Sunday, May 18, 2014

The elephant in the room since 1954

Onward! 4LAKids4LAKids: Sun•18•May•2014 Lawnmower Invented 1830
In This Issue:
 • U.S. MARKS 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF BROWN RULING THAT DESEGREGATED SCHOOLS - UCLA study notes that many schools remain segregated
 • It’s A Small World meets Godzilla v. King Kong: PEARSON CONTRACT FOR COMMON CORE TESTING FACES LEGAL CHALLENGE + smf’s 2¢
 • 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?

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It slipped out as a rumor, was confirmed at a principal’s meeting and validated by Library Services staff.

In the newest revision of superintendent’s work-in-progress/moving target/ draft budget there will be staffed libraries at every school – centrally funded – NOT “Purchased” by the school.

It’s a return to the Way We Were in 2007-08 – before the cuts of (not-so) Great Recession. Part of the "happily-ever-after" promise of Prop 30.
• Library-Aides (what LAUSD calls elementary librarians) at every Elementary School, including affiliated charters.
• Teacher-Librarians in Secondary Schools.
• Eventually. See Dewey Decimal Classification: 398.2

For what we are about to receive let us be truly thankful – and we are. Repeat after me: “The Library is the most important classroom in the school”.

Of course nothing is ever that easy.

Library Aides were full time (6 hour a day) positions until 2009 when the great scythe came upon them…
•reducing their hours by half,
•their benefits by 100%, and
•began thinning their ranks by more than half.

• Today+tomorrow’s Library Aides are part time (three hour a day) jobs. 3 hour positions get no health benefits. There are currently many library Aide jobs funded-but-unfilled because the number of motivated, qualified and trained folks who will work those hours for no benefits and for the salary offered a few and far between.
• Library Aides are not the same as Classroom Aides or Special Ed Aides or Security Aides with their orange vest and rolls of visitor stickers. Like Math teachers and Biology teachers, Aides are not interchangeable. (LAUSD insiders are directed to Bulletin 60400) Previously Library Aides underwent 60 hours of training – the District currently offers 3 hours of training for the jobs. Three hours is not enough time to learn a job that entails operating a sophisticated computer database, learning the Dewey Decimal System, familiarizing oneself with the curriculum and standards and catalog of current juvenile literature, and taking responsibility -for -and-maintaining what averages to be a quarter-of-a-million-dollar inventory of library materials. L.A.s must professionally support classroom teachers in the instruction of schoolchildren ranging from pre-readers to consumers of the literature of Twain, Jane Austin, J.T. Rowling, Judy Blume, Dickens, etc., etc., etc. The Common Core insists on deep reading and research – who is going help the teachers learn and teach that on three hours of training?
• LAUSD tried to rid itself of Teacher-Librarians in the recent past (The Disgraceful Interrogation of L.A. School Librarians – L.A. Times – always a morale-building strategy that makes the survivors feel warm and fuzzy and secure in their jobs. I haven’t yet seen the strategy or timeline for restoring T.L.s (who are credentialed teachers with a specialty in library science) to secondary libraries that haven’t been staffed in years. Questions remain to whether Middle Schools will be staffed by T.L.s or L.A.s (Spoiler alert: The correct answer is Teacher Librarians!) And what about Span Schools, like K-8s or 4, 5 or 6-12s – where the inventory is complicated? There is no bulletin or memo that defines the staffing of those schools.

Stay tuned.

AT TUESDAY’S BOARD MEETING THE BOARD OF ED CAME OUT IN SOLIDARITY with their union partners in support of Los Angeles hotel workers’ demand for a Living Wage – though there are many LAUSD workers who are not paid a living wage as defined by the city’s Living wage ordinance []. (Although LAUSD was created by the City Charter, it is not governed by all city laws.) Dr Deasy argued that LAUSD’s lower paid salaried employees get paid benefits - as you read above that is neither universally true nor false. Some board members said it was right for the board to take the high moral ground; others argued that asking the J.W. Marriott to pay what LAUSD is not prepared to pay is hypocrisy. 4LAKids agrees with the latter.

SATURDAY WAS THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION …and much has been written and spoken about what has and hasn’t happened since, some of which follows. California’s Mendez v. Westminster predates Brown by nine years – and former California Governor turned Chief Justice Earl Warren brought that experience – and his considerable political savvy to craft the Brown decision. General turned President Eisenhower brought the experience of the 1948 integration of the armed forces to Brown.

How hard could it be? How long could it take?

And yet as we read and live on we can see how what seemed to be a seismic shift was really been more akin to continental drift. And let’s be honest – it’s the socioeconomic failure of Brown to effectively level the playing field and separate the inequality that is the biggest component in the Achievement/Opportunity Gap/the School-to -Prison Pipeline/the mediocrity of a Nation at Risk/the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations. In a “Dear Colleague” letter to charter operators this week The US Dept of Ed/Office of Civil Rights announced “new guidance confirming that the same federal civil rights laws that apply to other public schools apply equally to public charter schools” - which lends new meaning to “separate but equal” and hints that the entire “Choice” movement is closer to being the problem and less the solution to the problem that is the Elephant in Room.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

U.S. MARKS 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF BROWN RULING THAT DESEGREGATED SCHOOLS - UCLA study notes that many schools remain segregated

BY Michael Muskal, L.A. Times |

May 16, 2014 | 1:44 PM :: As the nation’s first African American president and his wife commemorate the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling that desegregated schools, the United States is still coping with the divisive issue of race and with schools that in many ways remain segregated.

The 1954 ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education opened the door to the civil rights revolution of the following decades as legalized segregation was ended. But according to a recent study by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, segregation of schools based on race and poverty remains after decades of efforts.

Today there are a variety of other factors that make for segregated schools. For example, birthrates among whites have stabilized while Latino birthrates have surged. School enrollment often depends on housing patterns, which in turn depend on affordability and job opportunities. Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with substantial majorities of poor children, the report notes.

The report, titled “Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future,” found that the South, once the most segregated part of the country, is now the least segregated region for black students. There has been an almost 30% drop in white students and an almost fivefold increase in Latino students over the decades.

Segregation is far more likely in major urban centers such as New York, Illinois and California, considered the worst for isolating black students, according to the report, which says that California is the state where Latino students are the most segregated.

“Brown was a major accomplishment and we should rightfully be proud. But a real celebration should also involve thinking seriously about why the country has turned away from the goal of Brown and accepted deepening polarization and inequality in our schools,” said Gary Orfield, co-author of the study and co-director of the Civil Rights Project.

“It is time to stop celebrating a version of history that ignores our last quarter-century of retreat and begin to make new history by finding ways to apply the vision of Brown in a transformed, multiracial society in another century,” he stated.


It is hard for many to understand how deeply race cut into American society 60 years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to consider the legality of laws allowing students to be taught separately. It was an America where racial discrimination was largely condoned: Races could not legally intermarry in many places; entertainment, sports and other industries were often segregated on the field or stage, as well as in the audience; and the burden was on people of color to disprove the idea that they were inferior.

In the Brown case, which came out of Topeka, Kan., the nation’s highest court was asked to review a class action suit seeking to stop the practice of legally segregating students if comparable facilities were offered.

On May 17, 1954, the court unanimously overturned the separate-but-equal doctrine, finding that it violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The court technically overturned the 1896 case Plessy vs. Ferguson, and opened the door to a civil rights movement based on racial integration of institutions from schools to government.

It was a movement that would see years of additional court battles; new legislation such as the Voting Rights Act; and frequent, often violent, demonstrations.

President Obama was to meet Friday with families of the plaintiffs in the case as well as the lead attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which brought the suit and was instrumental in the legal battles to end segregation. The president has also issued a proclamation praising the decision for shifting “the legal and moral compass of our nation.”

Obama, a former community organizer, also noted that the court's decision did not destroy segregation by itself.

“Thanks to the men and women who fought for equality in the courtroom, the legislature and the hearts and minds of the American people” he wrote, “we have confined legalized segregation to the dustbin of history. Yet today, the hope and promise of Brown remains unfulfilled. In the years to come, we must continue striving toward equal opportunities for all our children, from access to advanced classes to participation in the same extracurricular activities.”

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. stressed the same themes in his comments to the NAACP group.

“Although Brown marked a major victory, like anyone old enough to remember the turbulence of the 1960s, I also knew – and saw firsthand – that this country wouldn’t automatically translate the words of Brown into substantive change,” said Holder, the nation’s first African American to be attorney general.

“The integration of our schools – a process that was halting, confrontational and at times even bloody – did not by itself put an end to the beliefs and attitudes that had given rise to the underlying inequity in the first place.

"The outlawing of institutional segregation did not by itself soften the enmity – and alleviate the vicious bias – that had been directed against African American people and communities for generations. And the rejection, in its clearest form by our highest court, of legal discrimination could not – by itself – wash away the hostility that would, for years, fuel new, perversely innovative attempts to keep ‘separate but equal’ in place,” he said.

First Lady Michelle Obama was traveling to Topeka, where she will visit the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site — formerly an all-black school — and address graduating seniors at the Kansas Expocentre. She had to cancel a Saturday appearance at a combined graduation ceremony in Topeka after complaints over the number of available seats.


Authors: Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg, with Jongyeon Ee and John Kuscera |

May 15, 2014 :: Marking the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles assessed the nation's progress in addressing school segregation, and found that--contrary to many claims--the South has not gone back to the level of segregation before Brown. It has, however, lost all of the additional progress made after l967, but is still the least segregated region for black students. New statistics show a vast transformation of the nation’s school population since the civil rights era. The authors reveal that Latinos are significantly more segregated than blacks in suburban America.


Six decades of “separate but equal” as the law of the land have now been followed by six decades of “separate is inherently unequal” as our basic law. The Brown decision set large changes and political conflicts in motion and those struggles continue today.

New national statistics show a vast transformation of the nation’s school population since the civil rights era. Particularly dramatic have been an almost 30% drop in white students and close to quintupling of Latino students. The nation’s two largest regions now have a majority of what were called “minorities” and whites are only the second largest group in the West. The South, always the home of most black students, now has more Latinos than blacks and is a profoundly tri-racial region.

Desegregation progress was very substantial for blacks, and occurred in the South from the mid- 1960s to the late l980s. Contrary to many claims, the South has not gone back to the level of segregation before Brown. It has lost all of the additional progress made after l967 but is still the least segregated region for black students.

The growth of segregation has been most dramatic for Latino students, particularly in the West, where there was substantial integration in the l960s, and segregation has soared. A clear pattern is developing of black and Latino students sharing the same schools; it deserves serious attention from educators and policymakers.

Segregation is typically segregation by both race and poverty. Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poor children, but white and Asian students are typically in middle-class schools.

Segregation is by far the most serious in the central cities of the largest metropolitan areas, but it is also severe in central cities of all sizes and suburbs of the largest metro areas, which are now half nonwhite. Latinos are significantly more segregated than blacks in suburban America.

The Supreme Court has fundamentally changed desegregation law, and many major court orders have been dropped. Our statistical analysis shows that segregation increased substantially after the plans were terminated in many large districts.

A half century of research shows that many forms of unequal opportunity are linked to segregation. Further, research also finds that desegregated education has substantial benefits for educational and later life outcomes for students from all backgrounds (see research summary and sources in Appendix A).

We conclude with recommendations about how we might pursue making the promise of Brown a reality in the 21st century. Desegregation is not a panacea and it is not feasible in some situations.

Where it is possible-- and it still is possible in many areas-- desegregation properly implemented can make a very real contribution to equalizing educational opportunities and preparing young Americans for the extremely diverse society in which they will live and work and govern together.

THE UCLA REPORT: Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future”

By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post |

May 15, 2014 at 9:58 am :: The Obama administration has just released through the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights what it says is “new guidance confirming that the same federal civil rights laws that apply to other public schools apply equally to public charter schools.”

For years, the administration has pushed states to allow the growth of charter schools through its Race to the Top funding competition. And for years, there have been complaints around the country that some charter schools have discriminatory practices in admissions, discipline, etc.

This week, a national organization called the Journey for Justice Alliance filed civil rights complaints with the federal government and asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to investigate “racially discriminatory school closings” in New Orleans. Furthermore, there is evidence that the growth of charter schools is leading to increasing segregation by race, ethnicity and income.

Finally, the Education Department is issuing its new guidance during the week in which the country is marking the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that struck down the “‘separate but equal” doctrine. According to a release by the Education Department:

The new guidance highlights critical subjects that have arisen in charter schools, including the schools’ obligations to avoid discrimination in admissions practices and the administration of discipline; to provide a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities; and to take affirmative steps to assist English learners. The guidance also points to other OCR publications regarding additional civil rights principles that are equally applicable to charter schools. [Emphasis is mine]

(“Have arisen?” That makes it sound like the complaints are new. They aren’t.) The department release also quotes Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, as saying:

“Charter schools play an important role in the educational landscape and are serving more and more students all over the country. Since our last guidance on the topic in 2000, thousands of new charter schools have opened. This guidance underscores that charter schools must satisfy the requirements of the federal civil rights laws.”

Now that the department says charters “must satisfy the requirements of the federal civil rights laws,” it will be interesting to see how it enforces the mandate. Here’s the guidance:

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
May 14, 2014

Dear Colleague:

One of the fastest-growing areas of school reform is the creation of public schools through a chartering process. Since first appearing in the early 1990s, many charter schools have provided students with additional meaningful opportunities to receive a high-quality education. In communities throughout the nation, numerous charter schools are developing unique learning environments, spurring innovation, engaging parents and other stakeholders, and improving educational opportunities for students.

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is committed to supporting the establishment of high-quality public charter schools from which all students can benefit. Because many charter schools are newly created, it is understandable that charter school administrators are interested in information about the applicability of Federal civil rights laws.

Parents, teachers, community leaders, and charter school authorizers have also sought guidance as to charter schools’ legal obligations under the Federal civil rights laws.

I am writing to remind you that the Federal civil rights laws, regulations, and guidance that apply to charter schools are the same as those that apply to other public schools. For this reason, it is essential that charter school officials and staff be knowledgeable about Federal civil rights laws. These laws extend to all operations of a charter school, including recruiting, admissions, academics, educational services and testing, school climate (including prevention of harassment), disciplinary measures (including suspensions and expulsions), athletics and other nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, and accessible buildings and technology.

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces a number of Federal civil rights laws that apply to charter schools, including:

[READ ON] ...the letter continues for seven pages and 31 footnotes...

By John Fensterwald, Edsource Today |

May 13th, 2014 :: Gov. Jerry Brown is predicting that the state will take in $2.4 billion more in revenue in 2014-15 than initially estimated, but highly expectant education leaders won’t get a piece of it to implement the Common Core state standards or make a down payment for universal preschool. They can count on the double-digit spending increase that the governor proposed in January – but not much more.

Instead, consistent with his philosophy of fiscal restraint and a commitment to pay down long-term debts, Brown is proposing in the revised May budget to make a down payment on the $74 billion shortfall in the pension program for teachers and administrators, the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS. His proposed 30-year payment plan, subject to negotiation with the Legislature, would cost an additional $5 billion per year by the time it’s fully phased in over seven years. The bulk of it – $3.7 billion annually – would be the burden of school districts, potentially eating away between one-seventh or more of the increased funding they had expected under the Local Control Funding Formula (see Department of Finance summary of budget revision, starting on page 66).

In a press conference Tuesday, Brown made clear the state cannot duck this responsibility. Meeting pension obligations to teachers is part of what it costs to educate kids, Brown said, and must be paid for.

“The key point that is sometimes hard to grasp is that this is what it takes to educate our kids,” he said. “To get what they need, they need teachers. Teachers get what they need by having a pension. The pension has to be paid for.”

In January, Brown proposed that his administration and the Legislature spend next year negotiating a CalSTRS deal and then start funding it. But now he is proposing to start with the fiscal year that begins July 1, with an initial $450 million toward the unfunded liability. The state’s portion would be $73 million, with teachers paying $40 million more out of their salaries and districts kicking in about $337 million ­– equal to about a half of 1 percent of the projected $61 billion in Proposition 98 funding next year. Proposition 98, the primary source of funding for K-12 schools and community colleges, determines annual funding based on increases in enrollment and per capita state income or state revenue.

Jack Ehnes, chief executive officer of CalSTRS, said that closing the funding gap “can be resolved through gradual and predictable contribution increases, and the sooner those increases begin, the less risk to the state. Clearly, state policymakers understand this urgency, and … we are encouraged that a funding plan will be enacted this year.”

CalSTRS’ defined benefit program for its 860,000 members is funded through contributions fromthe state, employers (school districts) and employees, and returns on investments. CalSTRS lost about 40 percent of the value of its investments when the stock market plunged in 2008. Though the $183 billion value has now returned to where it was, the pension program is only about two-thirds funded to meet projected pension payouts over the next 30 years.

Contributions are determined as a percentage of employees’ pay. Teachers and administrators currently pay 8 percent of their salaries into the defined benefit program; the state pays 3 percent and districts 8.25 percent. Once fully phased in over three years, teachers would pay 10.25 percent of salaries and the state would pay 6.3 percent. Districts’ share, under Brown’s plan, would soar to 19.1 percent of employees’ pay, paid for out of Proposition 98 funding. The phase-in for districts would be seven years.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, chair of the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee, which is tackling the pension fund issue, called Brown’s proposal “a reasonable plan and a strong sign of progress” that is consistent with his committee’s principles of shared responsibility among contributors. “No one said it would be easy,” said Bonta, who plans a hearing soon to review the plan.

Dennis Meyers, Assistant Executive Director of the California School Boards Association, agreed with Bonta, calling the proposed pension contribution increases “daunting” at a time when school districts are recovering from the recession and phasing in the new funding system. He said his organization would take a hard look at Brown’s pension cost-sharing formula.


In January, Brown proposed a near-record increase in Proposition 98 spending. That won’t change much, even with an additional surge in overall state revenue, because of the complex way that Proposition 98 funding is calculated and retroactively adjusted. More than half of the new state revenue will fund a rush in enrollment in Medi-Cal, the federal and state subsidized health care program for low-income families that was expanded under the federal Affordable Care Act.

For K-12 schools and community colleges, there will be $242 million more available under Prop. 98 than in January, but nearly all of that will be eaten up by increased enrollments (see Department of Finance summary of budget revision, starting on page 15).

The January state budget included a $10.5 billion increase in K-12 and community college spending. Brown is proposing to split the new money between one-time expenditures and more dollars for ongoing spending.

Brown would use the bulk of the money to pay off the remaining $6 billion in late payments to school districts, known as deferrals. Paying that off will clear the decks of that portion of what Brown calls the state’s “wall of debt.” It will also free up cash for districts while eliminating loans that some districts – disproportionately those serving low-income students – had to take out.

The remaining $4.5 billion would fund districts’ operating budgets under the Local Control Funding Formula – more than double the $2.1 billion increase this year. In a January analysis, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that overall per-student spending would rise about 10 percent, from $7,936 per student in the current fiscal year to $8,724 in 2014-15. Under the formula, which distributes extra money based on enrollments of English learners, foster youth and low-income students, the percentage increases would vary significantly among districts, however.

Josephine Lucey, a school board member from Cupertino and president of the California School Boards Association, said,“We are pleased with the continued commitment and investment in the Local Control Funding Formula … so school district and county leaders and board members can invest in programs to achieve academic success.”

Other education leaders vowed to take the case to the Legislature for additional money for Common Core and an expansion of transitional kindergarten, an extra year of kindergarten for some 4-year-olds.

“While we are pleased to see progress toward implementing the Local Control Funding Formula, we are disappointed to see the governor did not include additional funding for implementation of new content standards, and will urge him and the Legislature to reconsider,” Valerie Cuevas, interim executive director of The Education Trust-West, said in a statement.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had made a $1 billion expansion of preschool his top priority but, so far, has come away empty-handed. Brown, in a press conference, said that the state has increased Proposition 98 funding substantially for kindergarten through community college. Adding a 16th year of education, he said, would require shifting money from the other 15 years.

The May revision does include some new and expanded education programs:

• $27 million to expand the capacity of the K‑12 High Speed Network, which provides Internet service to county offices of education and school districts. There will be grants for districts that need the most help preparing for the computer-based Common Core tests next spring.
• $50 million to boost career-training programs at community colleges to help expand course offerings and purchase new equipment. The money comes on the heels of $250 million provided this year for the Career Pathways Trust, a state grant program that will fund partnerships between K-12 and community colleges for career technical education. Community college officials cheered the funding proposal, which they said would restore past cuts. Yet other advocates were disappointed there wasn’t additional funding for career technical programs at the K-12 level.

By Sean Cavanagh | Education Week |

●●smf’s 2¢: Another blogger reblogged an earlier version of this story with the Godzilla v. King Kong allusion; that headline was, as Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘stolen fair-and-square’!

● A Beaudry insider – and frequent commenter on the goings-on within the Puzzle Palace - observes:

Pearson, of course, is the academic content subcontractor under the District’s CCTP agreement with Apple.
AIR is the firm that the District engaged to perform the CCTP Evaluation.
This specific dispute over work that is being awarded out of New Mexico is only one example of how these two compete – although, while AIR is pretty-good sized not-for-profit, it is a fraction of the size of Pearson.
This could raise questions of the independence of AIR in doing the LAUSD CCTP evaluation.

smf: Although the Bond Oversight Committee recommended it, The superintendent did not want the Inspector General to perform the CCTP evaluation.

14 May 2014 :: A decision to give the education vendor Pearson a major, potentially lucrative contract for common-core testing is being challenged by a competitor that claims the award was made through a process that was unfair and biased in favor of the eventual winner.

The American Institutes for Research, a Washington-based organization that has a substantial place in the testing field, has filed a legal action in New Mexico state court that argues the contract was awarded in a process that was illegal, and structured in a way that wrongly benefited one company—Pearson.

The AIR initially filed a protest with New Mexico state officials six months ago, not long after the invitation for bids on behalf of a group of common-core states—those belonging to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, testing consortium—was issued. The state rejected that protest, saying it hadn't been filed within the required time window.

Now, the AIR is asking a judge to overturn the state's decision on its protest. It wants the court to declare as invalid the process for issuing the award, block the procurement from going forward, and order that the initial bid for testing work be restructured to correct problems with the solicitation.

The dispute over the contract represents a high-profile battle over work that is essential to ensuring that ambitious testing linked to the Common Core State Standards can be carried out. Sixteen states, plus the District of Columbia, are participating in PARCC, while 22 states are members of the other major common-core testing consortium, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The contract awarded to Pearson, a commercial education provider with a worldwide reach, calls for the London- and New York City-based company to provide the development of test items, test delivery, reporting of results, and analysis of student performance for PARCC.

A Mississippi state official, part of the negotiating team on the contract, could not put a dollar value on the contract, but described its size as "unprecedented" by the standards of the U.S. testing industry.

The potentially huge scope of the work is described in the language of the New Mexico contract with Pearson. It says that anywhere between 5.5 million and 10 million students would be tested annually, with a projected per-student cost of testing in the new contract of about $24. That estimate is a decrease of more than $5 per student from the previous price tag.


New Mexico, a PARCC state, put forward the initial request for proposals for the PARCC testing work on behalf of the member states in the consortium in November.

In December, the AIR filed a protest with the state, citing several objections to the RFP put forward for the testing project. For instance, the AIR argued that the solicitation improperly tied assessment services to be provided in the first year of the tests with work in subsequent years, essentially creating a "bundling of work" that unfairly restricts competition.

The bundling of work favors Pearson, because it would rely on a content-delivery platform already developed by Pearson for the PARCC tests, the AIR said in a Dec. 11, 2013, letter to New Mexico's education department.

That arrangement meant that vendors other than Pearson would end up having to design an assessment system and estimate the costs of that work with only vague information, the AIR claimed in its protest.

As a result, Pearson would be allowed to "transform the advantage it enjoys as the year-one [content-delivery] platform vendor to an advantage for subsequent years of the program," the AIR stated in its protest.

In court documents, AIR officials say they would have submitted an official proposal to do the testing work if they thought the bidding process was fair, but they regarded it as flawed and biased, and so they decided not to bid.

In the end, Pearson ended up being the only bidder, a PARCC state official told Education Week.

The protest from the AIR was initially sent to an official at the state's department of education. But a little more than a week later, AIR officials said they were informed that their protest had not been put forward in a timely fashion, and was thus invalid, because it had not been sent to the state purchasing division. State officials said the correct process was made clear in the RFP.

In response, the AIR filed its appeal in state court, calling the rejection of its protest "arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with governing law."

AIR officials declined to comment in detail on the lawsuit. Jon Cohen, the president of assessment for the organization, said in a statement that the state's RFP, as it was drafted, was tied to work Pearson was doing in the first year of assessment, and would end up giving the company a "monopoly on completely different work for the next seven years."

A spokeswoman for Pearson, Stacy Skelly, said the company had no comment on the AIR's protest over the procurement process. Pearson was unaware of the subsequent legal challenge, she said.


PARCC officials also had no response to the protest or legal action, said David Connerty-Marin, a spokesman for the organization. He directed questions to New Mexico officials, noting that the contract had originated in that state and was issued on behalf of a group of PARCC states.

Larry Behrens, a spokesman for the New Mexico education department, said his agency could not speak to the dispute directly, citing the pending lawsuit. But in an email toEducation Week, he said that because the court has not halted the procurement, the work on the testing project will go forward.

In their complaint to the state, AIR officials also argue that the partnership between PARCC and Pearson creates a potential conflict of interest. Specifically, AIR officials said that if the consortium competes for testing work being procured in other states, PARCC would have an incentive in New Mexico to award work to a contractor it intends to partner with—Pearson—because doing so would improve its ability to compete for similar work in other state markets.

Earlier this month, officials in PARCC states touted the deal as providing a number of benefits. One of the biggest is its price—the assessment cost will be $24 per student, state officials estimate. That's cheaper than an initial projection of $29.50.

James Mason, who helped negotiate the contract as part of a team of PARCC state leaders, said in an interview that he could not provide a dollar figure for the contract, because the price tag would depend on how many students and states end up participating, and whether they choose computerized or paper-and-pencil tests, among other factors.

But he described the contract with Pearson as one of "unprecedented scale, in terms of states coming together. It's a pretty significant event in a number of ways."

Despite Pearson being the only bidder for the contract, PARCC officials are convinced the process was sound and resulted in the best vendor getting hired, Mr. Mason said. The list of experienced subcontractors secured by Pearson, which include the Educational Testing Service, WestEd, Caveon, and Measured Progress, also gave PARCC state officials confidence, added Mr. Mason, who is Mississippi's state assessment director.

The $24-per-student price was reached after "very aggressive negotiating" between PARCC state officials and Pearson, a back-and-forth that lasted weeks, he said. He attributed the lower cost partly to economies of scale that can be achieved through having large numbers of states and students participating at once.

Gauging the total cost of the contract is not as simple as it is for a state charged with negotiating with a vendor, in which the state and vendor agree "we'll do it for X million," said Mr. Mason. By contrast, he said, figuring out the costs for multiple states in PARCC will depend on what they choose from an "a la carte" menu of testing options.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
This weeks’s news that didn’t fit is at:

smf: Technology is supposed to be our friend but the automatic widget that’s supposed to update all this stuff isn’t…

• CORE WAIVER VIDEO: The California Office to Reform Eduacation – or what if seven superintendents formed their own school board?
• UNPACKING THE MAY REVISE: Proposed pension fund fi...
• It’s a Small World meets Godzilla v. King Kong:
• First impressions: THE GOVERNOR’S MAY REVISE - 4 articles
• LAUSD AND THE RITUALISTIC KILLING OF SCHOOL: If the Los Angeles Unified School District were a used car, parents would be reading the fine print of California’s historic lemon law by the end of first grade.
¶The second largest school district in the nation is not the most well oiled machine, to put it kindly. It’s a labyrinthine of administrative fiefdoms whose goal seems to be to operate in an absolute vacuum and often at odds with other administrative arms.
¶Kids? Nowhere to be seen.
• LA SCHOOLS BUDGET DISCUSSION: More teachers, custodians, health services, technology
• Duncan: “Achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed.”: NATIONAL REPORT CARD FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS SHOWS STAGNATION IN MATH+READING + smf’s 2¢

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
● SPECIAL LIBRARY TASK FORCE – Monday May 19, 2014 8:30 AM – Beaudry Blue Room
● REGULAR BOARD MEETING – Tuesday May 20, 2014 (9:00 a.m.) including Closed Session items
Start: 05/20/2014 9:00 am Beaudry Board Room
● COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE – Tuesday May 20, 2014, 2:00 PM (A joint meeting of the LAUSD Bd of Ed and the LACCD Trustees on the future of Adult Ed in Los Angeles)
Start: 05/20/2014 2:00 pm Beaudry Board Room
Start: 05/22/2014 11:00 am Beaudry Board Room
Start: 05/22/2014 2:00 pm Beaudry Board Room

*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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