Sunday, June 19, 2016

Grieve. Mourn. Repeat.

4LAKids: Sunday 19•June•2016
In This Issue:
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  ► Friends4smf :: The GoFundMe campaign
 •  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.
San Bernardino.
Sandy Hook.


The White House | June 18, 2016 :: It’s been less than a week since the deadliest mass shooting in American history. And foremost in all of our minds has been the loss and the grief felt by the people of Orlando, especially our friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I visited with the families of many of the victims on Thursday. And one thing I told them is that they’re not alone. The American people, and people all over the world, are standing with them – and we always will.

The investigation is ongoing, but we know that the killer was an angry and disturbed individual who took in extremist information and propaganda over the internet, and became radicalized. During his killing spree, he pledged allegiance to ISIL, a group that’s called on people around the world to attack innocent civilians.

We are and we will keep doing everything in our power to stop these kinds of attacks, and to ultimately destroy ISIL. The extraordinary people in our intelligence, military, homeland security, and law enforcement communities have already prevented many attacks, saved many lives, and we won’t let up.

Alongside the stories of bravery and healing and coming together over the past week, we’ve also seen a renewed focus on reducing gun violence. As I said a few days ago, being tough on terrorism requires more than talk. Being tough on terrorism, particularly the sorts of homegrown terrorism that we’ve seen now in Orlando and San Bernardino, means making it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on assault weapons that are capable of killing dozens of innocents as quickly as possible. That’s something I’ll continue to talk about in the weeks ahead.

It’s also part of something that I’ve been thinking a lot about this week – and that’s the responsibilities we have to each other. That’s certainly true with Father’s Day upon us.

I grew up without my father around. While I wonder what my life would have been like if he had been a greater presence, I’ve also tried extra hard to be a good dad for my own daughters. Like all dads, I worry about my girls’ safety all the time. Especially when we see preventable violence in places our sons and daughters go every day – their schools and houses of worship, movie theaters, nightclubs, as they get older. It’s unconscionable that we allow easy access to weapons of war in these places – and then, even after we see parents grieve for their children, the fact that we as a country do nothing to prevent the next heartbreak makes no sense.

So this past week, I’ve also thought a lot about dads and moms around the country who’ve had to explain to their children what happened in Orlando. Time and again, we’ve observed moments of silence for victims of terror and gun violence. Too often, those moments have been followed by months of silence. By inaction that is simply inexcusable. If we’re going to raise our kids in a safer, more loving world, we need to speak up for it. We need our kids to hear us speak up about the risks guns pose to our communities, and against a status quo that doesn’t make sense. They need to hear us say these things even when those who disagree are loud and are powerful. We need our kids to hear from us why tolerance and equality matter – about the times their absence has scarred our history and how greater understanding will better the future they will inherit. We need our kids to hear our words – and also see us live our own lives with love.

And we can’t forget our responsibility to remind our kids of the role models whose light shines through in times of darkness. The police and first responders, the lifesaving bystanders and blood donors. Those who comfort mourners and visit the wounded. The victims whose last acts on this earth helped others to safety. They’re not just role models for our kids – their actions are examples for all of us.

To be a parent is to come to realize not everything is in our control. But as parents, we should remember there’s one responsibility that’s always in our power to fulfill: our obligation to give our children unconditional love and support; to show them the difference between right and wrong; to teach them to love, not to hate; and to appreciate our differences not as something to fear, but as a great gift to cherish.

To me, fatherhood means being there. So in the days ahead, let’s be there for each other. Let’s be there for our families, and for those that are hurting. Let’s come together in our communities and as a country. And let’s never forget how much good we can achieve simply by loving one another.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and have a great weekend.


1. I was writing of the pending District Budget/LCFF/LCAP – saved by a deus-ex-machina/last-minute-letter from the Superintendent of Public Instruction
2. …plus Eli Broad’s magical reanimation of his Great Schools Now Plan!
3. I had a well-researched-yet-dripping with-vitriol rant about how the Beaudry Building is the Most Visitor Unfriendly Building on the Planet!
4. But it is Sunday afternoon and I am feeling unwell …and nothing I write can compare to the tale of the wonderful+enchanted Tuesday night visit of Pamela Anderson to the LAUSD Board of Education!

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

Posted on LA School Report Mike Szymanski |

June 17, 2016. 11:16 am. :: Sometimes staying late at the LA Unified school board meetings has its benefits. Particularly when quirky things happen in only-in-LA moments.

About 8:45 p.m. Tuesday late into the meeting, most of the audience members had cleared out of the school board auditorium and the 200 or so protesters outside were gone. There were almost as many people up on the horseshoe dais as there were watching.

Board President Steve Zimmer kidded about seeming a bit loopy because his cold medicine was kicking in. Then, the school police officers stirred, the board members stopped talking and a blur of diverse people marched down the aisle of the auditorium.

Up front was blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson, looking as stunning as she did in her “Baywatch” days two decades ago. In a tight black top and flowered skirt, she brushed back her characteristic blonde locks and prepared herself to address the school board for the first time.

In the pressroom watching on closed-circuit TV, reporters were surprised and snickering about why she was there. The LA Unified communications team didn’t have any idea.

Along with the actress, there were TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell and 9-year-old actress Felix Hemstreet, as well as a triathlete, a cardiologist, a best-selling author, a dietician, a doctor of 40 years and Torre Washington, who bills himself as “a professional vegan bodybuilder.”

The circus of presenters was inspired by 14-year-old Lila Copeland from Paul Revere Middle School who wants to have a regular vegan option on the menu in the nation’s second-largest school district. It appeared she had an impact on the board, and she had already met with Laura Benavidez, of the district’s Food Services division, who seemed open to the idea.

“This school district is at the forefront of offering good nutritious food for the students, so we just want them to be aware of allowing vegan options for the students too and helping us have a healthy future for this planet,” Copeland said. “We want the district to provide a vegan option.”

The experts spewed statistics and anecdotes. They brought up methane caused by cows, the drought, global warming, childhood obesity and ethical reasons for being vegan. They talked about how eating meat can cause heart disease and strokes, they detailed the outmoded federal nutritional standards and brought in packets of vegan meal samples for each of the seven school board members prepared by plant-based protein company Gardein’s chef Jason Stefanko.

Anderson spoke for two minutes about milk and water and the United Nations. She said, “Kids today are appalled to learn that animals killed for cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets live in crowded dark filthy sheds by the thousands and are mutilated and slaughtered by having their throats slit while they’re still conscious.”

Lila met this week with Zimmer and fellow school board member Ref Rodriguez as well as with the food services officials. The district already has a “Meatless Mondays” program and has taken the lead in requiring antibiotic and hormone-free chicken and turkey and is considering inexpensive low-fat options created by student chefs. On the other hand, the most animated part of a school board meeting two weeks ago centered on bringing back chocolate milk
“I’m impressed with what I’ve been told, but maybe I’m too old to change, maybe I’m not,” said 75-year-old board member George McKenna. “I’ve learned that everything I eat and love is not supposed to be healthy.”

McKenna, who grew up in New Orleans, confessed his love for po’boys and beignets and said he just ate a ham sandwich. “I’m hooked on meat and ice cream.” But, he added, “I’m enlightened, and you make the case for healthy children. At least I’ll think about what I eat. Maybe you’ll change our behaviors, and maybe mine.”

Zimmer quipped to his fellow board member, “We’ll go out for a veggie burger soon.”

It didn’t go unnoticed to the school board that young Lila brought together a virtual Who’s Who of vegan experts, including vegan cardiologist Dr. Kim Williams, Dr. Michael Klaper, Kawani Brown, Dr. Heather Shenkman, Sharon Palmer and others.

Of course, Anderson was a highlight, and although there wasn’t much of an audience, the school board meeting will be rebroadcast on Sunday morning at KLCS Television Channel 58 in between children’s shows such as “Dora the Explorer.” This time around, the show will feature an appearance by Pamela Anderson, and also a rant of a student earlier during Tuesday’s public comments that had a great deal of four-letter words while he described creating his own barber shop. Anderson’s talk is toward the end of the broadcast (at the 5:08:48 mark), which is now available on the LA Unified website.

“I’ve learned so much from these people,” Anderson told LA School Report. “These are the experts. This is my first time to speak to the LA school board, and I think it’s so important to teach children to be vegan.”

Anderson’s children went to schools in the Malibu school district, and she said she allowed her children to make their own choices. “As a mother, we are always trying to raise healthy kids, and this is one of the serious environmental problems. I’m here as a mom.”

Velez-Mitchell said she came as a journalist but felt she had to speak out about some of the food served at the district. “The food that is served in this school district causes cancer. Give them an option to choose foods that will not cause them cancer.”

Ultimately, the team offered to talk to any of the school board members. Zimmer quickly said, “I’m always happy to talk. And thank you for the samples, they were really good.”

The next step is to get a resolution from the school board, and Lila thinks that will happen.

Lila concluded: “No animal wants to die to become our food.”

●●smf: Not to argue Lila Copeland's point, but I refer us all to: Children's Book Review: ARLENE SARDINE Author+Illustrator Chris Raschka, Scholastic $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-531-30111-1

By The LA Times Editorial Board |

19 June 2016 :: Because of new rules designed to raise graduation standards, officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District woke up in December to the grim news that only half of its students were on track to graduate, down from 74% the year before. The problem was that this was the first year all students had to pass the full range of college-prep courses — known as the A through G sequence – required by the University of California and California State University for admission.

But just a couple of months later, the situation suddenly, startlingly improved, with 63% on track to graduate. By the end of March, 68% had completed their A-G courses, and an additional 15% were close enough that they might be able to make it. The actual graduation rate will not be known for several months.

How did this remarkable turnaround happen, and what does it mean?

Partly, it was that Michelle King, LA Unified’s new superintendent, moved swiftly and decisively, plunging the district’s high schools into a full-bore effort to bring students up to snuff, with extra counseling, Saturday classes and after-school classes.

But also, the district relied heavily on what are known as online credit-recovery classes. These courses, which have helped boost graduation rates locally and across the country, have grown quickly from a barely known concept a decade ago to one of the biggest and most controversial new trends in education.

This is how they work: Students who flunk a course can make up the credit by taking classes either in computer-equipped rooms at school, or at home if they have the equipment and Internet access. Teachers lecture on videos, the computer displays the readings or practice problems, and students take tests that are automatically graded. Written work is supposed to be reviewed by a district teacher. The courses have certain benefits: Students can replay a lecture for missed material, something that can’t happen in a regular classroom. When they can’t concentrate any longer, they can put the course on hold and take a break.

But professors and other education experts are concerned that there is too little quality control to ensure that students have completed the equivalent of a regular classroom experience.

Considering all the credit-recovery courses provided by educational publishers, it’s impossible to say as a rule whether these courses are sufficiently rigorous. Only one large-scale study has been published: Researchers reported in April that Chicago students who were randomly assigned to take an online Algebra I makeup course fared somewhat worse than those who were assigned to classroom makeup courses, with lower pass rates and lower scores on an end-of-course assessment. And an online credit-recovery course observed by Russell Rumberger, director of the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara, required only 12 hours of computer time and the reading of one book.

LAUSD maintains that’s not the case with its programs, which it says are rigorous and effective and take about 60 hours of work.
A Los Angeles Times editorial writer arranged to take one of the courses... The results were at the same time reassuring and potentially disturbing.

In order to get a closer look, a Los Angeles Times editorial writer arranged to take one of the courses offered to students at LAUSD: English Language Arts 11A, commonly known as the first semester of junior-year English. The results were at the same time reassuring and potentially disturbing.

Any student who actually takes the full course — sits through each lesson, answers the questions and completes the assignments — gets a meaningful education. That’s why UC accepts the course, produced by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Edgenuity, as a college-prep class. The reading excerpts come from fine and often challenging literature — “Moby-Dick,” “The Scarlet Letter,” great poetry and the like. Video lectures give the background of the works and teach lessons about tone, setting, vocabulary choice and so forth. There are four writing assignments during each semester. All in all, it would easily take 50 or 60 hours or more.

The catch is that taking the full course isn’t always necessary. Some students are able to pre-test out of much of the course, including the writing.

A 10-question multiple-choice quiz is given at the beginning of each of the three-dozen units. With a score of 60% or better — six of the questions — a student passes the unit, without having to go through the lectures, read the full materials or write the essays. Opening up other tabs on the computer to search for answers on the Internet is allowed. That’s not really cheating: The questions aren’t about straightforward facts. Students must interpret passages, for instance. But there’s plenty of help online via Sparks notes and other resources, and a full hour is given to answer the 10 questions.

A second problem with the course is that no full books are assigned in the first semester; the second semester requires just one book. That’s the minimum required by UC, but significantly fewer than most junior-year classroom-based courses. Carol Alexander, director of college-prep requirements at LAUSD, said there’s only one book required because the students have already taken the course in class and read books there. But if they flunked the course in class, what reason is there to believe that they did the reading or understood it?

Frances Gipson, the district’s chief academic officer, said that not all students get the opportunity to pre-test out of all the units in the course. Students are not supposed to be allowed to skip sections that they did poorly on the first time, she said.

That might be true. But two students at Fremont High School who took the same junior English course described nearly identical experiences. Both said they had pre-tested out of most of the units. One said he had been given only one writing assignment, and the other said he had been given one or two over both semesters — only a fraction of those the course supposedly requires.

L.A. Unified appears to be setting the bar lower than most districts across the nation. Edgenuity says that of the 1,900 districts using the company’s credit-recovery courses, most will not allow students in English classes to pre-test out of units. Districts that do allow skipping of units through pre-testing often require the students at least to do the writing assignments, and they monitor the tests so students can’t search the Internet for clues. And most districts set the passing grade for the pre-test at 70% or higher in contrast to L.A. Unified’s 60%.

The big issue is the lack of accountability... Who checks that students are getting enough online coursework to receive a meaningful education?

The big issue is the lack of accountability. The district has a vested interest in raising graduation rates and making the A-G policy look good. But who checks that students are getting enough online coursework to receive a meaningful education? Who sets the standard, if there is any standard, for the minimum amount of work that must be put into an online course to receive credit?

A UC official also was surprised to learn that students might be pre-testing out of most of the units in any course. Monica Lin, associate director for undergraduate admissions, said UC doesn’t supervise how local school districts use their courses and doesn’t have the time and resources to conduct regular audits even if it wanted to. She added that the university would reconsider approval if it knew that large numbers of students were pre-testing their way through most of the course.

Her instincts are right. If large numbers of students are indeed testing out of significant portions of these courses — which is difficult to ascertain — and if they’re skipping writing assignments on a regular basis, then those students are being done a serious disservice. If they’re just reading one book in a year in what’s supposed to be the equivalent of a junior-year English course, that’s unacceptable too — and raises worrisome questions about the rest of the credit-recovery courses being offered as well.

L.A. Unified deserves credit for its intensive attempt to raise its graduation rates. Online credit recovery can and should be a helpful tool, giving students independence, flexibility and a chance to make up for past mistakes.

But the district needs to get a handle on these courses. It — along with UC and the State Board of Education — needs to set minimum standards, including how much of a course must be completed without pre-testing in order to earn credit.

The new federal school-accountability law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act places considerable pressure on low-performing high schools and their districts to raise graduation rates. But that’s a worthy goal only if students are better educated than they were as dropouts.

No one is doing teenagers a favor by sending them to college or into the work world thinking they have skills that are still lacking.





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 the Superintendent: • 213-241-7000
...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. Volunteer in the classroom. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child - and ultimately: For all children.
• 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 13 years. He currently serves as Vice President for Health, is a 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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.