Sunday, May 31, 2009

Going for the gold.

4LAKids: Sunday, May 31, 2009
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:
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.
"There was a time when California was truly the Golden State; we understood that children were our No. 1 precious resource. In our Golden State there was a time when Californians recognized that a viable economy doesn’t just happen – you plan, strategize, and invest resources to build one. It is up to us to remind everyone that we must start with a vision and work together to make it happen. If we all pitch in and help, we can build the Golden State dream again.

"First, we need to look past our own discomfort and reach out and help others succeed. Because when we do that it comes back to us tenfold. There is a huge multiplying factor here that is capable of turning a state completely around. When the whole population joins together, we in turn build our internal capacity, and in the end, the state economy thrives. The essential ingredient in ensuring success is to ask ourselves if we have the will to make it happen.

"Do we have the will?"

-- State PTA President Pam Brady’s Address to the delegates at the California State PTA Annual Convention, May 1, 2009

4LAKids has broadcast that quote before. Teachers and parents among you know that the likelihood of the lesson being learned requires at least three repetitions. This is twice.

Jay Leno in his final comments closing seventeen years on the Tonight Show last Friday introduced the 68 children born to crew and staff during the run, calling them the "true legacy" of the show.

I know one or two of those kids - and children are always the legacy.

Garrison Keillor said "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted."

No investment - whether of time, money, effort, love …or even unappreciated advice - is ever wasted.

This brings us to the current situation: An education budget that invests not enough in the future because it is so fixed in the dark moment.

Friday's LA Times brought us two front page stories above the fold:
• ONCE HOME FOR THE HOMELESS: The closing of a homeless encampment under the 10 Freeway. In Baldwin Park - on the Westside of Los Angeles. The encampment itself was horrific, the conditions horrible, the closing horrifying. It may have been a cave under the freeway but it was home to families now twice homeless.
• The second story headlines L.A. CANCELS MOST SUMMER SCHOOL CLASSES: The District's Cuts Will Increase Child Care Needs and Could Slow Students' Road to Graduation or College.

Saturday's L.A. Times headline compounds the injury: SCHOOLS AND NEEDY FACE DEEPER CUTS: More Cuts Sought For State's Schools.
The sidebar says it all:
Among the governor's
overall savings proposals
are these cuts:
K-12 education………$6 billion
CalWorks welfare
program………………...$1.3 billion
Prisons……………….....$1.2 billion
transportation………..$980 million
Healthy Families program
for children…………....$310 million
source: CA Dept of Finance

This is balancing the budget on the backs of children and the poor; it shortchanges the future.

Q: How many of Schwarzenegger's children attend public schools or are enrolled in programs that will be affected by the above?
A: Zero.

This is of course unfair. The Schwarzenegger children will be taxed forever to support the undereducated and under-cared-for young people who will populate the emergency rooms and prisons in the California of the future.

This is unfair also. It isn't all Arnolds' fault; it's certainly not his kids'. Of course he DID promise to fix it when he ran for governor in 2003 - and when he ran again in 2006. If ever there was a poster child for term limits it is he; thankfully the law forbids us (if not him) from making the same mistakes again.

The Friday/Saturday pieces are like the two acts of a two act play. Friday evening my wife and I went to see Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes" at the Pasadena Playhouse. At the final curtain of Act Two (the original three acts has been staged in two) the audience confronts the inevitable finality of lives poorly led …but brilliantly written and played. Fitzgerald said "There are no second acts in American lives." The second act of the Gubernator administration may prove Scott right - at least in terms of historical box office.

Act III: Superintendent Cortines on Thursday spoke to the assembled PTA leadership at our annual luncheon. PTA is generally more polite and less critical than 4LAKids of superintendents, past and current - and even PTA has questioned the superintendent's recent agenda. But Thursday's remarks transcended all that - because they were about our children.

They all are, we all agree, Our Children.

While Cortines did almost all the talking it is fair to say that "we" spoke about how schools and teachers and principals and communities raise our children - removed from the specifics of about budgets and employment and contracts.

Cortines presented the challenge immediately at hand as this: the flavor of the month benchmark for measuring public education success is the Dropout Rate, a measure taken at the end of the thirteen year plus process when we measure output.
X kids entered Kindergarten in year Y.
Z kids graduated high school in year Y+13.
The difference between X and Z is abysmal and - popular opinion has it - equals failure.

Cortines says the earliest indicator of student outcome is the Third Grade. Students who are successful/proficient in grade three, who can read at grade level and do math at grade level will probably be successful. Those who cannot probably won't be.

Cortines didn't say this but I will: Do we give up on fourth graders who can't read, comprehend and decode "Charlotte's Web" or "Amber Brown is Not a Crayon" …or know their multiplication tables? No. But we don't move on to "Silas Marner" and long division either. Much of education beyond grade three is about abstraction and independent thinking; the foundation is built in Pre-K through 3. We need, he said, to focus on the little ones.

This focus on Pre-K and Primary Education must be relentless and the challenges that stand in the way of success by 0-9 year-olds must be addressed relentlessly. English Language Learners and Non Standard English speakers must master those skills; they must learn to speak it and read it and use it. (Let me add here that ESL students who redesignate as Fluent English Proficient outperform ALL other students academically INCLUDING the socio-economically advantaged/both-parents-graduated-from-college subgroup!) This is not anecdotal observation, it is proven fact.

• The role of Parents-as-Educators and as Advocates-for-their-Children is mission critical.
• The role of Parents-as-Parents must not be underestimated.
• And where parents need to be educated, encouraged and empowered in those roles that must be done!

Set against the backdrop of economic reality the challenge only increases.

On the same day as Cortines spoke to PTA he began the process of eliminating Summer School for the very elementary and middle scholars who need it most. Class size Reduction in K-3 - probably the greatest contributing factor to the recent improvement in elementary education in the past ten years - is on the verge of elimination.

[Those who would advocate that Open Court Reading was the elementary English language arts 'killer app' are about to have their trial-by-increased-class-size fire. OCR was designed for native English speakers; the ESL component was notoriously weak. We are about to try it for size in 25+:1 with 70% English learners.]

So, the good news is that there may be a third act …if we can only get it together. The bad news is that Act III will play out in overcrowded/underfinanced classrooms, and the student population and their parents will be without a safety net of healthcare and social services. And staff morale? If educators weren’t s weren’t such a hopelessly hopeful bunch I'd say fugetaboudit!

And, returning to paragraph #3 (above): I do find hope in these academic discussions when we aren't confronted with the budget and employment and contracts. But reality and the academic are one and the same for once… and that reality is all-too-real. The wolf is at the door, more literal than metaphoric. And our house seems more of straw than brick.

Those of you who mastered the California fourth grade history standard know the Californios made their adobe bricks with mud and straw.

With a little luck it will be - all in all - another brick in the wall.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! -smf

by Ramon C. Cortines, Superintendent, from LAUSD website

May 29, 2009 - In all my years in education, I have never seen financial news as bad as the budget currently faced by this school district. Remember the story of Sisyphus in Greek mythology--the man forced to push a huge rock up a steep hill only to watch it roll back down, forcing him to repeat the impossible challenge again and again for all eternity? Imagine every time he had to roll that rock up the hill--both the boulder and the mountain got bigger and bigger and bigger. That sums up our financial plight because of the State's budget crisis.

To make ends meet for the 2008-2009 school year, this District cut deeply from its budget. We thought we were finished. But no, the bad news keeps coming. We must cut an additional $131 million in six weeks before the current school year ends. We still won't be finished. Although the District will lay off teachers next month and has cancelled summer school, increased class sizes and postponed textbook purchases, we face more cuts for the 2009-2010 school year in the range of $200 million to $300 million.

We may be asked to cut even deeper, but our schools will remain open, our teachers will teach and our students will learn.

●● smf's 2¢: The $131 million that needs to be cut the in six weeks before the current school year ends equals $190.37 per student in the district.

by Connie Llanos, Staff Writer Los Angeles Newspaper Group/Daily News

May 31, 2009 -- Three years ago, Anthony Mejia transferred to the newly formed Panorama High School. At 16, he was almost two grade levels behind, chronically truant and completely disengaged from his studies.

It was Panorama High's first year and its location, in the heart of six competing gang territories, had already earned it the title of "Bloodbath High."

Now 19, Mejia is getting fitted for his cap and gown and scheduling classes at a local community college.

Despite its location, Panorama High boasts one of the district's lowest dropout rates - helping kids like Mejia stay off the street and in the classroom.

"It all changed when I got here," Mejia said. "For the first time I felt like people trusted that I could do it, I felt like someone cared."

Mejia's success and other schools like Panorama High provide a small glimmer of hope for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which recently released details of its increasingly worrisome dropout rate.

Districtwide, dropout rates rose nearly 10 percent from 2006 to 2007, with some 20,000 students leaving school. The numbers particularly alarmed school officials who noted that other large urban districts in the state were able to lower their dropout rates over the same period.

Unfortunately, most San Fernando Valley high schools cannot boast the same success as Panorama. Now, one in three Canoga Park High School students drop out, three times as many as in 2006. At Cleveland, one in four students drop out - double the rate from the year before. Even El Camino Real, the comprehensive high school with the district's lowest dropout rate of 15.5 percent, had a 25 percent increase from 2006 to 2007.

"This ... is completely unacceptable and the responsibility to address this issue is all of ours," said Superintendent Ramon Cortines at a recent school board meeting where he presented the statistics.

The shocking numbers are the product of a new state reporting system implemented in 2006 to track student enrollments and transfers, thereby giving officials a more accurate picture of dropout trends.

While some officials at the LAUSD believe the huge increases at least partly reflect statistical and staff adjustments to the new system, others say they merely point to years of under-reporting the bad news.

Cortines said he was most alarmed by the dropout rate among students of color. Last year 43.5 percent of the district's African-American students dropped out, as did 36.1 percent of Latino students. That compares with a dropout rate for whites of about 25 percent.


Still, this year's figures show that dropout rates are rising much faster among Asian and white students than Latinos and blacks. Dropout rates for Asian students rose 40 percent and they were up 31 percent for whites from 2006 to 2007. For blacks, they rose 16 percent and just 8 percent for Latino students.

"As we get more accurate, we'll see the number that were under-represented in the past," said Tawnya Perry, a coordinator in LAUSD's dropout and prevention and recovery program. "There are schools that have strong reputations for having outstanding attendance and high test scores and if, in the past there were students who would change those stats, they were often pushed out."

"Now it's reflecting back ... they can't hide those kids anymore."

Before the new system of tallying dropout rates was introduced, school districts sent their dropout numbers directly to the state and there was no way to verify if and when those students enrolled in a new school district.

The Statewide Student Identifiers Numbers, or SSID, was launched to end the heated debate over dropout rates in the state, where different groups would come up with varying dropout rates for the same school district. Some critics of the LAUSD had long maintained that its dropout rate was closer to 50 percent, while the district had consistently put the figure at about 25 percent.

Educators hope the new system will allow everyone to move beyond that debate.

"There has been inconsistency in terms of how people captured data, which led to competing reports," said Alicia Lara, vice president for community investment at United Way LA.

"But we want to get around to what to do about it now."

At Panorama High School, the approach has been a team effort, says Principal Sue Liposito.

When Liposito took over the reins at Panorama, she knew much of her work would involve at-risk kids. Most of the students at Panorama High would be the first in their family to graduate high school. Many arrive from overcrowded elementary and middle schools.

The school also houses dozens of foster care children and teens who've transferred back into the school after serving time in Juvenile Hall or low-security group homes.

Liposito set about building a team of administrators who could deal with her students. It's no coincidence that almost every administrator has a background in social work.

After building the team, including counselors, a psychiatric social worker and two police officers, Liposito said she set about building a safe zone by enforcing tough rules on dress code, tardiness and absences. It was that increased discipline that forced Mejia to go back to class.

"I couldn't ditch anymore when I got here," Mejia said.

"There was nowhere to hide."

The school also has no tolerance for fighting and will often host interventions with rival gang members on campus to diffuse tensions.

"People predicted that this school would fail, but that just hasn't materialized," Liposito said.

Recommendations for addressing the dropout rate include starting interventions with students earlier, at the middle school and even the elementary level.

"When people start to talk about the dropout rate, we would argue that it's too late," Lara said.

"We have to go back in time, and look at what's going on earlier. ... High school is scary if you're not ready for it, so it's no surprise we're seeing a rise."

Under Cortines, plans to decrease dropout rates at the LAUSD will include increased accountability of schools, he said.


The superintendent said he will expect all elementary schools to improve student test scores by 5 percent, middle schools will be held accountable for dropouts since the state will begin tracking middle-school students next year, and high schools will be expected to reduce dropout rates by 5 percent.

Still, some education experts fear that more measuring and weighing will not necessarily lead to more students staying in school.

"We keep measuring the symptoms rather than the problem," said Sylvia Rousseau, professor of education at the University of Southern California and a former local superintendent at the LAUSD.

"It's very hard to be 49th in the nation and not think we're going to pay for it. You can't have such little investment and then think we're going to have everyone graduating."

The district will also be struggling to address the dropout issue at a time when it faces its largest budget deficit in history.

Maribel Munguia, a diploma project adviser at Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, said next year her campus will only have one counselor focused on retrieving at-risk students. Currently three people share that job.

"We are dealing with high-risk children that require different levels of intervention," Munguia said.

"With no money, it will be difficult to service them."

Still Liposito insists that on her campus, the work to ensure almost every student graduates will continue.

"We'll try to keep as much as we can and keep doing what we do because we know it's working," she said.

210% - Increase in dropouts in 2007 from the previous year at Canoga Park High School.
107% - Increase in dropouts at Cleveland High School.
58% - Increase at Monroe and Chatsworth high schools.
48% - Increase at North Hollywood High School.


●● smf's 2¢/DO TH' MATH!: "Last year 43.5 percent of the district's African-American students dropped out, as did 36.1 percent of Latino students. That compares with a dropout rate for whites of about 25 percent." These are the kind of numbers you get when folks who do not understand statistical analysis analyze statistics. Remember, numbers under torture will say anything you want them to.

• If 43.5% of African American students drop out every year only 10.2 percent of entering black 9th graders would graduate after four years.
• If 36.1% of Latino students drop out every year only 16.6 percent of entering 9th Latino graders would graduate after four years.
• If 25% of white students drop out every year only 32 percent of entering white 9th graders would graduate after four years.

Those are not the numbers.


by Mitchell Landsberg | From the Los Angeles Times

May 31, 2009 — Reporting from Oakland — Not many schools in California recruit teachers with language like this: "We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply."

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hardscrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television's "Colbert Report." They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded "self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort," to quote the school's website.

Students, almost all poor, wear uniforms and are subject to disciplinary procedures redolent of military school. One local school district official was horrified to learn that a girl was forced to clean the boys' restroom as punishment.

Conservatives, including columnist George Will, adore the American Indian schools, which they see as models of a "new paternalism" that could close the gap between the haves and have-nots in American education. Not surprisingly, many Bay Area liberals have a hard time embracing an educational philosophy that proudly proclaims that it "does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance."

It would be easy to dismiss American Indian as one of the nuttier offshoots of the fast-growing charter school movement, which allows schools to receive public funding but operate outside of day-to-day district oversight. But the schools command attention for one very simple reason: By standard measures, they are among the very best in California.

The Academic Performance Index, the central measuring tool for California schools, rates schools on a scale from zero to 1,000, based on standardized test scores. The state target is an API of 800. The statewide average for middle and high schools is below 750. For schools with mostly low-income students, it is around 650.

The oldest of the American Indian schools, the middle school known simply as American Indian Public Charter School, has an API of 967. Its two siblings -- American Indian Public Charter School II (also a middle school) and American Indian Public High School -- are not far behind.

Among the thousands of public schools in California, only four middle schools and three high schools score higher. None of them serves mostly underprivileged children.

At American Indian, the largest ethnic group is Asian, followed by Latinos and African Americans. Some of the schools' critics contend that high-scoring Asian Americans are driving the test scores, but blacks and Latinos do roughly as well -- in fact, better on some tests.

That makes American Indian a rarity in American education, defying the axiom that poor black and Latino children will lag behind others in school.


On Tuesday, American Indian's high school will graduate its first senior class. All 18 students plan to attend college in the fall, 10 at various UC campuses, one at MIT and one at Cornell.

"They really should be the model for public education in the state of California," said Debra England of the Koret Foundation, a Bay Area group that has given more than $100,000 in grants to American Indian. "What I will never understand is why the world is not beating a path to their door to benchmark them, learn from them and replicate what they are doing."

So what are they doing?

The short answer is that American Indian attracts academically motivated students, relentlessly (and unapologetically) teaches to the test, wrings more seat time out of every school day, hires smart young teachers, demands near-perfect attendance, piles on the homework, refuses to promote struggling students to the next grade and keeps discipline so tight that there are no distractions or disruptions. Summer school is required.


There is no secret to any of this. Portions of the American Indian model resemble methods used by the KIPP charter schools or, for that matter, urban parochial schools.

"What we're doing is so easy," said Ben Chavis, the man who created the school's success and personifies its ethos, especially in its more outrageous manifestations. (One example: He tends to call all nonwhite students, including African Americans, "darkies.") Although he retired in 2007, Chavis remains a presence at the school.

A Lumbee Indian who grew up poor in North Carolina and later struck it rich in real estate, Chavis took over American Indian in 2000, four years after it was founded with a Native American theme.

He began by firing most of the school's staff and shucking the Native American cultural content ("basket weaving," he scoffed). "You think the Jews and the Chinese are dumb enough to ask the public school to teach them their culture?" he asks -- a typical Chavis question, delivered with eyes wide and voice pitched high in comic outrage. There is no basket weaving at American Indian now -- and little else that won't directly affect standardized test scores. "I don't see it as teaching to the test," said Carey Blakely, a former teacher at the school who is writing a book about it. "I see it as, there are certain skills and knowledge that you're supposed to impart to your students, and the test measures whether your students have acquired those skills and that knowledge."

In Lindsay Zika's eighth-grade classroom, the day begins precisely at 8:30, when, without prompting, her students recite the American Indian credo:

"The Family," they chant. "We are a family at AIPHS."

"The Goal: We are always working for academic and social excellence.

"The Faith: We will prosper by focusing and working toward our goals.

"The Journey: We will go forward, continue working and remember we will always be part of the AIPHS family."

They recite this in a slightly robotic monotone. With barely a pause, they shift to the school's mission statement, which is twice as long and includes the promise that American Indian will develop students to be "productive members in a free market capitalist society."


Another day begins.

Zika starts with some comments about a recent history project, "Civil War for Dummies," in which the students wrote primers on the Civil War.

"These are very well done," she tells the class. "They're fabulous to read . . . and they show that you guys understand the Civil War incredibly well."

She moves to spelling. The students, seated in old-fashioned lift-top desks in tight rows, pull out work sheets. Zika selects a shy girl, Alexandria Lai, to lead a drill in which she says a word and others spell it.

Zika is dressed in business attire: black glasses, black skirt, black wool overcoat, her blond hair in a ponytail. She is the quintessential American Indian teacher: young (26), well-educated (Notre Dame, Oxford), self-confident, mature. A product of Oakland Catholic schools, she is warm yet reserved, with an underlying sternness. "I think kids want structure," she says. "They want strict teachers."

By eighth grade, discipline is not really an issue. Classes are preternaturally quiet and focused. Visitors may be startled to notice that students do not so much as glance at them. They have been told to keep their attention on their work. They do as they are told.

Students who misbehave in the slightest must stay for an hour after school; if they misbehave again in the same week, they have more after-school detention plus four hours of Saturday detention.

Under Chavis, the school also relied on humiliation to keep students in line, ridiculing miscreants and sometimes forcing them to wear embarrassing signs. When one boy was caught stealing, Chavis shaved his head in front of the entire school. (The boy, Jeremy Shiv, now a straight-A student at American Indian High, considers what Chavis did "pretty cruel.")

A framed poster in a hallway quotes Chavis: "You do outstanding things here and you'll be treated outstanding. You act like a fool and you'll be treated like one."

That concept isn't dead at American Indian, but it has been toned down.

All American Indian students have 90 minutes of English and 90 minutes of math a day.

The grammar lesson today focuses on appositives, nouns that modify other nouns. Student Isa Bey is asked to write an example on the board.

"The extreme abolitionist John Smith was hung after a brutal revolt," he writes.

Zika smiles. "Historically, there's a problem," she says. "Grammatically, it's correct." Chagrined, Isa erases "Smith" and writes "Brown."

"I like that he's connecting it historically," Zika tells the class, "but let's get it correct."

At 10:05 a.m., the students switch to math. The move takes about 10 seconds.

American Indian's administrators believe that one of the secrets to success in middle school is having one instructor teach all subjects except physical education. The goal is to have that teacher stay with the same children all three years -- a policy that seems to be more theory than reality, given high teacher turnover.


The idea is that students will form a deep bond with the teacher and gain class time by having no passing periods. "We really see things in terms of minutes," said principal Janet Roberts, who took over from Chavis.

Five minutes per passing period might not sound like much, but over the course of a year, American Indian saves the equivalent of more than a week's worth of instruction.

Math class begins with a warmup exercise to get students thinking numerically. Then the class goes over the previous night's homework and moves to new material.

All students at American Indian take Algebra 1 in eighth grade, and the school prides itself on its math achievement. Last year, every eighth grader scored "proficient" or better on California's state algebra test. Statewide, only half the eighth graders even took algebra and fewer than half of those scored "proficient" or better.

Today's lesson is Chapter 14: probability.

"What is probability?" Zika begins. "Rebecca?"

"The chance you have of getting something," Rebecca says.

"Yeah," Zika says. "This is an important skill in life."

Zika displays a confidence in math that is rare for someone who majored in political science. "I like teaching math the best," she says.

They move on to factorials, and before long, Zika has the students doing rapid-fire exercises in which she gives them a number and they figure out its factorial on a whiteboard and hold it up for her to see. (A factorial is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to a given number.) The students are generally correct and seem enthralled.

One of the most common questions about charter schools is whether they "cherry pick" the best students and most motivated families.

Charters are required to take all applicants -- or, if they have more students than seats, to hold a lottery. American Indian has never done this and was denied a charter to open a new school last fall in part because school district officials said administrators were "unable to describe" the selection process.

Roberts and Chavis say they have never had more applicants than seats, so they never held a lottery. They also say that they attract a representative sample of students from local elementary schools.

But Ron Smith, the principal of nearby Laurel Elementary, who sent both of his own children to American Indian, says that's not the case for students from his school.

Of those who go from Laurel to American Indian, "I'd say 70% are academically strong, and 30% are a cross-section. . . . They have kids who I know could go anyplace in the state and succeed."

The school could not provide its students' elementary school test scores, so it is hard to say if they were above average. Roberts did provide three years of middle school scores for all students who entered American Indian in 2004 (with names removed for privacy), showing their progress in math and English from sixth to eighth grade. Of the 51 students who entered American Indian's middle school that year, only six scored lower than "proficient" in both math and English at the end of sixth grade.

It's impossible to tell whether the students were academically strong at the start of sixth grade or were brought up to grade level by the rigors of a year at American Indian.

Of the six who scored below "proficient," three left the school and the remaining three showed some progress by the end of eighth grade.

It isn't clear why the students left. American Indian insists that it has never expelled a child but says some leave because their families move or decide the school is a poor fit. Of the 51 students who made it through their first year, 39 finished.

"They've had a reputation among the local public schools as being very interested in kind of recruiting kids who are going to do well, and getting rid of kids who won't," said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Assn., the teachers union. Both Chavis and Roberts strongly deny this and say their method works with all children. "Give me the worst middle school in America and let us run it," said Chavis. "I guarantee it will improve."

When math ends at 11:40, Zika switches to science. With no lab equipment and an emphasis on textbook learning, it is hard to imagine that American Indian will turn out the next Darwin or Edison. The students have brought in paper towel tubes and, after a discussion of the American space program, Zika leads the class outside, where they have about five minutes for a rare experiment: making rockets. It doesn't go well. With so little time, the experiment more or less fizzles, and then it's lunch. Zika admits it was a mistake; the next day, she'll have the students discuss what went wrong and try again.

After lunch, it's history (Reconstruction and its legacy), and then preparation for a philosophical debate. "Isa, how do you know you're really sitting here? How do you know you're not a brain in a dish hooked up to a machine?" Zika asks.

"I am because I think I am," pipes up Terae Collins, paraphrasing Descartes.


At 2:10, the students have P.E. -- running and calisthenics. No games.

The class returns at 2:50 for some last-minute homework instructions. School ends at 3. Most stay and do homework until 4 -- just because they can.

A face appears at the door. It is De-Zhon Grace, a boy who was in Zika's class until Barack Obama was inaugurated as president.

Until then, De-Zhon and his mother had been fairly happy with American Indian. "I'm a single mom, and I'm trying to raise an African American young man, and I'm very serious about his education," said Chaka Grace.

But on Jan. 20, De-Zhon stayed home to watch the inauguration with his extended family. And that crossed a line for Roberts, who believes that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- should get in the way of class. According to De-Zhon's mother, Roberts said the boy would receive extra work as punishment and that she might rescind his recommendation to a private high school.

That, said Grace, "took it to another level for me. . . . I felt that was evil." She pulled her son out of the school.

De-Zhon, a neatly dressed, well-spoken boy who came back for a visit, conceded that he misses American Indian.

"I miss my class; I miss my teacher," he said.

There are no televisions at American Indian -- no computers in the classrooms, either -- so there was no way for students to watch the inauguration. But Roberts wants to be clear: They wouldn't have been allowed to watch it anyway.

"It's not part of our curriculum," she said.

Love it or hate it, it's the American Indian way.

By Caroline Grannan –

May 28, 7:46 PM • My 91-year-old mother-in-law energetically saves up clippings from the L.A. Times to send us in fat envelopes every few weeks. While my kids joke (lovingly) that she sends them every article that mentions music in any way, she's right on target with my interests. So today a 2½-week-old clipping arrived about Green Dot's Locke High School in Watts.

Locke, which I covered a couple of weeks ago in following up on a New Yorker article about it, is a rare experiment in the education reform world – a newly charterized school that's truly supposed to accept all neighborhood students rather than only the kids from motivated families who seek it out and apply. Locke was a badly struggling LAUSD high school that was turned over to the charter operator Green Dot Schools (which, it's crucial to note, has vastly more money to pour into the school than the bare-bones school district does, thanks to private benefactors).

The Times is running a continuing series on Locke – unsigned articles on its editorial page. It's probably just as well for whoever's writing them that the coverage is unsigned -- especially since all of their jobs are teetering on the brink – given that one week's sunny outlook has to be contradicted by the next week's dose of reality.

May 10, 2009
A YEAR AT LOCKE: These exams also put teachers to the test
Benchmark exams not only improve student performance, they help make instructors accountable.

An excerpt:

You can discern a lot about the changes at Locke this year in just a casual visit. Since the former Los Angeles Unified school became a Green Dot charter, students sit in class instead of wandering the halls or smoking marijuana on the roof. Open any classroom door and you find an energetic teacher engaged in instruction instead of screening a movie to fill time. Basic improvements -- but transformational for this Watts school.

Only 18 days later, a different view emerges:

May 28, 2009
Where change begins at L.A.'s Locke High School: Two freshman academies show that improvements in student achievement won't be easy or quick.

A visit to its freshman academies, however, shows that major gains don't come easy, or fast.
So far, not a single student at Locke 1 has tested as proficient on the school's benchmark exams in algebra. Locke 2 is in similar straits. Students disappeared during the school year; new students with their own difficulties signed up. These are the same intractable problems Locke suffered from as an L.A. Unified school.

And this time, light dawns: The Times writer gets the point that eludes so many mainstream journalists who swallow the charter school Kool-Aid:

Previous Green Dot charters, opened as alternatives to failing public schools, attracted motivated families that came from far-flung communities to place their children on waiting lists. As a result, enrollment was predictable and stable. At Locke, Green Dot took over an already cramped and rundown campus and committed to accepting students within its enrollment area -- which has meant taking more than it has room for, and enrolling students who are less interested in what Green Dot has to offer. …

Locke can't be run by the standards of most other schools, or even other Green Dot schools. The charter operator normally requires a certain amount of parent involvement. Here, parents are often overwhelmed and sometimes uninterested. Some come in for conferences clearly under the influence of drugs; other parents are in prison.

After a promising start to the school year, dozens of new students enrolled. Some had just been released from juvenile detention, bearing gang tattoos on their necks -- at age 14. Staff found marijuana stuffed into the caps of pens. Graffiti made an appearance.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love it if a magical solution did turn up. I do not love it when a "reform" is hailed as a magical solution when it isn't; when factors like creaming for highly motivated students are ignored, downplayed or denied. There's also the not-so-small factor than Green Dot has tons of private money to pour into these projects, which explains how it can afford enough security guards to keep the campus orderly (with a few glitches like those annoying incidents of pepper-spraying students).

My mother-in-law asked, "How are the Green Dot schools in S.F. doing?" Well, we don't have any here (yet). I like to think our Board of Education members are smart enough to realize that now they can watch the Locke experiment to see how a charter operator does when it can't cream. If it turns out to be a success, the welcome mat will be out.

More by this blogger:

The Times' continuing series: A YEAR AT LOCKE

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

California State PTA President Pam Brady called on state leaders to redouble their efforts to steer California through its current economic crisis, following the defeat yesterday of five measures on the May 19 special election ballot.

"The defeat of these measures doesn't change our need to find budget and funding solutions for California; it only adds new urgency to our task," said Brady, on behalf of California State PTA's nearly 1 million volunteer members.

"We also must dispel this notion once and for all that cutting vital programs is the only way to close the state's deficit. Polls consistently show the public does not want cuts to schools. We need a thoughtful, balanced approach both for the short and long-term."

L.A. SCHOOL WINS ENVIRONMENTAL PRIZE: Jefferson High School, Lexus and Alicia Keys Partner for 'Lexus Keys To Innovation'
Lexus and Alicia Keys honor Los Angeles' Thomas Jefferson High School through 'Lexus Keys to Innovation'; awards TJHS a $10,000 Grand Prize to foster its environmental programs for future students and the community.

LAUSD CUTTING BACK ON SUMMER SCHOOL: Like the song says... school's out for summer.
Thursday, 28 May 2009, 10:56 PM PDT - Los Angeles - Summer school has been canceled this year for Los Angeles Unified School District elementary and middle schools due to declining revenues and the current state budget deficit, officials announced on Thursday.

HEALTHY SCHOOL LUNCH EFFORTS FACE DAUNTING HURDLES: The U.S. government spends about $11.7 billion a year on school programs that provide lunch for over 30 million children and breakfast for more than 10 million -- but has not updated nutritional standards and meal requirements since 1995.
By Lisa Baertlein, Reuters from the Montreal (Canada) Gazette - School cafeteria meals like low-fat pizzas with whole grain crust don't taste too bad to Paola Villatoro, a 17-year-old at Downtown Magnet High School in Los Angeles. "Some of it is pretty good," she said. But West Adams Preparatory School student Alfredo Segura

AN UNFINISHED CANVAS • Arts Education in California: taking stock of policies and practices
sri International + THE WILLIAM AND FLORA HEWLETT FOUNDATION | March 2009 California policymakers have established ambitious goals for arts education, calling on schools to provide a standards-based, sequential course of study in dance, music, theater, and visual arts.

DESIGNING THE ARTS LEARNING COMMUNITY: A Handbook for K-12 Professional Development Planners
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:27 PM
A Project of: Los Angeles County Arts Commission | San Francisco Arts Commission and Santa Clara County Office of Education

NYC TEACHER AGAINST MAYORAL CONTROL: All that power hasn't made things better
By Arthur Goldstein | SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, May 24th 2009, 4:00 AM -- As a teacher in an A-rated school, I believe mayoral control has been an absolute disaster. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

ALL SMOKE & MIRRORS: Schwarzenegger missed his golden opportunity to give Californians the truth
He promised to make it work by cutting 'waste, fraud and abuse.' It was never that easy. The real solutions are obvious, though.

Hundreds of high school students protest teacher cuts: About 2,250 teachers are expected to lose jobs as L.A. Unified tries to balance its budget. By Howard Blume From the Los Angeles Times May 23, 2009 -- Hundreds of Los Angeles high school students stayed out of class on Friday to protest looming teacher layoffs.

GETTING SCIENTIFIC ABOUT ARTS EDUCATION: A new interdisciplinary field researches the effects of learning fine arts on a student's brain.

The news that didn’t fit from May 31st

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.
• 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.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting real/Soaring high.

4LAKids: Sun, May 24, 2009 MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
In This Issue:
SCHOOLS PREPARE FOR DEVASTATING LOSSES OF FUNDING: Cortines "worried about the district's ability to remain solvent."
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.
GETTING REAL WITH REALITY: The compendium or articles, essays and reports that is this week's 4LAKids skews towards the Special Election outcomes, the Economy and the Budget Crisis. This is reality as it is - but it creates a situation where Education is the back-story - children as subtext.

That may be the TV and media reality, but it isn't real. It can't be because we must not allow it to be.

The governor, who became governor by forcing a special election has now forsworn them: "If I would do another 'Terminator' movie I would have Terminator travel back in time and tell Arnold not to have a special election." At least two special elections too late, maybe three.

Wednesday morning I called my eighty-seven year old mother to deconstruct the election results. "The truth is," she said, "that we voters don't trust you politicians anymore." There's a rite of passage - she's never called me that before! But if my mother says I am one maybe it's time to make it an honorable calling.

SOARING HIGH: Friday morning I attended an event at Monte Vista Elementary School. Monte Vista - the Highland Park school so well and darkly and incompletely described by Steve Lopez in his March 22nd column: "Reading, writing, and diving to the floor when gunshots are heard are all part of the routine for second-graders"

Friday, we heard:

QUESTION: "What is the most important thing about music?"
540 ANSWERS: "The most important part about music is listening!"

...and saw Monte Vista, like Walt Whitman, sing its songs of itself. Five songs, written and performed with heart and excellence by the kids, helped by the teachers and their parents and the village it takes to raise 540 children; a village that includes anonymous angels and selfless educators and a Japanese corporation. From Monte Vista we heard the music and the facts that their music program is driving math scores up "drastically'.

Drastically! The arts driving core instruction. Imagine: Could the ancients have been right?

And after the children sang we adults bemoaned: "How sad it is that when we run out of money the first thing we cut is The Arts."

Monte Vista's kids have collaboratively written eleven songs, their songs. They have arranged and recorded and produced and published them; mastered the recordings and pressed CD's -- available in the office -- and soon online! The income generated will perpetuate the program.

4LAKids predicts that the song the fifth graders wrote for their own culmination will soon be standard at many graduations to come - move over "Wind Beneath My Wings" and "You Lift Me Up" ..."One More of Everything" is moving up the charts!

And if the H1N1 flu ever catches on, "Germs" could well be its anthem! (Though of course the flu is actually a virus.)

- Onward + Upward/Hasta adelante + al alza! - smf


M E M O R I A L • D A Y • S O N N E T

We're here to honor those who went to war
Who did not wish to die, but did die, grievously,
In eighteen sixty-one and in two-thousand four
Though they were peaceable as you or me.

Young and innocent, they knew nothing of horror---
Singers and athletes, and all in all well-bred.
Their sergeants, mercifully, made them into warriors,
And at the end, they were moving straight ahead.

As we look at these headstones, row on row on row,
Let us see them as they were, laughing and joking,
On that bright irreverent morning long ago.
And once more, let our hearts be broken.

God have mercy on them for their heroic gift.
May we live the good lives they would have lived.
- Garrison Keilor


SCHOOLS PREPARE FOR DEVASTATING LOSSES OF FUNDING: Cortines "worried about the district's ability to remain solvent."

by Seema Mehta and Jason Song from the Los Angeles Times

May 21, 2009 — After voters rejected ballot measures that would have restored state funding for schools, educators across California on Wednesday braced for $5.3 billion in cuts over the next 13 months. State and district officials predicted increased class sizes, additional teacher layoffs, more school closures and fewer arts and music offerings. Some districts could face insolvency.

"When there are such ludicrous amounts of money being cut, I don't know what other choice they are going to give us," said Steve Fish, superintendent of the Saddleback Valley Unified School District in south Orange County, which is already planning to shutter libraries and computer labs, lay off 100 teachers and eliminate nearly half its high school guidance counselors.

Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected five ballot measures intended to shore up the state's finances, leaving legislators to bridge a $21.3-billion budget gap. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting education funding by $1.6 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and nearly $3.7 billion for next year.


Districts could tap their reserves and federal economic stimulus dollars to lessen the effect of the cuts, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger's finance department. He said these reductions will be difficult but noted that schools are bearing 30% of the cuts even though they account for 40% of the state's general fund.

State officials will probably loosen regulations -- such as allowing districts to cut seven days off the school year, delay replacing old textbooks and divert class-size reduction funds to other purposes.

California already has received about $4.3 billion in education funding from the economic stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year, but there remain billions more that will be dependent on how California uses the first round of money. States that use the money to reform troubled schools will be rewarded.

"Actions speak louder than words," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who will meet with educators in San Francisco on Friday. "The state is at a fork in the road and they will either decide to have the courage to do the right thing by its children and create the possibility of bringing in literally hundreds of millions of dollars in competitive grants at a time of tremendous financial need, or the state can choose to perpetuate the status quo and leave those resources on the table."

He was particularly dismayed by the proposal to clip seven days off the 180-day school year.

"The school day, the school week and the school year I think are all too short, and particularly hurt children who come from tougher economic backgrounds," he said in an interview.

Educators and state officials -- already reeling from years of state cuts, including $7.4 billion this year -- seemed frustrated yet resigned to the inevitability of new reductions.

Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon C. Cortines anticipates $131 million in new cuts this year and up to $273 million next year.

The district has already cut almost $560 million from this year's budget and is considering laying off up to 2,500 teachers. The school board is scheduled to vote on a final budget by July, and district officials are generally prohibited by state law from laying off more instructors, so the cuts will have to occur elsewhere. The district may eliminate summer school, reduce after-school programs and switch some employees to a 10-month work year.

Cortines said he was worried about the district's ability to remain solvent.

"Here's where we are, right on the precipice," he said. "I am telling you I cannot balance the budget at this moment for the [next] three years."


Fish, the Saddleback Valley superintendent, said he expects many districts to declare themselves unable to meet their financial obligations, including possibly his own. In the past, such a move would have led to a state loan and intervention.

But Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said he doesn't know how the state will be able to help districts facing bankruptcy. "We don't have any money for a loan," he said.

Higher education will also be affected. The University of California system faces up to a $531-million shortfall next year as a result of the failed measures and other factors. And the California State University system faces a $410-million shortfall for next year.


By Seema Mehta From the Los Angeles Times

May 23, 2009 -- Reporting from San Francisco -- As California schools brace for billions of dollars in budget cuts, the nation's top education official warned Friday that the state's students were in peril, and he challenged politicians and educators to embrace difficult reforms.

"California used to lead the nation in education," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking to dozens of mayors, superintendents and school board trustees at San Francisco City Hall.

"Honestly, California has lost its way. The long-term consequences of that are very troubling."

Duncan's day-long visit to California was part of a 15-state listening tour intended to help shape the Obama administration's proposal to rework the federal No Child Left Behind reform law. But coming three days after voters rejected ballot measures that would have shored up the state's finances, leaving schools facing $5.3 billion in cuts over the next 13 months, budget concerns dominated the day's discussions.

"Here in the state of California, we're in a real dilemma," said Carlos Garcia, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. "We're struggling to stay afloat."

Duncan repeatedly told state leaders and educators that California is at a crossroads, facing a "moment of opportunity and a moment of crisis."

"Despite how tough things are financially, it's often at times of crisis we get the reforms we need," he said.

The U.S. Department of Education is in the midst of administering $100 billion in federal education dollars contained in the economic stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year. California has received about $4.3 billion of that money but could get billions more, depending on how the state uses the initial funding.

Duncan said that although stopping teacher layoffs and reducing class sizes are important, the money must also be used to drive reform, such as using student achievement data to evaluate teacher effectiveness and turning around the most troubled schools.

"Investing in the status quo is not going to move the ball down the field," Duncan told hundreds of people at a San Francisco School Alliance benefit luncheon.

He also warned that states that use stimulus money to replace state funding -- instead of complementing it -- will disqualify themselves from future funding.

Charles Weis, superintendent of Santa Clara County schools and the president of the Assn. of California School Administrators, raised a gnawing concern among educators around the state: Would Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed $5.3 billion in cuts to schools make the state ineligible for future funding, such as the $4.35 billion in competitive grants in the "Race to the Top" fund?

Duncan demurred, but state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell later said he feared the cuts could jeopardize the state's eligibility.

Duncan challenged state and local leaders to tackle the most difficult reforms, such as reconstituting failing high schools, evaluating teachers based on their students' performance and paying more to teachers who work in challenging communities.

"We have lacked the political courage and we have lacked the will to do the right thing by children," he said. "Our dysfunctional adult relationships have hurt children in far too many places."

Duncan assessed several facets of the state's education policy, praising California standards as more rigorous than those of other states. But he faulted the state for significantly underfunding schools.

Duncan slammed Schwarzenegger's proposal to lop seven days off the school year, saying students need to be spending significantly more time in class to close the achievement gap.

He also said the state's reluctance to use student achievement data to evaluate teachers -- rewarding the best and getting rid of the worst -- was "mind-boggling."

"The data doesn't tell the whole truth, but the data doesn't lie," he said. "This firewall between students and teachers is bad for children and bad for education."

Earlier Friday, Duncan met privately with state officials to discuss the state's data systems.

After years of delays, California is in the initial stage of creating a system capable of tracking student performance over time, which will offer a much more accurate picture of student achievement and failure than currently exists.

Duncan also called for dramatically reforming "drop-out factories," schools that have failed their students for years with little improvement in achievement, and said that more resources are not always the answer.

"More of the same isn't going to make things better," he said. He noted that during his tenure as Chicago's public schools chief, he completely remade two dozen troubled schools -- replacing administrators and teachers -- and saw dramatic improvements. "We have to have courage to start fresh and start over."

Duncan also spoke at UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus and visited Paul Revere Elementary School, where students peppered him with questions about President Obama and the two men's shared hobby: basketball.(Duncan played for Harvard University, was cut by the Boston Celtics and played professionally in Australia for four years.)

"When you play basketball with the president, who wins?" asked second-grader Jonathan Lopez, 8.

"Everyone asks me that," Duncan replied. "We usually don't play one-on-one. We usually play on the same team. We do pretty good."


::4LAKids adds: Duncan said that to mayors, trustees and superintendents ...not the lawmakers!
Here's what the lawmakers are hearing:


5/23/2009 - As the governor's plan for drastic budget cuts begins stirring revolt, state legislators are told that California might not be able to borrow more than $10 billion as it faces a $24-billion deficit.

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's mammoth budget-cut proposal hardened partisan battle lines and stirred revolt, California officials scrambled Friday to scrape together a plan to keep the state solvent after the White House informed them that federal backing for emergency short-term loans is unlikely.

The rest of the story:,0,939444.story


A report from the Cities Counties and Schools Partnership

"My goal continues to be to have foster youth treated as we would treat our own children." -- Karen Bass, current Speaker of the California Assembly at 2007 CA Foster Youth Education Summit

THE ISSUE: California has the largest number of children and youth in foster care of any state in the nation
with approximately 80,000 children in care in 2007. While 10 percent of the nation's youth live
in California, 20 percent of the children in foster care reside here. Outcomes for youth who
remain in the system until they age out at 18 years old are predominately negative and include
homelessness, unemployment or underemployment, incarceration and failure to graduate from
high school. Half of the children in care are under the age of five and about the same percent have
been in the system more than two years. Domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness
are factors that contribute to the removal of children from their homes with 75 percent placed in
care because of neglect.

CONCLUSION: In 2007, the CCS Partnership Conditions of Children Task Force decided to study the topic of emancipating foster youth in order to explore ways that local governments can improve the plight of these young people. As study of the topic progressed, it became obvious, that it is important to address the issues facing foster youth long before emancipation. In order to meet the needs of this very vulnerable population and improve their outcomes, we need to address care within the system itself.

Of course, the most desirable outcome is to prevent youngsters from entering the system at all.

If our focus begins with prevention, then we must educate both the general public and our school children about brain development and the adverse affects of substance abuse on fetal development. Drug and alcohol screening of pregnant women, infants and children at various stages of development are crucial. Then we need to develop a collaborative approach to supporting families through community resource centers that integrate programs and resources in order to provide tools to families so that they are more likely to be successful and stay intact. In this approach, communities are viewed as resources that can help support struggling families. Differentiated Response provides different levels of intervention to families in crisis, which results in the delivery of resources and services to children faster and younger than ever before and a decreased number of children being removed from their homes. If children are removed from their homes, it is important to seek a placement with relatives, before placing a child in foster care. "Family Find Software" is essential to this quest.

Additionally, children in the system benefit from the coordination of services. Barriers between education and social services need to be eliminated to best meet the needs of youth. Legislation is needed to facilitate the sharing of information and the development of a shared data system between agencies.

Furthermore, the California system needs to provide resources appropriate for all of our varied counties so that they might meet the needs of the populations that they serve.
Rural counties in our state face unique challenges, such as, isolation, distance and lack of resources for basic services.Their unique issues need to be addressed, if we are to create a system that serves all of the people of California.

Finally, a web needs to be created to support those who do emancipate from the system.
In order for those young people to successfully integrate into adult life, we must ensure that the have the tools and resources they need: education, employment, housing, access to mental and physical health care and connections to adults and systems.

These young people are our responsibility; they are wards of the State of California and it behooves all of us to work together to ensure that their needs are being met.
Supportive legislation is important, but it is also important for cities, counties and schools to work together to improve the conditions for these children. Collaboration prevents duplication of services, enhances the quality of the services and saves valuable dollars. The solutions are simple, but not easy. Therefore, we need to look at exemplary programs across the state and replicate them in other areas.

This is important work; children's lives are at stake.

CCS Partnership is a joint effort of the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and the California School Boards Association. The Partnership promotes the development of public policies that build and preserve communities by encouraging local collaborative efforts among California's 478 cities, 58 counties and more than 1,000 school boards and districts the partners represent.

The Complete Report

by smf for 4LAKids

Thursday at Noon State Controller John Chiang addressed the Pat Brown Institute California Issues Forum at Cal State LA. The lunch was serve- yourself spaghetti and meatballs And the topic was "CALIFORNIA'S FINANCIAL FUTURE - Getting Beyond Gridlock" --two days after the defeat of the "meaningful budget reform" Special Election Propositions - placed on the ballot by the Sacramento Big Five and rejected 65%-35% by 23% of registered voters.

Whoever invited Chiang to speak on that date (and the date must've been set before the special election was called) is either prescient or very lucky. Seeing as how Prop 1c failed (The myth that the lottery somehow helps public education lives on!) I suggest buying lottery tickets with that person!

There was little good news in what Chiang had to say. Not really much news at all – but rather a frank and honest discussion of where we are today– what happened and didn't happen on the road to today – and a suggestion or two on what needs to happen next.

A glimmer of hope: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased 6.1% in the past quarter - improving from - 6.3% in the previous. GDP is the output of goods and services produced by US labor and property. A 10% drop in GDP qualifies a recession as a depression.

The real good news may be that Chiang, a technocrat with lot of political savvy may just be the right guy at the right place for these very wrong times.

Chiang laid out his role as controller with fiscal oversight over $100 billion annually and a fiduciary duty to try and keep $100 billion in income in alignment with $100 billion in spending. In good times they do …but of late they do not.

Remember July 17, 2007?
- It was a Tuesday.
- Flight 3054 overran the runway of at Sao Paulo International Airport and crashed, killing all 186 and others on the ground.
- Michael Vick (who just got out of jail) was indicted for conspiracy in his dog fighting bust.
- The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones agreed to be acquired by News Corp/Rupert Murdoch.
- And July 17, 2007, 17 days into fiscal year 2007-08, was the last day California had a balanced budget with equal receipts and expenses.

State expenses have exceeded income for an uninterrupted 676 days since then …even though California has a constitutional mandate for a balanced budget.
- California on 7/17/07 was already in an economic downturn.
- Unemployment was at 5.7% and growing; the US figure unchanged at 4.6%.
- California consumer spending was at 76% of income, the nation at 67%. Californians like our state government were living beyond our means, relying on consumer credit and leveraged home borrowing.
- The downturn fed job loses in construction leading to (>) decreased state income and corporate tax receipts > state borrowing > impacting the corporate, institutional and real estate credit market > impacting the state's ability to borrow because of its low credit rating > because of political gridlock and the two-thirds rule.

Nothing is as obvious as the slippery slope in the rearview mirror - and we haven't even burst the housing/credit/sub prime bubble yet!

The timeline is this:

- FIRST the state budget and the state budget process was in trouble and nothing substantial was done to correct it. (Borrowing yourself out of debt is not a solution - made worst by California having the worst credit rating of the fifty states. And the worse your rating, the higher the interest you pay.)
- SECOND The California economy began to slide, pushed by the above (and ignorance of the parenthetical).
- THIRD the bottom fell out of the economy and the credit markets globally.

By the time the real recession became obvious California was already in two-strike deep trouble. Revenue shortfalls created a cash crisis. The Legislature could not come up with a budget and Wall Street wouldn't loan without one. Bills were in danger of not being paid, payrolls were questionable, and 'No New Taxes' was the hue and cry of the vocal and controlling minority.

The 98-days-late '07-08 budget was rejected by Wall Street as being unrealistic in its assumptions - and it was back to the drawing board. Wall Street came face-to-face with its own bad assumptions about sub primes and credit default swaps. The bubble burst, guys with green eyeshades held sway and suddenly California (with a newer and later and [quote] more realistic [unquote] 2007½-2009 budget) couldn't borrow money because there simply wasn't any! The trinity of the State Treasurer, Controller and governor's Director of Finance in the guise of the Pooled Money Investment Board (probably the most powerful trio in the state) started pulling the plug on state construction projects - saving the state from default but adding to unemployment and all the economic complications thereof.

Somehow the state skated though - but the new budget relied on Props 1a-1e to create a semblance of balance - and the political compromise between the big five never grew beyond the five.

Which brings us to May 21 and spaghetti-and-meatballs with Controller Chiang. The state budget deficit at $15.2 billion on May 18 with the May 19th ballot measure failure is expected to hit $21.3 billion. Revenues continue to slide. To deconstruct the election beyond Wednesday morning is to avoid the issue.

What do we do now?

Chiang says the state must first eliminate nonessential borrowing. The credit market is an unknown - and every state bond offering (sale) to come will "test the capacity of bonded indebtedness".

The governor and the lege must act immediately to reduce the deficit. The challenge ahead is to avoid default (the immoral equivalent of bankruptcy - which is not an option for the state.) Otherwise employees and vendors will be paid with IOUs - and those IOUs (warrants) come with guaranteed interest, which only perpetuates the problem. Chiang didn't say this but I will: Confederate Bills promised interest too.

Chiang did remind us all that Education has constitutional first priority in state spending …but we all must realize that right now we are contesting money that just isn't there.

Chiang did offer suggestions beyond the obvious of cutting spending and increasing revenues. There will be no more AB55 loans for bond-funded infrastructure projects in the immediate future; the sate match for school construction and the high speed train to nowhere and the peripheral canal are on hold. Because Capital Gains Taxes are so volatile (up in good years, down in bad) perhaps they would serves as a basis for any future 'rainy-day-fund' proposals. The Two-thirds Rule for raising taxes/approving a budget is a problem, term limits are a challenge, Prop 13 is Prop 13 …those three are the third rails of California politics.

But the third rail, public transportation fans, IS where the power is.

After a Q&A session Chiang left the audience with questions of his own: "Imagine you were a founder of the state, back in that first constitutional convention in 1849." (Or even at the reform convention of 1878-79.)

"Is this the system you meant to design? Is this the outcome you desired?"

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
A new interdisciplinary field researches the effects of learning fine arts on a student's brain,0,3974835.story

CALIFORNIA, OUT OF MONEY, REELS AS VOTERS REBUFF LEADERS | The New York Times ~ May 21, 2009 - Direct democracy has once again upended California -- enough so that the state may finally consider another way by overhauling its Constitution for the first time in 130 years.

CALIFORNIA'S CHARTER SCHOOLS GET MIXED SCORES IN NEW STUDY | Los Angeles Times ~ May 20, 2009 - USC researchers cite lapses in financial reporting, but say it appears that many are using public funds wisely, and that academic scores are fairly similar to those of public schools.

CALIFORNIA VOTERS KILL BUDGET MEASURES | Los Angeles Times ~ May 20, 2009 The "big five" elected leaders -- Schwarzenegger and the legislative chieftains from both houses -- are slated to begin closed-door meetings today upon the governor's return from Washington, where he spent election day after casting a last-minute absentee ballot.

REJECTION AT POLLS DEEPENS THE DEFICIT TO $21.3 BILLION | Sacramento Bee ~ May 20, 2009 - California voters gave an emphatic thumbs-down Tuesday to five ballot measures that elected leaders were banking on to help plug a gaping hole in the state budget. With about 72 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Propositions 1A through 1E were being crushed by margins as wide as 30 percentage points, and none was winning more than 40 percent approval.

CALIF. VOTERS REJECT MEASURES TO KEEP STATE SOLVENT | The New York Times ~ May 20, 2009 - A smattering of California voters on Tuesday soundly rejected five ballot measures designed to keep the state solvent through the rest of the year.

CALIFORNIA VOTERS REJECT BUDGET MEASURES | The Wall Street Journal ~ May 20, 2009 - Californians on Tuesday rejected a series of ballot initiatives to help fix the state's massive budget shortfall, as authorities prepared deep spending cuts in anticipation of the measures' defeat.

BUDGET MEASURES DEFEATED | San Diego Union-Tribune ~ May 19, 2009 - The special-election ballot agenda crafted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders to bail some of the water out of California's leaky financial boat went down to a crushing defeat Tuesday.

POOL OF TEACHERS BEING DEPLETED: EXPERTS SAY LAYOFFS COULD DISSUADE POTENTIAL EDUCATORS | San Diego Union-Tribune ~ May 19, 2009 - Even with thousands of teachers statewide facing layoffs, recruitment experts are warning of an impending teacher shortage.

HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELORS BRACE FOR BIG CASELOADS | San Diego Union-Tribune ~ May 18, 2009 - Three years after state lawmakers agreed to spend $200 million to hire 3,000 high school counselors, cash-strapped districts across California are slashing the number of overworked advisers at their schools.

CREATIVITY: THE PATH TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 4:07 PM - Published Online: May 12, 2009 | Published in Print: May 13, 2009 This article was forwarded to 4LAKids by LAUSD Local District 4 Superintendent Richard Alonzo. Dr. Alonzo has succumbed to the siren call of the Early Retirement Package �or perhaps to his dream of retiring to the Hill Country of Virginia to paint. He is an Art

SCHOOL TIES: As the gatekeepers of two of Los Angeles�s most coveted schools, Tom and Deedie Hudnut inspire awe and fear. - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 10:01 AM- By Marshall Heyman | W Magazine | June 2009 Photograph by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin The athletic field at Harvard-Westlake's upper campus. In Hollywood, it is generally understood that few things are harder than getting your movie made. One of those things may be getting your child into the Center for Early Education, a progressive elementary school off Melrose Avenue.

Report: DISCIPLINE METHODS ENDANGER DISABLED/SPECIAL ED KIDS - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 5:58 AM - by Joseph Shapiro | National Public Radio/Morning Edition | Broadcast Tuesday May 19, 2009 Listen Now [4 min 46 sec] add to playlist Seven-year-old Angellika Arndt died in 2006 when she suffocated while being restrained by two adult staff at the Rice Lake Day Treatment Center in Wisconsin. Courtesy of the Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse Morning

GAO REPORT LINKS ACHIEVEMENT GAP AND ACCESS TO ARTS EDUCATION - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 6:30 AM - Access to Arts Education: Inclusion of Additional Questions in Education's Planned Research Would Help Explain Why Instruction Time Has Decreased for Some Students �Teachers at schools identified as needing improvement and those with higher percentages of minority students were more likely to report a reduction in time spent on the arts.� GAO-09-286 February 27, 2009 Highlights Page (PDF

PARENTS UNITED: LAUSD moms and dads are mad and not going to sit it out anymore - Sunday, May 17, 2009 2:23 AM - LA DAILY NEWS EDITORIAL LA Newspaper Group 5/12/2009 - IF there is a bright spot in the otherwise dark picture of public education and the Los Angeles Unified School District, it is the burgeoning activism of parents fed up with budget cuts that continually diminish the quality of schools. A growing army of parents has begun to organize in response to the latest round of LAUSD cuts

GOVERNOR'S EDUCATION CUTS RANGE FROM BAD TO WORSE -- O'Connell: "The proposals offer a choice between devastating and horrific cuts to public schools." - Sunday, May 17, 2009 2:16 AM - Canan Tasci, Staff Writer | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (LA Newspaper Group) 16 May | In a year when schools have been pummeled by budget cuts, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed two budgets that will continue to eliminate money to the already struggling state education system. The two proposals were released just days before Tuesday's special election as part of Schwarzenegger's May.

LINKS TO THE STORIES ABOVE: The news that didn't fit from May 24

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Wednesday May 27, 2009
Time: 10:00 a.m.
9171 Telfair Ave.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

Friday May 29, 2009
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Valley Region Early Education Center #1
8635 N. Colbath Ave.
Panorama City, CA 91402

*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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