Saturday, April 26, 2008

What a long strange trip it's been

4LAKids: Sunday, April 27, 2008
In This Issue:
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.
MILESTONES IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR: You read it nowhere else but here: at one o'clock on Tuesday with the groundbreaking of New Central Elementary School #18 at 260 E. 31st St. in South LA LAUSD broke ground on the ONE HUNDREDTH SCHOOL in its current building program! 100 - and 70 of them are complete with kids in seats and flags on flagpoles!

MILESTONE #2: This week is the 25th anniversary of the famous "A Nation at Risk" report, with its oft-quoted: "If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war." In recent memory only Newton Minnow's indictment of television as a "vast wasteland" has drawn more attention. And television, as we all know, turned around after Minnow's speech.

This was "Beat Up on LAUSD Week" at the LA Times and NBC4. Channel Four's investigative reporters gave the poor District the old one-two, first with the Drinking Fountain version of Water Wars; then in their own self-styled "Book Wars". The Times had their go with the provocatively headlined: " MANY SOUTH L.A. STUDENTS FRIGHTENED AND DEPRESSED" [online] - "IN POOREST SCHOOLS, FEAR, DESPAIR RULE" [in print]

►The Drinking Fountain deal is old and remains unsolved, our old schools have old pipes - and the pipes aren't getting any younger. To repipe the schools will cost upwards of $300 million - a lot of money but with 900 schools it goes at about $333,000 per school (or $728. per student) …so one can see how the cost mounts up. The truth is that drinking fountain water (tap water) when uncontaminated - is better for kids (and the environment) then the bottled water they bring from home and/or the vending machines sell because it's fluoridated! We need to fluoridate the district's bottled water supply AND fix those pipes. This probably needs to be on the next school bond.

►Book Wars reads like a battle between non-profits over who has the most wonderful program of do-goodery. There aren't enough books, there aren't enough school libraries, and there aren't enough kids reading. If you read the Times article it starts: "In 2004 the state stopped budgeting money specifically for elementary school libraries…" That identifies the accountable party; let's hold them accountable.

►The Times shows us what happens when folks don't put on their critical thinking caps and start believing what other people tell them. The article cites a study by an organization "South Central Youth Empowered Thru Action (SCYEA)" and implies a level of applied academic thought by saying the study had "technical guidance from the psychology department at Loyola Marymount University". The study quotes some numbers from the survey - and then goes on the attempt to prove clinical depression in the student population surveyed.

Clinical depression, gentle readers, is a medical diagnosis — I didn't know we did these with student surveys!

And "technical guidance from the psychology department at Loyola Marymount University?" …What exactly does that mean? Especially as the survey and its report is nowhere posted on the internet, nor is there any mention of the survey or the study or anything about SCYEA on the LMU website. The only news organization reporting on this survey is the LA Times - other outlets (sadly including public radio) cite The Times as their sole source.

So, if you'll allow a jumped-to conclusion (Why not me? Everyone else is!) I somehow doubt if this is exactly a peer-reviewed scholarly scientific study from a prestigious institution of higher learning.

Especially as The Times breathlessly concludes from a 29% Agree/Strongly agree | 36% Neutral | 35% Disagree/Strongly disagree to "I feel safe in my school" that a huge number of kids feel unsafe. Only 35% feel any level of unsafety! That's not good, it certainly isn't good enough …but the sky is not falling!

Only 22% Disagree or Disagree strongly that they are "being prepared for college or a 'high-paying job'!"

Statistics, under torture, can be made confess to anything you want them to, but I have a hard time agreeing with how optimistic these numbers are!

And it gets better; in the conclusion of the article it describes a game of Monopoly® on a cleverly engineered board as being news. That game of Monopoly® is a piece of political theater.

►…and, because the wackiness never ends, President Bush announced this week that the federal government has a responsibility to shore up declining enrollment in parochial schools!

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf


By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 26, 2008 -- A survey of 6,008 South Los Angeles high school students shows that many are frightened by violence in school, deeply dissatisfied with their choices of college preparatory classes, and -- perhaps most striking -- exhibit symptoms of clinical depression.

"A lot of students are depressed because of the conditions in their school," said Anna Exiga, a junior at Jordan High School who was one of the organizers of the survey. "They see that their school is failing them, their teachers are failing them, there's racial tension and gang violence, and also many feel that their schools are not schools -- their schools look more like prisons."


South L.A. students speakSouth L.A. students speak

The survey, released late Thursday, was conducted in seven South L.A. public schools by a community youth organization, South Central Youth Empowered Thru Action (SCYEA), with technical guidance from the psychology department at Loyola Marymount University. It suggested that many students in some of the city's poorest, most violent neighborhoods believe their schools set the bar for success too low -- and then shove students beneath it.

In fact, the student organizers said they don't like to use the word "dropout" to describe their many peers who leave school. They prefer "pushout," because they believe the school system is pushing students to fail.
"We're ignored -- our schools are ignored," said Susie Gonzalez, another Jordan 11th-grader who helped organize the survey. "They give us the short end of the stick. . . . They expect us not to amount to anything."

Only about one-quarter of the students surveyed said they felt safe at school while 35% said they don't. Just under half said their school is preparing them for college or a high-paying job, and 93% believe their school should offer more college-preparatory classes. Fewer than half could define the "A to G" curriculum that is the college prep standard in California. The youth organization, which advocates educational equality, fought for six years to push Los Angeles Unified School District to require such a curriculum for all students. The curriculum spells out the types of college prep classes and number of years they must be taken to qualify for UC and Cal State schools.

Two thirds of the students, nearly all of whom were African American or Latino, said they wanted their schools to offer more ethnic studies classes.

The schools surveyed are among the lowest performing in the Los Angeles Unified School District and are in an area where dissatisfaction with the traditional public school system is driving many students into charter schools.
The survey's findings contrasted with a February school district report in which 90% of students questioned at selected schools districtwide said they were being pushed to do their best and 80% said their classes "give me useful preparation for what I plan to do in life."

That same report was sharply critical of the district's efforts to get all students into a college-prep curriculum by 2012. "With the current school climate and instructional quality," it said, "a significant proportion of the students who enter the ninth grade in 2012 will not only fail to meet college eligibility, but will also fail to graduate from high school."

Monica Garcia, president of the Los Angeles Board of Education, said she welcomed the survey and believed the district was responding to the students' concerns. "This is energizing, this is encouraging," she said. "We need the consumers of our services to be advocates of change."

But Jordan High Principal Stephen Strachan took exception to some of the results, saying the survey was skewed to provoke negative responses. He said his school has made great strides in preparing students for college and has created a "safe haven" from a violent community.

He did not, however, dispute the findings about depression. "This morning at 10 o'clock at Simpson's Mortuary, a 16-year-old was buried. That's one of my students who was shot in the community," he said. "I hear kids say, 'Too many people are dying in our community.' And that plays on the psyche. . . . It's really hard to focus on Algebra 2 when your friends are getting shot in the community."
Cheryl Grills, a professor of clinical psychology at Loyola Marymount, said that she was struck by how many students volunteered answers to one question about why they sometimes skip school. More than half hinted at depression, saying they were tired, had trouble sleeping, felt helpless or hopeless, were bored or felt lazy, among other responses.

She compared those responses to the symptoms of clinical depression from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. "Much to my horror and shock, they almost completely matched up," she said.

That led her to conduct a follow-up survey among 52 students. Of them, 67% reported that they had "felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more," and had "stopped doing some of their usual activities" as a result.
"That's clinical levels of depression," she said.

Grills said that while the initial survey did not select students randomly, she believed it was scientifically valid because of the large sample size. She said there was significant uniformity of results among the seven schools: Jordan, Crenshaw, Dorsey, Fremont, Locke, Manual Arts and Washington Prep. Students from Gardena High also participated, although the survey was conducted outside school.

Alice Rubenstein, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Rochester, N.Y., who has written widely about adolescent psychology, agreed that the survey hinted at widespread levels of clinical depression. Given the environment in which the students live, that's hardly surprising, she said.

Students in South L.A. "live in a depressive environment where they feel helpless or hopeless partly because their choices are so limited," she said. "These kids are living in an environment where this is their state much of the time. It's very much a sociological issue as well as a psychological issue."

Rubenstein added that surveys of the general adolescent population tend to show that anywhere from 15% to 30% are depressed, well below the levels suggested by the survey. She added that the survey did not include the students most likely to be depressed -- those who were not in school.

At the announcement of the survey results, at the headquarters of the Community Coalition of South L.A., students played a home-made version of Monopoly that told much the same story as the survey.

Where the familiar squares of Baltic, Atlantic and Marvin Gardens might be, the options included Drugs, Dean's Office and Drop Out. Jail was a place to go when you're pulled over by the cops for no apparent reason. Restroom was where the player was likely to encounter gang members. Where Boardwalk should have been, the square read: "Dead."

As the game began, one student landed on Liquor Store and was told that, on his way to school, "You wind up in front of a liquor store and you find one of your homies smoking a blunt." When Juan Zamora of Jordan landed on Chance, he was told that "you're one of the lucky students who actually know and see a college counselor." His choices: Go to UCLA or "stay on the block and wind up selling drugs to support your family."

And when Sam Anguiano of Locke landed on P.E. Field, he was told that shots had been fired while he was running during gym class -- should he hit the ground or run? When he answered that he'd run, he was told: "You run away and are safe, but later that evening you find out that your friend was the one who was shot."
That was about as good a roll of the dice as anybody got. The one exception was Juan, a 17-year-old junior, who hit the ultimate Chance: "Your friends and family support you," the card read. "You don't die."


By Howard Blume | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 26, 2008 - Seeking to calm a backlash at traditional Los Angeles schools, a top district official promised this week to reconsider offers of classroom space on those campuses to charter schools.

The idea of privately operated charter schools sharing space with regular schools was met with fury at many affected campuses, including Taft High in Woodland Hills and Crenshaw High in South Los Angeles. Teachers and parents have complained that their own reforms and programs would be harmed.
Charter operators aren't too happy either: Many still await offers, while others are considering whether proposed deals are affordable or adequate.
Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines stepped into the fray with unscheduled remarks at a "town hall" this week before a standing-room-only audience of more than 800 in Taft's auditorium.

"I want to review each issue," Cortines said. "We had to pause, take a breath and look at . . . what we must do for charter schools but also how it affects . . . the regular school."

Under state law as well as a recent settlement of litigation, the Los Angeles Unified School District must share facilities "fairly" with charter schools. Charters are independently run public schools that operate with less state regulation in exchange for boosting student achievement.

This year, 54 charter schools applied to house nearly 17,000 students -- almost three times as many students as previously. About 12 schools already share space with charters; that number could rise to 35 next year.

Charter operators have complained that they were last in line for classroom space.

Now, some people say the pendulum has swung too far toward charters. As one example, they cite the freezing of open enrollment permits at affected campuses.
Taft depends on attracting students from outside its attendance area to buttress honors programs and sports teams and for planned academies specializing in technology and teacher training.

Carmen Hawkins of South Los Angeles said her sons attend Taft for its safe environment and academics, an opportunity that should not be denied to future students.

Others worried about a return to overcrowding and about competition with the arts program from the invited charter, the CHAMPS performing-arts high school. CHAMPS founder Norman Isaacs, a popular former middle school principal who sat quietly in the front row at the Taft meeting, received little sympathy from A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. (Charters are exempt from district labor pacts.)

Duffy vowed to target the district and Isaacs' school with letter-writing campaigns and pickets.

"The hostility here is such that he would be foolish to bring a charter here," Duffy said. "We're going to bring that anger to his front door."

UTLA has helped organize protests at Wadsworth Elementary in South Los Angeles, and the faculty at Fairfax High has rallied community groups in opposition to the district's space-sharing offer there.

After the meeting, Isaacs said he would prefer space at one of several San Fernando Valley campuses that were closed years ago because of declining enrollment.

"The district has put these parents in a terrible position," Isaacs said. "I hear this passion. The district has to respond to this in some way, and we have to respond to the district."

Under state law, charter schools have until May 1 to accept offers. But Cortines indicated that the deadline might have to be adjusted.

Since April 1, the state deadline for making offers, the district has taken four schools -- including Nevin Elementary in South Los Angeles and Portola Middle School in Tarzana -- off the list.

Portola is one of three sites the district had selected to accommodate Ivy Academia. Another is Sunny Brae Elementary in Winnetka, which Ivy already is sharing.

Ivy co-founder Tatyana Berkovich said the district has tried harder to help charters but remains an inefficient landlord at best. The charter's bathrooms at Sunny Brae weren't ready until March 19, she said. Until then, first-graders had to use adult-sized, outhouse-style portable toilets.

In South Los Angeles, charter operator Michael Piscal requested space for five schools and received offers for three.

Piscal, founder and chief executive of the Inner City Education Foundation, said he would decline to place one of his high-performing charters at Crenshaw High because he didn't want to damage good relationships in that community.

But he might need to accept an offer at Westchester High, even though "they were less than excited about us coming there, and they made that clear."


smf notes: I was at the angry Town Hall at Taft High School about the Prop 39 allocation of seats to CHAMPS Charter School last Wednesday night.

Present were Boardmember Canter, John Creer - the Facailities Division exec in charge of seat allocation to charter schools under the out-of-court settlement with the California Charter School Association (CCSA); LAUSD lawyer (and former charter division honcho) Greg McNair, Local District #1 Superintendent Jean Brown, UTLA President A.J. Duffy and Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines. Sometimes it's telling to notice who wasn't there: Jose Cole-Gutierrez - the head of the LAUSD Charter Office and former executive director of CCSA was conspicuously absent. The auditorium was packed, restive and ranged from grumpy to angry.

The Prop 39 provisions mandating charter access to space was described by McNair (a Taft Alumni), to boos and catcalls from the SRO crowd, universally opponents to a charter on the Taft campus. The District's out of court settlement to the CCSA lawsuit got an even warmer reception! Former UTLA Government Affairs Director Bill Lambert suggested legal action; Duffy rose to that bait and promised to sue - going so far as to introduce the union's lawyer. Lambert's proposed cause for action was narrow, based on the fact the proposition unconstitutionally contained multiple issues in a single ballot inititiative; Duffy's was broader - based on rhetoric, the union contract and the unfairness of it all!

4LAKids considers the Prop 39 requirement for school districts to offer space to charters poorly crafted at best, egregious at worst - a hidden 'Easter egg' in Prop 39 placed there by Reed Hastings and the charter community.

For the first time in memory Greg McNair's description of the Prop 39 challenge was brutally honest rather than legally correct; John Creer's description of the challenge made it clear that the district cannot meet it - creating a Catch 22.

Taft High School's recent history and academic (and sports) success has relied upon open enrollment. The LAUSD/CCSA settlement ends open enrollment; open enrollment and zones of choice are close to one and the same - District policies and even NCLB are at odds — Charter schools cannot be the Only Choice! The alignment to Small Learning Communities (SLC's / Bulletin 1600 district policy) are also imperiled as the critical contiguous and dedicated space for SLC's have been compromised away in the settlement

McNair, Canter, Brown and Creer wrung their hands - and Cortines stepped up and said Prop 39 "is the law, is the law, is the law ….but one needs to look at this from an educational standpoint." And he intends to. He noted that educators were not involved in the decisions on the settlement ....or in the District/Creer's proposed solutions.

During the angry Q&A that followed (nobody spoke for the charter, CHAMPS Charter Director Norm Henry declined to speak) much was made of vacant school property nearby - why wasn't this offered to the charters?

In all likelihood the Taft challenge will go away because CHAMPS will decline the offer based on the ugly reception (and that their program may need more space than offered) but it will play out in other schools throughout the District. Hopefully Cortines can engineer something - otherwise we will be in court, spending education money on litigation - and ultimately having the courts tossing out or implementing the Prop 39 charter provisions.


CHAMPS Protest letter to Boardmember Canter from the Taft HS School Site Council

AN@R@25► RE-READING 'A NATION AT RISK': A 1983 report warning of a decline in U.S. education provides a blueprint for schools today.

LA Times Editorial

April 24, 2008 - Twenty-five years after “A Nation at Risk” warned about the "rising tide of mediocrity" in U.S. public schools, the landmark federal report seems strangely prophetic -- and eerily descriptive of some of Los Angeles' woes today. Though it was based on faulty data and jumped to largely the wrong conclusions, time has caught up with the report.

"A Nation at Risk" caught the attention of the nation when it said that SAT scores were dropping. Trouble is, that wasn't true -- they only appeared to be falling because a wider pool of students began considering college and thus taking the test. Some other standardized test scores were rising, and some were stable. The report's doomsday tone about how poor education would stifle the economy appeared laughable 15 years later as the country prospered.

Yet by the 1990s, scholastic achievement was stagnating, while grade inflation and social promotion were producing high school graduates with skimpy skills. In more recent years, nations that bolstered their school systems while maintaining a low-cost labor force have presented a potent economic threat. As a nation, we have finally become more aware that poor and minority students too often are stuck in overcrowded, physically deteriorating campuses with undertrained teachers.

"A Nation at Risk" was largely a gambit by the Reagan administration to frame the education debate in Cold War terms: The communists would prevail if this nation didn't get tough on its schools. Although educators blame the report for creating an obsession with standardized testing, they also owe it a debt of gratitude. President Reagan's idea of education reform was to privatize schools through vouchers and tax credits, abolish the Department of Education and slash federal funding. The report made it clear that the nation needed to put more thought and support into its public schools.

The road in that direction has been slow and slippery under the clumsily framed No Child Left Behind Act. The authors of the 1983 report would have decried the school reform act's rigidity and narrow focus, which have pushed schools toward achieving minimum competency rather than broad intellectual development. Charter schools have interpreted the Reagan-era report more cannily, using its recommendations for longer school hours, merit-based teacher pay and a more challenging curriculum. The results, notably here in Los Angeles, have been encouraging.

As policymakers here and elsewhere stumble over school reform, they might want to re-read the quarter-century-old report. Oddly, it provides a more useful blueprint today than it did in its own time.


by George F. Will | Op-Ed in the Washington Post

If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.

-- "A Nation at Risk" (1983)

Thursday, April 24, 2008 -- Let us limp down memory lane to mark this week's melancholy 25th anniversary of a national commission's report that galvanized Americans to vow to do better. Today the nation still ignores what had been learned years before 1983.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once puckishly said that data indicated that the leading determinant of the quality of public schools, measured by standardized tests, was the schools' proximity to Canada. He meant that the geographic correlation was stronger than the correlation between high test scores and high per-pupil expenditures.

Moynihan also knew that schools cannot compensate for the disintegration of families and hence communities -- the primary transmitters of social capital. No reform can enable schools to cope with the 36.9 percent of all children and 69.9 percent of black children today born out of wedlock, which means, among many other things, a continually renewed cohort of unruly adolescent males.

Chester Finn, a former Moynihan aide, notes in his splendid new memoir ("Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik") that during the Depression-era job scarcity, high schools were used to keep students out of the job market, shunting many into nonacademic classes. By 1961, those classes had risen to 43 percent of all those taken by students. After 1962, when New York City signed the nation's first collective bargaining contract with teachers, teachers began changing from members of a respected profession into just another muscular faction fighting for more government money. Between 1975 and 1980 there were a thousand strikes involving a million teachers whose salaries rose as students' scores on standardized tests declined.

In 1964, SAT scores among college-bound students peaked. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) codified confidence in the correlation between financial inputs and cognitive outputs in education. But in 1966, the Coleman report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached a conclusion so "seismic" -- Moynihan's description -- that the government almost refused to publish it.

Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced.

But it wasn't. Instead, shopworn panaceas -- larger teacher salaries, smaller class sizes -- were pursued as colleges were reduced to offering remediation to freshmen.

In 1976, for the first time in its 119-year history, the National Education Association, the teachers union, endorsed a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, who repaid it by creating the Education Department, a monument to the premise that money and government programs matter most. At the NEA's behest, the nation has expanded the number of teachers much faster than the number of students has grown. Hiring more, rather than more competent, teachers meant more dues-paying union members. For decades, schools have been treated as laboratories for various equity experiments. Fads incubated in education schools gave us "open" classrooms, teachers as "facilitators of learning" rather than transmitters of knowledge, abandonment of a literary canon in the name of "multiculturalism," and so on, producing a majority of high school juniors who could not locate the Civil War in the proper half-century.

In 1994, Congress grandly decreed that by 2000 the high school graduation rate would be "at least" 90 percent and that American students would be "first in the world in mathematics and science achievement." Moynihan, likening such goals to Soviet grain quotas -- solemnly avowed, never fulfilled -- said: "That will not happen." It did not.

Moynihan was a neoconservative before neoconservatism became a doctrine of foreign policy hubris. Originally, it taught domestic policy humility. Moynihan, a social scientist, understood that social science tells us not what to do but what is not working, which today includes No Child Left Behind. Finn thinks NCLB got things backward: "The law should have set uniform standards and measures for the nation, then freed states, districts and schools to produce those results as they think best." Instead, it left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier.

A nation at risk? Now more than ever.

A Nation at Risk: The Imperataive for Educational Reform (April 1983)

• comments by smf at the kick-off of National School Construction Week at the Roybal Learning Center - the school formerly known as The Belmont Learning Complex and more lately Vista Hermosa High School, Saturday morning April 25th. Following is the schedule for other LAUSD NSCW activities.

To be invited as a guest on this stage today and not quote Robert Hunter and the Grateful Dead would rank up there in great opportunities too obvious to be missed:

"Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it's been."


I am a guest on this stage because the Bond Oversight Committee, whom I represent here today, sadly and happily had almost no role with the construction of this school. What role we did have was as parties to litigation and then as curious bystanders, lookie-loos and sidewalk superintendents shut out of the process. Because that-which-happened-before was outside our purview we can avoid responsibility for the errors …and can't take credit for the success that I hope and pray the students and faculty of this school will make of this tremendous facility.

When we came into this room today we passed the empty trophy cases; it is up the students of this school to fill those cases and create their own legacy.

This is a very expensive building with a flagpole; they need to make it a school. That magic place where the synapses fire and the ideas and the book and the minds connect, Where education happens

What we saw in the sad history of this project was just how bad a lack of accountability can be; a lesson learned in construction that I think we all agree can carry over into instruction.

What we also saw was the power of a dream - the dream of this community - to overcome all obstacles, including that of reality itself. It also shows that a single leader can step in the middle of a process while the perfect storm rages - and I'm speaking of Roy Romer - and leave before it's done and can still make lemonade from an orchard of lemons. This school is a memorial to Congressman Roybal, but that it is here at all is a testament to Roy's tenacity.

I'm not going to trot out the would-a, could-a shoulda-s here; instead we all need to celebrate what's to come. Here and throughout LAUSD.

We kick off National School Construction Week with some fabulous milestones.

Today we take this school - the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center public, into prime time.

• Last week we broke ground on the one hundredth totally new built-from-scratch school in the school construction program.

• On Friday we will cut the ribbon on the classroom addition and playground at Wonderland Avenue School. - And make no mistake - there is no more important classroom than the playground - and no more important school construction than building and modernizing the great schools we already have. And in the interest of full disclosure: Wonderland was my elementary school back in the days before the earth cooled.

We have made a promise to parents, voters and taxpayers — but mostly to the children; present and future: We promised to build new schools and fix up the old ones when the approved Proposition BB and Measures K, R and Y.

You don’t need me to tell you, you only have to look around you to see the promise is being kept.

• We are building new schools.
• We are fixing the old schools.
• We are creating and fostering partnerships in the community.
• We are ending Involuntary Busing.
• We have implemented Full Day Kindergarten in every elementary school in this district.
• And we will eliminate the Multi-Track Year-round Calendar, once and for all.

The progress we have made so far is mind boggling; we have done and are doing the construction, the improvement to instruction is underway – helped along by the building and modernization work — but really driven by students and educators in the classroom and administrators and staff and yes - even consultants - in offices and local districts and in the black triangular tower to our south.

But as a voter and a taxpayer and a parent — and perhaps as one a little too willing to take too much credit for what we've all done — I see the danger of the proposed budget cuts on the horizon. In cosmology the edge of a black hole, the force that sucks in gravity and light, is the "event horizon" — and that's it. the signpost just ahead - in this version of the Twilight Zone.

We can't have come thus far to see our good work undone by folks who lack the vision and foresight to invest in the future, to invest in kids. We did not build schools to not have excellence in them. We need to make it clear to the powers-that-be in Sacramento that we will not tolerate across the board budget cutting at the expense of the education, health and welfare of our children. I'm a PTA leader and I'm not supposed to talk this way — so I'm going to quote Randy Moss, the San Diego County Superintendent: "We've got to show that we give a damn about kids."

If you agree, quote me; if you are offended, write Randy. Mostly, write Arnold.

Building schools is the best and most optimistic thing any community does. When we build schools we make positive investments in our future way beyond the news cycle or the election cycle or this year's budget …we are stretching the blank canvas that will be our kids masterpiece. With every school, school building, playground, library, gymnasium and auditorium we build we build on the foundation of the city of Angels we aspire to be.

What a long strange trip it has been . . . we need to keep on Keep on Truckin'.

Thank you - and onward!


MONDAY, APRIL 28TH -- HEALTHY SCHOOLS DAY. Board Member Tamar Galatzan’s office will recognize the Community Honoring Inclusive Model Education (CHIME) Institute’s Arnold Schwarzenegger Elementary School (!) at 9 a.m. and Board Member Julie Korenstein will congratulate Harding Elementary School at 11 a.m. for receiving a Recycling Excellence Award from the City of Los Angeles.

TUESDAY, APRIL 29TH -- HISTORIC SCHOOLS DAY. Board Member Yolie Flores Aguilar will recognize John Marshall High School for its receipt of a Historic Schools Investment Fund grant. This event will take place at John Marshall High School at 8:30 a.m.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30TH -- SENIOR CITIZENS DAY. Board Member Marguerite P. LaMotte will honor senior citizens in her district that have contributed greatly to our schools. This event will take place at 1 p.m. at the Board Member’s district office.

THURSDAY, MAY 1ST -- SCHOOLS AS CENTERS OF COMMUNITY DAY. Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic will celebrate the launch of the Mobile Health Care Clinic initiative at Towne Elementary School at 2 p.m.

FRIDAY, MAY 2ND -- SCHOOL BUILDING DAY. Board Member Marlene Canter will mark this day by cutting the ribbon on a playground expansion project at Wonderland Elementary School. This event starts at 10 a.m.

If you need further information on any of these events, please contact Shannon Haber at 213.241.4575.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
The news that didn't fit from April 27

• SCHWARZENEGGAR OPPOSES PROP 98 - duh... but not that Prop 98!
• CONTAMINATED WATER? The Drinking Fountain version of Water Wars
# THE NEW LAUSD ORG CHART: You can't tell the players without an org chart!
• Sandy Banks: IN L.A. SCHOOLS, DEATH BY 1,000 CUTS

The news that didn't fit from April 27

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

A L S O :


THE CALIFORNIA STATE PTA invites ALL MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, PARENTS, chaperones (that would include accompanying teachers), and members to attend the presentation by Craig Scott of Rachel's Challenge “You Just May Start a Chain Reaction” during our Third General Meeting of Convention, which is from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 2, 2008.

ALL TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS AND STAFF are also encouraged to attend the presentation from Erin Gruwell of Freedom Writers: (...and the movie of the same name) "Educator and Catalyst for Social Change".

Ms. Gruwell will be speaking during our Sixth General Meeting of Convention from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, 2008.

Registration for these special events is located on our website at, click on convention - or on THE SPECIAL PTA INVITATION LINK TO THE RIGHT

You need not be a PTA member or be from a PTA school to attend these free events.

Monday Apr 28, 2008
Central Region Elementary School #22: CEQA Scoping and Schematic Design Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Loyola Village Elementary School
8821 Villanova Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Tuesday Apr 29, 2008
Valley Region Span K-8 #1
Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) Hearing and Design Development Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Olive Vista Middle School - Auditorium
14600 Tyler St.
Sylmar, CA 91342

Wednesday Apr 30, 2008
Central Region Elementary School #21: CEQA Scoping and Schematic Design Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Harmony Elementary School
899 E. 42nd Place
Los Angeles, CA 90011

Friday May 2, 2008
Wonderland Elementary School New Addition and Playground: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
Wonderland Elementary School
8510 Wonderland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

*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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Biting the magic bullet.

4LAKids: Sunday, April 20, 2008 ¡Happy Passover!
In This Issue:
SCHOOL LEADERSHIP'S UNFINISHED AGENDA: Integrating Individual and Organizational Development
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.
An EdWeek Article, "School Leadership's Unfinished Agenda", reprinted below concludes: "Learning is not workshops and courses and strategic retreats. It is not school improvement plans or individual leadership development. These are inputs. Rather, learning is developing the organization, day after day, within the culture."

• Developing the organization
• Day after day
• Within the culture

That is why charter schools and i-Division experiments offer little big picture benefit — they are outside the culture. That is why previous flavors of reform, "Learning Walks" and LEARN, School based Management, AVID, etc., didn't work. We didn't stick with 'em, we didn't do the day-to-day; as bullets they weren’t magic enough and so we reloaded and fired again. Firing away with different bullets at different targets.

The LAUSD reform programs halfheartedly attempted and prematurely terminated fill bookshelves ….directly opposite the stacks of studies-not-studied.

Strangely we stick with "PD Tuesdays" a program that offers little benefit. Maybe because it seems harmless enough …in spite of the fact that it takes half a day of classroom instruction from the school week.

The good news is that we are sticking with Small Learning Communities, a program imposed by the central office but designed individually at each schoolsite. Hard work all around, slow going, and now starting to bear fruit. Kids are writing "My teachers know who I am." That it took so long makes it no less magic.

The community-demanded, outside-the-culture, imposed-from-without-and-above reform that is having a harder time is the A-G Graduation Requirement. Again hard to do because it requires a new mind set ("All kids CAN do this!") and a lot of hard work in master scheduling, programming and creating curriculum. A-G is really hard to do on the cheap, especially if one is hiring new science and math teachers to meet the requirement and laying off new science and math teachers to fit the budget. The timeline is slipping and the sure sign that progress isn't happening is that new studies are underway rather than implementation.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! -smf

a 4LAKids report by smf

►A WONDERFUL THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM: We're riding in the shuttle between the San José airport and rent-a-car pickup with a teacher and two students from Pasadena High School; they are headed to a debate competition. The conversation in the little bus is electric, about homework, school, literature. Moby Dick is not popular … but besides for that one couldn't help but feel enthusiastic about Public Education When It Works. One of the students described how he did his AP Lit reading hiding in the janitor's closet at his job being a movie usher - even slacking is not what it used to be! I'm sure the level of debate - and certainly the enthusiasm - at that competition will be superior to the adult cogitation and rubber-chcken-or-salmon at the EdSource forum ("BIG VISION AND HARD FACTS: WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?") we're headed to …but we go there anyway.

The title of the forum may have misled. The topics were really:
• What are they doing in Massachusetts? Is that a good thing?
• What are they doing in Florida?
• How is California working to catch up with Florida?
• A Snapshot of Now …and Tealeaves of Later.
• A Couple of Provocative Mid-range (but not long-range) Plans for the Future.

WHAT TO DO NOW waits expectantly for the Governor's May 15th revision of the proposed budget -The May Revise - which waits for the tax collection numbers from April 15, all pending the action and inaction from the legislature and the governor and the will and whim of the six republicans who will ultimately decide as the Sacramento summer heads up and the July 1 budget deadline recedes in the rear view mirror.

To quote Rick Simpson, the closest thing to an authority on the California Budget Process we have: "To call the current system a system is the first mistake." Even to call it a "process" stretches the language beyond its elasticity.

►THE FORUM BEGAN with greetings and a short rehash/no-new-news of the Program Improvement Districts' "corrective actions" ("Do not call them "sanctions!") being directed from Sacramento. (When 4LAKids does it's Dictionary of EduSpeak it's going to be hard not to define SANCTIONS [sank-shuns n.] 1. Corrective actions directed from Sacramento.)

►The first real presentation was: WHEN BOLD STEPS ARE NEEDED: What Does it Really Take to Turn Around Schools?" presented by Mass Insight, an independent non-profit engaged in school reform in Massachusetts. Mass Insights is data-driven, business-model-focused on chronically underperforming schools – essentially an outside takeover facilitator of public schools, clustering or massing them with outside turn-around partners - driving change from outside the system. It's a mergers-and-acquisitions/leveraged takeover mini-district of charter schools business model - with charts and graphs and test scores being presented as outcomes. Very little mention was made of students, none of parents.

The Mass Insight plan was refuted by San Diego County Superintendent Randy Ward - himself an expert on takeovers having been the appointed receiver in state takeovers and turn around of the Oakland and Compton school districts for fiscal mismanagement. Moss is not a fan of outside agents taking over schools - but rather of holding the folks in charge accountable. Not punishment and reward accountability, but true two-way accountability.

"The Achievement Gap," he pointed out, "is not a policy issue - it's a moral imperative."First we must give a damn about these kids."

Then we must follow through and follow up on reforms already begun and avoid the four-letter alphabet soup acronyms and fixes du jour. "Teacher's unions can be a part of the solution," he said in response to a question, "but union contracts cannot and must not hurt children as they protect adults."

►NEXT ON THE AGENDA WAS A BRIEF TOUR OF FLORIDA'S EDUCATION DATABASE, a storehouse of data running from preschool to post graduate education - a P-20 rather than a K-12 model.

Florida has three things going for its Ed database.
1. Florida has a single Board of Ed and Dept of Ed that covers preschool through the state universities, not a preschool program, a K-12 Program and three separate programs and governance for Community Colleges, CSU's and UC's as in California.
2. It has had its Ed database in place since 1988.
3. The Florida state database is the core for the statewide employment, business and commerce database system — students and outcomes can be tracked from preschool through postgraduate and into the workforce.

Florida's system is powerful and can and does generate data to track and measure performance, students, progress, etc. longitudinally and latitudinally; in real time (or close to it) and over time. California is far behind the curve and because of the lack of articulation in the education system and between state programs will not be as powerful.

Progress is being made however and with partners IBM and Microsoft engaged the fits-and-starts approach that started out years ago as separate mandated/funded efforts to track migrant students, then (voluntarily/unfunded) to track API performance, then track all students enrollment and finally (inadequately funded) K-12 student progress and attendance development of a comprehensive database is underway. NCLB's un(der)funded mandate for dropout and AYP progress reporting notwithstanding the current budget shortfall will inevitably impact development of the Cal Ed database - and because the preschool and three post-high-school programs are not aligned/articulated completion is a way off.

The current model as envisioned does not incorporate financial information (nor does FL) nor does it project integrating business, commercial and employment data. Florida has a state of the art Ed Database c. 1988; California has a hodgepodge, high hopes, no money, undecided political will and an incomplete plan. Stay tuned.

To discuss this state of affairs in the Silicon Valley requires a whole new alloy of irony.

►NEXT UP WAS A REPORT FROM CHIEF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST ELIZABETH HILL. Ms. Hill is a respected non-partisan legislative insider; her analysis of the governor's proposed budget goes beyond analysis and proposes other less catastrophic solutions. As she is retiring after about thirty years on the job her opinion has the added weight of institutional memory in the term limited Capitol; her words on her farewell tour need to be heard and acted upon.

First Hill presented a snapshot as of Friday (tax day +3) of the budget situation: Personal income tax revenue appears to be slightly ahead of projections, corporate and sales taxes seem to be below. The governor's $14.4 budget deficit forecast is undoubtedly optimistic - the number on May 15 will be closer to $16 billion.

And as one looks at the question as whether it is better to pay for Education Now or Incarceration Later: The federal court ordered/governor's proposed/legislature approved $7 billion investment in prison healthcare infrastructure passed in the past few weeks amounts to a $600,000. per prisoner investment in prisons.

Priorities anyone?

Hill's counter to the governor's budget proposes to leave the Prop 98 funding guarantee to public education intact (or at least at '07-08 levels), deferring Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), maintaining ongoing and mandated programs, consolidating some categorical programs and eliminating others - including the Year Around School subsidy that LAUSD is the premier recipient of. Year 'round education is a dinosaur whose time has passed; LAUSD will be done with it by 2012 as we build ourselves out of that quagmire.

Her proposal reduces the governor's $4.8 billion cuts to education to $800 million - not a happy state of affairs - and perhaps still not an acceptable one - but a least one that doesn't bankrupt school districts up and down the state.

Her plan returns California to the full Prop 98 spending guarantees including all programs and allowing for growth and COLAs by 2012, as does the governor's - without forcing school districts to bear a $4 billion hit beginning in July. Her consolidation of Categoricals merits further consideration, that is touched upon in more (but still superficial depth) in the following 4LAKids on the next agenda item.

And Ms Hill echoed what everyone allowed near a microphone said Friday: Until a long term strategy of state revenue collection, spending and budgeting can be come up with – a system designed in the 1970s for an entirely different California – the entire state economy and state government will continue to outperform the nation in boom years and underperform it in it bust years.

►THE MAIN EVENT (are you ready to rumble?) was a presentation by The Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity of the UC Law School on REFORMING CALIFORNIA PUBLIC SCHOOL FINANCE.

Earl Warren? Race, ethnicity and diversity, UC? How could we go wrong?

Let me count the ways. Follow the money: Think tank studies are funded by someone, this one by the Gates Foundation. The Berkeley School of Law is not the School of Education. The only mention of race, ethnicity or diversity is on the title page. Think tank studies are authored by someone, this one by Alan Bersin, Michael Kirst and Godwyn Liu. Bersin is the governor's former Secretary for Education. As John Mocker (the "Father of Proposition 98") said: "The authors are two lawyers and a college professor." To which Liu feigned objection, he is a lawyer and a college professor!

The Bersin Plan (and Bersin wasn't there to defend it) seems premised on a quote of his: "A lean budget gives lawmakers and the Education Coalition the chance to hammer out a school finance plan that's ready to go when new money fills the coffers."

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt! This is the tired "Crisis and Opportunity are two faces of the Same Challenge" shibboleth. (It's Passover, allow me the Hebrew!)

The challenge/opportunity of lean budget years for education have come repeatedly for the legislature, the governor, the Ed Coalition and the school children of the state in boom+bust/bubble+burst cycles. This is my high school senior daughter's third "worst case" Ed budget challenge – Sacramento has yet to rise to it!

The presentation by Kirst and Liu began harmlessly, describing historical forces, legislation, court decisions and ballot initiatives that shape CA Ed finance. It described the centralized funding paradigm driven by the foregoing. Stating the obvious: we don't spend enough, the system is compliance rather than outcome driven and unnecessarily complex. The system was created in the 1970's for another CA… sound familiar?

Categorical programs address needs but create bureaucracy; bureaucracy is self perpetuating, inflexible, costly - not holistic. CA lags behind other states is spending and we get less bang for our fewer bucks.

Spending is pretty much equitable up and down the state, though the cost of delivering the product (!) differs regionally.

The plan presents its basic premises: Revenue allocation should be guided by student needs. Revenue allocations (a new way of saying spending) should be adjusted for regional differences.

And Categoricals should be broken down into only two block grants: Special Education and Targeted Funding, essentially for low income and English language learners.
The system should be simple and understandable by legislators, school officials and the public. (When have lawyers and college professors ever simplified anything?).
Reforms should apply to new spending without reducing current allocation.

Here the lawyers and college professors take over, creating an algebraic formula, based on Base Funding ($B), Special Ed ($S), Targeted funding ($T), Regional cost adjustment (R) and a Hold Harmless clause (HH). (There actually in an official guideline for PTA Leaders: NEVER AGREE TO A HOLD HARMLESS CLAUSE!)

Here's the formula to establish District Revenue per ADA (They kept ADA!):
ADA = HH [ R x ($B+$S+$T) ]

OK, the students and the parents and the school officials can understand that, but for the slow learners in the legislature they created the metaphor of the Three Layer Cake:
• There's the base, everyone gets that.
• There's the second layer: Special Ed, that's allocated per Special Ed child.
• And there's the Targeted funding, that's -uh- the frosting.

And the hold harmless says that no one gets less than they got before. It's simple, it's rational, and it’s equitable.

With other rules it gets even more equitable! The plan establishes that "85% of English language learners are low income" - and continues (in print) that it's "unclear that low income EL kids need more"…so they don't get both. I think that says that it must cost the same to educate a poor child as a poor child that doesn't speak the language, a leap into preposterousness of Carollian proportion.

John Mockler rebutted the plan and he was civil if not exactly respectful: "Before you begin to undertake reform you need to begin to tell the truth."

Mockler didn't let the irony of Earl Warren connection pass unobserved - but conceded that the plan, once you get beyond the poor public policy and social justice concerns, offers a bold start that needs much work. The plan, he said, completely ignores the plight of foster children and offers them no help - and reminded all that funding needs to follow policy, not the other way around.

He argued that focused categorical programs address specific identified needs - and that block grants distribute funding. He also pointed out that despite the Hold Harmless (which he called "hiding the ball") LAUSD categorical funding is reduced 10%. The plan's charts cite example "large districts", but miss the really big urban ones like San José, LA, San Diego, etc.)

Rick Simpson, who has been the Education Chief of staff for generations of speakers of the assembly - and a contributor-to if not the true author-of every meaningful piece of education legislation for twenty years - warned everyone to be wary of any reform that doesn't change or identify new funding sources; what is proposed here is elaborate redistribution of not enough money among too many schoolchildren. And he added, "The only accurate generalization you can make about categorical funding in education is that you can't make accurate generalizations about categorical funding in education.

• NOTE: Keep an eye on the EdSource website — they promise a YouTube/Webcast of all the presentations shortly.

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP'S UNFINISHED AGENDA: Integrating Individual and Organizational Development
By Michael Fullan | Education Week

April 9, 2008 - In their aptly named book on organizational management, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton write about HARD FACTS, DANGEROUS HALF-TRUTHS, AND TOTAL NONSENSE. A hard fact is something for which there is solid evidence. A dangerous half-truth is when this fact is superficially applied. And total nonsense is often the outcome of not knowing the difference.

We can gain insight about the current state of school leadership by applying this organizational thinking to two of education’s hard facts: The principal is crucial to school success, and professional learning communities are more effective than individual professionals working in isolation. In doing so, we should remember that the danger in the half-truth is not just that it is incomplete or misleading, but that its proponents are unaware that it is not true.

Let’s begin with the first hard fact. Principals do make a difference in school improvement and student achievement. As my colleague Kenneth Leithwood has concluded from his research, in impact on student learning, the principal is second only to the teacher. This is why policymakers have decreed that we must produce school principals who have the qualities known to make a difference.

In the best cases, this push for high-quality principals has led to the development of rigorous programs designed to produce candidates who promise to make a significant difference in school improvement. The hard fact is that this is a step in the right direction. The half-truth is the assumption that it will be sufficient to make a decided difference. In other words, these high-quality individual-development programs are not in themselves a bad idea, but they are incomplete. They represent one part of a whole—individual, but not organizational, development. They give policymakers a false sense that they are actually solving a problem.

Consider examples of some of the best of these programs. The recent McKinsey & Co. report on "How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top" cites three such principal-development programs, in Boston, Chicago, and Singapore. Boston, for example, develops new principals by focusing on a fellowship program that includes three days a week of apprenticeship and two days a week in classes, supported by mentors and coaches and clustered in learning networks. Similar programs have been established through new leadership academies in New York City and several other districts.

Whole countries have established high-quality “qualifications” programs for new school principals. The Scottish Qualification for Headship program, which recently received rave reviews in an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, is a good case in point. It takes two to three years to complete, through courses, experiential learning, mentoring, and coaching. Similarly, in England, the National College of School Leadership has developed a qualifications program that is mandatory for all school heads.

So what’s the half-truth? It is that individual leaders, no matter how great, can carry the day. They can’t. It may be possible for this or that heroic leader to change the organization for a time, but it won’t happen in numbers. The culture of the organization is too powerful for one or even many individuals to overcome. (Incidentally, although this may seem like a backhanded compliment, the greatest contribution of good qualifications programs may be in avoiding bad leaders.)

Everybody knows that the culture of the organization is crucial, and that purposeful, collaborative organizations are more effective (a hard fact). Therefore, the reasoning goes, we should implement “professional learning communities” everywhere (a dangerous half-truth). My colleagues and I, as well as other researchers elsewhere, have found that professional learning communities are being implemented superficially. They give the educators involved a false sense of progress, while the deeper cultural changes required for school improvement are not being tackled.

In my most recent book, The Six Secrets of Change (Jossey-Bass, 2008), one of the secrets to successful change I identify is that “learning is the work.” It is a maxim precisely about the need to address day-to-day cultural change. Learning is not workshops and courses and strategic retreats. It is not school improvement plans or individual leadership development. These are inputs. Rather, learning is developing the organization, day after day, within the culture.

There is much more to organizational development than I can address in this brief essay. It is about openness of practice, precision, creativity, wise and continuous use of data, learning from each other inside and outside the organization, and linking into the big picture. This is turning out to be much harder than anyone thought, and the presence of half-truths in action serves only to give the semblance of progress, dangerously taking the pressure off the need to focus on the deeper changes required. In short, changing cultures is the hard fact that remains elusive. An even harder fact is sustaining a learning culture once it is implemented.

Learning is not workshops and courses and strategic retreats. It is not school improvement plans or individual leadership development. These are inputs. Rather, learning is developing the organization, day after day, within the culture.

We can draw two conclusions from this kind of analysis. The first is that, within both individual-development and organizational-development pursuits we should push for quality implementation.

The second and more powerful conclusion, however, is that we should never do one without the other; that is, we should not have leadership-development programs for individuals in the absence of parallel strategies focusing on changing the culture of school systems. It will take the combined efforts of both components. Individual and organizational development must go hand in hand.

As an early example of this integration, I offer our work in York Region District School Board, a large, multicultural urban district just north of Toronto. York Region consists of some 160 elementary and 30 secondary schools. District leaders there started with organizational development, and then reinforced it with systematic individual development. Concentrating first on the former, the district established a literacy collaborative framework, worked with school teams, and went about its business of identifying and sharing effective practices. Learning networks also have been established, whereby schools learn from each other. York is, in other words, working directly on changing the culture of its schools and the district itself. Organization development means system development as well.

As York began to identify the particular leadership qualities associated with success, district leaders turned their attention to individual development, by creating a “leadership-development framework.” The leadership-development requirement applies to all future and current principals. There are three dimensions: roles, competencies, and learning activities. The roles are: (1) emergent leaders (those preparing to become principals), (2) first-time administrators, and (3) experienced assistant principals and principals.

Competencies fall into four domains: setting direction and sustaining the vision, building relationships, leading and managing instruction, and further developing the organization. For each domain, the knowledge, skills, and subcompetencies required are spelled out.

The third, crosscutting dimension concerns the learning activities and experiences people will need in order to obtain the competencies.

The daily concentration on effective teaching and learning practices meshes with the individual development requirements. And with so much mutual reinforcement, the culture of the district gets changed, through the combined efforts of individual leaders and collaborative learning communities that support, stimulate, and add to each other.

Even strong, national school systems benefit from viewing change through this individual and organizational lens. Finland, for example, which has been the top performer in literacy, math, and science among the 32 OECD countries, has strong teachers and school principals. But unless it fosters daily learning among educators (good teachers working with other good teachers get even better) and pays explicit attention to individual leadership development, even Finland’s overall system will weaken. A recent OECD review observed that 60 percent of Finland’s school principals will retire in the next few years, and recommended that the country “develop a clear national strategy for leadership and succession.”

In short, efforts to reform school systems are doomed unless educators can combine and integrate individual and organization development, focusing on mutually reinforcing content and strategies. This is demanding and unending work. The best guideline for doing it well is to work explicitly on both elements, and on their integration. And, as you do so, worry about whether you may be engaged in a half-truth.

Whole or full truths are hard to come by in the school improvement business. Unless we combine and integrate these two important aspects of leadership development within a single strategy, we will never progress. It is easier to do one without the other, but that is ultimately self-defeating. The promise is that, if we work on both components in tandem, we may get the significant breakthroughs in system transformation that we have been seeking.

• Michael Fullan is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and serves as a special adviser on education to the premier of Ontario (

"How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top" (McKinsey & Co.)

By Kenneth Miller Los Angeles Sentinel | New America Media

Apr 14, 2008 - Los Angeles Unified School District board president Monica Garcia was on the hot seat at the second in a series of public forums hosted by local organizations Community Call to Action & Accountability and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Los Angeles at Bethel AME Church this week.

Garcia, just 20 months into her job as board president, took a stand from her seat and delivered a series of lobs and volleys at the LAUSD while addressing the inadequacies that plague the second largest school district in the nation, with close to one million students.

“This is a school district that went from seventh in spending to 47th in spending and large over crowded year-around schools are getting worse not better,” Garcia bellowed to the audience of less than 50 individuals.

While small in number the forum packed a heavy punch in its quest to bring about solutions that will increase educational opportunities for African American students from grades kindergarten through 12th grade.

Garcia, who is just the third Latino hired in 155 years on the board, is no stranger to many of the concerns affecting Blacks and other minority students, having been raised and educated in the bowels of East Los Angeles.

However, while she managed to survive the culture and the education system by attending and graduating from University of California, Berkley, she insisted that those same standards that were implemented 25 years ago just would not work for students today.

“Seventy-seven percent of the children today are from low income families and success for some is at the expense of the majority,” she said.

Garcia said that,”As an organization the LAUSD has fallen short,” and then blasted the situation as “educational malpractice.” “This is a crisis,” she stated.

She was not alone in her assessment of the LAUSD, which has come under a siege of criticism in recent months from not just parents and community leaders, but Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa’s zeal and pledge to overhaul the LAUSD led him to form a school partnership program in which he appointed former San Diego school reformer Angela Bass to oversee a half dozen of the lowest performing schools.

On this chilly night, Bass was just in attendance as a concerned observer, but also found her opinion requested on the panel by moderator Eric Lee, SCLC-LA president.

“We say a lot of things, but don’t mean what we say,” said Bass.

She quickly pointed two schools that she oversees such as Markham and Gompers in South Los Angeles which not only lack an adequate supply of pencils and learning instruments, but the teachers who are often hired during a probationary period transfer out after just two years.

Bass challenged that, the curriculum is not rigorous enough in math science and social studies.”

She said at one school the kids asked questions and then at another the kids were told what to do.

Another participant of the panel was Carson Mayor Pro Tem Mike Gipson, but on this night he was a concerned parent and representing United Teachers Los Angeles as a staff member of the powerful teachers union.

Davis told of his high achieving son who attends an LAUSD school in Carson, but is disturbed because his son does not meet the criteria to be bused to one of the district’s excellent magnet schools.

Howard Ranson, an adult school teacher for the LAUSD has been one of the district’s shining stars. Ranson graduates 90 percent of his students and instead of addressing the abundance of shortcomings the district has, he desires to find a way to make his students achieve at a higher rate.

Ranson is the exception and not the norm for the LAUSD, which will be hit with even more severe budget cuts that will surely add to their woes.

Lee equated the issue of education with the issue of civil rights years ago.

“We must break the cycle of poverty and crime.”

Lee contends that one of the primary major concerns is that schools in urban communities are underfunded and are assigned teachers with less experience than schools in suburban communities and beach city schools.

How schools allocate the financial resources that are afforded them was also at issue. Should schools in high gang infested regions be allowed to spend more on safety than educational supplies?

He shared a personal experience that while visiting Crenshaw High School and then taking a visit to Pacific Palisades High School, Palisades had new computers, while Crenshaw was in a holding pattern on receiving books.

It is a dilemma that has no clear cut answers, but as he suggested, his organization’s goal is to first educate (the community about the concerns), organize (then to do something about them), mobilize (community leaders and organizations as a show of force) and agitate (the infrastructure of LAUSD) to change it.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
• Arnold to teachers: "YOU WON'T BE BACK!"
• SAN PEDRO TEACHERS ON THE RUN: Sharing classrooms

The News that doesn't fit from April 20

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Tuesday Apr 22, 2008
South Region Elementary School #11: CEQA Scoping and Meet-the-Architect Design Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Loren Miller Elementary School - Auditorium
830 W. 77th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

Wednesday Apr 23, 2008
Central Region Elementary School #18: Groundbreaking Ceremony
Ceremony starts at 1:00 p.m.
Central Region Elementary School #18
260 E. 31st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90011

Wednesday Apr 23, 2008
Central Los Angeles High School #9: Construction Update Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Castelar Elementary School - Auditorium
840 Yale Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Wednesday Apr 23, 2008
South Region Elementary School #10: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
6:00 p.m.
Menlo Elementary School - Auditorium
4156 Menlo Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90037

Wednesday Apr 23, 2008
Valley Region Elementary School #13: Meet-the-Architect and Schematic Design Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Panorama High School Auditorium
8015 Van Nuys Blvd
Panorama City, CA 91402

Thursday Apr 24, 2008
Fries Elementary School Addition: Open House
5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Fries Avenue Elementary School
1301 Fries Ave.
Wilmington, CA 90744

Thursday Apr 24, 2008
Central Region Elementary School #14: Project Update Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Rosemont Avenue Elementary School - Auditorium
421 N. Rosemont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Thursday Apr 24, 2008
South Region High School #9: CEQA Scoping Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Bryson Elementary School - Auditorium
4470 Missouri Ave.
South Gate, CA 90280

Visit, call, write, e-mail, or fax you state legislators on the one day a week they're in town — assemblyperson and senator. Bring a friend, show them a picture of your child - leave them some artwork for their refrigerator! Tell them how the governor's proposed budget cuts effect your child and your neighborhood school.

If you don't have a child remember that they are ALL our children. THEY don't vote, YOU represent THEM!

And don't be afraid to remind your representatives of that fact!

*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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