Sunday, May 01, 2016

I've been to the mountaintop

4LAKids: Sunday 1•May•2016
In This Issue:
 •  EITHER 16,000 OR 6,000 SENIORS ARE IN DANGER OF NOT GRADUATING +smf’s 2¢ +a real meaningful opinion about A-thru-G
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

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There is an uncertain mythology about the community in Northeast Los Angeles that claims to be Mt Washington.

Let’s just say that MW is not a mountain, but a 940 foot anthill. It is Mt Washingtonians who make a mountain of it, perched above Highland Park and Cypress Park and Glassell Park and Eagle Rock, overlooking the railyards and Dodger Stadium with a distant visage of Downtown LA. From other sides of the hill one can see Glendale …or look down the San Gabriel Valley.

The mountain itself forms the aquafer that feeds the spring that is Sparkletts.

The late great LA Times columnist Jack Smith created Mt Washington in his mind and on the pages of The Times – a place not unlike Lake Wobegon: Our women are strong, our men are good looking and our children are above average …with test scores to prove it. Smith populated his MW with characters larger-and-more colorful than life.

If Jack Smith hadn’t come along someone else surely would’ve have noticed the quirky hillside community with marginal economic advantage and undue political influence: Half-a-bubble-off-level.

We have lost a favorite daughter, a strong Mt Washingtonian of the first rate.

was not a rabble-rouser or a troublemaker; she was leader-from-the-center who quietly looked at the situation, figured out what needed to be done – and saw that it was done.

Pat was a founding member of the Mt Washington Babysitting Co-op – and kept that organization running – and the mission of Parent+Child Networking going. She was instrumental and getting a second Babysit Co-op started when younger kids and new parents came on the scene.

And she pushed the edge of the envelope and was instrumental in forming the Mt Washington Preschool – first in a church basement and later in a number of venues until it found a home at La Casita Verde. Mt Washington Preschool delivered a low-cost/educationally effective/economically sustainable/ culturally sensitive early childhood education program – a national model – for infants-to-pre-K to the community and surrounding communities.

The preschool eventually expanded to three sites as Mount Washington Preschool and Child Care Center, Inc. – with onsite preschool programs in LA City Hall and the downtown Federal Building as well as La Casita Verde. As president+ board chair of MWP&CCC Pat led the non-profit through hard financial times and difficult transitions in school staffing, consistently delivering a high-quality program and running an effective and tight ship. Getting little kids stared on their educations on the right foot.

Pat did this as a “part-time” volunteer, taking time from her family and daughter and job and life, giving-back and modelling the village it takes to raise our children.

Pat passed away on April 18th quite unexpectedly, leaving her husband, Scott Burleigh, and adult daughter Geneva – and an entire community – devastated.

Thank you Pat and Godspeed. Your example will lead us.

There will be a memorial service for Patricia Eileen Griffith for family+friends this Sunday afternoon (today) at the Denny & Jack Smith Community Center at Mt Washington School. Pat had lots o’ friends, if you suspect you are one of them – there is no past tense – you are!

Date: Sunday, May 1, 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m. – Potluck
6:30 p.m. – Remembering Pat
Location: Mt. Washington Elementary School
Multipurpose Room
3981 San Rafael Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Potluck suggestions – please bring 8-12 servings of something you love, ideally according to these last-name categories (if the thing you love doesn’t fit the category, bring it anyway):

A-F: salads
G-L: side dishes
M-R: main dishes
S-Z: fruit and desserts
(smf - this is exactly how we did it for Babysit Co-op meetings!)

Beyond this, donations in any amount to the Mount Washington Preschool and Child Care Center, Inc. [] that Pat loved so deeply would be a wonderful way to remember her: 4601 N. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90065.

Bike self-parking will be available courtesy of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. (Please bring your own lock).


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE DECATHLETES+COACHES at Granada Hills Charter High School for winning the 2016 National Academic Decathlon!


IN THE SUBBASEMENT of a building at Kaiser Sunset – on a floor called – in an architectural anomaly – ‘The Atrium” – is the Radiation Oncology Lab.

The waiting room is the atrium, the ceiling four or five floors above, all skylit+airy, ranks of seats facing large screens that summon the next patient into Radiation Therapy – into Rooms 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D, plus 2A, 2B, 2C and 2D.

You meet good people in the waiting room – waiting for their names to go up on the screen. We are going to be treated. We are going to get better.

This is not the dismal institutional waiting room from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward.

Also in the seats are those waiting for patients to be treated: spouses and family members, friends and caregivers. Next of kin. They are worried. They have seen the actuarial tables.

My name comes up and I head down the hallway to your room, 2B. or not 2B. Past the lead lined doors and the shielded+reinforced concrete partitions. The path is a maze of turns; radiation travels in straight lines. That stuff I learned in Physics comes in handy. I would imagine that the entry to the Pentagon Situation Room is like this, but with more flags.

2B: The Machine waits, all apple green and huge. A proton beam linear accelerator, to be specific a Varian TrueBeam™ Radiotherapy System. The internet says these puppies cost upwards of $3 million each.

Helpful young technicians are eager to help – after asking a few trick questions to make sure I am who I am say I am. (The danger of someone else getting my radiation therapy must be huge!)

I am laid on a table and aligned with lasers to discrete tattoos on my body: Aim radiation here!
I am a specimen on the stage of a microscope – like the old Monsanto Ride at Disneyland.

The table rises and pushes in, into the center of the Varian TrueBeam™ Radiotherapy System as the helpful technicians all leave the room and the door closes with a click; they will be watching the rest on computer screens – remotely targeting invasive malignancies like drone pilots in the Nevada desert.

(Needless to say your cell phone stopped working the second you left the waiting room; the wi-fi here is for different purposes!)

You are left alone with Your Machine, which whirrs and clicks and buzzes, rotating about you on its multiple axes, delivering death to your enemy – which is ironically you, gone ironically wrong.

Alone with your machine your mind wanders to the poem by Richard Brautigan:

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.
I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.
I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

And as this seems to make cosmic sense the background music, which has been piped in from the eighties for this particular moment, segues to a new tune:

Well now, I get low and I get high,
And if I can't get either, I really try.
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes.
I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose.
You know it's all right. It's OK.
I'll live to see another day.
We can try to understand
The New York Times' effect on man.
Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother,
You're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin',
And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive.

And ironically, with a smf hat-tip to the Brothers Gibb, that’s why we’re all here …wherever here is.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

EITHER 16,000 OR 6,000 SENIORS ARE IN DANGER OF NOT GRADUATING +smf’s 2¢ +a real meaningful opinion about A-thru-G
●●smf’s 2¢: according to the two articles below, by the same author on the same day but in two different (but not much) online publications, either 16,000 or 6,000 LAUSD seniors are in danger of not graduating. OMG! But what’s 10,000 twelfth graders among anti-public school provocateurs?

Posted on LA School Report by Craig Clough |

April 28, 2016 6:30 pm :: The LA Unified school board faced a difficult decision in June.

It had previously voted to raise the bar on its graduation requirements starting in 2016 in an effort to get more students into college, but it was clear not enough students were ready for the challenge and graduation rates would plummet if aggressive action was not taken.

The board ultimately chose to stick with the raised bar, and the district is now entering the final stages of that difficult decision.

More than 6,000 seniors are currently failing at least one of their required “A though G” courses, meaning if they can’t raise their grade to a D by the end of the semester in six weeks, they will not graduate on time. Yet these students are considered “on track” by the district because to be labeled on track, a student need only be enrolled in the required A-G courses.

And 10,000 more are considered “off track,” meaning they are missing one or more A-G class.

“While I am encouraged by the recent efforts and commitment (to A-G), it also shows us the gap of the work that we have today,” board member Monica Garcia told LA School Report.

Garcia has been one of the board’s strongest supporters of the A-G standards, and at the June board debate said, “This has been a hard road. Not because we are not committed to a hundred percent for everyone,” but because the district struggles to “improve practice that meets the needs of all kids.”

A recent district report showed that 68 percent of seniors are currently “on track” to meet their A-G course requirements — a number that has been predicted to significantly rise before the semester is over — but 30 percent, or 6,400, of those on-track students were failing a course at the 10-week mark. While district leaders have expressed optimism that many students are getting the help they need, it is clear that a significant number of students who last year would have otherwise graduated with the same final transcript will not do so this year.

Thousands of other students will also graduate having earned D’s in the A-G courses, which means they will not be eligible for California’s public universities because C’s are required. And still thousands more will graduate only due to a massive $15 million credit recovery program that allows them to earn a C if they can demonstrate proficiency in an online course, a practice that has been called into question by some education experts who characterize it as an essentially cheap and faulty way of getting a student to graduate.

A report this month from the Public Policy Institute of California studied the impact the raised A-G standards are having on a number of districts that have taken them on. San Diego Unified, which like LA Unified is also implementing A-G standards for the first time this year, is facing a huge drop-off in graduation rates.* ( The district is undertaking a wide-scale credit recovery program for the first time this year similar to LA Unified’s and it is unclear to what level this could boost the graduation rate.)

The results at San Diego Unified are bittersweet, with more students than ever meeting the A-G requirements, while at the same time graduation rates are set to drop from 87.5 percent in 2014 to 72 percent this year. Ten percent more San Diego students may become eligible to apply to the California public university systems, but 16 percent more may fail to graduate.

“In sum, by increasing graduation requirements, San Diego and other districts have opened more doors to success. Ironically, they have also opened more doors to failure, in the sense that a greater number of students are now at risk of not graduating,” the report stated.

While district leaders are predicting that LA Unified will avoid any graduation crisis due to the credit recovery program, and that graduation rates may even rise to new highs, the district still grapples with the same issues San Diego is facing from choosing to raise the graduation bar. Like San Diego, LA Unified lowered the planned requirement for C’s to be earned in A-G classes for graduation to D’s, even though it meant the ultimate purpose of getting kids into college would not be met.

According to a district memo, as of March, 48 percent of LA Unified seniors were on-track to graduate with C’s or better in all A-G courses, meaning if the district actually meets the predicted rate of 80 percent graduation this year, some 11,000-plus students will be graduating without qualifying for admittance to California’s public universities, which is the entire intent and purpose of the A-G graduation standards.

“You talk about the right to a diploma and this is a debate that we have, and I don’t think there is really one right answer that could apply to all students,” said Sara Mooney, an education program associate at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which has advocated for the district to keep the A-G standards. “For students, the purpose of the courses are not just to make you eligible for college but this is also a conversation about the quality of a child’s education, and that means the quality of their diploma and the weight that their diploma carries after they graduate. We really have to be responsible for this in offering them the resources to be successful in their school and subsequently in life.”

When asked how she weighs the balance between the higher standards and the needs of the students who will not make it to graduation as a result, Garcia said, “For the last 10 years I have represented the kids who don’t get a diploma and who do get a diploma. And every year there have been more young people getting a diploma. So we are not new to dealing with the absence of success for our system to get to everybody. That is not the new piece. The new piece is that we do have a challenge to the system in how do we manage what is a California requirement, and what is an LAUSD requirement. And we have more students completing the courses required for college, which is a very good thing.”

One promising statistic for A-G supporters is that overall the district’s A-G completion rate has gone from 18 percent in 2005 to the projected-and-rising 68 percent of today.

“I am encouraged by what I see for us moving toward higher standards and higher levels of personalization,” Garcia said. “I think it’s very exciting that, yes, we have increased the challenge, and repeatedly our young people have said I need high expectations like that.”

* A previous version of this story said San Diego Unified was not undertaking a large credit recovery program. The report citied includes only data through August before the credit recovery program began.



By Craig Clough in The 74 - This article was produced in partnership with LA School Report |

April 28, 2016 :: While the Los Angeles Unified School District’s projected 2016 graduation rate continues to tick up as seniors complete extra credit recovery courses to make up those they previously failed, 30 percent of those now considered “on track” for graduation currently aren’t because they are failing at least one of the district’s A through G classes.

To be labeled “on track” a student need only be enrolled in the A-G courses, which are required for admittance to California’s public universities, and if these failing grades do not improve to at least a D by the end of the semester, six weeks away, roughly 6,400 seniors would not be eligible to graduate on time — which would drop the city’s current projected graduation rate from 68 percent to 48 percent.

Frances Gipson, LA Unified’s chief academic officer, said a number of actions have been taken to get extra help and resources to the students who are failing a course, and the district is still hopeful that last year’s record graduation rate of 77 percent will be surpassed.

“We are seeking to exceed last year’s expectations, that is our goal,” Gipson told LA School Report.

Due in part to a $15 million credit recovery program that has been aggressively implemented this school year, the projected A-G completion rate has risen steadily, up from 54 percent in January and 63 percent in February to now stand at 68 percent. (District officials in February predicted LA Unified may graduate 80 percent of its seniors, which would be an all-time record.)

The credit recovery program was enacted by the school board this fiscal year to help offset a potential graduation crisis, as this year is the first time the A-G courses are required for graduation. The courses, if all are passed with a C or better, would make students eligible for acceptance in California’s public universities, although seniors only need to get a D in order to graduate.

Gipson said the extra help being given to seniors failing an A-G course include having counselors meet with the students and letters sent to the student’s parent or guardian. School counselors “have met with all students in the class of 2016 that are currently on-track but received a fail at the 10-week mark to discuss intervention and supports needed to pass and stay on track,” said an April 18 memo to Superintendent Michelle King from Gipson and Carol Alexander, director of A-G Intervention and Support.

Asked if the number of students currently failing an A-G course was a cause for concern, Cynthia Lim, executive director of LA Unified’s Office of Data and Accountability, said that it was hard to determine what the number meant because “this is new. We’ve never had A-G as a graduation requirement before, so this is all new.”

Gipson added that the current 20 percent number “is relatively consistent with past patterns we have seen with students in terms of, as you think about your own child or your friend’s children, there are always those who may be getting a D or an F and we need find out why they may be getting a D or an F. Is it because of attendance? Is it because they need extra tutorial support? Are they not turning in assignments? Do they need extra assignments? I think there are multiple pathways we can explore.”

Before the credit recovery program began across the district in the fall, the projected graduation rate was only 54 percent, a steep decline from last year’s all-time high of 77 percent.

The credit recovery program involves getting seniors currently not on track to take extra coursework on weekends, after school as well as during holiday breaks. Many of the courses are online and only require students to demonstrate basic proficiency in the subject, which has caused some to question the academic rigor of the online courses. The district and Gipson have previously defended the academic value of the courses.

Over spring break in late March, the district enacted the “Spring Plus” program at 15 high schools that provided resources and dedicated staff to get students back on track, according to Gipson and Alexander’s memo. The program has continued on Saturdays since spring break and is scheduled to be completed May 28. Attendance has varied depending on the day, but 313 seniors showed up at the 15 high schools on the first Monday of spring break.

According to an April 4 memo, 21,729 seniors are currently on-track to complete their A-G requirements, but 6,428 — or 30 percent — received an F at the 10-week mark. There are 4,746 seniors off-track by one or two courses, 1,455 off-track by three or four courses and 3,878 off-track by five or more courses.

In June, when facing the stark graduation projections due to the coming A-G requirements, the school board lowered the required grades in A-G courses from a C to a D for the class of 2017. (The class of 2016 could always receive D’s for graduation.) The A-G course requirements, which were first conceived and passed by the board in 2005, are aimed at getting more LA Unified students into California’s public universities. Despite the lowering of the bar, the district has made significant progress since 2005, according to a March 7 memo by Gipson and Alexander that showed 48 percent of all LA Unified high school students are passing their A-G courses with C’s or better.

“This shows tremendous growth since the class of 2005, when only 18 percent graduated meeting the A-G course requirements with a C or better,” the memo stated.


Alan Warhaftig [], The English coordinator/counselor at Fairfax High School, writes 4LAKids:

Subject: Re: 16,000 seniors failing with 6 weeks to go: The double-edged sword of LAUSD's raised bar for graduation - LA School Report

MISIS aside, it was obvious from the outset that the A-G graduation requirement would cause problems. I once told Marguerite LaMotte how much I admired her for voting against A-G, and she responded that she’d paid a stiff political price for that vote.

I don’t doubt that there have been examples of low expectations by counselors based on the race of a student, and I’m all for raising standards and making the high school diploma more meaningful, but having worked with teenagers for 25 years, I can tell you that, in general, they could not care less about a School Board mandate for higher achievement. The edicts of elected officials don't outweigh what’s going on in some of their lives.
In the past two months, I’ve had three students in my classes unexpectedly lose a parent.   School is a struggle for them at the moment, but it’s not the most important struggle in their lives.

Declaring that LAUSD would henceforth attempt to emulate Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where "all the children are above average," was the height of impracticality. A-G is a set of requirements for eligibility for admission to the state’s four-year universities, and the California Master Plan for Higher Education says that the UCs are for the top eighth of high school graduates and the Cal States are for the top third. Why should all high school students be required to meet the academic requirements of the top third in order to receive a high school diploma? Merely meeting the A-G requirements doesn’t gain a student admission to Cal States or UCs. There aren’t enough places for everyone, so admission requires a competitive GPA and SAT score.

Practically speaking, the A-G graduation requirement means that, in addition to previous graduation requirements, students need to pass Algebra 2, Chemistry and two years of a foreign language. Algebra 2 is the problem. With the fail rate for Algebra 1 above 50%, Algebra 2 is a huge hurdle for many students. With the adoption of the Common Core curriculum, math has become substantially more difficult - requiring more problem solving than procedure.

It would be interesting to know how many students aren’t reflected in the charts, having dropped out of school after failing Algebra 1 two or even three times, and seeing no path to graduation. What is the four-year cohort graduation rate?


by Kyle Stokes | KPCC 89.3 |
Audio from this story: 4:23 | Listen: (strongly advised)

April 28 2016 :: Martin Wong and Wendy Lau were frustrated. They'd gotten a letter from the Los Angeles Unified School District saying their daughter's school, Castelar Street Elementary in Chinatown, might have to turn over several classrooms to a charter school.

Most frustrating about the letter, dated February 27, was that Wong and Lau could do little to stop Metro Charter School from "co-locating" on the district's property — a California law known as Prop 39 says school districts must open up their campuses to charter schools searching for a building.

"We're thinking, 'What?'" Wong said. "'How can all this happen without involving parents?'"

But unbeknownst to Wong, Lau and many parents at Castelar, leaders of Metro Charter School had their own frustration's with the district's proposed arrangement.

The district said Metro Charter School's request was essentially for 12 classrooms. But L.A. Unified assigned only five classrooms at Castelar to the co-location. The rest of the rooms the district offered were at two other district schools.

"The proposal was for us to split ourselves into three campuses," said Apurva Pande, a member of Metro Charter School's board. Accepting the offer, board members decided, would be neither logistically nor financially viable.

So Metro turned down the district's co-location offer, despite a desperate need for more space.

The political friction between L.A. Unified and charter schools makes it easy to forget the two sides are often so much more than neighbors — they're practically roommates. More than 19,000 students attend a charter school that operates on a school district site. One out of every three independent charter schools in Los Angeles is co-located, many under Prop 39 — and some of the arrangements are peaceful and mutually beneficial.

But the frustrations that ended the Metro-Castelar co-location before it could begin are also common. Some charter school advocates suspect the district is mismanaging the process of assigning co-locations — and have argued as much in court. But district sympathizers say parents at Castelar, or at any school selected for co-location, had a right to be worried.

"There are co-location sites that work better than others when there really is an effort to share space," said L.A. School Board president Steve Zimmer. "But make no mistake: this is a broken system, a broken law, it needs to be changed.

"This is a zero-sum game," he added, "that is set up to create winners and losers. And most often — not always, but most often — it’s the host district school that loses. They lose space. They lose students."

With their passage of Prop 39 in 2000, California voters expanded charter schools rights to district space. No longer would state law only require districts to share unused, surplus space with charter schools; district would have to ensure its facilities could be "fairly shared" by all public school students, including charter students.

Under Prop 39, districts must offer charter schools "reasonably equivalent … facilities that will sufficiently accommodate all of the charter’s in-district students." School districts can't charge rent, but can collect fees from co-located charter schools for expenses like maintenance and security services. The schools' principals negotiate plans to share spaces like libraries, cafeterias, gymnasiums and playgrounds.

Since Los Angeles real estate is expensive, finding suitable space to lease is difficult, city permitting can be a hassle and charters' access to bond money to build their own buildings limited, co-location is often an "expedient" option for many new charter schools, said Myrna Castrejon, executive director of the pro-charter school group Great Public Schools Now.

Castrejon said on some of the most harmonious co-location sites, charter and district-run schools are sharing extracurricular programs and professional development for teachers.
Eloise Wong, a second grader in Castelar Street Elementary's Mandarin dual language program, shows off her classwork during an open house.
Eloise Wong, a second grader in Castelar Street Elementary's Mandarin dual language program, shows off her classwork during an open house. Kyle Stokes/KPCC

But discord from troubled co-location sites can drown out the harmony. At Castelar Street Elementary, for instance, parents protested that the rooms they stood to lose were actually in use. Two house a music program. The principal planned to turn another, currently a science room, into another computer lab for state testing.

Wong and Lau pointed out the loss of six rooms — five for classrooms, one for an office — would make it more difficult for Castelar to grow its Mandarin dual language program, which had become a selling point for the school.

But charter school advocates — while acknowledging the difficulty of L.A. Unified officials' task to find space to offer to all 95 charters that applied for Prop 39 space — aren't convinced their schools receive all of the space to which they're entitled. Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled L.A. Unified officials were "undercounting" the number of classrooms available to share with charters.

In addition, the type of "split-site" co-location offer that Metro Charter found to be logistically and financially unworkable has become more common.

Two years ago, L.A. Unified's made eight co-location offers that involved multiple sites; last year, the district made split-site offers to seven charters, according to a count from the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

This year, the district offered 19 split-site co-locations. They've made 24 such offers for next year, according to the association.

Metro Charter School's 200 students cram into a former daycare space on a hospital campus in downtown Los Angeles. Principal Kim Clerx says quarters are tight during lunch, which the school serves in this room.

Metro Charter School's 200 students cram into a former daycare space on a hospital campus in downtown Los Angeles. Principal Kim Clerx says quarters are tight during lunch, which the school serves in this room.
José Cole-Gutiérrez, who heads L.A. Unified's Charter Schools Division and oversees the Prop 39 application process, said it's not fair to read into the higher numbers of split-site offers without considering the locations of these offers. He said in certain areas of Los Angeles, district officials are simply unable to find space where charters can co-locate on a single site.

"L.A. Unified understands and respects its obligation and takes it very seriously that we provide the space under Prop 39," said Cole-Gutiérrez. "Especially in those impacted areas [where available co-location space is already scarce], it will continue to be a challenge where we have to balance the needs of all the students in those areas."

His office's task may be even more difficult if an expansion of charter schools moves forward. A leaked draft of a plan from Great Public Schools Now, which counts the Broad Foundation among its funders, calls for adding more than 130,000 new charter school seats in L.A. The plan's calculations count on Prop 39 space to account for some of those new seats.

"Prop 39 is the epitome of everything that has changed in the charter movement from its inception — to be an incubator for change, and transformation, and innovation — to now being simply an instrument for competition," said board president Zimmer. But he also added the district's past implementation of Prop 39 has contributed to some of the discord.

"In the previous administration, co-location was viewed as a punishment" for underwhelming enrollment figures, he said.

The district could correct for that, Zimmer suggested, by offering host schools in co-locations financial bonuses or priority in maintenance requests. But he also called on state-level officials to correct co-location policies by offering clearer ground rules and a more level playing field.

Castrejon, of Great Public Schools Now, also suggested the state could alleviate some of the pressure on Prop 39 by making it easier for charter schools to access public funds for construction.

Others have suggested, in general, school districts could do more to include charter schools on their facilities bonds.

There are co-location success stories, Castrejon said: "I don't think that it's necessarily by default an option that doesn't work."

But do the troublesome co-locations outnumber the success stories?

"There’s a lot of work left to do," Castrejon replied. "No question."


from LAUSD Daily by LAUSD Office of Communications |

Apr 29, 2016 | As it wrapped up its last official meeting of the school year, the Instructional Technology Initiative Task Force prepared to finalize its recommendations for a plan to integrate technology into the classroom.

The group of educators and civic leaders was assembled last year by then-Superintendent Ramon Cortines and tasked with creating a District-wide vision and strategy for how to provide students and teachers with the technology they need to succeed. In the coming weeks, officials will be finalizing a report using the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards as a framework. Developed by the educators representing a wide range of content areas, grade levels, and geographic regions, the ITSE standards guide schools in transforming blended learning environments.

Using this framework, the task force is developing recommendations to guide modernization of teaching and learning along with the necessary supporting infrastructure. The group will share its work with Superintendent King in the coming weeks and aims to present it to the Board of Education in June.

Task force members frequently broke into small groups to engage in intense conversations about the future of technology in education.

“I have a lot of confidence in the work we’ve done so far,” said Task Force member Michael Anderson, who is a National Board Certified science teacher at Los Angeles Academy Middle School in South L.A. “There is a lot of wisdom in this room, and the group is very functional. However, the major work will be in creating culture change. In order to do that we will need to continue listening carefully to what our students, our teachers, our parents and others are trying to tell us.”

Dr. Sharon Sutton, a representative from the Cotsen Foundation for the Art of Teaching, expressed similar sentiments.

“From an outside perspective, it’s just astounding how rapidly and thoughtfully this group has brought this together,” she said. “As we think about communicating recommendations, it’s important to define clearly what we mean by ‘learner.’ It’s not just the students we are talking about. It’s teachers, administrators and parents. We are all learners through this process.”
The district's chief academic officer, Dr. Francis Gipson, was appointed by former superintendent Cortines to chair the ITI task force.

The task force has met semimonthly since its inception. Dr. Frances Gipson, the District’s chief academic officer and the task force chair, hopes to convene group on a quarterly basis in the next school year.

“I am so excited to have been on this journey with you all,” she said. “Thanks to your dedication, we are in the final stages of delivering a list of recommendations that are concise and elegant. Our work is by no means done, but we are in a place where we can have a new beginning.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: received by email

Press are invited to the Welcome Rally on Monday, May 2, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.
School flagpole at 10535 Zelzah Ave., Granada Hills 91344
Contact: Marilyn Koziatek, Community Outreach, (323) 309-4241

April 30, 2016– Granada Hills Charter High School garnered its fifth United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) title - in six years – earlier today in Anchorage, Alaska. Granada Hills Charter scored 54,195.1 out of a possible 60,000. This award marks the end of the 2015-16 academic decathlon season in which Granada Hills Charter won all levels of competition including the city, state and national titles.

“It’s exciting to win at this level,” said Mathew Arnold, GHCHS English teacher and Academic Decathlon coach, “This win isn’t just for us. It’s a way to for the whole school to show our strength. I’m proud of our kids and feel fortunate to be a part of this team!”

The Academic Decathlon is a 10-event scholastic competition for high school students that consists of seven multiple choice tests plus a speech, interview, and essay. Granada Hills Charter captured the trophy in the fast-paced super quiz round, signaling the end of the competition on Friday afternoon. The Awards Banquet was held at the Civic Center in Anchorage and the team’s championship was announced to cheers in the packed auditorium, including all the parents of the GHCHS team.
“We are so proud of our son and his teammates for their dedication,” said Sundio Lin, father of Joshua Lin, a member of the team since 2015. “They work so hard. Seven days a week. The coaches and staff, they love our children and sacrifice so much, every year. We are grateful to see Joshua succeed like this.”

The Academic Decathlon divides the competition into three categories based on GPA: Honor (3.75-4.00), Scholastic (3.00-3.74), and Varsity (2.99 or below). Granada Hills Charter won the top individual scores in all three categories.

GHCHS also earned national USAD titles in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015. This year’s winning team of students are Mark Aguila, Julian Duran, Isha Gupta, Joshua Lin, Christopher Lo, Aishah Mahmud, Melissa Santos, Mayeena Ulkarim and Jorge Zepeda. The coaches are Mathew Arnold, Jon Sturtevant, and Rachael Phipps.

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Posted on LA School Report by Mike Szymanski |

April 28, 2016 4:28 pm :: Internationally renowned education expert Pedro Noguera warned members of the LA Unified school board and superintendent that unless more serious measures are taken, the nation’s second-largest school district is destined to lose more students.

“The future is dire,” Noguera told the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday afternoon. He pointed to entire neighborhoods in Philadelphia with abandoned schools. “It’s not there aren’t enough kids, they lost the commitment to education. I hope that doesn’t happen in this city.”

The challenges LA Unified is facing, he said, include declining enrollment because of the growth of charters and demographic shifts, chronically under-performing schools, structural budget deficits and the need to increase public support for schools.

Noguera has written 11 books and more than 200 articles about education and focuses his research on how economic conditions impact schools. He served as a school board member at Berkeley Unified and is now a Distinguished Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA.

Committee chairman George McKenna invited the professor to make a presentation to offer advice and give examples of what other schools do.

“I appreciate you coming to tell us the truth, even though we may not want to hear it,” McKenna said. “We have to take this situation seriously, really seriously.”

School board president Steve Zimmer attended the committee meeting although he was on his way to Washington, D.C., for the rest of the week to help lobby for the district. He told Noguera, “There is no more important city in this world for you to be in, and I’m glad that you’re here and work with us.”

Zimmer noted that Noguera discussed the district’s concerns about competition for students between traditional and charter schools. “As you spoke,” Zimmer said, “it was actually quite emotional because I think we have been through a time where we have misunderstood the role of competition and in that misunderstanding have caused some injury and caused it to be potentially more difficult to build the foundation of trust.”

Nearly 16 percent of LA Unified’s students are enrolled in 211 charter schools, and that number would grow significantly under a plan to increase charter enrollment in the district, which the school board unanimously opposed in January.

Noguera said, “Like it or not, schools are competing for kids, and public schools don’t even realize it. Like it or not, that’s the set-up.”

He pointed out his granddaughter goes to a traditional LA Unified school where the parents are only allowed to drop children off between 7:45 and 8:15 a.m., while the charter school around the corner allows drop-offs as early as 7 a.m.

“For a busy working parent, like her mom is, and in a city like this where transportation is a big issue, that is not a small factor,” Noguera said. That alone could be a reason for a family to choose a charter school over a traditional school.

“Public and charter schools are collaborating, but that is not happening enough,” Noguera said. “It has to be OK for principals to say, ‘I need help,’ and not have that being used against them. Otherwise, they will just hope that no one knows what the situation is.”

He called for “collaborative problem solving,” which must come from the central office. “They must let everyone know they are not here to scrutinize, but want to help you and show you how to figure it out and solve the problem.”

That includes the charter school and traditional school situation, he said. “Trust comes from collaboration,” he said.

Superintendent Michelle King asked how to replicate what is successful at schools, and he described a program in San Diego where leaders visit schools once a quarter and offer support to principals and teachers about best practices.

Noguera cited a 90-minute math class he had visited at Hollenbeck Middle School whose teacher had complete control of her class and allowed students to help each other. Meanwhile, a class across the hallway had students who were unable to focus and were being disruptive.

“It took a while for that teacher to establish the class,” he said, pointing out that many of the students were English-language learners living in East Los Angeles. “She had to determine which kids could work together and which ones can’t work together.”

He recommended that the district structure time so teachers can learn from other good teachers. McKenna brought up celebrated teacher Jaime Escalante whose rough approach with students was highly criticized. His story was told in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver.”

“Why is it so difficult to replicate good work?” asked McKenna, who like Escalante taught math in LA Unified. “Jaime Escalante’s work was frowned upon. What makes it difficult to go across the hall and learn from each other?”

Noguera answered, “That is a common problem, because of the isolation of teachers.”

Among Noguera’s suggestions for the school board were:

• Support and recognize high-quality teaching.
• Focus on morale.
• Provide incentives for teachers and administrators with a track record of effectiveness to work in “high need” schools and communities.
• Publicize your success.
• Prevent educational issues from becoming overly publicized.

Monica Ratliff asked about the bonuses and incentives given some teachers to work in more challenging schools. Noguera said the incentives don’t even have to be monetary but could include more planning periods or other bonuses.

“We should look into this,” Ratliff said.

Noguera pointed out that some answers are within the district already but aren’t being shared. He said some schools might be very good at converting English-language students into the general school population, but the district doesn’t have a way of tracking which schools are better at it.

He and other university education experts are visiting schools throughout the LA Unified district.

“I hope this will be an ongoing collaboration with the district,” Noguera said.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Equity Committee Meeting - May 3, 2016 - 9:30 a.m.
*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.
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