Sunday, June 05, 2016


4LAKids: Sunday 5•June•2016
In This Issue:
 •  EARLY-ONSET EXISTENTIAL CRISES: Many thanks to the College Board and capitalism
 •  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.
Muhammad Ali
1942 – 2016

"Muhammad Ali shook up the world," the President and First Lady said in a statement released by the White House yesterday. "And the world is better for it.”

“We are all better for it.”

Last Thursday morning LAUSD celebrated itself+its excellence:” CELEBRATING OUR STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT” at special meeting of the Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Equity Committee. [Video Stream:]

We measure success in myriad ways.

The program/meeting was a compendium of the things LAUSD has been doing, is doing and does well/better/best – and it was mostly presented by kids!

There were presentations of multicultural/multilingual education: STUDENT VOICES FROM LANGUAGE PROGRAMS. There was an announcement that future dual-immersion bilingual programs will include Arabic, Armenian, and more. We have come a long way from reclassifying English Language Learners …and we are doing well at doing that!

There was a presentation on LINKED LEARNING – and how the District is positively linking learners, programs and outcomes through Project Based Learning and Pathway Portfolio Defense.

…followed by a celebration of DISTRICT ARTS PROGRAMS, including a musical number from the Daniel Webster Middle School Chorus, Presentations in Visual Arts by two students: Pedro Gomez a 5th grader from Los Angeles ES and Kathleen Gonzales, a senior from Valley Academy of Arts+Sciences …plus a showstopper presentation from Kittridge Elementary’s production of The Lion King!

The STEM (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATH) contingent may have been upstaged ….but were not about to be outdone – with presentations by three of Millikan Middle School’s robotic teams and a presentation on Cyber Patriots from North Hollywood High.

The committee members left the room humming the same tune: and in the full realization that it’s not about what the students have learned …but what they teach us.

The Chicago Tribune/L.A. Times – formerly known as Tribune Publishing has changed its name to “tronc” (always lowercase) in a moment of silly rebranding unmatched since New Coke. | TRIBUNE PUBLISHING, NOW ‘tronc,’ ISSUES WORST PRESS RELEASE IN THE HISTORY OF JOURNALISM - The Washington Post

“If you wanted to signify the pathetic nasal honks of the last dying dinosaur, "tronc" would be a pretty good word.” - @qhardy) June 2, 2016

…and it kinda/sorta rhymes with Trump. In a post-modern way.

Thursday the LA Times (…or is it the L.A. tronc?) published an editorial that really needs repeating+reading+rereading: GATES FOUNDATION FAILURES SHOW PHILANTHROPISTS SHOULDN’T BE SETTING AMERICA'S PUBLIC SCHOOL AGENDA (follows)

And ever-so quietly the State Board of Ed issued a letter that muffled the sound (“¿¡tronc! ?”) of the other shoe dropping as the state declined to accept LAUSD’s unique way of computing the Local Control Funding Formula/Local Control Accountability Plan. The department stated in a May 27 report that L.A. Unified improperly attributed $450 million in benefits for special education students as also contributing to meeting the requirements of the Local Control Funding Formula

Stay tuned as all sides lawyer-up …what’s half a billion dollars among friends?

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

Editorial by The Times Editorial Board |

June 1, 2016 :: Tucked away in a letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last week, along with proud notes about the foundation’s efforts to fight smoking and tropical diseases and its other accomplishments, was a section on education. []

Its tone was unmistakably chastened.

“We’re facing the fact that it is a real struggle to make systemwide change,” wrote the foundation’s CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellman. And a few lines later: “It is really tough to create more great public schools.”

The Gates Foundation’s first significant foray into education reform, in 1999, revolved around Bill Gates’ conviction that the big problem with high schools was their size. Students would be better off in smaller schools of no more than 500, he believed. The foundation funded the creation of smaller schools, until its own study found that the size of the school didn’t make much difference in student performance. When the foundation moved on, school districts were left with costlier-to-run small schools.

Then the foundation set its sights on improving teaching, specifically through evaluating and rewarding good teaching. But it was not always successful. In 2009, it pledged a gift of up to $100 million to the Hillsborough County, Fla., schools to fund bonuses for high-performing teachers, to revamp teacher evaluations and to fire the lowest-performing 5%. In return, the school district promised to match the funds. But, according to reports in the Tampa Bay Times, the Gates Foundation changed its mind about the value of bonuses and stopped short of giving the last $20 million; costs ballooned beyond expectations, the schools were left with too big a tab and the least-experienced teachers still ended up at low-income schools. The program, evaluation system and all, was dumped.

The Gates Foundation strongly supported the proposed Common Core curriculum standards, helping to bankroll not just their development, but the political effort to have them quickly adopted and implemented by states. Here, Desmond-Hellmann wrote in her May letter, the foundation also stumbled. The too-quick introduction of Common Core, and attempts in many states to hold schools and teachers immediately accountable for a very different form of teaching, led to a public backlash.

“Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards,” Desmond-Hellmann wrote. “We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators — particularly teachers — but also parents and communities, so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.

“This has been a challenging lesson for us to absorb, but we take it to heart. The mission of improving education in America is both vast and complicated, and the Gates Foundation doesn’t have all the answers.”

It was a remarkable admission for a foundation that had often acted as though it did have all the answers. Today, the Gates Foundation is clearly rethinking its bust-the-walls-down strategy on education — as it should. And so should the politicians and policymakers, from the federal level to the local, who have given the educational wishes of Bill and Melinda Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists and foundations too much sway in recent years over how schools are run.

That’s not to say wealthy reformers have nothing to offer public schools. They’ve funded some outstanding charter schools for low-income students. They’ve helped bring healthcare to schools. They’ve funded arts programs.

The Gates Foundation, according to Desmond-Hellmann’s letter, is now working more on providing Common Core-aligned materials to classrooms, including free digital content that could replace costly textbooks, and a website where teachers can review educational materials. That’s great: Financial support for Common Core isn’t a bad thing. When the standards are implemented well, which isn’t easy, they ought to develop better reading, writing and thinking skills.

And foundation money has often been used to fund experimental programs and pilot projects of the sort that regular school districts might not have the time or extra funds to put into place. Those can be extremely informative and even groundbreaking.

But the Gates Foundation has spent so much money — more than $3 billion since 1999 — that it took on an unhealthy amount of power in the setting of education policy. Former foundation staff members ended up in high positions in the U.S. Department of Education — and, in the case of John Deasy, at the head of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The foundation’s teacher-evaluation push led to an overemphasis on counting student test scores as a major portion of teachers’ performance ratings — even though Gates himself eventually warned against moving too hastily or carelessly in that direction. Now several of the states that quickly embraced that method of evaluating teachers are backing away from it.

Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.

By John Fensterwald | EdSource |

June 1, 2016 |In a ruling with statewide implications and financial repercussions for the state’s largest school district, the California Department of Education has determined that Los Angeles Unified has shortchanged low-income students, English learners and foster children by hundreds of millions of dollars they should have received through the state’s new funding system.

The department stated in a May 27 report that L.A. Unified improperly attributed $450 million in benefits for special education students as also contributing to meeting the requirements of the Local Control Funding Formula, which is weighted to provide additional services for children in greatest need. The department found that by counting the same expenditure twice, the district spent less than required on high-needs students. As a remedy, the state has ordered the district to revise its 2016-17 spending plan, known as the Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, to add additional services and programs for the district’s high-needs students.

“We applaud the department for issuing its straightforward legal ruling and ordering L.A. Unified to comply with the law under the Local Control Funding Formula,” John Affeldt, managing partner of the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates, said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing the district halt this illegal practice and invest more fully in its low-income students, English learners and foster youth.”

In a statement late this afternoon, L.A. Unified said it intends to challenge the decision, “which we believe is an incorrect interpretation of the Local Control Funding Formula. If the decision is allowed to stand, it would seriously undermine the district’s ability to continue providing our deserving students with the effective instruction and support services they need to succeed.“

“The state put districts in a bind. Funding is not enough for non-high-need students to receive an adequate education,” said John Affeldt, managing partner of Public Advocates, which filed the complaint. “But the answer is not to rob from supplemental and concentration dollars.”

Insisting that the district “has long been committed to serving the needs” of children receiving extra support from the Local Control Funding Formula, the statement said the state’s decision “would require L.A. Unified to shift money away from these programs and impair our ability to best serve our students. To be very clear, the district is fulfilling its responsibility to provide rigorous and effective instruction, along with social and emotional services, to the hundreds of thousands of high-needs students in Los Angeles. The (department’s) decision runs counter to the intention of LCFF and to our duty to educate our students.”

Public Advocates and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed a complaint that led the state education department to investigate the allegations. Affeldt said he was aware of no other district that had double-counted special education dollars as L.A. Unified had.

L.A. Unified is already facing financial pressure as a result of declining enrollment and rising expenses in pay and pension costs that could consume hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years if state voters do not approve an extension of an increase on personal income taxes. If the state ruling stands, it could force the district to shift money in its general fund to services and programs primarily benefiting high-needs students.

Public Advocates and the ACLU estimate the total would be $380 million next year, building to $450 million annually in coming years. That’s on top of the $690 million that the district estimates it will receive in additional funding for high-needs students when the Local Control Funding Formula is fully funded, which the state projects for 2020-21.

But, the ruling noted, the district could also lower that amount by documenting that some special education services, such as language supports for English learners with disabilities, qualified as appropriate expenditures for high-needs students under the funding formula. Affeldt expressed doubts that the district could justify substantially lowering the total.
‘Strained’ legal interpretation

The funding dispute involves a critical but complex calculation that districts make to determine how much money they must spend annually on high-needs students as the Local Control Funding Formula is phased in. Each year, districts must spend an increasing portion of the difference between what they were spending on high-needs students before the new formula was passed in 2013 and the extra money, called “supplemental and concentration dollars,” that they will receive at full funding. The more money that districts claimed they spent on high-needs students when the law was enacted, the less they have to spend moving forward.
L.A. Unified spent about $570 million of its general fund in 2013-14 on special education services. Because 79 percent of disabled students also were English learners and low-income children, the district counted $450 million of that expense as spending for high-needs students, thereby reducing what the district would have to spend at full funding of the formula.

District attorneys, in responding to the complaint, said their calculation was a legal application of the funding formula statute. But the Department of Education agreed with Public Advocates and called the district’s approach a “strained” interpretation of the law. The intent of the funding formula is to provide additional programs and services for high-needs students beyond the level provided for all students, the decision said. Money for special education generally doesn’t meet that standard, because it’s provided to all students who have a disability, regardless of their high-needs status under the law, the department concluded.

“Thus, dollars spent on special education services are not expenditures on services targeted for high need students and may not be counted as a prior year expenditure for high need students,” Public Advocates wrote in its complaint.

Public Advocates first questioned the district’s underfunding in 2014 and sued a year later. Last November, it agreed to an intermediate step of filing a formal complaint with the state. Public Advocates had asked that the state require the district to retroactively fix the funding errors that reduced supplemental and concentration dollars by $126 million in 2014-15 and $288 million this year. The state ruled that the district need only provide additional funding for high-needs students moving forward.

L.A. Unified has 35 days to appeal the ruling. Both the district and Public Advocates can also turn to the courts to resolve the dispute.

Affeldt said he is sensitive to pressures that districts are facing on their base-level funding from rising pension and other expenses, but L.A. Unified “should have been more prudent in approving any new substantial expense, including pay raises, knowing that the issue of special education funding had been raised.”

“The state put districts in a bind. Funding is not enough for non-high-need students to receive an adequate education,” he said. “But the answer is not to rob from supplemental and concentration dollars.”

“We urge LAUSD to move swiftly to adopt the state’s decision, and to work with the community to consider ways to make up for the last two years of underfunding of services for those students. LAUSD has already wasted too much time and money pursuing an interpretation of the law that shortchanged students who need more, not less, support,” Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement.

• EdSource reporter Michael Janofsky contributed to this article.
• John Fensterwald covers education policy.


EARLY-ONSET EXISTENTIAL CRISES: Many thanks to the College Board and capitalism
Editorial in the Los Feliz Ledger by Belen Cahill, Polytechnic High School (Pasadena) ‘17 ·

June 2, 2016 :: Describe yourself in 400 words or less:

I am not a woman. I am not a poet. I am not the daughter of Nancy and Jason or the granddaughter of Sally and Lisle, Ann and Peter. I am not Olivia’s best friend. I am not a patient with a neurological condition and titanium in my heart. I am not someone who had an eating disorder. I am not a kid who loves their guitar more than most humans. I am not an activist. I am not sad. I am not a democrat, I am not Irish, I am not smart.

I am a B+ average.

I am not a lover of road trips or Joni Mitchell. I am not fascinated by manatees. I am not a storyteller. I am not a child. I am not spiritual. I am not enamored of the ocean. I am not a wonderer. I am not a wanderer. I am not sensitive. I am not vulnerable. I am not made sublimely happy by the smell of rain. I am not most at home when engulfed by the stars. I am not someone who knows every line of Arrested Development. I am not introverted, I am not naive, I am not afraid.

I am a 3.5 GPA.

I am not someone who laughs. I am not someone who screams. I am not someone who cried ceaselessly as they watched two baby squirrels die on top of one another; one from puncture wounds, the other from heartbreak. I am not from a background of suicide and stifled joy. I am not from a background of alcoholism and dancing on tabletops. I am not obsessed with Jane Austen. I am not a sucker for boys with kind eyes. I am not an insomniac, I am not a bad driver, I am not imperfect.

I am a number. I am a statistic. I am a dot on a scatter plot. I am a transcript. I am an SAT score. I am a frozen smile on an application. I am manipulative. I am bitter. I am stagnant. I am self-loathing. I am a gaping hole of someone else. I remember what it feels like to be a person, but I forget how.

In 371 words, that is who I have become. I wrote a speech this past year on why we should eliminate academic awards at my high school, the larger themes of which mostly dealt with the depersonalization of education which, to me, is the single most upsetting aspect of the contemporary educational experience in America.

What makes my school and schools similar to it in level of demand feel, on some days, unbearable, is this survival-of-the-fittest attitude towards success. There is no time, room, or true empathy for mistakes, unforeseen obstacles, or exhaustion.

And so, we are effectively dehumanizing kids during the time of their lives that is most formative—and that damage, although not irreparable, is lasting. Maybe adults forget that we are still just kids, and so perhaps it is hard for them to see that a good part of our childhood is being drowned by the weight of an educational system-turned-anxiety-propelled industry that depends directly upon the dwindling of our sanity not just to function, but to exist.

As someone who came into high school incredibly confident, passionate and curious, and as someone who has been reduced to not much more than a suffocating self doubt, I have no doubt that this dynamic is not reflective of callow students simply buying into a mindset, but is instead systemic.

More harmful than the pressure to take APs, the sheer workload, or the power of an ACT score is the dark underbelly of it all: the cavernous absence of forgiveness.

Some of my teachers harbor much bitterness about, but show little interest in, my inconsistent presence in class. Few of them know that I had a disease when I was younger that rendered my immune system scarily vulnerable, and that I consequently am ill probably more often than not. Few of them know that I have struggled with depression since my brain surgery in seventh grade, and that some days I cannot get out of bed.

We talk a lot about community and there is something undeniably magical about my school. But we cannot continue to invalidate the very human experiences students undergo because the reality is that those experiences are inevitably going to bleed into our school lives and we aren’t just automatons with an on/off switch.

This is not about relinquishing student responsibility—it is about seeing students as multidimensional people, through a lens of genuine empathy. Because at the end of the day, we are just a bunch of kids doing our best to keep it together, and the odds are not in our favor.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
BREAKING: UTLA Members vote YES on Tentative Agreement. The TA will be voted on by the @LAUSD School Board June 14.

Follow week-long series @CapitalAndMain documenting HOW THE PUSH FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS IMPACTS PUBLIC EDUCATION IN CA.

DOES 'CHARTER' MAKE YOU LOOK SMARTER?? Principal of LAUSD's newest affiliated charter says Yes!- LA School Report

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Special Board Meeting - June 7, 2016 - 9:00 a.m. - Including Closed Session Items
Start: 06/07/2016 9:00 am

*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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