Sunday, April 06, 2014

Selling grit

Onward! 4LAKids4LAKids: Sunday 30•March•2014
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Paul Tough has written 2 books. The first was "Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America" (2008). There is no arguing with Canada’s vision+mission; but he is a cult-of-personality visionary and not even Mark Zuckerberg with his billions has been able to replicate The Harlem Children’s Zone across the River in Newark.

Tough’s second book: "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character", (2012) shakes up the School ®eform movement and challenges the concept that at standardized tests and IQ scores really matter.

“There is no anti-poverty tool that we can provide for disadvantaged young people that will be more valuable than character strengths" – then Tough goes on to state that nurturing, supportive personal relationships with adults in educational settings promote non-cognitive attributes that lead to higher incomes, less criminality, and other benefits.” Tough, a data-driven realist, says he finds that message "a bit warm and fuzzy" …but nonetheless "rooted in cold, hard science."

Oddly, the ®eformers have embraced Grit – they see it as another magic bullet for the bandolier of magic bullets …not as a call to arms to for the long hard fight to see it through and do it right.

The character strengths that Tough says makes all the difference he calls “Grit” – and a cottage industry (The Grit Cottage Industrial Complex) has grown up around writing about, analyising, selling and expounding the virtues of Grit in public education. Grit has been around since before 1800 – and peaked at about 1910. [] There was a popular resurgence around the book and two movies of ‘True Grit”. Paul Tough may not have even triggered the latest Grit Revival – Psychologist Angela Duckworth lays claim to it also. There are TED Talks. There are NPR stories. Grit is the Next New Thing. Put it in the pantry with your cupcakes.

If Geoffrey Canada is singularly unique, Grit is plurally ephemeral.

The idea of pulling-oneself-up-by-one’s-own-bootstraps and sticking-to-it-through-thick-and-thin isn’t new, it’s Horatio Algerian. That Character trumps IQ is rooted in the American psyche – its knowledge so common that Ben Franklin put it into the words of Poor Richard, his eighteenth century colonial everyman/philosopher. That nurturing supportive relationships in educational settings matter should elicit a great “Duh!” Have we really lost our way so badly in the dark forest of testing, assessments and teaching-to-the-standards?

I misspent part of my youth reading comic books – which are like graphic novels …but only cost a dime.

Every comic, whether Batman, Little Lulu or Archie (featuring Betty and Veronica) had page of ads near the back that featured four or five standard products: Charles Atlas Body Building. Sea Monkeys. X-Ray Specs (all the better to see Betty and Veronica with) … and an ad that said “BOYS “(or “FELLOWS”) – EARN $1 TO $6 A WEEK IN YOUR SPARE TIME: SELL GRIT – THE WEEKLY FAMILY NEWSPAPER”.[]

Grit was – and still is [] – a publication aimed at the rural American Heartland – a mysterious place far from my jaded Hollywood youth – where “Grit” ( and being able to earn a 7¢ ‘clear profit’ from every 20¢ sale) was a valued commodity. I don’t doubt that young ladies in the Heartland had Grit – but apparently they weren’t permitted to sell it!

ON A SIMILAR/CONFLICTING NOTE, This month’s Atlantic Magazine has a great feature article on “helicopter” parents – and their overprotected children. [THE OVERPROTECTED KID: Hey parents – leave those kids alone! | The Atlantic] This is a favorite subject of mine – I can get started pretty easily into tales of the “good old days” and being sent outside to play (in Hollywood) and getting myself to Junior High and High school without a ride or a car pool. I turned out fairly normal – or at least within the range of acceptable maladjustment. A sidebar article DON'T HELP YOUR KIDS WITH THEIR HOMEWORK is reprinted below.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Amy Graff in the San Francisco Chronicle/The Mommy Files |

Tuesday, March 25 at 4:06pm :: If you haven’t already heard, the parenting buzzword of the month, possibly the year, is “grit.”

Parenting experts and academic researchers are using this word du jour to define persistence, determination, stick-to-itiveness.

If you’ve got grit, you follow through. If you’ve got grit, you don’t give up.

Kids with stamina practice violin, study for their science test and finish building the tree house in the backyard, rather than leaving a pile of wood for you to clean up.

“This quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time, that’s grit,” says Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former math teacher at San Francisco’s Lowell High School, told NPR in a segment last week.

Duckworth is responsible for coining the term “grit” and has conducted research on the characteristic, finding that it’s a better indicator of future success than test scores, IQ or good looks. Thousands of high school juniors in Chicago public schools filled out her survey on grit and when she followed up with those same kids a year later, she found that the main characteristic students who graduated possessed was grit, even over high standardized test scores or family income.

Duckworth’s research is so convincing that some schools are introducing new curriculum that teaches grit in schools. NPR reported on a charter middle school in Long Beach, Calif., with a goal to teach kids tenacity. “This is all anecdotal at this point,” Jason Baehr, a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University who started the school, told NPR. “But I’ll say from our experience in the school, I see [kids learning to be grittier] all the time. … You can create a classroom culture in which struggle and risk-taking is valued more than just getting the right answer.”

Ever since listening to the NPR segment I’ve been thinking a lot about grit and why our generation of parents and kids struggle with commitment. At my children’s school, I’ve seen many parents, including myself, commit to projects and then back out because they’ve been hit with a project at work. My kids have been disappointed numerous times because friends say they’re going to come over for a sleep-over or sign up for a summer camp and then they cancel because something else comes up.

Kids quit sports teams in the middle of the season. They don’t show up for practices and games. At one of my daughter’s basketball games this year, we had so few players show up that we had to borrow players from the other team. I heard this story from another parent because I’m embarrassed to admit that my own daughter wasn’t at the game. She was competing in a swim meet that weekend.

I think the main problem is that parents are overwhelmed and kids overscheduled. Today’s moms don’t just raise kids. They manage marketing departments at big companies. They start gardening programs at their kids’ schools. They coach soccer teams. And dads don’t only go to work. They’re doing everything moms are doing—building sets for the dance recital, teaching at the school’s outdoor science program, helping with the homework and cooking dinners. We’re always saying “yes” to everything, filling our calendars with classes, meetings and appointments — and then we have to change that answer to “no” because who can do it all? How can we ever follow through with it all?

Kids schedules aren’t any better. Their days are packed with dance, yoga, soccer, chess and cooking classes, violin and flute lessons. And then there’s all the homework piled on top. Kids become overstretched and overcommitted and they’re forced to back out of activities.

After a few years of activity overload with my kids, I came up with the rule: Only two activities at a time. My son usually does violin and then one sport and my daughter has done swimming and dance for many years. But then the opportunity to play basketball came up and my daughter was desperate to be on the team. All of her school friends were joining the team and the coach was awesome. I couldn’t help but say yes, even though I knew her schedule was full and I was busy with two older kids, a new baby and full-time work.

What happened? We missed half the Friday night practices because my husband couldn’t leave work early to take her and I needed to put the baby to bed. She missed half the games because swim meets conflicted. My daughter and I were both embarrassed when we showed up for a game and she hadn’t been on the court for two weeks. As parents I think we can teach our kids grit by helping to cut back on the activities and commitments and allowing them to focus on a few activities and passions. If you’re only playing one sport at a time, then you can make all the games.

Watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s Ted Talk on grit


By Dana Goldstein the April Issue of The Atlantic |

Mar 19 2014, 9:06 PM ET :: One of the central tenets of raising kids in America is that parents should be actively involved in their children’s education: meeting with teachers, volunteering at school, helping with homework, and doing a hundred other things that few working parents have time for. These obligations are so baked into American values that few parents stop to ask whether they’re worth the effort.

Until this January, few researchers did, either. In the largest-ever study of how parental involvement affects academic achievement, Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a sociology professor at Duke, mostly found that it doesn’t. The researchers combed through nearly three decades’ worth of longitudinal surveys of American parents and tracked 63 different measures of parental participation in kids’ academic lives, from helping them with homework, to talking with them about college plans, to volunteering at their schools. In an attempt to show whether the kids of more-involved parents improved over time, the researchers indexed these measures to children’s academic performance, including test scores in reading and math.

What they found surprised them. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire—regardless of a parent’s race, class, or level of education.

Do you review your daughter’s homework every night? Robinson and Harris’s data, published in The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education, show that this won’t help her score higher on standardized tests. Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, an effect Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school.

Similarly, students whose parents frequently meet with teachers and principals don’t seem to improve faster than academically comparable peers whose parents are less present at school. Other essentially useless parenting interventions: observing a kid’s class; helping a teenager choose high-school courses; and, especially, disciplinary measures such as punishing kids for getting bad grades or instituting strict rules about when and how homework gets done. This kind of meddling could leave children more anxious than enthusiastic about school, Robinson speculates. “Ask them ‘Do you want to see me volunteering more? Going to school social functions? Is it helpful if I help you with homework?’ ” he told me. “We think about informing parents and schools what they need to do, but too often we leave the child out of the conversation.”

One of the reasons parental involvement in schools has become dogma is that the government actively incentivizes it. Since the late 1960s, the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on programs that seek to engage parents—especially low-income parents—with their children’s schools. In 2001, No Child Left Behind required schools to establish parent committees and communicate with parents in their native languages. The theory was that more active and invested mothers and fathers could help close the test-score gap between middle-class and poor students. Yet until the new study, nobody had used the available data to test the assumption that close relationships between parents and schools improve student achievement.

While Robinson and Harris largely disproved that assumption, they did find a handful of habits that make a difference, such as reading aloud to young kids (fewer than half of whom are read to daily) and talking with teenagers about college plans. But these interventions don’t take place at school or in the presence of teachers, where policy makers exert the most influence—they take place at home.

What’s more, although conventional wisdom holds that poor children do badly in school because their parents don’t care about education, the opposite is true. Across race, class, and education level, the vast majority of American parents report that they speak with their kids about the importance of good grades and hope that they will attend college. Asian American kids may perform inordinately well on tests, for example, but their parents are not much more involved at school than Hispanic parents are—not surprising, given that both groups experience language barriers. So why are some parents more effective at helping their children translate these shared values into achievement?

Robinson and Harris posit that greater financial and educational resources allow some parents to embed their children in neighborhoods and social settings in which they meet many college-educated adults with interesting careers. Upper-middle-class kids aren’t just told a good education will help them succeed in life. They are surrounded by family and friends who work as doctors, lawyers, and engineers and who reminisce about their college years around the dinner table. Asian parents are an interesting exception; even when they are poor and unable to provide these types of social settings, they seem to be able to communicate the value and appeal of education in a similarly effective manner.

As part of his research, Robinson conducted informal focus groups with his undergraduate statistics students at the University of Texas, asking them about how their parents contributed to their achievements. He found that most had few or no memories of their parents pushing or prodding them or getting involved at school in formal ways. Instead, students described mothers and fathers who set high expectations and then stepped back. “These kids made it!,” Robinson told me. “You’d expect they’d have the type of parental involvement we’re promoting at the national level. But they hardly had any of that. It really blew me away.”

Robinson and Harris’s findings add to what we know from previous research by the sociologist Annette Lareau, who observed conversations in homes between parents and kids during the 1990s. Lareau found that in poor and working-class households, children were urged to stay quiet and show deference to adult authority figures such as teachers. In middle-class households, kids learned to ask critical questions and to advocate for themselves—behaviors that served them well in the classroom.

Robinson and Harris chose not to address a few potentially powerful types of parental involvement, from hiring tutors or therapists for kids who are struggling, to opening college savings accounts. And there’s the fact that, regardless of socioeconomic status, some parents go to great lengths to seek out effective schools for their children, while others accept the status quo at the school around the corner.

Although Robinson and Harris didn’t look at school choice, they did find that one of the few ways parents can improve their kids’ academic performance—by as much as eight points on a reading or math test—is by getting them placed in the classroom of a teacher with a good reputation. This is one example for which race did seem to matter: white parents are at least twice as likely as black and Latino parents to request a specific teacher. Given that the best teachers have been shown to raise students’ lifetime earnings and to decrease the likelihood of teen pregnancy, this is no small intervention.

All in all, these findings should relieve anxious parents struggling to make time to volunteer at the PTA bake sale. But valuing parental involvement via test scores alone misses one of the ways in which parents most impact schools. Pesky parents are often effective, especially in public schools, at securing better textbooks, new playgrounds, and all the “extras” that make an educational community come to life, like art, music, theater, and after-school clubs. This kind of parental engagement may not directly affect test scores, but it can make school a more positive place for all kids, regardless of what their parents do or don’t do at home. Getting involved in your children’s schools is not just a way to give them a leg up—it could also be good citizenship.

• Dana Goldstein is a Brooklyn-based journalist, a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, and a Puffin Fellow at the Nation Institute.

THE BROKEN COMPASS: Parental Involvement with Children’s Education [Harvard University Press]


from the PBS NewsHour for March 28, 2014 |


JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, Indiana became the first state to drop the so-called Common Core public education standards adopted across much of the country. State officials there will now create their own plan.

Indiana may be the first to do so, but likely won’t be the last. There’s growing anger about the overall role of the federal government in education, and often it focuses on the secretary of education.

The NewsHour’s special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has our report.

JOHN MERROW: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who ran the public schools in Chicago for eight years, is President Obama’s friend and trusted confidante, and this former pro basketball player can still hold his own on the court.

MAN: Oh, my, what a look.

MAN: He’s got to be playing on the president’s team every pickup game, right?

JOHN MERROW: However, with national visibility and power comes criticism, on the right from John Kline, chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

REP. JOHN KLINE, R-Minn., Chair, Education & Workforce Committee: When you give the Cabinet secretary a big pile of money, and then he starts changing policy, in effect dictating policy, that’s acting like a superintendent.

JOHN MERROW: And on the left from Diane Ravitch, author of “Reign of Error.”

DIANE RAVITCH, Author, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools”: We now have local communities asking their state for permission, and the state asking Arne Duncan for permission, and Arne Duncan as the nation’s school superintendent.

JOHN MERROW: Why are critics on the left and the right accusing Arne Duncan of meddling in the nation’s 100,000 public schools? How much power do they think he has? How much power does he have? It turns out, quite a lot.

Only nine men and women have served as secretary of education. That’s because the U.S. Department of Education didn’t exist prior to 1979.

FORMER PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: This administration declares unconditional war on poverty in America.


JOHN MERROW: Washington became deeply involved in education in 1965 with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as ESEA. It gave money to schools serving impoverished children.

JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN, New York University: The idea was, we have to create social institutions that will help compensate for different kinds of disadvantage.

JOHN MERROW: So, it was about equity?


JOHN MERROW: Everything changed in 2001 with the No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn, we expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning.


JOHN MERROW: Washington was no longer giving money to help one group, the disadvantaged. Now the federal government wanted results: Every school had to prove that all students could meet the mark.

Education historian Jonathan Zimmerman of New York University explains.

JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN: I think it was unprecedented in what it had the federal government doing, which is requiring everybody to test the kids in grades three through eight, requiring them to disaggregate its data in different ways, including based on race and ethnicity, tying various sanctions, positive and negative, to those outcomes.

JOHN MERROW: If schools didn’t improve, they faced significant consequences. Schools could be shut down, all teachers and administrators replaced. Before long, the law that everyone once supported was being roundly criticized.

DIANE RAVITCH: I fell for it. Lots of other people fell for it.

REP. JOHN KLINE: Now everybody knows it won’t work. It is time to fix the law.

ARNE DUNCAN, Secretary of Education: My plan A was always to work with Congress to fix No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind is fundamentally broken. It is obsolete. It had many perverse incentives, led to a dummying down of standards, led to too much of a focus just on a single test score. So No Child Left Behind was doing frankly a lot of harm.

JOHN MERROW: No Child Left Behind, which requires all students to be proficient this year, expired in 2007, but it remains the law of the land until Congress rewrites it. Because not a single state has achieved 100 percent proficiency, all 50 states are breaking the law, or would be, if Secretary Duncan didn’t grant them waivers.

The waivers are, in effect, carrots to avoid the big No Child Left Behind stick.

REP. JOHN KLINE: The secretary is allowed to grant waivers; his predecessors granted waivers.

But what he’s doing is granting temporary, conditional waivers. That is, you get the waiver if you do what I want you to do.

JOHN MERROW: Duncan has granted waivers to 43 states that have agreed to certain conditions, including using student test scores to evaluate teachers.

REP. JOHN KLINE: That’s a terrible way to establish education policy.

ARNE DUNCAN: Previous secretaries have provided waivers to states on various things, so this is, again — legally, folks are happy to challenge this if they want to, but we’re on strong, strong, solid footing there.

And we’re going to continue to partner with states. We are out traveling in the country every week. We talk to teachers, we talk to parents, students, school board members, and hopefully what you have seen is a much better sense of partnership.

JOHN MERROW: When the economy tanked in 2009, Secretary Duncan’s power over education increased dramatically. A desperate Congress approved a $100 billion education stimulus package to keep schools from shutting down, teachers from being laid off. Nearly $5 billion of that was discretionary, meaning that Duncan could spend it as he saw fit.

No previous secretary of education had ever had such power. In 2009, the president announced a competition for the money.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Rather than divvying it up and handing it out, we are letting states and school districts compete for it.

JOHN MERROW: Almost every state entered the race, but few were expected to win.

MAN: We’re nervous.

JOHN MERROW: So, states will get more money if they do this thing that Duncan wants?

ARNE DUNCAN: If you play by these rules, absolutely right.

JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN: Some of us like to talk about Race to the Top as No Child Left Behind on steroids. The principles of Race — Race to the Top are the same as No Child Left Behind, which is, you know, we’re going to reward states that set and maintain a high standard.

JOHN MERROW: States that agreed to Duncan’s conditions, including developing common standards and assessments and using student test scores to evaluate teachers, had a better chance of winning.

ARNE DUNCAN: I’m a much bigger believer in carrots and not sticks; and if, you know, you encourage people to go in a certain direction, if they want to go into a different direction, they absolutely have the right to do that.

JOHN MERROW: What the secretary called encouragement, his critics saw as coercion.

DIANE RAVITCH: The states went along with Race to the Top because they were all broke.

JOHN MERROW: You’re saying the states were bought?
DIANE RAVITCH: They — yes, well, yes, of course.

JOHN MERROW: During the Race to the Top competition, a coalition of states released the Common Core state standards. These were developed with money from private foundations, not federal dollars; 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted them.

REP. JOHN KLINE: If you adopt the Common Core, you’re much more likely to get Race to the Top grants, much more likely to get a temporary conditional waiver. And that puts the secretary in the business of starting to drive national standards and perhaps national tests and national curriculum. We don’t want that.

JOHN MERROW: The Common Core is not curriculum. It’s up to individual states to develop how and what to teach. But Duncan’s Education Department has funded the development of Common Core tests, to the tune of about $350 million.

ARNE DUNCAN: I believe this new generation of assessments is an absolute game-changer for American education.

JOHN MERROW: Duncan’s critics say he went too far when he financed the tests.

DIANE RAVITCH: The law is very clear that no agent of the U.S. government may do anything to direct, control, or supervise curriculum and instruction.

JOHN MERROW: Testing is not curriculum.
JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN: Testing — no, it’s not. But it controls curriculum. Testing — what is tested is what gets taught. Everybody knows that.

REP. JOHN KLINE: That’s the ultimate fear, that the federal government does get in the curriculum business and tells the states what they’re supposed to teach.

JOHN MERROW: As for the secretary, he stays resolutely on message.

ARNE DUNCAN: It’s important to have high standards. We have encouraged that. How you teach to those higher standards, the curriculum behind that, we have never touched that, never have, never will do that.

JOHN MERROW: Although the discretionary dollars are almost gone, Secretary Duncan still has the power to grant or withhold waivers. And if any of the 46 states with Race to the Top funding or NCLB waivers do not live up to their end of the bargain, the secretary could force them to return millions of dollars.

View the segment newscast on YouTube

by Steve Zimmer in LA School Report |

Posted on March 28, 2014 9:00 am :: Just over a year ago, I won re-election to the Los Angeles Unified School District board. It was an unlikely victory in what may have been the most expensive school board race in U. S. history. The wealthiest of self-styled reformers – Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Rhee’s followers – put in over $4-million to try and take over the L.A. Board of Education.

The stakes were high. Los Angeles Unified is by far the largest school district in the nation to be governed by an elected board. Our district has over 900,000 students, over 60,000 employees and an operating budget of over $7 billion. The reformers were clear about their goals. They sought to eviscerate the power of our teacher union by eliminating job protections, seniority rights, and tenure. They sought to link teacher evaluation directly to standardized test scores. And more.

Against this gale force, we were able to build an improbable coalition of families, teachers and classified employees, and community activists. We matched the billionaires’ money with authentic boots on the ground. We talked to people, and people listened. In the many struggles in today’s economy, battles often pit people’s interests against the interests of corporate America. This time the people won.

Or so we thought.

As it turns out, the election isn’t really over. It just shifted venues.

The same privatizers who funded the campaign to buy the school board funded the litigation here in Los Angeles that seeks to achieve through the courts what they could not win at the ballot box. Named for one of the student plaintiffs, Beatriz Vergara, the case heard closing arguments yesterday. If it is successful, the Vergara case will eliminate some teacher tenure protections, limit seniority, and diminish collective bargaining rights.

To be sure, the Vergara case has dramatized serious and significant issues facing our students and their schools. I have spent my career working to narrow the opportunity gap that creates the sub-standard conditions for teaching and learning that so dramatically impact the achievement gap. At both the school where I taught for 17 years and the Board of Education, I have built partnerships that address the education disadvantages that saddle so many black and Latino students struggling against our institutionally racist systems.

But the Vergara plaintiffs’ team was much more interested in the spectacular than the substantive. Their case was presented with compelling optics and atmospherics, and it is part of a strategy that extends well beyond the courtroom. Students Matter, the umbrella organization advancing the case, hired a crackerjack PR team and paid them millions to spread what I call the “Vergara Fiction” across the nation.

The Vergara Fiction is disingenuous. It says that if it were easier to fire teachers and if teachers didn’t have strong tenure and seniority rights, many of the problems facing Beatriz Vergara would disappear. The obstacles built over decades would evaporate with one decision. In this fantasy world of precise causality, if no teachers had tenure, then they would be scared into performing better. If there was no teacher seniority, energetic new teachers would work around the clock for two years before burning out and moving out, being replaced by another young recruit. Make no mistake; the goal of the plaintiffs is to diminish the stature of teaching as a profession.

Addressing instructional quality for all students involves a complex series of changes in policy and practice. Who we recruit to be the next generation of teachers and how they are trained and supported necessitates a transformed relationship between school districts and universities. Improving teacher education is much more important than lengthening the tenure window.

And collaborative teacher evaluation reform like LAUSD’s Frameworks for Teaching and Learning must be implemented with urgency and investment. None of this work is easy. It will take collective sleeve-rolling from our teachers, our union partners and civic Los Angeles. Eliminating seniority would be simpler, but it wouldn’t change a thing for Beatriz Vergara.

Finally, we should all come together to make sure criminals and pedophiles masquerading as teachers never enter a classroom. There are reasonable changes that can be made to statutes that ensure student safety without cutting due process for teachers facing accusations that have nothing to do with student’s rights.

But the plaintiffs’ legal team and their private-sector backers aren’t interested in real solutions. That is not their agenda. The case is just a means to an end. That is why the public relations campaign is so much more about fictional narrative than concrete substance. They have woven together a story that ensures that if they win in court they win, but if they lose they win even more.

Because the next stop for the reform train is back at the ballot box.

The court case is the trailer for the next series of ballot initiatives and school board races. By establishing a fictional direct correlation between Beatriz Vergara’s teachers and every aspect of her aspirations, the plaintiff’s have pitted teacher’s rights against the American Dream itself. And a campaign that is framed as a battle between adult job protections and children’s dreams is a sure fire vote getter. I can see the ad already: “Beatriz Vergara can’t vote yet but you can!”

The damage the Vergara case will inflict will be felt well before the verdict is read or the first post-Vergara campaign is launched. Every teacher that watched the trial or read the coverage felt the attacks personally. The defense team did an admirable job presenting its case, but no one is defending teachers or our life work. The unrefuted narrative of teachers’ standing in the way of the American Dream instead of defending and promoting it, will linger much longer than the verdict.

And there is one more thing.

I know Beatriz Vergara. Not personally. But I know thousands of Beatriz Vergaras. They are my students, my counselees and my neighbors. Rejecting the billionaires and their plaintiffs’ attorneys cannot mean we reject Beatriz and the urgency of her struggle. In fact, we must redouble our efforts to make the complex and difficult changes to our systems that will truly honor her potential and her dreams. We must show Beatriz and her family and all our families that we go so much further when we turn towards each other instead of against each other. We must make her struggle our struggle in our every waking moment. We must forge new pathways to realize the promise of public education for all students. And today, we must have the courage to realize that standing with Beatriz Vergara means standing against the exploitive case that bares her name.


Steve Zimmer is a member of the LA Unified School Board, representing District 4

●● smf’s 2¢: There is not a word above that I don’t agree with, “privatizers” and “billionaires”; the height of the stakes and the unrefuted narrative: The goal of the plaintiffs IS to diminish the stature of teaching as a profession. Educators are workers and parents-and-the-public are consumers ...let the the educrats and publishers run the business they make so much money from!

Steve gets it; he sees what’s wrong. He speaks his righteous truth to power to the LA School Report which is the bought-and-paid for voice of ®eform in LA.

(There is excellent journalism at the Wall Street Journal …but the ownership is still the ownership!)

But I also hear other voices, whispered at first but now spoken aloud; the volume increases, They ask the question: “Whatever happened to Steve Zimmer?”

There are those who look to Steve as the Voice of Reason on the Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles – as Steve writes above: “the largest school district in the nation to be governed by an elected board.” That Voice of Reason on the LAUSD Board of Ed job is one with a national constituency. The question is asked in blogposts and at UTLA gatherings and was asked at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin earlier this month.

Maybe there’s an excuse; maybe Steve has just stopped by the woods on a snowy evening.

Steve Zimmer is a friend of mine. Steve has said to his friends and supporters that the only thing harder than being his friend is being Steve Zimmer. Criticizing friends isn’t easy, and I’m not so close a friend – or as good a one – to sit him down for little (Capital “I”) Intervention.

I am a rhetorician and so is Steve Zimmer. But in the end the weight of the talk you talk is equal to the walk you walk.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
LOS ANGELES SAYS GOODBYE TO CELES KING IV :: 30 March 2014 :: The community, the Greater Community, The City of Angels we aspire to be, bid farewell to Celes King IV at his funeral yesterday morning and afternoon.
We celebrated a life well and completely lived – even if cut short. We prayed and wept and laughed and sang – and learned things we probably should’ve known all along.





HOW A DYSLEXIC NEUROSCIENTIST’S iPAD APP WILL BOOST YOUR KID’S MATH SCORES: A nonprofit demonstrates an effect... Expand Collapse Reply

GRIT: IT’S MORE POPULAR THAN SCHOOL REFORM – and here’s the data and and a chart to prove it!: data analysis d...


TEACHER ATTRITION STUDY:Teachers abandon charter school posts at rates significantly higher than traditional schools.

tweet: STUDY: Fm 1988-08 teacher attrition rose by 41%. In many urban districts more than ½ of teachers leave within 5 years

tweet: STUDY: Teachers with less than 5 yrs experience – 22% in 2011-12 – are considered to be still learning their craft.

tweet: STUDY: In 1988 the most common teacher in US had 15 yrs experience. In 2008 that teacher was a novice in her 1styear.

STUDY MARKS PROBLEMS POSED BY INEXPERIENCED TEACHERS: by Kimberly Beltran | SI&A Cabinet Report ::http://...

AFTER NEARLY 30 YEAR ABSENCE, MUSICAL THEATER RETURNS TO ROOSEVELT HIGH: Students and faculty join in productition of West Side Story …on the Eastside!...


BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE SCHOOL BOARD: A new report finds school board members with a background in public educat... http://



VERGARA v. CALIFORNIA LAWSUIT ENDS …but not really: Testimony ends, “final” arguments heard, both sides are to...

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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