Sunday, December 06, 2009

Shelter from the storm

4LAKids: Sunday 6•Dec•2009
In This Issue:
DUNCAN AIMS TO MAKE INCENTIVES KEY ELEMENT OF REVAMPED ESEA (The act formerly known as "no Child Left Behind")
TENTATIVE DEAL ON PILOT SCHOOLS SET WITH UTLA: LAUSD, teachers union agree to pact that would call for 20 to open next year
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
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Sebastian Junger’s book about the Nor’easter of 1991 created an instant cliché and much-abused literary metaphor: The Perfect Storm. When everything, the anticipated and the unexpected, combine in a singular moment. The Event Horizon: the intersection of Chaos Theory and Quantum Mechanics at the split second when time and matter fuse. Irresistible force, meet the immovable object. LAUSD, meet the state budget crisis and the international credit meltdown while NCLB implodes and The Charter Movement explodes. The Great Recession is over on paper …but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

ON MONDAY Education Secretary Duncan said what he’d like to see in a post-NCLB world: less stick and more carrot. Good programs rewarded rather than bad programs punished. Great positive thinking … but after eight years of effort in one direction the inertia gets in the way. And there still isn’t enough time and/or money to reward success and implement improvement.

And what about the schools that have been performing well? Doing as they are supposed to do all along… without the rewards and the special attention? The Ivanhoes and Mount Washingtons; Nobel Middle Schools and Bravo Medical Magnet High Schools get nothing. Is excellence enough?

ON TUESDAY Dec 1st the Board of Ed was to hear from LAUSD Chief Financial Officer Megan Riley on the budget for next year. The district is required to submit its budget to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, signed and approved, on December 8th. But the perfection of the storm got in the way. The state revenue collections on which this all depends are a moving target, moving down. Ms. Riley was probably tracking the Black Friday retail figures and the box office of “New Moon “closely. Will “Avatar” bring the state a tax windfall? The collective bargaining is apparently neither. The feds are changing the rules. The tealeaves are unclear. Whether there would’ve been a quorum is open to doubt and the special meeting was postponed.

This is undoubtedly just-as-well; this board of ed couldn’t possibly make the situation any better. And whatever LAUSD does poorly, it does in a hurry poorlier.

TUESDAY EVENING saw the meeting of arts teachers and parents at the New High School for the Arts about the outright elimination of LAUSD’s elementary Arts Education Program in the next two years of budget cuts. If the District’s nationally recognized elementary arts education (dance, instrumental & choral music, performing and visual arts) program is eliminated those elementary teachers will displace (‘bump‘)secondary arts teachers with less seniority – even though elementary arts teachers travel from school-to-school and secondary teachers work at single school sites. It must be remembered that the proposal to eliminate Elementary Arts Ed was represented last year as purely a ‘worst case scenario’ place-holder for years 2 and 3 of the three-year budget submitted to the county. Now, a year later, the scenario is worse-than-worst, and the unacceptable has become inevitable. LAUSD’s Ten Year Plan for and commitment to Arts Education implemented in 1999 lasted exactly ten years and expires; R.I.P.

Because we teach to (and budget to) the test, and the arts are not tested, the arts are forfeit. The myth of Standards Based Instruction is exposed; we are purely test-based.

SOMEBODY CARES: According to the Google Zeitgeist survey, the most Goggled search unique to the metropolitan LA area? LAUSD!

WEDNESDAY had the news that LAUSD and UTLA had reached some sort of resolution on pilot schools … (if the membership will approve them) and that Green Dot and Green Dot Founder Steve Barr had reached a resolution on $50,000 in undocumented and /or unaccounted-for out-of-pocket expenses.

THURSDAY The PBS NewsHour had a feature on “Race to the Top”. A selection:

JOHN MERROW (PBS Special Correspondent for Education): Critics say No Child Left Behind produced a race to the bottom. Now we have a Race to the Top and a secretary of education with $4.35 billion he can spend on whatever education programs he wants.

That's more discretionary money than all his predecessors combined.

ARNE DUNCAN: (US Education Secretary) I want to take to scale what is really working and take those package of things together to say, if we do all these things, we can get dramatically better. If we have the best and brightest teachers where we need them, if we have great principals, if we're working with great nonprofits, if we have common high standards, and great assessments, and then great data systems behind that, if we do these things well, we can make a huge difference in our students' lives.

JOHN MERROW: But, like tougher standards and more tests, most of these ideas have been tried before.

DIANE RAVITCH: (Former JHW Bush Education Advisor) I would like to see the secretary point to a district where they have done -- some district that has done what he recommends and where you can say, now, there's a district that's turned around.


Crenshaw 35, Dorsey 6
Narbonne 42, Carson 38

Los Angeles Hamilton 55, Fairfax 35
El Camino Real 21, Arleta 20

The emergence of the Arteta Mustangs delight the Bond Oversight Committee member in me; this is Arleta’s second year as a school – its first with a senior class!

Saturday, Dec. 12, 1 p.m. at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
#1 Crenshaw (13-0) vs. #11 Narbonne (8-5)

Friday, Dec. 11, 7 p.m. at East Los Angeles College
#4 Los Angeles Hamilton (10-3) vs. #3 El Camino Real (12-1)
[scores+schedule: LA Times]

SATURDAY I DROVE DOWN TO THE ANNUAL CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE in San Diego to make a presentation on collaboration between school districts and public and private partners in student health.

The feeling at the thinly attended (my presentation and the whole shebang) CSBA conference was that of the good folks of a poor village facing impending doom – like the first reel of the Magnificent Seven …or The Seven Samurai for you real cinemaphiles. The state budget and the economy have them in its evil grasp and every school district in the state is expected to deliver a balanced budget to their county office of education by next Wednesday. Unless Arne Duncan and Ben Bernanke gather up five other friends and ride in to save the day the situation is grave.

I don’t know about Ben, but Arne seems to think the answer is charter schools and the reality TV-like “Race to the Top" - where winners get millions and losers get voted off the island.

School trustees, superintendents, CFO’s up-and-down the state certainly had better things to do this weekend than hear about healthcare collaboratives. I would have gone to a conference session about sound finance in tough times …and I love student healthcare!

The worrisome interim solution that seems to be emerging is ‘Total Flexibility’. Total Flexibility sounds good – but it means no accountability: “Here’s six dollars to buy ten dollars worth of student achievement – but I don’t need a receipt.” It’s the end of arts education. It’s the end of counselors and nurses. It’s the end of healthcare collaboratives. If it isn’t tested, it isn’t in the budget.

Remember this: despite the Friday headlines - ‘Layoffs slow sharply’ and ‘U.S, payrolls shrink less than expected’ - those headlines about the end of the recession are NOT about public school education in California. Depression, dear readers, is not just a economic condition. There WILL be more reductions to the state budget that will be absorbed by school districts, schools, classrooms and students. There WILL be more layoffs. Programs WILL be eliminated. And Wednesday’s budget to the county is NOT the last word; there will be more negotiations, more give and take …and much more hard work to do.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger …[the big) IF it doesn’t kill us!

¡Onward/Hasta adelante!

- smf


By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group/Daily News,Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, San Bernardino Sun, Redlands Daily Facts, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News

December 6, 2009 - For 9-year-old Ferran Romero, there is no sweeter sound than the boisterous bellows of his trombone.

"It sounds like an elephant," Ferran said as he balanced the brass instrument, nearly his size.

The fourth-grade student started playing the trombone last year thanks to a Los Angeles Unified program that brings music, dance, theater and art classes to every elementary school in the district.

The program was launched by LAUSD 10 years ago as part of a districtwide effort to restore arts education at local schools. However, LAUSD's current budget crisis threatens to undo many of the recent gains.

Half of the district's 355 elementary arts and music teaching positions are set to be cut next year - and halved again by 2012 - as the district looks for ways to close a nearly $500 million budget deficit.

The cuts would leave 172 teachers out of a job next year, force many teachers to switch schools during the layoff process, threaten the future of dozens of programs and leave thousands of kids with no music or art.

"I don't know where else I would go to play the trombone," Ferran said. "I don't know anyone else who has a trombone and I have nowhere else to practice."

Arts advocates who have struggled for years to restore LAUSD's arts programs describe the cuts as devastating.

"I went through 10 years of receiving pink slips every year before the district decided to make arts a priority," said music teacher Linda Mouradian, a 31-year LAUSD veteran.

"Now we've finally brought this joy back and here we go again back on the chopping block."

In 1999, the LAUSD board unanimously approved a resolution that promised to reinstate dance, theater, music and visual arts classes for all students, at all grade levels, in all schools.

The push came after nearly two decades of limited funding for arts education after Proposition 13 was approved in 1978 and seriously restricted revenue from property taxes. When funding for schools was depleted, arts programs - seen as luxuries - were the first to go.

At LAUSD, theater programs were shut down, dance classes disappeared, band instruments were sold off and teachers were laid off.

Two decades later, advocacy efforts from community arts organizations, parents and educators helped restore funding for arts programs and shift the attitude about arts being "non-essential."

California created standards for arts curriculum and the federal government included the arts as core classroom curriculum.

The mves led to an increase in funding for arts programs that this year finally allowed the district to bring performing and visual arts classes to all of its 501 elementary schools. Programs at the middle school and high school level, where arts are offered as electives, were also increased.

Then last year, when the district faced a $400 million deficit, state grant funding that was earmarked for the arts was used to help close the budget gap. The district, which had begun hiring local community arts organizations to run additional educational programs at schools, had to freeze all program spending.

The proposed cuts for next year would mean schools could only offer music every other year and to only a portion of their students.

Arts, dance and theater classes would have to spread to schools on a three-year rotation.

"We've spent 11 years building this wonderful program that's become a model for urban districts throughout the nation. It is simply devastating that we might lose it," said Robin Lithgow, LAUSD's elementary arts coordinator.

Arts are not the only thing facing hard times.

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines has called for cuts next year that include slashing school nurses by

50 percent and school police and campus aides by a quarter, unless concessions are reached with the district's employee unions.

Arts advocates hope Cortines will reconsider.

"Those who can afford to do so will pull their kids out of public school," said Spike Dolomite Ward, an LAUSD parent and founder of the Arts and Education Council.

Just like layoffs with regular teachers, performing and visual arts teachers will be laid off by classification and seniority. So to lay off elementary music teachers, all of LAUSD's music teachers will be put on a list based on how many years they have been working with the district. Those with the least amount of tenure in the district will be laid off first.

Lithgow said despite grim prospects she hopes to organize a massive fundraising effort, along with her teachers, who plan to use holiday recitals and winter shows as a way to connect with parents and raise awareness. Community leaders and philanthropists will also be tapped in an effort to prevent an entire new generation of students from being shut out of an arts education.

"We cannot take the joy of producing music, of performing a dance, of reciting lines on a stage away from these kids," Mouradian said. "Once we take it away we will never get it back."

DUNCAN AIMS TO MAKE INCENTIVES KEY ELEMENT OF REVAMPED ESEA (The act formerly known as "no Child Left Behind")
“Under NCLB there are 50 ways to fail, and if you succeeded there was nothing there for you,”

By Alyson Klein | Education Week Vol. 29, Issue 13

November 30 -- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday that he envisions a significant new emphasis on federal incentives for high-performing schools, districts, and states in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, expected to be taken up by Congress as early as next year.

Mr. Duncan said the Department of Education is considering proposals that would offer increased autonomy, recognition, and resources for states that commit to adopting college- and career-readiness standards, and for schools and districts that make significant progress in student achievement.

“Under [the No Child Left Behind Act] there are basically no incentives. There was nothing. There are 50 ways to fail, and if you succeeded there was nothing there for you,” the secretary said in a wide-ranging interview with Education Week reporters.

He said he’d like to change that when Congress and the administration move to revamp the ESEA, whose current version is the No Child Left Behind law. The law was originally slated for reauthorization in 2007.

“Whether it’s additional resources, whether it’s greater flexibility on additional resources, whether it’s shining a spotlight on them, … there’s a whole package of things” the next version of the law could include to reward excellence, Mr. Duncan said.

Through the coming reauthorization, the department is seeking to build on the emphasis on teacher quality, data, standards, and support of low-performing schools that is at the heart of the education portion of the economic-stimulus law enacted in February, Mr. Duncan said.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discusses the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act during an interview with staff writers from Education Week on November 30, 2009, in Bethesda, Md.
—Video by Charlie Borst/Education Week

That law—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—will provide up to $100 billion for education, and includes an expanded role for the federal government in using competitive grants to reward states and districts that make significant progress in those four areas. The main vehicles are $4 billion in grants under the Race to the Top Fund and $650 million through the Investing in Innovation Fund.

Mr. Duncan said those programs could help inform the department’s efforts to include incentives in the new version of the ESEA.
Policy ‘Lever’

The department also would like to imbed so-called growth models, in which schools get credit for improving the progress of individual students, into its new definition of performance targets for schools, said Carmel Martin, the department’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, who is helping to lead the ESEA-renewal effort. She also took part in the Nov. 30 interview.

And officials would like to use the ESEA as “a lever” to prod educators to use data to improve student outcomes, she said. Secretary Duncan specifically cited Louisiana’s model of using student data to improve teacher preparation as an example.

The Education Department will also seek to retain the NCLB law’s practice of disaggregating student data to shine a spotlight on different student populations, such as students in special education, and keep in place the law’s focus on closing achievement gaps between racial minorities and students in poverty and their more advantaged peers, Ms. Martin said.

But the department would like to give states and districts greater flexibility on intervening in schools that struggle to meet the goals of the law, Ms. Martin said. The federal government has already begun to experiment with that concept through a differentiated-consequences pilot project, started during the tenure of Secretary Duncan’s predecessor, Margaret Spellings. ("States Get Flexibility on Targets," March 6, 2006.)

The new version of the ESEA should also include a focus on students’ nonacademic needs, Ms. Martin said, including health and safety, and making schools into community centers. And she said the department would seek an emphasis on innovation and evaluation, building on the proposed guidance for the Investing in Innovation, or i3, program.

Mr. Duncan said he is already reaching out to those on both sides of aisle in Congress to pave the way for a bipartisan reauthorization of the ESEA. Other major Obama administration efforts—including the current push for a health-care overhaul and the stimulus program itself—have struggled to gain support from Republican lawmakers.

“We really want this to be a bipartisan effort; we’re spending lots of time in the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Duncan said. “Education is the one area where we have to rise above politics. Everyone sees this as an issue that we can come together behind. I think we have an opportunity to do that.”

The secretary made it clear that teacher quality is going to play a central role in the ESEA reauthorization, and he spoke emphatically about the importance of using teacher evaluations to improve student outcomes, particularly in the lowest-performing schools.

“Teacher evaluation in this country is fundamentally broken,” he said. “In a country where teacher evaluation is divorced largely from student progress, student success, how do you defend that?”

And he reiterated that the administration still places a major value on merit pay, saying that the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, which gives grants to school districts for performance-pay programs, was “the best thing the previous administration” did.
High Competitive Bar

Mr. Duncan said the department will have high expectations for states seeking a slice of the Race to the Top Fund, which will reward states for embracing certain education redesign principles. And he warned that there will be states that lose out.

“There’s going to be a very, very high bar,” he said. “People won’t believe it until we do it.” He said states that miss the mark on the first round of funding, to be distributed next spring, could retool their applications to have a shot at phase two, which is slated to be given out sometime later next year.

“There will be lot of money left in the second round,” he said.

Asked whether he would urge President Barack Obama to seek a second round of federal recovery aid for education beyond the current stimulus law, Mr. Duncan did not answer directly. But he cautioned that states and districts—many of which are still in dire financial straits, despite the infusion of federal cash—should not bank on getting a second helping.

“This is a really tough time around the country. It’s tough for states, it’s tough for districts, it’s tough for families,” Mr. Duncan said. “And so, can I sit here today and say we’re going to have a second round of this? No, I can’t. I can’t begin to say that. … [There’s] no guarantee whatsoever.”

At the same time, the secretary suggested that the economic crisis has created some opportunities.

“What I’ve also said is when times are tough ... painful as it is, you often have the kind of fundamental breakthroughs that you need, and they’re sometimes easier to get than when times are easier,” he said.

● Ed Week Assistant Editor Erik W. Robelen contributed to this story.

TENTATIVE DEAL ON PILOT SCHOOLS SET WITH UTLA: LAUSD, teachers union agree to pact that would call for 20 to open next year

By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

Dec 3, 2009 -- Los Angeles Unified announced a tentative deal Wednesday with the teachers union that would allow the opening of 20 more semi-independent "pilot" schools next year.

If approved, the deal could help LAUSD retain control of more campuses under the district's reform plan that allows teachers and nonprofits to compete to run public schools.

Pilot schools are district-run campuses that give staff and parents more decision-making power and have teachers working under more flexible contracts. They have become an attractive option to charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently run and are not required to hire union workers.

The deal between LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles still has to be finalized by union leaders and the Los Angeles Board of Education, but if approved could bring the number of innovative pilot schools in the district to 30 by next year.

"The purpose of establishing pilot schools is to provide additional models of educational excellence that will promote positive learning environments, help students improve test scores and foster widespread reform," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

The tentative deal comes as the district decides who will operate 36 new and underperforming schools that are up for bid under the district's ambitious "School Choice" plan.

The district and UTLA now only have an agreement for 10 pilot schools. But the small campuses have grown popular as a progressive reform option and more than 40 schools across LAUSD have already expressed interest in converting to the new model.

At least a dozen of those schools are in the San Fernando Valley. Some teachers and community members want to launch a pilot campus at San Fernando Middle School - the region's only underperforming campus up for bid.

"UTLA supports several reform models, of which pilot schools are one," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

"Pilot schools, like the other reform models we support, put teachers and other stakeholders at the center of decision making about how money is spent at schools, curriculum and professional development."

For months the district and the teachers union had been unable to agree on a plan to expand the number of pilot schools.

Rumors surfaced that some UTLA members were interested in having a moratorium on pilot schools because they were concerned that the streamlined contract could weaken all teacher contracts.

If the tentative deal is not approved by February, the popular district-run and union-supported option could be removed as a choice for applicants vying for district schools.

UTLA is scheduled to host a special meeting next Thursday. If union leaders do not approve the deal, the agreement could be sent to a vote of all union members.


By Amina Khan | LA Times

December 1, 2009 -- Miss G is back at Hamilton High!

The beloved office worker for the school's two magnets was laid off by the Los Angeles Unified School District in mid-September.

"I felt railroaded," Christina Gutierrez, two gold hoops and a stud sparkling from each ear. "I saw something in the mail, and my heart dropped."

Gutierrez, who lost her job because of low seniority, cut her losses and found a job at an elementary school.

Students, however, were not so willing to let her go. They staged a 500-strong sit-in protest on her last day and eventually petitioned the Board of Education to let her return.

Many students, like senior Jimmy Biblarz, had a personal reason to protest Gutierrez's departure. His younger sister, Veronica, had been out sick nearly two months last year and Gutierrez made sure the freshman's homework made it home, and helped her through her first day back.

"She just actually cares," Veronica said. "Not like the fake pretending to care. . . . She takes it seriously."

Four friends -- Jimmy, Noemi "Mimi" Rodriguez, David Kamins and Maya Festinger -- came up with the idea for a sit-in, teleconferencing two nights a week. Jimmy went from class to class to publicize the plan. David looked up rules and regulations. Maya suggested they print informational handouts to give to each protester.

On Miss G's last day, students filed into the humanities building, lining every available space. Students kept doors clear and a few inches of hallway open, but "the walkway was scattered with limbs," Maya said.

Local district administrator Angela Hewlett-Bloch spoke to the students in the quad. When Principal Gary Garcia asked them to quiet down, he said, "they switched, on their own, to snapping [their fingers] . . . like an old beatnik thing."

Someone in the crowd came up with the idea to write letters. The students collected 300 letters in support of Gutierrez.

The four organizers glowed after the protest, Jimmy said, but "Monday we realized Miss G wasn't at school, and nobody was going to take any of us seriously."

They also had heard that the worker who had replaced Gutierrez preferred to work at an elementary school -- and Gutierrez had found substitute work at an elementary school. Why not switch the two?

The students decided to bring their solution to the Nov. 17 school district board meeting. They watched videos of past board meetings to learn what not to do. They didn't want to sound repetitive -- a common mistake -- or unduly negative.

"We want to create a legitimate student representation," Maya said. "We don't want to be belligerent or bludgeoning. A lot of what we're about is proposing solutions, rather than listing grievances."

The students' presentation inspired board member Steven Zimmer to break protocol.

"I know we don't respond to speakers," he said, "but I do want to say that I am extraordinarily impressed with your presentations."

A few days later, the students got word: Miss G. was coming back to Hamilton as a substitute. She's not totally out of the woods but at least she's back, for now.

Gutierrez returned to her old desk last week, where students greeted her with cupcakes and balloons.

But the mother of four said the students were the real stars.

"This isn't about me," she said. "They should feel so empowered. I am so proud of them."

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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.
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