Sunday, December 27, 2009

Y2K+10 :: Resolved

4LAKids: Sunday 27•Dec•2009 ¡Happy New Year!
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At some point, while I was blathering on about something-or-another, someone accused me of being a moral voice.

It is not a mantle I meant to take up; I am happy to be a curmudgeon or even a gadfly. An optimistic cynic; a happy warrior with words taking on a very odd windmill. I do take delight in speaking truth to power – but it is my truth ...not to be confused with The Truth.

That said I am concerned with ethics as they are practiced and observed and ignored in this school district. Ethics, like democracy, is not a spectator sport.

You will read below of ethical relativism; over-prescribed/overindulged/overdosed ...with a pandemic of collateral damage as the unintended consequence. We do not teach our students values – or to value values - in our schools and homes and communities. We are pretending that not teaching ethics is somehow ethical: “Whose ethic's would we teach?” We are compounding that twisted logic by not practicing and/or modeling ethical behavior in those venues. Students aren't going to learn this stuff from the news or the popular media or on the playground.

It is not the End of Civilization as we know it that worries me; CAWKI is not a standard we should be all that proud of.

I AM AS LOST AS ANYONE ELSE IN THIS WILDERNESS, but I'm sharing forward two bits of someone-else's-thinking for The New Year.

The first, “LETTER TO A YOUNG ACTIVIST IN TROUBLED TIMES,” resonates within me – not as a Call to Arms or even to Action – but as a Resolution to be Resolute. It is a decidedly post-feminist voice, a Latina who speaks of cojones and ovarios and in metaphors of the sea so even gray old white men can get it.

Maybe throwing open the window and shouting that We're Mad As Hell and Not Going To Take It Anymore is a First Step.
Maybe the Second Step is to take up a can of Krylon and and spray-paint What Great Ships are Built For on our walls's not graffiti if it's your wall!

Maybe it's a Twelve Step Program.

A private sharing of the previous resolution prompted the sharing with me of the second: THERE'S ONLY ETHICS.

the truth that the Ethics of the 20th Century will not serve us for 21st is Cartesian,
the division between Obedience to the Unenforceable vs. Obedience to the Enforceable cries out to us from the Nineteenth Century. What we do not learn we are doomed to repeat. What's past is prolix.

Next Friday ushers in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century and of the Third Millennium; that first ten years (The Aughts?) are behind us as unlamented as the Go-Go '90's and the Great Y2K Panic.

If you are looking for Something to be Resolved About for 2010 + Century XXI + Millennium III consider these.

Looking towards and beyond the horizon let us be resolute:

¡EverOnward/Hasta Adelante! - smf

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.

Mis estimados:

Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.

I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. It is true, one has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for "good" in our culture today. Abject disregard of what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable and the corruption of principled ideals have become, in some large societal arenas, "the new normal," the grotesquerie of the week. It is hard to say which one of the current egregious matters has rocked people's worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet ... I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is — we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised since childhood for this time precisely.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your stints of doubt, your frustrations in arighting all that needs change right now, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you are not alone. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. In your deepest bones, you have always known this is so. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over — brought down by naiveté, by lack of love, by suddenly realizing one deadly thing or another, by not realizing something else soon enough, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially ... we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered — can be restored to life again. This is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the destroyed worlds around us as it was for our own once mortally wounded selves.

Though we are not invulnerable, our risibility supports us to laugh in the face of cynics who say "fat chance," and "management before mercy," and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense. This, and our having been to Hell and back on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are. Even if your puny little ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul, that smaller self can never for long subordinate the larger Self. In matters of death and rebirth, you have surpassed the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past testings and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! (And no adverbs like "barely" are allowed here). If you are still standing, ragged flags or no, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater? You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough.

In the language of aviators and sailors, ours is to sail forward now, all balls out. Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it, by whatever countervailing means, to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner, far less volatile core — till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair — thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts — adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both — are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But ... that is not what great ships are built for.

This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth,

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.


Dr. Estés is a psychoanalyst; Member Hispanic Journalists; Post-trauma specialist and Storyteller. She is the author of Women Who Run With Wolves among other books.

by Rushworth M. Kidder

Ethics is not a luxury or an option. It is essential to our survival. To support that point, let me give you three assertions, two definitions, and one conclusion.

HERE IS THE FIRST ASSERTION: We will not survive the 21st century with the ethics of the 20th century.

Why do I say that? Well, a few years ago, in 1989, I discovered myself one Monday morning in March standing a few hundred yards from the wall of Reactor Number Four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union. Looking back later, and checking the clips to see what else had been written on that subject, I discovered that I was probably the first western journalist ever to get that close to Chernobyl. I was taken there in the company of two members of an emergency response team who had come in right after the accident on April 26, 1986, to help clean up the mess. The fallout from that disaster was detected in every country in the world capable of sensing radioactivity in the atmosphere. The explosion and its aftermath killed thousands of Soviets.

Why did it happen? That night in 1986 there were two electrical engineers—not nuclear but electrical engineers—in charge of the control room. Perhaps the most charitable way to put it is that they were "fiddling around" with the reactors. They wanted to see what would happen as they performed an unauthorized experiment. According to Soviet accounts, they were trying to see how long the turbine would freewheel if they took the power off it. In order to take the power off, they had to shut down the reactor. To do that, they manually overrode six separate computer-driven alarm systems. Each system would come up and say, "Stop! Don't do this! Terribly dangerous!" But instead of shutting off the experiment, they shut off the alarms. When my friends got in there, they discovered there were valves padlocked in the open position so that they would not automatically shut down and turn off this experiment. That is how deliberate this whole thing was.

Now, the question this raises for me is, What was going on in the minds of those electrical engineers as they did that? Obviously, these were bright people. Jobs at Chernobyl are plum jobs, and they go to the equivalent of the Russian 4.0 grade-point average, the 800 on the SATs, the Phi Beta Kappas of the Soviet Union. These two knew what they were doing: If knowledge alone were all that mattered, they would have been doing fine.
So what went wrong? It seems to me that before they could have overridden a single computer alarm system, there must have been an ethical override. Somewhere the conscience had to shut down before the alarm systems could be turned off. They could not have been unaware of the possible consequences of what they were doing. What blew up Chernobyl was not a lack of knowledge. It was a lack of ethics.

That's a crucial point for the 21st century. There is no machine you could have put those engineers in front of in the 19th century and said, "Do the most amoral thing you can to this machine," that would have produced the damage of Chernobyl. Or, to change examples, what substance could you have loaded into the 19th century’s biggest ship, put a drunken captain in charge, and run it aground in Prince William Sound in Alaska to create the environmental damage the Exxon Valdez did? How in the 19th century could a private bank – a bank that helped to fund the Napoleonic wars, that still held deposits from the Queen of England – have been brought to bankruptcy in three weeks through the activities of a 29-year-old employee in Singapore who was trading derivatives on the Nikkei exchange and using fraudulent faxes to cover his horrendous losses?

How in the 19th century could a few young people in Manila have developed an intellectual creation – since that’s what a computer virus is – and launched it out into the world to do an estimated $10 billion (U.S.) in damage?

These stories – of Exxon Valdez, the Barings Bank, and the “I Love You” virus” – have something in common with Chernobyl. Each points to the way in which our technologies leverage our ethics in ways we never saw in the past. And that is a new phenomenon. Every managerial system, however large or small, rises in its structure to the apex of one or two decision-makers. What is going on in the conscience of those individuals directly determines the use of that system. So, however large and powerful the technologies, what governs them is the ethics of those in charge.

And make no mistake about it: The scale of our technology is increasing rapidly. In the 21st century, Chernobyl itself will be small potatoes indeed. Imagine the scale of our future technologies. Then imagine the ethical sophistication needed to manage them. There is a risk here that can be expressed very simply: We may not survive the 21st century with the ethics of the 20th century. Something significant has to change.

THAT BRINGS ME TO MY SECOND ASSERTION, which is that we are not in good shape to promote such change.

What's the reading on the nation's ethical barometer? Well, there are some good signs. When a McKenzie Quarterly survey in 1998 looked at what made bright young business students accept one job offer over another, “high compensation” was only a tiny part of the equation. The top reason, they found, was a desire to work where the “values and culture” of the organization are in good shape. And when the Gallup Organization asked the U.S. public to identify the “most important problem” facing the nation in 1999, “ethics, morality, and family values” came out at the very top – for the first time in the 50 years that Gallup has asked that question. In other words, there is increasing interest in the question of ethics, and increasing evidence of wanting stronger ethics.

But while we're interested in ethics, there is a serious concern about whether we're doing anything about it. That's especially evident as you look at our educational institutions. The 1998 annual survey by “Who’ s Who Among American High School Students” asked more than 3,000 of the nation’s best and brightest whether they cheated to pass exams. That year, after 29 years of asking the same question, a new record was set: 80 percent admitted to cheating on exams. Why? The top answer, given by 56 percent, was “competition for good grades.” But a nearly equal number (53 percent) said that cheating “didn’t seem like a big deal.” They simply didn’t understand the importance of ethics.
A survey a couple of years ago by the Pinnacle Group in Minnesota found that 59 percent of the high-school students surveyed would willingly face six months probation in order to do an illegal deal worth $10 million. Sixty-seven percent of them said, "Yes, I plan to inflate my expense account when I get out in the business world." Fifty percent would pad insurance claims. Sixty-six percent said they would lie to achieve a business objective.

Or look at a survey of almost 16,000 students at 31 top universities by Professor Donald McCabe of Rutgers University: 76 percent of those planning careers in business admitted to having cheated at least once on a test. Nineteen percent admitted to having cheated four or more times. In addition, 68 percent of future doctors, 63 percent of future lawyers, and 57 percent of future educators admitted to having cheated at least once.

You may think we are only talking about students. We're not. We are talking about America's middle managers in the year 2020—and about the CEOs, the senators and representatives, the heads of major nonprofits in the year 2030. We are talking about the people who are going to be piloting your airplanes while you sit back wondering, "Does this guy really know how to fly, or did he just fake his way through his exams?" We are talking about the people who are going to be managing your pension funds.

Is the fault with the kids? I don't think so.

There was a story reported in one of the New York newspapers a while ago about a ten-year-old child who found on the street a wallet full of money, full of credit cards, and full of identification. He reportedly took the wallet to school, where he could find no one—no teacher, no administrator—willing to tell him what was the right thing to do with that wallet. Essentially they all said, "Gee, I can't impose my values on you, kid. I mean, if I told you what to do, that would not be right. You have to sort it out for yourself—otherwise it's my ethics and not yours. Besides, you're poor and this guy is obviously rich. Your mother might be mad I told you to send the wallet back. No, you figure it out for yourself."

I once raised this example at the dinner table at a small liberal arts college in California, telling the story and asking the students what they thought. All of them, to a person, said, "Those teachers and those administrators were absolutely right. There was no way you should impose your values on that kid."

What's going on? Why do they feel this way? Why has our educational system delivered us into a situation where even the most fundamental concepts of honesty, responsibility, and respect for others are not being taught?

THAT QUESTION PROMPTS MY THIRD ASSERTION, WHICH IS SIMPLY THIS: The difficulty we are up against is what the philosophers describe as ethical relativism.

It is the notion that there are no absolutes, no common values, no core set of moral ideas out there that can be shared and understood. It is the notion that all ethics is situational, negotiable, fluid, intensely personal. Let me give you an example of where it surfaces: a school committee meeting. Let's say the board members get thinking about the big issues facing the world in the next century and how to shape an education system so the kids are best prepared. Pretty quickly someone realizes that we've been teaching kids mostly about the facts—of the environment, or of math, or of history. And they realize that that's good, but it's not enough—that we will not survive the next century without a better ethical sense. So someone proposes that we teach character and ethics. And no sooner is that said than somebody else in the back of the room stands up and says, "But whose ethics will you teach?" It's a question intended to squelch further discussion. What is behind it is this notion that there is no ethical commonalty—and that, if you dare to teach ethics, you are imposing your values on my kid, and I won't have it!
So let's examine this issue of ethical relativism further. That, after all, is the subtext of many of the arguments you will hear when you raise the question of ethics these days. Start talking about ethics, in fact, and oddly enough up pops the name of somebody who would be horrified to see himself used in this way: Albert Einstein. "See," people are fond of saying, "Einstein proved that everything is relative. There are no absolutes out there in the physical world. So how do you expect there to be absolutes in the moral realm? This is the 20th century: We no longer believe in absolutes and constants."

Well, the next time you run into your friendly neighborhood physicist, ask her what would happen if when she went into her laboratory tomorrow she said, "Okay, everything is relative. Today I think we will set the speed of light at sort of at . . . well, about here! And we'll say Planck's Constant is this, and Avogadro's number is that, and the acceleration due to gravity is right about here for today." Ask her how successful she's going to be in physics if she genuinely believes that Einstein was saying that all things are relative and that there are no constants.
Don't fall for that argument. There are constants in the physical realm. But are there any constants in the moral realm? A friend of mine who teaches at Stanford, when his students raise the issue of ethical relativism, says, "Okay, I am going to parachute you into some country, and you do not know where it is. When you get out of your parachute, walk up to the first person you see, take away what that person has, and run away with it. And see what happens." With the possible exception, he says, that you have landed in front of a Buddhist monk and taken away his begging bowl and he says, "Ah, that's karma!," you will have run squarely into property laws. We

summarize them in the Ten Commandments as, "Thou shalt not steal." But you will find them in any culture into which you drop.

It would appear, then, that there is at least one universal moral element out there: Culture by culture, people by people, there is profound agreement that stealing is wrong. That constitutes, it seems, at least one solid piece of ethical common ground. Yet much of the so-called "ethics" taught in the last 30 years was done in ignorance of this apparent fact. It was done under a regime described by educators as "values neutral education." The teacher, in this regime, is supposed to have no particular point of view—to be a sort of moral blob who leads the students into "clarifying" their own values without in any way suggesting that there are sets of values that the teacher himself or herself holds and operates under or that are widely accepted as standards. The fact that we have produced an educational system in which our teachers have regularly been told that it is not correct for them to take a stand on some of those fundamental moral principles suggests the depth of the problem we are facing. Yet all is not lost. I remember talking to a fifth-grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She had shown her students a video tape of the news coverage of the riots following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles in 1992. When she asked her students how many of them would have broken into stores and stolen stuff if they had been there, every hand went up.

She was taken aback, but she used that moment to engage them in what she felt was a really good discussion of property rights, respect for others, and the Golden Rule. But the point of the story, as she was telling me, was the comment she made later to her principal. She told him that she was so grateful that her school had a character education program that allowed her to talk about values in the classroom – a program that had just been launched, after full discussion with the community, the year before. Why did that matter? Because, as she said to him, “If this had happened in my classroom last year, the only thing I would have dared to say would have been, “Well, kids, if that’s the way you feel, let’s get out our arithmetic books and talk about subtraction – because I’m not allowed to talk about this in class!”

What would have kept her from having that discussion? The false notion that you can’t teach values because “whose values will you teach?” Fortunately, the community had answered that question for her. They had agreed on a set of core values that is so widely shared by every culture that they would raise no difficulties if a teacher worked with it in the classroom.

What's needed, then, is a recognition that there is a core set of values that can be and must be taught. What are they? We've found one—the idea of not stealing. Are there others? Well, what about the Golden Rule?

Who said, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets"? That was Jesus. But who said, "That which you hold as detestable, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole law: the rest is but commentary"? That's how the Talmud puts it. Islam says it this way: "None of you is a believer if he does not desire for his brother that which he desires for himself." Or, as Confucius said, "Here certainly is the golden maxim: Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us." And so it goes, down through Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world's great religions. Common ethical ground? I would say so! Teachable? Certainly!

NOW, I PROMISED YOU TWO USEFUL DEFINITIONS OF "ETHICS," SO HERE THEY ARE. The first one resides in a phrase we used as the subtitle for the recently published report on ethics prepared by Independent Sector. It is a phrase from Lord Moulton, a British jurist in the 19th century, who described ethics simply as "obedience to the unenforceable."

Obedience to the enforceable? That, he said, was merely law—an important part, but only a small part, of the reason we behave as we do. Obedience to the enforceable is what prevents us from driving 65 miles an hour in a school zone: You get caught. Obedience to the unenforceable, however, is what keeps you from going into a supermarket and, just as a little old lady is about to put her hand on the last shopping cart, elbowing her away, seizing the cart, and running off down the aisle with it. There is no law that says, "Thou shalt not steal shopping carts from little old ladies." You don't do it because people don't do those things—because of the very real but ultimately unenforceable canons of society.

This concept of ethics as obedience to the unenforceable helps explain some of the things we see going on around us in the regulatory and legislative climate today. We clearly will be regulated one way or another—that is the nature of the human experience. Our choice is only whether to be self-regulated or to be regulated by externalities. When I was growing up, we didn't throw litter out of the car window because "people don't do those things." Now you don't throw litter out of the car window because there is a $500 fine. Why? Because it was discovered that people did do those things. As the ethics of self-regulation dropped away, in other words, the law rushed in to fill the void. And that will ever be the case. If you ask yourself why we are such a litigious society, regulated by vast bodies of law at every turn, is it not largely because our ethics has dropped away and the law has swept in to replace it? What used to be obedience to the unenforceable has become obedience to the enforceable. What used to be regulation by our own good habits has become regulation by the will of the legislators.

THE SECOND DEFINITION I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU grows out of our concern over dictionary definitions of the word ethics. They usually talk about ethics in relation to the difference between right and wrong.

Frankly, for most of us, most of the time, ethics is the battle of right versus right.

Few people, facing an ethical dilemma, say to themselves, "Here, on one hand, is the great, the good, the wonderful, and the pure and, on the other hand, the awful, the evil, the miserable, and the terrible—and here I stand equally torn between them." We don't do that. Once we define one side as evil, we've pretty much dismissed it. It really doesn't cross our minds, for example, that the way to resolve a problem we have with the chairman of our board is either to go talk to him or to go poison his chowder.

NOW, I ALSO PROMISED YOU A CONCLUSION, SO HERE IT IS. After all we've talked about, it may not surprise you to learn that there really is no such thing as "nonprofit ethics." Neither is there any such thing as "medical ethics," or "business ethics," or "legal ethics," or "journalism ethics."

There is only ethics.

It applies to all kinds of ways, and it applies across the board. Don't be under any illusion that somehow one can be unethical in personal financial matters but ethical as the manager of a nonprofit. Don't be under any illusion that a corporate executive can be a cad in family matters but a paragon of virtue at work.

Don't be under any illusion that an elected official can say, "Oh, that is my private life. You should not take that into account. Judge me as a politician." The public no longer credits that line of reasoning—as our politicians keep finding out. There is no dividing up ethics into compartments: There's only ethics.


Rushworth M. Kidder was a professor of English at Wichita State University for ten years before becoming an award-winning columnist and editor at the Christian Science Monitor. He founded the Institute for Global Ethics in 1990. The author of ten books on subjects ranging from international ethics to the global future, he won the 1980 Explicator Literary Foundation Award for his book on the poetry of E.E. cummings. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Lincolnville, Maine. The foregoing is based on a keynote speech presented to the Human Services Council of Northeast Florida, an organization of nonprofit entities, in Jacksonville on October 1, 1992. Revised January 2001. ©2001 by the Institute for Global Ethics. Bio from Wikipedia & Harper Collins website.


LA Times Editorial

●●smf's 2¢: Self-congratulating, The Times acknowledges its proper Fourth Estate role (plus an impending visit of the Secretary of Education) in overdue Reform @ Fremont …and the tooth-gnashing finger-pointing over Teacher Tenure. (However, It isn’t just new teachers evaluated solely on how well they follow the Open Court script that are LAUSD’s problem!)

The Editorial Board is absolutely correct …It shouldn’t have taken outside pressure or so long.

But, they remind us: “eight years ago, the state took on decision-making authority over [Fremont]” (see: 3 Oct 01 article, following). So primary (if not exclusive) responsibility and accountability for Teacher Tenure – which comes too soon and too easily and lasts too long - and for Fremont lies in Sacramento. Not to mention cash flow.

December 27, 2009 -- These are welcome, if basic, changes for L.A. schools: Evaluating new teachers properly and letting go of the substandard ones before they gain tenure. Restructuring a high school that despite years of effort has remained in the basement of educational achievement.

As glad as we are to see Supt. Ramon C. Cortines institute such reforms, we wonder why Los Angeles Unified School District hasn't been doing these things for years. Instead, the announcements came only when the district was under heavy outside pressure. The first came just days before The Times was to publish an expose of the district's lackadaisical evaluation of new teachers. The reconstitution of Fremont High School was announced on the day U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in town. Duncan has made hard-nosed reforms such as restructuring failing schools a priority, and the school district is hoping to get a sizable chunk of the $4.3 billion in grants he has to bestow.

That's not to diminish Cortines' role in pushing the pace of educational change. He has been superintendent for just one year and has accomplished more than his predecessor, retired Vice Adm. David L. Brewer, did in two.

But these two long-overdue changes demonstrate that although district officials have historically and to some extent legitimately blamed the teachers union, lack of money or state regulations for achievement lapses, they also have failed to undertake meaningful improvements that were within their grasp. Teacher tenure laws and the district's contract with United Teachers Los Angeles may make it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers, but there's nothing to stop L.A. Unified from firing unpromising instructors during their first two years.

Meanwhile, L.A. Unified did so little to improve Fremont High School that eight years ago, the state took on decision-making authority over the school and nine others in L.A. Unified. Students were reading primary-grade picture books; dropout rates were legendary. The state was supposed to provide an improvement plan that would show results within 18 months; if that failed, it would take over the school entirely or impose other sanctions. But no sanctions were imposed, and here's where Fremont is now: 12% or so of students are proficient in reading and writing. About 2,000 students start out as freshmen; by senior year, there are proficientless than 600.

Reconstitution is a fresh-start attempt for failing schools. The staff is let go, but can reapply to continue working there. The school would require uniforms or a stricter dress code. These restructured schools don't always succeed, and Duncan's push to increase their numbers might be misplaced. But Fremont can't do much worse than it has since the beginning of the decade.

We admire Cortines for responding to Duncan's visit and to the Times story on teacher evaluations with corrective action instead of defensive posturing. We just wish the district hadn't waited so long to do the right thing.


Oct 3, 2001: STATE STEPS IN AT TEN LAGGING SCHOOLS:Audit teams are visiting the campuses and will recommend plans to shore up weaknesses.


October 03, 2001 -- The state Department of Education is poised to assume broad decision-making authority at 10 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses that have failed to meet goals for improving their test scores despite four years of warnings.

Only three other schools in the state were targeted by the highly unusual intervention.

Partly in response to his district's poor showing, Supt. Roy Romer will announce a turnaround plan today to retrain principals and boost reading and math teaching at those and as many as 10 other low-performing schools. He also warned that principals at schools that do not improve rapidly enough could lose their jobs.

"We've got to elevate these lowest-performing schools," Romer said. "We have to have this happen."

Another reason for urgency, he said, is new figures showing that only 44% of the district's ninth-graders passed the English-language arts portion of the state's high school exit exam this year. Only 24% passed the math portion. All students must pass both sections of the test by 2004 in order to earn a diploma. The test was voluntary this year only.

"Our performance is not good, we know it and we're focusing on changes," Romer said in an interview.

The schools where the state will intervene include: Avalon Gardens Elementary School; Gompers, Mt. Vernon and Sun Valley middle schools; Mann Junior High School; and Fremont, Locke, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Wilson high schools. Of the three other schools in California coming under state scrutiny for their weak performance, two are in the Visalia Unified School District in the Central Valley: Goshen and Houston elementary schools. The other school is Lower Lake High in the Konocti Unified School District in Lake County.

The schools were first identified based on their test scores on the Stanford 9 test in 1997; each failed every year since then to make improvement targets and did not avail itself of funds from a key state school improvement program.

David Tokofsky, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, said the district's dominance on the target list demonstrates "a failure of instructional urgency."

Each of the 13 targeted schools will be visited within the next few weeks by a state-appointed scholastic audit team that will recommend a detailed plan for shoring up weaknesses. If the schools do not improve, the state can ultimately convert them into charter schools or authorize students to transfer elsewhere.

[article continues: part 2 | part 3]

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
No budget/No clue: SCHWARZENEGGER: "Dear Santa:" …with a cc: to Uncle Sam: from various newsfeeds Schwarzenegge...

LAUSD'S RACE TO THE TOP: Amber Banks | December 26, 10:13 AM -- January 19, 2010 marks the first of t...


SCHOOLING LOW-INCOME PARENTS IN HELPING STUDENTS: Educators have long believed that low-income students would soar ...


THE TURNAROUNT FALLACY: School turnaround efforts have consistently fallen far short of hopes and expectations.: By...

UTLA FILES LAWSUIT ON SCHOOL GIVEAWAYS: Ed Code states that schools can’t convert to charters without majority te...

TEACHER'S UNION SUES OVER CHARTER SCHOOL: By Dennis Romero in LA Weekly News Blog | Tue., D...

Breaking News 12/21: UTLA SUES OVER NEW SCHOOLS GIVEAWAY: Union sues LA school district over charter plan San ...

Follow the $: SCHWARZENEGGER + ROMERO SPELL ED REFORM C-H-A-R-T-E-R-S: by Steven Harmon | Contra Costa Times excer...

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 • 213-241-6386 • 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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A significant amount of chaos.

4LAKids: Sunday 20•Dec•2009 Peace+Good Will
In This Issue:
GREEDHEAD'S CHRISTMAS: The Seedy Side of Entrepreneurial Education Reform
THE BEST SCHOOL DISTRICT SOME BILLIONAIRES CAN BUY? Some Qs, fewer As, more Qs, some outrage and an org chart
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:
4 LAKids on Twitter
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.
I was at a meeting this week and a speaker spoke of 'a significant amount of chaos'.

One shouldn't speak that way around me, I immediately questioned if there is such a thing as an 'insignificant amount of chaos'? ...and - because it fit - I stole the line to frame This Week in Public Education with its significancy of local, state and national chaos to title this issue of 4LAKids. Thank you Ilene.

● "NCLB and the Race to the Top are really the same, except that President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's 'Race' has nearly $5 billion as a lure to persuade states to climb aboard the express train to privatization."
— Diane Ravitch to Deborah Meier | 12/15 |

● "Now the states are rushing to reinvent public schools in the model of privately managed chains of schools. (The Massachusetts state Senate has passed a shocking bill to that effect. Massachusetts was one of those states whose test data outperformed virtually all international competitors before NCLB and charters!)

"Meanwhile back at the ranch (NYC's schools): Mayor Bloomberg … has won his election, and nothing will stop him, not even a state law requiring greater participation by parents and the public under mayoral control. Democracy may be a fragile and utopian idea at best. But this is "democracy" as satire."
— Deborah Meier to Diane Ravitch | 12/17 |

So there you have it, EdWeek puts together two learned educational experts to debate Ed Reform tooth+claw and they come to the same conclusion from their different perspectives and viewpoints: Race to the Top is bad policy. (Translation: If you are a middle schooler, teach middle school or have a middle schooler in your family: "RttT, evil spawn of NCLB, sucks!" And not in the lush romantic way of the Twilight series either!)

PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE is more of this same old². A whistle stop on the express train to privatization.

THE ORIGINAL FLAVOR OF PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE - the circa 2001 No Child Left Behind PSC - said that parents in underperforming schools could choose to send their kids to better schools in the same district. This was good thinking that LAUSD pretty much ignored and avoided - using the "there's no room at the inn" argument. This drove many parents to charter schools and private schools, both of which only compounded LAUSD's problems …and lost ADA.

● NCLB's Official Title: "The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 - An act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind" Has ANY of those things happened?

EIGHT YEARS LATER WE HAVE OUR OWN HOME-GROWN LAUSD FLAVOR OF PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE: "A New Way at LAUSD PSC" — where the Board of Ed chooses to give away schools to outside operators …based, it is assumed, on how well they can write a proposal. Bond Oversight Committee chair David Crippins - an appointee of the Chamber of Commerce not given to hyperbole - has called this PSC (which includes giveaways of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of brand new schools) "The biggest riverboat gamble I've ever seen". The taxpayers have put up their dollars; the board of ed is placing their bet.

AND, TO FURTHER COMPLICATE THE ISSUE AND COMPOUND THE ACRONYMS, LAUSD is choosing to embrace and roll out both flavors of PSC next year!*

So now we have NCLB - PSC as a new option in the already confusing-to-the-point-of-incomprehensibility Choices Brochure (aka the magnet school application). To further confuse the confusion we have moved the deadline up a month (that was it last Friday!) and increased the workload and reduced staff in the Options/Magnet Office. If you tried to call the handy helpline you were on hold forever …IF you got through!

Incidentally, the SCHOOL REPORT CARDS - which could've helped parents make informed decisions about their magnet and NCLB PSC choices - come out Jan 19th! Or the 22nd is you're waiting for the photo op. (The mayor was there last year - it ain't a photo op without hizzonner!)

MEANWHILE, the deadline for the A NEW WAY AT LAUSD PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE program applications (parents need not apply, it is for outside operators to choose to be chosen) is in early January - and community meetings at the focus schools ('focus' being the euphemism for 'target') are well underway …if, for the most part, thinly attended. Gentle readers, it isn't that parents and the community don’t care …they don't know. Or understand. How could they?

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - and Happy Holidays!

- smf

*Students of physics here must remember Einstein's relativity of simultaneity. According to the special theory of relativity, it is impossible to say in an absolute sense whether two events occur at the same time if those events are separated in space. In this case, we observers are passengers on the metaphorical Polar Express to privatization; the observed events would be simultaneous train wrecks. The fact that they are not absolutely simultaneous does not mean they are not absolutely train wrecks.

by smf for 4LAKids

The adjectives in the blast of the week's headlines say it all: Poor Teachers, Weak New Teachers, Substandard Teachers, Ineffective Beginning Teachers and Poor Performing Teachers. It tells one everything one needs to know: BAD NEWBIE TEACHERS ARE THE PROBLEM AT LAUSD AND THE SUPERINTENDENT IS ON IT LIKE WHITE ON RICE!

Heave a sigh of relief; the crisis is over …you may return to your homes!

Those headlines also distract from headlines earlier in the week like:
●KEY LA UNIFIED STAFF POSITIONS ARE FUNDED PRIVATELY …about how outsiders are taking over the schools and paying for senior management positions in LAUSD - the very senior managers overseeing the giveaway. This is not a conflict of interest, it's prudent fiscal policy. It's Economics 101 as taught by Adam Smith: The party who benefits pays the tab. If foxes are going to guard the henhouse it's best to have the Brotherhood of Foxes pick up the payroll.
● …or TEACHERS AND STUDENTS PROTEST CAMPUS TAKEOVER BY LAUSD SUPERINTENDENT - wherein the Decentralizer-in-Chief centralizes like a laser.

Dear readers, these are tying times - but the first to be tried in the trials shouldn't be new teachers. Last year new teachers were on the bubble - and some were laid off - purely because they were inexperienced in a bad budget year. Now the onus of failure has been added to the curse of inexperience in the looming 2010–11 RIF. Happy New Year Ms. Chips.

Being a teacher is hard; being a beginning teacher is harder still. Even in good times fully one-third of entry-level teachers - bright young people with their degrees and their credentials and their student loans - folks who dreamt of teaching and spent four or five years in college preparing themselves - are not in the profession five years later.

Mostly they self-select out, for whatever reason. They realize they can't do the job they thought they could do. They can't afford the salary. They won't suffer the foolishness of the system, or the kids, of the parents - of bloggers on a mission.

I come from the show biz; the joke was it's the hardest way possible to make an easy buck. Nothing about teaching is easy except taking cheap shots at the profession.

The superintendent is right: "We do not owe poor performers a job'.

And there ARE teachers who won't leave on their own who need to be eased out, pushed out, shoved out, kicked out. Not a lot – certainly not enough to solve or even ease the budget crisis – but a few. Some of 'em have been bad for a while and are getting worse – exposing kids to year-after-year of Poor, Weak, Substandard and Ineffective Underperformance.

In an Ed Week OpEd Tuesday - 'Thinking Anew About Teacher Tenure' - Paul Sutton, a Washington state HS English teacher wrote: "In most cases, the track for K-12 teacher tenure is too short, and tenure itself is too long."
If a young teacher teaches better than an old teacher and there's only room for one, the old one should go. If an old teacher and young teacher teach equally well and there is only room for one, experience wins out. If an old teacher and a young teacher teach equally poorly there isn't room for either. Ever. Being rid of poor teachers isn't a way to save money; it's a way to save children.
From The Times: "Julie Slayton, the district's former head of research and planning, said the [superintendent's] move appeared to be more of a knee-jerk reaction to outside pressure than a thoughtful approach to a complex problem. She said Cortines' action makes evaluations punitive, rather than a process to help teachers improve.

"This is where it's easiest to focus attention," said Slayton, who now teaches at USC. "But the real challenge is improving the overall quality of instruction, including permanent teachers who could be better but need help."

4LAKids worries that this is another salvo in contract negotiations, an attempt to back the unions - teachers' and administrators' - into a corner and see if they'll fight their way out. I'm terribly sorry, but we are all - every one of us from the lunch room ladies and parents to the board and the supe - in that corner. A corner where not-enough time, money, resources and good will meet a challenge as daunting and important as they come. There are kids that are cornered too …600,000 plus of them.
UNFORTUNATE QUOTE O' TH' WEEK/Broadcast on KPCC: AJ Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents the teachers, has concerns about the Cortines order. He says the evaluation system for teachers is flawed.
“Administrators are not properly trained," he said. "This is not a knock on administrators. One of the worst things that this district does is they don’t know how to train people, whether its administrators or teachers or anybody else.”
Duffy's "…anyone else", 4LAKids can only assume, includes students.

Your homework assignment is to read what the writers wrote, filter it though what you know and make up your mind. That's the only test that ever matters.

The first question is "Do any of us have a clue?"

And the first task at hand for the New Year is to address is the shortage of good will!

Los Angeles Times - By Jason Felch, Jessica Garrison and Jason Song
A Times investigation found that the Los Angeles Unified School District routinely grants tenure to new teachers after cursory reviews -- and sometimes none ...

San Jose Mercury News ‎
AP LOS ANGELES—The head of the Los Angeles Unified School District says bad teachers must go. Superintendent Ramon Cortines on Thursday ordered ...

Los Angeles Times - Jason Song, Jason Felch
Teachers must be let go by seniority, according to state law, which has forced the Los Angeles Unified School District to ignore performance in its ...

Contra Costa Times - Connie Llanos
AJ Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the ability to remove probationary teachers is already within the rights of district administrators ...

89.3 KPCC - Jonathan Pobre
United Teachers Los Angeles president AJ Duffy says the Cortines proposal is misguided. To improve teacher quality, Duffy says the district should work with ...

Los Angeles Times
Ramon C. Cortines today announced that the Los Angeles Unified School District would begin aggressively weeding out poor-performing teachers and ...

GREEDHEAD'S CHRISTMAS: The Seedy Side of Entrepreneurial Education Reform
By Chester E. Finn Jr. & Frederick M. Hess from The American, The Journal of the American Enterprise Institute (!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009 - Officials charged with safeguarding school dollars should get wise to the greedheads.

Twas the week before Christmas, and Race to the Top
Was the vendors’ obsession and focus nonstop.
The consultants were drafting proposals for states
With smug affirmations of positive fates,
While chiefs in their gray suits and governors, too,
Looked to Arne for dollars—please, more than a few.

In Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) infamously asserted that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

In K-12 education, we submit, greed can be good, albeit ugly; but ensuring that children and taxpayers eke real benefits from the education market demands that consumers be at least as discerning as the suppliers are ardent. Today, that is too rarely the case.

We’re veteran champions of entrepreneurs, for-profits, outsourcing, competition, deregulation, and kindred efforts to open public education to providers other than government and operators other than bureaucrats. We’ve served on boards of some of these organizations, advised them and generally supported them.


We’ve zero sympathy for hypocritical establishment grumps who aver that these “nontraditional” providers have darkened the previously pristine world of public schooling with the stain of self-interest. That world has long been dominated by adult “stakeholder” groups that are at least as self-interested as anybody in the private sector. They’ve been shielded by a government monopoly that has ill-served children and taxpayers alike while resisting every effort to reform it or render it more efficient.

Yes, many of today’s for-profit and non-profit operators are self-promoters out to make a buck—and some are little more than snake oil salesmen. Many others, of course, are honorable ventures with a track record of doing right by children and schools.

In the long run, however, whether children and taxpayers benefit from any of this depends on buyers as well as sellers. The problem is that today’s buyers are themselves creatures of the erstwhile government monopoly. They are mostly state and district officials, sometimes school leaders, with scant experience at gauging value for money. They’re only sporadically accountable for the wisdom or efficacy of their purchasing decisions. They’re not rewarded for cost savings or punished for failing to increase productivity. And they don’t spend their own money.


Sometimes it works. There are now places and segments of schooling that can claim reasonably vigorous markets, multiple providers, proliferating choices, and signs of improved efficiency and client-mindedess. Bravo, we say. Yet as we survey today’s education landscape, we find far too many greedheads on the vendor side and fecklessness on the buyer side.

Textbook publishers, for example, enjoy a cozy oligopoly, golfing with superintendents, lobbying states to squelch competitors, and gulping up any rivals that survive the gauntlet long enough to develop viable businesses.

As 2009 ends, we see those same publishers angling for advantage in the nascent plan to devise tests to accompany the new “common core” standards. Regrettably, the whole “Race to the Top” enterprise has become a red light district for lusty charlatans and randy peddlers. Big firms full of wealthy MBA types—people who earn in a quarter what teachers make in a year—have gobbled up the $250,000 per state that the Gates Foundation offered as part of its own generous “consultant stimulus act,” along with additional dollars that states have tossed into the kitty. In return, they’re readying cool PowerPoint presentations, nifty white papers, and jargon-littered plans, all geared to helping states persuade Education Secretary Arne Duncan that yes, they are ready and eager to do his bidding.


Ah, the holiday spirit. Devising a competitive plan is thought by state officials to require the careful hanging of many glittery ornaments upon their proposals. Conveniently, the consultants (and states) are aided in this task by platoons of self-promoters who tout themselves as one-stop solutions—whether or not they’ve ever actually done successfully that which they’re now promising. “You need school turnarounds? We got turnarounds.” “You want Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics? Look no further.” Plenty of outfits will promise to build your data system, take care of school leadership, fix teacher quality, or whatever else you may need. They’re often non-profits but they get pretty nearly the same plush salaries and reputation-boosting meetings with state and federal honchos, opportunities to self-importantly Blackberry late into the night, and future security—as new connections set them up for future rounds of philanthropic and taxpayer largesse.

It isn’t just Race to the Top, however, and it certainly isn’t new. The ink was scarcely dry on No Child Left Behind when slicksters were offering every imaginable form of “supplemental education services.” The operators of too many “virtual charter schools” deliver shoddy goods at high prices to taxpayers. Data gurus, professional developers, Individualized Education Program specialists, and curriculum refurbishers happily take state, federal, and/or local funds for a few days of running through their stock lectures. National “stars” fly in for a cool $10,000 or more to spend a day running dazzling sessions with checklists, inventories, and assorted “kids will love this” strategies. Motivational speakers pitch creative affirmation and welcoming learning environments. Equipped with jargon like “at-promise” (instead of “at-risk,” of course) and worksheets on the “invisible backpack of white privilege,” consultants and education school professors have padded their salaries with school funds at a handsome clip for decades.

Computer vendors and developers of learning software have long pitched a heady array of snazzy education technologies… that then sit, barely used, in the back of classrooms. We need scarcely mention the purveyors of buses, class rings and photos, cafeteria food, construction, and building maintenance, or any of the other good, old-fashioned enterprises that serenely and profitably peddle away while exploiting careless or bureaucratic purchasing habits.


Let us say it again: plenty of private vendors offer quality products and services that benefit schooling and millions of young people. There’s a robust baby cooing in the scuzzy bathwater. Nor should anyone imagine that public education is unique in attracting profiteers along with value-for-your-buck entrepreneurs. Who doesn’t recall military procurement horror stories or the “Big Dig” ceiling panels that fatally fell off because the contractor cut corners?

Markets are supposed to be where buyers and sellers find mutual satisfaction, where prices get established by the willingness of some to pay enough that others find it worthwhile to produce the desired goods and services. Done right, markets are meritocratic as well as efficient.

This despite the proclivity of sellers to be greedy. Markets don’t presume that vendors will be selfless do-gooders. But it is vital that buyers be discerning, parsimonious, persistent, and exacting. The burden is on them to demand value in return for the money they’re spending. And in schooling, too often, purchasers have been heedless, ill-informed, bureaucratic, or gullible. It’s the taxpayer’s money they spend, they’re not always sure how to judge quality, they lack measures of effectiveness or efficiency, and it’s tempting to avoid tough decisions or unpleasant conflict. Reformers and would-be watchdogs often allow state chiefs and local superintendents to excuse irresponsible fiscal stewardship with airy talk of closing achievement gaps and the nobility of the education mission—thus ensuring that the greedheads will prosper another day.


No, not a pretty picture. The only thing worse is when a monopolistic government tries to do everything itself. There, we have plenty of depressing history; aggrieved constituencies, the weight of bureaucratic routine, and the tug of employee demands means that it just doesn’t improve. The private market taking shape isn’t beautiful today but does hold the promise of getting better tomorrow. And it’ll get better faster if purchasers of these diverse goods and services demand value for their bucks and become more discriminating and less susceptible to faddish enthusiasms. We continue to believe in education entrepreneurship. But we’d be a lot happier if the officials charged with safeguarding school dollars would get wise to the greedheads. Gordon Gekko’s defense of self-interest was tinged with truth—but nobody really wants Gordon Gekko running their schools.

So they wrote many words and promised everyone a win,
Thus filling states’ stockings and bringing a grin
To the faces of teachers and school boards galore—
And doing right by the kids whom they say they adore.
Off to the side sat the taxpayer with battered purse,
Now so empty that he was right tempted to curse.
Observing all this, Rick and Chester are led
To entertain Grinch-like concerns in their head
About a world that is generous with gifts and good cheer
But leaves bills for the kids to pay in some future year.
Still, it’s the holiday season, so they’ll suspend doubt and fear—
And wish you much happiness in the New Year.

● Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Chester E. Finn Jr. is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

● The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is a conservative think tank founded in 1943. AEI scholars are considered to be some of the leading architects of the second Bush administration's public policy.

THE BEST SCHOOL DISTRICT SOME BILLIONAIRES CAN BUY? Some Qs, fewer As, more Qs, some outrage and an org chart
from the AALA Update

[4LAKids is publishing the following excerpt - with our 2¢ worth - from the Dec 14 Edition of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Update. The whole thing - complete with contract negotiation rhetorical outrage (hyperbole of another color) is here: ]

Dec. 14 - In mid-November, AALA President Judy Perez asked the Superintendent the following questions:

1. a. What monetary loss does LAUSD suffer when a District school is taken over by an independent charter?
b. How much will implementation of the Public School Choice Resolution cost the District?
2. Will this potential loss of funds affect your decisions regarding the selection of school proposals during the Public School Choice process?

LAUSD Chief Financial Officer, Megan Reilly, provided some answers to the first question, and the Superintendent responded to the second. Here is a summary of their written responses:
1. The District loses significant funds when District schools become charters, but the amount varies from school to school. In the case of Birmingham High School, which converted to charter status in July 2009, the District lost a minimum of $15 million.
Mrs. Reilly did not provide an answer to the second part of Question #1 because the District has not calculated the costs associated with implementation of Public School Choice.

[smf: This, if correct, is the smoking gun in the PSC debacle. "The District has not calculated the costs…" is either an accusation or confession of fiduciary incompetence, possibly malfeasance. ]

2. On Dec. 10, 2009, the Superintendent wrote in a memo to Judy, “I do not believe that I will be considering a funding loss in selecting plans for implementation of the Public School Choice Resolution. I do not believe it is about dollars but it is about the best education for students going forward in those schools that are engaged in the Public School Choice.”

[smf: The superintendent's concern about the 'best education for students going forward' is well placed …but it needs to be for ALL the students of LAUSD. The very real concern here is that PSC is advantageous to the schools that are engaged in PSC AT THE EXPENSE of the rest of the schools.]

Considering the answers we have received so far, here are further questions for the Superintendent:

1. In this time of financial crisis, how can the District embark upon a potentially expensive course of action without determining the cost in advance?
2. How much of the District’s deficit would be eliminated if all focus and new schools under Public School Choice remained District schools?
3. Given the District’s budget crisis, is it wise or prudent to bleed the District of funds that could be used to help mitigate our enormous deficit?
4. What “strings” are the Broad, Walton and Wasserman Foundations pulling at Beaudry?

The Update continues:

We are questioning the continuing personnel additions that are floating through and around the 24th floor.

AALA’s concerns are especially heightened when matched with the Superintendent’s threats to cut large numbers of administrators, teachers and classified staff.

As reported in a memo to the Board of Education, dated December 13, 2009, Matt Hill, Administrative Officer, stated that 13 Senior Staff members have been hired. Their positions are funded by the Broad, Wasserman, and Walton Foundations.

Perhaps the District is in the throes of a “takeover” by the Wasserman, Walton and Broad Foundations.

If so, that would explain the potential selling off of schools and the Superintendent’s threats of layoffs of loyal, hardworking District employees.

Let’s try and understand senior staff’s motivation! The Superintendent has repeatedly said the District needs to support the schools by providing available resources to local sites. Yet administrators, teachers and classified staff at schools have been reduced in force and the aforementioned foundations arefunding numerous additions to the Superintendent’s staff. Further, it is reported that these new foundation-funded employees receive District-provided health benefits.

Here is an Org Chart for the new hires.

by John Fensterwald in The Educated Guess

December 17th, 2009 -- Removing the annual cap on charter schools is out; giving parents in failing schools the right to transfer to another district is in. And so is a public commission, with plenty of teachers on it, to review proposed changes to state academic standards.

In the latest twist in a battle of wills and education lobbies, the Senate yesterday passed a new version of Race to the Top legislation – SBX5-4 – and sent it to the Assembly. It’s not a done deal, but the bill followed intense negotiations involving aides for Gov. Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speak Karen Bass. Bass, in a statement, said “we have resolved all of the essential issues.’’ And the Legislature knows it has all but run out of time, with the state application for a piece of the $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition due Jan. 19.

That’s not to say the Assembly next week won’t stick in amendments that could queer the deal. Bass noted that there remains disagreement on issues “not directly related to Race to the Top.”

That’s code for parental choice.

Last week, the Assembly Education Committee defeated the original Senate bill, pushed by Schwarzenegger and Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, that would have given parents in low-performing schools the right of out-of-district transfer – a big change in state education policy. Also, if 50 percent of parents in a low-performing school or feeder schools signed a petition, school trustees would have been forced to take dramatic action to turn the school around, such as hiring a new principal and staff or inviting in a charter school operator.

But what may have seemed radical two weeks ago gained momentum when parent groups in Los Angeles massed behind it as a civil rights issue. And the state could argue that parental choice could enhance a Race to the Top application, even though it’s not explicitly tied to federal guidelines.

The compromise in SBX5-4: The parents’ petition provision will be limited to 75 schools, still a significant number, and the right of transfer will be limited to parents in the low-achieving 10 percent of schools. A representative of Los Angeles Unified testified in favor of the bill – much to my surprise.
The fight over charters

The importance of lifting the cap on charters, for additional application points, has been overstated. There are currently under 900 charter schools; the cap is 1,350 and grows 100 per year. The feds know California is charter-friendly.

The Assembly bill – ABX5-8, sponsored by Education Committee Chairwoman Julia Brownley, lifted the cap but, in its earlier versions, included some potentially meddlesome language restricting charter growth. But differences have narrowed, so it became a battle over who has authority to regulate charters: the Legislature or the state Board of Education, appointed by the governor.
Compressed deadline for common-core standards

California and other states have been prodded by Race to the Top rules to join a hasty process to adopt national standards in math and English. The bill would commit the state to adopt, by late summer, 85 percent of the common core standards yet to be developed by National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Critics fear that the result will lower California’s academic standards.

Creating an Academic Content Standards Commission, appointed by the Senate, Assembly and governor, would at least provide some oversight and an ability for the public to be heard.

SBX5-4 also requires establishing alternative training programs for aspiring teachers in science, math and technology, along with career academics – a move particularly advocated by business leaders in Silicon Valley.

●●smf's 2¢: It seems to me that if the bill fails to eliminate the cap on charter schools it fails to meet the requirements of RttT. Game over.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
HAWAII EDUCATION TALKS FAIL; SCHOOL CLOSURES GO ON: by The Associated Press 12/6 --- Honolulu – Hawaii schools w...

TEACHERS LEARN TOO + CYBER-BULLYING LESSONS: Letters to the LA Times | December 19, 2009 Teachers learn too Re ...


BRIEFLY: CA ED NEWS 12/18: from UCLA IDEA CA News Roundup Does grading bias apply to education reports? 12-17-...

RttT/NCLB v 2.0: STATE SENATE PASSES NEW COMPROMISE EDUCATION BILL: Calif. Senate passes new compromise education b...

12/19 for 12/20: TOMORROW'S LAUSD NEWS TODAY: from Google News LA schools chief orders weak new teachers ousted L...

RttT/NCLB v.2.0: MEIER: 'THE ALTERNATIVE?' TRANSPARENCY & HONEST DATA: by Deborah Meier - from the Bridging Differ...

3% OF THE STUDENTS, 100% OF THE CONTROVERSY: Opinion by Timm Herdt /Ventura County Star 12-16-2009 -- There are 10...


PUT POWER OVER CALIFORNIA’S SCHOOLS IN THE HANDS OF PARENTS +smf’s 2¢: Parent Revolutionary Ben Austin says pa...


Coda: DAE’VON BAILEY’S KILLER GETS 25 TO LIFE; Dae’von gets an unmarked grave.: By Hector Becerra | LA Times ...

Race2Top/NCLB v. 2.0 – Two Letters from Diane: THE RACE TO NOWHERE + OPEN LETTER TO THE U.S. D.O.E. RE: THE RACE ...



SIGN THE PETITION: Maintain the Integrity of the Arts Instructional Programs of LAUSD + traduccion en español: Vie...


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 • 213-241-6386 • 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
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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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