Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nothin' but blue skies ahead.

4LAKids: Sunday, Jan 25, 2009
In This Issue:
L.A. UNIFIED TEACHERS' JOBS SAFE FOR NOW: Superintendent announces that no teachers will lose their jobs this school year.
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:
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
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.
"And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

— President Obamas's Inaugural Address - 20 Jan 2009

Hope in our wake, the corner turned, the Promise before us: Hard Work ahead. And that's the good news and we rightfully bask in it.

• Superintendent Cortines called for the presidential inauguration to serve as the universal teachable moment for all students in all classrooms.
• TV's and cable and Internet connections hopefully (that word) worked; young people saw with their own eyes that the part of the American Dream about how - with talent and hard work - all things are possible for them.
• Also on Tuesday the teachers at Dolores Street Elementary School decided that civil (and principal and superintendential) disobedience was the teachable moment.
• The New York Times reports that Obamamania produces positive measurable results: the Obama Effect improves young black students test scores. Hopefully (again) true.

Superintendent Cortines has decided - and 4LAKids agrees - that laying off teachers mid-year/this-year to meet the demands of a non-existent state budget would be foolish.

But read the story and you will see that the danger of bankruptcy and fiscal failure of public education in California is palpable. In our own county Centinela Valley Union High School District already teeters on the edge, there are over a thousand school districts in California. Others will follow to the brink …and (again) hopefully, no further.

Eventually the foolishness in Sacramento will sort itself out. That means eventually the cuts must come because the funding/credit/economic crisis is very real. The cuts that must come must come with tax increases and considered funding flexibilty. And good luck. Otherwise we will educate this generation of young people - a generation that can and will survive these crises - not for success and excellence but to a lesser standard.

Futurist Alvin Toffler says: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." Of all the lessons never-quite-learned is that "minimally adequate" is mutually exclusive — and good enough never is. Not here, not now, not ever.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

Friday, January 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The inauguration for President-elect Barack Obama is in just a few days and local schools will be watching the ceremony along with the rest of the country.
The Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent says the event will be widely broadcast on televisions and computers in schools throughout the district.
Teachers are also planning assignments and activities to get the children involved with the historic event.


LAUSD Press Release - For Immediate Release Jan. 15, 2009

Los Angeles – On Tuesday, Jan. 20, students and staff in all schools and offices of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will have the opportunity to watch the swearing-in of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States.

“It’s historic,” said Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who made the decision to make the broadcast widely available on televisions and computers. “I want all students to watch, including very young children in kindergarten and first grade.”

The Superintendent also directed teachers to incorporate the Inauguration into the instructional day.

Young students, for example, can discuss what President-elect Obama’s daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, will face in their new home and school. Through reading stories, listening to, and discussing, news; drawing pictures and writing poems, elementary students can become more familiar with the Presidency.

Secondary assignments may include: Interviewing parents, grandparents, friends and peers in order to write an essay on “What does it means to witness this historic event;” Asking grandparents and older relatives about their earliest memories of voting; Doing a comparative analysis of the new President with an earlier President; Writing a plan for the President’s first 100 days; Determining the lessons a student can learn from the experience. Students also will be asked to read excerpts from previous Inaugural addresses to compare to that of Presidentelect Barack Obama.

Teachers are already making plans. At Leapwood Elementary School in Carson, there will be a school-wide celebration of the Presidential Inauguration. Students plan to observe the ceremony together in the auditorium,

which will be decorated in patriotic colors with balloons and streamers. Various classes will recite poems and excerpts from President-elect Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech. All students are encouraged to wear Obama T-shirts or red, white and blue colors, and each will receive a keepsake bookmark and or sticker to remember the historic occasion.

To help elementary school students understand the significance of the Inauguration, Calahan Elementary School in Northridge has been celebrating “Patriotic Week,” (January 12-16) in preparation for the Presidential Inauguration next Tuesday.

Students have participated in daily activities and discussions. American flags will be distributed to youngsters on Tuesday during a morning assembly. Red, white and blue will be the colors of the day as students assemble in their classrooms to watch the Inauguration, with each classroom door decorated with an American Presidential theme.

Fairfax High School, in a partnership with CBS Studios, will show a live high definition (HD) broadcast of the Inauguration from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. in the school’s auditorium. All juniors and seniors have been invited to attend the presentation in conjunction with their U.S. History or Government classes.

“This will be a great historical and educational experience for these students,” said Edward M. Zubiate, principal at Fairfax.

Not all LAUSD students will watch the activities on television.

Jacqueline Mendoza, an eighth grade student from Florence Nightingale Middle School in South Los Angeles, departs Saturday for the nation’s capital. Selected by the Congressional Youth Leadership Conference, she raised the $3,500 needed for the trip with the help of her teacher, who contributed $1,200; with donations from other teachers at the school as well as contributions from family and friends. She will watch the new President and First Lady walk into the White House. She also will attend an Inaugural ball.

Stephanie Calix, a student at Canoga Park High School in the San Fernando Valley, is headed to Washington, D.C. and the Inauguration after being named winner of “Your First Vote,” a video contest sponsored by CNN and Time Warner.

Students from The Foshay Learning Center in South Los Angeles will also celebrate in the nation’s capital.

Chanel Hall and Asia Taylor, both 10th grade students at the Foshay Learning Center, are scheduled to attend a pre-Inauguration ball featuring NetGeneration of Youth (NGY) Ambassadors, a high school group of roving cyber-journalists who will interview guests and dignitaries at the Foreign Diplomats Inaugural Ball. Upon returning to their school, the young journalists will write digital stories that will be disseminated locally, nationally and internationally.

LAUSDnet Kids (, the official web site for LAUSD students, also features suggestions for viewing the Presidential Inauguration at schools as well as links to resources put together by the Joint Congressional Committee for the Inauguration. Information ranges from the official oath of office to the history of Presidential Inaugurations complete with photos and fun facts for younger students.

The District’s television station, KLCS-TV will broadcast the Inauguration live, starting at 8 a.m. It will be re-broadcast later that day at 4:30 p.m. and again at 11:30 p.m., and at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 21. The station will air the Inauguration again at 11:30 a.m. on President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 16.

●●smf's 2c:
• In EduSpeak: This was a fabulous example of seizing and leveraging the Teachable Moment. Plus a number of students would undoubtedly've stayed home - or been kept home by parents (losing the District ADA per-capita!) - to witness Tuesday's constitutional miracle of the democratic transfer of power - made all the more miraculous with the ascendancy of the United States' first black chief executive.
• We need also recognize what an important asset the District possesses in KLCS (Channel 58) — a broadcast public television station whose potential is spectacularly under-realized by the District. KLCS has four digital channels of programming - 24/7 - often given over to Barney reruns and Board of Ed broadcasts! What's with that?
• Even with the promises of Props BB through Q - which promised Internet, cable TV and telephone access in every classroom — plus the federal E-Rate program and Cable in the Classroom member companies like Time Warner in LA that have installed a free cable connection and provided free monthly basic cable service to more than 81,000 schools. Some classes were unable to get cable and/or internet reception of the inauguration. Some classrooms had to resort to 'rabbit-ears' to get reception! Not to put a damper on a truly grand day - but if your class tried to watch the inauguration from a classroom - whether or not successful - please take the online survey below.


L.A. UNIFIED TEACHERS' JOBS SAFE FOR NOW: Superintendent announces that no teachers will lose their jobs this school year.

By Jason Song and Howard Blume | LA Times

January 24, 2009 - No teachers will lose their jobs this school year, Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced Friday, a calculated gamble that will preserve classroom continuity in the short term but lead to a larger deficit next year.

The decision reverses course from last week, when the school board voted to give Supt. Ramon C. Cortines the authority to send pink slips to nearly 2,300 instructors. The district is facing at least a $250-million shortfall this year because of the state's financial crisis.

If layoffs were mandated, thousands of students would have had to change teachers mid-semester, classes could have grown in size and administrators who have not taught for years might have been bumped back into schools.

"The price of disruption is just not worth it," said Cortines, who had always called the layoffs a last resort.

But the decision could push the district's general fund into the red by June 30, and it postpones -- and could even worsen -- the district's long-term budget woes. Before classes resume next fall, the district would have to cut $500 million to $600 million, a process that will start soon. The district must notify teachers by March 15 if they are in danger of losing their jobs next year, and Cortines said layoffs are inevitable.

Cortines, who took over as leader of the nation's second-largest school district earlier this month, is taking a bold step -- superintendents do not typically propose carrying over deficits from year to year. The district already is undergoing especially close scrutiny from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which has the authority to reject the district's financial plan.

"It's a risk -- it could exacerbate our spending problems in the summer -- but it's a risk worth taking," said board member Richard Vladovic.

Cortines also decided to delay layoffs because about 2,000 teachers have signed up for early retirement, a move that could save millions of dollars next year.

The district had offered a $300 bonus to any eligible employee who filled out the paperwork to retire early.

Other measures, including a freeze on many consultant contracts and optional spending, remain in effect. Cortines said that other cost-cutting proposals, including using the district's legally required reserve fund, remain on the table.

The $250-million deficit isn't the only financial problem looming. At a news conference Friday announcing legislation that would provide emergency funding for school meals, Cortines said the district could soon run out of funds to pay for the school breakfasts and lunches of low-income students who qualify for free- or reduced-priced meals. The number of applicants statewide has ballooned this year.

Cortines insisted that L.A. Unified will not go into the red this year, but that may depend on whether the final state budget resolution allows school systems to dip into funds that normally are reserved for specific purposes, such as transportation or class-size reduction.

Other districts also have had trouble balancing their books.

The county education office, which oversees the 80 districts in Los Angeles County, recently installed a financial advisor at the Centinela Valley Union High School District, which serves the Hawthorne-Lawndale area, over fears that the school system would not be able to meet its financial obligations. The fiscal advisor has the power to veto spending decisions.

County officials said they would permit a school district to run in the red, provided it could pay bills and meet payroll -- and provided that the deficit was remedied in the subsequent two budget years.

Cortines didn't need school board approval to make the decision, but board members said they were relieved.

"I'm thrilled," said Yolie Flores Aguilar. "We didn't want to interrupt classes in the middle of the year."

A.J. Duffy, president of the teachers union, also said it was the right decision. "The last thing you want to do is affect the school and the school site."

Some teachers union leaders had suggested the district make a political statement by continuing to fully fund schools until state money ran out -- a pressure tactic aimed at forcing Sacramento to provide more dollars. United Teachers Los Angeles is still fighting to win teachers a salary increase and has planned a march and rally for next week.

Some local business leaders also have suggested letting the district go bankrupt. But in their scenario, the desired outcome is to compel change at the district level, which would include abrogating the lengthy teachers union contract and weakening employee unions overall.

Duffy vowed to continue pushing the district to oppose job cuts, preserve low-cost health benefits and reduce expenses from the district's central offices. "We have no illusions. We're looking at cuts in the spring," Duffy said.

By Melissa Pamer, Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group

1/22/09 -- An embattled Carson elementary school principal who last year was the subject of emotional teacher and staff protests was removed from her post this week.

District officials said they temporarily reassigned Anna Barraza from Dolores Street Elementary School to a Los Angeles Unified administrative office as of Wednesday.

Local District 8 Superintendent Linda Del Cueto provided few details on what she called a "personnel matter."

"I'm working with due process, but I'm also going to do what's best for the school," she said.

Asked if Barraza would return to campus - where teachers on Wednesday said they were "rejoicing" - Del Cueto would not comment.

Barraza, who was in her second year at the campus, had been the center of an attention-generating firestorm that drew in unions for both administrators and teachers, as well as district officials up to Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

At two previous schools, Barraza was removed from her post after instructors protested, claiming she was domineering, cold and not collaborative.

Those complaints were echoed in weekly protests by Dolores Street teachers that began in May - culminating in a sleepover protest that attracted television news crews in July. The attention prompted debate on the aggressive tactics of United Teachers Los Angeles and on the so-called "dance of the lemons," in which unpopular principals are moved from campus to campus.

On Wednesday, Barraza and the president of her union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, stressed that the reassignment is temporary.

"We are confident she'll be returned to duty," said Mike O'Sullivan, the president of AALA.

The administrators union has fiercely defended Barraza against what O'Sullivan called "grandstanding" by UTLA.

"This was massive overreaction," O'Sullivan said of the district's action this week.

Barraza said she was told her reassignment was part of a district investigation into an incident on campus Friday in which teachers spontaneously moved their classes onto the playground.

The principal's supervisor, Director Valerie Moses, arrived at the school after receiving calls from parents who saw children amassed on the asphalt, Barraza said.

"It wasn't out of control," Barraza said. "I'm not really sure what there is left to investigate."

Barraza said she had not been informed by teachers about any plans for outdoor instruction, but she allowed the activities to continue when she observed adequate supervision and teaching.

"I found out later it was a protest" against her, Barraza said. "I thought it was very irresponsible for teachers to put students in the middle of the whole thing."

Teachers on Wednesday denied that the incident was a protest, saying outdoor teaching was related to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and was for some instructors a lesson about civil disobedience.

Earlier last week, teachers had found out that the school's well-liked office manager would be transferred away from campus. They reacted with fury, and Moses met with them Jan. 15.

"Most teachers were crying. The fact that we were losing this person was the last straw," said fourth-grade teacher Keri Porter. "Everyone was pouring out their hearts, saying they were on anxiety medication."

Del Cueto said she couldn't comment on the office manager's status, again because it is a "personnel matter."

Teachers didn't hear anything else from the district until they were notified of Barraza's reassignment in a memo that was distributed late Tuesday after most instructors had left campus. On Wednesday, the district gave a memo to students to take home to parents.

An interim principal, veteran LAUSD administrator Rita Davis, has been assigned to the campus.

"It felt like a breath of fresh air without Anna Barraza on campus," said teacher Gloria Cook.

Several teachers expressed relief but said they planned to downplay their reactions until it was certain that Barraza would not return.

"No one knows why they made this decision," Porter said.

By Sam Dillon - New York Times

January 23, 2009 - Educators and policy makers, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have said in recent days that they hope President Obama’s example as a model student could inspire millions of American students, especially blacks, to higher academic performance.
Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.

The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans, the researchers conclude in a report summarizing their results.

“Obama is obviously inspirational, but we wondered whether he would contribute to an improvement in something as important as black test-taking,” said Ray Friedman, a management professor at Vanderbilt University, one of the study’s three authors. “We were skeptical that we would find any effect, but our results surprised us.”

The study has not yet undergone peer review, and two academics who read it on Thursday said they would be interested to see if other researchers would be able to replicate its results.

Dr. Friedman and his fellow researchers, David M. Marx, a professor of social psychology at San Diego State University, and Sei Jin Ko, a visiting professor in management and organizations at Northwestern, have submitted their study for review to The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Dr. Friedman said.

“It’s a very small sample, but certainly a provocative study,” said Ronald F. Ferguson, a Harvard professor who studies the factors that have affected the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students, which shows up on nearly every standardized test. “There is a certainly a theoretical foundation and some empirical support for the proposition that Obama’s election could increase the sense of competence among African-Americans, and it could reduce the anxiety associated with taking difficult test questions.”

Researchers in the last decade assembled university students with identical SAT scores and administered tests to them, discovering that blacks performed significantly poorer when asked at the start to fill out a form identifying themselves by race. The researchers attributed those results to anxiety that caused them to tighten up during exams in which they risked confirming a racial stereotype.

In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last year’s presidential campaign.

In total, 472 Americans — 84 blacks and 388 whites — took the exam. Both white and black test-takers ranged in age from 18 to 63, and their educational attainment ranged from high school dropout to Ph.D.

On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” he said.

“It’s a nice piece of work,” said G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association, who read the study on Thursday.

But Dr. Kingsbury wondered whether the Obama effect would extend beyond the election, or prove transitory. “I’d want to see another study replicating their results before I get too excited about it,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

"Due to the lack of clear information from Sacramento, the need for stability at schools in the second semester, and the high level of interest in a retirement incentive program, there will be no mid-year teacher layoffs."- Superintendent Ramon Cortines


Thursday, January 22, 2009 - West Hollywood, California – The Fairfax Marching Lions, a generation ago the very flower of Los Angeles area bands and only recently resurrected into a local powerhouse by Raymundo Vizcarra, WeHo Mayor Jeffrey Prang’s husband, has been invited to represent the State of California in the nation’s 2010 Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C.

• NY Times: CREATION v. EVOLUTION: In Texas, a Line in the Curriculum Revives the Debate

January 22, 2009 — AUSTIN, Tex. — The latest round in a long-running battle over how evolution should be taught in Texas schools began in earnest Wednesday as the State Board of Education heard impassioned testimony from scientists and social conservatives on revising the science curriculum.

The debate here has far-reaching consequences; Texas is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material.

• LA Weekly: CHICAGO SCHOOLS vs. LAUSD: Their supe is Obama's new education man. Our supe is nice, but ...

Jan 21, 2009 - It’s been a rocky start for Ramon Cortines.
The genial 76-year-old bureaucrat — who was never on anyone’s list of tough-minded academic reformers — was thrust into the top job at the woefully problem-plagued Los Angeles Unified School District because he seemed the steadiest hand after Superintendent David L. Brewer was booted out the door.

Almost immediately, critics questioned whether Cortines has the chops to helm wholesale changes in the city’s failing middle and high schools. He was seen as a good-intentioned man who paled in comparison to change agents like Chicago Schools Superintendent Arne Duncan, chosen to be Barack Obama’s secretary of education, and Washington, D.C.’s Michelle Rhee, a young freethinker lauded by Time for her “battle against bad teachers” in the abysmal schools of the nation’s capital.


Wednesday, 21 January 2009 - Sacramento, California - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the appointment of Dr. Glen Thomas as Secretary of Education.

“With over 30 years of experience as a teacher and leader at the local, county and state level, Glen is the right person to make sure California continues to uphold high academic standards during this challenging fiscal time,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “He shares my dedication to quality education for every student, and I am confident that he will work collaboratively with the educational community to improve student achievement and expand educational opportunities in our state while also working towards stronger accountability and greater transparency in our educational system.”

1/21/09 - Los Angeles Unified board hopeful Steve Zimmer has received Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's endorsement, the candidate said.

The News that doesn't fit from Jan 25th

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*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 leader in LAUSD. He is immediate past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He is a Community Concerns Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools.
• 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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