Saturday, May 31, 2008



A celebration at and of Jefferson High School.


Teachers, parents and students protest principal Anna Barraza's placement at Dolores Elementary School because they don't like the way she runs the school in Carson.

A LINGERING SHAME: An EdWeek/AP series on Sexual Abuse of Students by School Employees

This special collection of stories, "A Lingering Shame: Sexual Abuse of Students by School Employees," assembles reporting on a problem that is only sporadically recognized as a national issue. The collection features a three-day 2007 Associated Press series on teacher sexual misconduct based on a seven-month investigation by AP reporters across the country. Some of the stories in the series appeared in the October 24, 2007, issue of Education Week; the entire series is available here.

The collection also highlights special Education Week coverage, including "A Trust Betrayed," an award-winning series based on a six-month investigation the paper conducted in 1998, as well as an update of the series based on fresh research done five years later.


After 55 years as a prominent fixture in its Fairfax District neighborhood, Daniel Murphy Catholic High School graduates its last class of young men today.


About 100 students from 10 Los Angeles schools are coming together for the second annual "Colors for Unity" art exhibition. The theme is "no color lines."


The Pew Research Center's latest poll reveals that education is the No. 2 priority for voters this fall, trumping taxes, the war in Iraq and other issues

Report: SEIZING THE MIDDLE GROUND – Why Middle School Creates the Pathway to College and the Workforce

LAUSD MIDDLE SCHOOLS FEEL 'LOST IN THE SHUFFLE': "Seizing the Middle Ground" report


Sheriff's deputies found the Bell High School teacher with the girl in the back seat of a car, a department spokesman says

...and now, for something completely different: SANDRA TSING LOH ON THE CALIFORNIA CHILDRENS' RALLY


Tania Hurd, 46, had taught at the campus since 2003, restarting its culinary arts program, which has flourished

Local Elections: 7 BALLOT MEASURES SEEK MONEY FOR SCHOOLS - June 3 election will include taxes and bond issues in districts serving Covina, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Santa Fe Springs, South Gate, Torrance and Whittier.


"Forgotten in the Middle": LAGGING MIDDLE SCHOOLS TARGETED - New plans to boost student achievement to roll out this summer


As state funding for education declines, college opportunity also declines for future students ...which will mean a decline in economic prosperity for California.


California high schoolers must now pass 5 out of 6 fitness tests or take another year of P.E.


from the New York Times: High school students in this well-to-do Westchester suburb pile on four, five, even six Advanced Placement classes to keep up with their friends. They track their grade-point averages to multiple decimal places and have longer résumés than their parents. They don't each lunch.


Newly minted educators are looking for jobs during a time of decreasing positions, school budget cuts and declining enrollment. Some are looking out of state, some overseas.


Bergeson teacher questions her future. Her contributions to professional environment praised by school principal.


Why is it always the good stuff, the stuff that makes things special, that gets cut when times are lean?

Why do we always need to resort to nickel and diming our way to balancing the budget?

Is it really less painful that way?

Over the next couple of years, every kid who plays sports in the Los Angeles Unified School District will find out as the district attempts to get through these lean economic times by cutting into nonessential expenses and raising revenues from facility usage.

First up on the chopping block: Funding for championship venues. In other words, the City Section has probably played its last football championship at the Coliseum, its last basketball championship at the Sports Arena and its last volleyball championship at Cal State Northridge.


randomly observed by smf

May 31 - Saturday afternoon there was a marvelous celebration at Jefferson High School, celebrating the dedication of a new playing field, celebrating the end of the school year, their small learning communities, a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Whitmanesque: celebrating themselves.

The community turned out, happy and joyous - proud to be Democrats. Old Democrats turned out, stars in their firmament: football players, track and field guys. Gray and smiling, proud - they never got over being winners. The quarterback from the undefeated and unscored upon team of 1938. The track star that set the school records and is still running and still winning at 80. You win every race you enter when you're 80.

The principal pointed out whom among the celebration and celebrants thatwasn't there: The news crews and reporters who come without fail to the latest fracas or altercation ...but have no interest in the good news, in the sunny day. In the sweet smell of success and tacos e empanadas.

Also absent: Superintendent Brewer. And Mayor Villaraigosa - even though Jeff - a school already coming up - will be his school in a month.


Based on the severe cuts that continue to be proposed by the Governor, California State PTA is opposed to the May revision of the state budget.  To assist our members in communicating our concerns we’ve prepared the following set of questions and answers.

Q:  I’ve heard that the revised budget recently proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger restores the funding to schools and means education programs won’t be cut.  Is this accurate?

A:  No. The Governor’s first budget released in January proposed the most severe cuts to schools in our state’s history. Parents, teachers and other education advocates across California have been vehemently protesting these cuts. Unfortunately, the Governor’s most recent budget proposal (“the May Revise” released on May 15) – while restoring some of the funding into the education budget – would still significantly under-fund our schools and force more than $4 billion in cuts to education programs. That’s why the PTA opposes this most recent budget. It still flunks the basic test of good government: It hurts our kids.

Q:  But, doesn’t the May Revise fully fund Proposition 98 – the state’s minimum guarantee for education funding levels?

A:  The May Revise would meet the minimum legal funding level for schools, but it still proposes far less than the minimum amount needed by schools to pay for the increased costs just to keep programs at their current levels. The May Revise would eliminate annual cost of living adjustments to schools, despite the steadily increasing operating costs for local districts.  Once again, schools and students are being asked to do more with less.   In addition, this budget proposal would make across-the-board cuts to many vital programs that contribute to student achievement and engagement, such as class size reduction, arts and music, instructional materials, and career technical education programs. While the May Revise proposes to partially restore some cuts from the January budget proposal, it still cuts billions of dollars from public education.  All cuts hurt students and California’s schools are already woefully under-funded. 

Q:  How would it impact children’s healthcare?

A:  If  the May Revise is implemented, it would impose new, draconian policies in the Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs that would result in more than 500,000 California children losing their health coverage over the next two years — increasing the number of uninsured children in California by 70%.

Q:  What about programs for foster children and working families struggling to make ends meet?

A:  The proposed budget would eliminate financial assistance for 200,000 children whose parents are in the CalWORKs program – often single mothers working their way out of poverty. It would also cut $84 million from the child welfare services budget, limiting counties' ability to ensure the safety and well-being of the more than 70,000 California children in foster care. It would reduce state funding for child care and development programs in 2008-09. This budget would also make across-the-board reductions for a number of programs that assist children and families, including the Child Welfare Services Program, the Foster Care Program, the Adoption Assistance Program, and the California Food Assistance Program.

Q:  Does this budget proposal include any new proposed revenues or does it rely fully on cuts to balance the budget?

A:  A few fee increases are proposed, such as a state park admission fee increase of $1, and student fee increases to the UC and CSU systems and a $6 - $12 annual surcharge on homeowners’ insurance to fund emergency response services. The Governor has also proposed a plan to borrow money from future State Lottery revenues to help balance the budget.  This proposal would need to be placed on the ballot as a measure to be approved by California voters in November. In the event the voters reject the Lottery ballot measure, the Governor is asking the Legislature to support a 1% increase in the state’s sales tax rate.   By and large, the May Revise continues to rely mostly on a “cuts-only” approach to closing the budget deficit gap.

Q:  What’s PTA’s solution to address the budget deficit and provide necessary funding for schools and other children’s services?

A:  PTA continues to advocate for a balanced approach – one that generates enough revenues to prevent cuts to education and children’s services and recognizes the need to invest in our children’s futures.

Q.  So, what’s PTA’s message moving forward?

A:  Our message has and will remain the same since January:  no cuts that harm children or California’s future.  We must continue to “flunk the budget” because it contains severe cuts to education and children’s services.  We believe legislators and the Governor must develop a balanced solution that allows us to invest in our children’s future and the future of the state.  And we must raise our voices throughout this spring and summer on behalf of California’s children, they did not create this financial crisis, and their future should not be undermined because of it.

Q:  What can PTA members do to help protect school funding and children’s services?

A:  Help us ensure children have a voice in this debate, now through the end of summer. Please call your local state assembly and senate representatives. Let them know you do not want to see cuts to children’s services, and that you expect them to find a balanced approach that invests in our children’s future and the future of our state. You can find their names and contact information on-line at  Just enter your zip code, and your elected officials’ contact information will appear. They are YOUR representatives in Sacramento – are they representing your interests?

"Since January, parents and community members throughout the state have raised their voices in overwhelming opposition to the damaging cuts to education and children's services proposed in the state budget. The May Revise appears to reflect some of those concerns by not suspending the minimum education funding guarantee. However, there is still much work to be done by the Legislature and Governor to ultimately ensure a balanced budget solution that does not jeopardize the health, safety and education of our children and our future workforce. Many essential programs and services are still extremely vulnerable. California State PTA will continue to carry the message that shortchanging education funding and services to children is the most expensive mistake California can make.

“The dialogue at the Capitol needs to continue moving towards how much we should invest in our children and California’s future, not how much can we afford to cut. California has been operating for too long with a broken, outdated budget process. By adequately investing today, we can ensure that California has a viable economy in the future. 

“Now is the time to invest in our children and in the future of California.”

Pam Brady, California State PTA President


Teachers, parents and students protest principal Anna Barraza's placement at Dolores Elementary School because they don't like the way she runs the school in Carson.

By Shelly Leachman & Denise Nix, Staff Writers | Daily Breeze


May 30, 2008(staff photo by sean hiller). Stephany Jacinto,11, joins teachers, parents and students in Friday's protest of Principal Anna Barraza's placement at Dolores Elementary School because they don't like the way she runs the school in Carson.

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May 30, 2008(staff photo by sean hiller). Students show support for teachers, parents and students that pass by the school yard as they protest Principal Anna Barraza's placement at Dolores Elementary School because they don't like the way she runs the school in Carson.

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May 30, 2008(staff photo by sean hiller). Parent Gina Ramirez and dog Buster joins the picket line to protest Principal Anna Barraza's placement at Dolores Elementary School because they don't like the way she runs the school in Carson.

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May 30, 2008(staff photo by sean hiller).Ruben Ramirez,11, joins teachers, parents and students in Friday's protest of Principal Anna Barraza's placement at Dolores Elementary School because they don't like the way she runs the school in Carson.

Enlarge this Photo

May 30, 2008(staff photo by sean hiller).

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May 30, 2008(staff photo by sean hiller). Parent Gina Ramirez joins picket line to protest Principal Anna Barraza's placement at Dolores Elementary School because they don't like the way she runs the school in Carson. 


05/31/2008 - Claiming they are stuck with a "lemon" principal who has been passed from school to school, teachers and parents picketed outside a Carson campus on Friday urging her ouster.

Protesters said Dolores Elementary School Principal Anna Barraza intimidates students, speaks in a demeaning manner to parents and teachers, and won't support activities like fundraisers, field trips or student council.

The principal said in a Friday phone interview that "there are two sides to every coin" and "in order to make progress there needs to be change."

Barraza argued that teachers set in their ways are just upset she's been enforcing, among other things, a staff tardiness policy and has resumed the once-waning practice of classroom evaluations.

"When I came to the school and saw the direction test scores were going, I knew I had to do something before it's too late," Barraza said.

What's she's doing, the protesters argued, is only making things worse at the Los Angeles Unified School District campus.

Second-grade teacher Ana Gomez said Barraza treats her job like a "dictatorship," describing her as an overly extreme stickler for the rules and asserting that her strict policies won't help test scores.

"There has been a lot of resistance here," Barraza said of the criticism. "This is a school where the culture

has been embedded many, many years. Simple things like following policies and procedures have put obstacles in my way as far as the direction the school needs to go."

"(Teachers) have found these things as obstacles because they've not been held accountable in the past," Barraza added. "All of a sudden it's `Barraza's polices and procedures.' I'm clearly not a policy writer."

Unions on both sides of the matter are also engaged in a he-said, she-said.

While the United Teachers of Los Angeles are calling Barraza a "lemon principal" who should be removed from the profession altogether, the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles argue that the teachers are simply resistant to change.

Decrying that notion, UTLA Harbor Area leader Aaron Bruhnke said it's Barraza who needs to change.

Dolores Street is the third school in three years for the 19-year administrator.

And, Bruhnke claimed, Dolores marks the third school where parents and teachers have banded together to seek Barraza's ouster.

After complaints at Riordan Primary Center, Barraza was sent to Dena Elementary School for the 2006-07 year. The UTLA says teachers there experienced similar problems to those now alleged by Dolores staffers.

"We would hope that the dance of this lemon will stop here at Dolores Elementary School," Bruhnke said Friday.

Barraza, meanwhile, retorted that "it is not unusual for a principal to be moved from a school."

"I don't know of any principal who has had only one assignment, unless that person becomes a principal close to retirement," she said.

Barraza has never been the focus of the district's official grievance process and has never received a negative evaluation from her superiors.

Ceding there is "some indication" of that, Bruhnke said the lack of bad reviews for Barraza is indicative of "LAUSD falling down on management accountability."

"And it's not fair for the city of Carson, its teachers and parents and children, to have to bear the brunt of the failures of the past," Bruhnke added.


smf's 2¢: The are obviously issues at this school that need to be worked out - and there are processes for working them out.

  • The teachers and the staff of the school have a grievance process - through the district and through their collective bargaining units that they have apparently elected not to follow.
  • The parents have options to address their local district superintendent, their board member, the general superintendent and the board of education.
  • And demonstrating in front of the school is a right - if not the best course of action.

However the photos of the protest show children on the picket line, eleven year olds photographed and identified by name (one of whom accuses the principal of 'not being the fairest one of all' - a level of expectation beyond even 4LAKids or NCLB!) - and that seems to me to be on the far side of a prudent course of action.

Maybe we all need to look at ourselves in the magic mirror?

Carson principal protested - The Daily Breeze

Friday, May 30, 2008

A LINGERING SHAME: An EdWeek/AP series on Sexual Abuse of Students by School Employees

from ed week online

A Lingering Shame

Most of America's educators are dedicated professionals who wouldn’t dream of crossing the line into sexual conduct with a student. But a small slice of school employees do not respect that boundary. Their crimes can leave indelible scars on their victims, severely damage families, and cause lasting harm to entire school communities. How to recognize and combat the threat posed by such educators is an issue that no education policymaker, administrator, teacher, or parent can afford to ignore.

This special collection of stories, "A Lingering Shame: Sexual Abuse of Students by School Employees," assembles reporting on a problem that is only sporadically recognized as a national issue. The collection features a three-day 2007 Associated Press series on teacher sexual misconduct based on a seven-month investigation by AP reporters across the country. Some of the stories in the series appeared in the October 24, 2007, issue of Education Week; the entire series is available here.

The collection also highlights special Education Week coverage, including "A Trust Betrayed," an award-winning series based on a six-month investigation the paper conducted in 1998, as well as an update of the series based on fresh research done five years later.

Sex With Students: When Employees Cross the Line

December 2, 1998 It may start with a warm smile or an affectionate hug. But often, far more often than many people think, those friendly moments mask the first steps by a teacher or coach down the road that leads to sexual relations with their young charges and the shattering of a sacred trust.

Abuse by Women Raises Its Own Set of Problems
In Youth's Tender Emotions, Abusers Find Easy Pickings
Labels Like 'Pedophile' Don't Explain the Many Faces of Child Sexual Abuse

States Target Sexual Abuse By Educators

April 30, 2003  On any day of the year, it's long been easy to find reports of sexual misconduct by school employees. But now, a new Education Week survey suggests, at least some state policymakers are starting to pay more attention.

Family Heals After Teacher-Student Relationship
No Easy Answers for Schools in Misconduct Inquiries

10 States Act to Stop Teacher Sex Abuse

Governors, state education officials, and lawmakers have led the push for new measures in an effort to train an entire state's corps of teachers to recognize potential abusers in their midst. May 29, 2008, AP

N.Y. Legislature Triples Budget of Teacher Sex Investigative Unit

Restoration of funding will support effort to reduce a backlog of hundreds of cases involving teachers and administrators accused of having sex with students. April 11, 2008, AP

States Weigh Plans to Address Educator Sexual Abuse

Policymakers across the country are responding to national and local media coverage of teacher misconduct. February 5, 2008

Policies on Educator Sexual Misconduct Put Forward

Governors, legislative leaders and top education officials are pledging to close loopholes that have allowed teacher sexual misconduct to persist. November 5, 2007, AP

Efforts to Curb Educator Sex Abuse Seen as Weak

Every school has rules governing teacher behavior. Every state has laws against child abuse, and many specifically outlaw teachers’ taking sexual liberties with students. Yet people like Chad Maughan stay in the classroom. October 23, 2007

Signs of Improper Sexual Interest From Educators

While most educators are dedicated professionals, investigators and academic experts who have studied teacher sexual misconduct say there are some warning signs that should make parents pay more attention and take action. October 23, 2007

Schoolhouse Sex-Abuse Suspects Face Serial Accusations

Time and again in their seven-month investigation of sexual misconduct by teachers, Associated Press reporters discovered cases in which educators accused of such misconduct continued to teach. October 23, 2007

Band Teacher’s Abuse Scars Family, Splits Community

Immediately after news of one teachers arrest hit in January 2005, people began questioning the girls' motives: Why didn't they come forward sooner? Were they really telling the truth? October 22, 2007

Gender Affects Response to Teacher-Student Sex

Girls often are ostracized for bringing down educators, while boys are seen as ‘lucky’. October 22, 2007

Sex Abuse a Shadow Over U.S. Schools

The Associated Press investigates a widespread problem in American schools: sexual misconduct by the very teachers who are supposed to be nurturing the nation’s children. October 21, 2007

Calif. Rules Mask Details of Sex-Related Misconduct

More than 300 California educators had their teaching licenses revoked or suspended because of sex-related offenses from 2001 through 2005. But you can’t tell that from the state’s enforcement records. October 21, 2007

Overview: How Project Unfolded

Associated Press reporters in every state and the District of Columbia worked for months to provide a national look at sexual misconduct among educators. October 20, 2007

Education Week: A Lingering Shame




Friday May 30,  2008 - After 55 years as a prominent fixture in its Fairfax District neighborhood, Daniel Murphy Catholic High School graduates its last class of young men today.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese announced last October that the campus would close at the end of the school year, citing declining enrollment and financial challenges, some of which were brought about by the $600-million settlement of clergy abuse cases. Read more about Daniel Murphy here.

The archdiocese has not said what it will do with the campus, but students will move on to schools like St. Monica’s, Salesian, St. Genevieve, Cathedral, Loyola and Serra.

"Since the announcement of Daniel Murphy’s closure due to declining enrollment, the archdiocese has concerned itself with the future of the 165 students who are transferring to other schools," archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said in a statement. "To date, every student who has applied to another Catholic high school has been accepted, and every request for financial aid has been granted."

-- Carla Rivera

Daniel Murphy Catholic High's last graduation : The Homeroom : Los Angeles Times



The Homeroom

la times online

Colors20for20unity20poster3Friday May 30 —The news about Latino and black student relations in Los Angeles schools is often troubling, such as the melee earlier this year involving 600 students at Locke High School that was quelled by police clad in riot gear and wielding billy clubs.

But today,  about 100 students from 10 Los Angeles schools are coming together for the second annual "Colors for Unity" art exhibition. The theme is "no color lines."

"Our goal is to use art as a tool that will allow students a form of expression to help break the race barrier," said Mike Piscal, founder and CEO of Inner City Education Foundations Public Schools, in a press release. "Our hope is that this experience will provide students with a better understanding of each other's cultures and will bring unity by focusing on their common strengths."

The exhibition at the Norm Maxwell Gallery will feature more than 100 pieces of original artwork, as well as the students painting large canvases together at the opening day reception. The exhibition runs from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. today, and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday.

Participating schools include eight charter schools run by the Inner City Education Foundation -- View Park Preparatory High, View Park Preparatory Middle, Lou Dantzler High, Lou Dantzler Middle, Frederick Douglass Academy High, Frederick Douglass Academy Middle, Thurgood Marshall High and Thurgood Marshall Middle -- as well as two traditional LAUSD high schools -- Garfield and Manuel (sic) Arts.

-- Seema Mehta

Student art exhibit : The Homeroom : Los Angeles Times


From Ed in 08

The Pew Research Center's latest poll reveals that education is the No. 2 priority for voters this fall, trumping taxes, the war in Iraq and other issues.  

<See Left

A recent Rasmussen poll found that 90 percent of voters believe education is important.  Specifically, nearly three out of five voters polled said education is "very important."

see Below




Report: SEIZING THE MIDDLE GROUND – Why Middle School Creates the Pathway to College and the Workforce


Date: May, 2008

Author(s): United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Seizing the Middle Ground

Summary: This report examines the state of middle schools in L.A. County and the importance of middle grades on higher education, youth development, and eventual workforce readiness. This report contains a discussion on the importance middle grades play in young adulthood, the state of our middle schools (demographics, school capacities and academic achievement), the relationship between middle grades and higher education (high school graduation and college attendance), and more. Policy recommendations to improve schools and advance a nurturing learning environment for middle school students are also provided.

Key Findings:
  • There are approximately 400,000 middle school students in L.A. County, with a majority of students from minority and under-represented communities (73% are Latino or African-American, and at least 66% are in the free and reduced meal programs).
  • For every 100 entering 9th grade students in L.A. County in 2002, only 57 actually graduated after four years.
  • About 7 in 10 middle schools serving low income populations are failing federal education standards.
  • Schools with 90% minority enrollment (Latino or African American) face extreme shortages of qualified teachers, employing only 45% of the qualified instructors that they need in math and science.
  • Almost half of all students do not feel safe at school; 48% of 7th graders report being harassed, pushed or shoved at least one time.
Related Links:

Seizing the Middle Ground: Why Middle School Creates the Pathway to College and the Workforce

LAUSD MIDDLE SCHOOLS FEEL 'LOST IN THE SHUFFLE': "Seizing the Middle Ground" report

By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer | LA Daily NeWs



May 30, 2008 - Los Angeles County middle school students are the forgotten generation, according to a study released Thursday by United Way that found 400,000 students in seventh through ninth grades are among the most vulnerable in a system that is under-funded and lacks qualified teachers.

"It was surprising to us to find that 70 percent of middle schools are failing," said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way, Los Angeles.

"Up until this study, most of the attention is paid (to) elementary schools and high schools. There has been little done in the way of middle schools."

Among key findings: 43percent of middle school students drop out by the 12thgrade and only 12percent go on to college.

Analysts also found that 70percent of middle school students - ages 11 to 14 - are from low-income minority households, half of the students do not feel safe at school, half of all classes are overcrowded and many have untrained teachers and lack counselors.

They also found that 71percent of students said they had no high-level or caring relationship with an adult in their schools.

"Here we are taking kids from classes of 20 to classes of 30 or 40, and they have no one they can relate to," Buik said. "They feel

overlooked going from an intimate environment to one where they are feeling lost in the shuffle."

Not all schools are doing badly, however.

Torch Middle School in the City of Industry, for example, is considered a success story with an engaged principal, staffers and parents who implemented a program that dramatically improved student performance.

Also, Buik said the Los Angeles Unified School District is doing better than many others as a result of its "a-g" program that requires college-preparatory instruction, including classes in history, social studies, math, science, English and foreign languages.

Ray Cortines, senior deputy superintendent at the LAUSD, said he was impressed with the report and planned to give copies to each of the district's 72 middle school principals.

"What I think we need to do is not look at the barriers but what we can do to make it so the kids are able to succeed," Cortines said. "These findings remind me of what we talked about more than a dozen years ago and still need to address.

"We traditionally have been dealing with teaching the basics in elementary schools and addressing behavior in high schools and ignoring this (middle school) group of students," Cortines said.

"What I tell people is no elementary student drops out, but they begin to think about it in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade. We have to get to them to succeed."

Cortines, who recently returned to the LAUSD after working for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on his effort to take control of some schools, said he also wants to examine changes in how the district approaches education.

"There is nothing magic about having a school from kindergarten through the fifth grade," Cortines said. "Maybe we should look at having more schools through the eighth grade - and then having high schools ninth-12th grade.

"We should put all that on the table to look at and try different things. What we have to do is find a way to make students successful in school."

Buik said United Way is providing the report to educators throughout Los Angeles to stress the importance of improving middle schools, making more resources available and recognizing the critical time it represents for young people.

"What we want to do is look at schools where things are working and see how it can be replicated across the county," Buik said.

Villaraigosa spokeswoman Janelle Erickson said the mayor was reviewing the report to help in developing programs in his effort to improve L.A. education.

"We know that passing ninth-grade algebra can be the single determinant whether a boy in South L.A. will drop out of school and enter a gang," Erickson said.

"That's why the mayor is linking elementary, middle and high schools. We must tear down the monolithic bureaucracy and build back the families of schools that improve together and support students from kindergarten to high school."


LAUSD parent activist Bill Ring comments in the LAUSDParents Newsgroup:

"We know that passing ninth-grade algebra can be the single 
determinant whether a boy in South L.A. will drop out of school and 
enter a gang," Erickson said.

South L.A.?

How about a magnet school like LACES?

Last summer, before he left the District, Bob Collins shared information from LAUSD's Planning, Assessment and Research office which was stunning: a list of each of our high schools in LAUSD and marks earned by students in selected courses during Spring, 2007. As an example, of the 63 students enrolled in Algebra I at LACES during last Spring, 49% received an F and 13% received a D - that's a total of 62%!


LACES is a vaunted magnet school in LAUSD which is ranked by Newsweek magazine as being in the top 50 high schools in the U.S. - and it is a school in which (according to the LACES website) 50% of the students are identified as gifted/talented.

Anybody listening?

What are we doing for these students and others like them across our District and how do we know it's working or not?

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Sheriff's deputies found the Bell High School teacher with the girl in the back seat of a car, a department spokesman says.

By Andrew Blankstein and Jason Song, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 | 6:16pm  — A Los Angeles Unified School District teacher has been arrested on suspicion of having sex with a female student who was underage at the time, sheriff's officials said today.

Alex Diaz, 37, a Bell High School teacher, was booked May 22 at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department station in Carson on suspicion of having sex with a minor, authorities said. He was held in lieu of $20,000 bail before immediately posting bond.

The girl, who turned 18 this week, was 17 at the time of the alleged crime, said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.

About 10 p.m. on May 21, sheriff's deputies found Diaz and the girl in the back seat of a car in a parking lot in Carson, Whitmore said. He declined to give further details, except to confirm that Diaz, who was found with a Bell High staff identification card, was later arrested.

The teenager had attended Bell High, moved away, and recently returned and reenrolled at the campus southeast of downtown Los Angeles, Whitmore said. He would not disclose any details about the relationship between Diaz and the girl.

A man who answered the phone at Diaz's house today said he was not available for comment. School officials did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Last month, two administrators at South East High School in South Gate were criminally charged with failing to report a student's allegations that she had been sexually abused by a substitute teacher.

The South Gate case follows intense criticism of the district's handling of sexual misconduct allegations against former Assistant Principal Steve Rooney. In 2007, Los Angeles police told district officials that Rooney was suspected of having sexual contact with a student at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A.

After putting Rooney in a desk job at a non-school site, district officials transferred him to Markham Middle School in Watts when prosecutors didn't file charges. He now faces charges that he molested two students at Markham and the former Foshay student.

Last week, Fred David Johnson, a teacher at John Marshall High School in Los Feliz, was sentenced to three years in state prison after being convicted on charges of molesting students in the school's special education program.

Los Angeles Unified teacher arrested on suspicion of having sex with a student - Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

...and now, for something completely different: SANDRA TSING LOH ON THE CALIFORNIA CHILDRENS' RALLY

more details:

that was fun!, more videos:

BURBANK HIGH SCHOOL MOURNS TEACHER KILLED IN CATALINA HELICOPTER CRASH: Tania Hurd, 46, had taught at the campus since 2003, restarting its culinary arts program, which has flourished



Tania Hurd   Mourners stop to pay their respects to Tania Hurd at Burroughs High School Tuesday. Hurd, a culinary arts teacher at the school, died in a helicopter crash on Santa Catalina Island on Saturday. (Alex Collins/The Leader)

By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 28, 2008 - Culinary arts teacher Tania Hurd chaperoned the senior prom Friday night, dancing with students at Universal Studios' Globe Theatre and posing for pictures in a long black gown. Less than 24 hours later, those same students would be creating a memorial of notes, flowers and candles for her outside John Burroughs High School in Burbank.

"I can't believe this. I wish it was all a bad dream. You were the best teacher ever," wrote one student, who did not leave a name. "Thanks to you I made it out of high school. You were more than just a teacher; you were a friend like a mom."

The vivacious 46-year-old teacher was one of three people killed Saturday in a helicopter crash on Santa Catalina Island. Her family spent many weekends moored at Two Harbors, typically traveling on their sailboat, the Sabrosa. Hurd sometimes got seasick, so when the opportunity arose to travel by helicopter instead, she jumped at the chance, said Dena Williams, an art and parenting teacher at Burroughs who was a close friend.

"She had always wanted to go on a helicopter ride," Williams said. "She was so excited."

Hurd had worked at the school since 2003, drawn to teaching teens how to cook because she worried that today's youth were exposed to too much junk food and microwaved meals, and that families no longer sat together around the dinner table, said her father, Charlie Hurd of Fallbrook.

She restarted the culinary arts program at the school, and administrators figured there might be enough interest to fill three classes. The class grew so popular that Hurd taught six sections, and enrollment had to be restricted to juniors and seniors.

"You just felt her smile, her demeanor; you felt just charged," Principal Emilio Urioste said. "She made her students all feel like, 'I'm learning something. I have something to contribute. I can do this.' Even a klutz like me, she would make you feel like you could be the Galloping Gourmet."

Anthony Doto, 18, said he took Hurd's class because he figured it would be an easy elective. But he became enthralled by the international cuisine she taught her students, as well as by Hurd, from whom Doto would seek advice about girls or problems with his parents.

"Honestly, she's one of the most caring women I've ever met," said Doto, a senior. "I told her she was like a second mom."

Hurd's classroom remained closed Tuesday -- her colleagues reluctant to open the door. Instead, her classes met in the library, where students quietly remembered her. Some met with grief counselors. Others wrote messages in chalk on the sidewalk outside her classroom or added to the growing memorial at the school's entrance.

On a red graduation cap, one student wrote, "Ms. Hurd, we miss you! I owe this cap to you and much more."

Burroughs graduate Mike Allen left a large silver medallion from the California School of Culinary Arts. "You are the reason I earned this. You deserve this more than me. Thanx for being an inspirational teacher," he wrote.

Hurd is survived by two children, one a son who is a freshman at Burroughs; her partner of nearly two decades, Wayne Noecker; Noecker's four older children; her parents; and three siblings. A memorial service is tentatively planned for Friday, and the school will honor her at a later date.

Burbank high school mourns teacher killed in Catalina helicopter crash - Los Angeles Times



Tania Hurd, who taught culinary arts at Burroughs High, is one of 3 killed when helicopter flight over Catalina goes down.

By Alison Tully | BUrbank Leader

May 28, 2008 — BURBANK — Students and faculty members at John Burroughs High School are mourning the loss of culinary arts teacher Tania Hurd, 46, who was one of three passengers killed Saturday on a tourist helicopter that crashed on Santa Catalina Island.

The Eurocopter AS 350 Island Express helicopter carrying six passengers crashed at 9:30 a.m. Saturday near Two Harbors on the northwest end of the island, said Terry Williams, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Hurd and two others were killed, and three passengers, including Hurd’s stepson, C.J. Noecker, were critically injured and are being treated at local hospitals.

All of the wreckage has been recovered, and investigators are trying to determine the cause, Williams said.

Hurd, who boarded the plane in Long Beach less than an hour before it crashed, was on her way to meet family members who had arrived on the island the previous evening.

“She was very excited about the helicopter ride,” Principal Emilio Urioste said as he stood in front of candles, cards and pictures of Hurd on the school’s front steps Tuesday. “She had never ridden in one before.”

Her son, Max, 14, and her boyfriend were on the ground when the crash occurred and rushed to help, Urioste said.

Hurd, who came to the school five years ago to restart the culinary program, had spent the previous night chaperoning the prom with best friend and fellow teacher Dena Williams. Williams, who will be teaching Hurd’s classes for the next two weeks, gathered students Tuesday morning to share memories.

“If she knew she was going to go the next morning, she still would have come to the prom,” Williams said. “She would have wanted to surround herself with the people she loved, and that was her students.”

Students wore purple and green, Hurd’s favorite colors, in her honor.

“She was always so happy and vibrant, she wouldn’t have wanted the students to wear black,” Williams said. “She would want them to celebrate the good times.”

Staff members gathered to discuss ways to help students cope. A team of psychologists and counselors were also brought in to offer services.

This year’s graduation ceremony will now include the song “Unforgettable,” by Natalie Cole, Hurd’s favorite song, Urioste said. Students and faculty are also planning to compile a book that will offer remembrances of Hurd for her family.

For student Anthony Doto, 18, Hurd was not just a teacher but a second mom.

“She was always there to listen,” he said. “I told her every morning that I loved her. She was the mother I never had and one of the most amazing women I have ever met.”

Local Elections: 7 BALLOT MEASURES SEEK MONEY FOR SCHOOLS - June 3 election will include taxes and bond issues in districts serving Covina, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Santa Fe Springs, South Gate, Torrance and Whittier.

By Robert J. Lopez Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 28, 2008 - From the San Gabriel Valley to the South Bay, voters on June 3 will decide the fate of seven local ballot measures that would keep existing taxes, impose new ones or authorize bond measures to pay for school improvements.

Hermosa Beach Measure E

In Hermosa Beach, supporters say a parcel tax is needed to help pay for music, science and technology programs, as well as maintain smaller class sizes for students in kindergarten through the third grade. Measure E would authorize the Hermosa Beach City School District to levy a tax of $257 per assessor parcel. The tax, which would last five years and increase 5% annually, is expected to raise $1.7 million during the first year, school district officials say.

With state funding cutbacks in recent years, the 1,100-student district has raised money through a local nonprofit foundation and donations from PTA members.

But with another round of state education cutbacks being considered, it's time for property owners to shoulder some of the burden, District Supt. Sharon McClain said.

"When the police chief says, 'I need a new officer,' he doesn't have a bake sale," McClain said. "I believe it's a community responsibility."

The measure must get at least two-thirds "yes" votes to pass.

Opponents, such as longtime resident Linda Igo, say the school district should tighten its spending rather than increase taxes.

"There's probably a lot of extra money floating around," said Igo, who has lived in Hermosa Beach for more than 30 years and whose two children attended district schools.

Covina Measure C

In Covina, a measure to extend an existing utility tax is back on the ballot after voters rejected a similar proposal in March 2007. Measure C would extend the 6% tax for 10 years. The tax raises about $5 million a year, or roughly 20% of the city's general budget.

Failure to pass the measure, according to supporters, would force the city to shut down its only library, cut back on services for the elderly and eliminate crosswalk attendants at local schools.The measure must get a simple majority of "yes" votes to pass."The lifestyle and community that we all enjoy and love is very much threatened," said resident Charles M. Kemp, a board member of the Covina-Valley Unified School District.

Opponents argue that city reserves are flush with cash and say the tax is being pushed primarily by business owners and others who live outside the city.

"This thing is pure special interest," said Steve Millard, a retired aerospace manager and longtime city resident.

South Gate Measure P

In South Gate, proponents say a city sales tax measure is needed to help preserve municipal services in the working-class town in southeast Los Angeles County. The measure needs approval from a simple majority of voters.

Measure P would create a 1% city sales tax that would raise up to $7 million annually for new police officers and gang-intervention programs, as well as park maintenance and street improvements, according to supporters.

"If this doesn't pass, we're going to be really hurting," South Gate Councilman Bill De Witt said.

The other measures are:

  • Measure A in the Centinela Valley Union School District, which would create a parcel tax of 4 cents per square foot for nine years. The money would be used to help pay for teachers, upgrade computer and science labs and fund music, arts and science programs in the district, which includes Lawndale and part of Hawthorne. It needs approval from two-thirds of the voters.
  • Measure H in the Hawthorne School District, which requires 55% approval to pass, would authorize $20 million in bonds to be issued to improve and build schools. The bonds would also finance improvements in security and help build gymnasiums and athletic fields.
  • Measure M in Los Nietos School District, which would authorize $31 million in bonds to upgrade schools. The money would be used to replace roofs, renovate classrooms and improve security at schools in the district, which serves Whittier and Santa Fe Springs. It requires 55% approval.
  • Measure T in Torrance would extend an existing 6.5% city tax on land-line phone users to wireless phones. The tax would apply to all people using phone service in the city and would be used to finance police and fire services, street repairs, parks, libraries and recreation programs. The measure requires a simple majority vote to pass.

Los Angeles Times: 7 ballot measures seek money for schools



Charter schools in L.A. are still waiting for the Los Angeles Unified School District to show them some respect, to offer them some support and to simply honor the law.

It appears that they'll need to keep waiting for a long time.

It's been nearly a month since the district did an about-face and rescinded its offer to lease unused classroom space to seven L.A. charter schools. At the time, Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he would be willing to help these highly successful, fully public schools find seats for the 2,000 LAUSD students they serve. And charter school advocates believed - with good reason - that doing so was not only his moral obligation, but his legal one, too.

But nearly a month later, there's been scarcely any effort to help these charters find the space they have been denied, let alone any new offers to replace the old offers the district yanked. Indeed, John Creer, director of planning and development for the LAUSD's Facilities Division, has told the Daily News that "for the seven (schools) that had their offers rescinded, ... there are no other solutions available to them this year."

In other words: Sorry, charters; you're on your own.

And that's tragic, not only for the charter schools, but for all of public education in Los Angeles.

The new academic year is only a few short months away. Time is running out for these schools to secure appropriate facilities and get them ready on time

or the new school year. The seven schools that had their offers rescinded thought they had settled their facilities questions once and for all - only to discover that LAUSD officials had been negotiating in bad faith, and now the schools are back to square one.

Sadly, district officials seem determined to sabotage charters at every turn, which is a shame. If they could put the interests of students over their own pride, they would embrace the charter movement wholeheartedly.

Charter schools, though free and open to all LAUSD students, operate independently of the LAUSD bureaucracy. Not coincidentally, they do a far better job of meeting the particular needs of individual students and communities. They spur the sort of parental involvement and local control that the district has long talked about, but has never been able to deliver. They have also been tremendously successful in educating district students of all backgrounds - in stark contrast to the institutionalized failure of L.A. Unified's traditional campuses.

But rather than promote this education success story, L.A. Unified continues to fight it.

In 2000, voters approved Proposition 39, which - much to L.A. Unified's delight - lowered the voter threshold needed to pass school bonds. But Proposition 39 also included a provision requiring school districts to lease classroom space to charter schools - a provision L.A. Unified officials have done their best to ignore ever since.

For years, officials openly flouted the law, refusing to offer sufficient space to L.A.'s burgeoning charter movement. So the charters sued, and in February the district grudgingly agreed to a settlement, offering space to 39 of the 54 schools that had asked for it.

The proposal was, by all indications, a shabby one. The district volunteered space on existing, active campuses - not an ideal situation for anyone - but, all things considered, probably the best deal the charters were likely to get.

Unfortunately, the deal stoked the ire of United Teachers Los Angeles, which has long feared charters as competition. The union launched a fierce protest campaign, and eventually district officials buckled.

On April 30, Cortines effectively overruled his nominal boss, Superintendent David Brewer III, and rescinded seven of the 22 accepted offers. This, even though by law the district was legally required to make its final offer to the charters a month earlier.

Now these charters are left high and dry, without the campus space they were promised - and to which they are legally entitled - or the offer of help from L.A. Unified.

Unbelievably, a district that has had more than its fair share of failures seems determined to quash its most notable success.


smf's 2¢:  At an event last night at my daughter's high school recognizing honor roll enrollees a teacher who had visited both the the Arctic and Antarctic in a single year was acknowledged as being "bi-polar" - obviously the Daily News Editorial Board was on the same trip.  The DN needs to decide whether charter schools are part of the school district or if they are not; they simply cannot have it both ways.

Charter schools are neither the District's brightest lights nor they are Joshuas  at the gates of the Entrenched Bureaucracy. 

The DN assumptions that all charter schools - or even most charter schools - are outperforming non-charter schools are highly suspect.

  • When similar sized schools are compared LAUSD schools usually outperform charters.
  • District magnet schools - which predate charters by two decades - outperform charters.
  • LAUSD Schools for Advanced Study, which have been around for about as long as charters, outperform charters.

Ray Cortines quite correctly challenged the proposed assignment of classrooms to charters because the best interests of students in district school were not considered - only the demands of the charter community and a highly suspect out-of-court settlement of a threatened lawsuit.

LAUSD flouts law, fails obligation to promising charter schools - LA Daily News

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Road to Heaven is too Dark


an earthquake poem posted online by an unknown Chinese poet, translated by Alex Tang


Come, my child,
Hold onto mom's hands.
The road to Heaven is too dark.
I'm afraid you might be hurt again.
Come, hold mom's hands tightly.
Let mom go with you.

Mom, I'm afraid,
The road to Heaven is too dark.
I can't see your hand,
Since the fallen walls took away the sunlight.
I shall never see your gentle eyes.

Move on, my child,
The road ahead has no worries,
No books that you can't finish, nor dad's complaints.
You must remember dad's face and mine,
In the next life, we shall be together again.

Don't worry, mom,
The road to Heaven is crowded, there are my classmates and pals.
Don't cry, we all say
Anyone's mom is our mom.
Mom, every child has a mom.
In the days without me,
Give your love to other children.
Mom, mom, don't cry.
Tears won't shed light on our path.
Let us go away.
I'll remember your face and dad's looks.
Let's promise,
In the next life, we'll be together again.

clip_image004 clip_image006 clip_image008 clip_image010 clip_image012 clip_image014

"Forgotten in the Middle": LAGGING MIDDLE SCHOOLS TARGETED - New plans to boost student achievement to roll out this summer

By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | lOS aNGELES DAILY nEWS

"Let's admit it, we screwed it up," Irv Howard, director of California's Department of Education program for middle-school reform, said.

"We addressed the issues of pre-K and elementary, skipped middle all together and moved on to high school."

Alarmed by slumping student achievement at Los Angeles Unified middle schools, district officials are moving this summer to roll out several programs designed to improve performance amid criticism that middle-schoolers have been overlooked for too long.

Statewide test results last week showed just five out of 98 LAUSD middle schools - about 5 percent - are meeting California's academic standards, a much smaller percentage than the district's elementary and high schools.

On average, LAUSD middle- school students scored 634 on the state test, compared with the statewide goal of 800 and the statewide middle school average of 720.

But district officials said several plans have been developed to boost achievement, two of which are expected to roll out this summer.

"We can't ignore the data ... this has to be our target next year," said Ray Cortines, senior deputy superintendent for LAUSD.

"It is also important that we look at the bright spots. In recent testing, writing scores went up the most at the middle school level ... We need to look further and build on that success."

Cortines said the district is considering several programs for middle schools and this summer at least 17 high-priority schools are expected to launch "personalized learning environments" that would group students by age or grade to create more tight-knit campus communities.

At least five middle schools will adopt an eight-period schedule this

fall in which they will rotate four periods every day to increase the time each student spends with a teacher.

Some schools, including the new one being built in Porter Ranch, also will keep students on the same campus from kindergarten through eighth grade. Called "span schools," they are proposed as a possible alternative to the traditional middle-school model.

Still, many middle-school administrators and teachers have become frustrated with the district's neglect.

"We are like the kids caught in the middle," said Sandra Cruz, principal at Van Nuys Middle School.

Van Nuys Middle School suffered a four-point dip in this year's Academic Performance Index test scores, which Cruz said reflects the lack of services for her students.

"There is a break in the support system for kids in middle school and this is the time to ensure that they have achieved their standards ... It's a pivotal point that can make them successful because it's a transition stage and it has been ignored," she said.

While Millikan Middle School is one of the schools that met the state's API test score goals, Assistant Principal Leah Bass-Baylis said it still struggles to maintain programs amid a budget squeeze.

"I think the district needs to step it up for middle schools," Bass-Baylis said. "Even for a high-performing school like us, it is hard to do the programs without the funds."

Jeanie Leighton, director of middle school programs, said part of the problem has been the emphasis given to elementary and high school intervention programs.

"Every time we have moved towards middle school reform, something else has come up ... As a district, we have not done enough," she said.

And the neglect in the crucial middle-school years can cause long-term problems.

Bill Plitkin, director of research for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said his group will release a study this week on the need for resources at the middle-school level.

"Middle school is critical and it has largely been neglected," said Plitkin. "With demand for high school graduation increasing, as well as requirements to get into college, middle school is where kids need to be prepared - academically, socially and developmentally."

Irv Howard, director of California's Department of Education program for middle-school reform, also said it is important for school districts to make middle schools a priority.

"Let's admit it, we screwed it up," Howard said. "We addressed the issues of pre-K and elementary, skipped middle all together and moved on to high school.

"Well, in order get them from elementary to high school they need to go through middle school - and if no one is dealing with them and giving them the tools they need, why would you begin to think they are going to make it through high school?"

Cortines said he plans to meet with middle-school principals and teachers to figure out what services need to be provided.

He also said he wants to look beyond the classroom to engage the community, students and parents.

Howard's only recommendation to the district: "Forget the gimmicks."

"We have some really good models out there, so cut through the garbage and get down to what can make these schools work."

Monday, May 26, 2008


As state funding for education declines, college opportunity also declines for future students ...which will mean a decline in economic prosperity for California.

op-eD IN THE SAN JOSE MERCURY-NEWS BY George R. Blumenthal, Martha J. Kanter and Don W. Kassing

05/25/2008 — Demand for college has never been higher, but state budget cuts threaten access for thousands of students.

This fall, California's public institutions of higher education should be embracing the state's largest high school graduating class. Instead, significant numbers of qualified students may be denied access because of the state's $17.2 billion budget deficit and cuts in state support for higher education.

California's landmark system of public colleges and universities is a key part of the solution for our troubled economy, particularly as the need for job training and retraining escalates. Now is the time to invest in higher education for people of all ages.

We recognize and appreciate that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's revised budget for 2008-09 restores a portion of the drastic cuts proposed in January. Yet it still falls far short of meeting the needs of education at all levels.

Californians are enrolling in the state's public colleges and universities in record numbers because of the rise in high school graduates and the growing need for workforce training. The state Department of Finance projected that our combined enrollments would increase by nearly 23 percent between 2005 and 2015, bringing 503,750 more students through our doors and pushing our fall enrollment to more than 2.7 million. But as state funding for education declines, college opportunity also declines for those future students, which will mean a decline in economic prosperity for California.

That's why the state's three branches of public higher education - the California Community Colleges, the California State University and the University of California - have joined in unity. We urge state lawmakers to make education funding a priority or see California suffer long-term economic consequences.

Our three systems are closely tied and each makes unique educational and economic contributions. Consider that six of 10 CSU graduates and one of three UC graduates begin their college careers at a community college. Community colleges train 70 percent of the state's nurses; the CSU system educates 60 percent of California's certificated teachers; and UC schools produce virtually all of our state's publicly educated doctors, lawyers and Ph.D.s. In addition, more than 1,000 California biotech, high-tech and other R&D-intensive companies put UC research to work every day.

It is vital for California's future that more students from under-served and low-income communities attend college. Currently, two-thirds of the state's pupils in K-12 schools are students of color.

We already serve the most diverse group of students in California's history. More than 55 percent of CSU's enrollment is from traditionally under-served populations. Thirty-five percent of UC students are from low-income families, the highest proportion among the nation's top research universities. In the community colleges, full-time students have a median income of $16,223 a year. One fourth of those have incomes under $5,544 a year. Which of these potential college graduates should we turn away?

If 2 percent more Californians had associate's degrees and 1 percent more earned bachelor's degrees, the state's economy would grow by $20 billion, according to a recent report by the non-profit Campaign for College Opportunity. That would mean our state and local tax revenues would increase by $1.2 billion a year, and 174,000 new jobs would be created. For every dollar the state invests in a student's higher education, according to the report, there is a $3 net return on investment.

California today provides a relatively small portion of financial support for CSU and UC, and funds community colleges at only about half the national average. Students and parents also bear a much larger share of the cost of education than in the recent past. To help close the gap, all three of our educational systems are working hard to raise funds privately and through grants. But a quality educational system requires broader investment.

We urge Californians to take the long view and ask their legislators to not only preserve, but increase funding to support all levels of education in California. The unintended consequences of allowing further decline will be far more costly in the long run. Reducing educational opportunity at a time of record enrollment growth makes no economic sense.

GEORGE R. BLUMENTHAL is chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz. MARTHA J. KANTER is chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. DON W. KASSING is president of San Jose State University. They wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Now is wrong time to cut higher education budget - San Jose Mercury News

STATEWIDE LEGISLATION PROMOTES PHYSICAL FITNESS IN YOUTH + BODY-BRAIN CONNECTION: California high schoolers must now pass 5 out of 6 fitness tests or take another year of P.E.


TRIBUNE PHOTOS BY LAURA DICKINSON - Templeton High School students do curls at the gym as part of physical fitness training. Because of new legislation, the students will have to take an additional year of P. E. if they do not pass state-set standards.

By Deb Kollars | San Luis Obispo Tribune

05/26/2008  — In California public schools, children have been tested for physical fitness for many years. If they could do the push-ups and run a quick mile — great. If not—no big deal.

This spring, that’s changing for many of the half-million ninth-graders across the state. For the first time, high school freshmen in many districts must pass five of six fitness exams or face the possibility of extra years in physical education classes.

In gym after gym, the pressure is on. Teens are being pressed to run, reach, push, stretch and pull like their bodies and their futures depend on it.

“OK, who wants to try the push-ups?” Cici Robinson called out to her freshman physical education class at El Camino High School near Sacramento recently.

“Girls, to qualify, you need to do at least seven. If you do more than 15, you’re above the standard.”

Two boys and a girl took their places on the gym floor. A voice on a recording set the pace: “Down. Up. One. Down. Up. Two …”

Twenty counts later, then 25, then 26, the three students called it quits. All had shown they were above or within the “healthy fitness zone” for upper body strength for students their age and gender.

“Nice job,” Robinson said. “Who’s next?”

For Robinson and P. E. teachers across the state, it has been a year of intense practice and pushing to get kids ready for this spring’s round of fitness testing. Many have welcomed the challenge, which comes against the backdrop of rising rates of obesity and the price of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems in people’s lives.

“It’s a new year for physical education,” said Nancy Carr, interim physical education consultant for the California Department of Education. “California students are being asked to work on becoming physically fit for life.”

Doesn’t affect graduation

The state has long required students in grades five, seven and nine to be tested in six major fitness areas: aerobic capacity, body fat measurements, abdominal strength and endurance, trunk strength and flexibility, upper body strength and endurance, and overall flexibility.

Some of the categories have several choices of tests, while others offer one way to pass.

Results get reported every year, celebrated when they are good, and set aside as a fact when they are not.

Under legislation taking effect this school year by Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, many freshmen now must pass five of the six fitness tests this spring or face a significant new consequence: Those who fail must take physical education again as sophomores, where they will face the same testing hurdles. Each year that they continue to fail two or more tests means another year of P. E.

The testing results do not affect students’ ability to graduate, Torlakson said. Ninthgraders who pass five or six tests still must take another year of P. E., but in many districts they will have a choice of which year they enroll.

“We want our students to be healthier. That’s the whole goal,” Torlakson said, noting that educators have found a correlation between health and fitness and a student’s ability to learn well.

Not all districts must comply because of differences in the way they exempt certain students from physical education.

But many school systems are embracing the new legislation with stopwatches, clipboards, weight scales and big doses of encouragement. Among them are San Juan Unified and Elk Grove Unified in the Sacramento area.

In both districts, about 67 percent of ninth-graders last year met the five-out-of-six passing rate. District representatives expect that number to rise this spring because the tests have been such a big focus this year.

“The message is out how serious this is,” said Joanne Clark, retired physical education specialist in Elk Grove Unified, which has worked aggressively to build a strong P. E. program across all grades. “Students’ wellness is extremely important for the quality of their life.”

Robinson agreed. “I’ve been telling my students from the beginning of the year that this year it counts,” Robinson said. “I put it out there as early as I could so they would take it seriously. And I have seen a lot of improvement.”

Students are supportive

In California, districts typically require just two years of P. E. to graduate. They do so backed by a tangle of laws contained in the California Education Code.

Under the code, students are to be enrolled in physical education all four years of high school, said Carrie Strong- Thompson, a consultant with the state Department of Education. But in an odd dichotomy, the code requires only two years of P. E. to graduate.

“There’s a disconnect,” Strong-Thompson said. The law offers several ways in which districts can “exempt” students from the four-year requirement, and many do so, she said. The state doesn’t track exemption patterns.

Under the new Torlakson legislation, some students could face as many as four years of physical education. It has some students concerned about being in a course they don’t enjoy and missing out on other electives.

Others, however, have found themselves thinking it might not be a bad idea.

Oscar Luna is a 14-year-old in Robinson’s class at El Camino. When he first heard about the new requirement, he was worried. He is 5-foot-11, and quick to acknowledge he is heavier than is healthy.

As Luna learned about the six tests and the minimum proficiencies, he realized he would have a tougher journey than some of his peers: “I know I can’t pass the body weight test,” he said. “That means I have to pass all the other five.”

Luna passed a stretching test. And he is sure he can do the minimum number of pushups when his turn comes. The problem, he said, is that he cannot run a mile. He is pinning his hopes on passing an optional walking test—but also bracing for the possibility he will not pass five tests.

In recent weeks, he has become philosophical about possibly spending an extra year or two in physical education.

“I think I actually may need more P. E. than most people,” he said. “It probably would be good for me.”

Not all educators find the state’s fitness exams a great measure for all students. To Brian Prahl, a longtime P. E. teacher in Elk Grove Unified, some tests are too easy, while the body composition tests can unfairly penalize athletes with lots of muscles.

San Luis Obispo County’s website | 05/26/2008 | California high schoolers must now pass 5 out of 6 fitness tests or take another year of P.E.



Op-Ed By Ramona Armijo-Sloan and Jennifer Finnerty | Ventura County Star

Friday, May 23, 2008  — With our nation experiencing one of the largest obesity epidemics in history, the investment in physical education in schools is essential. One of the biggest problems people have is understanding the difference and importance of P.E. for students compared with after-school physical activity or athletics.

Although all are important, there is a difference. P.E. provides "curriculum-based instruction," while after-school physical activity or athletics do not. P.E. should be an important component of a comprehensive education for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

According to Nancy Carr of the California Department of Education, physical "education" is a phenomenon unique to the U.S. It is unique because it is intended to teach students how to be fit for life. It's not about playing games; it doesn't solely focus on teaching students to be a star athlete; it doesn't just focus on having physical activity after school; P.E. is about instructing students on skill development to build student learning related to the California P.E. Content Standards.

California P.E. Content Standards are designed to instruct students on motor skills, movement and performance strategies for fitness and health. These strategies will teach students how to demonstrate and apply the learning and performance of physical activity.

Qualified P.E. teachers hold a single subject credential authorizing instruction in P.E. According to Raymond Armijo Jr., a credentialed P.E. teacher and graduate of California State University, Fullerton, "Part of preparing children to have lifelong health skills includes providing P.E. instruction with nutrition education." He also reminds us of the link between the "healthy body and sound mind" principle. When students actively participate in P.E., they are healthier, have better attendance in school, better academic skills and a positive attitude.

There are five California public school P.E. Content Standards required in grades K-8 and three standards requiring P.E. in grades 9-12. According to California Education Code (51210), P.E. is the only subject requiring 200 minutes for every 10 consecutive school days for grades 1-6 and 400 minutes for every 10 consecutive school days for grades 7-12. Elementary school districts with grades 1-8 require a minimum of 200 minutes for every 10 consecutive days.

Barriers to quality elementary P.E. include funding, lack of time, facility use and content knowledge by trained teachers, support from administration, school culture, parents and community.

From the public-health perspective, Robert Levin, M.D., medical director for the Ventura County Public Health Department, supports the need for P.E. in schools and the promotion of physical activity for children throughout the day. Public Health supports Ventura County schools through the Coordinated School Health Institute, in partnership with the American Cancer Society. Through the Network for a Healthy California Project, Public Health's Power Play! Program is coordinated by JoAnn Torres, M.A., who quotes FITNESSGRAM statistics that "over one-third of children on the Gold Coast are unfit and over one-quarter are obese." The Power Play! Program provides qualifying low-income schools with free nutrition education and physical activity curriculum and resources for teachers in grades 4-5 and Community Youth Organizations who work with youth ages 9-11.

According to Dr. Levin, kids who play hard every day may be making their brains, as well as their bodies, stronger. Researchers have found that children who exercise on a regular basis have more neural activity in the frontal areas of their brains. This serves as evidence that children who are physically active may be better able to organize schoolwork, do class projects and learn mathematics.

— Ramona Armijo-Sloan, Ph.D., (abd), M.P.H is with Ventura County Public Health. Jennifer Finnerty is with the American Cancer Society. Both are supporters of Summerfest and Coordinated School Health.