Sunday, October 11, 2009

Running onward.

4LAKids: Sunday 11•Oct•2009
In This Issue:
THE LAUSD OPENS ITS DOORS: The Times says the application process for outside operators to take over new or low-performing schools gets high marks...
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?

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• Thought o' th' week: Insurance is not Health Care.

MY MOTHER'S IN THE HOSPITAL. It's not a huge big deal, but she's eighty-seven - so it is.

I am sitting in a sad fluorescent-lit room. The walls are Navajo beige, the color temperature of the light decidedly green. We don't paint classrooms that shade anymore - or light them this way. It's a cardiac care unit - you'd think at a hospital like Cedars ("Named one of America's Best Hospitals") they'd warm up the color temp and spring for the daylight tubes. You'd think they'd figure people who look better feel better and people who feel better are better. Or maybe the thinking is if we all look bilious the truly bilious won't look so bad. It doesn't work that way …except for the bean counters in procurement.

There's a color-coded Pain Management Chart on the wall - with progressively unhappy happy faces providing the Pain Rubric for visual learners:

• Green = no pain.
• Washed out green = mild pain.
• Blue = moderate pain
• Purple = severe pain
• The spectrum continues through Pink (very severe) and Red (worst possible pain).

The fluorescent cast paints everyone with the mild pain paintbrush -- the symptoms of which (for verbal learners) is "no humor/serious/flat". We all know that feeling.

Solzhenitsyn used the metaphor of a Cancer Ward to write about the failings of the Soviet Union. Maybe this small unhappy room in Beverly Hills Adjacent can stand in for Urban Public Education?

I am helpless in my visitor badge. The staff seems less than helpful - their activities centered on some other center. This is my mother; she is old and sick. She and I would like to go home.

This must be how newcomer parents to LAUSD feel - new not just to this country but to this culture and this language (descolorido = dolor leve verde). New to where democracy trumps respect. They bring us their children - their most precious possessions - as we rush about …a lot of activity centered on other centers. Surely we must know what we're doing. Surely.

IN THE TIME BEFORE SERRANO V. PRIEST AND PROPOSITION 13 the established forces and the progressives debated educational theory and practice separated by little more than the distinction between tweed and polyester - everyone dusted in the same chalk. Phonics v. Whole Language, New v. Old Math, Semantics v. Grammar. In those days California spent the fourth-or-fifth-most in the nation per pupil - and the outcomes were seen as the best in the nation. California was the envy of the world, The California Master Plan for Education was The Plan for the Future v.2.0 and beyond.

Now we have the politicians involved and the debate is over management theory and business models; the outcomes are measured in short-term goals: the election cycle, the news cycle and Annual Yearly Progress. It's 'cut-the-budget' and leverage what's left. Test test test. We are data driven (not information-driven or student-outcome-driven) --preparing 100% of our kids for colleges that don't have space or the funding and a workforce that doesn't have the jobs.

No Child Left Alone demands that all kids be above average. When Garrison Keilor says it it's funny, when the United States Department of Education requires it it's frightening.

In no other country or field to we measure success with the ruler of failure; nowhere else but in the U.S.ofA. do they quantify and count dropouts. "Graduates" (a positive outcome) should be the goal, not the double negative "eliminating dropouts". It isn't semantics, it's Rovian-Orwelian Newspeak. It's a mind set …and the minds are set in concrete. Or maybe in the shifting sands of the political landscape. You choose the metaphor; I'm just sitting here writing in the corner - somewhere between denial and helplessness.

CHIEF BRATTON WAS QUOTED INTERESTINGLY ABOUT LA POLITICAL CULTURE LAST WEEK: "This city is almost a city that doesn’t work in so many respects and it’s frustrating. The New York minute – the reason that phrase is so appropriate for New York, things get done.”

The chief said that culture can grind Los Angeles city government to a halt.

“East Coast, it’s much more in your face, bloody your nose and then go out and have a drink. Here it’s basically, don’t have it out, hold a grudge and try to undermine each other at every turn. You know, life is too short, and get it over with, instead of this lingering payback."

IS IT JUST ME …or has anyone noted that the way David Nahai was forced-out/bought-out of his job as General Manager of the DWP (it doesn't matter how you feel about him) - forced to resign and replaced by a Deputy-Mayor-in-Waiting (and previous holder of the job) -- has parallels with the way the current LAUSD Superintendent came to his position? Right down to the mayor's claim that the DWP Commissioners/School Board and not he were the actual decision makers? Even the payout/payoff scheme seems familiar.

But maybe it's just me in this small green-lit room, with my mind and my number two pencil running on.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

●● smf adds: There were two unqualified construction and instruction triumphs for public education in LA last week: The official opening of the Young Oak Kim Academy and the official opening of three new schools at the RFK-12/Ambassador Hotel site. [see stories linked below]

As former local district superintendent Richard Alonzo, educational godfather of both projects said of the first …and just as true of the second: "It didn't take a resolution for choice to make this happen …that choice was already here and made in this community".

By Paul Krugman | Op-Ed Columnist | New York Times

October 9, 2009 -- If you had to explain America’s economic success with one word, that word would be “education.” In the 19th century, America led the way in universal basic education. Then, as other nations followed suit, the “high school revolution” of the early 20th century took us to a whole new level. And in the years after World War II, America established a commanding position in higher education.

But that was then. The rise of American education was, overwhelmingly, the rise of public education — and for the past 30 years our political scene has been dominated by the view that any and all government spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Education, as one of the largest components of public spending, has inevitably suffered.

Until now, the results of educational neglect have been gradual — a slow-motion erosion of America’s relative position. But things are about to get much worse, as the economic crisis — its effects exacerbated by the penny-wise, pound-foolish behavior that passes for “fiscal responsibility” in Washington — deals a severe blow to education across the board.

About that erosion: there has been a flurry of reporting recently about threats to the dominance of America’s elite universities. What hasn’t been reported to the same extent, at least as far as I’ve seen, is our relative decline in more mundane measures. America, which used to take the lead in educating its young, has been gradually falling behind other advanced countries.

Most people, I suspect, still have in their minds an image of America as the great land of college education, unique in the extent to which higher learning is offered to the population at large. That image used to correspond to reality. But these days young Americans are considerably less likely than young people in many other countries to graduate from college. In fact, we have a college graduation rate that’s slightly below the average across all advanced economies.

Even without the effects of the current crisis, there would be every reason to expect us to fall further in these rankings, if only because we make it so hard for those with limited financial means to stay in school. In America, with its weak social safety net and limited student aid, students are far more likely than their counterparts in, say, France to hold part-time jobs while still attending classes. Not surprisingly, given the financial pressures, young Americans are also less likely to stay in school and more likely to become full-time workers instead.

But the crisis has placed huge additional stress on our creaking educational system.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States economy lost 273,000 jobs last month. Of those lost jobs, 29,000 were in state and local education, bringing the total losses in that category over the past five months to 143,000. That may not sound like much, but education is one of those areas that should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession. Markets may be troubled, but that’s no reason to stop teaching our children. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing.

There’s no mystery about what’s going on: education is mainly the responsibility of state and local governments, which are in dire fiscal straits. Adequate federal aid could have made a big difference. But while some aid has been provided, it has made up only a fraction of the shortfall. In part, that’s because back in February centrist senators insisted on stripping much of that aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the stimulus bill.

As a result, education is on the chopping block. And laid-off teachers are only part of the story. Even more important is the way that we’re shutting off opportunities.

For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the plight of California’s community college students. For generations, talented students from less affluent families have used those colleges as a stepping stone to the state’s public universities. But in the face of the state’s budget crisis those universities have been forced to slam the door on this year’s potential transfer students. One result, almost surely, will be lifetime damage to many students’ prospects — and a large, gratuitous waste of human potential.

So what should be done?

First of all, Congress needs to undo the sins of February, and approve another big round of aid to state governments. We don’t have to call it a stimulus, but it would be a very effective way to create or save thousands of jobs. And it would, at the same time, be an investment in our future.

Beyond that, we need to wake up and realize that one of the keys to our nation’s historic success is now a wasting asset. Education made America great; neglect of education can reverse the process.

►Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed Page and continues as professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is a Nobel laureate in Economics.

By John Affeldt in the Huffington Post

October 9, 2009 - When the state that educates 1 in 8 American children is failing miserably at that task, America should care. When that state is also the 8th largest economy in the world, we should be up in arms. It's not just California's future that is tied to the quality of the state's education system; it's the nation's.

Unfortunately serious progress on the education front may be tossed overboard in the next few days if Governor Schwarzenegger, absent a water deal this weekend, follows through with his threat to veto all bills. In laying the foundation for a long overdue overhaul of California's archaic and highly dysfunctional school funding system, Assembly Bill 8 (AB 8) by Assembly Education Committee Chair Julia Brownley is among the most important of the threatened measures.

A 2007 state-requested set of studies from scholars across the ideological spectrum agreed that California's public school funding system is irrational, inequitable, and hopelessly convoluted. District revenue allocations are not based on what it costs to educate students to California's content standards, but rather on out-dated formulas largely set in the 1970's that now send widely varying amounts of money to different districts of similar size and demographics.

The Governor's own Committee on Education Excellence echoed those same conclusions in a report released last year:

"Research...shows that California's current K through 12 education finance system is the most complex in the nation but yields little benefit. Core funding is based on anachronistic formulas, neither tied to the needs of individual students nor to intended academic outcomes."

The report concludes:

"Our current system is not equitable; it is not efficient; and it is not sufficient for students who face the greatest challenges."

AB 8 takes the first big step in reworking school funding in California. It requires that a bipartisan governmental working group propose a new funding structure to the Legislature by December 2010 that, among other things, would make the system equitable, rational, and based on the costs of educating students. In a legislature that can agree on little when it comes to money, the bill passed with wide bipartisan support--79-0 in the Assembly and 31-6 in the Senate. A broad coalition of business, good government, parent, student, and civil rights groups have urged the Governor to sign the bill. Best of all, AB 8 won't cost Californians a penny. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has generously offered to accept a proposal to finance the costs of the working group.

Hopefully, the Governor will help cement his legacy on education by signing the bill. What could be easier than enacting a bold, no-cost bill with broad support across the spectrum, that builds off your own Committee's recommendations, and that passes the difficult implementation hurdle on to your successor?

Yet, there is cause for concern Schwarzenegger may veto AB 8 and not just because of his play for a water deal. Word is that at least some advisors are pooh-poohing the bill as "just another study," even though, in creating a concrete, bipartisan framework for legislative action it is obviously so much more. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger has listened before to advisors urging him to avoid the "cost pressures" of making an honest assessment of the costs of educating California's students. ("Cost pressures" is government-speak for "if we have to admit how much that costs, there will be pressure for us to raise revenues.") When he took office in 2003, Schwarzenegger removed the seven Gray Davis appointees to a 13-member Quality Education Commission that was tasked with doing just that. He never filled the seven slots and the Commission never convened. When the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury derided "the phantom commission" and called for the appointments, Schwarzenegger instead created his less-ambitious and differently-missioned Committee on Education Excellence.

After 2007's ambitious set of studies were published, Schwarzenegger vowed that 2008 would be "the Year of Education." But that year came and went with no action to implement any major reforms. Lately, his education legacy has only grown bleaker. The Governor has overseen unprecedented cuts to California education funding, totaling a shocking $2,000 per student over the past two years. For a state that the respected weekly Education Week already ranks 46th in the nation in per pupil spending, it won't be surprising if we've now dropped to 50th.

The Governor rode into office promising to be an education governor. And initially he was. In 2004, he settled the Williams v. California lawsuit, guaranteeing to all California students--for the first time--access to basic educational resources like sufficient textbooks, safe clean school facilities, and qualified teachers. He supported a $200 million expansion of high school counselors in 2006 only to see that program now decimated by cuts and funding flexibility. His current efforts are focused on pursuing "Race to the Top" federal stimulus funds, and he has called a special legislative session to do so. But these funds (at most, $750 million) represent a drop in the bucket of California's education budget--and there's no guarantee California will even be among the handful of states awarded them.

Instead, Schwarzenegger should be focusing his leadership on laying the groundwork for school finance reform in California. Indeed, it is times like these, when money is scarce, that offer the best opportunities to decide how limited resources can be spent more wisely and to plan ahead for how additional funds can be allocated most efficiently when they become available.

To be sure, AB 8 by itself won't solve the problem of California's irrational, inadequate, unequal, and unstable system of school finance. That will require bold legislators to enact the recommendations that come out of this working group a year from now. But the bill will set up a meaningful way to finally jumpstart this process by requiring state policy makers to design and propose a school finance system that is based on simple, transparent funding formulas and that at long last funds education based on what it actually costs to educate students.

As Paul Krugman's piece in today's New York Times reminds [previous article] us, our national and state governments, including California's, are failing to invest adequately in education--and they are doing so at our future economic peril. To be the governor who started California on the road to a responsible school funding system? Now that's a legacy worthy of an action hero.

►John Affeldt is Managing Attorney at Public Advocates, a non-profit civil rights law firm

THE LAUSD OPENS ITS DOORS: The Times says the application process for outside operators to take over new or low-performing schools gets high marks...

LA Times Editorial

October 11, 2009 -- Check out the Los Angeles Unified School District's website and you can track its encouraging progress on the new policy allowing charter operators and other outside organizations to submit competing proposals to run certain schools. When the policy was approved in August, district leaders vowed a transparent and objective process, and so far they're making good on that vow, posting updates on the website. Given L.A. Unified's history of broken promises and political motives, we're pleasantly surprised.
The latest outline of the application process was posted this month, and though it's still in draft form, parents and the organizations that hope to operate schools should be pleased. It requires applicants to attend district meetings in the schools' neighborhoods and reach out to parents. It also describes an exacting set of standards each organization must meet. Applicants must give preference to the students in each school's attendance area, so they're not skimming more-proficient students from other neighborhoods. Their applications must cover not only specific plans for curriculum, instructional materials and teacher training, but school culture, discipline and data systems.
Considering the daunting requirements and January deadline for applicants that want to start running schools in 2010, the first round of competing organizations probably will consist of mostly established charter school operators and perhaps United Teachers Los Angeles, which opposed the new policy but has responded to it with the game intention of proposing teacher-run schools. But the program will be rolled out over several years and include perhaps 250 new and underperforming schools, giving community-based groups a chance to design their own proposals in later rounds.
The only objectionable part of the draft process is something Supt. Ramon C. Cortines cannot control. As passed by the school board, the policy requires advisory votes by parents, staff and, in the case of high schools, students. These groups have valuable ideas to voice, but there are real disadvantages to formal votes. If one group disagrees with another, there will be a winning faction and a losing one; that's a bad way for new management to start. Votes also can put pressure on the district to approve an operator that might have done a better marketing job but that offers an inferior educational plan.
The draft needs at least one addition before it should be considered complete: accountability. Placing a failing school under new management doesn't guarantee success. This is a worthy experiment to see whether outside operators can pick up the pace of improvement in L.A.'s public schools. Cortines must include an equally detailed and objective yardstick to measure whether these new operators are succeeding, and if not, take the schools away from them.

●● smf's 2¢: True communications is a two way process. For Transparency and Accountability to happen the two way part is an absolute requirement.
• The posting of the draft process, evolving as it it, is one side of the story, from the North side of the 24yh floor at Beaudry – the superintendent's office.
• While we hope that the board – which occupies the South side of 24 - is buying in, they are notorious tweakers and micromanagers. They are responsive to public opinion , special; interests and other political forces in play here (all at odds) and they have the final say.
• The Times correctly indentifies that 'the policy requires advisory votes by parents, staff and, in the case of high schools, students.' The Times calls this 'objectionable' – another word that describes democracy along with awkward and cumbersome and Churchill's famous "..the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Luckily for the Times, nobody is better at ignoring advice than the Board of Education.
• This Resolution will ultimately be decided in the courts. Or by the California Dept of Education who could well rule that it violates the policies, guidelines and processes laid out in its Accountability Workbook – the memorandum of understanding between California and the federal government for implementing NCLB.

CDE Accountability Workbook

from the District Dossier @ Education Week ONLINE | Posted by Lesli Maxwell on October 5, 2009 10:05 AM

10/5 -- Los Angeles Unified has been in the midst of the largest school building project in the country, managing a $20 billion construction program that has, to date, built 80 new schools in the sprawling metropolis.

Last week, the man who many credit with keeping the mammoth effort running cost-effectively and on-time, abruptly resigned. The departure of Guy Mehula, who before joining LAUSD oversaw major construction projects for the U.S. Navy, has caused some folks in Los Angeles, including those responsible for making sure that voter-approved bond money is spent responsibly, to predict that the district's massive public works project will fall apart.

That's because Ramon C. Cortines, the superintendent of LAUSD, apparently decided to take the quasi-independent construction division, and bring it back under the direct authority of his office and the school board.

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Constance L. Rice, a high profile civil rights lawyer who sits on the city's School Construction Bond Oversight Committee, warned that Cortines' move threatens the entire school construction effort. She points to the district's disastrous handling of the Belmont Learning Complex, a high school campus that the district spent $160 million to build, on top of an oil field, only to have California environmental regulators declare it unsafe for children. In the wake of the Belmont debacle, then-superintendent Roy Romer hired Mehula and made the facilities division an independent entity.

Rice argues that there's no good reason for educators to oversee construction projects and uses pretty harsh words to make her case.

"It is time to consider creating an independent construction authority for building schools. Doctors don't build hospitals, and lawyers don't build courthouses. Why should educators who can barely manage the mission of education build schools?"

What do you think? Do most school districts have the capacity to manage massive construction projects effectively, efficiently, and free of typical district politics?

• email Leslii Maxwell:

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
RFK SITE TO BECOME SCHOOLS + smf comments: By Tony Castro, Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group (Daily News) Oct..

THE LAUSD OPENS ITS DOORS: The Times says the application process for outside operators to take over new or low..



AFT ANNOUNCES FIRST RECIPIENTS OF INNOVATION FUND: By Stephen Sawchuk | Education Week | Published Online: Octo..

OUTCRY AGAINST VIOLENCE: Beating Death of Student in Chicago Spurs Attention to a Nationwide Problem. Secretary Duncan accused..

FEDERAL ‘INNOVATION’ KILLS LOCAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS: By Ben Boychuk | OpEd in The Daily News Ben Boychuk is a f..

10/9 - SUPERINTENDENT’S WEEKLY UPDATE ON PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE: Appendix: Public School Choice Process Develop..

LAUSD RESPONDS: Re "LAUSD Schools Need More Arts and Music," (Comment, Oct. 2):: Letters to the Daily News | 9 ..

ONE COURAGEOUS MATH TEACHER: WE NEEDED THAT: Random Thoughts By Diana L. Chapman CityWatch Vol 7 Issue 83 Oct..


YOUNG OAK KIM ACADEMY: LAUSD school relies on treating boys and girls differently + smf remarks at school's ded..

Congratulations re: Schools: It’s All Politics Ma’ Dear: Dan Basalone writes Diana L. Chapman re: Schools: It’s..

The news that didn't fit from Oct 11

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday Oct 12, 2009
Juanita Tate Elementary School (aka South Region Elementary School #6): Pre-Construction Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
61st Street Elementary School
6020 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90003

Wednesday Oct 14, 2009
South Los Angeles Area New High School #3: Pre-Construction Community Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Muir Middle School - Library
5929 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

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


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...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.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD. He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee and the BOC on the Board of Education Facilities Committee. He is an elected repreprentative on his neighborhood council. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • 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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