Saturday, December 12, 2015


4LAKids: Sunday 13•Dec•2015
In This Issue:
 •  THE BLOATED RHETORIC OF NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’S DEMISE: What replacing the despised law actually means 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
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  ► Friends4smf :: The GoFundMe campaign
 •  Follow 4 LAKids on Twitter - or get instant updates via text message by texting
 •  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.
Ray Cortines has left the building.

His exit email says:

Serving the students and the LAUSD community has been one (of) the most challenging, enthralling, and most rewarding endeavors of my career. I take with me the wonderful memories of our schools, students and staff that I will reflect upon on smile about often.
All the best,
Ramon C. Cortines

I went by Beaudry Friday afternoon to extend best wishes and say thank you to Superintendent Cortines, on behalf of his lifetime of kids – children who, Garrison Keillor says,”…seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted."

I also wanted to extend my personal thanks for Ray Cortines’ past fifteen months of service, far above+beyond, to the LAUSD Community in pulling us out of a death spiral and renewing our faith in ourselves and our mission.

Good job.

After I visited the superintendent’s office I wandered down to the floor where the Bond Oversight Committee offices are; the office was closed – with staff off doing something else. Hopefully something productive. But half the floor was vacant and the lights were off – with files and desk contents boxed-up and blueprints rolled for some sort of move to some other sector of the building. Even my friend Alix’s office was boxed up – and my parents knew Alix’s parents before there was a Scott or an Alix!

“WTF?” I muttered. Or an acronym to that effect.

Heraclitus (535-475 BCE) said there is nothing permanent except change: change alone is unchanging. And lots of other folk, from Socrates to Margaret Mead to Gandhi to Kennedy to Barack Obama have said other deep+meaningful things about change.

“It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will.”
- Sam Cooke

SO THIS WEEK’S NEWS is about changing the LAUSD superintendent.
And changing No Child Left Behind
And changing Climate Change.

Heraclitus also said that bigotry is the sacred disease:
Commentary by Scott Simon | NPR/Weekend Edition Saturday |

Saturday, December 12, 2015 :: Frank Sinatra was born a hundred years ago today. Even if you think his music just isn't your music, it's hard to get through life without uttering what I'll call a "Frank Phrase" from one of his songs at telling times in our lives.

"So set 'em up, Joe ... Fly me to the moon ... I've got you under my skin ... My kind of town ... I did it my way ... I want to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep ..." And that wry elegy for lost loves and lonely nights: "So make it one for my baby, and one more for the road."

Sinatra called himself a saloon singer. He ran with mobsters and could be a bully; he coveted other men's wives and could be brutish to his own, and other women and men.

But today, I'd like to recall a moment when Frank Sinatra was truly magnificent. Not in Las Vegas or New York, New York, but Gary, Indiana.

November, 1945. A lot of white students had walked out of Gary's Froebel High School when it opened up to black students.

A citizens' group asked Frank Sinatra to come to their school because he was a teenage heartthrob, but also a performer with principles. Sinatra had always insisted on playing with integrated orchestras. He was the best, and wanted to play with the finest: Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Sinatra wanted to sing with Ella Fitzgerald.

November 5, 1945, Richard Durham of the Chicago Daily Defender described Frank Sinatra's appearance at Froebel High in Gary this way:

"Sinatra, blue-suit and red bow-tie, five feet ten inches tall and 138 pounds, the heavyweight in the hearts of the teenagers, stepped to the stage amid weeping, some fainting, much crying, and said, 'You should be proud of Gary, but you can't stay proud by pulling this sort of strike...'

"When he described his own racial background and told how he was called a 'dirty little Guinea,' the students yelled in horror, 'No, no, no,' and listened quietly when he told them to stop using the words..."

Well, Sinatra used words we don't say on the air these days.

"The eyes of the nation are watching Gary," Frank Sinatra told the students. "You have a wonderful war production record. Don't spoil it by pulling a strike. Go on back to school, kids."

"When he sang 'The House I Live In,'" wrote The Defender, "a strange silence fell upon his normally noisy worshippers and for once they screamed only when the song ended."

“The house I live in, a plot of earth, a street
The grocer and the butcher, and the people that I meet
The children in the playground, the faces that I see
All races and religions, that's America to me”
- Words by Lewis Allan, Music by Earl Robinson

In 1945 the Donald who was always wrong was a duck.

Maybe Francis Albert can teach The New Donald something besides doing it “My Way.”

Probably not, but there is always hope. Because Hope = Change+Progress.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

“If They Say –‘Why, Why,’ Tell 'Em That Is Human Nature” – words+music by Steve Porcaro & John Bettis

• The White House’s Special Investigation Unit, nicknamed the “Plumbers,” was established by John Ehrlichman to prevent information “leaks” from the White House and were also involved in various activities perpetrated against Democrats and antiwar protesters. Their most famous mission was the break-in at the home of former Pentagon employee Daniel Ellsberg, where they unsuccessfully attempted to prevent further “leaks” of confidential information. – Wikipedia

by Howard Blume | LA Times |

Dec 10, 2015 9PM :: The Los Angeles Board of Education is immersed in the biggest job it has: choosing the next leader of the nation's second-largest school system.

Starting on Sunday, the seven-member board began interviewing candidates and weighing options. Insider or outsider? Former insider? Business executive? Educator from a much smaller city?

Although top district officials have gone to great lengths to keep the process confidential, the names of top contenders are emerging through sources close to the Los Angeles Unified School District, people who know some of those under consideration and individuals in other cities.

Among those who are considered to be in the running and who have been or are expected to be interviewed: San Francisco Supt. Richard Carranza, L.A. Unified Deputy Supt. Michelle King and Fremont Unified Supt. Jim Morris, who formerly worked for L.A. Unified.

Others who have been part of the board's discussions and may be interviewed include: Miami schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho, St. Louis Supt. Kelvin Adams, Atlanta Supt. Meria Carstarphen, business executive Jim Berk, nonprofit director Dixon Slingerland and former senior L.A. Unified administrator Robert Collins.

This list is not complete, some insiders said, and L.A. Unified's interest is not necessarily reciprocated.

Efforts by The Times to speak with each of these individuals have been unsuccessful over the last two weeks. Carranza has not responded to interview requests. King and Morris declined.

The board hopes to make a selection by the end of the month. Current Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, 83, is retiring. The veteran educator has led L.A. Unified on three separate occasions, most recently after Supt. John Deasy resigned under pressure last year.

The next leader faces daunting challenges: a looming budget shortfall, declining enrollment and lagging student achievement. There's also the challenge of an outside plan to rapidly expand the number of independently operated charter schools, which could threaten the solvency of L.A. Unified if enough students enroll in them. The schools chief also must bring together a Board of Education with different beliefs and conflicting political backers.

Altogether, the situation is enough to persuade one well-regarded former superintendent to steer clear.

"There is no way I would go to Los Angeles. It's a total mess," said Joshua Starr, who recently headed the district in Montgomery County, Md., with 156,000 students, for nearly four years and who attracted some attention for the job in Los Angeles. "I would want to be in a job that you had a chance to be successful."

Nonetheless, a large field has emerged, compiled by an executive search firm hired by the board. And although a dark horse may surface, the front-runners appear to be Carranza and King, with Morris close behind.

Carranza, 49, has led San Francisco Unified since 2012, where his focus has included expanding technology and reducing suspensions, two issues of importance in Los Angeles. He previously worked as that district's deputy superintendent for instruction, innovation and social justice. He also served as a senior administrator in Las Vegas' schools.

San Francisco is less than one-tenth the size of L.A. Unified; about 60% of students are from low-income families — a substantial percentage, but lower than in Los Angeles. Carranza recently signed a three-year extension, starting at $315,000 a year.

The leading inside candidate, and probably the only one, is King, 54, the top deputy to Cortines. She also served in that capacity under Deasy. King has built a positive reputation, distinguishing herself as a loyal figure who mostly stayed in the background.

One exception was in April 2014, after a fiery bus crash in which 19 district students and others were en route to visit Humboldt State. Ten died, including one L.A. Unified student. Because Deasy was out of town, King went to the scene, 500 miles away in Orland, with counselors. She displayed a calm demeanor as the district helped families establish contact and arrange travel home.

But the former Hamilton High principal hasn't played a central role in handling political pressure or in guiding district instruction.

Morris, 56, worked his way up through L.A. Unified for nearly 30 years, holding the posts of senior regional administrator, chief operating officer and chief of staff to three superintendents. He was generally well-liked by principals.

In 2010, Morris became superintendent in Fremont, a rapidly growing Bay Area district with 34,000 students, an enrollment that is diverse but more prosperous than that of L.A. Unified.

Another group of individuals have, according to sources, been part of the discussion, but The Times has not been able to verify with certainty that they have been interviewed or agreed to apply.

Leading that group is Carvalho, 51, from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, whom board members clearly wanted on the short list, according to sources who could not be identified because they are not authorized to speak about the matter.

But he has said he's not interested in leaving south Florida. Still, his strong personality and a portfolio of aggressive school improvement efforts would make him a top contender.

"There is no amount of money that L.A. could pay to take me to California," Carvalho said to his school board, according to a Dec. 2 article in the Miami Herald.

He might interview in Los Angeles, but for now, he's expected by some district watchers to accept a pay raise to stay where he is.

A former district insider, Collins, 69, heads the board of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network at Clemson University in South Carolina. Collins' biography also lists him as the founder of a company that consults with districts about career and technical education. He held senior posts in Los Angeles before leaving to become schools chief for Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego County for about three years, ending in 2010.

Another educator of interest is Adams in St. Louis. The 59-year-old administrator has received praise for making progress over seven years in a school system with challenges similar to those in Los Angeles. Atlanta's Carstarphen, 45, also has attracted attention — she is African American and speaks fluent Spanish. But she has only been in Atlanta since July 2014. She previously headed school systems in St. Paul, Minn. and Austin, Texas.

A less traditional prospect is Berk, 54, head of the executive board for UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, which is an unpaid position. According to his biography, he is the former CEO of Participant Media, which released 55 films during his tenure, including "Waiting for Superman," which portrays charters, including those in Los Angeles, as being preferable to traditional public schools. He has also pursued other business ventures. And early in his career, he taught music and helped start the arts magnet at Hamilton High, later becoming a principal.

Another out-of-the-box possibility is Slingerland, 46, executive director of Youth Policy Institute, a nonprofit group with an annual budget of $57 million, according to the organization. The institute operates one middle school in L.A. Unified as well as two local charter schools. In all, the group says it serves more than 100,000 students and adults at a total of 125 program sites. Slingerland is well connected politically, both with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Obama administration, which awarded the institute a $30-million federal Promise Neighborhood grant to oversee a range of services to promote education and combat poverty.

Attempts to reach Carvalho, Collins, Adams and Carstarphen were not successful. Through UCLA, Berk said he was currently unavailable and Slingerland declined to be interviewed.

The board has set aside more time for interviews Sunday.


Posted on LA School Report by Mike Szymanski |

December 11, 2015 :: 10:05 am Steve Zimmer is not happy.

In a highly unusual move, LAUSD school board president Steve Zimmer issued a statement late last night, criticizing the Los Angeles Times for speculating who might become the district’s next superintendent.

“We hope that the speculation on the part of the LA Times in an article published this evening does not cause harm or controversy for any of the individuals named in the article,” Zimmer said in the statement sent out after 10 p.m. “We have committed to the individuals whom we will interview that we will maintain confidentiality around their possible candidacy. We hope the LA Times will honor that commitment moving forward.”

Zimmer was reacting to a story that once again threw out names of potential candidates for the top spot at LA Unified. It was the second time the paper posited a list of potential successors to Ramon Cortines, following a November story that identified 43 potential candidates, ranking them according to their perceived chances.

But now, timing is crucial. The school board is in the process of winnowing the list of candidates to a final few from a starting pool of about 100, and it’s all being conducted in secret even though a few of the school board members had expressed interest in making the entire process public. The number of people involved in this part of the selection process is believed to be fewer than a dozen, including the seven board members, district lawyers and the board secretariat.

It’s also the last full week for Cortines, 83, who has been privately saying good-bye to staff and departments over the past month, and even faced a surprise party.

Zimmer has remained protective of the secret search process, rebuffing persistent media inquiries seeking confirmation of potential candidates and inquiries about the search’s closed sessions. The seven-member elected board is holding a meeting this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and another on Dec. 15. Last week, the interviews were held in a downtown office building to protect the identities of potential candidates coming to speak to the board.

The board could announce a selection as early as the 15th but more likely after a two-week winter break, in early January.

In his statement, Zimmer emphasized that the board “is committed to finding the best leader to guide our school district in the coming years. We request that the media and the community honor the decision to conduct a confidential search and allow us to do the job that we were elected to do on behalf of the students, families and school communities of LAUSD and the residents of our district.”

He added, “The purpose of conducting a confidential search was to ensure the best possible candidates could apply to lead what we believe to be the most important school district in the nation.”



by Howard Blume | LA Times |

Dec 12, 2015 7AM :: An important drama involving the Los Angeles Board of Education -- selecting its schools chief -- is playing out in private, and officials this week said they are determined to keep it that way, even though some details are getting out.

Exactly nine district people know precisely which individuals are being considered for the job, according to L.A. school board President Steve Zimmer and others, and he, for one, seems confident that they are keeping mum.

Despite this pact of secrecy, word has spread about some people being considered. They include San Francisco Supt. Richard Carranza, L.A. Unified Deputy Supt. Michelle King and Fremont Unified Supt. Jim Morris, who formerly worked for L.A. Unified.

These three and all others contacted by The Times have declined to be interviewed.

The problem for school board members is that no matter how diligently they try to close the circle, there are documents visible to others, travel arrangements to be made and astute observers in other places and even other cities. And friends, colleagues and family members in L.A. Unified or other districts are under no vow of silence.

The issue matters to board members because they want applicants to aspire to the L.A. job without putting their current position at risk.

“The purpose of conducting a confidential search was to ensure the best possible candidates could apply to lead what we believe to be the most important school district in the nation,” Zimmer said in a statement after The Times revealed some of those under consideration.

In an interview, Zimmer said he wants applicants to know that people involved in the selection process had nothing to do with the leaks.

“People need to know that they can trust us,” said Zimmer.

The nine district people in the know are the seven school board members, district general counsel David Holmquist and board executive officer Jefferson Crain. Also participating is lead search-firm consultant Hank Gmitro.

Managing confidential matters is a regular part of the job for Holmquist and for Crain, who handles documents, meeting schedules and legal compliance for the board.

Current L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who plans to retire this month, said he lacks complete knowledge about potential candidates and has tried to stay out of the process.

He’ll forward to the board a name that is suggested to him, he said, but he’s trying to avoid aspirants who want to meet. He does not want to be seen as endorsing anyone or playing favorites.

Even getting boilerplate comments from board members has been difficult. On Tuesday, board newcomer Ref Rodriguez froze, speechless, when asked for a comment of any sort regarding the superintendent search.

(He also was clearly exhausted after nearly 14 hours of meetings, nearly half that time in closed session related to the superintendent search.)

His colleague, veteran board member Richard Vladovic, came to the rhetorical rescue.

“Selecting a superintendent is the board’s most important job,” Vladovic said. “We’re doing what’s necessary to pick the best.”

When similarly pressed, board member Scott Schmerelson paused thoughtfully then offered, “We’re working closer and closer every day.”

No outsiders, apparently, have learned the full list of those with a shot at being hired. But the effort is attracting national attention. When Atlanta Supt. Meria Carstarphen surfaced as a potential candidate in an article in The Times on Friday, the Atlanta school system responded immediately.

“Supt. Carstarphen is one of the nation’s most outstanding public education leaders,” said Jill Strickland Luse, executive director of Communications & Public Engagement.

“It is no surprise that her name would come up in a superintendent search. We are all flattered by the consideration. We continue to appreciate and admire the great work Dr. Carstarphen is doing to make Atlanta Public Schools a high-performing district that prepares students to graduate ready for colleges and careers of their choice.”

The board’s next private session for the superintendent search will be Sunday…

Including Closed Session Items
At 333 South Beaudry Avenue, Board Room
From 8:30 a.m., Sunday, December 6, 2015 was:
Recessed to 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, December 8, 2015 then:
Recessed to 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, December 8, 2015 then:
Recessed to 9:30 a.m., Sunday, December 13, 2015
CLOSED SESSION ITEMS (Purpose and Authority)
A. Personnel (Government Code Section 54957)
• Public Employment: Superintendent of Schools
• Employee Evaluation: Superintendent of Schools |

Speculation is that the new superintendent will be announced on Thursday, Dec 17th. And such speculation is based wholly on hearsay, rumor, gossip and innuendo.

Hint-hint. Nudge-nudge. Say no more.


By DAVID L. KIRP Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times |

DEC. 10, 2015 :: THE No Child Left Behind law will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history. With a rare display of bipartisanship, Congress has overhauled federal education policy. The law’s successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is headed for the president’s desk, and he has signaled his intention to sign it. (●●smf: He did!)

Good riddance to a misbegotten law. Will its replacement be any better?

No Child Left Behind, on the books since 2002, was supposed to close achievement gaps for disadvantaged students (racial and ethnic minorities, low-income students, youngsters with special needs and English learners) and to eliminate what President George W. Bush decried as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” The goal was audacious — by 2014, the law decreed, 100 percent of students would perform at grade level.

Instead, things have gotten worse by almost every measure. SAT scores have declined, as have the scores of American students, compared with their counterparts in other nations, on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exam. The rate of progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card, was actually higher, both over all and for specific demographic groups, during the decade before No Child Left Behind than after it was passed.

At the same time, the law’s aspiration morphed into a high-stakes target for accountability — not for the politicians, with their unachievable demands, but for school officials who were given an impossible burden of meeting annual testing goals. Under the law, schools that didn’t make “adequate yearly progress” faced ever more draconian sanctions, including wholesale reorganization and closings.

As a result, public schools have turned into pressure cookers. Teachers are pushed to improve test results. A vanishingly small amount of time is spent on art, music and sports, because they aren’t part of the testing regime. Students have become test-taking robots, sitting through as many as 20 standardized exams a year.

The Obama administration initially acted as if the miracle of 2014, with every student proficient in math and reading, would come to pass. But in 2012, when it became clear that the achievement gap wasn’t about to vanish, the Department of Education started giving waivers to states that wanted to devise their own definition of adequate yearly progress. While almost every state has gotten an official permission slip, federal bureaucrats retained the final word on whether a state’s plan would pass muster, and those waivers were conditioned on commitments to adopt administration-approved education reforms. In effect the department has been relying on waivers to rewrite No Child Left Behind.

The Every Student Succeeds Act shifts, for the first time since the Reagan years, the balance of power in education away from Washington and back to the states. That’s a welcome about-face.
No longer can the Department of Education deploy the power of the purse, as it did with “Race to the Top” challenge grants, to prod states into adopting dubious policies like using students’ standardized test scores to judge teachers or expanding the number of charter schools. Now those decisions are left to the states.

The dread “annual yearly progress” requirement is gone, as are the escalating series of consequences inflicted on school districts that don’t measure up. States must intervene to help the weakest 5 percent of all schools, high schools that graduate fewer than 67 percent of their students on time (the national norm exceeds 80 percent) and schools where a subgroup of students “consistently underperforms.” But the states, not Washington, determine how to turn things around. That’s accountability with a needed dollop of flexibility.

While states are still required to test students annually in reading and math from third to eighth grade, and at least once in high school, they have a freer hand in designing those tests. What’s more, those standardized tests count for less in evaluating schools. At least one other measure of academic improvement, like graduation rates and, for nonnative speakers, proficiency in English, must be included. And a student performance measure, like grit or school climate, has to be part of the evaluation equation. This multipronged approach should make it easier for educators to replace some drill-and-kill memorization with more hands-on learning and critical thinking.

Civil rights groups have been tepid in their support for the legislation because they fear that some states will revert to the neglect of minority students that drove Congress to pass No Child Left Behind. They have history on their side: “Leave it to the states” was disastrous for minority students. Will this time be different? The new law maintains the old requirement that test scores be made public and that those results be disaggregated. As a result, we’ll know where the most vulnerable students are. There will be still be fights over accountability, but those will be at the state level, and advocates will need to keep up the pressure for equity.

Hope springs eternal in school reform, only to be followed by disappointment. (Announcing his education bill, Lyndon B. Johnson declared his education plan the “passport from poverty.” Clearly, that didn’t work.) Rewriting the standards of evaluation and giving states freer rein in bailing out weak schools, as this law does, is a good day’s work inside the Beltway, but it’s no guarantee that the quality of teaching and learning will change. Making those improvements will take hard work on the part of committed educators and parents. Stay tuned.

• David L. Kirp is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Learning Policy Institute.

THE BLOATED RHETORIC OF NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’S DEMISE: What replacing the despised law actually means for America’s schools

by Alia Wong | The Atlantic |

Dec 9, 2015 :: How does the Every Student Succeeds Act reverse the course of K-12 education in the United States? The headlines say it all: It “Restores Local Education Control.” It “continues a long federal retreat from American classrooms.” It “shifts power to states.” According to a Wall Street Journal editorial, it represents “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.” The Every Student Succeeds Act, according to The New York Times, represents “the end of an era in which the federal government aggressively policed public school performance, and returning control to states and local districts.”

But for all the breathless hype, the legislation seems unlikely to produce many changes that are actually visible on the ground.

The Senate on Wednesday approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, the bill that will reauthorize the nation’s 50-year-old omnibus education law and make the “pretty-much-universally despised” No Child Left Behind obsolete. The legislation, which has already gotten the Obama administration’s tacit approval, is being touted by observers and policymakers from both the right and left as a product of rare bipartisan compromise. “I think this has turned out to be a textbook example of how to deal with a difficult subject,” Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who co-wrote the legislation, told Politico. “When we come to a bipartisan consensus like this, I think the country accepts it a lot better.” Democratic Senator Patty Murray, another architect of the act, tweeted: “It’s not the bill I would have written on my own, it’s not the bill Republicans would have written. That’s compromise.”
Related Story

‘No Child Left Behind’ Is No More

The most conspicuous manifestation of that bipartisan give-and-take is what’s being highlighted by news outlets and pundits across the country: Schools will still be held accountable for student performance, but states can determine the nuances of how that will take place. They’ll have to use “college-and-career ready” standards and intervene when those expectations aren’t met, but states will get to design their own standards and intervention protocol. They’ll still be required to administer annual testing in certain grades, ensure at least 95 percent of students participate, and disaggregate data based on students’ race, income, and disability status, but they can use other factors on top of testing to assess student performance, and the details of how the testing happens and how the scores are interpreted are up to states.

The overthrow of No Child Left Behind, which has been up for reauthorization for years, is certainly cause for excitement. The George W. Bush-era law required schools to administer annual tests in certain grades in an effort to identify and elevate the achievement of underperforming youth. It was also loathed for its one-size-fits-all approach to education reform, its promotion of teaching-to-the-test, and its harsh system of sanctions. Republicans grew to despise it for how much it allowed the Department of Education to micromanage states and school districts (especially when Obama rose into office). And given how little power the Every Student Succeeds Act gives to the federal government, it may feel, particularly among those on the right, as if the nation’s schools are about to experience a major makeover—as if the next era of public education will mark a major, much-anticipated divergence from the status quo.
In reality, schools may not see much on-the-ground change.

But in reality, schools may not see much on-the-ground change. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia already have waivers from No Child Left Behind’s “most troublesome and restrictive requirements”—flexibility granted several years ago by the Obama administration in exchange for states’ commitment to “setting their own higher, more honest standards for student success.” This means that most of the country’s students have already been learning under a system that eschewed much of No Child Left Behind’s most obvious and onerous aspects—and looks a lot like the system envisioned in Every Student Succeeds. States with waivers were essentially allowed to set their own goals for raising achievement, come up with their own strategies for turning around struggling schools, and design their own methods of measuring student progress.

“I don’t think a parent is going to notice any difference when they take their child to school next year that their school is somehow operating under a new federal law,” said Tamara Hiler, the policy advisor for education at the think tank Third Way, in an email. “The only thing they are likely to notice is that their state or district may spend time reducing the number of tests they have been layering on over the past few years”—a problem that, contrary to belief, wasn’t really a federal one to begin with.

In many ways, what most conservatives seem to be rejoicing about the Every Student Succeeds Act is that it’s replacing Obama’s waiver system. At a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in early 2013, Alexander was quoted as saying: “This simple waiver authority has turned into a conditional waiver with the [Education] Secretary having more authority to make decisions that in my view should be made locally by state and local governments.” Indeed, some of the most controversial elements being overturned or prohibited by the Every Student Succeeds Act were implemented not under No Child Left Behind but through the waiver system. It was through the waivers (and the Race to the Top grant program) that the Obama administration mandated test-score-based teacher evaluations. And it was through the waivers (and the Race to the Top grant program) that the administration all but required participating states to adopt the Common Core. (The Every Student Succeeds Act makes it clear that the federal government can’t mandate teacher evaluations or standards.)
“If anything, this bill really takes the air out of the political footballs that have been Common Core and overtesting.”

“What this bill doesn’t change specifically in substance it does change in rhetoric,” Hiler said. “I think if anything, this bill really takes the air out of the political footballs that have been Common Core and overtesting … Hopefully the passage of this new bill will lesson the tension around these issues for the foreseeable future.”

The new law does contain lots of novel elements that are worth highlighting, many of which haven’t gotten as much attention. For example, the law for the first time ever seeks to expand access to preschool by including $250 million in annual funding for early-childhood education. “The fact is, a child’s education begins long before kindergarten, and this bill reflects that,” Kris Perry, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, said in a statement. It also authorizes funding for a program that will scale up evidence-based strategies for improving student outcomes and other initiatives that promote innovative reform.

But amid all the applause and whoops and back-patting, some experts are warning that the Every Student Succeeds Act has, as The Washington Post put it, “big problems of its own.”

“As far as I can tell, it’s a brilliant piece of political posturing ... that doesn’t seem likely to provide educational opportunity for underserved kids,” wrote Conor Williams, a senior researcher in New America’s education-policy program, in a recent op-ed. “It’s a clear system that serves the political needs of most members of Congress and protects a variety of special interest groups. It combines a thin veneer of civil rights equity with excruciating complexity and uncertain accountability. It takes a relatively simple federal accountability system, removes the teeth, and layers on a bunch of vague responsibilities for states … Just because something is a compromise doesn’t mean that it will do good things for children.”


by Roy Lander in The Huffington Post |

Updated: 12/11/2015 3:59 pm EST :: Today was the day -- our group of 10 Education Ambassadors went to the U.S. Embassy in Paris to deliver messages from our students, sharing their fears and hopes around climate change, to President Obama's Science Advisor Dr. John Holdren. My fifth grade students at The Galloway School in Atlanta created postcards that express their concerns about climate change, and how these changes affect their world. The whole of our middle school also drafted position statements to call for action on climate change. For all of us Education Ambassadors, this was a fantastic opportunity to share both our interest and our students' passion about the earth system and its long-term health.

Dr. John Holdren, who is also the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), graciously received our group and discussed some of the latest developments in climate science and policy. He assured us that our messages would be shared with the Obama administration. I passed along three messages from my fifth graders today:

●First, Mekai shared that he is "worried about climate change because places that have a lot of ice, like Alaska, are flooding now that the ice is melting. I hope that this COP (COP21 [“Conference of Parties’] The United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris) turns out better than previous times and I hope the Earth will continue to thrive." One of the many types of disasters that Dr. Holdren discussed was the severe flooding that has been occurring around the globe recently.

●Second, Nia shared that she is concerned about climate change and did not want anything to happen to our animals. She continued by stating "I don't want anything to happen to our planet. I know that climate change is a perplexing problem, but we need to try our best to help." Dr. Holdren agreed that both climate change science and climate change solutions are challenging!

●Finally, Stella is worried about climate change "because it will create a lot of natural disasters, and that will lead to drought, famine, floods, wildfires and more! That will be awful! It will mess up our world." These fifth graders obviously "get it," but they are also hopeful that national and world leaders can make progress towards solutions.

Will our leaders set aside their differences to move towards solutions? If we cannot move towards solutions, we consign our planet to a state of slow and painful decline. At that point, it will not matter how much money we have, how educated we are, how many tanks we own or how much food and water that we have. Can we move forward on climate change for the children? By elevating the voices of my students, I hope we can motivate our leaders to do the work that must be done.

• Minneapolis-based nonprofit, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, is leading a delegation of 10 Education Ambassadors to COP21 through their Window Into Paris program, December 5-11. These 10 teachers -- representing diverse subject areas, grade levels and school communities from Denver, Atlanta, upstate New York, western North Carolina and Minnesota -- are connecting their students to climate policy in action, helping to build both climate literacy and the relevance of this issue in their students' lives

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EVENTS: Coming up next week...
December 13, 2015 - 9:30 a.m. SPECIAL BOARD MEETING - - Including Closed Session Items - Recessed from 12-6-15 - 8:30 a.m.

CANCELLED - Tues. December 15, 2015 - 10:00 a.m. -- BUDGET, FACILITIES AND AUDIT COMMITTEE

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


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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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