

• Grades 5, 8, 10 Science
• Grade 11 ELA and Math for EAP
• EAP Writing (Feb. 3-­‐28)
• Multiple Choice (May 19-­‐30)
• (Apr. 1–May 16, except for Bell HS, Mar. 18-­‐June 6)
• Grades 3-­‐8, 11, sample of 9 and 10
CAHSEE (High School Exit Exam) March 18-­‐19; May 13-­‐14
• CAHSEE March is 10th Grade Census
• CAHSEE May is make-up for grade 10; 11th & 12th graders who have not passed previously
• (The International Baccalaureate Tests must be in there somewhere!)

…AND THEN THERE ARE THE DISTRICT (PERIODIC) ASSESSMENTS, redesigned (some by outside vendors) in 2013/2014 to conform to the Common Core.

The District Periodic Assessments appear repeatedly in every grade and range from kindergarten assessments and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy (DIBELS) in Early Elementary though English Language Arts, Science, History/Social Science –two Writing Prompts per subject per year PLUS two Performance Tasks per year in Math –in Secondary.

The LAUSD Periodic Assessment program is characterized as being REQUIRED “Ongoing assessment is required as a part of an effective instructional program” …but CHOICE DRIVEN.

• Schools may choose from the following assessments options
– District provided CCSS (Common Core State Standards) aligned assessments
– Identify other CCSS aligned assessments
– Develop your own CCSS aligned assessments
• Schools may choose from a variety of options for providing the assessments
– Make copies of tests in-house
– Use Repro Account for costs
– Online
• Data from the assessments WILL NOT be collected centrally but should be used at the school level to inform instructional practice

The double negative in an oxymoron: CENTRALLY MANDATED LOCAL CONTROL. While there are all these choices+options, NOT doing the Periodic Assessments is NOT an option!

AND BURIED WITHIN THE ASSESSMENT PRESENTATION TO THE CIA are these two bits of news – news the District leadership hasn’t done a very good job of sharing with parents.

1. Students who take Algebra 1 in 8th grade will have to take a special test to determine if they get high school credit for the course – and will have to repeat Algebra 1 if they don’t pass the test – even if they got an A in the 8th grade course! (No similar test will be given to Algebra 1 students in high school.)
2. All sixth graders will take a test – to determine placement through a traditional math pathway or an accelerated math pathway. This has all the appearance of tracking – establishing an elite math program with high expectations and a standard math program with lower expectations – and establishing the gateway at age 12. No presentation was offered as to how students can change tracks in either direction.

So, with no STAR test – and with this year’s SBAC/ CAASPP Field Test being unscored and academically meaningless – there will be more standardized testing than ever this spring – with far higher stakes.

And sitting with members of the Board of Education on the CIA Committee I had the distinct feeling that this is all news to them.

¡Onward/Adelante! – smf

The Spring Testing Calendar and CIA Committee PowerPoint Presentation – and a link to a video of the CIA meeting is available by clicking on this link

FORMER L.A. SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT SAYS USING BONDS TO BUY IPADS ILLEGAL – Supt Johnston’s letter, BOC Chairman English’s reply + smf’s 2¢

by D.B. Hebbard Talking New Media | The digital publishing industry website

February 28, 2014 | 8:05 am :: More school districts are bringing tablets to the classroom. It is a good goal to bring technology into schools, the question many school districts are facing is how to pay for it, and how to implement it.

On the vendor side of things, selling tablets to schools is often big business. Amplify, which sells cheap Android tablets to school districts, is still trying to make good on its sale to Guilford schools following incidents of melting chargers and cracked tablets.

On the school administration side, bring tablets to classroom is often seen as a major achievement for the district. The question is how to do it: all at once for every classroom, and incrementally.

In Los Angeles, schools Superintendent John Deasy is pushing on with efforts to introduce iPads to 38 more school campuses, part of a $1 billion tech initiative. In January, the school board approved moving forward with the program after an initial trial at 47 schools. But the use of iPads, versus cheap tablets, has been controversial due to both the cost of the devices – the school district is paying $768 per iPad – and where the money to fund the effort is coming from – school construction bonds.

William J. Johnston, the former L.A. schools superintendent, yesterday said that funding a tablet effort through school bonds was illegal, according to the L.A. Times. His objection is not about tablets, per se, but about what the bonds are meant to fund – long term construction.

“iPads are known to last for approximately three years,” Johnston wrote to the committee overseeing the program. “New developments and technology will make them obsolete, requiring replacements. School bonds are designed to buy property, build schools, equip schools with lasting equipment. School bonds are paid for over a 25-year period.”

Johnson has a valid point. But when considering such a massive program there may not be another source of funding large enough to cover a school district the size of the Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation, with over 650,000 students, and over 30,000 teachers, and 1,124 schools to administer.

When public schools are in such massive disrepair it is hard to argue with those that say funds should go to fixing drinking fountains and repairing classrooms. But adding iPads to the classroom directly effects the teaching situation. The question remains for many districts whether to allow themselves to be sold by vendors offering cheap goods, or whether they will develop their own programs, fully educated themselves in the device choices and the pricing, so they can make intelligent decisions that can be presented and defended to the public – and parents, in particular.

●● smf’s 2¢: I certainly thank Superintendent Johnston for his concern and his letter …and Chairman English for his response.

I do not doubt that one-to-one computing is a good idea and I have been assured by many attorneys that that this is a legal use of bond funds. But 1:1 computing isn’t a good idea because it’s legal; hopefully it’s a good idea and it’s legal.

I have made it clear here and in public pronouncements that I am unhappy with the urgency and lack of transparency of Superintendent Deasy’s CCTP rollout – and have qualms about the selection process and the RFP that ended up selecting Apple as the vendor and Apple’s contract with Pearson as the content provider.

Deputy Superintendent Aquino said at the pre-RFP meeting that content was far more important than the platform,
At the end of the selection process Apple had two content packages in the running – it was LAUSD who identified Pearson as the final choice.
The content should have been contracted with LAUSD – not Apple.
So why was the content contract done by the platform vendor?

The questions about Dr. Aquino’s previous relationship with Pearson – and Dr. Deasy’s relationship with Apple – and his stated preference for Apple and Pearson – and his naming of the tablets as “iPads” before the the contract was awarded is worrisome. The connection between folks on the selection committee – and receipt of gifts of Apple merchandise by selection committee members from Pearson appears to be a conflict of interest.

I have yet to see a definitive legal opinion from counsel for the bond underwriters that allowing students to take the bond-funded devices home is legal – indeed bond counsel had questions about this - and it is that missing legal opinion – or one from a trial judge – that settles the debate.

Pearson’s poor performance and occasional forays into illegality in other contracts with other school districts and state offices of education is abysmal. Pearson was once banned from contracting with LAUSD for impropriety.

Meanwhile there is legislation in Sacramento, AB 1754 that will establish once and for all that none of this is legal– and important Democratic lawmakers seen inclined to support AB 1754. The passage of AB 1754 would, I believe, block any future CCTP purchases under this contract – and court action could hold that the use of bond funds was never legal whether or not AB 1754 could be enforced retroactively.

The current rush-to-purchase in response to the upcoming meaningless Smarter Balanced Field Test is a farce.

Mostly I think Superintendent Deasy and LAUSD have done a piss-poor job of selling a program they obviously believe in to the public, to voters and taxpayers. How do you not reach out and engage folks like Bill Thompson? That is a political+communications failure of the first rank!

No matter what you think of the man you must concede that they fired their best CCTP cheerleader in Jaime Aquino.

I haven't seen Apple come out to defend the contact.

I haven't seen Pearson cone out to defend the contract.

And nobody seems prepared to answer Bill Johnson’s most important question: What is it we will not be doing because we’re doing this?

In the end Dr. Deasy and “The Sponsors” on the 24th floor have been unable to convince the public or the media or Superintendent Johnston …and they are rapidly losing the little of me they had.

Supt Johnston’s letter + BOC Chairman English’s reply


from the associated administrators of LA weekly update |

27 February 2014 :: There are currently more than 14,000 adults and concurrent students on waiting lists for classes in the Division of Adult and Career Education. However, there are only ten Adult Education Service Areas presently open to serve the LAUSD of 710 square miles and 27 cities. Not long ago, there were 39 Community Adult Schools, some of which–in addition to three or four major campuses–had more than 30 classes in community locations such as elementary and middle schools. Churches and many community-based/nongovernmental organizations also opened their doors for adult education classes. Due to budget reduction, most of those classes and community collaborations are now history. Consequently, addressing the need for adult education in LAUSD is not simply a matter of securing ongoing funding, but of planning for the expansion of current services. AALA continues to advocate for the restoration of adult schools and additional classes to serve the needs of both adults and high school students.

IT’S A TRUST THING: The ‘algebra of greed’ meets omphaloskepsis
Written by Red Queen in L.A. |

Thursday 27 Feb 2014 :: My first Earful Of Schoolboard Member involved mapping ‘three critical things’ about education (at 9:21)[i], the middle of which was that: “…we have a sacred bond of trust that is enacted every day at the schoolhouse gate…”

And I think this is very much true. When I pass along my child, I trust that s/he will be safe physically, and I trust that his/her mandate to learn will be safely protected as well.

The whole iPad debacle has shattered this myth.

These ipads have been sold to us as a matter of “civil rights”: that youngsters of impoverished circumstances must retain the same access to technology as their privileged counterparts, otherwise their civil rights will have been violated. That these devices are a critical pedagogical tool, without access to which constitutes a violation of civil rights.

But it isn’t true. The term civil rights is being coopted as an icon to obscure the ulterior political agenda of a pack of ideologues and capitalists intent on privatizing education and siphoning public money into the private pockets of cronies. That’s it, it’s just rapaciousness: oldest trick in the book.

The civil rights our children are being denied is the right of all children to a free, public, democratic and excellent education. Not supervised time by an overworked childcare wrangler. For that is what our teachers who must teach classes of 40, 50 and beyond are reduced to. They are teaching classrooms of this size because there is no room in our school budget for teachers; they are being phased out in deference to … electronics. By choosing electronics to babysit, we are choosing not to teach.[ii] If that’s not a violation of civil rights, I just do not know what is.

So yes indeed, this is precisely and entirely, all a matter of trust. And I have lost mine in the leadership of LAUSD (if not in some teachers and administrators) because this sort of disingenuous language does not engender trust. More, it is through the actions of the district that we shall know ye:

All along we have been pumped full of this mantra that the ipad devices are a tool of civil rights and equity, a tool for learning. And yet at a recent parent-group meeting a teacher presented to us the information that these ipads are shipped with no educational software, necessitating an extra-budgetary site license insta-purchase with little to no deliberation in order to quickly salvage the whole technology buy as marginally useful at the school site.

There is a chimeric “common core curriculum” associated with the ipads. Where and what is it? A “curriculum” is like the table of contents to a textbook. It’s important, interesting reading, but brings you nowhere down the path of knowledge; it’s a sketch of intention. It is not instruction or the tools thereof. It is a teacher’s lessons roadmap.

As confirmed by LAUSD leadership at a Common Core Technology Project late last year, the devices never were intended to replace textbooks. They cannot be cost savings measures because virtually no textbooks are online and we would have no legal access to them anyway. Online texts are expensive and require frequent license renewal in contrast with the old-school hardback version, which once bought, remain available to students until they deteriorate, storeroom clerks steal them[iii] or they are replaced. We have, however, duly paid and highly expensive, no-bid access to that “curriculum” … in theory. As it happens, the curriculum remains as yet unwritten and even school board members are not allowed access[iv] to even what rudimentary part there might be to review.

In slow revelations, drips and drabs here and there we learn that the ipads are not in fact pedagogical tools. The issue is “… students having the equipment they need to take their state tests, Deasy said“[v]. In point of fact, the devices are and always have been means of testing: testing children, testing schools, testing teachers. Doing the algebra of greed, this amounts to a public monies subsidy of private testing companies.

We’ve bought a pig in a poke, with no software and only whisper of a lesson plan that does not yet exist, and requires renewal after three years starting from … last summer, nearly a full year prior to the devices being made available to our children.

And as it happens at least one of “the 47″ phase I rollout schools will have no pedagogical access to ipads this entire school year, except for the purpose of “testing” Smarter-Balanced’s tests,[vi] and periodic practicing of the test for testing the test. All of which eats up massive amounts of instructional time: time spent practicing for tests that are tests of tests, is time not spent learning. Time spent testing a test is time not spent learning. All this omphaloskepsis[vii] amounts to neglecting our children’s educational civil rights. At the expense of our public dollars, and our children’s right to learn. The ipad initiative, and all its associated bluster, epitomizes our educational officials’ breach of stakeholder’s trust.

There are other sequelae of such disregard. Trust is broken not just in matters pedagogical (witness the district stating just months ago that arts funding for arts teachers would increase, the school board passing a resolution to require this, and then recent reports of decimating actual arts teaching), but financial as well. A local politician made it abundantly clear in stating feelings of betrayal and dishonest representation regarding construction bond funding. While legal contortions might debatably render ipads a legitimate construction bond expenditure, the spirit of these citizens’-approved bonds, is clearly violated. As reflected in the unequivocal declaration that ‘never, ever, ever again would [s/he] vote for any other education construction bond’. This sentiment is to be found widely across the internet in comment after comment: there is no trust left among the populace for LAUSD officials.

So when a district official responds to inquiries regarding cyber security of children’s encoded information as a question of “trust”, I find the matter suddenly very clear. I do not trust the district any longer with regard to my child’s safety. The children are relegated to decrepit physical surroundings whose protected repair funds have been diverted toward consumer, not pedagogical goods. The logistics and language of this initiative have been incompetent at best, rendering my child potentially vulnerable in the cyberworld[viii], and her scholastic needs compromised. Where is the trustworthy actions? From the childless to the immersed, voters across Los Angeles have found their trust in LAUSD betrayed. It’s time to get back to letting schools and teachers within them teach and give back the consortium suggesting otherwise.[ix]

●●smf: With The Red Queen you’re going to need footnotes!

[ii] ●●smf also: TED Talk: Are We Plugged-In, Connected, But Alone? : NPR
[vii] Contemplating one’s navel to aid meditation.

Union Election in Los Angeles: MEET THE CANDIDATES
by Anthony Cody | Education Week Teacher | Teacher Blogs > Living in Dialogue

Coleen Bondy, Los Angeles teacher, has prepared special coverage of the upcoming teacher's union election in her city. Here is her report:

United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers' union for Los Angeles Unified School District, is holding elections for all of its major offices this spring. Ballots will be mailed out to the membership beginning Feb. 25.

Effective leadership has never been so critical to UTLA members as it is now. Teachers have endured years of brutal budget cuts, including furlough days, pink slips, increased class sizes, and have gone seven years without a raise.

In addition, LAUSD has implemented programs such as Breakfast in the Classroom that are wildly unpopular with teachers, who already deal with cleanliness issues in the classroom because of a lack of adequate custodial staffing.

LAUSD's school board appears to be charging full steam ahead on a plan to equip every student with an iPad, at a total cost of about $1 billion. It is planning to use bond money that voters specifically earmarked for construction of new facilities and maintenance of old ones.

Perhaps most important of all, many LAUSD teachers perceive that the district has been hijacked by employees and school board members who are bent upon implementing corporate-style reforms in the district, without the approval of parents or teachers.

With so much at stake this year, we asked the candidates running for president of UTLA to answer the same 10 questions. The questions were emailed to all of the candidates in January. More information can also be found here.


1. How did you come to be a teacher in Los Angeles?

2. Why are you running for President of UTLA?

3. Have you been involved with any Gates-funded education reform projects such as Educators 4 Excellence? If so, what did you learn from that experience?

4. How will the recent iPad purchase affect LAUSD over the next few years?

5. What do you think of recent changes in the way teachers are evaluated in LAUSD?

6. Are you in favor of implementing the Common Core State Standards in LAUSD? If so, why? If not, why not?

7. What do you believe are the three most important issues facing teachers/UTLA today? How would you address those issues as president?

8. What has surprised you since you began running for this office?

9. How do you feel about Breakfast in the Classroom at the elementary, middle and high school levels?

10. Is there anything else you would like to add?

• Union Election in Los Angeles: Meet Candidate Solkovits
• Union Election in Los Angeles: Meet Candidate Mottus
• Union Election in Los Angeles: Meet Candidate Caputo-Pearl
• Union Election in Los Angeles: Meet Candidate Gaffney

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...
MONDAY MARCH 3rd is the 17th ANNUAL READ ACROSS AMERICA CELEBRATION, a celebration of Dr. Seuss' Birthday! ||

The National Education Association is building a nation of readers through Read Across America. This year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.

"You're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child."

TUESDAY: Regular Board of Ed Meeting - March 4, 2014
Start: 03/04/2014 1:00 pm

WEDNESDAY: Common Core Technology Project Committee - March 5, 2014 - 5:30 PM Start: 03/05/2014 5:30 pm

*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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