Sunday, April 04, 2004

The Spring Break Issue ...did you set your clocks ahead?

Spring Break?

Spring break has begun for those students in LAUSD
who are not in overcrowded year round schools.

However far, far too many kids, teachers,
administrators and staff aren’t so lucky; they’ll be in
school this week.

• They will be in overcrowded schools with not enough classrooms, chairs and desks; some classes won’t have enough books.
• Paint is peeling at some of these schools, ceiling tiles
are falling. There isn’t enough bathrooms for the
number of students, there are bathroom monitors and
there is a clean-up campaign and a hotline — but some
of the bathroom doors are locked..
• The school day in some of the schools has been
extended to perpetuate the myth that children there are
getting just as much instruction as kids in less crowded
traditional calendar schools.
• Some classrooms will have underqualified teachers.
• Children will travel across town in buses to schools
outside their neighborhoods.
• Undoubtedly some young student will get to qualify
for ‘all of the above’!

Sure progress is being made on these fronts. New
schools are being built; many new schools have already
come on line. Most older schools have been or are
being repaired, painted, improved. There are many,
many teachers teaching very, very well — and lots of
kids are excelling.

But as long as one kid doesn’t have a book or a place
to sit; as long as one child is on a bus at six in the
morning, as long as one student pushes on the lavatory
door and finds it locked — as long as a single student
in LAUSD can’t have a spring break because he or she
is on a year ‘round calendar — we aren’t doing well

•Where is the master plan with the calendars? •Where is the timetable? •Who knows the answer? •Who even
understands the question?

NEW MATH²: Charter Schools + Prop 39 + Board of Ed = Trouble Ahead

• smf notes: The school board met (late) in a special
last-minute meeting on Tuesday to announce and
approve their Charter School Policy – to bring it into
compliance with Prop 39. It was not a pretty picture;
members of the board are volubly opposed to charter
schools per se – the Superintendent is no fan himself.
The proposal, as offered presented a thinly disguised
bare-bones “what’s the absolute least we can offer?”
approach – far less then presented or approved by the
Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (charged
specifically with oversight of Prop 39 in state law). In
debate the policy was opposed, further reduced — the
offer of a single school to closed since 1981 to charter
operators was condemned as “too much!”

Ultimately Superintendent Romer realistically if
begrudgingly intervened. The law is the law: If this
minimum offer isn’t made in good faith a lawsuit will
result; a suit the District would surely lose. After
grumbling and a bit of grandstanding - and a few
further reductions – the policy was approved, two days before the legal deadline. Written between the lines and into the adiminis-trivia of the policy is the District’s opposition to providing facilities to charters.

Let me put it here for all to read and think upon: The
lawsuit is coming. The Districts’ minimal compliance
flies in the face of the stated object of the legislation:
School districts must support Charter Schools.

I can’t think of an instance when the district has prevailed in this sort of lawsuit — but more than this now inevitable case will be lost. Time, money and opportunities will be wasted. Children will be left behind while adults have-it-out by the flagpole - the one in front of the courthouse.


By Jennifer Radcliffe, Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - To avoid lawsuits and comply with state law, the Los Angeles Unified School District board reluctantly voted Tuesday to allow charter schools to lease a closed campus in the West San Fernando Valley and to share space on traditional campuses, many of which are already overcrowded.

Faced with applications from more than a dozen
charter schools, the school board approved the
space-sharing plan to meet requirements of
Proposition 39, which calls on school districts to offer
charters facilities equivalent to those of their other

"We are on very sensitive ground," Superintendent
Roy Romer told the board. "If we don't handle
ourselves properly here, we're going to get sued."
School leaders are hoping the decision to offer a
vacant elementary campus on Highlander Road in
West Hills and a pledge to find space on about six
other campuses will show a good faith effort to
comply with Proposition 39, which was passed by
voters in 2000 but has not yet been contested by the
burgeoning charter movement.

Charter schools receive state funding but operate
independently from local districts that authorize their
creation and have much more freedom to spend their
money than traditional schools.

Under Proposition 39, school districts must offer
charter schools leased space if the charter school has at
least 80 students from the district. In an attempt to
protect LAUSD, the board adopted a policy Tuesday
that states the district won't offer facilities if doing so
would create an unfair burden on existing traditional
schools by forcing them to bus students or convert to a
year-round calendar.

They also won't give up schools that are being used for
other instruction, such as full-day kindergarten or adult

District officials refused to disclose the six or so other
campuses that may have some space for charter
schools. But administrators said they will meet a
Thursday deadline set by the state to begin offering the
space to the 13 charters that have applied for space.
Charter schools have a month to accept the space.
LAUSD leaders said that because there are more
charters than available campuses, they would prefer
keeping the real estate transactions private until they
are finalized.

LAUSD is on the front lines of implementing this law,
assistant superintendent Jean Brown said. They also
have more problems with overcrowding and more
charter schools than most districts.

"To try to find space will be a real challenge."
This would be the first time traditional and charter
schools would share space in LAUSD. The new
district policy says that the two schools will have to be
kept separate.

The board voted unanimously for the new policy but
one board member, Julie Korenstein, opposed handing
over Highlander Road Elementary School. Board
members noted that Highlander will need extensive
repairs to be considered equivalent and that may be
costly to the district.

"I don't believe all avenues have been looked at

Funds Could Leave No Bilingual Child Behind


By Fred Alvarez, Times Staff Writer

March 29, 2004 - The way Denis O'Leary saw it, California's Reading First program was leaving too many children behind — mostly poor and immigrant students, those who would benefit most from the federally funded literacy campaign.

So the Oxnard-area teacher and school board trustee lent his name last year to a lawsuit that has helped reshape the reading program, ensuring that children in some of the state's poorest districts have access to millions of dollars once largely cut off from bilingual classrooms.

As a result of a settlement in the lawsuit and a new state law, bilingual classrooms in California now have priority to tap $13.6 million in Reading First funds, money that will be used to boost reading achievement for limited English speakers from Sacramento to San Ysidro.

Just last week in the Oxnard School District, where O'Leary sits on the school board, trustees unanimously voted to apply for at least $1.6 million a year in Reading First money, more than half of which would be earmarked for students in bilingual settings.

"That's money that would not have been available to them before," said O'Leary, a bilingual teacher in a neighboring district. "Finally, we are able to offer equal access to education to all children in the state."

Oxnard is not alone. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials have applied for $2.2 million a year to bring the Spanish-language version of Reading First to thousands of bilingual students. And in San Diego County, officials in the San Ysidro School District have asked to add 34 bilingual classrooms to the district's annual Reading First grant.

A chief component of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act, Reading First was launched in 2002 with a nationwide goal of pushing every child to reading proficiency by the end of the third grade.

The program showers nearly $1 billion a year on schools across the country to run programs that use proven curricula and teaching methods to support and improve reading instruction in grades K-3. The money is used to pay for materials, professional development, literacy coaches and student assessments.

In California, where the first two years of funding totaled about $280 million, state education officials earmarked the money for high-poverty schools with low reading performance.

But they mandated that funding go only to classrooms using state-adopted English-language materials. That move, advocates said, effectively excluded bilingual programs, where teachers do initial reading instruction in Spanish.

The decision prompted the lawsuit aimed at forcing a funding change. And it spurred legislation, signed into law in October, prohibiting the exclusion of those programs from the Reading First campaign.

The law — written by Assembly members Marco Firebaugh, Jackie Goldberg and Leland Yee — required the California Department of Education to amend its Reading First plan to allow bilingual classrooms to use Spanish-language translations of approved materials.

"The entire education community was opposed to this policy," said Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, president of Californians Together, the statewide coalition that spearheaded the suit. "After two years of exclusion, the children who need help learning to read the most are finally going to get the help they deserve."

Karen Steentofte, chief counsel for the state Board of Education, said there was no intent to exclude bilingual classrooms from the federal program.

Rather, she said, officials had set out to ensure that participating school districts complied with California's federally approved Reading First plan, which called for the use of state-adopted instruction materials. Those materials had been available only in English when the state crafted its Reading First plan, Steentofte said.

"There was never an outright prohibition against bilingual classrooms," Steentofte said. "Any classroom [where teachers] used the materials in English for 2 1/2 hours a day could be funded, and some bilingual programs did that."

But bilingual education advocates said most programs did not.

Nearly 1,500 schools across the state operate bilingual classrooms despite passage in 1998 of a voter initiative that mandated English instruction and sharply limited bilingual programs.

The initiative, Proposition 227, allows students to learn in their native languages only when their parents ask for waivers from the law.

Last year, nearly 150,000 waivers were granted in California, which means thousands of classrooms continue to offer bilingual instruction. Advocates said teachers in many school districts refused to alter their bilingual curriculum just to qualify for Reading First grants.

Mary Hernandez, an education rights attorney who helped bring the lawsuit, said she believed education officials had been pressing a political agenda when they restricted the funding.

"To me, it was very obvious that they thought this would be a good occasion to try to press their political preference for English-only classrooms," Hernandez said.

Steentofte said such allegations were baseless.

Conservative activist Steve Frank, who helped lead the statewide charge for Proposition 227, said he had no problem with the federal money going to bilingual programs — even if he disagreed that those programs were effective.

"Proposition 227 did allow for some forms of bilingual education by choice of the parent," Frank said. "That is the law, and as long as the law exists you need to fund those portions of education mandated by" the proposition.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials wasted no time applying for funding for 300 bilingual classrooms now eligible for Reading First grants.

The district received initial Reading First funding last year of $45 million for 189 schools, said Jim Morris, the district's assistant superintendent for elementary instruction. Most bilingual classrooms were not eligible for that money. Morris said the district has applied for an additional $2.2 million, which it expects to receive by June 30.

"We're very excited, not because it's going to allow us to do something different, but because it's going to allow us to deepen the work we've already started," said Morris, noting that the district funded its own professional development program for bilingual teachers in lieu of the Reading First grant.

In the Pomona Unified School District, officials this school year started receiving an annual Reading First grant of about $2 million to launch the program in 14 schools. But the district didn't start spending the money right away, having requested funding even for those classrooms that use bilingual instruction.

Now that the lawsuit has been settled and the new law has been passed, the Pomona district has started tapping those funds, said Thelma Melendez, the district's chief academic officer.

"We felt there was no way we could exclude bilingual classes," Melendez said. "It just didn't make sense."

In the Oxnard School District, officials rejected Reading First funding last school year, in part because schools would have been forced to exclude the district's 200 bilingual classrooms.

District officials said they have been told that Oxnard schools would be among those first in line for funding.

O'Leary, the Oxnard school board trustee, said the money is much needed in a district where nearly half the students are English-language learners and reading scores lag below state averages.

"We need to start realizing it's to the betterment of our state and our nation to give these kids an equal education," said O'Leary, who joined the lawsuit not as a teacher or school board member, but as the father of three children educated in bilingual classrooms. "We can't have separate but equal. This is the only fair thing to do."

ESL, LEP, ELL: The Long Road to Fluency
LA Times Editorial: April 3, 2004

The acronyms help tell the story. Years ago they were ESL children, immigrant children for whom English was a second language. Then they were renamed LEP, for their limited English proficiency. Today those same kids are dubbed ELL, or English-language learners. The labels have changed to reflect educational fashion, and classroom methods have followed suit — from the simple language and broad gestures used by English-speaking teachers in ESL classes, to bilingual programs taught by bicultural instructors, to the English-only classes instituted across California by electoral fiat. But the fundamental problems that keep immigrant kids from catching up seem stubbornly resistant to change.

School officials celebrated last month when test results showed that the state's ELL students were making significant progress toward learning English. Now, 43% of California's 1.4 million English-language learners are able to speak, understand, read and write English. That's 18% more than met that standard three years ago, when the state administered the first round of tests mandated by Proposition 227, the 1998 initiative curtailing bilingual education. But there is a difference between learning English and learning in English. Just 10% of ELL students were able to reach the "proficient" level in tests of English as an academic subject last year, and only 15% were proficient in math — numbers largely unchanged from previous years. That suggests that too many kids are stacking up just short of fluency, lacking the skills necessary to understand photosynthesis, appreciate Shakespeare or calculate a word problem in an algebra class.

Supporters of bilingual education contend that the focus on mastering English slows immigrant students' academic progress, contributing to lower test scores and a higher dropout rate. It is taking, on average, more than six years for Spanish-speaking students to become fluent in English. Other groups are faring better — Korean students take four years and Armenians five. But in a district like Los Angeles, where more than 300,000 children are still learning English, that adds up to too many years spent stumbling through science and history and math.

For too long, arguments about the value of English immersion versus bilingual education have been clouded by political agendas and cultural imperatives. The implementation of Proposition 227 might not put those issues to rest, but it can allow a clear-eyed examination of the strengths — and the limitations — of English-only: The single transition year of "sheltered English" envisioned by Proposition 227 might not be enough. More outreach ought to be aimed at parents, to teach them how to support their kids' emerging English. Older children new to this country might need access to native-language texts so they can keep up and don't get discouraged. Teachers should receive better training in ways to accelerate language development.

Proposition 227 was no magic bullet. There's no denying it is accomplishing one of its key goals, prodding children to learn English. That's good, but it's only a first step on a long march.

One Reason Why Educators are Distrustful of Parents

This came to me last Sunday afternoon while I was
worrying about my own child and the education she is
receiving. Parents are parents every waking hour;
teachers and administrators fight hard to maintain the
semblance of the myth that theirs is a job — with time-on and time-off.

Children of course ultimately triumph over parents and educators because they are children 24-7 ...even when they sleep. When children sleep they dream as children: Thinking, questioning, planning, playing.

EVENTS: Coming up the next two weeks...
Monday Apr 05, 2004
• South Region High School #5
Phase II Presentation of Preferred Site
Local District G

Please join us at this meeting where we will present and discuss the PREFERRED site for this new school project.

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Dorsey High School
3537 Farmdale Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Community Organizer: Marina Perez

Tuesday Apr 06, 2004
• Central Region Elementary School #16
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District H

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Main Street Elementary School
129 E. 53rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90011

Community Organizer: Fortunato Tapia

• South Region Span K-8 #2
Phase II Site Selection Update – Meeting #2
Local District G

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
3989 S. Hobart Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90062

Community Organizer: Marina Perez

Wednesday Apr 07, 2004
• Belmont New Primary Center #12
Pre-Construction Meeting

6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Rosemont Avenue Elementary School
421 N. Rosemont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Community Organizer: Heather Repenning

Central Los Angeles High School #11 (Vista Hermosa)
Design Meeting

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Plasencia Elementary School
1321 Cortez Street
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Community Organizer: Marina Perez

Thursday Apr 08, 2004
• Florence Avenue Elementary School Playground Expansion
Ribbon-cutting Ceremony

Please join us to celebrate the completion of the playground expansion project at Florence Avenue Elementary School!

Ceremony will begin at 1:00 p.m.

Florence Avenue Elementary School
7211 Bell Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

Community Organizer:
Miguel Paredes

Monday Apr 12, 2004
• LACES New Sports Facility Complex
Construction Update Meeting

7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
LACES (Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies)
5931 W. 18th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Community Organizer: Sofia Torres

Tuesday Apr 13, 2004
• South Region Elementary School #1
Phase II Site Selection Update – Meeting #2
Local District I

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
75th Elementary School
142 W. 75th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90003

Wednesday Apr 14, 2004
• East Los Angeles Area New High School #1
Design Meeting

Please join us at this meeting where we will:

* Introduce the architect
* Present preliminary design for the school
* Provide an overview of the school facilities, including: number of classrooms, sports facilities, lunch area etc.
* Get feedback on the project design

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Utah Street Elementary School
255 Gabriel Garcia Marquez St. (formerly N. Clarence St.)
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Community Organizer: Fortunato Tapia

*Dates and times subject to change.

• Valley Region High School #5
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District B

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
San Fernando Middle School
130 N. Brand Blvd.
San Fernando, CA 91340

Community Organizer: Gabriela Gonzalez

Thursday Apr 15, 2004
• Central Los Angeles Area New Middle School #4
Groundbreaking Ceremony

Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new community school!

Ceremony will begin at 1 p.m.

Central Los Angeles Area New Middle School #4
3500 South Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Community Organizer: Manuel Maldonado

*Dates and times are subject to change.

• Valley Region Middle School #3
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District B

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Byrd Middle School
9171 Telfair Ave.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

Friday Apr 16, 2004
• The Jack & Denise Smith Library & Community
Center — Mount Washington Elementary School
addition groundbreaking ceremony

Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of your
new multi-purpose building!

• smf note: This promises to be the biggest celebration
of any LAUSD groundbreaking to date!

Join LAUSD, the Mount Washington community and
the entire city of LA as we Celebrate the Lives of Jack &
Denny Smith.

The late Jack Smith celebrated LA as LA's voice and conscience as a newspaper columnist - with quiet, wry wit, writing the truth so one could see the twinkle in his eye. His wife Denny continues his legacy in supporting, building and endowing school libraries throughout LAUSD.

The Mount Washington Community was worked long and hard – often in opposition but ultimately together – with district and city, county, state and national officials to build this library and community center – the shared vision of Jack and Denny Smith – a focus for children’s literacy and community involvement.

Ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m.
• Parking will be at a premium! Please carpool and/or
walk if you can!

*Dates and times are subject to change.

Phone: 212.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616


Carl Glickman, Editor, Prologue by Bill Cosby,
Epilogue by The Late U. S. Senator Paul Wellstone (Teachers College Press, 2004 Paperback: 272 pages)

KIDS, HERE’S A FINE MESS THEY’VE GOTTEN US INTO - from the prologue by Bill Cosby

Dear President-to-Be,

I'm looking at the junkiest room I've ever seen. It is a classroom in an American public school; it is public education in America today. A child did not make the room junky; generations of litterers — legislators, school board members, superintendents, principals, taxpayers, teachers and presidents did.

Given the mess, it is a wonder that our children are able to do even as well as they do. We must be grateful that there always have been talented and determined teachers who find their way through the maze of rules and special interests and do what they became teachers
to do: help their students shine.

Our neighborhood schools are cluttered and
crumbling. Of course, I'm assuming that anyone
applying to be president probably never went to a poor and neglected public school where books have missing pages, walls have peeling paint and children have nothing to write with. Wealthy people comfort themselves that money is not the issue. But nothing dear to America was ever maintained without it. We need money to secure great teachers, money to update
teaching methods, money for technology and supplies, and money for time.

Time is a precious commodity and teachers need it to plan lessons and meet with students, parents and administrators.

When the junk is cleaned out of that junky room, its structure is sound: Public education is a good foundation on which to build a better life for each of us. And if we want to prove to these children who never made the mess in the first place that education is worth the trouble, our schools have to inspire them so they can do what they ought to do.

A young teacher, returning to college to hone her
skills, asks herself why she wants to teach children who do not have a safe environment to learn in and who lack resources and support from administrators and family. Besides her intrinsic love for teaching, we need to give her a reason to stay.

We must make firm commitments to educators who can show us the way, and learn from the many clear examples of their success. The media constantly focus our attention on the very worst schools when we should really have before us, like shining examples, these school success stories. Why do we accept failure as an example when we can demand that the successes be made visible?

School leaders have to be seen to be heard and to be supported. And we ought to pay them livable salaries, at least enough to afford the chalk and crayons and countless other supplies they buy out of their own pockets. I invite you to look into this room. You can say to our nation, "We must begin — we cannot wait
for someone else to clear out the mess."

• This stellar collection of more than 30 letters speaks to the heart of public education, the future of American students, and the need for an educated and engaged citizenry. Contributors include students, parents, teachers, prominent educators, and public
leaders who write to our next president, and to all fellow citizens, in an honest and direct way about the dangerous shortcomings of current state and federal policies. The letters provide provocative answers to
critical questions such as:

• What kind of education do we want for all of our children?
• What changes must we make to achieve that goal?
• How do we ensure that the voices of parents,
teachers, students, and citizens who care deeply about public education are heard at local, state, and national levels?

This timely volume provides a strong response to government intrusions that have resulted in thousands of pages of simplistic directives and under-funded requirements for local schools and districts. It offers practical and just solutions for guaranteeing higher standards with comprehensive assessments, allocating
equitable resources with responsible local control; attracting and retaining good teachers; improving school choice and the promise of small schools; providing for universal high quality early childhood education, and ensuring a rich, academically sound and engaging curriculum-both inside and outside of school—for all students.

Get LETTERS TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT from your local library, bookstore - or order it by clicking here.

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member. Or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think.
• 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. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Vote.

Contact your school board member