Sunday, November 04, 2007

Our fair share of abuse.

4LAKids: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007
In This Issue:
JUGGLING ACT ON NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: Democrats, Republicans and teachers see flaws in Calif's Rep. Miller's proposal to renew the 2001 education law.
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
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.
"Save Our School!"
"Don't let Antonio take our school!"
"Save Our School!"

What all this about?

I spent a few hours last Sunday afternoon - and a few hours early Wednesday morning - with a contingent of hardy souls (Halloween IS the eve of All Souls Day - in Mexico Dia de los Muertos) on the corner of Casador and San Fernando Road protesting for the new high school in Glassell Park. If you drove by, thanks for honking!

Protesting FOR - isn't that an oxymoron?

SOME HISTORY: The Glassell Park Community - and interested and interesting folks from Cypress Park, Mount Washington, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Atwater Village and greater Northeast Los Angeles - helped LAUSD identify the site for the new high school to relieve overcrowding at Franklin, Marshall and Eagle Rock High Schools a few years back. Helped? They found the site - known as Taylor Yard Parcel F - at the corner of Casador and SFR — vacant land, no businesses and no residences, for sale.

The downside?: At the time LAUSD hadn't actually identified the need for the high school because bungalows on playgrounds and year round calendars had 'solved' overcrowding!

Improved thinking, a legal requirement to end year round calendars by 2012 and the passage of Measure R "identified the need" for New Central High School #13 (as in Columbus "discovered" America) and the District set about the public process of choosing a site and buying the land.

The District actually moved faster than it is wont; but this is a very lengthy process - with steps and community meetings and Board of Education hearings and lots o' public discussion. Negotiations were begun with the owners of the land - and these dragged on as the prescribed process played out. LAUSD is accomplished at buying land from unwilling sellers; even at doing so where there is organized opposition. Motivated sellers and universal support was new!

And then, at the last minute, the owners sold to someone else. Someone who didn't rely on public meetings and official process. Enter Richard Muerelo.

Muerelo - unrestrained from the legal mandate of paying 'fair market value and-not-one-cent-more' stepped in quickly and paid the owners their asking price up front and began to plan something else - not a school but a grand mixed development of shops and housing and wonderfulness. The sort of thing that city officials like to see in their districts: Jobs. Housing. Tax base. Growth.

Muerelo - a developer and a businessman - claims didn't know about the planned school or the need for the school or what the community wanted …if he had he never would have done what he did! Apparently he never learned that lesson about doing one's due diligence before spending one's money. Or, in this case, the money one has borrowed from CALPERS - the state employee retirement fund. i.e.: (call the irony police) The teachers' pension fund!

Once Muerelo found out about the planned school he graciously offered to co-develop the school with the school district - to become the designer/builder of the school and share in the construction contract …if he could be compensated for all the money he would have earned had his original deal gone through. LAUSD balked. Such a deal - not unlike highway robbery - would be of questionable legality. The first and only co-venture remotely similar LAUSD got into was the infamous Belmont Learning Complex fiasco.

(If you have too much free time Google Belmont Learning Complex.)

Now faced with an unwilling seller LAUSD began eminent domain proceedings. Muerelo has contested and delayed every step of the way. Apart from Muerelo's dubious claims of lost profits from potential business opportunities, Time = Money. Worse: Delay = Lost Education Opportunity for Kids.

If one surveys the history one discovers that Mr. Muerelo, his companies, family and business partners have a similar history in investing in land desired and needed by the MTA.

If one surveys the political landscape one discovers that Mr. Muerelo, his companies, family and business partners are well politically invested. In Antonio Villaraigosa's campaign for mayor - which occurred while Muerelo's purchase of Parcel F was playing out - Muerelo was Antonio's largest contributor.

Muerelo and LAUSD are currently tied up in court over High School #13 - or more correctly, in mediation as the judge has refused to make a ruling. Yolie Flores Aguilar, one of the mayor's slate of school board members wrote to the Mount Washington Association on Tuesday that she is requesting a briefing from District staff on "our commitment to building this school" and states "Clearly this project is fraught with politics on all fronts." Not quite a ringing endorsement.

Longtime readers of 4LAKids will remember that 4LAKids endorsed Antonio on Election Day May 17, 2005 based on a face-to-face meeting with Antonio up the street from the polling place specifically because Antonio promised to intervene for the school with Muerelo. My bad.

The case languishes in court. The need persists; Franklin, Eagle Rock and Marshall High Schools remain overcrowded. The school is designed and planned. The state architect has approved the design. The Education Mayor has to my knowledge never publicly weighed in in support of this school; this would be a good time. The same can be said for City Councilman Reyes.

Besides the obvious irony of Mr. Muerelo leveraging the teacher's pension fund money against the interest of Los Angeles schoolchildren, voters and taxpayers — the impression of wrongdoing and doing wrong are not the same and the law is never the final arbiter of right v. wrong — there are other appearances of poor behavior at Taylor Yards. Mr. Muerelo has bought additional parcels around the school site; he has allegedly been involved in some unpermitted construction, paving and land use on and adjacent to parcel F. A company in which he may or may not have an interest is currently occupying and doing business on a city of LA owned parcel without paying rent to the city.

"Curiouser and curiouser!" Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! …or perhaps "Go back!" - smf

►This just in: POND SCUM IS GOOD FOR YOU! — A story on National Public Radio (they can't put it on NPR unless it's true!) last week revealed that the reason why eating fish is so healthy is because fish eat algae. Apparently directly ingesting algae is better for folks than eating fish. Who knew? But does it go well with chips?

4LAKids 17 May 05: Antonio for Mayor - or: "... some of the people some of the time…"

▲LAUSD STALLS ITS 'TRANSFORMATION': The school district and the teachers union need to work fast to not fail students waiting for a 'transformation district.'

LA Times Editorial

November 2, 2007 - Supt. David L. Brewer has not done much to inspire confidence in his year at the top of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but one initiative that seemed to convey an appreciation for the district's urgent need to think differently was his plan to declare 44 secondary schools a "transformation district" and lavish them with resources. Appropriately, he chose the city's lowest-performing schools and touted his proposal as part of a larger vision for desperately needed improvement districtwide.

Politically, the proposal was L.A. Unified's answer to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's high-gloss Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and a check on the charter school behemoth, which is snapping up students right and left. Perhaps most important, Brewer's plan was offered as evidence that he and the district understood the demand for immediate and radical action and for an end to union blockades on reform.

That was last month. Now the superintendent acknowledges that he's hit obstacles -- notably, the teachers union -- and needs to rethink elements of the proposal. And so early optimism gives way to disappointment. If the past is prologue, the next chapter is stasis, and the story ends with the sacrifice of more children's futures.

Brewer's nonnegotiable points include curriculum and instruction: All of the schools that remain in the mini-district -- and it's unclear how many that will be -- must have uniform curricula and teaching methods, he maintains. Those points are deal-breakers for the union, along with merit pay for teachers and principals in low-performing schools. But why must they be? Just last month, New York City's United Federation of Teachers agreed to a school-based merit-pay system praised by the union president as "transcendent for the city."

Los Angeles teachers want more local control and more autonomy, not less, says United Teachers of Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy. Stripping away creativity in the classroom won't improve matters. Fair enough, but can't those goals be reconciled with tough district standards and merit pay? Duffy says no, but parents and children have a right to expect more than obstinacy.

Brewer has 11 days before he's scheduled to present his proposal to the school board. There are changes that he and the board can make regardless of union opposition, and there are some that he can't. The union should meet him halfway, and both sides should spend these days productively. If they fail, the victims will be students and families who have waited far too long for them to succeed.


by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Daily News

November 1, 2007 - Just two weeks after announcing an ambitious effort to reform Los Angeles Unified middle schools, Superintendent David Brewer III finds his plan already foundering amid fierce opposition from the politically powerful teachers union.

Brewer, who proposed creating a special district of 44 low-performing schools, already has had to eliminate 10 of the sites and still faces opposition from teachers over the remaining schools. Only one San Fernando Valley school remains on the list.

And new rumblings have surfaced that union leaders and teachers in the proposed schools intend to kill the plan entirely.

"This plan of his - which was created in a vacuum by no educators in a think-tank environment - is bad for students, it's bad for education, and we are going to oppose this with all of our will," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

"If he tries to bring this plan about, we will organize actively against it."

The discord between the union and new superintendent is raising questions about whether reforms that challenge long-held collective-bargaining agreements can be implemented in the beleaguered school district.

And education observers said they believe that if Brewer's plan does survive, it will likely be a diluted version of the original in order to get the approval of the UTLA.

"Reform at LAUSD has been consistently negotiated away," charter school pioneer Yvonne Chan said. "I've been around for 15 years and if you say reform, are you willing to take on those major challenges - including the union contract and giving schools financial autonomy?"

But Brewer on Wednesday defended his plan and said it is not yet complete and will eventually reflect input from all stakeholders when it is presented to the school board later this month.

"This plan is not baked yet. We're still in the process of working our way through this plan," Brewer said. "Everybody's got to take a deep breath here."


And perhaps offering a glimpse of what he might use for leverage, Brewer said the district is required to develop a restructuring plan under federal No Child Left Behind regulations.

"Nobody can get around the fact that we're under corrective actions because of NCLB and the state," Brewer said. "That is a fact."

But the teachers union is strongly opposed to elements of Brewer's plan that include merit pay for teachers, incentive pay for principals and scripted teaching at middle and high schools.

And in meetings on the plan, teachers have been urging Brewer to provide resources so they can carry out individualized reform efforts - rather than pulling them into a district of low-performing schools.

The dispute puts Brewer in a politically sensitive position, trying to show results in his first year at the district's helm.

Meanwhile, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in his third year at the city's helm and facing his own pressure to perform, union leaders are jockeying for a February election and a new school board is trying to make its own mark.

In such a politically charged environment - with each of the key players driven by personal gain - broad agreements on LAUSD reform are difficult to attain.

"What you're seeing is political safeguarding, quantifying results and players thinking about taking something with them for the next political office," said Jaime Regalado, director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

"They're going to fritter away money on the parts and not on the whole. You're going to have piecemeal approaches that will be more expensive in the long run than a unified approach."

And while New York City schools announced an agreement this month on a merit-pay system for teachers at the lowest-performing schools, experts note that the LAUSD has different challenges.

"Politically, in New York, there hasn't been over the decades the union playing as heavy a money contribution in the elections of school boards," Chan said.

"Therefore, school board members in New York can very likely be less beholden to unions than in L.A."

While education leaders note that Brewer has charisma, they also say the former Navy admiral is politically inexperienced and lacks a solid senior staff.

They note that he initially said he wanted to get rid of ineffective teachers, but a year later now says professional development is the answer.

But Brewer vows that he is committed to moving forward in a district that has had its hopes raised often in the past, only to see them dashed.

"There's so much cynicism in L.A. and one of the challenges I have is to build confidence in our ability to change," Brewer said.


Still, community leaders who in the past have enthusiastically embraced proposals aimed at increasing achievement and reducing the dropout rate are wary.

And education leaders say teachers union contract conditions stifle the ability of the LAUSD to get to the root of the problems of low achievement and high dropout rates.

"The elephant in the room is UTLA," said Bob Scott, chairman of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association.

"One of the things that's been proven is the schools function better when out from under the yoke of the California Ed(ucation) Code and also when they can be relieved of some of the restrictions of the union contracts."

Villaraigosa's own reform effort is an example of the union's influence. While the mayor first proposed that he control the entire district, he failed to win union backing.

Eventually, he brokered a backroom deal with the UTLA and ended up with legislation that gave him partial control. But that legislation was struck down by the courts and Villaraigosa is left now to work on a plan to manage two groups of low-performing schools.

And while the plans by Brewer and the mayor are heavily modeled on successful charter practices, charters don't have to contend with union contracts.

Charter schools also have the freedom to implement practices they believe will allow them to reach goals - including merit pay and the ability to remove ineffective teachers.

"They're unwilling to adopt all the ingredients of charter schools and `Charter Lite' is not reform," Chan said.

Chan said the current LAUSD reform proposals need to define work hours, teacher evaluations, grievances and due process.

She said that when she was writing the charter for her Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, officials reviewed all of the LAUSD's codes and rules - and decided the answer was to scrap all of them.

"That is the premise. We pushed it to the limit," Chan said.

Instead, the charter focused on getting more dollars to its school site and improving working conditions. Not a single teacher filed a grievance or complaint with UTLA.


Five years after the school opened in 1993, its teachers opted out of the UTLA.

Steve Barr, president of Green Dot Public Schools, has successfully kept the UTLA out of his schools and recently won the right to convert schools near Locke High into charters.

His teachers are members of the California Teachers Association, the UTLA's umbrella organization, and they operate under a contract that he negotiated the terms for.

Regalado said the growing disillusionment and series of reform failures may be pushing the LAUSD toward a tipping point that could force a breakup.

"What people are now talking about - either directly or around the edges - is the current structure is too large and ungovernable," Regalado said.

"It's far too large to be able to control with far too many decision-makers to appease."


by Howard Blume and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

[Please read the entire article at the link below]

▲smf's 2¢: I have been at all of the superintendent's task force meetings and I feel the conversation is one in progress, as-is-and-must-be the reform of the District. The superintendent may have been premature in announcing and withdrawing proposals but he has been refreshingly honest - frank is the word in diplomacy - about his appraisals and reappraisals. I have not been taking roll but I find it interesting that some of the folks - invitees - identified above and elsewhere as being players have not been at any or all of the meetings yet are now vocal about what was said, not said ...and their not being heard.


by Nancy Zuckerbrod, Associated Press
From AOL News | Posted: 10 27, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout Factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That description fits more than one in 10 high schools across America.

"If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?" asks Bob Balfanz, the Johns Hopkins researcher who coined the term "dropout factory."

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, about the same level as a decade ago.

While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, says Balfanz. The data look at senior classes for three years in a row to make sure local events like plant closures aren't to blame for the low retention rates.

The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones - the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services.

Utah, which has low poverty rates and fewer minorities than most states, is the only state without a dropout factory. Florida and South Carolina have the highest percentages.

►4LAKids NOTE: THE LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS DID NOT PUBLISH THIS STORY IN ITS ENTIRETY - BUT INSERTED THE FOLLOWING HERE: Los Angeles Unified School District was not specifically mentioned in the study, but its dropout rate has been pegged at anywhere from 24 percent to more than 50 percent.

District officials said Monday that they do not have a system in place to track students if they move to another city and enroll in a different school district, district spokeswoman Susan Cox said.

"The Los Angeles Unified School District is a highly transient district and we are working aggressively to reduce our dropout rate through better data, new dropout prevention counselors, and expanded alternative-education programs," Cox said.

But LAUSD officials said they are focusing on outreach programs including a new campaign to reach at-risk students and re-enroll those who have dropped out.


Washington hasn't focused much attention on the problem. The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, pays much more attention to educating younger students. But that appears to be changing.

House and Senate proposals to renew the 5-year-old No Child law would give high schools more federal money and put more pressure on them to improve on graduation performance, and the Bush administration supports that idea.

The current NCLB law imposes serious consequences on schools that report low scores on math and reading tests, and this fallout can include replacement of teachers or principals - or both. But the law doesn't have the same kind of enforcement teeth when it comes to graduation rates.

Nationally, about 70 percent of U.S. students graduate on time with a regular diploma. For Hispanic and black students, the proportion drops to about half.

The legislative proposals circulating in Congress would:

 Make sure schools report their graduation rates by racial, ethnic, and other subgroups and are judged on those results. That's to ensure that schools aren't just graduating white students in high numbers, but also are working to ensure that minority students get diplomas.
 Get states to build data systems to keep track of students throughout their school years and more accurately measure graduation and dropout rates.
 Ensure that states count graduation rates in a uniform way. States have used a variety of formulas, including counting the percentage of entering seniors who get a diploma. That measurement ignores the obvious fact that kids who drop out typically do so before their senior year.
 Create strong progress goals for graduation rates and impose sanctions on schools that miss those benchmarks. Most states currently lack meaningful goals, according to The Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for poor and minority children.

The current law requires testing in reading and math once in high school, and those tests take on added importance because of the serious consequences for a school of failure. Critics say that creates a perverse incentive for schools to encourage kids to drop out before they bring down a school's scores.

"The vast majority of educators do not want to push out kids, but the pressures to raise test scores above all else are intense," said Bethany Little, vice president for policy at the Alliance for Excellent Education, an advocacy group focused on high schools. "To know if a high school is doing its job, we need to consider test scores and graduation rates equally."

Little said some students pushed out of high schools are encouraged to enroll in programs that prepare them to take the GED exam. People who pass that test get certificates indicating they have high-school level academic skills. But the research shows that getting a GED doesn't lead to the kind of job or college success associated with a regular diploma.

Loretta Singletary, 17, enrolled in a GED program after dropping out of a Washington, D.C. high school that she describes as huge, chaotic and violent. "Girls got jumped. Boys got jumped, teachers (were) fighting and hitting students," she said.

She said teachers had low expectations for students, which led to dull classes. "They were teaching me stuff I already knew ... basic nouns, simple adjectives."

Singletary said a subject she loved was science but she wasn't offered it, and complaints to administrators went unanswered. "I was interested in experiments," she said. "I didn't have science in 9th or 10th grade."

A GED classmate of Singletary's is 23-year-old Dontike Miller, who attended and left two D.C. high schools on the dropout factory list. Miller was brought up by a single mother who used drugs, and he says teachers and counselors seemed oblivious to what was going on in his life.

He would have liked for someone to sit him down and say, "'You really need to go to class. We're going to work with you. We're going to help you'," Miller said. Instead,"I had nobody."

Teachers and administrators at Baltimore Talent Development High School, where 90 percent of kids are on track toward graduating on time, are working hard to make sure students don't have an experience like Miller's.

The school, which sits in the middle of a high-crime, impoverished neighborhood two miles west of downtown Baltimore, was founded by Balfanz and others four years ago as a laboratory for getting kids out on time with a diploma and ready for college.

Teachers, students and administrators at the school know each other well.

"I know teachers that have knocked on people's doors. They want us to succeed," 12th-grader Jasmine Coleman said during a lunchtime chat in the cafeteria.

Fellow senior Victoria Haynes says she likes the way the school organizes teachers in teams of four, with each team of teachers assigned to a group of 75 students. The teachers work across subject areas, meaning English and math teachers, for example, collaborate on lessons and discuss individual students' needs.

"They all concentrate on what's best for us together," Haynes said. "It's very family oriented. We feel really close to them."

Teachers, too, say it works.

"I know the students a lot better, because I know the teachers who teach them," said 10th-grade English teacher Jenni Williams. "Everyone's on the same page, so it's not like you're alone in your mission."

That mission can be daunting. The majority of students who enter Baltimore Talent Development in ninth grade are reading at a fifth- or sixth-grade level.

To get caught up, students have 80-minute lessons in reading and math, instead of the typical 45 minutes. They also get additional time with specialists if needed.

The fact that kids are entering high schools with such poor literacy skills raises questions about how much catch-up work high schools can be expected to do and whether more pressure should be placed on middle schools and even elementary schools, say some high-school principals.

"We're at the end of the process," says Mel Riddile, principal of T.C. Williams High School, a large public school in Alexandria, Va. "People don't walk into 9th grade and suddenly have a reading problem."

Other challenges to high schools come from outside the school system. In high-poverty districts, some students believe it's more important to work than to stay in school, or they are lured away by gang activity or other kinds of peer or family pressure.

At Baltimore Talent Development, administrators try to set mini-milestones and celebrations for students so they stay motivated. These include more fashionable uniforms with each promotion to the next grade, pins for completing special programs and pizza parties to celebrate good attendance records.

"The kids are just starved for recognition and attention. Little social rewards matter to them," said Balfanz.

Balfanz says, however, that students understand the biggest reward they can collect is the piece of paper handed to them on graduation day.

Without it, "there's not much work for you anymore," he said. "There's no way out of the cycle of poverty if you don't have a high school diploma."

▲FRONTLOADING FOR FAILURE: 4LAKids finds it interesting that a John Hopkins University researcher and not a pundit comes up with the pejorative "Dropout Factory". This rings about as authentic as last year's charter school community funded study of charter schools by USC; as John Arbuckle said: "You get what you pay for."

The "study" and "analysis of education department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for the Associated Press" referred to in the story and Daily News insert apparently consists of this newspaper article and some charts, graphs, maps and an audio slide show that seems skewed in a pro charter school bias - specifically advocating for the Johns Hopkins Talent Development School model.

Most charter schools - because of their size - are omitted from the "study". In LAUSD a couple of large charter schools are included - and are named as "dropout factories": national Academic Decathlon champion Granada Hills Charter High School and Palisadaes Charter … as well as AcaDecca perennials Canoga Park and Taft HS!


Rena Havner, staff reporter for the Birmingham Alabama Press Register reports on Wednesday that Alabama school officials said that a report released Monday by Johns Hopkins University listing 11 local schools and 31 other schools statewide as "dropout factories" is inaccurate and unfair.

"We don't know where they're getting their numbers from and what formulas they're using," said Gloria Turner, director of student assessment for the state.

In its report, Johns Hopkins researchers wrote: "Official 'dropout' statistics neither accurately count nor report the vast number of students who do not graduate from high school, and the multiple ways that states calculate their graduation rates produce misleading figures."

So the researchers at the Baltimore university based their study on a whole new calculation they've termed "promoting power," which compares the number of freshmen enrolled at a school three years ago to the number of its seniors three years later.

"Promoting power" is neither a graduation rate nor a dropout rate, according to the study. It's more of a "check-engine" light to alert schools that they have a problem.

In the study, about 1,700 public schools nationwide -- where less than 60 percent of the freshmen become seniors during that time -- were dubbed "dropout factories."

Attempts to reach Johns Hopkins researchers Tuesday were unsuccessful.

►The graphs, charts and slide show that accompanied this article - and the list of LAUSD

JUGGLING ACT ON NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: Democrats, Republicans and teachers see flaws in Calif's Rep. Miller's proposal to renew the 2001 education law.

by Nicole Gaouette | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 30, 2007 — WASHINGTON — Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) has never been one to back away from a brawl -- he once warned an adversary that if he wanted to fight, it was going to take a while, so he'd better bring lunch. But as Miller pushes to renew the landmark education law known as No Child Left Behind, he faces so many fights that the fate of the bill is increasingly in doubt.

As chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Miller is sparring with Republicans who see his proposed changes as an unacceptable watering down of the law's core standards.

Teachers object to his proposal to link pay to performance.

Even his fellow Democrats -- particularly freshmen who campaigned against it and members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- are giving him a hard time, largely for not doing enough to soften the law's most rigid requirements.

Some critics of the law say the emphasis on math and English testing has squeezed teaching time for history, science and other subjects. Others say that the law is too strict and punishes schools that are doing a fairly good job.

"People have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair, that it is not flexible and that it is not funded," Miller said in a recent speech. "And they are not wrong. The question is what we are going to do next."

The 2001 law, President Bush's hallmark domestic achievement, is supposed to be renewed every five years, although it remains in effect even if lawmakers fail to do that.

Democrats pledged to rewrite it this year, but time is short and political tensions are high. Congress plans to adjourn for the year in a few weeks. And some Democrats are loath to give Bush a victory on No Child Left Behind when he refused to compromise on the Iraq war.

The administration has also made clear it wants just minimal changes.

No Child Left Behind was designed to end what the president called the "soft bigotry of low expectations" by forcing schools to track data on low-income and minority students and holding the schools accountable if those pupils did not do well. Schools also have to show that all students are making adequate yearly progress in math and English, or face tough sanctions.

Miller drafted 1,036 pages of proposed changes with the committee's lead Republican, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of Santa Clarita. But as Miller has tweaked that proposal to appeal to Democrats and teachers, he has lost Republicans.

The balance he seeks is between those who think the law's standards are too rigid and those who want them as tightly defined as possible.

A 33-year veteran of the House, Miller is known for his pragmatism, his ability to make a deal and his close ties to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), all of which may help him find an answer in the few weeks he has left.

"We're certainly not in full agreement," Miller said, mentioning talks with committee Republicans. "Not between my caucus and their caucus, not between Mr. McKeon and myself. Whether we can reach an agreement remains to be seen. We're pushing as hard as we can."

McKeon said he was hopeful that he and Miller could reach a compromise, but he expressed concern "that some provisions in the draft would weaken accountability, allowing schools to mask a lack of achievement in the fundamentals of reading and math and obscure the information provided to schools and communities."

For Miller, who has made children a focus of his career and has long advocated greater teacher accountability, working on the first No Child Left Behind bill was a natural cause. A staunch liberal, he was an odd partner for Bush, but they worked closely enough for the president to dub the burly former football player "Big George."

In the five years since Miller and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) helped write and pass No Child Left Behind, they complain, the administration has never fully funded the law in a way that would help schools meet their additional burdens. Republicans counter that few laws are fully funded.

The law has frustrated some parents and teachers who dislike its effect in local schools.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has told Miller that his draft continues to overemphasize standardized tests.

The cost, Wynn says, includes "extraordinary pressure placed on students and the loss of important instruction in music, art and other elements of a well-rounded education."

Some critics say that too many schools are sanctioned under the law. Schools that fail to meet goals for three years must offer students free tutoring or the chance to switch schools. After five years of failure, the law mandates, a school must be restructured with a new staff or new leadership or be converted to a charter school.

Miller's draft bill would broaden measurements of students and schools -- for instance, letting states measure how much students improve over a year and not just whether they meet the bar set by No Child Left Behind.

Miller also wants to expand the standards by which schools are judged beyond math and English scores -- a shift McKeon strongly opposes. Under Miller's proposal, up to 15% of an elementary school's evaluation could be based on assessments of history, science, and civics and government classes. For high schools, rates for graduation, dropouts, attendance and college enrollment could be considered too.

Some of the strictest sanctions would be relaxed under Miller's bill. For example, it would loosen a rule that puts an otherwise successful school on probation if a small group within it -- such as learning-disabled children -- fails to meet the standards.

The draft would also change the way English-language learners are evaluated, allowing them to be tested in their native language for up to five years instead of the current three years, and permitting a two-year extension for some. Republicans say this would mean a child who spoke no English could enter the public school system in fifth grade and graduate from high school without ever being evaluated in English.

Teachers unions have objected to Miller's proposal to allow high-needs school districts to give $10,000 bonuses to outstanding teachers and up to $12,500 for teachers of math, science, special education and other subjects that are short of instructors. Criteria for the awards would be developed with input from the unions.

Critics of the unions say teachers are trying to avoid accountability. The unions say Miller's plan -- which McKeon backs -- is not workable.

"You can be a better teacher than I am, but based on conditions that you have to work in, it makes it much more difficult for you to do the same job," said National Education Assn. President Reginald Weaver. "Plus, paying teachers based on student performance hasn't really made a difference in how students achieve."

In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are in talks about the bill, and Kennedy hopes to begin formal discussions in the education committee in the next few weeks.

Miller, meanwhile, continues to search for a compromise that can win enough support to pass the House.

"We would be wrong to waver when it comes to the existing goals and standards of the No Child Left Behind law," he said. "We would also be wrong if we failed to respond to the serious concerns with the law raised by people who sincerely care about America's educational future."

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
In EDUCATION REPORT CAN'T HELP UNTIL IT'S PUBLIC: Begin School Reform Debate With Openness - the San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board asks the Governor and Ted Mitchell, outspoken above about LAUSD reform, to come clean about their agenda for California Ed Reform.

…and offers some excellent suggestions of their own in IT'S TIME TO MAKE SCIENCE A PRIORITY IN SCHOOLS.

In MAKING A PROFIT OFF KIDS the not usually muckraking Parade Magazine exposes the Giant Textbook Publishing Cartel and the Giant Standardized Testing Cartel as one and the same! (My words, not theirs.) Stand back Michael Moore and Upton Sinclair - there's a new sheriff in town!

And in SCHOOLS ARE NOT TRANSFORMERS, the AALA Update (the Principal's Union weekly newsletter) bemoans the parade of LAUSD Transformation/Innovation/Reforms of the Day.

…and if you can't get enough of this stuff, there was a very interesting online chat about MAKING BIG SCHOOLS SMALLER: Transforming Large Schools to Small Learning Communities on Tuesday sponsored by EdWeek. LAUSD's ongoing efforts - specifically the Belmont Zone of Choice - got favorable mention from the policy wonks - though the jury is still out about the actual impact of the BZC at the schoolsites ...where it matters.
A link to the full transcript is below. And yes, smf got in his 2½¢ worth!

The stories above in this week's

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
•Monday Nov 5, 2007
Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of this new school!
Ceremony will begin at 1 p.m.
Valley Region Early Education Center #1
8635 N. Colbath Ave.
Panorama City, CA 91402

•Tuesday Nov 6, 2007
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #2: Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Meeting which provides details about how the school site will be cleaned up to ensure the health and safety of the children and the community.
6:00 p.m.
Miramonte Elementary School - Auditorium
1400 E. 68th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

•Wednesday Nov 7, 2007
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 11 a.m.
John H. Liechty Middle School
650 S. Union Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

•Wednesday Nov 7, 2007
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Banning High School - Auditorium
1527 Lakme Ave.
Wilmington, CA 90744

•Thursday Nov 8, 2007
CENTRAL REGION HIGH SCHOOL #13 (TAYLOR YARD): Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Meeting - The Draft Remedial Action Plan (RAP) ….beyond the RAP, the community has issues, see lead article!
6:00 p.m.
Glassell Park Elementary School
2211 W. Avenue 30
Los Angeles, CA 90065

•Thursday Nov 8, 2007
South Los Angeles Area New High School #3: CEQA Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Meeting
The purpose of this meeting is to present the Draft EIR to the community, and receive comments and questions regarding the results of the Draft EIR.
6:00 p.m.
Budlong Elementary School
5940 S. Budlong Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

*Dates and times subject to change.
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


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

...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 immediate past 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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