Sunday, August 24, 2014

Buttered side down

4LAKids: Sunday 24•Aug•2014
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Blogger Susan Ohanian, in her opening shot at John Deasy’s LAUSD superintendency: “LA Schools Boss to be John Deasy, of Fake Degree and Gates (and Broad) Foundation Fame” | (Spoiler alert: Susan is not a fan!)

“John Deasy first appeared on my site in 2003, back in his Santa Monica days. When Deasy moved from Santa Monica to become schools chief in Prince George's County, Stanford University education professor (current president of the California State Board of Education) Michael Kirst remarked that he had a ‘zest for politics.’ The record shows that Deasy carefully notes which side of the bread is buttered. Follow the money.”

Ohanian concludes, after a litany of missteps, shady doings and butter-side-up lucky breaks – including Deasy’s relationship with his mentor and PhD advisor Robert Felner – who coincidentally defrauded the Feds and two universities in a research grant scam at two school districts where Deasy was superintendent:

“Conclusion: Filner’s in jail. Deasy continues to have his bread buttered side up.”

Felner got out of federal prison last May 12th. |


The MisiS CriSis festered into week two.

The Ratliff Committee Report on the iPads Deal leaked out, critical of the whole sordid affair. The AP’s national coverage says ‘the committee review stops short of accusing anyone of wrongdoing but offers a carefully worded rebuke of the districtwide iPad rollout. The report also found that past comments or associations with vendors, including by Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy, created an appearance of conflict even if no ethics rules were violated.’

The County Office of Ed sent back the LAUSD Local Control Accountability Plan – not questioning the advance planning for the next three years - but last year’s expenditure of $700 million in LCFF money - not spent on Special Needs students in Poverty, English Language Learners and Foster Children – but on Special Ed students. The Special Needs Kids are the subjects of the LCFF/LCAP state initiative, Governor Brown’s signature school funding reform. Special Ed is a federal program. (Deasy had problems with Special Ed funding in Santa Monica/Malibu when he was there – the City of Santa Monica withheld a subsidy they paid for Special Ed because of widespread parent complaints | )

THEN, AT ABOUT 10:20 ON FRIDAY AM KPCC reporter Annie Gilbertson began reading some e-mails on the radio from folks at Pearson and LAUSD to each other – emails from a year before the iPads RFP was issued.

Reading emails on the radio. Who knew who entertaining that could be?

From Pearson CEO Dame Marjorie Scardino, DBE to LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, PhD on May 22, 2012: “My mind was racing all weekend, and I was so impressed by your intelligent and committed and brave hold on the moving parts of the opportunity. I really can’t wait to work with you. I would love to think that we could together do this so well that in your Sunday visits to prisons you won’t see one person who has been educated in LAUSD; rather, you’ll be meeting them as teachers, as contractors, as bankers (well, maybe not bankers), as poets all round the city.”

The gush seems like pre-coital sexting. I didn’t know whether to turn up the radio or stay tuned for the bodice ripping and the “Ooh John…, Ooh Marjorie…” There must be special pages in the Kama Sutra for folks with honorifics after their names.

(The opening left for 4LAKids sarcasm re: those other six days a week for prison visits is best left unexplored.)

Howard Blume writes in the Times: “Less than two months later, on July 2, Deasy updates Scardino about his meeting with Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple:

“I wanted to let you know I have [sic] an excellent meeting with Tim at Apple last Friday. The meeting went very well and he was committed to being a partner. He said he and his team will take 5 days to present a price plan and scope of partnership. He was very excited about being a partner with Pearson. I think it would be good for you to loop back with him at this point. I will reach out to you again in a week.”

‘Tim’, He calls him ‘Tim’. A price plan and a scope of partnership? Damn the procurement protocol, full speed ahead!

In one communication, Pearson’s Judy Codding argued that competitive bidding through a “Request for Proposals” process was unnecessary….

RFP? We don’t have no RFP …we don’t need no stinking RFP!

Jaime Aquino – in his defense – cautions momentarily about going too fast and not observing the niceties of process …gets his chain jerked by Deasy …and gets with the program. He will be the first to pay, either being thrown – or voluntarily going – under the bus. He may have been lucky; that bus isn’t going to the destination on the sign.

There is, I am told, much more to come. More emails in hand. And all it has been kept from the Board of Ed, even in their closed sessions. And from the Oversight Committee. And the Ratliff Common Core Technology Ad Hoc Committee. And the LAUSD Inspector General ….and by extension the District Attorney and Attorney General.

Los Angeles is not big on grand juries. Maybe this is the time.

Stay tuned. All hell’s gonna break loose on Monday.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf



Annie Gilbertson | 89.3 KPCC |

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.
Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012. Krista Kennell/AFP/Getty Images

22 Aug 2014 :: Emails obtained by KPCC show Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy personally began meeting with Pearson and Apple to discuss the eventual purchase of their products starting nearly a year before the contract went out to public bid.

Detailed in dozens of emails, the early private talks included everything from prices - about $160 million over five years - to tech support.

"On behalf of those involved in Pearson Common Core System of Courses, I want you to know how much we are looking forward to our partnership with LAUSD," Pearson staffer Sherry King wrote the head of curriculum for L.A. Unified at the time, Jaime Aquino, in November 2012. "We have begun to work closely with your leadership to help make the transition to the common core smooth for everyone."

Emails show Deasy met with CEO of Pearson in May 2012 and later told her it led him to have "excited" conversations with his staff upon his return.

After that meeting, Deasy and other high ranking officials exchanged emails about using Pearson as part of its transition to the new Common Core learning standards.

Emails show Deasy also met with Apple officials, in July 2012.

"The meeting went very well," he wrote to a Pearson official. He said Apple "was fully committed to being a partner."

Told about the emails, L.A. Unified school board member Steve Zimmer said the emails raise the question of whether administrators “made a decision in search of a procurement, rather than the other way around.”

He vowed to look into it.

“We have to make sure this is completely ethical and above board,” he said.

Reached by phone Thursday evening, school district officials said they were unprepared to comment on the email discussions between L.A. Unified and Pearson. They continued to decline comment Friday morning.

Pearson and Apple officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

Michael Josephson, of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles, said it’s possible Pearson was the best choice and school officials didn’t mean to play to favorites - but it doesn't look good.

“You absolutely don’t want a situation where contracts are being steered to favorites,” he said. “It invites kickbacks. It invites skimming. It invites bribery. That’s totally unacceptable.”

A school board committee is currently writing a report detailing its concerns with the iPad project.

A draft version obtained by KPCC Thursday shows members of the Common Core Technology Ad Hoc Committee raise questions about whether it was proper for administrators to use school construction bond funds to purchase curriculum software. When licenses expire and devices fall out of date, the report notes, the district may no longer be able to pull from bond funds.
“The Committee is not convinced that textbook funds are adequate to replenish devices, purchase any necessary software licenses and purchase any textbooks that may still be necessary,” the report reads.

The report also calls out district officials for changing product requirements in the middle of the bid selection process.
“It’s impossible to determine to what extent the field of proposers was limited as a result of minimum requirements,” the report reads. Changes made in the “11th hour,” it continues, opens the “door to the appearance of manipulation."

●Tweeted by Annie Gilbertson @AnnieGilbertson • 10:30am Friday
#lausd officials discussed iPad contracts before bids. Stay tuned for BIGGER story next week … via @kpcc



L.A. schools Supt. Deasy was meeting with top execs from Apple – including CEO Tim Cook - and Pearson – including CEO Marjorie Scardino - before iPad deal

By Howard Blume | LA Times |LA Times

22 Aug 2014 | 10:21pm :: Senior Los Angeles school district officials, including Supt. John Deasy, had a close working relationship with Apple and Pearson executives before these companies won the key contract for a $1-billion effort to provide computers to every student in the nation’s second-largest school system, records released by the L.A. school district show.

The first deal, approved in June 2013 by the Board of Education, was intended as the initial step in a speedy districtwide expansion. Under it, all students, teachers and principals were to receive iPads from Apple that would be loaded with curriculum developed by Pearson. A year later, after pressure from critics and problems with the roll out, the timetable for the project was extended; other curricula and other devices also are being tried out at schools.

Deasy recused himself from the initial bidding process because he owned Apple stock, but the records indicate that he and other district officials had developed ties with the potential to benefit the firms.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has reviewed a report by the district's inspector general and found that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the bidding process.

No evidence has emerged from the records that Deasy tried to steer the results once the process began. But in the period leading up to the bidding, the district and corporate executives collaborated closely.

According to the documents, Pearson appeared to be directly involved with Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino in developing L.A. Unified's five-year technology plan, which was approved by the Board of Education in May 2012.

A May 24 email from Pearson executive Judy Codding to Aquino and another senior official is titled: “Creating a plan that merges Jaime’s team’s work and the proposed plan that emerged from the 5/18/2012 meeting.”

The email tackles the subject of how to pay for an online curriculum, especially one provided by Pearson.

In it, Codding writes: “Jaime, I think everything you said makes sense to me. Yes everything would come out of the textbook fund. The price would be just as you and I discussed,” Codding wrote.

Elsewhere in the email chain, Aquino asks: “Will our board support this expenditure in midst of massive layoffs?”

Aquino also wrote: “I am not sure if legally we can enter into an agreement when we have not reviewed the final product for each grade and if the materials have not been approved by the state."

Further, he said: "I believe we have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one.”

Deasy was one of the last to participate in that email exchange and made his comments after Aquino's. He thanks Aquino for his contribution, adding: “Understand your points and we need to work together on this quickly. I want to not loose [sic] an amazing opportunity and fully recognize our current limits.”

It isn’t clear which of Aquino’s points the superintendent is supporting.

In another email on May 24, Aquino writes to Deasy: “My major concern is that there are a lot of unanswered questions particularly financial/political/infrastructure implications. Let’s see what we can get resolved in our call with Judy.” He was apparently referring to Judy Codding of Pearson.

Deasy responds: “I am in agreement. I will call shortly about my pending talks with Apple.”

In a May 22, 2012, email, then-Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino tells Deasy how much he impresses her.

“My mind was racing all weekend, and I was so impressed by your intelligent and committed and brave hold on the moving parts of the opportunity. I really can’t wait to work with you. I would love to think that we could together do this so well that in your Sunday visits to prisons you won’t see one person who has been educated in LAUSD; rather, you’ll be meeting them as teachers, as contractors, as bankers (well, maybe not bankers), as poets all round the city.”

Less than two months later, on July 2, Deasy updates Scardino about his meeting with Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple.

“I wanted to let you know I have [sic] an excellent meeting with Tim at Apple last Friday. The meeting went very well and he was committed to being a partner. He said he and his team will take 5 days to present a price plan and scope of partnership. He was very excited about being a partner with Pearson. I think it would be good for you to loop back with him at this point. I will reach out to you again in a week.”

In one communication, Pearson’s Codding argued that competitive bidding through a “Request for Proposals” process was unnecessary, but the school system decided otherwise.

The bidding period began in March 2013. Months later, three finalists emerged for the Board of Education to choose from. Each proposal included a device paired with an online curriculum. All three used Pearson for the curriculum. Two of the proposals were for iPads—one from Apple, one from a third-party vendor. On the recommendation of staff, the board approved the Apple/Pearson bid after a brief discussion.

The emails, documents and other records were released in response to requests under the California Public Records Act that The Times first made nearly a year ago. The district initially released some of these records only to KPCC-FM (89.3), which on Friday was the first to report on some of these disclosures. The district then released the documents to The Times.

On Thursday, The Times reported separately on the draft of a district committee report that found the bidding process to be flawed. The report concluded that district actions could have created the appearance that the process was unfair.

Deasy said Thursday that he could not comment on the report because he had not read it. He added that it had not been provided to him for review. He could not be reached Friday night for a response to the disclosed emails.

Aquino, who left the district at the end of last year, has declined requests for interviews.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment Friday. A Pearson spokesperson was unable to provide a response Friday night.

Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update | Week of August 25, 2014 |

21 August 2014 :: On August 12, 2014, LAUSD opened the school year using a new student information system, MiSiS (My Integrated Student Information System). The result has been chaos at secondary schools, where administrators, counselors and clerks have become frustrated and exhausted by software that simply does not work.

A counselor assigns a period 3 class to a student missing one on the schedule prepared by MiSiS, but MiSiS does not retain it, no matter how many times it is input. Students new to the school, but not to LAUSD, are programmed by hand, but MiSiS does not retain their information. These flaws affect perhaps 25% of secondary students. LAUSD says that 99% of students are in class and learning, but MiSiS cannot tell how many students are in each class, whether they are on campus or, in an emergency, where students may be found.

To create basic reports, which were built into the old systems, users are told to export data to Excel and then perform a mail merge in Word. Yes, that’s crazy. The system performed so poorly that, on the third day of school, teachers were denied access to the system and told to take attendance on paper.

Functions that schools would normally be performing at this point, such as balancing class sizes or changing schedules of students who made the football team, are not being attempted. The fall master schedule and class rosters may be finalized weeks late, which will damage this semester’s teaching and learning. Was this the fault of Chief Information Officer Ron Chandler, who attempted to take the blame in an email sent to all employees on the Saturday before the school year began?

For the past eight years, LAUSD has run two systems simultaneously—the Student Information System (SIS), which dates from the 1980s, and the Integrated Student Information System (ISIS), which was partially implemented in 2006 as a replacement for SIS. LAUSD never fully implemented ISIS because it did not believe it would work. LAUSD did not want to repeat the unfortunate experience of Prince George’s County, Maryland, where the same software resulted in the kind of disastrous opening of school we’ve just witnessed in LAUSD.

In 2012, the decision was made to walk away from the investment in ISIS—more than $100 million— and create a new system based on software developed by Fresno Unified using Microsoft software tools. The decision may have been the right one, but LAUSD showed little interest in input from the administrators, teachers, counselors and clerks who would use the system—the people who know the nuts and bolts of how to operate schools.

From December 2012 through April 2014, AALA organized eight meetings, which included school-site administrators and experienced members of United Teachers Los Angeles—a total of 22 hours—to discuss the status of ISIS and development of MiSiS. In the latter meetings, LAUSD was represented by Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill and high-level staff from its Information Technology Division. Concerns about the system, training and implementation were discussed in detail, with summaries of each meeting published in AALA’s newsletter. LAUSD’s school-site administrators and teachers went on the record with specific, serious concerns. While many of the concerns were addressed, the MiSiS system continues to be plagued by serious problems. Among these problems was the decision to turn off the old systems, SIS and ISIS, prior to implementation of MiSiS. This meant that if Plan A didn’t work—and it hasn’t—there was no Plan B.

With all the discussion about accountability in education, who will be held to account, and with what consequences, for implementing a computer system at least three to six months before it was ready? The trainings conducted last spring were mostly inadequate because MiSiS was nowhere near ready. Besides, training doesn’t help if software doesn’t work.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan has called for an investigation of the failed implementation of MiSiS by LAUSD’s Inspector General, whose office has been decimated by budget cuts. We recommend an investigation by someone outside of LAUSD, such as Controller Ron Galperin. There must be consequences for whoever gave the green light to implement a system so critical to the operation of schools, with software that was clearly not ready for prime time.


AALA has received many emails and calls from secondary administrators concerned with the myriad MiSiS mishaps they experienced as they opened the school year. The MiSiS crisis has dramatically increased the workload of administrators who have spent many evenings and weekends trying to make the system work on behalf of students. Here are a few of their concerns.

“Hate it!!!” “Frustrating” “Overwhelming”

“200 students were not programmed. Teachers were unable to take attendance and unable to retrieve a Master Program via MiSiS.”

“Untold hours were spent inputting data, which were then lost. It’s hard to trust the system when it keeps breaking down. Experts all had different answers to the same problem.”

“We were unable to get an accurate enrollment count. The MiSiS program lacks consistency—shuts on and off. Worse yet, MiSiS doesn’t retain data from one day to the next. Students are not always programmed correctly. Staff time consumption for programming is beyond belief!

“Opening school went fairly smoothly, except that the effort expended was five times greater than prior years. MiSiS is very unreliable; we are unable to make program changes and unable to get an enrollment count. The system kicks in and out. When it goes out, you need to start all over.”

“Most all students were programmed, but many were not programmed to the correct classes. This issue raised considerable concern by both students and parents. Staff had to go “old school” (paper and pencil) to modify students’ programs. Teachers were unable to take roll due to the MiSiS system turning off and on without warning. Access is very slow.”

“This was one of the hardest school openings ever because of MiSiS!”


●● smf’s 2¢: I learn new things every day. I knew that the $100 million ISIS System was abandoned without being fully implemented because it was feared it wasn’t robust enough – but it wasn’t until I read: “LAUSD did not want to repeat the unfortunate experience of Prince George’s County, Maryland, where the same software resulted in the kind of disastrous opening of school we’ve just witnessed in LAUSD” that I began to see the dots that wanted connecting.

“Self,” I said to myself, “Why is it that Prince Georges’ County, Maryland rings a bell?”

And the answer, gentle reader, is that John E. Deasy, Ph.D. was once Chief Executive Officer and Secretary/Treasurer of Prince Georges’ County Public Schools.

So I looked up the Prince Georges’ County Public Schools ISIS Plan 2006 online [ISIS REVISED TODAY:] to see what that was all about …and I found this:
  • At the request of the Chief Executive Officer, a revised reporting and accountability structure for schools identified for improvement has been designed to promote the implementation of school improvement initiatives and student achievement.
  • The Intensive Support and Intervention Schools (ISIS) initiative will identify pathways to high achievement by decentralizing resources to the Regional Offices in direct support of identified schools. The level of support will be individualized, structured and coordinated to provide a clear focus for schools. It will also include tight accountability measures.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls - Let me translate: ISIS was Deasy’s initiative - written in Deasyspeak boilerplate and its roll out in Prince Georges’ County was an unfortunate experience, a disaster.

And MiSiS? The same in L.A.

To repeat, because it is through repetition that we learn: The ISIS software in PGCPS resulted in the kind of disastrous opening of school we’ve just witnessed in LAUSD with MiSiS.

To quote Vin Scully: “Experience is the art of recognizing your mistakes when you make them again.”

…or as Britney Spears put it so wisely: “Oops …I did it again!”


By Sarah Butrymowicz | Hechinger Report/Pass-Fail 89.3 KPCC |

August 20 2014 :: Devon Sanford dropped out of school the summer before ninth grade to take care of his sick mother, making him one of the thousands of California middle school dropouts who go largely unnoticed. Devon Sanford dropped out of school the summer before ninth grade to take care of his sick mother, making him one of the thousands of California middle school dropouts who go largely unnoticed. Sarah

Devon Sanford’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was in the eighth grade. After barely finishing at Henry Clay Middle School in South Los Angeles, he never enrolled in high school. He spent what should have been his freshman year caring for his mother and waiting for police to show up asking why he wasn’t in school.

No one ever came.

“That was the crazy part,” he said. “Nobody called or nothing.”

Thousands of students in California public schools never make it to the ninth grade. According to state officials, 7th and 8th grade dropouts added up to more than 6,400 in the 2012-13 school year – more than 1,000 in the Los Angeles Unified School District alone.

Like Sanford, many of them just disappeared after middle school and never signed up for high school.

But their numbers are so tiny in comparison to California’s more than 94,000 high school dropouts each year that few school districts are paying attention to middle school dropouts.

One sign of the inattention: a 2009 state law mandating California education officials calculate a middle school dropout rate has gone largely ignored, although districts do publicly report the raw numbers.

California requires students to attend school until they are 18, meaning these young dropouts and their parents are breaking the law and could be fined as a result. But schools often aren’t able to track them down, according to several educators in L.A. Unified.

“Do you devote resources to the kids who are here or not here? I know it sounds really cruel, but out of sight out of mind,” said Linda Guthrie, who teaches English at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Hollywood. “Schools don’t have the resources to go out and find those no shows.”

King, where nearly three-quarters of the students qualify for free- or reduced-priced lunch, had nine dropouts in 2012-13 school year. Like many schools, King relies on robo-calls to inform parents when kids miss school. It has one attendance clerk for 1,500 students, down from four seven years ago.

Recessionary budget cuts have also made it hard for staff to keep track of students at Thomas Edison Middle School, a predominately Hispanic and low-income school in South Los Angeles.

The school has a single full-time employee to crunch attendance numbers for 1,151 students - and call parents when kids don’t show up. The school shares one truancy officer with four other middle schools. In early December, he realized one child had missed three straight weeks of school.

In the 2011-12 school year, five seventh and eighth graders dropped out of Edison.

“I’m happy to say we only have five,” Lua Masumi, community school coordinator who helps set up academic, health and social services for students, said last winter. “But I’m sad we have five.”

Experts said the reasons kids drop out in 7th or 8th grade are similar to the reasons high schoolers give up. They range from problems at home or gang involvement to failing academics and losing interest in their classes. Often it’s a combination.

Melissa Wyatt, executive director of Foundation for Second Chances, a Los Angeles-based community organization that runs educational and mentoring programs for youth, said in some cases, like Sanford’s, parents pulled the children out of school to work or care for younger siblings or elderly relatives.
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“Kids are taking care of their grandparents and parents at a younger and younger age,” Wyatt said. She said it’s more prevalent in immigrant communities.

Experts said if one thing will help these kids stay in school, it’s personalized attention. But that doesn’t come cheap.

In 2010, L.A. Unified started the “diploma project” at Robert Peary Middle School in Gardena.

One full time staffer was assigned to monitor the grades, attendance and behavior of 70 students who were identified at risk for dropping out based on attendance rates and grades. It is a tiny portion of the school’s more than 1,800 students.

Beverly Evans meets with parents, teachers and the students themselves on a regular basis to find out what’s causing problems - or just to reiterate the importance of trying to succeed in school.

“Our title is graduation promotion counselor,” she said. “But I really call us mother, father, brother, sister.”

The program is funded by a five-year, $11.6 million grant from the Obama Administration’s High School Graduation Initiative and covers five other middle schools and six high schools. In 2013, only 2 percent of 8th graders in Diploma Project schools failed to sign up for 9th grade - compared with 11 percent in 2011. But those kids may not have all been dropouts - some of the kids may have had to repeat the 8th grade.

Some educators are adamant the high school dropout problem must be attacked in middle school.

“If you’re waiting until high school to do dropout prevention, you’re waiting way too long,” said Debra Duardo, executive director of the Los Angeles School District’s Office of Student Health and Human Services who oversees things like dropout prevention and mental health services district-wide.

Johns Hopkins researchers found students who drop out in high school showed warning signs as early as middle school. Those who did poorly in the 6th grade had a 10 to 20 percent chance of graduating high school.

Among the dropouts, some do make it back – eventually – driven mostly by few job prospects.

After a year off caring for his mother and reeling from her death from cancer, Sanford bounced around a few schools in L.A. Unified.

He eventually moved in with his father in San Bernardino and enrolled in YouthBuild, a charter school for former dropouts.

He graduated high school this summer, at age 19.

Cheryl Traylor, a counselor at YouthBuild, said Sanford is a rare success story for middle school dropouts. Those who have enrolled at her school have a harder time than high school dropouts, she said, because they are so far behind and have often been out of school for longer.

“They didn’t stay,” she said. “They struggled.”

●● smf’s 2¢: Until the requirements of the Ed Code – on Arts+Music Education, Phys Ed, Comprehensive Health Education, etc. – and things like Middle School Drop Out Reporting and tha School Safety and Health Plans are enforced rather than waived or ignored – children and programs will slip through the cracks, past the nonexistent safety nets and into oblivion. From the Department of Education to the Department of Corrections. The Standards and Curriculum and The Law are not items to be picked-and-chosen-from – not something to be got-around-to after we get the test scores up, the bad teachers got-rid-of and the iPads distributed.



Opinion by David L. Kirp | New York Times |

AUG. 17, 2014 :: TODAY’S education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.

Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.

Marketplace mantras dominate policy discussions. High-stakes reading and math tests are treated as the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line. Teachers whose students do poorly on those tests get pink slips, while those whose students excel receive merit pay, much as businesses pay bonuses to their star performers and fire the laggards. Just as companies shut stores that aren’t meeting their sales quotas, opening new ones in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.

This approach might sound plausible in a think tank, but in practice it has been a flop. Firing teachers, rather than giving them the coaching they need, undermines morale. In some cases it may well discourage undergraduates from pursuing careers in teaching, and with a looming teacher shortage as baby boomers retire, that’s a recipe for disaster. Merit pay invites rivalries among teachers, when what’s needed is collaboration. Closing schools treats everyone there as guilty of causing low test scores, ignoring the difficult lives of the children in these schools — “no excuses,” say the reformers, as if poverty were an excuse.

Charter schools have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools. Vouchers are also supposed to increase competition by giving parents direct say over the schools their children attend, but the students haven’t benefited. For the past generation, Milwaukee has run a voucher experiment, with much-debated outcomes that to me show no real academic improvement.

While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education — bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum — goes undiscussed.

Business does have something to teach educators, but it’s neither the saving power of competition nor flashy ideas like disruptive innovation. Instead, what works are time-tested strategies.

“Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service”: That’s the gospel the management guru W. Edwards Deming preached for half a century. After World War II, Japanese firms embraced the “plan, do, check, act” approach, and many Fortune 500 companies profited from paying attention. Meanwhile, the Harvard Business School historian and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alfred D. Chandler Jr. demonstrated that firms prospered by developing “organizational capabilities,” putting effective systems in place and encouraging learning inside the organization. Building such a culture took time, Chandler emphasized, and could be derailed by executives seduced by faddishness.

Every successful educational initiative of which I’m aware aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools. The best preschools create intimate worlds where students become explorers and attentive adults are close at hand.

In the Success for All model — a reading and math program that, for a quarter-century, has been used to good effect in 48 states and in some of the nation’s toughest schools — students learn from a team of teachers, bringing more adults into their lives. Diplomas Now love-bombs middle school students who are prime candidates for dropping out. They receive one-on-one mentoring, while those who have deeper problems are matched with professionals.

An extensive study of Chicago’s public schools, Organizing Schools for Improvement, identified 100 elementary schools that had substantially improved and 100 that had not. The presence or absence of social trust among students, teachers, parents and school leaders was a key explanation.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nationwide mentoring organization, has had a substantial impact on millions of adolescents. The explanation isn’t what adolescents and their “big sibling” mentors do together, whether it’s mountaineering or museum-going. What counts, the research shows, is the forging of a relationship based on mutual respect and caring.

Over the past 25 years, YouthBuild has given solid work experience and classroom tutoring to hundreds of thousands of high school dropouts. Seventy-one percent of those youngsters, on whom the schools have given up, earn a G.E.D. — close to the national high school graduation rate. The YouthBuild students say they’re motivated to get an education because their teachers “have our backs.”

The same message — that the personal touch is crucial — comes from community college students who have participated in the City University of New York’s anti-dropout initiative, which has doubled graduation rates.

Even as these programs, and many others with a similar philosophy, have proven their worth, public schools have been spending billions of dollars on technology which they envision as the wave of the future. Despite the hyped claims, the results have been disappointing. “The data is pretty weak,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. “When it comes to showing results, we better put up or shut up.”

While technology can be put to good use by talented teachers, they, and not the futurists, must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.
  • David L. Kirp is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.”

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
Editorial: GOV. BROWN IS RIGHT TO OFFER LEGAL HELP TO IMMIGRANT MINORS - LA Times supports the effort to use state dollars to help immigrant children|



Tweet: Deasy met with Apple execs – including CEO Tim Cook - & Pearson – including CEO Marjorie Scardino - before iPad deal




IF YOU GIVE A KID AN iPAD: ACLU is suing a school district in MA for letting only low-income kids take home devices |.

7 STORIES: A bunch of other California Education News…


Tweet: "The kitty for school building+modernization is dry ...but this is the year for reelection, not school construction.”

LACOE QUESTIONS LAUSD SPENDING ON POOR CHILDREN: Alleged conflation of Special Ed w/Special Needs students in LCAP |


NORWALK/LA MIRADA TEACHER’S MESSAGE: “Good luck with that!! …but I don't think she was too terribly bad" |.

NORWALK/LA MIRADA SUPE’S MESSAGE: “District is about to embark on an exciting year ...”…and I’m outta here! |


LACOE questions LAUSD spending on low-income, ELL & foster students. Wasn't that the whole idea of the LCFF+LCAP? -

COUNTY OFFICE OF ED WITHHOLDS APPROVAL OF LAUSD LCAP, Questions spending on low-income, English learner & foster kids

Politco: PUBLIC SOURING ON COMMON CORE …at least as a brand |

A middle income family can expect to spend $245,340 on a child born in 2013. United States Department of Agriculture:




7 stories: THE “NEW” LAUSD STUDENT DISCIPLINE POLICY: District announces+spins ongoing policy changes |


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
AUG 26
REGULAR BOARD MEETING - August 26, 2014 - 1:00 p.m. - including Closed Session items
Administration of the oath of office to Dr. George McKenna III by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
Start: 08/26/2014 1:00 pm

REGULAR BOARD MEETING - August 26, 2014 - 4:00 p.m.
Start: 08/26/2014 1:00 pm

AUG 28
LAUSD POLICY ROUNDUP: Superintendent Deasy and the staff of the LAUSD kicks-off quarterly meetings on major initiatives taking place in LAUSD. RSVP HERE
Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 10 a.m. - Noon
LAUSD Central Office: Board of Education Board Room

Start: 08/28/2014 4:00 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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