Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tune in. Turn on. Bad dog.

4LAKids: Sunday, March 25, 2007
In This Issue:
Dropouts I - Setting the Record Straight: DROPOUTS ARE TRUANTS ACCORDING TO THE LAW
Dropouts II - L.A. UNIFIED IS COUNTING ITS TRUANTS: Monthly attendance reports are seen as critical to curbing dropouts.
Dropouts III - MAYOR'S DROPOUT PLAN ONLY LOOKS NEW: LAUSD is already trying some ideas
HOW TO GO TO M.I.T. FOR FREE: Online 'intellectual philanthropy' attracts students from every nation on earth.
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
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.
I am out of town at a conference, and while I am away Bingo the Homework Eating Dog – also famous for appearing in the New Yorker “On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog” cartoon. – has hacked into the 4LAKids server and posted the following two jokes. - smf


1. All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If, after two years, they have not won the championship, their footballs and equipment will be taken away until they do win the championship.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in football, lack of desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities from themselves or their parents. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL!

3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own, without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time for the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability, or whose parents don't like football.

4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 3rd, 8th, and 11th games. It will create a New Age of Sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimum goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child gets left behind. If parents do not like this new law, they are encouraged to vote for vouchers and support private schools that can screen out the non-athletes and prevent their children from having to go to school with bad football players.


Students unfurl a banner across the street from a school. It reads: "Antonio Villaraigosa is a big poo-head."

Is this:

1. Protected free speech?
2. Prohibited hate speech?
3. A passing essay in the California Kindergarten Exit Exam?

The New Yorker cartoon: “On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog” by Peter Steiner

Dropouts I - Setting the Record Straight: DROPOUTS ARE TRUANTS ACCORDING TO THE LAW

By Dan Basalone in the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Newsletter

March 12, 2007 — For months, politicians in Los Angeles and Sacramento have used dropout statistics as a means to bludgeon LAUSD as a mediocre, failing district. Even worse, it has been implied that the district, meaning all employees, don’t really care whether students finish school or not. In the broader sense, all urban and rural school districts with high dropout rates have been castigated as failing districts. First, let’s set the record straight: Dropouts are actually truants according to the State Education Code …if any politician cares to read the law.

In its continuing effort to educate politicians and the general public, AALA provides the following information from the Education Code of the State of California:

• Section 48200. Each person between the ages of 6 and 18 years not exempted under the provisions of this chapter or Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 48400) is subject to compulsory full-time education.

• Section 48430. Children who hold work permits shall be exempted, but such children shall be subject to compulsory attendance upon part-time classes.

• Section 48450. Each parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of any minor required to attend special continuation education classes, shall compel the attendance of the minor upon the classes. He shall retain a copy of the permit to work and shall present it upon request of any officer of the law, or other person authorized to enforce provisions of this chapter.

• Section 48460. (a) Any pupil subject to compulsory full-time education or to compulsory continuation education who is absent from school without valid excuse three full days in one school year or tardy or absent for more than any 30-minute period during the school day without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year, or any combination thereof, is a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor or to the superintendent of the school district.

• Section 48291. If it appears upon investigation that any parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of any child has violated any of the provisions of this chapter, the secretary of the board of education, except as provided in Section 48292, or the clerk of the board of trustees, shall refer such person to a school attendance review board. In the event that any such parent, guardian, or other person continually and willfully fails to respond to directives of the school attendance review board or services provided, the school attendance review board shall direct the school district to make and file in proper court a criminal complaint against the parent, guardian, or other person, charging the violation, and shall see that the charge is prosecuted by the proper authority.

AALA encourages every citizen, including illustrious politicians, to go online to the California Government Code website and read the complete text of the sections dealing with compulsory school attendance that are referenced above.

It is a disservice to the many hardworking teachers, administrators and classified staff personnel of LAUSD to blame them for dropouts when the primary responsibility for attendance is parental. AALA acknowledges that schools have a legal and professional responsibility to provide the best education possible given the resources available. Districts also have the responsibility to provide the counseling and intervention programs mandated by the State, as well as district initiated retention strategies. Secondary schools especially need to implement a comprehensive curriculum in order to meet the learning needs of all students. Career education, the arts, physical education, industrial arts and other curricula are needed in addition to A – G academic classes. Motivation for learning comes in many forms depending on individual needs because one size does not fit all, and it must be culturally relevant.

AALA reminds the naysayers that the thousands of students who matriculate through the grades and graduate annually should be applauded for doing the daily work of attending school and learning. The parents of matriculating students and the graduates should be praised for making sure that their children attend school on a regular basis and complete work assignments. Isn’t that what all parents are supposed to do? Any politician who says that it is the school’s responsibility to keep students in school, blithely dismisses this parental role in their pathetic attempt to make a political point. They also contribute to the denial of those parents who are neglectful of their children’s education.

AALA encourages parents, nonparent community members and politicians to visit their local schools in LAUSD and other districts to discover the learning that is taking place. At the same time, they will observe the thousands of dedicated students who are attending school and learning because their parents or guardians make sure that they attend to their learning activities. It is sad that other students are not in attendance; however, that is not the fault of the school because it is truancy and the responsibility of the parent or guardian. AALA encourages school officials and parents or guardians to follow the compulsory education laws referenced above and to be their child’s primary advocate and cheerleader. If a parent is unsure of the advocacy role, 10th and 31st District PTA chapters provide the support needed to learn this role.

Learning is work and by its very nature not easily acquired. It takes persistence and fortitude to deal with failure that is inevitable when attempting to learn new skills. Despite any learning frustration, the Education Code is very clear that not attending school is TRUANCY.

▲ smf opines: Thank you Dan; PTA’s role IS to advocate for kids and to educate parents – I thank AALA for the plug and for reminding their members what PTA is supposed to do!

PTA is NOT a fundraising engine to make up for budget shortfalls and wish lists!

WHICH BRINGS ME TO THIS: In California we have a compulsory education system. Parents are compelled by law to send their kids to school until they are 18 and/or graduate. Children are compelled to attend school; like gravity and Dan said earlier: IT’S THE LAW!

In the good old days, when Lucy was still married to Desi and television (if not the world entire) was in black-and-white there were truant officers. Boys in blue from LAPD – city employees – enforced compulsory attendance. They stopped kids on the street between 8AM and 3PM and asked questions; they hauled students without an excuse back to school.

Later truant officers became Pupil Services and Attendance (PSA) Counselors, school district employees who sought out truants, chronic absentees, “skippers” and “ditchers” – and their parents – and brought them to school and saw that they kept coming. The advent of year ‘round calendars made the work a little harder (one third of a given school's student body could be legally out of school at any one time) – but that in itself didn’t make the job impossible, only harder.

But when the budget needed cutting those PSA jobs were the first to go — the focus was on the classroom and PSA Counselors doing their job weren’t there. Laudable on the face of it; but dumb. Dumb because it served to allow those kids not in the classroom to remain that way – and dumber still because the PSA program was fiscally self-sustaining: Every truant returned to school produces revenue in the form of Average Daily Attendance money. ADA IS the school district’s primary source of revenue …the PSA program paid for itself and more!

Rounding up the dropouts and truants isn’t the only answer; school needs to be made more relevant and appealing to kids at risk of being lift behind. Parents that allow their kids to skip school and drop out should be held accountable. And maybe the cops on the street in their radio cars need to turn off the air conditioning, roll down the windows and do the most basic of community policing: “Excuse me …why aren’t you in school?”

Ed Code sections dealing with Cumpulsory Attendence

Dropouts II - L.A. UNIFIED IS COUNTING ITS TRUANTS: Monthly attendance reports are seen as critical to curbing dropouts.
by Mitchell Landsberg, LA Times Staff Writer

March 21, 2007 — Although the Los Angeles Unified School District has ramped up its efforts to keep students in school, a new report shows that thousands are still skipping class routinely, and the problem is rampant in a few low-performing schools.

The report is the first in what is intended as a series of monthly accounts that will track truancy and absenteeism in every middle and high school in the district — something that has not been done in such a systematic way before.

The information is considered critical because students typically begin skipping school sporadically before dropping out altogether. L.A. Unified is trying to tackle a dropout rate that is officially 24.1% but has been estimated at close to double that.

Several numbers leap out of the first report, which tracked students who missed school in January.

A single school, Washington Preparatory High School near Inglewood, had 170 students with 10 or more "unresolved" absences that month. Another, Belmont High, just west of downtown, had 167. An unresolved absence is one for which a student does not bring a written excuse and the school doesn't contact the parents.

And a middle school, Bethune in South L.A., listed 335 students with three or more truancies, far more than any other school. A truancy is an unauthorized absence, one for which the school has determined that the student had no legitimate excuse.

An assistant principal at Belmont, John Newton, said the school, where 4,045 students are enrolled, welcomed the report. "It should allow us to improve student attendance and track down those students who may drop out because of attendance problems," he said. "So we think it will be a real benefit, even though it looks negative the first month."

One reason the number of absences may be so high, Newton said, is that the district has rolled out a new computerized attendance system that keeps track of students' presence in every class. Before, attendance was taken once a day, in homeroom.

"So we literally have, in a school this size, thousands of attendance marks every day," he said. That means, among other things, that whenever a student cuts a single class, it is classified as an absence. Without an excuse, it becomes "unresolved."

Bethune's assistant principal, Beverly Byrd, said the high numbers at her school, which enrolls 2,300 students, were partly the result of an especially tough approach to absences fostered by the school's participation in an anti-truancy program run by the city attorney's office. Under that program, Operation Bright Futures, absent students were declared truant unless they returned to school with a note from a doctor, she said.

Once the district report came out, Byrd said, Bethune administrators decided to mark absences "uncleared" until they could reach the parents and find out whether the student had a legitimate reason to miss school. She said the school has a fairly high attendance rate — between 93% and 94%. But she also said students sometimes skip classes, a practice that contributes to high truancy numbers.

Even before its release, the attendance report caused a stir when Deputy Mayor Ramon C. Cortines accused the district of dragging its feet in releasing the data. He complained on Feb. 21 that the report was ready but had not been made public "because of the damn bureaucracy."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa repeatedly attacked the district because of its dropout rate last year as he was attempting to gain control over the school system.

The report was made public within two days of Cortines' complaint. A deputy to Cortines, Marshall Tuck, said recently that its release represented "good progress," although he added that it was too early to draw any meaningful conclusions because there are no earlier, comparable data to show whether the district is improving or not.

"You need, first and foremost, to have the data," he said.

Debra Duardo, the director of dropout prevention and recovery for the district, agreed that it was difficult to tell much from a single month of reporting. However, she said it did point her toward some schools — she declined to name them — that might be doing a sloppy job of record keeping or failing to aggressively respond to unexplained absences. She called the reports "a great tool" that will help the district rein in the problem.

Over the last year, the district has taken several measures to keep closer track of its attendance and dropout problems. It has added attendance clerks and counselors to nearly every high school, and the new computer system that tracks students period by period eventually will be available to parents to keep an eye on their children's attendance. That system has also allowed the district to begin producing the monthly reports.

The January report shows that out of nearly 386,000 middle and high school students, 3,533 had 10 or more unresolved absences that month.

Dropouts III - MAYOR'S DROPOUT PLAN ONLY LOOKS NEW: LAUSD is already trying some ideas
by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

3/21/2007 — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has proposed a detailed nine-point plan aimed at dramatically improving Los Angeles Unified's dropout rate - a plan that is virtually identical to efforts already in place in the district.

The plan, part of an 18-month review of best practices at schools across the country, proposes everything from boosting after-school programs to improving tracking of at-risk students.

But the district already began implementing such measures last year, raising questions about whether Villaraigosa's vision of school reform is a blueprint that will truly make a difference.

And even though the district and the mayor's efforts appear similar, UCLA professor John Rogers said it's too early to conclude they are the right steps.

"All of the ideas are positive," he said. "Whether they're enough to make a substantial difference is a harder question."

The Mayor's Office defended its dropout proposal, saying it differs significantly from district efforts because it emphasizes ending the practice of promoting students to the next grade even if they're not ready.

Officials also note the district's dropout efforts have been sporadic and the mayor's plan would emphasize creating smaller, more personalized schools to reduce dropouts.

"There is no evidence that the district has moved to implement a dropout reduction plan with the required urgency to solve the problem," said Marshall Tuck, education adviser to the mayor.

"What we need is leaders committed to a total realignment of the organization."

To be fair, the mayor's demand for closer involvement and efforts to gain control of the district appear to have been a factor behind the district boosting measures to stem dropouts.

The problem has been a lightning rod for criticism for years, with several studies finding that more than half of LAUSD students don't graduate.


While a study by the California Department of Education placed LAUSD's dropout rate at 24percent, the differing figures spotlighted a poor district tracking system.

It also was Deputy Mayor Ray Cortines' pressure that pushed the district to begin a computerized attendance tracking system that lets teachers more closely monitor absences.

In August, amid attacks from the mayor, LAUSD rolled out a $10million program designed to keep at-risk students at school and to re-enroll those who leave.

The district hired 80 "diploma project advisers" and placed them at 46 high schools and 34 middle schools that have dropout rates above the state average.

Counselors are tasked with reviewing attendance data and grades to identify at-risk students and even visit students' homes to try to bring back those who have dropped out.

LAUSD also has started better tracking dropouts to find out why they left, and it's developing better records of the actual dropout rate.

District officials are training teachers and principals to interpret the data and have implemented districtwide policies on when to call an absent student's home and when to set up parent conferences.

The district is also looking to expand alternative education programs such as part-time school attendance to retain students who don't necessarily want to attend college.

All of those district efforts are mirrored in the mayor's nine-point plan.

Tuck, education adviser to Cortines, credited the district for moving forward but emphasized that implementation and results rely on the details.

"We need to ask questions like: Are the strategies being implemented districtwide? How many dropped out? What's the goal to get them back into schools? How many kids are they bringing back? Why are they coming back? Why aren't they coming back? What are the district's measures of success?" Tuck said.

"There's not one silver bullet. We're looking at a comprehensive, integrated, districtwide strategy that spans from pre-K to the 12th grade," he said. "Unless you're doing all the strategies and implementing them comprehensively ... it's very difficult to stall the dropout problem."

District officials acknowledge their dropout strategies are not in effect at all district schools, but they said the problem has been funding.

Each diploma project adviser costs $100,000, so "it boils down to how many resources you have," Superintendent David BrewerIII said.

Still, Brewer said principals have been made aware they will be held accountable for improvements at school sites.

Brewer cited efforts at Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, which created ninth- and 10th-grade centers with counseling services to help students transition to the next grade level.


Rogers, who has been studying Exit Exams throughout the state, said that despite LAUSD's efforts to reduce dropouts, the percentage of students who graduated was substantially smaller in 2006 than in the previous five years.

The Exit Exam, which all students are required to pass to receive a diploma, became mandatory for graduation last year, and that had a negative impact on the district's graduation rates.

As part of dropout prevention and recovery efforts, the district launched massive intervention programs and boot camps to get more students to pass the exam.

So far, the district only has comprehensive tracking data for January, which showed 3,533 middle and high school students with 10 or more unresolved absences.

The data also showed 307 withdrawals and 3,217 students with three or more truancies for the month.

But district officials said it's too early to draw conclusions because there are no comparative data yet.

Rogers credits LAUSD for taking steps to counter the exam's effect on the dropout rate, but he said it is too little, too late.

"There's only so much impact extra tutoring will have in the student's 12th-grade year if you haven't provided sufficient learning opportunities in the seventh grade, eighth grade and ninth grade," said Rogers, who also is co-director of the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at UCLA's graduate school of education.

Ultimately, some say what's really needed at the district - beyond improved tracking and mentoring - is funding for programs that will reduce the dropout rate.

Debra Duardo, director of LAUSD's dropout prevention, intervention and recovery program, said her effort also could use the mayor's help to deal with students' social issues.

"We have homeless students, safety issues, poverty and gang violence and so many other issues that we need to work together with the Mayor's Office and anybody else who wants to come to the table."

HOW TO GO TO M.I.T. FOR FREE: Online 'intellectual philanthropy' attracts students from every nation on earth.
by Gregory M. Lamb | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

By the end of this year, the contents of all 1,800 courses taught at one of the world's most prestigious universities will be available online to anyone in the world, anywhere in the world. Learners won't have to register for the classes, and everyone is accepted.

The cost? It's all free of charge.

The OpenCourseWare movement, begun at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002 and now spread to some 120 other universities worldwide, aims to disperse knowledge far beyond the ivy-clad walls of elite campuses to anyone who has an Internet connection and a desire to learn.

Intended as an act of "intellectual philanthropy," OpenCourseWare (OCW) provides free access to course materials such as syllabi, video or audio lectures, notes, homework assignments, illustrations, and so on. So far, by giving away their content, the universities aren't discouraging students from enrolling as students. Instead, the online materials appear to be only whetting appetites for more.

"We believe strongly that education can be best advanced when knowledge is shared openly and freely," says Anne Margulies, executive director of the OCW program at MIT. "MIT is using the power of the Internet to give away all of the educational materials created here."

The MIT site (, along with companion sites that translate the material into other languages, now average about 1.4 million visits per month from learners "in every single country on the planet," Ms. Margulies says. Those include Iraq, Darfur, "even Antarctica," she says. "We hear from [the online students] all the time with inspirational stories about how they are using these materials to change their lives. They're really, really motivated."

So-called "distance learning" over the Internet isn't new. Students have been able to pay for online courses at many institutions, either to receive credit or simply as a noncredit adult-learning experience. Many universities also offer free podcasts (audio or sometimes video material delivered via the Internet).

But the sheer volume and variety of the educational materials being released by MIT and its OCW collaborators is nothing less than stunning.

For example, each of the 29 courses that Tufts University in Medford, Mass., has put online so far is "literally the size of a textbook," says Mary Lee, associate provost and point person for the OCW effort there. The material provides much more than "a skeleton of a course," she says. Visitors to Tufts' OCW course on "Wildlife Medicine" call it is the most comprehensive website on that topic in the world, Dr. Lee says.

What OCW is not, its supporters agree, is a substitute for attending a university.

For one thing, OCW learners aren't able to receive feedback from a professor - or to discuss the course with fellow students. A college education is "really the total package of students interacting with other students, forming networks, interacting with faculty, and that whole environment of being associated with the school," says James Yager, a senior associate dean at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He oversees the OCW program there. His school of public health now offers nearly 40 of its most popular courses for free via OCW. The school's goal is to put 90 to 100 of its 200 or so core courses online within the next year or so. In November, learners from places such as Taiwan, Britain, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands logged some 80,000 page views of OCW course material, Dr. Yager says.

MIT's initiative began with the idea of giving faculty at other universities access to how professors at MIT approached teaching a subject. But after the OCW project went online, the school quickly realized it had two other huge constituencies: students at other colleges, who wanted to augment what they were learning, and "self learners," those not pursuing a formal education but interested in increasing their knowledge.

Along with course content, MIT also wanted to showcase its teaching methods. Many schools follow a traditional model, teaching the theory first, then allowing students to practice what they've learned. MIT has a "practice, theory, practice" way of teaching, Margulies says, that aims to get students engaged and energized immediately - before delving much into theory.

Younes Attaourti, a physics professor in Marrakesh, Morocco, stumbled upon MIT's OCW site while surfing the Net. He's used the materials as the basis for courses he's taught on statistical physics and quantum theory of fields. And for his own learning, he's downloaded theoretical physics courses and one on ultrafast optics. "I don't think there is another university elsewhere in the world that is more generous," he writes in an e-mail: "[T]his is the first time that many people around the world are able to have access to top-quality courses."

Phillipa Williams is an adult (40-something) student at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, studying mathematics ("don't groan, I love it!" she writes in an e-mail). She's worked her way through many of the OCW undergraduate mathematics courses, she says, because they provide "a different viewpoint, another explanation of material," as well as different practice questions.

MIT's OCW website features even more glowing feedback from learners. "[B]ecause of money, many good students with great talent and [who are] diligent do not have the chance to learn the newest knowledge and understanding of the universe," says Chen Zhiying, a student in the People's Republic of China. "But now, due to the OCW, the knowledge will spread to more and more people, and it will benefit the whole [world of] human-beings."

"The MIT OCW program is a generous and far-sighted initiative that will do more to change the world for the better than a thousand Iraq-style invasions," the MIT site quotes Leigh Pascoe, a self-learner in Paris, as saying. "It does much to restore my faith in the enlightenment of the American people and their great experiment in democracy. This program should be emulated by every university worthy of the name."

Besides MIT, Tufts, and Johns Hopkins, the OCW consortium (ocwconsor in the United States includes among its members Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Utah State. Internationally, members include groups of universities in China, Japan, and Spain.

So far MIT has published 1,550 of its courses for OCW and plans to get the rest online by the end of this year. The materials for each course vary. Full videos of lectures, one of the most popular features, are available for only 26 courses, about 1,000 hours of video in all. "We'd like to do more video because it's really quite popular and our users love it," Marguiles says. "But it's quite expensive." The program relies on "generous support" from foundations, individuals, and MIT itself for funding, she says.

Schools like Tufts and Johns Hopkins were able to jump-start their OCW programs quickly because the schools had already committed themselves for many years to putting all their classroom materials online for use by their own students. The biggest job has been to vet the materials for copyright issues, so-called "copyright scrubbing," Lee and Yager say. If permission cannot be obtained for a specific photo or chart, it must be left out of the OCW version or a substitute found.

The OCW effort is part of a wide range of dynamic educational content emerging on the Internet, says Dan Colman, associate dean and director of Stanford University's continuing studies program and host of the website, which highlights what's happening in Web-based education, with an emphasis on podcasts.

Full-fledged online courses "might eventually offer a viable alternative to the classroom, but right now we have a ways to go," he writes via e-mail. Podcasts, for example, let learners hear a lecture, but they don't require that the listener write a critical essay or take part in a classroom discussion - activities that are a key element of the learning process, Mr. Colman says.

And technology still needs to advance a bit more too. "We'll need a very fast fiber network and communication tools that give courses a greater degree of immediacy and sociability before this [online] model will become a real option educationally and economically," he says. "In the meantime, the traditional classroom is fairly safe."

For example, lab work, which usually requires close hands-on collaboration between an instructor and students, remains problematic online, Yager points out.

The losers in putting free content online aren't likely to be universities, which will continue to attract young students, Colman says. But free podcasts and OCW courses may pull adult learners away from other leisure activities, he says, such as reading books, watching educational television shows, or buying recordings of books or lectures. "All of these entities could suffer as users find free high-quality information on the Web," Colman says.

▲This program offers a great opportunity for extended learning for high school students — even ESL students! College and graduate school level courses - many translated into Spanish... inspired teachers and administrators will figure out a way for these courses to earn credit for the students that take them! —smf

EXAMPLE COURSE: » MIT OpenCourseWare » Comparative Media Studies » Media, Education, and the Marketplace

▲SCHOOLS VIE FOR AID, BUT MAY GET LEMONS: The state has a jackpot of nearly $3 billion to spend, but in L.A. and elsewhere many needy campuses will get nothing.

By Howard Blume | LA Times Staff Writer

March 18, 2007 — Santee High in South Los Angeles ranks at the very bottom of high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but it won't get a penny of the most substantial infusion of new state funding in years for low-achieving schools.

Nearby Belmont High, another struggling school to be sure, almost certainly will get these funds — some $1,000 per student for seven years.

So it goes with the big-stakes, lottery-like Quality Education Investment Act, the result of a $2.9-billion litigation settlement between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Teachers Assn. and state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. Because the goal was to provide enough money to have a significant effect, the funds will be narrowly targeted, going only to about one-third of the 1,455 California schools that rank in the lowest 20% in student achievement. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which dwarfs other school systems, is expected to receive funding for about 80 schools.

How many local schools will receive money — and which ones — is up to the state, although most slots will be filled by a lottery. L.A. Unified, for its part, is responsible for listing its schools in order of priority and making sure applications are accurate. The school board is scheduled to vote on that list Thursday, with the state announcing the final picks in early May. The money starts flowing in the next school year, which for year-round campuses begins in July.

The priority ranking of schools has been the subject of debate. And so have the requirements: The district will need to hire many more experienced teachers, for example, and classroom space is an issue.

Unavoidably, there will be losers.

As for the winners, they will enjoy relative plenty for seven years. They will have that time to prove that a major influx of resources works, that class-size reduction, intense teacher training and adding counselors — three mandated features of the program — will raise student achievement. These campuses could embody the argument that other low-performing schools need a lot more money, too.

But if these richer times are squandered, then these schools could become evidence that money is not the issue, weakening the case for substantially greater education funding that a small army of researchers made in high-profile reports released last week.

Decades-long federally funded efforts have yielded unpersuasive results, as have state-funded initiatives of recent years, critics say.

L.A. Unified school board member David Tokofsky called the infusion "the most significant investment in public education" since President Johnson made federal aid to schools part of his war on poverty.

For the winners, that is.

"This is not permanent money, and this is not a very well thought-out program, but it is being driven by all of our feelings that we can wait no longer," said Tokofsky, who chaired last week's special school board meeting on the subject. "That the kids most in need — the students at Locke, Jordan and Garfield, schools overburdened by the number of kids and the intensity of poverty — can wait no longer."

This attempt also is a bet on particular strategies, especially class-size reduction, and a wager that failing schools and the state education system are ready to succeed where they haven't before. Doubters abound.

"Pouring more money into failing schools doesn't work," said Caprice Young, head of the California Charter Schools Assn., offering one critique. "If you've got money to improve the quality of education in a neighborhood, the best thing you can do is start a new school." She, of course, favors publicly funded, independently run charter schools.

Santee High, a traditional school, suffers precisely for its newness. Eligibility is first determined by 2005 test scores. Santee didn't open until July 2005 — after that year's testing.

Jefferson High and Jordan High, also in South L.A., follow Santee as the next lowest academic performers. They would appear to be certain winners, but both schools lack space to reduce class sizes in core academic subjects to 25 students or less.

But such schools are not automatically out of the game. The rules set aside 15% of the program's total student enrollment for schools that would have to submit alternative plans, such as putting more than one teacher in a classroom. These alternative strategies, say state officials, must be supported by research. And they must be in state hands by month's end.

In recent months, community groups have entered the debate, descending on district headquarters for demonstrations or meetings three times last week. At some schools, they've found principals who either knew little about the program or showed a lack of interest, said parent Martha Sanchez of the grass-roots group Los Angeles ACORN.

District officials insist that all schools will be required to submit applications and that schools applying under the alternative program will get the help they need to submit top-notch proposals.

Another worry is that the district's ranking system could unfairly deny some schools in the poor neighborhoods south and east of downtown, said Sheilagh Polk of the group Community Coalition. Activists said they worry about irresistible pressures to spread the money to schools represented by each of the seven board members.

At last week's meeting, Tokofsky asked the groups to bring to Thursday's meeting any specific injustices they identify. He has some issues of his own, including the automatic preference district staff gave to middle schools over elementary schools.

An added challenge will be filling 2,000 new teaching positions in L.A. Unified over the next four years for this effort and other initiatives. And under this reform, the teaching corps at participating schools must be at least as experienced as elsewhere in the school system.

The settlement ended a lawsuit over Schwarzenegger's 2005 decision, during a budget crisis, to reinterpret his agreement to fully fund K-12 education. CTA and O'Connell sued. The resulting 2006 settlement restored the contested funds, while undermining portrayals of the Republican governor as a foe of education just when he was running for reelection. Although the money technically belonged equally to all schools, the parties to the lawsuit opted for a targeted plan.

"We're trying to clearly help the most challenging schools," said O'Connell recently. "We'll help a generation of students in the next seven years. We know we've underfunded education for far too long."

► Thank you to Howard Blume for a fine piece of reporting; California's Byzantine system of school finance gives that ancient empire a bad name.

What is missed is that the money being dispensed in what David Tokofsky says is "the most significant investment in public education" since the war on poverty is the exact same money cut in years past from school budgets because of the legislature and governor's "borrowing" from the Prop 98 constitutional guarantee of adequate funding to schools.

First, a math lesson: Less than "adequate" is "inadequate".

Second: School Boards up and down the state made painful local decisions over the past few tears where to cut from their budgets when the state cut the amount it paid for public education. Now the state is paying back what it borrowed, but on a lottery basis only some schools and with strings attached formulated by politicians in Sacramento.

Pay back the money to the programs it was cut from.

- smf


Mar 18, 2007 (CBS) LOS ANGELES A team of brainiacs from El Camino Real High School won the 2007 California Academic Decathlon, it was announced Sunday.

The eight-member team scored 50,486 points out of a possible 60,000 points in the competition.

The students will represent the Golden State at the 2007 U.S. Academic Decathlon April 25-28 in Honolulu.

Granada Hills Charter High School finished second with 50,276 points. Moorpark High School in Ventura County, which won the Super Quiz Relay portion of the competition, came in third.

Six of the eight teams from the Los Angeles Unified School District finished in the top 10. North Hollywood was fourth, Palisades Charter fifth, Marshall seventh and Garfield ninth. Taft came in 18th and Narbonne 23rd.

In all, 483 decathletes representing 55 high schools from across the state competed over two days with multiple-choice tests, interviews, speeches and essay writing. This year's study topic was "China and Its Influence on the World."



Mar 18, 2007 (CBS) LOS ANGELES A team of brainiacs from El Camino Real High School won the 2007 California Academic Decathlon, it was announced Sunday.

The eight-member team scored 50,486 points out of a possible 60,000 points in the competition.

The students will represent the Golden State at the 2007 U.S. Academic Decathlon April 25-28 in Honolulu.

Granada Hills Charter High School finished second with 50,276 points. Moorpark High School in Ventura County, which won the Super Quiz Relay portion of the competition, came in third.

Six of the eight teams from the Los Angeles Unified School District finished in the top 10. North Hollywood was fourth, Palisades Charter fifth, Marshall seventh and Garfield ninth. Taft came in 18th and Narbonne 23rd.

In all, 483 decathletes representing 55 high schools from across the state competed over two days with multiple-choice tests, interviews, speeches and essay writing. This year's study topic was "China and Its Influence on the World."

▲ On to Honolulu ECR - and victory! - smf

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Save The Date: THE APPEAL ON AB 1381 | MENDOZA v. STATE OF CALIFORNIA | LAUSD, et al v. Villaraigosa, et al

The hearing in the court of appeal is scheduled for MONDAY, APRIL 2, AT 9:30 A.M.

The court of appeal is located in the Ronald Reagan State Office Building on the third floor, at 300 S. SPRING STREET IN LA.

The appeal will be heard by a three-judge panel.

• Tuesday Mar 27, 2007
CENTRAL REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #20: Site Selection Kick-Off Meeting
Join us as we kick off the site selection process for this new school.
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Frank del Olmo Elementary School
100 N. New Hampshire Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

• Wednesday Mar 28, 2007
Central Los Angeles Middle School #1 aka John H. Liechty Middle School: Community Update Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Gratts Elementary School – Auditorium
309 Lucas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

• Wednesday Mar 28, 2007
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #12: Site Selection Update Meeting
Join us at this meeting where we will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project.
6:00 p.m.
Lillian Elementary School
5909 Lillian St.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

• Wednesday Mar 28, 2007
VALLEY REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #14: Site Selection Update Meeting
Join us at this meeting where we will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project.
6:30 p.m.
Columbus Avenue Elementary School
6700 Columbus Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

• Thursday Mar 29, 2007
CENTRAL LOS ANGELES NEW LEARNING CENTER #1 (Ambassador/RFK-12): Project Update Meeting
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Berendo Middle School – Auditorium
1157 S. Berendo St.
Los Angeles, CA 90006

• Thursday Mar 29, 2007
Combined Community Meeting For:
• VALLEY REGION BYRD HIGH SCHOOL Reconfiguration – CEQA Draft Environmental Impact Report
• VALLEY REGION MIDDLE SCHOOL #3 – Project Design Update
• EAST VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL #1A Construction Update
6:30 p.m.
Francis Polytechnic High School
12431 Roscoe Blvd.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616

• More info on AB 1381 Mendoza v. California court case

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • 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 Schwarzenegger: 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. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Register.
• Vote.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
• 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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