Sunday, August 09, 2015

Picking up the pieces of our broken heart

4LAKids: Sunday 9•Aug•2015
In This Issue:
 •  TEACHERS OBJECT AS LAUSD EXPANDS PLAN TO CUT ARTS ED TIME …even as District is continues out of compliance with state education code
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

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 •  4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
 •  4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
“We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!” – Jon Stewart

This may come as a shock, but I don’t spend a lot of time watching Fox News.

Thursday evening was the exception; I succumbed to the media hype and watched both the not-ready-for-prime-time and prime-time Republican Primary Debates. Too much has already been written, spun, framed, re-written, re-spun and re-framed about the festivities …but I leave you with a few random thoughts:

I never realized that Facebook is an unwholy owned subsidiary of Fox News and the RNC; they left that part out of “The Social Network”.

Education was pretty much unspoken of, though Jeb Bush managed to get Common Core and School Vouchers into the same story+sentence about “success.” Apparently Jeb had a ‘Florida Education Miracle” just as grand+miraculous as his brother W’s ‘Texas Education Miracle’. We all know how that worked out!

Nobody up there liked Arne Duncan and I don’t either.

Nobody up there seemed to have seen the likes of Donald Trump before. But I have: Silvio Berlusconi.

A WEEK AGO FRIDAY THE GRANDLY TITLED BETTER TOGETHER TEACHER SUMMIT (#CATeachersSummit) was held up-and-down the state – grandiloquently+hyperbolically: “The State’s Largest Teacher Training Ever Attempted”.

The they who report such things report that 15,000 teachers attended at 33 venues (20,000 by LASR’s count) – plus unenumerated multitudes via smartphone apps and livestream media. It was all very high tech and interactive. Most of the media coverage from the ®eformistas [“California Teachers Summit Attracts 20,000 Educators Statewide” - LA School Report |] and Silicon Valleyites [“Teachers Summit Draws Thousands to Sites Across California”| EdSource] gushed at the digitally connected wonderfulness. The small market local press [“Stanislaus State Joins Statewide Teacher Conference, Site Of Live-Stream Feed” | The Modesto Bee |] gushed at being included. The free event – which featured live-on-video video appearances from a TV actress and an NFL-player-turned-astronaut (!)- was organized by California State University, the Santa Cruz-based New Teacher Center and an association of the state’s independent private colleges and was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Did your eyes glaze over at the mention of The Gates Foundation?

But wait …there’s more!: The “Santa Cruz-based New Teacher Center” Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation is 4LAKids regular/John Deasy’s former LAUSD #2/Common Core Technology Project (iPads4All) architect Jaime Aquino …just in case you think Aquino is just sitting around waiting for a subpoena and/or indictment from the newly sworn-in US Attorney for the Central District of California [] over the LAUSD iPad fiasco.

Thumper: He doesn't walk very good, does he?
Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!
Thumper: Yes, mama?
Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?
Thumper: "If you can't say something nice... don't say nothin’ at all."

State Labor Board Issues Complaint In Charter School Unionization Effort |
UTLA Outlines Accusations Against Alliance For Anti-Union Efforts |
Alliance Charters Says Some Its Teachers ‘Feel Harassed’ By UTLA |

Maybe Mr. or Mrs. Rabbit need to go straighten that out?

MEANWHILE, (IGNORE THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN) Eli Broad+John Deasy make some noise …but are not heard from: BROAD FOUNDATION PLANS MAJOR CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION FOR L.A. UNIFIED STUDENTS. So the line it is drawn and the curse it is cast for the years ahead. The goal is (or maybe isn’t) 50% of LAUSD kids in charter schools in eight years.

Eli has his $450M. I have my 2¢: By the numbers: HOW TO TELL IF YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT IS INFECTED BY THE BROAD VIRUS |

CARL COHN, longtime Long Beach Unified superintendent, former State Board of Education member and recent advocate for breaking up LAUSD [], will lead the new autonomous state agency that will direct the state’s evolving school improvement system and oversee implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula []. The five-member board of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence announced the appointment of Cohn as its first executive director on Thursday. (Nothing for LAUSD to worry about there!)

SCHOOL STARTS IN NINE DAYS ON AUGUST 18th. The good news is that Superintendent Cortines promises that MiSiS will be ready: CORTINES PROMISES MISIS IS FIXED AND READY TO GO AS NEW SCHOOL YEAR OPENS |

“MiSiS is the heart of this district,” the superintendent said in a statement. “After months of tireless repairs, our heart has some new stents, replaced valves, a pacemaker, and reduced cholesterol, and it is pumping much stronger.”

“Despite the challenges we’ve faced, I’ve never seen so much excitement and enthusiasm for the start of the school year,” he said. “Everyone has come together to help pick up the broken pieces of our schools and put them back together again. I’m very grateful that the LAUSD community was there to take action.”

THE OTHER GOOD NEWS – especially I suppose if folks get hot under the collar if MiSiS isn’t ready - is that Roger Finstad, director of Maintenance and Operations for LAUSD, promises that all the District’s Air Conditioning will be ready for the First Day o’ School! [LA Unified Has The A/C Ready For The Start Of The New School Year]

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Howard Blume | Los Angeles Times |

8 Aug 2015 :: A prominent local education foundation is discussing a major expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles aimed at boosting academic achievement for students at the lowest performing campuses.

Details of the project are not yet fully clear. But charter school leaders said they have met with officials from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation in recent months about the effort. The Keck Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and other organizations that support the independently run, publicly financed charters also are involved, according to people who attended the meetings. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

The Broad Foundation said the charter plan is in an early, exploratory phase, but declined to provide specific information.

"People have been demanding better public schools forever and not getting them," said Swati Pandey, a spokeswoman for the foundation. "We hope this will be a bigger, better and more ambitious effort to make that happen."

The people who attended the meetings said organizers displayed maps showing Los Angeles neighborhoods where they said thousands of students are going to under-performing public schools.

An ambitious expansion of charter schools would be costly and would likely face a political fight. And it's not known what kind of funding commitments the organizers have locked down.

One person who attended a meeting said the goal was to enroll in charter schools half of all Los Angeles students over the next eight years. Another said there was discussion of an option that involved enrolling 50% of students currently at schools with low test scores. A source said the cost was estimated to be $450 million; another said hundreds of millions of dollars are needed.

Officials from Keck and Walton could not be reached for comment.

Currently, more than 100,000 L.A. students attend charters, about 16% of district enrollment, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District. L.A. Unified has more charters, 207, and more charter students than any other school district in the country.

"The conversation I had focused on decreasing the number of students attending failing public schools," said Parker Hudnut, chief executive officer of ICEF Public Schools, a charter group that enrolls 3,900 students in 10 South Los Angeles schools.

"We looked at maps of L.A. and how many students are attending these schools and talked about what can we do about it," he said. "They tried to identify areas of L.A. where tens of thousands of students are going to schools that they deemed unsatisfactory."

"It's exciting," said Cristina de Jesus, president and chief executive of Green Dot Public Schools California, which operates 20 charters in the L.A. area. "It's re-energizing the conversation around education and education choices in Los Angeles."

Charters are exempt from many rules that govern traditional schools; most are non-union.

United Teachers Los Angeles has long been at odds with Eli Broad. Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl accused the philanthropist of repeatedly trying to weaken the "input of teachers over how education is run in their schools."

"We're concerned about anything Eli Broad is involved with," he said.

School board President Steve Zimmer said that while some charters serve students well, a rapid expansion could undermine the district's own school improvement efforts. L.A. Unified enrolls students who are more difficult and expensive to educate than those at charters, he said. Those students would be left with fewer resources if there were an exodus to charters, Zimmer said.

"The most critical concern would be the collateral damage to the children left behind," he said.

The most critical concern would be the collateral damage to the children left behind. - Steve Zimmer, Board of Education

Funding for the proposed effort could go toward obtaining classroom space and for covering the early administrative costs of new charters. It also could be used for training teachers and administrators. Discussions are underway with Teach for America to provide instructors, according to those familiar with the planning.

TFA recruits recent college graduates for two-year stints, frequently in charter schools.

Charters became a central issue in this year's school board elections; supporters, through a political action committee, spent more campaign dollars than any other interest group.

The election resulted in charters gaining an ally on the school board: Ref Rodriguez, a charter school co-founder. He could not be reached Friday for comment.

While charters benefit from philanthropic and bipartisan political support, they also have many critics, including teachers union leaders. In L.A., charters have clashed with district officials over access to classrooms and resources.

Charter proponents considered it a setback when former Supt. John Deasy resigned under pressure in October. Deasy now works for the Broad Foundation as "superintendent in residence" to help train and coach current or aspiring senior school district administrators.

Broad had said Deasy was the best L.A. superintendent in memory. Deasy's departure may have been a catalyst for Broad to pursue an aggressive strategy outside the school system, some observers said.

"John Deasy was not able to move the needle enough on changing the bureaucratic culture at LAUSD," said Shane Martin, dean of the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University. Given his departure, it's "not a surprise" that critics of that bureaucracy "are drawn to a charter effort."

The foundation declined to discuss what role, if any, Deasy is playing in the new effort.

smf: see 4LAKids - some of the news that doesn't fit: By the numbers: HOW TO TELL IF YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT IS INFECTED BY THE BROAD VIRUS

By Sarah Tully, EdSource |

Aug 4, 2015 | A group of Los Angeles students who are new to the United States spent part of their summer break learning algebra in a pilot program with materials that are lacking in most places nationwide – Common Core-aligned lessons in Spanish.

For five weeks, high school students completed an algebra class given in both English and Spanish by teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District and the University of Guadalajara in Mexico. All of the Los Angeles Unified students in the class have lived in the United States for less than a year, speak Spanish as their native language and have minimal English skills. In the end, 36 students completed the class in July.

The class used a new online curriculum that toggles between English and Spanish, developed by University of California and Guadalajara university educators in the hope that eventually some schools in both countries may use the materials.

“I don’t think there’s much question that there’s a real need out there for this support,” said Patrick Callahan, statewide co-director of the California Mathematics Project, who helped develop the curriculum. “I think the challenge is that it’s not just an issue of translating into Spanish, but a combination of understanding the more rigorous expectations of the Common Core and how that plays out for English language learners.”

This fall, Los Angeles Unified officials will decide how the materials could be used in classrooms, said Gerardo Loera, the district’s chief academic officer*. The goal is that the curriculum will be a key part of some algebra classes and may eventually be extended to all newcomers in the district.

“We see it as a promising project for us,” Loera said.

While UCLA has directed a project to help Spanish-speaking high school students since 2008, this new class for the first time is aligned with Common Core standards, said Patricia Gandara, co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project, who leads Project SOL, or Secondary Online Learning. Project SOL has worked with educators in Mexico since the beginning, but it is one of the few programs of its kind to incorporate schooling from both sides of the border.

Proposition 227, the 1998 state law that banned bilingual education, generally forbids Spanish-language instruction and materials in most cases, unless there is a waiver. But the restrictions only apply for those students under age 10, Gandara said.

Project officials chose to focus first on algebra because it is considered a gateway for higher-level classes and college preparation, Gandara said. In addition, the need for language help is greater in math, since English learners tend to get more help in other subjects. Next year, Gandara hopes to add geometry and algebra II.

Gabriela Uro, director of English language learner policy and research for the Council of the Great City Schools, said schools nationwide are struggling to find native-language materials to assist students. She said programs like Los Angeles Unified’s – which use online curriculum and teachers from the U.S. and Mexico – are rare. She knows of just one other in Yakima, Wash., in which U.S. students use online curriculum from Mexico.

“It was a challenge even before Common Core. Now with Common Core, the publishers are focused on revising (books) in English,” Uro said. “Producing them in Spanish doesn’t come up as a big priority.”

It’s especially an issue in Los Angeles Unified, which has the largest population of English learners in the country – about 164,349 in 2014-15, according to state data.

Statewide, about 1.4 million students are English learners. The vast majority – 84 percent – speak Spanish.

Still, Los Angeles Unified doesn’t have “a huge library of primary language materials,” Loera said.

Loera said it’s difficult for teachers to determine if students don’t know a subject – like how to solve algebra equations – or whether they don’t understand the vocabulary. Native language materials help explain the subject matter while students are still learning the English words.

The summer class was held at the district’s West Adams Preparatory High School, just west of downtown Los Angeles, that has seen an influx of new immigrants in recent years, said Assistant Principal Jose Gonzalez. Many of them are from Central America, including some considered “unaccompanied minors” who had spent time in immigration detention centers before entering Los Angeles schools.

Overall, about 27 percent of the school’s students are English learners, according to state data. The district doesn’t track numbers of students who are new to the country, Loera said.

Everyone in the summer school class had failed algebra during the school year. The summer class was aimed at students with beginning-level English skills – the first time a makeup class was offered for that group.

Although the students were all enrolled in algebra during the school year, their math abilities varied. Some had been attending school in Mexico or Central America before moving to the United States, while others hadn’t been in classes recently.

Some students needed help with the basics, such as fractions and multiplication, said Edith Issakhanian, one of two Los Angeles Unified teachers in the pilot. Others seemed to understand algebra, although they struggled with the vocabulary.

As part of the summer school class, students answered math word problems on iPads, going back and forth between English and Spanish, so they could master the vocabulary and explain the concepts.

“I think that those kids were a little skeptical at the beginning,” Gonzalez said. “They were not sure what was happening or what to expect. As the program continued, they realized they were being taught in the primary language. It made it a lot easier.”

Omar Contreras, 18, who is going into 10th grade, started at West Adams in February. He had left school at age 14 to work in the fields, growing corn and beans, in El Salvador. Students like Contreras, who missed some years of school, can stay in traditional high schools past their 18th birthday if they are making academic progress, Gonzalez said.

In class during the school year, Contreras said a Spanish-speaking aide sometimes explained material. But the summer school class helped more because of the Spanish translations on the iPad, Spanish-speaking teachers from Mexico and group work with students of similar backgrounds. He got a B.

“They explain it better,” Contreras said in Spanish about the summer school class.

Alfonso Benitez, 17, an incoming 10th-grader, was born in Los Angeles, but he moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, at age 2. After returning to Los Angeles, he enrolled in school in January and initially struggled with algebra because he had never taken the subject before.

“I understood the (summer) class very well because it was bilingual,” Benitez said in Spanish.

Previously, Project SOL offered college-prep math and science classes to about 500 Spanish-speaking immigrant students in four Southern California high schools from 2008 to 2012. While the program increased access to those classes, less than half got a C or better in those classes, according to the project.

In 2013, the project launched its “2.0” version to build on that program, making it aligned both to the Common Core in the United States and school standards in Mexico. Eventually, the goal is for students to get course credit in both countries, especially for those who go back and forth, Gandara said.

Compared to the previous California standards, Common Core-aligned math is considered more difficult for English learners. Before, students were assigned more numeric computations, like 2 + 2, which are the same in both languages. But students now need to explain or write out how they came up with answers.

Issakhanian, the summer school teacher, said she used some of the early Spanish materials from Project SOL during the school year to help students in her classes who didn’t understand English. Because she didn’t have technology, she printed out papers, which her students appreciated. Other than that, Issakhanian had to rely on other Spanish-speaking students to translate the material that they might not understand themselves.

“I really am excited about this program and I hope a lot of schools take it on,” Issakhanian said. “For me as a teacher, it makes me happy to have the materials to make it an even better experience for my students.”

▲ENGLISH LEARNER TEST TAKERS :: All English learners who enter the school system must take a test to assess their English ability. Students are given an initial assessment if they come from another country, state or district.

Here is some data about students who took the initial English test, called the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) , in 2013-14, the most recent numbers available:

►STATE, 2013-14:
• 297,154 students took the test
• 39 percent scored at the beginning English level
• 29,306 high school students were tested

• 34,394 students took the test
• 38 percent scored at the beginning English level
• 2,452 high school students were tested
• Sarah Tully covers Common Core and early education for EdSource in the Los Angeles area.
* Loera is no longer the LAUSD CAO.

by Brenda Iasevoli | The Hechinger Report |

August 7, 2015 :: LOS ANGELES — Looking smart in a blue button-down shirt, Jorge Magana, 18, zipped through a PowerPoint presentation with the confidence of a Fortune 500 CEO.

Seated in front of Magana in a classroom at Los Angeles High School of the Arts was a panel of three judges: the school’s assistant principal, a school coordinator, and a former student. The occasion was his senior defense. Magana was trying to convince the panel that he was ready to graduate.

He had 45 minutes to present a portfolio of three “artifacts,” one academic, one artistic, and one of his own choosing. The panel grilled him: Can you describe your research process? Which obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them? How will the skills you learned help with your future plans?

Portfolio assessments like this one, which look a lot like doctoral dissertation defenses, are on the rise in California. The practice, touted by educators nationwide as a proven path to college success, has largely been squeezed out by standardized tests, the quicker, less-costly measure of student performance. But the state’s reliance on test scores to rank school performance is about to change, and educators see an opportunity.

Since 1999, California has primarily tied school rankings to test scores, using the Academic Performance Index (API). Since its repeal in July 2013, the three-digit ranking has been undergoing revision. On the new API, which will debut in the 2015-2016 school year, test scores will account for only 60 percent of a school’s ranking. The other 40 percent will factor in graduation data and “proof of readiness for college and career.” Portfolio assessment can supply this data. The tricky part is convincing skeptics that these assessments are reliable.

Magana’s presentation seemed to come off smoothly. He started with the personal statement he wrote for AP English about his father’s alcoholism and its effect on his family. Then he presented a model of a set for the play “Electricidad” that he built for Advanced Scenic Design class. He finished with a policy memo he wrote for AP Government on the high cost of rehab.

But when the panel asked him specific questions, Magana stalled.

“What policies already exist to help those who can’t afford rehab?” asked Cathy Kwan, the high school coordinator who is developing the portfolio model. She schedules the defenses, recruits panel members, and trains teachers.

Magana fell silent and looked off to the side. He had just argued in the memo that the price tag for alcohol rehab is prohibitive for minimum wage earners and that there should be policies in place to ensure alcoholics can get the help they need free of charge.

“I did research that,” he said. “But I can’t remember.”
• 40 — the percentage of a California school’s ranking that will be based on data other than test scores in the 2015-2016 school year.

Magana stepped outside the classroom while the panel evaluated his performance. The judges agreed his presentation skills were solid: he made eye contact, he knew how to hold the audience’s attention, and he was organized. But he failed to demonstrate content knowledge and sound research skills. Assistant principal Matthew Hein pointed out a “classic bad research move,” Magana’s admission that he “dismissed research that didn’t fit his opinion.”

The verdict: Magana would have to rewrite the policy memo and defend his work again.

This is only the second year Los Angeles High School of the Arts has required its seniors to do portfolio defenses. The seriousness of the process and the amount of work it takes hasn’t yet sunk in. “Students didn’t really take the defenses seriously enough,” says Kwan reflecting on this year’s presentations. “They thought we were just going to let them pass. They’d say to me, ‘I got this.’ And I’d tell them, ‘No, you don’t. You have to practice.’”


Kwan is struggling with the difficulty facing any educator hoping to use the portfolio model: defining a standard approach to evaluation. Harvard education professor Daniel Koretz knows this difficulty firsthand. He studied the portfolio models of Kentucky and Vermont in the 1990s, when those states were trying to replace standardized tests with portfolio assessments. The criteria for what makes a good portfolio, Koretz found, can vary widely from school to school, making comparisons difficult.

“The standardized assessment is standardized precisely so that there is nothing extraneous that differs between kids or between schools,” he says.

This problem has sent educators in California searching for an objectivity not usually associated with portfolio assessment.

A recent report from Stanford University professors Soung Bae and Linda Darling-Hammond promotes graduation portfolios as one measure of how well schools prepare students for college. The authors recommend that the state allow schools to use “well-designed” portfolios, comprised of work from each of five different subject areas to include research essays, art work and other sophisticated projects that can’t be captured on a test in place of traditional exit exams.

“There’s an openness in the legislature [to consider] what would be more indicative of college and career readiness than sitting down and filling in a multiple-choice Scantron,” says Darling-Hammond. “Some say U.S. kids are the most tested and the least examined in the world. We have a lot of tests, but we don’t have high-quality examinations of thinking and performance.”

Aiming to test the digital portfolio as a way of producing reliable data, Stanford’s Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) has teamed up with ConnectEd, a Berkeley-based organization that promotes a mix of academic and career-centered school programs called “linked learning.”

The resulting online tool, ConnectEd Studios, tries to take the subjectivity out of evaluating portfolios. Students can earn digital badges for completing performance tasks. A student writing an argumentative essay, for example, can upload the essay to the site, where his teacher can evaluate the writing according to a scoring rubric with criteria for grading. A series of dots represents the progress of the essay: red dot (ungraded), purple dot (not proficient), and green dot (proficient). When the essay is deemed proficient, the student earns a badge.

“We see these badges as data nuggets,” says Dave Yanofsky, director of strategic communications for ConnectEd. “If done right, digital badges give you both the qualitative and quantitative component. It’s not just that the student turned in the work and got a pat on the back. These badges show that students turned in work that is up to the level of quality we established.”

The development of reliable portfolio assessments could have huge implications for how we judge school effectiveness, not just in California but nationwide. Yanofsky estimates that 20 school districts, including Houston and Philadelphia, have expressed interest in working with ConnectEd to build their portfolio programs.

The expectation is that an online platform like ConnectEd Studios would create a secure place for students to share videos, audio files, photos, writing samples, digital badges, resumes, and letters of recommendation, showcasing their qualifications for universities and potential employers.

“Students can sell themselves short,” says Nadia Schafer, a digital specialist with Philadelphia Academies, a nonprofit that works with area high schools to provide students with career training and college preparation. “But the portfolio shows them all that they’ve accomplished. A portfolio tells their stories so much better than just a resume ever could.”

For now, the goal at the Los Angeles Unified school district is to make the portfolio defense a graduation requirement. Ten high schools are piloting the initiative, and there are plans to get more schools on board next school year.

“Students have improved immensely since we first started,” says Kwan. “But it still wouldn’t be fair to hold them back based on the defense. We haven’t yet learned how to prepare kids adequately to do this.”

Half of the Los Angeles Unified schools testing portfolio defenses have partnered with Envision Schools, a network of three small charter high schools in the San Francisco area that has systematized the portfolio model over the past 13 years and can provide step-by-step instructions on how to build a portfolio program. L.A. teachers traveled to San Francisco to watch the Envision students’ defend their portfolios and to get training on how to critique them. Envision has shared videos of model defenses and scoring rubrics that L.A. teachers can revise to suit their schools’ specific needs.


At first, many teachers at Los Angeles High School of the Arts thought the defense was an unnecessary torture. Then, they actually witnessed a defense.

“When you see your students reflect on what they’ve learned, and see how that learning has affected them, it’s hard to say this isn’t a good idea,” says Isabel Morales, a 12th grade social studies teacher. “Watching the defenses taught me how much my lessons count, how crucial it is for me to provide a transformative learning experience for my students.”
• “Some say U.S. kids are the most tested and the least examined in the world. We have a lot of tests, but we don’t have high quality examinations of thinking and performance.” - Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond

Morales says students can simply “go through the motions” in class, taking in information without really retaining it. But portfolio defenses force them to explain what they’ve learned, and to apply it in different ways; for instance, Magana tackled the issue of alcoholism as a statement on policy and in a personal statement. Since the portfolio program started, Morales has discovered that the best preparation for a portfolio defense is for students to share their work and reflections on what they learned in the process, something she didn’t always make time to do.

Realizations like this one are the most important outcomes of the defenses, according to Tom Skjervheim, associate director at ConnectEd. In fact, when Skjervheim views a defense, he finds himself evaluating the teacher more than the student. “The portfolio defenses shed a light for teachers on what they should be doing in professional development,” he says. “They allow teachers to think about how they might tighten up their practices and get the results they want from students.”

According to a survey of students at Los Angeles High School of the Arts, 90 percent of students who passed and 68 percent of students who failed said the portfolio defense was a “worthwhile experience.” Magana, who passed his second defense a week later, says he’s learned from his mistakes and won’t repeat them at the University of California Riverside, where he’ll major in computer science this fall.

“I’m worried that in college I won’t have anyone there to push me,” Magana says. “But I have this experience to refer back to. I will remember this. I won’t allow myself to fail again.”

Kwan is already planning ways to make the experience more worthwhile next year, including training teachers to revamp their lessons. She thinks teachers need to tell kids up front what they’re going to learn and why they’re learning it. “This isn’t as common as you might think,” says Kwan. “Kids often don’t know why they do assignments.”

Students will also get more opportunities to practice their presentations before the big day. Groups of four will be assigned a mentor teacher who will critique their portfolios and presentations. Eleventh graders will assist during senior defenses, by switching slides or serving as panelists, gaining a sense of what will be expected of them the next year. Tenth graders will participate in mini-defenses in front of their classes.

While Kwan is intent on perfecting the process, she worries that portfolio assessment could become rote in pursuit of data. The Envision Schools have the defenses “down to a science,” she says. Students start to sound robotic when they’re all saying the same things, she adds.

Success, for Kwan, depends on a continuous evaluation of the process, not on routine. What counts as a real demonstration of learning?

“Many visitors are impressed that students are speaking in front of an audience,” Kwan says. “They don’t notice that the presentation is disorganized or that the students are having trouble answering the judges’ questions. It’s not good enough that students face a difficult task. They have to go up there and have substance. Just because you show up to an interview doesn’t mean you get the job.”

Of the 92 seniors who defended their portfolios this year, 33 failed. Like Magana, they were scheduled to redo their presentations.

But, in the end, all students passed and nabbed diplomas.

“They worked their tushes off,” says Kwan. “Not one of them gave up.”

TEACHERS OBJECT AS LAUSD EXPANDS PLAN TO CUT ARTS ED TIME …even as District is continues out of compliance with state education code
by Mary Plummer with Will Craft | KPCC |

August 04 2015 :: Some art teachers are protesting as Los Angeles Unified expands a plan to provide arts education to more students by shortening the time spent on each subject.

Under the plan, elementary students would receive nine weeks of instruction in each of four art forms — visual arts, theater, music and dance. Historically, these were taught in longer increments of up to one year.

The program, known as the Creative Network Pilot, launched last year in 31 schools and will expand this fall to an additional 10 schools. Third to sixth-graders take part in the program. Younger students at the schools involved receive instruction in the arts that is blended into other subjects throughout the school day.

Many art teachers expressed concerns when the district first rolled out the nine-week pilot program. The move to expand it is renewing their worries.

Katherine Williamson, a long-time elementary music teacher, described the nine weeks of instruction as a "breadcrumb" approach. She sees the program as a rollback rather than an expansion of arts instruction in the district.

"It just doesn't make sense to me. And every art teacher that I talk to — we're just dumbfounded that we would go backwards," she said.

The criticism comes as LAUSD and other California school districts struggle to comply with a state law that mandates arts education in public schools for all four core art subjects. The districts have generally said they lack resources to provide the required instruction.

LAUSD's head of arts education Rory Pullens defended the Creative Network Pilot program during an interview with KPCC in late June.

"This is a step in the right direction when we talk about, you know, access and equity for all," he said. But Pullens acknowledged the program has its limitations.

"There certainly, in this model, are some structural deficiencies in the sense that students are getting arts exposure, but they're not getting the same depth of instruction that we would actually like them to have," he said.

Pullens said as more funding becomes available, the district is looking at expanding the program from nine weeks for each art form to a full semester per subject.

When the program was announced during a school board meeting in April 2014, Steven McCarthy — the district's head of arts education at the time — described the new program as a bit of a step backwards. “This is pruning,” he said at the time.

But in a report released in May, which McCarthy helped prepare, the program was described more positively:

"The Creative Network pilot is both ambitious yet practical in that it has uniquely marshalled the limited arts financial resources, instructional time, and teacher talents to effectively implement an arts education model that can positively affect future equity and access to the arts far all LAUSD students."

The report also notes the district is currently out of compliance with the state's education code, which requires that first through 12th-graders have access to arts instruction every year of their public school careers. Under the current system, which the report calls “void of equity and access,” a student could go through elementary school without receiving any formal arts instruction.

According to district officials, 31 elementary schools volunteered to be a part of the Creative Network Pilot program for the 2014-2015 school year. The table below gives a detailed picture of arts education at some of the schools that participated in the program. The data comes from a survey that LAUSD sent out to school principals asking detailed questions about arts education at each school.

Some caveats regarding the data: Not all the schools that participated in the nine week program filled out the survey. The 26 schools that filled out the survey and participated in the new program are listed below, along with information on the time spent in different subjects, the percentage of students at the school that receive an arts education, and their Arts Equity Index Score.

The Arts Equity Index Score is a rating that the district assigned to schools based on the answers to the arts survey; it's a broad measure of the success or failure of the school to provide students an arts education. It is calculated by assigning different levels of importance to 14 different survey questions that each have a different maximum score. The higher the score, the better the school is doing with respect to that category. There were 89 possible points. The 14 questions measure things such as instructional time in different disciplines and the budget for art supplies and resources. Though instrumental music is not a part of the program, it is a part of calculating the equity index score, which is why it is included here.

Additional elementary schools that will be added to the program for the 2015-2016 school year: 2nd Street, Aragon, Clifford, Fletcher, Ford, Hillside, Logan, Burbank, Fullbright, Hubbard, Mayall. (One school, Blythe, from the 2014-2015 pilot year is dropping the program.)

DATA UPDATE: Check to see if your school is part of the pilot program

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



TEACHERS OBJECT AS LAUSD EXPANDS PLAN TO CUT ARTS ED TIME. Is District out of compliance with state education code?

LAUSD IN REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS! :: Rand Paul: Los Angeles school district wasting lunch money



“I’m not saying that you have to be a reader to save your soul in the modern world.I’m saying it helps" Walter Mosely

PATTER AND PATOIS: A ‘Grandchild of Louisiana’ writes about storytelling and reading and writing …and LA and L.A.



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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
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Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and was Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and has represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for over 12 years. He is Vice President for Health, Legislation Action Committee member and a member of the Board of Directors 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 "WHO" Gold Award and the ACSA Regional Ferd Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award - honors 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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