Sunday, March 06, 2016

Damn the Geneva Convention ...Full speed ahead!

4LAKids: Sunday 6•March•2016
In This Issue:
 •  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.
from the transcript of Thursday’s GOP debate:

BRETT BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists' families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they've been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders.

So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse me. Believe me.

. . .

BAIER: But targeting terrorists' families?


TRUMP: And -- and -- and -- I'm a leader. I'm a leader. I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they're going to do it. That's what leadership is all about.


BAIER: Welcome back to the Republican presidential debate. Let's get back at it.

Gentlemen, this is the last question of the night. It has been a long time since our first debate, seven months ago in Cleveland. A lot has transpired since then, obviously, including an RNC pledge that all of you signed agreeing to support the party's nominee and not to launch an independent run. Tonight, in 30 seconds, can you definitively say you will support the Republican nominee, even if that nominee is Donald J. Trump?

Senator Rubio, yes or no?

RUBIO: I'll support the Republican nominee.

BAIER: Mr. Trump? Yes or no?

RUBIO: I'll support Donald if he's the Republican nominee, and let me tell you why. Because the Democrats have two people left in the race. One of them is a socialist. America doesn't want to be a socialist country. If you want to be a socialist country, then move to a socialist country.

The other one is under FBI investigation. And not only is she under FBI investigation, she lied to the families of the victims of Benghazi, and anyone who lies to the families of victims who lost their lives in the service of our country can never be the commander- in-chief of the United States.

BAIER: Senator...

RUBIO: We must defeat Hillary Clinton.

BAIER: Senator Cruz, yes or no, you will support Donald Trump is he's the nominee?

CRUZ: Yes, because I gave my word that I would. And what I have endeavored to do every day in the Senate is do what I said I would do. You know, just on Tuesday, we saw an overwhelming victory in the state of Texas where I won Texas by 17 percent.

And I will say it was a powerful affirmation that the people who know me best, the people who I campaigned, who made promises that if you elect me, I'll lead the fight against Obamacare, I'll lead the fight against amnesty, I'll lead the fight against our debt, and I will fight for the Bill of Rights and your rights every day, that the people of Texas said you have kept your word, and that's what I'll do as president.

BAIER: Governor Kasich, yes or no, would you support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee?

KASICH: Yeah. But -- and I kind of think that, before it's all said and done, I'll be the nominee. But let me also say...


But let me also say, remember...

BAIER: But your answer is yes?

KASICH: But I'm the little engine that can. And, yeah, look, when you're in the arena, and we're in the arena. And the people out here watching -- we're in the arena, we're traveling, we're working, we spend time away from our family, when you're in the arena, you enter a special circle. And you want to respect the people that you're in the arena with. So if he ends up as the nominee -- sometimes, he makes it a little bit hard -- but, you know, I will support whoever is the Republican nominee for president.


WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I'm going to ask you a version of the same question. As we saw today with Mitt Romney, the #NeverTrump movement is gaining steam. Some people are talking about contributing millions of dollars to try to stop you. Again today, you raised the possibility that you might run as an independent if you feel you're treated unfairly by the Republican Party.

So I'm going to phrase the question that the other three people on this stage just got. Can you definitively say tonight that you will definitely support the Republican nominee for president, even if it's not you?

TRUMP: Even if it's not me?


Let me just start off by saying...

WALLACE: Thirty seconds, sir.

TRUMP: ... OK -- that I'm very, very proud of -- millions and millions of people have come to the Republican Party over the last little while. They've come to the Republican Party. And by the way, the Democrats are losing people. This is a trend that's taking place. It's the biggest thing happening in politics, and I'm very proud to be a part of it. And I'm going to give them some credit, too, even though they don't deserve it. But the answer is: Yes, I will.

WALLACE: Yes, you will support the nominee of the party?

TRUMP: Yes, I will. Yes. I will.
- From the Washington Post |

smf: We have a leading presidential candidate advocating committing war crimes as a campaign pledge and we have his three major opponents saying they would support him if nominated. One of the candidates’ even pitifully invokes Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech as justification.

The Beastie Boys said that you have to fight for your right to party ...but is this the party über alles?
“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

The New York Times from the Associated Press |

BUFFALO, New York — March 3, 2016, 9:09 A.M. E.S.T. :: Ryan Lysek rose to become vice president of his fifth-grade class at Lorraine Academy in Buffalo, New York, after the sitting vice president was ousted for saying things that went against the school's anti-bullying rules. So the 10-year-old is a little puzzled that candidates running to lead the entire country can get away with name-calling and foul language.

The nasty personal tweets and sound bites of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign are reverberating in classrooms, running counter to the anti-bullying policies that have emerged in recent years amid several high-profile suicides.

For teacher David Arenstam's high school class in Saco, Maine, the campaign has been one long civics lesson: "Can you really ban a whole group of people from coming into the country?" the students will ask, or "What's the KKK (the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan), and do they still really exist?"

But mostly, Arenstam said, when it comes to Republican Donald Trump, students "can't believe nobody calls him on the carpet the way that they would be called on the carpet if they said those things."

There's Donald Trump calling Ted Cruz a "loser" and a "liar" and singling out Muslims and Mexicans for criticism. And there's Marco Rubio mocking Trump's "worst spray tan in America" and calling him a "con artist."

Cruz says nearly every day on the campaign trail, "I don't respond to insults" and he has been careful not to engage when Trump and others call him names. But during the Jan. 28 Republican debate which Trump didn't attend, it was Cruz who made some quasi-insults he said Trump would have lobbed: "Let me say I'm a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly," Cruz said, snickering that he was getting "the Donald Trump portion out of the way."

On Thursday, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, jumped into the fray, branding Trump "a phony, a fraud."

"Imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does," Romney said. "Would you welcome that?"

In the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have focused more on policy than on each other. The Republican race is a different story.

"If students are following this election — and they should be — we have a lot of re-educating to do," Buffalo school administrator Will Keresztes said. Much of the rhetoric would violate not only the district's code of conduct, he said, but the state's Dignity for All Students Act.

This is not the first campaign to get ugly, but educators, parents and students say this one is particularly challenging because often the biggest applause lines and headline-grabbers fly in the face of appeals for students be respectful and kind.

Pickerington, Ohio, school counselor Kris Owen said students should be reminded that potential colleges and employers won't find a Twitter feed full of insults as amusing as some have found the candidates'. She suggested using the comments as conversation starters.

"Say, 'Listen, how would you feel if someone was saying these things about you? How could this person approach it differently or why don't you all develop your own campaigns using positive tools instead of the negativity?'" said Owen, who was recognized at the White House last month as a School Counselor of the Year finalist.

Candidates "need to think of what's important, the issues, not whether one gets a spray tan. It's just ridiculous," Ryan Lysek's mother, Cindy Lysek, said.


Associated Press reporter Will Weissert in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

Posted on LA School Report by Guest Contributor Caroline Bermudez |

March 4, 2016 9:23 am :: With the Los Angeles Board of Education poised to consider the expansion of another successful charter school at its March 8 meeting, parents demanding more choice deserve to know what is driving the district’s questionable practices around charter review.

There is an anti-charter narrative so strong that it defies reason, and few illustrate it better than the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The board, according to charter school organizations, is denying their petitions to open new schools. Since last July, LA Unified has turned down seven petitions and approved seven others. Just two years ago, the approval rating for new charters was 89 percent.

The reasons LA Unified cites for some of these charter schools not being allowed to expand? The handling of food contracts and problems with signatures.

And while established charter schools tend to have their contracts renewed (this academic year, the approval rate was 100 percent, the previous year it was 97 percent), the process is not without pain.

Charter leaders have long complained that the list of items a school must “fix” to secure a renewal is onerous, time-consuming and has little to do with students or outcomes.

Hillel Aron of L.A. Weekly wrote about the efforts of a former LA Unified board member, Bennett Kayser, to turn down charter school applications at every opportunity or even close down high-performing schools.

According to Aron’s article, Andrew Thomas, an education researcher who ran unsuccessfully for an LA Unified board position last year, said of Kayser at a candidate debate: “To vote on principle or ideology to close a school—it’s beyond the pale for me.”

But intellectually dishonest (or bankrupt, as was the case with Kayser) criticisms of charter schools certainly do not begin or end in Los Angeles. Policy researcher Conor Williams has written about the petty battles waged against charters across the nation, silly squabbles that include allegations of copyright violation.

Yes, you read that correctly. Copyright violation.

A successful and wildly popular school got grief because it removed swear words from a book it was criticized for having its students read as it was deemed too offensive in the first place by, fittingly enough, a charter school opponent.

Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? I think I know the answer.

Williams rightly notes, “Charter school critics have abandoned any pretense of consistency—any talking points will do.”

These talking points, which are largely false, typically involve spouting nonsense about charters being corporate (they are, repeat after me, slowly and with feeling, public schools), funded by billionaires, or adhere to strict disciplinary policies.

(It’s worth noting I recently visited a charter school where its students practice yoga and happily run around the parking lot during recess, lending further proof that charters greatly differ from one another.)

Not only are these attacks bereft of reason, they sometimes veer into harassment, like doxing poor women of color who dare voice their support of the charter schools their children attend.

On March 8, LA Unified is expected to determine whether KIPP Comienza Community Prep, the highest-performing school serving low-income children in the entire state of California, can grow to accommodate additional grades.

Eighty-four percent of its fourth graders scored proficient or advanced in English language arts on the Smarter Balanced Assessment compared to 39 percent for the rest of the state. The numbers are similarly staggering for their math scores—81 percent at Comienza, versus 35 percent for all California students. Most of these children, 80 percent, qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

KIPP comes to the table with two decades of running successful schools in low-income communities, and a wealth of data about its results, including three federally funded research studies with the most recent one in 2015.

This should be an easy decision for the board.

Sarah Angel, managing director of advocacy for the California Charter Schools Association, expressed her confusion over the district’s reluctance to approve charter schools in a statement:

“It makes little sense that the district would start denying new charters when the district acknowledges the existing charters are succeeding. Successful charter schools should be supported by LAUSD to grow to serve more families in their communities, but instead, many of them are being prevented from growing. Those who are being denied those new schools are the families most in need of better schools and more choice in their neighborhoods.”

In a city dogged by educational shortcomings for its poor children of color, the LA Unified board seems to be letting political grandstanding come before giving more of its neediest children access into a proven foothold of educational equity.

Charter schools should receive careful scrutiny but to have proven, successful schools jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops is irresponsible—and nakedly ideological. Those entrusted in government service should hold themselves to much higher standards—as these schools have done for the children they educate.

▲Caroline Bermudez is a senior writer at Education Post and former reporter at Chronicle of Philanthropy.

●● smf’s 2¢: FIRST: The expansion of the charter school being kvelled about is on next Tuesday’s Board of Ed agenda, recommended for approval.

SECOND: Ms. Bermudez is a writer for Education Post, which calls itself “a non-partisan communications organization dedicated to building support for student-focused improvements in public education from preschool to high school graduation. We believe that education is not one-size-fits-all and that every family deserves to choose from a range of schools to find the right fit for their children, including high quality charter schools.”
That’s all very lovely, but the word “non-partisan” is defied by the buzz words “every family deserves to choose” and “including high quality charter schools”.
“Choice” is a polarizing word in political discourse; “A woman’s right to choose” v. “parent’s right to choose a school.” And when did anyone publicly advocate for low-or-middling quality charter schools? They happen – and they have their champions – but that was never the initial intent.
The original promise/premise/bargain/deal over charter schools was that in exchange for being "unfettered," they were supposed to do a better job of educating students -- or they would be closed.

Not “as good as” – or “almost as good as” – but better! [See: +] But when the California Charter School Law was written by charter school proponents in 1992 [] they left that part out.

And THIRD, Ms. Bermudez “repeat after me, slowly and with feeling” cuteness notwithstanding: the Federal Courts and the US Census Bureau (a part of the Department of Commerce) have determined that charter schools are publicly funded private schools. And nobody ever gave parents some imagined right to choose to send their kids to an inferior public school; not a taxpayer’s expense.


Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC 89.3 |

March 4, 05:02 AM :: The Inglewood Unified School District's finances and operations have not significantly improved under the administration of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, officials with the California State Auditor's office told residents at a public hearing Thursday night.

“Deficit spending has continued in the three years following the state take over and the savings called for in the district’s fiscal recovery plan have not materialized,” said Deputy State Auditor Ben Belnap.

The 11,000-student school district was on the verge of bankruptcy in July, 2012, when school board members requested a $55 million bailout loan from the state. In accepting the loan, the board gave up its authority and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson appointed a state administrator to run the school district.

But there's been growing criticism of Torlakson’s oversight of Inglewood Unified, one of only nine school districts in the state that has requested a state bailout loan.

The audit found that expenditures increased from $115.3 million to $125.5 million between fiscal years 2012-13 and 2014-15. Getting the budget into the black is critical, the auditor said, because it’s a requirement for a return of local control and it’s the only way the school district will be able to repay the $29 million dollars it has spent from the loan it requested.

“The state has done a disservice, at this time, to this district,” Johnny Young, a former Inglewood Unified school board member, said as he left the hearing in the Inglewood High School auditorium.

State Assemblywoman Autumn Burke said recent reports of dilapidated and dangerous facilities should prompt Torlakson’s office to move Inglewood to the top of his priority list.

“I know you guys have a lot of schools but this one is incredibly important, this community is incredibly important, and it's going through an incredible time of change," Burke said. "It is inexcusable to allow our children to suffer the way they have."

The state auditor recommended the state administrator to come up with annual goals for the school district to address the improvements outlined by the district's fiscal crisis management team. The auditor also recommended the state administrator communicate what it’s going to take for the school district to return to local control and the progress toward that goal.

The audit was released last November but it was the first time officials spoke about it publicly in Inglewood. The hearing was organized by State Assemblyman Mike Gipson, the chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

Torlakson aide Jason Spencer, who represented his boss at the meeting, said that day-to-day management of the district's finances isn't in the hands of the California Department of Education, but rather rests with the state's administrator, a position that has been held by four different people since 2012.

“This is not an instance where the state department is running the district,” Spencer said.

And officials heaped praise on Vincent Matthews, the new state administrator who’s been on the job less than six months but who officials said appears to be a better fit than the previous three state administrators.

“Dr. Matthews is one of the few individuals in the state that has been a state administrator that has returned powers to a district board,” Spencer said.

Most of the 100 people in attendance were elected officials and their staffs, civic leaders, school district employees and their union representatives.

“I thought this hearing was for the community,” Inglewood teachers union president Kelly Iwamoto said and the hearing’s organizers should have made sure that the auditorium was full.

One of the few parents in attendance was Miriam Morris, who represented the school district’s Parent Teacher Association council.

Inglewood Unified has lost many students due to low school performance, rising housing costs, and more charter schools opening in the area. But, Morris said, she is seeing progress.

“We see a shift in tone and we see things happen right away,” Morris said about Matthews’ leadership.

Case in point, she said: After she enrolled her kindergartener at an Inglewood school this year the school district moved quickly to create a dual language Spanish immersion program. And that, Morris said, gives her hope that this school is the right place for her family.


Op-Ed by Karin Klein in the L.A. Times |

▼NEWS STORY: On March 5, 2014, the College Board announced that a redesigned version of the SAT (originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Assessment Test, then the SAT I: Reasoning Test, then the SAT Reasoning Test, and now simply the SAT) would be administered for the first time in 2016. The exam will revert to the 1600-point scale, the essay will be optional, and students will have 3 hours to take the exam plus 50 additional minutes to complete the essay.

Approximately 277,000 students are taking the new+improved SAT in its first national administration this weekend. The total 463,000 reflects the number of students who will have taken the new test in March, as of this weekend. Some school districts held SAT School Day this week, where all students take the test in school.|

March 4, 2016 :: David Coleman, president of the College Board, wants everyone to know that the new SAT, which students will take for the first time Saturday, is just as good as the old test at predicting who would do well in college. Of course, he also wanted to be clear, in introducing the SAT to a conference of the Education Writers Assn., that his test was new and improved as well. Left unmentioned: The revamp might do more for the College Board's bottom line than for the needs of colleges, universities and students.

That's not to say the College Board hasn't improved the SAT. For one thing, it makes the silly essay portion of the test optional; it was both gameable and, in terms of the way it was scored, hardly an indicator of who can write well. The new SAT also reformats the testing of vocabulary, eliminating the $4 words that required weeks of drill-and-kill memorization and then would never be used again. Plus, there's no longer an extra penalty for guessing wrong.

Also to its credit, the College Board has added services to help the students who can't afford thousands of dollars' worth of private test prep. Free online prep and practice tests are available through the nonprofit Khan Academy. And students whose income is low enough to qualify them for free test taking also automatically qualify for waivers of college application fees, which normally cost about $80 per college, not an insignificant sum for working families.

But most important is that the new SAT is supposed to align with the Common Core standards that have been adopted to one extent or another in 40-plus states, including California. This includes a heavier emphasis on reading — even in the math problems — and more critical thinking skills. That's what colleges say they want, and what students are lacking.

What Coleman didn't spend much time discussing are problems with the SAT that haven't been solved. The test may require more critical thinking skills, but it is still coachable; it isn't going to put an end to the big and growing high-end test-preparation industry that gives affluent kids a leg up on the system. Poor kids get two free shots at taking the SAT; kids with more money can take the test five to 10 times, and some of them do. Then many of the colleges allow them to “superscore” — report only their best scores on each section.

I recently met a sophomore who's taken the test five times. His mother said she had spent $10,000 on test preparation so far, and his scores had risen by 300 points.

And what about Coleman's assertion that the test has its usual utility for college admissions officers? If the SAT is a reflection of the Common Core lessons, and those lessons reflect the skills that colleges need to see in students, why isn't the new test a better predictor of freshman college success than the old one?

It's not that either test, old or new, would do a bad job of identifying a good student. Studies have shown that the SAT is almost as good as a student's grades at predicting college success during freshman year.

More important, using the standardized test in addition to grades gave admissions officers a better picture than grades alone.

Beyond freshman year, however, research on the SAT's predictive value gets mixed reviews. A study of colleges that have gone test-optional — applicants can report their scores or not — found that students who didn't submit their scores fared just as well throughout college as those who did, though they might have opted for easier courses.

A recent report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education suggested that at some schools, the SAT might be a good predictor of success — for instance, a mediocre math score probably indicates a kid who would struggle at MIT or Caltech — but at others, it might not make much of a difference.

One thing is certain: The new test will help the College Board grow its business. The SAT's once-weak competitor, the ACT, was chosen as the required admissions test by 15 states that pay for the first sitting. But the College Board recently managed to peel off a couple of those states, probably in part because of the SAT overhaul.

More generally, our national obsession with test scores and their meaning of course redounds to the College Board's financial benefit.

Some states are starting to look at whether they can reduce the number of tests taken by high school students by substituting the SAT or ACT for other standardized tests. That would dramatically expand the reach of both organizations into the increasingly lucrative kindergarten-through-12th-grade testing — a big incentive to rewrite the test around Common Core.

The new SAT is probably a better test than the last one, and admissions officers may prefer it. Its greatest value, however, is to the organization that produces it and the test-prep industry as a whole.

▲Karin Klein writes about education for The Times editorial board.

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

Threat Made At LAUSD Middle, High Schools Deemed ‘Non-Credible’ « CBS L.A.







EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tues. March 8, 2016 - 10:00 a.m. - REGULAR BOARD MEETING INCLUDING CLOSED SESSION ITEMS – Agenda:

• Tues. March 8, 2016 -- 1:00 p.m. - REGULAR BOARD MEETING – Revised agenda:

*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: • 213-241-8333 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or the Superintendent: • 213-241-7000
...or your city councilperson, mayor, county supervisor, state legislator, 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. Volunteer in the classroom. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child - and ultimately: For all children.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE at

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

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 13 years. He currently serves as Vice President for Health, is a 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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.