Sunday, January 20, 2013

Using a magnet for a hammer when the butt of a gun will do

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 20•Jan•2013 M.L.King Jr. Weekend
In This Issue:
 •  PARENT TRIGGER PULLED ON LAUSD: P-Rev strikes again!
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE: What will California schoolchildren, your school district and YOUR School get when the initiative passes?
 •  Follow 4 LAKids on Twitter - or get instant updates via text message by texting
 •  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.
At a mini-debate Wednesday seeking the Northeast Democratic Club's’ endorsement for School Board (she didn’t get it), Board President Monica Garcia said there is nothing more important than teaching kids to read. This is not true. There is nothing more important than keeping kids safe and healthy. Nothing. No one cares whether the twenty first-graders at Sandy Hook were reading at grade level. If that statement seems insensitive or outrageous I say we are placing our sensitivity and outrage in the wrong bucket.

I am not going to rant at length at THE RE-RECONSTITUTION AT CRENSHAW HIGH SCHOOL – where parents and the community were ignored on Tuesday – or at the PROPOSED RECONSTITUTION UNDER THE PARENT TRIGGER AT 24TH STREET ELEMENTARY – where the parents and communality have been ignored up until Thursday morning, The current leadership in LAUSD systematically ignores parents and the community where+when it wishes to. This is selective ignorance.

I am an advocate for parents to be heard, listened-to and heeded. The Parent Trigger Law – unfortunately couched in the nomenclature of firearms and violence - is a blunt instrument to enforce the parent voice when it has been ignored. It’s bad law – law as a weapon – and it was designed+written for+by the forces that stand most to benefit from it. Had it been called “The Charter Trigger” or “The Reconstitution Trigger” it would’ve been more honest – but it would never have passed.

Being a principal is not a popularity contest ...but when parents and a principal lose respect for each other the result is impasse at best/trouble at worst. The parents at 24th Street Elementary were told and promised by Parent Revolution /aka/ P-Rev that the intent of the petition they signed is to remove the school’s unpopular principal and administration. But the Parent Trigger Law and the petition contains other provisions and other outcomes – and these are Reconstitution (closing and reopening the school after removing the entire staff and forcing them to reapply for their jobs) or bringing in another outside/charter operator.

I submit that the superintendent’s intent is the first and P-Rev’s is the second.

I drove by 24th Street School Saturday morning. From the outside it looks pleasant enough – with a faded sign on the front door offering Adult Ed English as a Second Language classes and the “Your Bond Dollars at Work” billboard out in front saying that the superintendent is Ramon Cortines and one of the school boardmembers is Yolie Flores-Aguilar. Yolie stopped being Flores-Aguilar four years ago, she stopped being a boardmember and Cortines ceased being the superintendent two years ago. Maybe it is time that 24th Street Elementary stopped being the School That Time Forgot.

When The Parent Revolutionaries dropped by Beaudry to turn in their petitions Thursday the superintendent invited them in for a little of the old photo op, speaking to them in Spanglish that gave that word a bad name. Where was all that welcoming when they began complaining about the principal and administration years before? Where was the engagement with the Local District and the special Superintendent’s Education Service Center with a focus on challenged schools? Where was the board member? Where was the Parent Community Services Branch? I could ask where was their PTA. …but they don’t have one. So let me ask: Why don’t they have one? Why did it take the outside provocateurs with paid community organizers - P-Rev - to make a difference?

Next week John Deasy, no longer the problem but now part of the solution, will be driven down to 24th Street School to meet with the parents.

And that same Dr. Deasy – who has been unable to implement his agenda of “transformational ®eform”, removing “bad teachers”, measuring Academic Growth Over Time through Value Added Modeling – (assessing teacher performance using student CST [California Standards Test] test scores) through contract negotiation, legislation in Sacramento, the Doe v. Deasy lawsuit (where both plaintiff and respondent were on the same side), No Child Left Behind and Public School Choice – now has two new tools in his tool box. Both are hammers. One is reconstituting schools though the Magnet Program, as practiced at Westchester and Crenshaw. The other is The Parent Trigger.

Meanwhile Greet Dot@Locke – not doing all that well - seems to have renegotiated its own preapproved charter renewal.

It is 44 days until the March 5th school board election when all of this may change.

It is neither LAUSD's fault nor doing that California has fallen to 49th in school funding among the states. But it is our problem.

"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream."

The Dream endures.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

From UTLA:

Saturday, 19 January, 2013 :: UTLA members voted to approve the supplemental evaluation agreement, with 66% of the members voting yes on the agreement and 34% voting no. A total of 16,892 ballots were cast. Votes were counted at UTLA headquarters today, January 19.

The agreement was the product of court-ordered bargaining with LAUSD. Judge James Chalfant ruled that test scores must be a part of teacher evaluations and directed UTLA and LAUSD to negotiate an evaluation system that includes CSTs (or face the threat of a court-imposed evaluation system).

The agreement UTLA reached with LAUSD complies with the court order while rejecting the high-stakes use of individual AGT/VAM scores. Under this agreement, multiple measures of student progress will be added to the evaluation process but a teacher’s individual AGT results cannot be used in the final evaluation. LAUSD had originally wanted a system that required 30% of a teacher’s evaluation to be based solely on test scores as reflected in his or her individual AGT rating.

In analyzing the evaluation agreement, the L.A. Times called it a “victory” for teachers and said that it bucks the trend nationwide of using VAM scores as punitive measures in teacher evaluations. Diane Ravitch, a national leader in the fight against the use of test scores in teacher evaluation, said the agreement “assures that scores will not be overused, will not be assigned an arbitrary and inappropriate weight, will not be the sole or primary determinant of a teacher’s evaluation.”

This agreement supplements the evaluation process, and no current contractual rights or protections have been removed. UTLA will be overseeing implementation to ensure that all rights and protections—both existing provisions and the new ones in the agreement—are upheld and enforced.


YES 11,185 66%

NO 5,707 34%


By Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week |

January 10, 2013 :: Students' ability to learn depends not just on the quality of their textbooks and teachers, but also on the comfort and safety they feel at school and the strength of their relationships with adults and peers there.

Most of education policymakers' focus remains on ensuring schools are physically safe and disciplined: Forty-five states have anti-bullying policies, compared with only 24 states that have more comprehensive policies on school climateRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Mounting evidence from fields like neuroscience and cognitive psychology, as well as studies on such topics as school turnaround implementation, shows that an academically challenging yet supportive environment boosts both children's learning and coping abilities. By contrast, high-stress environments in which students feel chronically unsafeRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader and uncared for make it physically and emotionally harder for them to learn and more likely for them to act out or drop out.

As that research builds, more education officials at every level are taking notice. For example, the federal government has prioritized school climate programs in its $38.8 million grants for safe and supportive school environments, and two states—Ohio and Wisconsin—have developed guidelines for districts on improving school life, according to the National School Climate Center, located in New York City.

Experts say that administrators who focus on using climate merely as a tool to raise test scores or to reduce bullying may set up their reform efforts to fail. Stand-alone programs targeting individual symptoms like bullying or poor attendance may not provide holistic support for students, and emerging research shows such a comprehensive approach is critical to improve school climate.

"There's anti-bullying, which is sort of the top, the visible part of an iceberg, and those are the formal policies where we tell kids, 'OK, don't bully each other,' " said Meagan O'Malley, a research associate at WestEd who specializes in the research group's middle-school-climate initiative in Los Alamitos, Calif. "But then under that, there's everything else that happens in that school, the interactions between people every single day that create an atmosphere that's either supportive of a bullying atmosphere or not. Programmatic interventions have to be one piece of a much larger body of work."

Students who experience chronic instability and stress have more aggressive responses to stress, along with poorer working memory and self-control, studies show. Building those skills in individual students can raise the tenor of the whole school.

"As much as we need to provide enriched experiences to promote healthy brain development," says Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, the director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, "we also need to protect the brain from bad things happening to it. We all understand that in terms of screening for lead, because lead does bad things to a brain, mercury does bad things to a brain, … but toxic stress does bad things to a brain, too—it's a different chemical doing it, but it's still a big problem interfering with brain development."

It's easy to focus too much on the visible parts of the school climate iceberg and have school improvement efforts run aground on the massive issues below the surface.

Studies routinely show that students learn better when they feel safe, for example. Yet interventions that focus on visible signs of safety—metal detectors, wand searches, and so on—have not been found to deter crime and actually can make students feel less safe at school. What does reduce bullying and make students feel safer? According to an analysis of the National Crime Victimization Survey, only one intervention: more adults visible and talking to students in the hallways, a mark of a climate with better adult-student relationships.

Likewise, students' ability to delay gratification has been proven to be so linked to academic and social success that the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools offer T-shirts for students bearing the mantra, "Don't Eat the Marshmallow!" That's a reference to a famous study that used the sweet treat in .

A 2012 follow-up to Stanford University's original "marshmallow study," however, found that regardless of a student's innate willpower, the child will wait four times longer for a treat when the child trusts the adult offering it to keep his or her word, and when the environment feels secure to the child.


How can a school build a culture of trust and self-control with children from disadvantaged and unstable environments that often work against those characteristics?

At the Children's Aid College Prep Charter School in the Bronx borough of New York City, it starts as a classic game of telephone, with a class of excited kindergartners passing a message around their circle in theatrically careful whispers.

As is typical, the phrase that starts out as "stop and think" is comically garbled by the time it gets around the circle. But unlike in the traditional playground game, the school's "life coaches," Yvenide Andre and Patricia Li, take the students through multiple rounds, asking them to think about how to make the next round better: Listen to each other. Concentrate. Don't say the phrase louder than needed.

"It's all life skills: self-control, relating to other people, learning how to respond in the ways we want them to respond," Li explains.

The charter school, which was launched last fall, specifically recruits children from across the city who are homeless, in foster care, and in abject and concentrated poverty. It started with 132 children in kindergarten and 1st grade, and plans to add a grade each year up to 5th.

Drema Brown, the vice president of education for Children's Aid, says the school was founded on the premise of acknowledging students' challenges—but then deliberately putting that aside.

"When you approach these kids from the deficit model of 'they have all these problems,' that seeps into everything you do," Brown says. "We look at it as promise; we make sure every adult in the building understands those vulnerable areas as opportunities to practice our skills as professionals, and not as problems."

In addition to teachers, the school has full-time life coaches, like Andre and Li, who bridge social services and instruction. Teachers and life coaches are hired for their "commitment to not just delivering content but understanding the child in front of them," Brown says. Staff members receive continuing training, not just on ways to incorporate character curriculum or social skills into math class, but also on how to respect and respond to students who are acting out.

"Know who they are before they come in," Principal Ife Lenard tells teachers. "Don't find out about a student's problems because of an incident of acting out in the hallway."

Staff members like Andre and Li work with teachers to help students learn cognitive control and resiliency as well as social and emotional skills.

"People talk about things like 'caring is sharing,' but they don't talk about what to do if someone doesn't share," says Lenard, who also has a degree in clinical social work. "There are so many good things that can happen between an adult and a child or group of children, but that has to be modeled."

Each class in the school is named for a different high-profile college—Columbia, and Spelman and Yale, for example—and even in kindergarten, children are talking about what they want to study when they go to the "big school."

The administrators and researchers are building the path to college just a few steps ahead of the children. Stephanie M. Jones, an associate education professor at Harvard, and Robin T. Jacob, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research in Ann Arbor, have partnered with the school to test and develop SECURe, a whole-school-climate model so named for incorporating instruction in "social, emotional, and cognitive understanding and regulation."

"Executive function and cognitive regulation are a set of building blocks for many of the other skills that are targeted by other social-and-emotional-learning programs," Jones says. Among those skills: concentrating on a task or transitioning smoothly from one to another; identifying one's own and others' emotions and social cues; and engaging in planning and conflict resolution.

"In aggregate," Jones says, "having a whole population of kids with those skills is going to change the nature of the set of interactions in the classroom, the climate of the school—and it would play out in the lunchroom and playground as well."

The approach already has shown promise in a pilot study of 5,000 children in kindergarten through 3rd grade at six schools in the 14,200-student Alhambra elementary district in Arizona. Students at schools using the SECURe model in combination with the Success For All literacy program were statistically significantly more self-controlled, less impulsive, and had greater attention spans than their peers at nonparticipating schools. Moreover, the SECURe students also showed some improvement in standardized math and reading tests compared with their peers.

During a life-skills class in October, Li and Andre discuss a picture book on the brain with the kindergarten classes. Though simplified for the kindergartners, the book talks about how children's brains work, what decisionmaking and self-control are, and how students can think more clearly when "taking care of their brain" by sleeping and eating appropriately.

In addition to the telephone game, the kindergartners play a more advanced game of freeze, in which they dance and wriggle while music plays but then have to freeze and hold a particular position when it stops.

The game is a big hit—producing some stillness but also massive giggle fits—but Andre and Li press the students afterward on what they found hard about the game.

"My body danced like this, and it didn't want to stop," says Jordan, a little boy with a curly Mohawk and a grin. A girl mentions having to stop and remember what to do next when the music stopped.

The game offers a chance for discussion about how children might act without thinking, relating to a previous class about feelings and how students respond to arguments and other negative emotions.

Throughout the week, Li says, classroom teachers will refer to these lessons and use what the pupils know about their own thinking process to help them work through discipline issues or other problems in class.


In the area of school climate, far more than academics, teachers and students have the opportunity to solve problems as equals. While a student struggling in math may not be able to articulate his or her own misconceptions about algebra, Thomas L. Hanson, the director of San Francisco-based WestEd's middle-school-climate project and a senior research associate with the group, and others say, teachers and particularly older students often agree on the main problems when they're surveyed on school climate.

"In most of the strong school reform models, you see a focus on school leaders, educators, data, standards—but you seldom see students as part of the reform strategy. The progress we can make with students on the sidelines is terribly limited," says J.B. Schramm, the founder of the Washington-based College Summit, which uses students to encourage one another to attend college.

"Students are not vessels to be filled with knowledge at schools," he says. "They can drive change."

Hanson and O'Malley of WestEd have seen that firsthand in 58 high schools and 15 middle schools in Arizona and California, which are implementing "listening circles."

Each such circle pulls in students from different social, racial, and interest groups from around the school to identify and solve problems related to campus climate. Adults sit outside the circle, in a "listen only" mode, Hanson says.
Being Assertive

Teachers and administrators have been surprised at how assertive students can be at those sessions, O'Malley says. For example, she recalls students at one high school who complained about trash regularly piling up on campus. In response, they raised money to buy 30 new trash cans and held a bin-decorating contest around the school. The district superintendent, who happened to be sitting in on the circle, was impressed by the students' initiative and agreed to pay to repaint the fading building in the school colors of green, white, and beige.

"It's a very, very powerful experience for a lot of people," O'Malley says. "Students want forums to express themselves about all things related to school. That's pretty typical for adolescent development; they want to be heard and understood as individuals."


Getting students to work together to identify and solve problems can also reduce tensions and bullying among students of different races, social classes, or sexual orientations, the WestEd researchers have found.

A focus on climate can be particularly important in schools with changing demographics, according to research by Amy Bellmore, an assistant professor of human development in the education department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Within a bully-victim dynamic, there's an important notion of power: The bully is larger, more popular—or their group is represented to a larger degree," Bellmore says. "Kids are tuned in to the perspective of decisionmakers within their school environment."

Schools that celebrate all the different student groups and encourage students from different backgrounds to work together show lower intergroup bullying and more friendships across groups, Bellmore has found. Moreover, she notes, students with friends from a wide variety of backgrounds learn more strategies for coping with stress, be it bullying or a pop quiz.

Bringing students together to improve their campus climate can also help them build their own confidence and resiliency, Schramm says. Students will take more ownership of their learning and their school climate, he says, if school adults listen, help them understand the issues, and enable them to set measurable goals.

"But then you need to give them space," he says. "If you prepare them but then manage them too tightly, they won't take charge, because you're in charge. If you skip either the preparation or the space, it won't work."

REPORT OVERVIEW: Discipline Policies Shift With Views on What Works

By Howard Blume and Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times |

January 16, 2013, 4:00 a.m. :: No school has meant more to the African American community in Los Angeles than Crenshaw High. For most of its 45 years, it has been an established neighborhood hub, known for championship athletic teams and arts programs, sending graduates to top colleges.

But the Leimert Park campus has declined in recent years. Dropout rates have soared and student achievement has plummeted. L.A. Unified school Supt. John Deasy calls it one of the district's biggest disappointments.

In an effort to turn the school around, the Board of Education on Tuesday approved Deasy's drastic proposal to remake the campus into three magnets — and require teachers to reapply for their jobs.

Deasy's critics, including those at Crenshaw, were quick to complain. They say he is using an ax instead of a scalpel, that his approach would jettison talented people and abandon efforts that show some promise and deserve his support.

Rita Hall, a member of the school's first graduating class in 1969, told the board Tuesday that the school was once successful because of immense stability and support — which it lacks today. The campus, even through its struggles, is an important mainstay in the community.

"Crenshaw means family.... The board doesn't seem to recognize that there is a strong legacy and bond," Hall said. "We are very passionate about our school."

This is not the first time that Crenshaw, with an increasingly Latino student body, has been the focus of L.A. Unified's attention. Other efforts to turn around low achievement weren't successful. In 2005, the school lost its accreditation in a largely bureaucratic snafu. In 2008, the school failed to receive a state academic rating because it failed to test enough students.

Many parents are opposed to the new plan and pleaded with the board to delay the vote. Speakers blamed the district for the school's slow progress, telling the board that the campus has suffered through a parade of administrators — more than 30 principals and assistant principals over seven years, according to veteran Crenshaw teacher Alex Caputo-Pearl. The transition to magnet programs would be disruptive for students, they said.

Deasy argued that much of the sentiment expressed by parents and teachers is the reason the district is taking action to make sure student achievement becomes "dramatically and fundamentally better."

"It is a civil right for students to be able to read and do mathematics. It is a fundamental right to graduate — and it is not happening at Crenshaw," he said, adding, "Students are not learning. Students are not graduating. Students are not able to read."

Board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who represents the school and lives nearby, told the crowd to give the district a chance to transform the school into one that students could be proud of.

"We have got to change something at Crenshaw for the better," LaMotte said. "When they go to school in the morning — when I see them passing — I want them to say 'I go to Crenshaw and I'm proud to go to Crenshaw.' "

The board approved Deasy's plan unanimously with one member, Richard Vladovic, absent. After the vote, supporters began chanting "The fight is not over, we will take over!"

LaMotte quickly responded: "I'd want to know why anyone would want a child to go to a broken school."

The school, with more than 1,300 students — nearly all from low-income families — has made virtually no progress in increasing achievement in English and math. The percentage of students at grade level in English has declined slightly over four years, from 19% to 17%; in math, the figure has inched up — but only from 2% to 3%.

This year, there was an increase in Crenshaw's overall Academic Performance Index score, which includes results from all students tested. It rose from 554 to 569, which still leaves the campus among the lowest-performing in the state and, Deasy said, the worst in L.A. Unified. The school has also lost students, with many choosing other district schools or independent, publicly funded charter schools.

Deasy has authority under federal law to replace the staff at Crenshaw because of the school's poor performance, but he describes the move differently. Avoiding the term "reconstitution," which is used to describe a school that is substantially restaffed, he instead focuses on the changeover to a magnet program. But UCLA associate professor John Rogers said Deasy's move is essentially reconstitution under another guise.

The conversion echoes the strategy already employed at Westchester High, another comprehensive district high school where a majority of students are African American.

Magnet schools were designed to draw enrollment from across the district to promote integration.

District officials consider Westchester's changeover a significant improvement that allowed them to alter the culture of the school. Some Crenshaw parents, who followed events at Westchester, aren't persuaded.

In recent years, Crenshaw gained distinction as the turnaround project with the most direct community and teacher participation.

On July 1, 2008, Crenshaw joined forces with the Bradley Foundation and the Urban League — two local nonprofits with deep ties to the African American community — in an effort to bring together financial resources and outside expertise, while providing local autonomy outside of the direct management of L.A. Unified.

Some observers placed hopes for sustained improvement at Crenshaw because of the collaboration among outside groups, teachers and community members. The latter two groups had been meeting for some time as the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition to push the school forward.

The school is about two years into its current effort, which it calls the Extended Learning Cultural Model. It involves teachers receiving training on the culture of their students and students taking part in projects relevant to their lives.

In one class, for example, students received packets of school data, district policies and descriptions of theories about school reform. They had to argue which proposals made sense and support their choice with data. For math, the project was supposed to incorporate principals of geometry. Such projects also are supposed to include relevant internships in the community.

One casualty of Deasy's plan has been funding support for that effort from the New York City-based Ford Foundation.

The foundation provided a seed grant of $225,000 last year to help Crenshaw with its current plan and was in discussions to increase support.

"We're very impressed with the education model they were developing and we were disappointed when it looked like that would not continue," said Jeannie Oakes, who oversees Ford's education philanthropy.

Times staff writer Dalina Castellanos contributed to this report.

•• smf’s 2¢: Please re-read those last three paragraphs – the District is leaving a grant from the Ford Foundation on the table in favor of the mission of The Gates Foundation. And the (Chicago-based) Times does the truth and their readership no favors by styling the Ford Foundation as “New York based” - as if they are unwanted special interests from the east coast. Jeannie Oakes, Director of Education and Scholarship at Ford was formerly the Director at UCLA/IDEA - and was intimately involved and a guiding force in previous and ongoing school reform in LAUSD . Dr. Oakes worked intimately with LAUSD on school reform initiatives in the inner city – with a special focus on students of color – while “Rhode Island based” John Deasy was up the 10 freeway wreaking dubious reform in Santa Monica Unified.

Three additional points:

• LAUSD’s utter failure to involve the Crenshaw community in this decision - let alone build consensus - speaks reams about the “my way or the highway” sociopathic mentality of current leadership.
• The Magnet Program is one of the most successful+popular reforms ever undertaken in this District. It is here being used as a blunt weapon to enforce Public School Choice – the least popular and successful.
• Quoting Caprice Young: “Reconstitution never works, it never has. Only fresh-squeezed works.”

--Teresa Watanabe , LA Times/LA Now |

January 17, 2013 | 5:26 pm :: A high-spirited group of nearly 100 parents descended on the Los Angeles Unified district office Thursday and turned in petitions demanding sweeping changes at their failing school in the first use of the controversial parent trigger law in the city.

But parents at 24th Street Elementary School in the West Adams neighborhood got a strikingly different reception in L.A. Unified than their counterparts did in Compton and the High Desert city of Adelanto, where parent trigger campaigns sparked long legal battles and bitter conflict.

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy greeted the parents in Spanish and welcomed them into the school board meeting room. After accepting the petitions signed by 358 parents, who represent 68% of the students, he pledged to work for “fundamental and dramatic change” at the school. The campus is one of the district’s lowest performing elementary schools, with two-thirds of students unable to read or perform math at grade level and has made little improvement in the last six years.

“It is absolutely the administration’s and my desire to work side by side with you so every student – todos los ninos – gets an outstanding education,” Deasy said, as parents erupted in applause and cheers.

In an unexpected twist, the president of the teachers union, Warren Fletcher, also showed up and told the assembled parents that the parent trigger law “is a tool like an axe” and that its successful use to convert an Adelanto elementary school to a charter campus would force the removal of all instructors there.

The Adelanto campaign marked the first victory in the state for proponents of the 2010 parent trigger law, which allows parents to petition to overhaul a school with new staff and curriculum, close the campus or convert it to an independent, publicly financed charter.

But Fletcher also appealed for collaboration between parents and United Teachers Los Angeles. “We wish to work with you. We wish to work as a team,” he said.

Ben Austin of Parent Revolution, the educational nonprofit that lobbied for the law and has organized parents, hailed the pledges for cooperation and unity. In the Compton and Adelanto campaigns, Parent Revolution and petition supporter clashed with school officials and teachers they said deliberately obstructed their efforts.

“Today was a new chapter in this movement,” Austin said. “It was a paradigm shift in changing the way that parents, educators and administrators talk about parent trigger.”

The school’s failures have been acknowledged by its staff, who submitted an improvement plan under the district’s process known as Public School Choice. But the district, which ordered the plan about a year ago after identifying the school as one of the lowest performers, rated it this week as inadequate.

Amabilia Villeda, a 24th Street parent leader, said ineffective leadership and teaching at the school had caused her daughter to fall several grade levels behind in reading. She said she is determined to get better outcomes for her two younger children.

The petition asks that the school be transformed into a charter. But Villeda and others said they would try to work for changes with the district before pursuing that option.


By Christina Hoag, Associated Press, from the LA Daily News |

1/17/2013 04:31:41 PM PST :: LOS ANGELES -- Amabilia Villeda received a surprising phone call from her daughter's teacher one day -- the sixth-grader could barely read.

"How did this happen?" Villeda asked in Spanish. "Now she's in eighth grade and reads at third-grade level."

On Thursday, Villeda and a group of nearly 100 parents at 24th Street Elementary School arrived at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District to say they've had enough.

They presented Superintendent John Deasy a petition signed by 68 percent of the school's parents calling for immediate, significant action to improve one of the district's lowest performing grade schools, where just 30 percent of students are proficient in reading and 35 percent in math.

"The children aren't learning," said Villeda, who has a son in third grade at the school, located in an impoverished, mostly Hispanic immigrant neighborhood south of downtown Los Angeles. "That's what worries the parents."

The parents group, call the 24th Street Parents Union, is using California's landmark "parent trigger" law, which allows parents to force a district to undertake radical action to reform a low-performing school if more than half of parents sign a simple petition.

The parents want the district to install new school leadership, an improved academic program with high expectations for students, and ensure a clean and safe school, Villeda said. If that doesn't work, parents will move to convert the school into a charter, she added.

"I hope that now we are listened to, because before we did not receive any response," Villeda said to loud applause.

Deasy, who has embarked on an ambitious agenda to overhaul the nation's second-largest school district, welcomed the parents and promised to meet with them next week, saying he had just rejected a reform plan for the school as insufficient.

"It is absolutely my desire and my administration's to work side-by-side with you so all children at 24th Street get an outstanding education," he said.

Parents repeatedly asked Deasy why nothing had been done at the school. "I don't know," he said. "But I'm very sure you will not have long to wait now."

Warren Fletcher, president of teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles who also attended the impromptu meeting, told parents that he wanted to ensure that teachers were included in the reform discussion. "We wish to work as a team," he said. "We cannot do that as adversaries."

Several parents noted that teachers had been unresponsive to parents and had criticized the parent trigger law. Fletcher apologized. "If any teacher has not been responsive, that has been a mistake," he said.

Deasy appeared impressed with the turnout of parents, many of whom do not speak English. "This is powerful parent organizing and powerful parent choice," he said.

The case will be the third in the state under the parent trigger law. In both previous cases, in Compton Unified in Los Angeles County and Adelanto Elementary in San Bernardino County, parent advocates met with deep resistance from teachers and administrators and ended up in court.

Compton Unified won its legal battle when a judge threw out the petition on a technicality. In the Adelanto case, a judge ordered the district to comply with the petition and turn the school over to a charter operator starting in September.

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EVENTS: Coming up next week...

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


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 is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles 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 school district advisory and policy committees and has served as 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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