Sunday, January 22, 2012

“O come, O come, Emmanuel”

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 22•Jan•2012
In This Issue:
 •  FINNISHING SCHOOL: The world's top school system gives pointers in California
 •  WHAT’S THE PLAN?: Supplemental Educational Services, Adult Education, Early Childhood Education
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not neccessariily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  Follow 4 LAKids on Twitter - or get instant updates via text message by texting "Follow 4LAKids" to 40404
 •  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.
ON TUESDAY EVENING Diane Ravitch stood before the altar in Emmanuel Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Boulevard and preached to the choir of red shirted, red jacketed, red tied and red tie-dyed UTLA members.

There were a lot of folks there I thought I’d never see in church – especially a Presbyterian one – unless they entered in a box. (I am a Scot-by-ancestry – Presbyterianism's roots are in the Church of Scotland.)

But the event was sponsored by the teachers union and it and the parking was free and across the street from the UTLA building – and Dr. Ravitch’s message is their gospel and they are True Believers …as I rapidly (if not so rabidly) am becoming in late middle-age. (With the end in sight one must believe in something!)

Dr. Ravitch herself is a recent convert to The Cause. Having washed away her Bush-era Test-the Kids and Bash-the-Teachers and their Union ways she now leads the charge against the forces of ®eform and billionaire foundation /hedge-fund charter, voucher and privateers like a Saint Joan or Billy Sunday or some other metaphorical redeemed sinner She is a studious+learned convert who brings the weight of a lifetime of scholarship and a wealth of not-data-but-information and knowledge and even wisdom to her evangelism.

Tuesday evening Dr. Ravitch was also a pilgrim, on her way to Stanford to hear another teacher of teachers, Pasi Sahlberg of Finland – the promised land of progressive education – and his sermon on how they do it in Finland. [FINNISHING SCHOOL – follows]

And Dr. Sahlbergs message, the Lessons from Finland?
FINNISH LESSON 1: There is hope
FINNISH LESSON 2: There is another way
FINNISH LESSON 3: Teachers matter
FINNISH LESSON 4: Doing more of the same is not the solution
FINNISH LESSON 5: Learning is more important than achievement

And so while Dr. Ravitch offered a resurrected Late Great American School System on Tuesday – and Dr. Sahlberg offered hope on Wednesday to the Empowerment Through Learning in a Global World Conference at Stanford ― Governor Brown offered his own small-is-better glimmer of hope in Sacramento …and later in the day at LA City Hall and later still to teachers in Burbank. …IF two-thirds of us vote for his tax initiative. [THE STATE OF THE STATE OF THE SCHOOLS – follows]

And if we don’t vote his way, he warned, there is little hope, no other way, teachers will be laid-off, more-of-the-same will be done and learning+ achievement will be thrown under the bus. Except there will be no bus.

“VALUE”, LIKE “CHOICE” & “REFORM”, are words whose meaning has been tortured into admitting something less than the truth. “Managing for Value” is the new Orwellian NewSpeak/business-school-spin-jargon/euphemism for right sizing and lay-offs and pink-slip-budget-cutting.

Last week the superintendent didn’t announce his plan to reorganize and reconfigure and value-engineer LAUSD into 4+1 new local Districts (I,2,3,4 and name-to-be-determined) and three silos of command: (Education, Operations and Parents).[ 4 Your Review: The Shape of LA Schools to Come? -] The plan wasn’t announced; there was no press release, no discussion, no debate – it just was, in the key of E: “I wanna tell you how it's gonna be; you’re gonna give your love to me.”

I was complimented last week by an educator for a thought in the last 4LAKids that “Fiction is something that never happened, not something that isn’t true”. It’s not an original thought – it’s a framed one on the bulletin board above my computer.

So I imagine:


MEDIUM SHOT: An UNDERLING on a Fast Track – Bob Cratchit with a-three-figure-income, all urgency+data-driven, a Speedracer-to-the-Top strategizes – steeped in business school thought. His charge and his mission is subsidized by billionaire philanthropy; he’s a bought-and-paid-for true believer in Choice+Value+®eform – in Public/Private Venture Capitalism and Core Standardized Testing; in No Child Left Behind and outsourcing everything that isn’t tested to somebody/anyone else who can do it better/cheaper/non-union.

PUSH IN: He is writing a Plan.

MONTAGE: The UNDERLING shows the Plan to HIS BOSS, who shows it to Other Underlings: YES MAD MEN+WOMEN with narrow ties, narrow lapels and narrowed vision – all similarly steeped and subsidized and co-opted

CLOSE ON BOSS (with a thin smile): “I like it …Go with it!””

CUT to YES MAD MEN+WOMEN (in unison): “Yes!”

ON UNDERLING: “Go with it? Take it to the Board? Put in on the agenda? Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes?”

ON BOSS (You can practically hear the ice water pumping through his veins): “No. This school district has too many flagpoles, too many agendas and too few saluters.”

EXTREME CLOSE UP OF BOSS: “Nail it to the flagpole!”

And even if it wasn’t, so it is.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

Highlights of the coverage edited from the LA Times by smf -

“The governor also asked for changes in public schools, saying the state has overemphasized student testing and calling for local officials to have more control over their budgets. He asked state lawmakers to remove requirements that districts spend certain funds on specific programs.”

●●smf: January 19, 2012 :: I listened to Brown’s State of the State speech live – and heard him deliver it again in LA yesterday afternoon: Here is the full text:


LA Times Editorial |

January 19, 2012 :: The gist of Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address — that California is recovering — is hard to absorb, given the continuing high levels of unemployment, the year-to-year multibillion-dollar shortfalls in the state budget, the shuttering of state parks, the looming cuts to schools and the dismantling of human services programs.

Yet the numbers, while hardly overwhelming, show that California has slowly, tentatively, turned a corner. What now?

Brown lays out a plan that is controversial yet simple: Get the rest of the way over the hump with deeper cuts and with a temporary tax increase; shift more authority for incarceration and education from Sacramento to counties and school districts; fix coming budget problems, most notably public pensions, before they actually become problems; and keep the state on the cutting edge of environmental policy, transportation leadership and statewide opportunity.

The governor got most of it right. The tax increase he is seeking would indeed be temporary and would in fact leave Californians still paying far less in taxes than they did two years ago. And without it, a further dismantling of the state's public education system would be necessary, foolishly robbing from our future. Even if the increases are approved, the spending cuts he's proposing — including drastic slashes in Medi-Cal funding — will end up costing the state more in the long run.

He is correct, but moves only halfway to the goal, on so-called realignment. In transferring responsibility for imprisoning thousands of inmates to counties, the governor is continuing a rollback of the Sacramento-oriented centralizing over which he presided in his first round as governor, in the 1970s. California can cap property taxes, as it did with Proposition 13 in 1978, and still return to local communities much of the decision-making power they lost in the ensuing years when Sacramento back-filled the depleted local coffers. The latest addition to the governor's prison realignment plan is merely strengthening the promise of jail funding to counties. To truly realign, the governor must also return to county residents much of their former power to raise their own revenue and make their own spending decisions.

Likewise, returning a measure of control over education decisions to local school districts is a healthy philosophical move, as far as it goes. But it's not yet clear whether relaxing some testing, as he proposes, truly moves the state in that direction.

The governor also took an appropriate swipe at "declinists": those people who insist that the state's predicament is part of some inexorable fall rather than a fixable result of poor policy and an especially bad, but temporary, economic turn. Brown knows that when the state emerges from its budget winter, it must be ready to face the future — with investments in clean energy, swift transportation and nimble government.

As in his younger days, Brown has little problem with vision. To get Californians to follow, he will need to explain further — and to keep explaining — that he's got the proper destination in mind.

GOV. BROWN’S SCHOOL REFORM PROPOSAL SHOULD GET A PASSING GRADE: Gov. Jerry Brown's budget aims to give school districts greater flexibility in spending state funds.

LA Times Op-Ed by By Bruce Fuller |

January 18, 2012, 4:15 p.m. :: Tucked deep inside Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 2012-13 budget for California is a little-noticed proposal for the most radical reform of school funding in the state since Proposition 13.

Brown has proposed deregulating some two dozen state programs, including a popular effort to shrink class size in primary classrooms. The deregulation would free up about $7.1 billion in state funds that are currently earmarked for the programs to be used by districts for any educational purpose they see fit, allowing districts far more flexibility to direct funds where they are most needed.

The proposal would also, over five years, create a system in which individual students are funded at different levels, depending on the actual costs of bringing them to proficiency. Districts would be allotted more per student for those with more costly needs, a move likely to shift more dollars to urban systems like the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Michael Kirst, the Brown-appointed president of the state Board of Education, says the governor is aiming "to direct more money to the neediest students and transform a centralized and overregulated finance system."

The budget would still require schools to do more with less, aiming to restore only about $4.9 billion to state school funding, roughly half of what has been cut since 2007. And even that additional funding will be possible only if voters approve a ballot initiative to boost tax revenue by $4.6 billion.

Brown's proposals come at a time when a majority of citizens say they favor modest tax increases for schools, according to polling by the Public Policy Institute of California, but only if existing dollars are spent more effectively with less bureaucracy. The reforms proposed in the budget are a decisive step in that direction.

To shave Sacramento's own bureaucracy, the governor would redirect an additional

$2.6 billion in various funding streams into a block grant incentive program for which districts would be held accountable. This would mean that the state would no longer mandate what districts must spend on such things as textbooks, driver's education, arts and music, shifting that money into the omnibus grants program. The proposal builds on a Republican-led effort in 2009 that collapsed 40 other education programs into a $4.5-billion block grant program.

So what would this mean for a district like L.A. Unified? Currently, about a third of the district's annual funding is tied up in rule-bound programs. Not only does that severely limit the district's ability to direct funds where they're most needed, but, according to the findings of a recent study carried out by UC Berkeley and Stanford, it also requires school principals to spend much of their time completing forms and hosting a stream of compliance officers.

The maze of regulations that binds up school funding today dates to the 19th century, and is now well understood by only a few well-heeled lobbyists. Brown's budget is an attempt at modernization. "We want to keep this as simple, as transparent as possible," said Nick Schweizer, a senior finance advisor to the governor.

The logic behind Brown's proposals is similar to that used to finance healthcare: Public dollars should be allocated according to actual costs. In the case of healthcare, this means that more dollars are directed to patients requiring more expensive treatments. Currently, Sacramento allocates about the same amount of money to educate a bright, upper-middle-class child with highly educated parents living in Pacific Palisades as it does to educate a child struggling to read and living below the poverty line in the inner city. But the costs of bringing those two children to proficiency are very different.

Predictably, the politics are already getting ugly. Rural districts are fighting to retain protected dollars for 4-H clubs. Parents of kids who have been designated "gifted" are fighting for their set-asides. Teacher unions will fight to strictly regulate dollars for smaller classes. And that's nothing compared with the fireworks we'll see when the governor's plan gets to the Legislature.

The proposals, though, are sound. Rather than focus on trying to defeat them, stakeholders should focus on developing a sensible plan for phasing in the new system in a way that doesn't do harm. Growing suburban districts, for example, need to have the ability to raise local taxes more easily to fund schools. Schools that show improvement should be rewarded, and those that don't should be called to account. Otherwise, schools could benefit from attracting, but not serving, weak students — just as doctors are rewarded for treating disease, not for preventing it.

The governor has presented the kind of austere but flexible plan demanded by these lean times, and his strategy could be good for California students. Directing scarce dollars to children who most need support, and untying the hands of local educators to attract stronger teachers and lift achievement, are potent reforms that are long overdue.
● Bruce Fuller is a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.


Themes in the News for the week of Jan. 16-20, 2012 by UCLA IDEA |

01-20-2012 :: In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged that “the house of education is divided by powerful forces and strong emotions.” Nowhere have those forces and emotions stirred more distraction and waste than in the passion for high-stakes standardized testing.

Brown spoke of local control and his belief that schools and districts know best how to help students by using assessments wisely: “To me that means, we should set broad goals and have a good accountability system, leaving the real work to those closest to the students.” Brown noted that standardized tests—which are not local, but statewide or national—can draw attention and resources from local decisions and teaching. The governor wants to dial down the disproportionate energies spent on tests: “I believe it is time to reduce the number of tests and get the results to teachers, principals and superintendents in weeks, not months. With timely data, principals and superintendents can better mentor and guide teachers as well as make sound evaluations of their performance. I also believe we need a qualitative system of assessments…” (Thoughts on Public Education, Washington Post, Education Week).

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson was heartened by Brown’s comments: “Like many teachers, I have long argued that students need to spend more time learning and less time taking exams” (CDE).

Sue Burr, executive director of the State Board of Education, agreed, noting that standardized tests have narrowed curriculum to English language arts and mathematics. “While those are critically important, we can’t ignore history. We can’t ignore science. We can’t ignore civics. We can’t ignore the arts” (Sacramento Bee).

Historian Diane Ravitch, speaking across the state, is broadly critical of standardized tests; but she does believe they are useful for diagnostic purposes. Ravitch cautions against high stakes use of tests and favors “a full curriculum, with arts and dramatics and libraries. All those things matter.” Testing, she believes, focuses attention on “what’s your number” (or score on the test) and away from meaningful instruction and learning (Lodi News-Sentinel).

Gov. Brown’s speech has set a promising tone. Policymakers and stakeholders need to continue the conversation about the effects of standardized tests, asking how tests that focus on math and literacy affect other courses such as foreign language and the arts; and asking educators to produce alternate assessments that support authentic learning.

Guidance for improving California’s tests is close at hand. In a 2010 white paper, Linda Darling-Hammond outlined key benchmarks for a quality student-assessment system:

Address the depth and breadth of standards as well as all areas of the curriculum, not just those that are easy to measure
Consider and include all students as an integral part of the design process, anticipating their particular needs and encouraging all students to demonstrate what they know and can do
Honor the research indicating that students learn best when given challenging content and provided with assistance, guidance, and feedback on a regular basis
Employ a variety of appropriate measures, instruments, and processes at the classroom, school, and district levels, as well as the state level. These include multiple forms of assessment and incorporate formative as well as summative measures
Engage teachers in scoring student work based on shared targets.


By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

January 20, 2012 :: Deviating sharply from education reform policies championed by President Obama, California Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for limits on standardized testing and reduced roles for federal and state government in local schools.

Brown's positions, outlined in Wednesday's State of the State address, align closely with the state's two major teachers unions, but also embody Brown's independent streak.

The governor's call for a reduction in standardized testing comes at a time when such tests are gaining influence across the nation, due in part to heavy federal support. Most notably, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called for results from these tests to become part of a teacher's evaluation.

"It is time to reduce the number of tests and get the results to teachers, principals and superintendents in weeks, not months," said Brown, who hasn't articulated where he stands on teacher evaluations.

Much of the attention to Brown's speech focused on painful budget cuts and a proposed tax increase as well as the expensive high-speed rail project that he supports. But Brown also delivered important cues on education, which consumes more of the state budget than any other program.

A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll suggested that voters would raise their taxes to increase funding for schools, which have suffered steep cuts during the economic recession. Brown's signature tax initiative gambles on this sentiment. It would make education the chief beneficiary of new taxes — and, as Brown made clear Wednesday, the primary target for cuts should his proposed ballot measure fail in November.

But his attention to education goes beyond funding. Besides taking on testing, Brown called for getting the federal and state government out of the details of schooling.

"What most needs to be avoided is concentrating more and more decision-making at the federal or state level," Brown said. "We should set broad goals and have a good accountability system, leaving the real work to those closest to the students.... We should not impose excessive or detailed mandates."

Brown can't unilaterally limit testing, but his views are influential within a generally friendly Legislature, which has responsibility for approving changes to education law. Also, Brown appoints members to the state Board of Education, which oversees the writing and interpretation of education rules.

Observers from across the ideological spectrum have found things to like, worry and puzzle over in Brown's address.

One interpretation is that "the governor recognizes we need to move beyond the first generation of accountability to something more sophisticated," said Dominic Brewer, a USC professor of education, economics and policy. "A more cynical read seems to suggest the governor is against testing and even would prefer a return to an era where frankly there was little accountability for outcomes. It's hard to tell which view he holds."

Former L.A. school board member Yolie Flores expressed dismay at Brown's approach.

"He essentially is saying that neither the state nor the feds should be involved, and instead let's leave it to the schools at the local level," said Flores, who now heads a local education-advocacy group. "I've been at schools at the local level, and there is much lacking there in terms of leadership, capacity and ability to improve things."

Brown expressed his views on testing and local control more bluntly when speaking to The Times' editorial board late last year.

The tests take "too damn long," Brown told the board. "Second-graders take five days of tests. That's longer than I spent on the bar exam. I think that's absurd. You've gotta have some room for creativity."

He was similarly insistent about limiting the role of Washington.

"The federal government should butt out," Brown said at the time. "You have more and more people who aren't teaching, who are managing the flow of the money and all the various rules and mandates.

"They have this idea that schools are like businesses and if you set the right metrics, can you reward and punish and you get the outcome," Brown said. "I don't feel things quite work that way."

Brown's criticism of the growing emphasis on standardized tests has found a receptive audience among California teachers.

"The governor's speech demonstrated a respect for the practitioner," said Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Assn. "We've been waiting to hear that from a governor," he added, in a dig at Brown's predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger's positions were a nearer match with Obama's Department of Education, which has awarded funding to states that adopt favored policies, such as linking student test scores to teacher evaluations or converting low-performing schools to independent, and typically nonunion, charter schools.

It remains unclear how Brown would assess schools if testing is relegated to a diminished role. Some options include classroom visits and a more rigorous accreditation process, said state Board of Education President Michael Kirst, a Brown appointee.

In his address, Brown also touted a new school funding method, called "weighted student formula," which is part of his budget proposal. Its goal is to allocate more funding based on individual student needs. Those challenged by poverty, disability or limited English-speaking skills would have additional dollars assigned to their education.

At the same time, more than 60 separate education programs would be sharply reduced in number, with their rules simplified.

"This will give more authority to local school districts to fashion the kind of programs they see their students need," Brown said. "It will also create transparency, reduce bureaucracy and simplify complex funding streams."

Overall, school districts such as L.A. Unified, where most families are low-income, should see a significant boost of dollars under the governor's plan, said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy.

At the same time, proposed budget cuts, such as one that eliminates funding to transport students to school, would reduce funds that previously benefited L.A. Unified.

"I don't see an enlarging pie of funding," said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.


L.A. Times Editorial |

January 20, 2012 :: There are plenty of problems with the school reform movement, but the number of standardized tests isn't one of them. The tests are still the most objective and affordable yardsticks of achievement available. They should be improved and the results should be kept in perspective, but there is no evidence that cutting back on them — as Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed — will improve education.

Students in California take more annual standards tests than are mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The state tests students in English and math each year through 11th grade; federal law requires that, in high school, the tests be given just once. California does additional testing in science and history. In his State of the State address Wednesday, Brown called for eliminating some testing. His proposal was light on details, but reducing the number of end-of-year tests would have several downsides and little obvious benefit beyond adding a few instructional hours to the year.

Brown hearkens back to an era before "data driven" became an educational catchphrase. He calls for teams of evaluators to visit schools to look for the indicators of quality instruction that fill-in-the-bubble tests can't measure. That's an enticing idea. Like Brown, we're concerned that hardly anyone talks anymore about fostering intellect in schools, or the value of learning for its own sake rather than as a means to getting a job. But team evaluations are complicated and expensive to do right. Education funding is scarce, and putting money into the classroom rather than into administrative functions is more important than ever. Standardized tests are, by comparison, objective and cheap. They also ensure that teachers cover the material in the curriculum; before the era of testing, many teachers would simply ignore required subjects. Evaluation visits couldn't ascertain that.

The problem isn't the number of standardized tests that California gives — most high-achieving nations do even more testing — but the collective national obsession with scores. Test results show, over time, whether students at a particular school are learning required material, and whether performance is improving. They can serve as a guide for how to improve pedagogy. But they are limited measurements in many ways. Policies that punish schools and teachers because of year-to-year declines, or that make teachers' evaluations depend heavily on the scores, are misusing the data.

By all means, let's add other meaningful measures of what schools achieve, if California can afford to do it well. California already is collaborating with other states on devising tests that measure for deep understanding rather than broad and shallow information. Even those tests will give the public only part of the picture, but why do without that part?

See: NCLB@10-THE TESTING INDUSTRY’S BIG 4: Profiles of the 4 companies that dominate the business of making & scoring standardized achievement tests

FINNISHING SCHOOL: The world's top school system gives pointers in California

By Kathryn Baron | Thoughts on Public Education |

20 January 2012 :: Forget Santa Claus and saunas, the biggest export from Finland these days is its educational system.

During a two-day conference this week at Stanford University, Finnish educators discussed how they improved so dramatically and what the United States can learn from the Nordic country.

Finnish education reform can be summed up in ten points, according to Pasi Sahlberg, a director at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and author of Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? The first nine are instructive, but it’s number ten that sums it up neatly and harshly.

“All of these factors that are behind the Finnish success seem to be the opposite of what is taking place in the United States and the rest of world where competitive, test-based accountability, standardization, and privatization seem to dominate,” Sahlberg told participants at the Empowerment Through Learning in a Global World conference. “There is hope, but you have to be smart in the way you do things…and in many of the things that you are trying to do here I see very little hope.”

Yep, that smarts, especially since Sahlberg acknowledged that Finland borrowed a lot of its reform ideas from the United States, as did many other countries, when American education was the envy of the world. Since then, the U.S. hasn’t progressed so much, at least where PISA, a triennial international exam of 15-year-olds, is concerned. In addition to Finland, PISA shows that Canada, Korea, Singapore, and Shanghai, China have all surpassed the United States.

About those other nine lessons, well, they’re a mix of common sense, shifting priorities, and paradoxes. Here are some of the key elements:

● Pursuing excellence and equity: Achievement differences among schools in Finland is small, about 5 percent.
● Standardized-free test zone: There’s no standardized testing until students are in their last year of school, and the scores aren’t used to evaluate teachers.
● Wrapping education with health and welfare: There’s a nurse in every school and every child gets a free comprehensive check-up every year. Dental and mental health services are also provided, as is universal free lunch. Play is a priority and children must, by law, have recess.
● Less is more: The school day is relatively short – about four hours in elementary school – and younger students get little homework. But teachers get a lot of time for collaboration to develop curriculum and independent learning plans tailored to each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Finland also spends less money per student than the United States.
● Professionalizing teaching: The Finns focused on teaching as a key driver of reform and of the education system, and made it a noble and attractive profession by making salaries commensurate with other professionals such as doctors and lawyers, by requiring teachers to earn a research-based master’s degree and making it tuition free, by providing high-quality professional development, by giving teachers a lot of autonomy and time to work collaboratively with their colleagues, by offering career development paths that don’t just include administration, and by not evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores. As a result, they created one of the most, if not the most, competitive teacher education systems in the world. The acceptance rate into colleges of education is about one-in-ten, and only ten to fifteen percent of teachers leave the profession before retirement, compared to about 50 percent for teachers in urban schools and a third for other areas in the United States.


Finland’s educational reputation is largely a result of its students’ scores on PISA, and critics say that’s not enough. Lee Shulman, Professor emeritus of education at Stanford, noted the irony of the very people who decry the use of high-stakes testing being willing to rely on a single exam to rank the world’s school systems.

“PISA is another standardized test. It’s not a proof test. It’s credible because it fits our belief system,” argued Shulman during his presentation at the conference. “We should commit ourselves to multiple measures, not just one test.”

Other skeptics have raised questions about making comparisons between countries that differ so widely in size and demographics. Finland has 3,500 schools and 60,000 teachers. Its entire population of 5.5 million is smaller than California’s entire student population.

“You could argue that the main reason [for lower U.S. scores] is that we have a 24 percent child poverty rate and you have a four percent child poverty rate,” said one audience member during a question-and-answer session. “You could argue that we have a segregation problem where we bunch our poor children into bad schools.”

What’s more, Finland’s reading scores on PISA fell slightly from 2006 to 2009, dropping from an overall score of 547 to 536. This is the sort of variable that American teachers say is natural and illustrates why rankings based on single exams are inadequate measures. Despite that setback, however, Finnish students remained in the top three for reading, math and science, while scores for U.S. students placed them smack in the middle.


America’s diversity is an issue, but shouldn’t be an excuse said Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, co-director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and author of numerous books including The Flat World and Education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future.

“PISA rankings in the United States are driven by inequality. If you looked only at schools where less than 10 percent of the students are low poverty, we’re number one in the world,” said Darling-Hammond during her talk at the conference. In Finland, the focus on the dual goals of excellence and equity have significantly closed the achievement gap. In California, where there’s a three-to-one difference in spending between high- and low-wealth districts, the gap has barely budged.

Some states have implemented reforms similar to Finland’s with noticeable results. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut have raised and equalized teacher salaries, made it more difficult to become a teacher, and invested in high-quality professional development. It wasn’t always altruistic; a judge ordered New Jersey to invest more money in low-wealth schools after decades of litigation. But once that happened, it became one of the top-performing states. Darling-Hammond says Hispanic and Black students in New Jersey now outperform California students, on average.

Gov. Brown is also taking a page from the Finnish model with his proposals to reduce the number of standardized tests that students take, and to switch to a weighted-student formula for funding, through which schools would receive a flat amount of money for each student and additional funds for children who need more resources to help them succeed, such as English learners and low-income students (read more about this proposal here).

“The house of education is divided by powerful forces and strong emotions,” said Brown in his State of State address earlier this week. “My role as governor is not to choose sides but to listen, to engage and to lead. I will do that. I embrace both reform and tradition – not complacency. My hunch is that principals and teachers know the most, but I’ll take good ideas from wherever they come.”

Seems like some of them are coming from Helsinki.

SEE ALSO: THE PROFESSIONAL EDUCATOR - LESSONS FROM FINLAND by Pasi Sahlberg | AFT/American Educator | Summer 2011

WHAT’S THE PLAN?: Supplemental Educational Services, Adult Education, Early Childhood Education
From the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update/ |

Week of January 23, 2012 :: Federal regulations require LAUSD and other districts that have entered their second year of Program Improvement to spend about 20% of their Title I, Part A, allocation on Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and transportation for public school choice. The regulations also prohibit “Program Improvement” or “Corrective Action” districts like LAUSD from providing SES themselves (34 C.F.R. § 200.47(b)(1)(iv)(B). In these cases the regulations require that the SES be delivered by nondistrict entities.

As LAUSD faces yet another year in Program Improvement status, we have learned:
• SES “had little impact on student achievement.” (LAUSD Publication, No. 2008-03, March 2008 |
• Students served by District providers and those served by nondistrict providers statistically did not differ significantly in either the mathematics or reading achievement gains relative to nonparticipation (American Institute for Research, and RTI study for U.S. Dept. of Ed., 2011,

In other words, the research shows that SES is a failure regardless of who provides the remediation. So what are our partners at Beaudry planning? Shut down the District’s highly successful Adult and Career Education programs and move the funding into K-12 to provide the support services already offered by the Adult Division.

As published in our December 19 Update, AALA believes that this ill-conceived plan should be scrapped to avert a political and educational debacle. The Superintendent speaks of preserving the K-12 core by, in part, eliminating budget support for adult education. Eliminating adult education programs would have an immediate negative impact on K-12 education.

• In bringing his Fiscal Stabilization Plan to the Board, the Superintendent cited counselor-to-student ratio as a major issue. Are these overburdened counselors prepared to manage an additional 88,000 "credit recovery" cases and 52,000 alternative placements resulting from closure of CTE programs?
• Is the District prepared to fund huge amounts of overtime for clerical staff in counseling offices?
• Will additional administrators be hired to manage this mess, or will oversight be added to current administrators' workload?
• As graduation approaches, how will the District address the needs of the hundreds of seniors who must meet their graduation requirements?
• What's the plan?
The American Association of School Administrators has advocated for SES waivers for many years, and they have been granted to five Districts including Boston and Chicago. In the light of the recent AIR/RTI findings, an SES waiver is the correct way for LAUSD to address this issue. Keeping Title 1 funding in-house while sustaining adult education is a win-win that makes more sense than closing the Adult Division, moving the money and reinventing the wheel.


On Patt Morrison’s KPCC radio show of December 21, 2011, Superintendent Dr. John Deasy commented that adult education was “in arrears,” or “encroached” on the District’s General Fund by $100 million last year. It would appear that Dr. Deasy was given faulty information, when the facts are that adult education actually under spent by 16.1% and returned $26,670,239 (twenty-six point seven million dollars) to the District this past June 30, 2011. These savings were achieved by lease reductions, closing positions, operating more efficiently and targeting those areas that best met District needs.

Adult education administrators work hard to serve their students, support District objectives and do their fair share in addressing the District’s fiscal challenges. Rather than being lambasted, adult educationadministrators, teachers and support staff should be praised for what they accomplish. AALA recognizes that all superintendents rely on others to provide accurate information. We urge those who give input to Dr. Deasy to do so in a fair, objective and accurate manner so that he is not placed in potentially embarrassing situations on public radio.


There is no question that early childhood education is essential, especially in the second largest school district in the United States. Because of LAUSD’s fiscal crisis, the Board of Education is considering cutting early education programs by up to 50% for the 2012-2013 school year. AALA believes that doing so will damage children, their families and the community as a whole. It is evident that Superintendent Deasy intends to take this step with great reluctance.

In the spirit of partnership, AALA urges the Superintendent immediately to use every means at his disposal to inform the larger community about the impact such significant cuts will have on LAUSD students for the foreseeable future. Here are some facts to assist with this effort:
According to A Blueprint for Great Schools, published by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Transition Advisory Team in 2011 (pp. 17-19), “Research confirms that children who attend high-quality early education programs are better prepared for kindergarten, have stronger language skills in the first years of elementary school and are less likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school.” The Blueprint further states, “High-quality early care and education offers one of the highest returns of any public investment—more than $7 for every dollar spent—by reducing future expenditures on special education, public assistance and the criminal justice system.”
Students who are not proficient readers by the end of Grade 3 struggle throughout their school years;
many drop out. Without the push and support provided by early childhood programs, increasing
numbers of children are likely to have difficulty achieving the goal of reading proficiency. Children
living in poverty frequently start school behind their peers and stay behind, despite the hard work of
their teachers and administrators. Consequently, they are the ones who will suffer the most if early childhood education programs are slashed. Further information about the benefits of early childhood education will be provided in future issues of Update.

●●4LAKids thanks the AALA Update for circulating 4 Your Review: The Shape of LA Schools to Come? in their “In the News” section.

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What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 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! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • 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 Brown: 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. THEY DO!.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and was Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for LA County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. 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 LAUSD advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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