Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war

4LAKids: Sunday 20•Sept•2015
In This Issue:
 •  THE SURPRISING THING ABOUT SCHOOLS WITH LOTS OF TECHNOLOGY: The best way to use computers in schools is “moderately” + 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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“The military order ‘Havoc!’ was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeare's parlance 'the dogs of war') to pillage and chaos.” Crying “Havoc” is the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Spanish and Mexican bugle call “El Degüello”: No quarter given/Take no prisoners.

When the LA Times editorialized last Sunday that A CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION COULD BE GREAT FOR L.A. [last week’s 4LAKids |] a metaphorical red line was drawn and a curse was cast. Those who hoped that the demise of Austin Buetner as publisher of The Times marked the end of Eli Broad’s bought+paid-for influence on editorial education policy were quickly disabused.

How could it be any way else?

Did you see the cover of last Sunday‘s Arts&Culture Section?: Smiling Uncle Eli, L.A.’s Philanthropist King, his head in a halo of light, descending the escalator into his eponymous Art Museum.|

I’m sure it’s a lovely museum, and I appreciate that it’s free to the public …but what is it (besides accumulating billions of dollars) about being a successful home builder, insurance executive and art collector that makes one all-knowing about public education?

The reviews of The Broad have been mixed; the reviews I saw+heard of The Times editorial were quick+savage.

A former schoolboard member drew the obvious comparison of this “war” with the one started by former Mayor Tony over AB 1381 – his attempted unconstitutional takeover of LAUSD. An awful lot of time, effort and money that could’ve been spent educating kids was wasted fighting off Tony.

The eminently quotable and infinitely eponymous “Quentin Compson” wrote to The Times:

“Obviously the LA TIMES has just declared war.

“I think we both realize as this war begins in earnest over policy and public opinion, it will be a very long, protracted one.

“I fully expect the LA TIMES to put all its money, power and influence on the side of Charter expansion.

“With the Times' extraordinary record of being spectacularly wrong on almost everything in the public education sphere from its enthusiastic support of VAM testing, the propagation of John Deasy, the Times' embrace of "realistic" budgetary constraints that determine larger classes and fewer enrichment opportunities, and finally the over-the-top Scott Walker/Chris Christie rhetoric about the evil teacher unions, the LA TIMES supports a "fantasy" education panacea that, um, coincidentally, those with tremendous money, influence and financial interests in charter schools wildly support.

“You argue this war is for "the children", but the war is being planned and operated from swank conference rooms in Five Star Hotels and corporate executive suites far removed from the these kids' homes.

“The LA TIMES has convinced itself that charters are indeed public schools by rewriting the definition of the word "public". It's the same rewriting that corporate entities like The LA TIMES always champion as they advance 1% Neo-liberal economic policies, promoting them as "good" for the masses while fattening the portfolios of those with zero children in LAUSD-like school systems.

“This is a watershed moment in LA's education history.

“We have contrary notions of what American democracy represents when placed on the streets and neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Normandie will become Normandy.”

THAT FIRST SHOT BY THE TIMES was followed by a second opinion piece: THIS IS WHY I SEND MY SON TO PRIVATE SCHOOL – written by Michelle Maltais, ostensibly a frustrated mom sending her four-year-old to a private pre-school program. “Quentin Compson” responded again, the article+reply follow below.

The parents of 4+5 year olds are historically+correctly squirrelly, they are investing their most precious asset into a system notably+infamously suspect. But the author/mom is basing her rage+separation anxiety exclusively on test scores, notably the new test scores – and nobody gets tested until the second grade!

At first impression the author/mom is entitled/elitist middle-class and incidentally: Black. Private-school-educated, she imagines the “other” children she doesn’t want her kids going to school with.

Further complicating the issue is that the author/mom is an LA Times employee with the title of Deputy Director of Audience Engagement. That fact was never disclosed – which brings the journalistic ethics+integrity of The Times into question. We are back to the mutual back-scratching between The Times and The Staples Center, or the profiteering boosterism practiced by the Norman Chandler Times, land developers and the William Mulholland DWP.

¿Chinatown, anyone? I’m sure it’s a lovely museum, and I appreciate that it’s free to the public…

MEANWHILE, THE ONCE+FUTURE POWE® B®OKERS took the school board president to lunch at The City Club to see if they could influence the selection of the next superintendent: CIVIC GROUP ASKS FOR OUTSIDE COMMITTEE ON L.A. SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH [follows].

“WAR,” Carl von Clausewitz said, “is the continuation of politics by other means.”

“WAR,” Edwin Starr sang, “(Good God y’all!) What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing!
Say it again”

AND WHILE WE ARE BRINGING UP THOSE NEW TEST SCORES, even though the LA Times and others (including me) warned us they are essentially meaningless baseline reference points, consider this:

• LAUSD’s highest performing school was Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies – a grade 4-12 magnet school. Not a charter school, a magnet school. LAUSD’s Magnet Schools generally outperformed charter schools.

• Bravo Medical Magnet LAUSD school test scores outpaced all Alliance Charter Schools.

• LAUSD Magnet schools outpaced all schools in LAUSD on new SBAAC test, including famed charters as well as Beverly Hills High, Agoura High, etc.

• Magnet schools are not exclusively for gifted or high performing kids; there are arts and music magnets, humanities and STEM and world languages magnets …and many more. There will soon be an all-girls magnet.

• LAUSD’s magnet program has many more kids on waiting lists than charter schools do.


We need to expand the Magnet Program, not the charter program. With a long term and a short term and a dynamic plan; a plan born in the school community – not in swank conference rooms in Five Star Hotels and corporate executive suites …or the dining room of The City Club.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Michelle Maltais in the LATimes Education Matters blog |

Sept 15, 2015 :: Did you see the test scores last week?

This is why I send my son to private school.

Sure, the scores were said to be lower than the year before -- and yes, this was a baseline year -- but it was something else that triggered that response in me: The achievement gap.

It was no surprise, really, that the scores would be lower than last year's. Many officials warned us ahead of time. The head of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nonprofit group that represents the country's state education leaders, explained to The Times’ Howard Blume: "This is going to show the real achievement gap. We are asking more out of our kids, and I think that's a good thing."

OK, asking more sounds like a good thing on the surface.

But the real question is, will that be carried out across the board?

Or could black and brown students be allowed to continue to slip because expectations aren’t that high for them to begin with?

One thing I continue to learn as a mother is that kids perform to the level of expectation. Set the bar high, and they will strive to reach it. They don't know anything other than to reach and reach further -- if that's what's expected of them. Expect them to fail, and they will.

My 4-year-old is just starting to navigate all of the adventures that come with going to school. He’s an amazing little sponge, as all kids at that age are. I can see him, with our guidance and that of teachers, making connections and constructing for himself a floor, a foundation on which the rest of his academic experience, curiosity and love of learning will stand. My job is to push and block and fight to make sure he -- and later, his baby sister -- gets the best possible education.

The challenges of raising and educating a black male in a major American city are not lost on me.

We live in a predominantly black community and checked out the schools nearby. Everyone in the parenting circles I'm connected to extols the virtues of magnet and charter schools. But getting into those schools is largely a matter of chance.

The neighborhood magnet left us a little cold: The children at this "high ability gifted magnet" are performing at grade level, the director told us. According to the LAUSD website, "Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability Magnets serve students who demonstrate ability to work two years above grade level in academic subjects."

That doesn't inspire much confidence in that system, either.

The case for higher expectations

My husband and I are mostly the products of private education. We grew up hearing how our struggling middle-class moms scrimped and sacrificed to give their kids the best education. To a large degree, when it comes to the education we are responsible for providing our children today, that narrative is ingrained in our DNA.

From kindergarten through eighth grade, I went to Palm Valley School in Palm Springs. Though I was the only black student in every one of my classes, all of us were expected to perform to a level of excellence. My next four years, I went to a public high school that opened the year I started. What a different experience.

Straight from private school, knowing nothing else, I was an annoying overachiever my freshman year. But lowered expectations in most of the public classrooms eventually had a detrimental effect on me by my senior year.

A typical teenager distracted by all the things that come with the fabulous life of a 17-year-old, I turned in a really substandard essay in my English class.

At a conference with my mom, an English professor herself, the teacher said he understood our challenge: It must be rough for me working two jobs to support my family.

While that is a reality in some families, this assumption was preposterous in my case. He never really asked.

First, I had a weekend job at a movie theater -- primarily so that I could buy my own clothes and gas up the car. Second, this was an honors/AP English class. The performance standards should have been higher -- for all students. I was excused from the expectation of high standards and given a pass in the name of "understanding" instead of digging deeper to find out what was really at play.

Later in the year, when I submitted an essay that was really up to my standard of performance, that same teacher accused me of cheating. Lowered expectations.

I want more for my son. I expect more of my son -- and so should his school.

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I was in school. And that was Palm Desert. This is Los Angeles -- a diverse, overpopulated and overtaxed school system that struggles to even keep the air conditioning current and functional.

Yes, much has changed. However, the basic truths haven’t: Schools are still struggling to lift performance across the board. Teachers are still overworked and underpaid -- and underappreciated. Resources are still hard to come by.

Black and low-income children overall are consistently still at the bottom of the achievement list. And, no, most of them can't afford the luxury of a private education. I get that. It's hard for my family, who can't afford it either, but it's certainly harder for others. That is real.

While state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson might be "encouraged that many students are at or near achievement standards," this mother is sobered by that.

The fact is most students in the state are falling short of learning targets and are not on track to succeed in college. Black students have traditionally performed more poorly on these tests. They aren't expected to reach the same level of achievement as the rest of their class. That just will not do in my home.

That lowered performance bar has a detrimental effect on expectations -- those of the teachers, those of the students themselves and collectively and certainly of the system overall.

The fact that the bar is only now being set higher overall doesn’t really strengthen my confidence as a parent that the education system will challenge, encourage and expect or even consider excellence from my brown-skinned children.

There are no do-overs or reboots, and our primary job as parents is to lay a solid foundation for our children’s future.

Sure, it’s not all up to the schools to spark and develop the drive to strive for excellence. That should but doesn't always happen at home, too. But the place our kids spend the majority of their days cannot be the force working to undo all of our work as parents. We must work together as a team, setting and facilitating high expectations.

As Antonio Villaraigosa said of his family's choice to move from public to Catholic school when he was running for mayor: "We want our kids to have the best education they can. If I can get that education in a public school, I'll do it, but I won't sacrifice my children any more than I could ask you to do the same."

Put bluntly: My kids are not an experiment for a foundering system.


●●smf’s 2¢: The ever pseudonymous “Quentin Compson” writes to the Times |

Okay. My head is spinning.

The LA TIMES has gone beyond pathological in its take-no-prisoners public school war.

Michelle Maltais has a four-year-old whom she will not deign pollute in a public system. She, unlike most other parents, so loves her child, she will "sacrifice" anything to give this child the "best".

Maltais looks at the test scores of public schools and sees a system that does not set high standards for kids.

She sees a school system and parents that accept mediocrity as the norm.

As we proceed sentence by sentence further in this commentary, this woman's INSUFFERABLE privilege becomes written in neon.

Columbia J-School educated Maltais looks at the kids and families who would surround her children and it obviously makes her sick. Not that they are not good, hard-working people--but definitely not people who care about education as she and her private school educated husband do. Not like private school parents.

She ticks off the problems with society that undermine the schools as if they were mere obvious nuisances--but nothing that couldn't be overcome by setting a high bar.

She ends, "Put bluntly: My kids are not an experiment for a foundering system."

Yes, your kids ARE an experiment in a foundering system. A system that culls children based on race and class from the start and is run by politicians and bankers to the detriment of these kids.

And your grotesque "take" on that society in relation to your kids propagates that system.

God speed, Ms. Maltais. You love your kids. Wish you loved ours

By Howard Blume, LA Times |

Sept 18, 2015 9:20AM :: A group of civic leaders has privately urged the Los Angeles Board of Education to appoint an outside committee to assist with or even lead the search process for a superintendent of schools.

Their early efforts culminated in a noon lunchtime meeting on Aug. 19 at the City Club, on the 51st floor of a downtown skyscraper.

The unofficial delegation met with school board President Steve Zimmer, who did not commit to the idea but said he would put the matter before the full board. So far, the board has not taken action on the proposal.

"Having a broader external committee would be a good addition to the process," said Elise Buik, president and chief executive of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

Such a committee would not only provide valuable assistance to the board but also result in broader buy-in to the selection process and support for the eventual person chosen, she said.

Buik said she envisions a search committee that would include representatives of students, teachers, community groups, the business sector and civil rights organizations.

At the meeting with her were: Antonia Hernandez, head of the nonprofit California Community Foundation; Ed Avila, a former city official and leader of the downtown revitalization group Project Restore; Monica Lozano, a University of California regent and publisher of the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión; Nolan V. Rollins, leader of the Los Angeles Urban League; Gary L. Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; and George Kieffer, a partner in the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and also a UC regent.

Kieffer also heads the Civic Alliance, a coalition of groups that has worked with and tried to influence L.A. Unified. The group strongly backed former Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure a year ago after losing the confidence of a majority on the Board of Education.

The individuals meeting with Zimmer were doing so in their role with Civic Alliance.

If the board favored a committee, said Buik, she would like one that could screen potential candidates and present the board a small list of finalists.

Kieffer said a search committee could take a variety of forms.

“Anything that would be done would be up to the board,” Kieffer said. “It’s done different ways in different searches. But I think that the more different kinds of folks they could have on a search or advisory committee, the stronger their selection process would be.”

The Board of Education chose Deasy without considering other candidates after a brief trial period during which he served as deputy to then-Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. At the time, key local leaders, including some within the Civic Alliance, pressured the board to choose Deasy without a search.

Cortines returned from retirement when Deasy left but would like to hand over the office to a successor by the end of the year.

The school board recently hired an executive search firm to assist with the process.

Zimmer characterized the City Club meeting as “very positive.”

“It was a very open and frank conversation, and an important conversation, and I hope they will invite me to meet with them again soon,” he said. “I think their voice is an important voice in the process.”

Other groups also are weighing in. The influential teachers union, for example, would like the finalists to be announced publicly.

“We would like to see a process where the finalists would come in front of parents, students and educators,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. “We want to make sure that parents, students and educators have an opportunity to weigh in during the superintendent search.”

The search firm has recommended a confidential selection process, saying it would yield a stronger field of applicants.

THE SURPRISING THING ABOUT SCHOOLS WITH LOTS OF TECHNOLOGY: The best way to use computers in schools is “moderately” + smf’s 2¢

By Joy Resmovits |LA Times |

Sept 15, 2015 :: More time spent on technology in the classroom doesn’t necessarily help kids do better in school, a new study has found.

In fact, above a certain threshold, an over-reliance on technology might actually detract from learning.

“Limited use of computers at school may be better than no use at all, but levels of computer use above the current … average are associated with significantly poorer results,” states a new report released late Monday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“Students who use computers very frequently in school don’t outperform students who use them moderately, even when we modify for social background,” OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher, said in an interview.

It’s a lesson Angelenos might want to consider as the Los Angeles Unified School District rethinks its relationship with educational technology, thanks in part to a failed attempt to provide iPads to every student districtwide. In Los Angeles, the FBI is investigating the bidding process that led to the iPad program, which now includes other devices.

Supt. Ramon Cortines decided in February that the $1.3-billion program was too expensive to continue. At the start of this school year, only one school had devices for every student because the other schools had not yet had their technology instruction plans approved by the district.

L.A. Unified chose the schools now slated to receive the devices by examining campuses and determining which schools had such minimal or outdated technology that they needed an immediate boost, or which schools were optimally positioned to incorporate new digital tools into their lessons. The district also chose schools that were part of a U.S. Justice Department settlement agreement to provide more resources to schools with large populations of black students.

A report released earlier this month found that the district still struggles with integrating devices. That LAUSD-commissioned report -- conducted by the American Institutes for Research -- found that teachers didn’t receive enough tech support, and that Wi-Fi access on campus remained inconsistent.

Now, an L.A. Unified task force is devising a technology plan for the district.

The new study is based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, an international exam given to 60,000 15-year-olds in 32 countries. OECD has previously released results on the subject tests — many Americans are familiar with these scores, as they create educational rankings between countries.

Monday’s report marks the release of the digital test associated with PISA — in general, students took the pencil-and-paper test in the morning and the computer test the afternoon of the same day.

Overall, the report finds that the best way to use computers in schools is “moderately.”

What exactly does moderately mean? Not too often, and for deliberately chosen activities. For example, as Schleicher notes, students who “practice and drill” on computers in school at least once a week perform more than 20 points below students who don’t do this.

And while some degree of browsing the Internet for assignments is helpful, performance drops significantly, on average, when it is done “almost every day” or more regularly.

Why might this be? “If you have 21st century technology added to 20th century classrooms, it might be unrelated and take opportunities away,” Schleicher said. “Schools probably haven’t become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that use technology well.”

If you have 21st century technology added to 20th century classrooms, it might be unrelated and take opportunities away. - Andreas Schleicher, OECD's education director

For example, while a school might call itself tech-savvy for having students copy and paste answers on Google to pre-fab questions on smartphones, “it won’t make kids smarter,” Schleicher said. “If it’s used on a smaller scale, which is more useful, it’s usually more interactive teaching. If you want students to become smarter than a smartphone you have to think about instructional methodology and learning environment.”

That’s another lesson for Los Angeles. Cortines has said that the district lacks a coherent way for wrapping technology into pedagogy.

According to a self-reported survey, students across OECD countries spent at least 25 minutes online every day at school. That number ranges from 58 minutes in Australia to less than 10 minutes in South Korea.

American students performed better on the reading test on screens than they did on paper. On the general PISA, the U.S. performed at the average level of OECD countries. But on the digital test, America performed slightly better than average. And on PISA’s pencil-and-paper math test, Americans performed below average. But taking the test online bumped the U.S. up to the OECD average.

“We were quite disappointed by the findings in general,” Schleicher said. “Bringing technologies to the classroom didn’t seem to be related to positive skills outcomes.” There’s a lot of investment in educational technology right now, he said, “but we haven’t gotten it right.”

●●smf’s 2¢: This is not “just another survey”, this is the PISA/OCED Survey – the gold standard in comparing educational outcomes across nations/around the world (see blizzard of news stories below) used frequently by those who would beat-up the US education system and and American teachers.

It is also interesting (in a couriouser+couriouser way) that The Times provides links to the AIR report critical of LAUSD’s tech roll-out – which is about something else - but none to the actual survey that that this article is about – which follows.


Remarks by Scott Folsom to the LAUSD Board of Education meeting Tuesday afternoon, Sept 15th:

President Zimmer, Superintendent Cortines, members of the board:

L’shannah tovah.

I am Scott Folsom, California State PTA Vice President for Health.

One would think the PTA would find a healthy VP …but elective politics is what it is.

In PTA we traditionally open our meetings – right after the pledge of allegiance – with inspirational remarks. A story. A poem. An inspiring anecdote.

The Queen of Inspiration in PTA in LA was Patricia Hansen; she collected the stories and poems and anecdotes in an archive; it wasn’t a PTA meeting until Pat spoke. She was a past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTA from 1983-1985 – she first joined PTA in 1949 – and was our institutional memory – reminding us of when PTA members wore hats and gloves – and wore their passion for children’s issues on their sleeves …back in the day as it is today.

We lost Pat a few days ago, after a long life-well lived – and we will miss her.

We also lost Ellen Eckard, past 31st District President from 2009-11.

Ellen was young and vital and served at her school, Sutter Middle, as the Parent Center Director. She enabled the network that brought together the PTA and the School and the teachers and administration and parents and students – building the school community …and the bowling league – sponsoring the bake sale and the can drive and making what needed to happen happen.

She organized middle schoolers; and the only things squirrelier than they are their parents. And teachers.

A former Sutter Principal, who had retired to the Sacramento area, suggested to Ellen that they have lunch together when PTA had our convention up in the capital. Ellen suggested to the principal that she come and volunteer at the convention instead; effective PTA leaders make these offers that can’t be refused!

Ellen died too young – but left the promise for us to continue to keep.

If Pat Hansen was “Old School”: “Your Mother’s …or even Your Grandmother’s PTA”; Ellen Eckard was “New School”: “Definitely Not Your Mom’s PTA!”

But both kept the promise that each and every one of us make:

To speak for all children
With one strong voice.

Good job.
And Godspeed.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
by Lillian Mongeau |

by Arianna Skibell |

byAdolfo Guzman-Lopez |

By Lisa Lewis |

By Sarah Tully |

By John Fensterwald |

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: • 213-241-8333 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, county supervisor, state legislator, 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 at

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 Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and has represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for over 12 years. He is Vice President for Health, Legislation Action Committee member and a member of the Board of Directors 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 "WHO" Gold Award and the ACSA Regional Ferd Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award - honors 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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