Friday, August 31, 2012

The results are in: LAUSD MAKES ITS BEST SHOWING EVER ON STAR TESTS; State makes gains in English+Math

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

8/31/2012 10:03:35 AM PDT  :: Los Angeles Unified students turned in their best-ever performance on statewide achievement tests, with nearly half demonstrating a firm grasp of English and math skills, according to results released Friday.

Scores from the Standardized Testing and Reporting program administered in May show that 48 percent of LAUSD students scored proficient or advanced in English, up from 44 percent last year. Math proficiency inched up from 43 to 45 percent.

Proficiency in English-language arts increased by at least 3 points at every grade level, according to an analysis by LAUSD. Most grades saw slight gains in math, although proficiency at the second-grade level slipped from 60 to 57 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of kids testing below or far-below basic - those with a partial or flawed understanding of the material - shrank from 26 to 23 percent in English and from 35 to 33 percent in math.

As in the past, LAUSD's proficiency lagged behind statewide averages, which this year were 57 percent for English and almost 52 percent for math.

Still, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said he was pleased with the district's continued progress. He credited better training for teachers and intensive help for struggling students for the pace of the gains.

"We've put a great deal of emphasis in this district on English-language arts, we've put a great deal of emphasis on reclassifying our English-learners (in language fluency) and we've put a great deal of emphasis in terms of algebra," he told reporters in a briefing this week.

"Lesson learned: When the district puts strong emphasis on something, and provides support and clear expectations, we are really delivering."

Deasy gave a "shout out" to a number of schools, including Rio Vista Elementary in North Hollywood. Since 2009, the 400-student campus has seen its proficiency rates jump from 70 to 81 percent in math and 61 to 81 percent in English.

"We have a very strong staff who works very well together, a strong parent base and strong standards-based instruction," said Principal Kevin McClay, who is starting his fourth year at the school.

"We also have a strong arts program, with music and dance. So we're not just preparing for the test, but teaching the whole child."

Cynthia Lim, who heads Los Angeles Unified's Office of Data and Accountability, crunched the numbers that helped highlight some of the trends:

51 percent of girls tested proficient in English, compared with 45 percent of boys. In math, the split was 45/44.

Latino and African-American students saw gains, but their scores continued to fall short of their white classmates.

The number of special-education students taking a modified version of the test jumped from about 28,500 last year to more than 41,000 in 2012.

Almost all of the so-called intensive support campuses - such as pilot, Partnership for Los Angeles and LA's Promise schools - showed gains in math and English, along with declines in the number of below- and far-below basic scores.

"I think it's incredibly encouraging that, in many cases, gains are occurring faster in schools that have had different structures and sets of supports than `traditional' schools," Deasy said.

The district's analysis did not include scores for its nearly 200 charter schools. Deasy said the state did not release those scores collectively to LAUSD in advance; the individual schools were given their own results, but the district didn't have time to compile and crunch all of those numbers from each campus individually.

Deasy said officials will now drill down into the test data to help them identify keys to improving student performance. Tracing the progress of successful algebra students, for example, may spotlight the lessons learned in elementary school that helped them master the skills.

This strategy will become especially critical as the district implements the more rigorous college-prep curriculum starting this year and the national standards being rolled out by 2014.

Algebra is a key component of those programs, and Deasy said he is very concerned about the long-term success of the district's math programs.

Just 17 percent of high school students tested proficient in math, for instance, compared with 41 percent for middle school and 63 percent for elementary students.

Deasy said the administration stepped in last year after report cards showed that almost half of the students had failed first-semester algebra. Local district superintendents sat in on scores of classes, teachers took additional training and students got tutoring and other help in an effort to bring up those grades.

Deasy said the results haven't yet been compiled to determine whether their efforts worked, but administrators will rely on this kind of targeted intervention to head off future problems.

He also noted that the district had to cope last year with layoffs and program cuts while introducing a new reading and language program in elementary schools.

"What was learned was how to thoughtfully and carefully and completely roll out a new curriculum and material. This was a huge undertaking in a massively disruptive year," he said.

The STAR results were released about two weeks later than usual because of a state investigation into the posting of test materials on social networking sites last spring. Because the scores are used to place eighth- and ninth-graders in the appropriate math class, the delay complicated scheduling in Los Angeles Unified, which this year started classes on Aug. 14.

Administrators created new guidelines using previous state test scores and final course grades to determine student placement.


California test scores: LA Unified, state schools gain in English, math

By Tami Abdollah, KPCC Pass/Fail |

Sorcha/Flickr | California education officials released standardized test scores Friday that showed overall statewide gains in English, math.

31 August 2012  ::  Schools statewide made overall gains on the annual standardized test results released Friday, doing more with less, as California has continued to slash education funding, forcing program cuts and thousands of teacher layoffs.

At the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state's largest district and the second-largest in the nation, student performance in English-Language Arts improved by 4 percentage points from last year with 48 percent proficient or better. In math, that number went up 2 percentage points from last year to 45 percent.

Statewide, that trend was repeated with slightly smaller gains: students taking the English-Language Arts test section improved 3 percentage points to 57 percent proficient or better. In math, that number grew by 1 percentage point to 51 percent.

"In less than a decade we've gone from having only about one student in three score as proficient or better to now having one student out of two,” said Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the California Department of Education. “That's nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than when we started this system back in 2003. Obviously, there's still work to do there...but a great deal of progress has been made.”

Scores ran the gamut in L.A County. (You can see the results on maps divided by district here.) The San Marino Unified School District came in at the top with nearly 91 percent proficient or better in English-Language Arts and 87 percent in math. The Compton Unified School District, on the other hand, struggled with an overall 36 percent proficient or better in English-Language Arts and nearly 39 percent in math.

The release of test scores was delayed by several weeks because of a security breach during testing when students at a dozen schools posted some of the questions online. In Los Angeles County, the breach was confirmed at Birmingham Community Charter High, Glendale High and Rowland High. The state Department of Education is conducting an investigation into the results from these schools, which were released, to verify their validity.

Score improvements have come even as the state has cut roughly $20 billion in education funding over the last four years, according to Hefner. The state is now in 47th place in the nation in per pupil spending.

"It's very trendy at the moment from the White House on down to kind of blame teachers for the ills facing public education, but this morning's results are quite remarkable in the sense that Sacramento has cut spending by 18 percent since the onset of the recession in 2008,” said Bruce Fuller, UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy.  “...Yet our test scores keep rising...and that's quite an unprecedented and remarkable result.”

Local and statewide test scores also showed a persistent achievement gap for black and Latino students, who were 34 and 40 percent proficient or better, respectively, compared to white and Asian students, who were 70 and 78 percent proficient or better, respectively. Though scores have improved for all these groups, the gaps remain.

Fuller said it was “troubling” that this gap has endured over the last decade.

“These class and ethnic gaps are just failing to close,” Fuller said. “And it's a royal failure of our school reform agenda. The good news is everybody is moving up, but the bad news is that some of our most expensive reforms have been focused on trying to lift kids at the bottom and we're not seeing much bang from those reforms. Those kids are doing better and that's good news, but in terms of making the school more equitable and more fair, we're just not making much progress.”

In Los Angeles, Superintendent John Deasy said he was “very pleased" by L.A. Unified’s results in English-Language Arts. He said the improvements were especially "impressive" given the introduction of a new curriculum last year.

"The message forward is to continue this kind of we move into the common core" curriculum, Deasy said. He noted that economically disadvantaged students and those with disabilities improved at a greater percentage than non-disadvantaged or disabled students, respectively. Though he said he was troubled by a reversal of that statistic for economically disadvantaged students in math.

Deasy lauded the district’s emphasis on algebra last year, which included having local superintendents visit every section in every school each month and come up with methods to improve instruction.

"Lesson learned, when the district puts a strong emphasis on something and provides support and clear expectations, we are really delivering," Deasy said.

Even so LAUSD math gains were flat or smaller than English improvements for the district in elementary and secondary education, respectively. In second grade, math scores dropped by 3  percentage points to 57 percent proficient or better; Deasy said the grade has been notoriously uneven.

Deasy said the math scores were "a perfect area for's an area that we can put emphasis on and build upon strengths," Deasy said.

Districtwide, girls fared better than boys on the English-Language Arts scores at 51 percent proficient or better versus 45 percent. And for the first time, girls also did better in math, scoring 45 percent proficient or better to the boys' 44 percent.

Fuller said the improvement in math may be due to phasing out gender-based stereotypes.

The test results also gave the district an opportunity to examine the effects of various policies on school performance.

Miramonte Elementary School, which had its entire staff removed after a sex-abuse scandal involving two teachers in separate cases, saw a decline  in test scores with decreases in both math and English scores. English scores dropped for the first time in the last few years, decreasing 3  percentage points to 30 percent proficient or better. In math, scores dropped steeply by 7  percentage points to 36 percent proficient or better.

But Luther Burbank Middle School, which had its staff reconstituted two years ago, has shown sustained growth over the last few years and double-digit improvement over last year in English-Language Arts scores. School Principal Arturo Valdez called the scores amazing — the school, which serves Highland Park, has roughly 850 students in the seventh and eighth grade; its student body is 97 percent Latino, Valdez said. The school saw an 11 percentage point increase to 49 percent of students proficient or better in math and a 14 percentage point increase to 54 percent proficient or better in English.

"The reconstitution is one of the many things that really created a change factor that we needed to have in order to move forward," Valdez said. He said last year, 100 percent of the school's eighth-graders were in algebra. And the school has worked to introduce new math programs and instruction methods to improve teaching, Valdez said.

The changes and improving test scores have affected enrollment with a few dozen more students that made the school eligible for two more teachers.

"This is the first time in many years more kids are coming to Burbank," Valdez said. "...It's something we hadn't done in a while, and now we're hoping even more kids are going to come and the good word is going to get out."

Statewide, a sustained improvement in high school scores was particularly noteworthy according to Fuller. He said it could signify that schools are finally reaping the rewards of a reform effort instituted when these students were at the elementary level. In Los Angeles, the opening of many new high schools and an emphasis on smaller learning communities may also have helped improve test scores, Fuller said.

"If you think about the students who are in the eighth, ninth, 10th grade today, those are the students who back when they were in first or second grade, they were in the smaller class sizes when [the state] had funds to do that," Hefner said.

"In many ways, they're the beneficiaries of that, and carry that on through their learning lives. The fact that they had the one-on-one attention from a teacher back when they were first learning to read, they're a better reader forever because of that. And so you have to worry that when we're starting to pack those first- and second- and third-grade classes with 30, 35 students..."

This particular edition of the standardized test has been in place since 2003 and is based on standards adopted in 1998. The standards are “fairly rigorous” compared to other states, Fuller said. “Fifty-six percent of all kids proficient. The glass is half-empty and half-full. We’ve got a lot of progress to make. On the other hand...if you lived in Mississippi or if you lived in Texas, it’d be easy to jump over this hurdle. In California the bar is set pretty high.”

State test scores have traditionally been a measure parents keep a close eye on to judge their local schools and districts. But they are also a way for Californians to determine whether their taxpayer dollars are being effectively spent. Californians will vote in November on ballot measures to increase taxes to prevent billions of dollars in cuts to education.

Hefner said it’s important for people to understand that though they may not have kids in school, “children who are in school today are going to be the folks who fix your car tomorrow, who maybe diagnose your illness, who build your house, who decide whether you owe more in taxes or less in taxes.”

“Everything that we equip them with, every skill that we give them, pays off for all of us over their lifetime, and so the more we build human capital here in California, the stronger our state will be and the stronger our communities will be.”


By Richard Rothstein from  Valerie Strauss Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog (see note) |

This was written by Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit organization created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. This appeared on the institute’s website.

08/23/2012  ::  We cannot remedy the large racial achievement gaps in American education if we continue to close our eyes to the continued racial segregation of schools, owing primarily to the continued segregation of our neighborhoods.

<< This 1957 family photo provided by Romney for President, Inc., shows George Romney, left, and son Mitt Romney, right, in their Detroit home. (Anonymous/AP)

We pretend that this segregation is nobody’s fault in particular (we call it “de facto” segregation), and that therefore there is nothing we can or should do about it. Instead, we think that somehow we can devise reform programs that will create separate but equal education. One after another of these programs has failed — more teacher accountability and charter schools being only the latest — but we persist.

   The presidential campaign can be a reminder, though, of the opportunities we’ve missed and continue to miss. Forty years ago, George Romney, Mitt’s father, resigned as secretary of Housing and Urban Development after unsuccessfully attempting to force homogenous white middle-class suburbs to integrate by race. Secretary Romney withheld federal funds from suburbs that did not accept scatter-site public and subsidized low and moderate income housing and that did not repeal exclusionary zoning laws that prohibited multi-unit dwellings or modest single family homes— laws adopted with the barely disguised purpose of ensuring that suburbs would remain white and middle class.

Confronted at a press conference about his cabinet secretary’s actions, President Richard Nixon undercut Romney, responding, “I believe that forced integration of the suburbs is not in the national interest.” This has since been unstated national policy and as a result, low-income African Americans remain concentrated in distressed urban neighborhoods and their children remain in what we mistakenly think are “failing schools.” Nationwide, African Americans remain residentially as isolated from whites as they were in 1950, and more isolated than in 1940.

In “The Cost of Living Apart,” an article in the September/October issue of The American Prospect, Mark Santow and I review George Romney’s crusade, and contrast his views with those of his son, this year’s Republican presidential candidate. Like most policymakers today from both political parties, Mitt Romney accepts the permanence of racial segregation. Instead, to address the problems of low-income urban youth, he has made a wildly impractical proposal to permit children from low-income families to transfer to public schools far from home in those lily-white suburbs that his father had confronted.

George Romney understood that there is little chance we can substantially narrow the achievement gap without breaking up heavy concentrations of low-income minority children in urban schools, giving these children opportunities to attend majority middle-class schools outside their “truly disadvantaged” neighborhoods. But urban children cannot have a practical opportunity to attend such middle-class schools unless their parents have the opportunity to live nearby.

The failure of George Romney’s efforts has resulted today in African-American children from low-income urban families still frequently suffering from health problems that lead to school absences; from frequent or sustained parental unemployment that provokes family crises; from rent or mortgage defaults causing household moves that entail changes of teachers and schools, with a resulting loss of instructional continuity; and from living in communities with high levels of crime and disorder, where schools spend more time on discipline and less on instruction and where stress interferes with academic achievement.

With school segregation continuing to increase, these children are often isolated from the positive peer influences of middle-class children who were regularly read to when young, whose homes are filled with books, whose adult environments include many college-educated professional role models, whose parents have greater educational experience and the motivation such experience brings and who have the time, confidence, and ability to monitor schools for academic standards.

Although his integration efforts were suppressed by President Nixon, George Romney was not an isolated figure. Although his passion was unusual, his views on racial integration were shared by many national leaders, Republican and Democrat alike.

It is hard for many of us today, unfamiliar with how far this nation has regressed in terms of integration, to imagine that, for example, Vice President Spiro Agnew lectured the National Alliance of Businessmen that he flatly rejected the assumption that “because the primary problems of race and poverty are found in the ghettos of urban America, the solutions to these problems must also be found there… Resources needed to solve the urban poverty problem – land, money, and jobs – exist in substantial supply in suburban areas, but are not being sufficiently utilized in solving inner-city problems.”

Nixon’s domestic policy coordinator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, contemptuously called it “gilding the ghetto” to try to ameliorate inequality simply by pouring money into urban programs: “efforts to improve the conditions of life in the present caste-created slums must never take precedence over efforts to enable the slum population to disperse throughout the metropolitan areas involved.”

A commission headed by former Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner, formed after riots in over 100 cities in 1967, called for a crash program for the federal government to construct or subsidize six million units of low and moderate income housing, intended primarily for black urban families, in middle-class white suburbs. George Romney adopted this goal as HUD Secretary, but he could never begin to fulfill it.

Today, Democrats and Republicans alike unashamedly promote efforts to “gild the ghetto” with charter schools that are more segregated than regular public schools, and with compensatory education programs that have little chance of truly compensating. But the black-white academic achievement gap is unlikely to narrow much further without revisiting the imperative of residential integration in our metropolitan areas. Integration alone won’t close the gap, but without integration, other programs will continue to be frustrated.


by Eric Sondheimer/Varsity Times Insider: Times reporters blog about high school sports across the Southland |

August 30, 2012 | 10:59 am :: It's Day 17 in the ongoing Los Angeles Unified School District saga known as "Where is Manny Alvarado?"

The longtime Granada Hills Kennedy baseball coach was pulled from his teaching and coaching positions on Aug. 14 and sent to an undisclosed location. Word is he spends each day at a local district office.

The LAUSD has refused comment on his status, citing confidentiality and privacy laws. A district spokesman said Thursday there was no update.

Kennedy parents held a meeting Wednesday night with district officials to try to find out if the school will have a baseball team this coming season. No one is running practices and players no longer have an off-season baseball class.

Alvarado is apparently waiting to see what the district decides about his status.

Last school year, the LAUSD tried to suspend Alvarado after an alleged hazing incident involving two players in the school weight room. He appealed the suspension. In June, a Kennedy assistant coach was arrested on suspicion of smoking marijuana with a group of junior varsity players.

Alvarado has declined comment. He has been the baseball coach for 24 years.


2cents smf: There is a whole lot of a abundance of caution going-on here – as well as as an overabundance of stirring-the-pot by Times Reporter/Blogger Sondheimer and his “saga”.

There is an investigation going on and a whole lot of due process  to specifically protect the rights of the accused and their (it is plural – and there are also minor students implicated) presumption of innocence. Coach Alvarado has been  removed from his teaching and coaching assignments because of allegations that he was involved in and/or tolerated activity in:

1) the alleged hazing and

20 the alleged pot-party field trip to the Dodger game by an assistant coach who was a direct report to him.

It’s not like he was snatched off the street and disappeared by the Syrian Secret Police!

Coach Alvarado has not been fired or publicly subjected to speculation by anyone other than reporter/blogger Sondheimer. And as to the baseball fans and Kennedy boosters who support him remember these four words: “Joe Paterno” and “Never again”.

Not that it matters; Superintendent Deasy has never read a blog in his life.


From the Summer 2012 issue California Schools Magazine, published by the California School Boards Association |

June 28, 2012 :: Joe Landon—executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Education—learned the hard way that being passionate about the importance of the arts isn’t enough to transform an accomplished artist into an effective advocate in the ongoing campaign to preserve visual and performing arts programs in California’s cash-strapped public school system. Although he’d spent more than two decades as a successful playwright and screenwriter in San Francisco and Los Angeles—no mean feat in that ultra-competitive world—Landon was in for a rude awakening when he took a job in 2002 as speech writer to then-Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg.

“What I learned working in the Capitol was that the skills set I had, had almost no relevance to what was going on in the system of how things get done.” Landon recalls ruefully. In other words: Caring deeply about a cause was just the beginning of any effective advocacy campaign.

After Hertzberg was termed out of office, Landon went to work as senior consultant for Assembly Member Wilma Chan, specializing in early childhood education issues. In 2006, he left the Capitol to become policy director for the California Alliance for Arts Education and was promoted to the organization’s top job last fall.

The Alliance, which was established 40 years ago by arts educators, operates on a budget of $600,000 that’s funded mainly by corporate and foundation grants. Its primary focus is on public advocacy and on building effective community partnerships in local school districts. The Alliance organizes constituencies to support arts programs in public schools and helps district and county office governing boards identify effective strategies for saving and even expanding these essential services in an extremely challenging fiscal climate.

Under his leadership, the Alliance has built a statewide network of local partnerships that bring together community leaders, parents, teachers, artists and arts advocates, elected officials and school boards to support the arts in more than 30 California school districts. It’s an advocacy network that relies on good working relationships with governing boards. In a recent conversation with California Schools magazine, Landon talked about how he’s bringing his experience as an artist and public policy advocate to his work with the Alliance.

How did you become so passionate about the arts?

When I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in the late ‘sixties, I started writing plays. I took to it immediately. It gave me a way to reorganize my experience in a way that made sense to me. It enabled me to articulate my own perspective. It taught me about discipline and about focus. But most important to me, I learned about what it was like to create something out of nothing. And that completely changed the direction of my life. 

When did you make the shift from being an artist to advocating for the arts?

The reality was that after 15 years of making a living as a professional TV writer, I was increasingly disconnected from what had brought me to L.A. to write, and that was that inner calling. It felt important to make the distinction between what I was doing to make a living and what I was doing to fulfill myself as a writer. It was time to go. After I moved to Northern California, I taught theater and music at a private school in Marin County for about five years and then got a job working at the Capitol.

What happened when you arrived in Sacramento?

I realized pretty early on that no matter how wonderful your feelings or your issue might be, you had to have three things to make a difference: First, you had to be at the table. Secondly, you had to have partnerships with other organizations that could also exert influence; and finally,  you had to have advocates behind you to back you up so that when you said you wanted something, you weren’t just speaking for yourself—you could demonstrate your political clout.

Tell me about how you got involved with the Alliance for Arts Education and what lessons you brought with you from your experience in Sacramento.

We sensed that decisions about education were increasingly being made at the local level and so, as policy director, one of my first responsibilities was to create grassroots organizing in local districts. I would go into districts that were cutting arts education and I would meet people who were precisely as committed to the arts as I was, but who had absolutely no sense of how politics works or how to effectively advocate for your cause.

Can you give me an example of your work with one district?

We went into Saddleback Valley Unified in Orange County, aware that [the district] had announced their intention to cut its elementary arts program, and we convened a breakfast. We invited local school board members, the mayor, the superintendent, and other leaders from around the community to come. The gathering provided unity and momentum to what had previously been disparate efforts to preserve arts education in the schools. What happened eventually was that the school board backed away from those cuts. Since then we’ve been building out on that system throughout the state. It’s not enough to love the arts, you have to understand how the politics work.

Where do local school boards fit in?

We’ve found that school board members are often deeply sympathetic to the issue and are struggling with difficult budgetary choices they’re being forced to make. It helps to have constituents who back the arts, who will say the arts are critical in our schools. That way local school board members can say: “I am responding to the voice of my constituents who say clearly that this is a priority.” And who can also make the case why it makes a difference.

You had a really interesting piece on the Silicon Valley Education Foundation’s TOP-Ed blog earlier this year about using Title I funds—which are targeted toward raising English and math skills among disadvantaged students—to support research-based arts instruction that’s integrated into the core curriculum. Can you describe your message?

I’m convinced arts education strategies can be an asset in achieving Title I program goals. A recent study from the National Endowment of the Arts, “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth,” reports that low-income students who have access to arts education achieve higher GPA and test scores, are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than their peers without access to the arts.

Unfortunately, there’s been some confusion around Title I funding and whether or not it’s appropriate to use arts education as a strategy to accomplish those goals. What we were hearing from districts was that they’d been told they could not use Title I funds for arts education strategies. I felt what we needed was clarification from our state superintendent of public instruction on the issue, so we pushed for that and eventually got a letter from Deb Sigman, California’s deputy superintendent of public education.

What did the letter say?

The letter acknowledged that if it’s a program that has demonstrated success in raising test scores that it’s possible to use those funds, provided the school district fulfill other requirements related to Title I. Some districts and county offices saw this as good news and said, “We’ve got those strategies and we’re ready to go.’”

But other districts are hesitant?

In the absence of clear guidance on this issue, there’s a concern at both the state and local level.  Yes, Arne Duncan says it’s OK to use Title I in this way, which he had, and before him Rod Paige said the same thing, but the people underneath him, they’re reluctant to stick their neck out because who knows how long Arne Duncan is going to be there?” Districts feel the same reluctance because they’re concerned that the state might object to broadening the scope of Title I strategies.

What you’re talking about has less to do with arts education for its own benefit and more about effective educational strategies in general.

What I am talking about is arts integration, which is not to say that I don’t also believe in core arts programs where arts are being delivered for their own intrinsic value. [The arts] can deepen learning and improve outcomes across the curriculum, including literacy and numeracy.

Can we back up and get a basic primer about The California Alliance for Arts Education and how it came into being?

The Alliance started as a small volunteer effort about 40 years ago, and over the years has grown to be a robust organization representing a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Today our Policy Council is composed of representatives from parent, business, arts, labor and education organizations. We have built a network of over 30 local advocacy coalitions statewide. And we have an active, engaged group of “e-advocates” across the state who take part in action alerts and other advocacy efforts. We provide policy expertise and counsel and make recommendations at the statewide level, sponsoring legislation like SB 789 [by Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles], which would establish an Index of Creativity and Innovation, and taking positions in support of or opposition to relevant bills.

What do the local coalitions consist of?

They’re composed of arts organization leaders, educators, parents, business leaders who have some sympathy or interest in arts, practitioners—community leaders, it might be clergy. They work together on a grassroots level to advocate for arts education in local schools.

Then what happens?

It depends on the specific community. Each one has different strengths and is facing unique challenges. In some districts, our advocates have helped develop district arts plans, in others they have built partnerships with local business or provided advocacy training to parents. The general parameters are [that] we encourage these local alliances to have points of contact with the school board: in other words, school board members should be aware that there is a coalition in their community that is committed to this issue. We also encourage advocates to reach out to the media, to tell the story in various ways of how arts education is making a difference in their communities. We ask them to build partnerships with organizations like Rotary, PTA, other parent organizations wherever possible, and to be a part of our statewide network so that when we have a bill that we support or oppose they are available to be part of a statewide effort.

Why would the Rotary Club care about arts integration or arts education?

For the workers in the 21 century, it’s not adequate to have workers who have been trained to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. You need workers with the capacity to solve problems in a way that didn’t used to be the model of what a worker does. So it’s actually an economic investment consideration, which is that if you are going to have businesses in California and you want to have an effective work force, you need kids coming out of school with the capacity to think creatively, to provide innovation to what they’re doing, to have the ability to present themselves, to be disciplined, self-motivated, collaborative; and we consider all these skills to be the domain of the arts. Traditionally the reason business gets into education is because down the line, it’s going to make a difference to their bottom line. If they don’t have workers who are capable of doing the job, their businesses can’t succeed.

You mentioned Saddleback Valley USD. Can you talk about some other districts where alliance coalitions are really working?

Advocates in the South Bay and in San Diego have become a force to be reckoned with. They have built a large following on social media that helped activate support for the arts throughout San Diego County. When there’s a town hall or school board meeting, they put the call out and advocates are not only there, but they are prepared. They approach school board members as partners. They have a clear, consistent message, and they bring solutions rather than complaints.

County offices have really been taking leadership in many areas, haven’t they?

We’ve invested a lot of time and energy, partnering with Jim Thomas and the Orange County Department of Education, but there’s a robust system of support in  Alameda, Los Angeles and San Diego counties, too, with long-term, substantial investments in arts education. Our advocacy work is most effective when it teams with the commitment of a forward-thinking district or county office.

Do you give strategic guidance about where to look for money? Your work on Title I was one way of helping districts find financial support.

Because we’re at the statewide level and we’re small, we’re less likely to know what money might be available locally. But I would say that if you get an alliance going, a lot of times what grows out of that is an exchange of information. It’s one of the side benefits of these efforts: when you have people in a room together with shared interests sometimes those kinds of connections occur.

Is there a typical person you contact within districts to oversee construction of these local alliances—an artist, or a professional grassroots organizer?

Often it’s a parent. In Orange County there have been a lot of PTA people who had an interest in the arts and became our local organizers. We’ve also established a partnership with the California Arts Council and their new executive director, Craig Watson. They’re a state-funded, statewide entity, with local arts councils at the county level, who share our commitment to promote arts education in the schools… In the coming year we’ll be partnering in the establishment of new alliances in Santa Cruz, Fresno, Placer, Mendocino and Amador counties. At the county level, we’re also working with [the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association] to leverage opportunities with county offices. 

Can you talk about the impact of the economic downturn on arts education and about the emphasis on standardized testing and reading and math that accompanied the federal No Child Left Behind Act?

Every time there’s a cut, arts programs are perceived as the nonessential courses because they’re not at the heart of what’s being specifically tested for. And so the attrition has been considerable. You really see a system that’s no longer capable of providing comprehensive arts education because districts can’t continue to hire teachers who can provide those services. The narrowing of the curriculum under No Child Left Behind has exposed what happens when you don’t provide an education that really engages kids. Bubble testing doesn’t measure what kids learn or need to know, and it encourages teaching to the test. It’s a vicious cycle in which kids aren’t being given the opportunity to cultivate skills they’re going to need in order to be successful. The way we learn is deeply personal.  That’s why the arts matter so much—because they call upon that personal response in every person.

My organization lauds the accomplishments of the tremendously talented students in the arts, but that’s not really what we’re about. We’re about ensuring that every student has the opportunity to both receive and to express the arts, in their own unique way.  Doing that will benefit them throughout their lives as well as in school, and it will give them a place in which they are actually connected to their education.

Can I just add one more thing?

Please do.

The longer I go and the more I fight to stop this cut or to preserve that program, the more I’m convinced that arts need to be recognized at the core of education,  not an add-on, an after-thought, a reward or an embellishment. The arts live at the core of our vision of what education is. And that’s really what I want to be talking about. How do we get to that?

Carol Brydolf ( ) is a staff writer for California Schools.

YES ON PROP 38: Time to Fix California Schools

The Reporter: Opinion

By Paul Boghosian. Op-Ed in the Vacaville Reporter |

8/31/2012 01:05:25 AM PDT  ::  Before billions were cut from California's education budget, schools in my district were always staffed with a nurse to aid sick children, a librarian to help foster ideas and a counselor to point students in the right direction. Now, all of these positions have vanished and our children are paying the price.

Since 2008, political leaders have voted over and over to cut education funding by more than $20 billion. We've lost more than 40,000 educators and staffers, and California now has the largest class sizes of any state in the nation. Statistics like these are simply unacceptable for a state whose economy ranks within the top 10 largest in the world.

Proposition 38 is designed to restore the promise of education. Not only will Proposition 38 better equip schools to prepare students for the workforce, it will enable them to provide the well-rounded education California's schools were once renowned for. Proposition 38 achieves all of this through guaranteeing billions of dollars to local schools, averaging $10 billion annually over a 12-year period.

As a parent who put two children through the Vallejo City Unified School District and who now serves as the Napa/Solano County PTA president, I understand that each school and each district has its own set of needs. Under Proposition 38, schools have the autonomy to identify among parents, educators and the community their particular needs and apply the money accordingly.

Before serving as PTA chairman, while  serving as a school site council president, I tried to work librarians back into school site funds, which didn't always work. If Proposition 38 passes, it would generate $68 million for Napa/Solano schools during its first year of implementation alone. Using this money, we could restore not only full-time librarians, but nurses, counselors and even principals, which have been lost in some Napa/Solano schools.

The reason Proposition 38 is different from other measures is that it takes the power away from Sacramento politicians.

Proposition 38 ensures that the money raised never passes through the Capitol and is directly allocated to schools on a per-pupil basis. Based on current enrollment in Napa/Solano schools, this would mean that by the 2017-18 school year, our schools would receive more than $100 million. With money like this, our schools would be restored to their functionality, with money remaining to improve our technology and day-to-day performance.

Proposition 38 is not just about schools, either. By setting aside $3 billion annually through 2016-17, Proposition 38 will also reduce the state deficit by repaying state education bond debt. As a parent and education advocate, this deficit relief is important to me because it ensures that we do not end up in this predicament again and put future generations of students at risk of a substandard education.

If we don't reprioritize our schools, California will lack the skilled workforce necessary to strengthen our economy and compete in a competitive global market. Proposition 38 offers a comprehensive and inclusionary approach to restoring our schools and state's future. As Californians, we should all contribute something to improving our schools because we will all share in the benefits better schools will bring to our state's economy and quality of life.

  • The author, a Vallejo resident, is president of the California State PTA 18th District, which includes Solano County, is chairman of California State PTA district presidents.

CHARTERS DRAW STUDENTS FROM PRIVATE SCHOOLS, STUDY FINDS: The switch from private to public schools has added $1.8 billion to public funding obligations

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |


Jason Espinoza, 10, right, enjoying class at Celerity Nascent Charter School in Los Angeles. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / August 30, 2012)

August 28, 2012, 12:05 a.m.  ::  Charter schools are pulling in so many onetime private school students that they are placing an ever-greater burden on taxpayers, who must fund an already strained public education system, according to research released Tuesday.

The study by a Rand Corp. economist found that more than 190,000 students nationwide had left a private school for a charter by the end of the 2008 school year, the most recent year for which data was available.

And charter schools have exploded in number since that time. The Los Angeles Unified School District has more charters, 193, than any system in the country.

This student migration is especially apparent in large urban areas, where charters are drawing 32% of their elementary grade enrollment from private schools, study author Richard Buddin said. The percentage for middle schools is 23%, and 15% for high schools

Charters are free, independently managed public schools that are exempt from some rules governing traditional schools. Most are not unionized.


Charter schools: An Aug. 28 article in the LATExtra section about a study of the effects of charter schools on public and private school enrollment referred to Richard Buddin as a Rand Corp. economist. While the study identified him as such, Buddin's affiliation with Rand ended Jan. 31 and Rand had no role in Buddin's study. The article also said there are 193 charter schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District. There are 186.

About 10% of students nationwide attend private schools — a number that is dropping.

Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the number of students enrolled in Catholic schools declined by 20%, according to church educators. In the final five years covered by Buddin's study, which looked at data from 2000 through June 2008, more than one-fourth of the students who left Catholic schools enrolled in nearby charters.

The transfer of students from private schools to charters has increased public-funding obligations by $1.8 billion, said analyst Adam B. Schaeffer of the libertarian Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom. Cato paid for the study.

"On average, charter schools may marginally improve the public education system. But in the process they are wreaking havoc on private education …driving some schools entirely out of business," Schaeffer said.

"For too long, charters have been seen as all positive," he added. "This reports highlights that there are trade-offs."

Buddin, who is not affiliated with Cato, was circumspect in interpreting the numbers. He noted, for example, that an influx of politically sophisticated private school families might generate support for increased public school funding.

The study's findings were no surprise to L.A. Unified school board member Steve Zimmer.

"Parents of means have always had choice when it comes to schools," he said. "The difference is that with the charter movement, they don't have to pay for it."

Most charter students in fact come from traditional public schools. One consequence of that, Zimmer said, has been teacher layoffs within the district. It also has meant less money coming into L.A. Unified, leaving the district with fewer resources to serve its most needy students.

But charter advocates countered that the growth of those organizations was a testament to their academic success and popularity with families, and that the movement should be nurtured and emulated.

"We think we are bolstering the public school system by creating new options within it and showing that it can be reinvented in ways to better serve parents and communities," said Jed Wallace, chief executive of the California Charter Schools Assn.

Letters: Charters, private schools and choice

August 31, 2012 |

Re "Costly migration to charters," Aug. 28

Someone needs to officially diagnose the Los Angeles Unified School District with bipolar disorder.

Instead of celebrating the fact that, because of the proliferation of charter schools within the district, "parents of means" are regaining enough confidence in public education to re-enroll their children in public schools, L.A. Board of Education members like Steve Zimmer are complaining that the influx of these students is putting a financial burden on the district. Huh? Isn't this the same school district that once complained that because these parents were putting their kids into private schools, the district was receiving less state funding?

Zimmer's comments symbolize why "parents of means" such as myself are proud that their children are attending a thriving L.A. Unified charter school in spite of certain board members' barely-unspoken disdain for charters and the impediments they routinely place in the paths of charter schools' roads to success.

Eric Deyerl

Culver City


When I went to L.A. public schools during the Great Depression, they were considered some of the best in the country. There were very few alternatives. Now I read that L.A. Unified charter schools are taking more and more students from private schools.

Does this mean charter schools are as good or better than private ones? What if all L.A. Unified schools were better than private schools? Wouldn't that be a shame.

Lee Soskin

Studio City


Prior to Proposition 13's passage in 1978, California public school districts had more control over their money. All educational staff were involved in decision making that best served the needs of the students. We always had parental involvement, which was very empowering.

We had excellent schools before funding authority went to Sacramento, a transition that turned the educational system upside down.

Now union-unfriendly charter schools are the big trend. Another trend is to demonize unions as the culprit for this educational and economic disaster. As in everything, there needs to be a balance, but teachers' unions are an important cog in the educational machine.

Dee White

Capistrano Beach

Thursday, August 30, 2012

KEEPIN’ MUSIC BEYOND THE BELL: A Fun(d)Raiser Event for After School Programs @ The Conga Room on Wed. Eve, Sept 5th!

CYA/THE SMALL PRINT: This event is not presented, endorsed, recommended, supported, approved or sponsored by the Los Angeles Unified School District though LAUSD legal undoubtedly spent hours of lawyer time crafting this disclaimer.   The District assumes no liability for any loss or injury arising out of participation and is merely permitting this material to be disseminated at this facility because of the possible interests of faculty and/or employees.  Because that’s how important after school programs – and the students they serve - are to those whom this disclaimer protects.


By Sean Cavanagh,|

Published Online: August 28, 2012  ::  The National Parent Teacher Association has revamped its policy to make it clear that it supports giving entities other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools, a new position the group argues will increase its ability to shape policy within the diverse and growing sector of independent public schools.

Leaders of the National PTA, an advocacy organization with 5 million members, say their goal is to remain relevant in discussions about charter schools by recognizing those schools' role in today’s education system and by focusing more intently on improving their quality and oversight.

But it seems that not everyone is on board with the change in philosophy.

A state chapter of the organization, the Georgia PTA, is opposing a ballot measure that will go to voters in November to set up a state-level commission to approve charters. That puts the Georgia chapter at odds with the new national policy, according to the parent organization, which is trying to resolve the issue and to persuade state officials to remain neutral on the matter. The proposed amendment to the state’s constitution would give the commission the power to create charters over the objections of local school districts.

The National PTA describes itself as the largest volunteer child-advocacy organization in the country. Jacque Chevalier, a senior policy strategist at the national organization, said it is encouraging Georgia officials to avoid taking a stance on the issue that contradicts the national policy.

“We hope we can reach a conclusion that’s mutually beneficial,” Ms. Chevalier said. “We’re working through it right now.” She declined to say what would happen if the dispute is not resolved.

Transparency and Oversight

The new position statement was approved by the National PTA’s board of directors on Aug. 9. It represents the first change to that policy since 1995, when the charter schools movement was in its infancy.

On first reading, the changes in the policy seem relatively minor and straightforward.

The new statement emphasizes that both charter schools and the entities that typically create and oversee them—known as authorizers—be held to high standards. Authorizers need to regularly engage parents, review charters’ performance, and hold them to contracts based on their performance, the policy says. It calls for transparency in charter schools’ finances and operations and says they should neither exclude students nor divert funding from regular public schools.

The crux of the policy change comes in the deletion of previous wording that said charter schools must “be chartered by and made accountable to the state and local school boards in the districts in which they were located.”

That wording had often been interpreted as limiting authorizing power to local school boards, Ms. Chevalier noted. In an Aug. 14 letter to presidents of the organization’s state chapters, National PTA President Betsy Landers called their attention to the deletion, and said her organization wanted to ensure that its support “extends to all authorizing bodies and public charter schools,” as long as they are held to high standards.

Ms. Landers noted that almost 50 percent of public charter schools in operation today are authorized by “alternate bodies” and that many local PTAs are already working with those entities. She urged state chapters to become familiar with the policy and make sure their state advocacy efforts complied with it, a step she said was critical to ensuring that the organization’s position on charters remains relevant.

Georgia’s ballot proposal has generated deep rifts across the state. The state’s elected schools superintendent, John Barge, recently announced his opposition to the measure, citing concerns about the impact on regular public schools’ finances, among other worries. He has been strongly criticized for that stance by Gov. Nathan Deal, a fellow Republican who backs the amendment.

Georgia PTA officials declined to comment on their apparent break with the National PTA on the issue. In a statement on the proposed constitutional amendment last month, the state organization argued that the ballot proposal would usurp local control, undermine local districts’ finances, and allow for the growth of for-profit operators of charters.

“We reject the state power grab from local communities in the education of their children,” the statement says, “the financial inequities, and the overt attention being given to those who intend to profit from the education of children.”

Charters on the Ballot

Ms. Chevalier said that National PTA officials believe the organization’s ability to advocate charter school issues, and press for improved quality in the sector, would be undermined if it was regarded as anti-charter or unwilling to consider new charter models.

“PTA has a role to play,” Ms. Chevalier said. While the National PTA recognizes that the charter school landscape differs by state, and many state chapters have legitimate concerns about specific charter policies, the organization also wants to “position the brand to inform long-term discussions about charters and assist with successful implementation of them.”

Adam Emerson, the director of the program on parental choice at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a pro-charter organization in Washington, said the National PTA’s change in policy is significant and could help dispel the long-standing criticism that the organization’s positions are too closely aligned with teachers’ unions—or that they “focus a lot more on the ‘T’ than on the ‘P’ in the name,” as he put it.

“You wouldn’t necessarily expect them to come across so strongly on this,” Mr. Emerson said. “It’s notable they’ve taken this step at all.”

At the same time, the PTA’s call for strong oversight of authorizers and charters is in keeping with the views of many backers of charter schools, Mr. Emerson added.

In Washington state, meanwhile, the state chapter of the PTA is opposing a ballot measure that would for the first time permit the establishment of charters schools. The proposal would allow a local school board or a new state commission to authorize charters. In a statement posted on the organization’s website, its president, Novella Fraser, said her group opposes that measure because it “did not meet its criteria for local oversight.” She said the organization is also troubled by the lack of a requirement that parents serve on charter school boards. (Washington state officials did not respond to requests for comment.)

Ms. Chevalier said the National PTA would have preferred that the Washington state organization also stay neutral on the ballot item. But she said the National PTA is sympathetic to some of the chapter’s concerns about the proposed charter law, such as the lack of assurances of parent involvement, and thus the national group regards the Washington chapter’s stance as more in line with the national policy than the Georgia PTA’s stance.


by Anthony York in Sacramento, LA Times | PolitiCal: On politics in the Golden State |

August 29, 2012 |  6:09 pm  ::  The governing board of the nation's largest public pension system gave positive early reviews to Gov. Jerry Brown's pension deal Wednesday, but said more work needed to be done before they could say how much money the plan would save.

The chief actuary for the California Public Employees Retirement System, however, said early estimates indicated the plan would save state and local governments as much as $40-60 billion over the next three decades, but said that was just a rough first estimate.

In a statement, the board, which has been criticized by Gov. Jerry Brown for being too cozy with labor unions, hailed the administration compromise as "sweeping reforms of current pension law."

"CalPERS believes that the proposal includes significant changes that will help to protect and ensure the sustainability of the retirement fund, reduce abuse and add protections, ease administration, and moderate pension costs over time."

But board members raised concerns about potential legal hurdles to the governor's efforts to end the right of current employees to purchase pension credits for time they have not actually worked. And they said state officials may not be able to prevent current workers who are convicted of a felony from collecting retirement benefits.

●● smf notes: CalPERS does not cover K-12 and community college teachers;  they come under CalSTRS, the California State Teachers Retirement System.

The following is from the CalStRs website |

CalSTRS to Analyze Legislative Bill Language on Public Employee Pension Reform

Governor Brown has announced an agreement with the Legislature on changes to public employee pensions. CalSTRS is in the process of analyzing the impacts any new reform measures will have on current members, new members and retirees. CalSTRS anticipates completing its analysis by the end of this week, at which time it will be made available on this and the websites.

Based on the proposed agreement announced on August 28, the benefit for members hired on or after January 1, 2013 will include:

  • A formula based on 2 percent of final compensation per year of service at age 62, whereas the current formula is 2 percent at age 60.
  • A limit of 120 percent of Social Security wages on compensation that is considered creditable for the Defined Benefit Program. Based on the existing Social Security Wage Base of $110,100, the initial limit applicable to new CalSTRS members would be $132,120. The limit on compensation that is counted toward calculating a member's pension will further enhance existing CalSTRS safeguards against pension spiking prevention.

For existing members, the proposed changes would:

  • Eliminate the ability to purchase additional service credit known as airtime.
  • Require the forfeiture of benefits if a felony is committed in the course of performing official duties.
  • Impose additional limitations on employment after retirement.

CalSTRS most significant issue is a $64.5 billion funding shortfall. On August 28, the California Senate adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 105 (SCR 105) which states its intent to take action in the 2013-14 legislative session to address CalSTRS long-term funding needs. The resolution establishes a framework to develop a funding solution for adoption by the Legislature. CalSTRS will immediately work with affected stakeholders to develop alternative plans as requested in the resolution. The plans will consider gradual, incremental increases in contributions to address the long-term funding needs of the Defined Benefit Program. Once completed, CalSTRS will submit the plans to the Legislature early next year as outlined in the resolution.


By Kimberly Beltran, SI&A Cabinet Report |

Wednesday, August 29, 2012  ::  The State Assembly, in a unanimous vote on Tuesday, approved an emergency bailout loan for the Inglewood Unified School District, the ninth California district since 1991 to lose local control to the state.

Sen. Roderick Wright’s SB 533 authorizes a loan of up to $55 million and requires Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in consultation with the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, to appoint an administrator to run the district.

The bill was just one of many taken up during the hectic final week of Legislative session, including one allowing for modification of eighth grade math curriculum adopted in 2010 as part of the new common core standards.

Hurt by several years of budget cuts and a dramatic decline in enrollment, Inglewood Unified’s board of trustees voted in July to begin the formal process for a state takeover after being unable to close a $10 million budget deficit as well as a negative cash balance of nearly to $30 million.

Under state law, when a school district requires a state bailout, the local board loses its authority and the administration is replaced by a state-appointed administrator.

Burdened with billions in funding cuts and payment deferrals over the past four years, 188 local educational agencies were placed on a state list this spring designating them at risk for not meeting their financial obligations either this year or next.

Inglewood was one of 12 districts placed on the state’s negative certification list, which contains those districts likely to be unable to meet their obligations this year and next. But the southern California district is the only one so far to seek the state’s help.

The other 176 districts are on the qualified list, meaning they may not be able to meet their obligations this year or the next two years.

Five of the nine districts receiving a state bailout since 1991 have since repaid their debt and reclaimed administrative power. Three remain under state control: Vallejo: South Monterey (formerly King City); and Oakland.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also approved SB 1200, which the author, Sen. Loni Hancock, said seeks to clear up confusion in the field – with math teachers, administrators and the public – and promote academic rigor with regard to California academic content standards in mathematics.

In August 2010, the State Board of Education adopted new common core standards in English/language arts and mathematics. But California’s adoption included two sets of eighth grade math standards: the common core eighth grade standards and another set that combined elements of those and high school math standards with the state’s own algebra standards. Because the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is based on the premise that all students in grades one through eight are taught and assessed on the same set of standards, several implementation issues arose by California adopting a different set of grade eight math standards from other participating states.

For one, instructional materials for use in California would need to be different from those used by other states, potentially increasing costs of those materials for school districts.

In addition, assessment consortia are developing assessments aligned to the common core standards and not the variation adopted in California. This could result in issues with algebra standards and curriculum not being aligned with the state’s new assessment and accountability system.

This lack of alignment could result in future federal findings on federal grants, including Title I. If California adopted only the common core grade eight math standards as the single set of standards, many of these concerns would be alleviated.

Also, at the time the common core standards were adopted, the state board did not include what are known as “anchor standards,” which define the literacy expectations for students entering college and careers.

These anchor standards, Hancock said in written material in support of her bill, are essential to understanding the structure and cohesive nature of the common core state standards.

Teacher Assessment: MORE AMENDMENTS COMING TO AB 5, INCLUDING SUNSET CLAUSE …and perhaps an “end-around” the courts?

By John Fensterwald, EdSource today |

August 30th, 2012 | With the list of opponents mounting, the author of a bill to rewrite the state’s 40-year-old teacher evaluation law rushed Wednesday to amend the bill for third time to try to get it through Senate committees and on to the floor of the Legislature by the end of the session tomorrow.

AB 5 author Felipe Fuentes

<<AB 5 author Felipe Fuentes

Meeting hastily Wednesday evening, ambivalent members of the Senate Education Committee approved AB 5 on the condition that Democratic Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes commit to a series of amendments. He agreed, although the wording won’t be ready until today.

Taken together, the amendments would restore districts’ authority to set local standards used to evaluate teachers and explicitly require that state standardized test scores be used as one measure. Sensing that AB 5 is an uncertain experiment in collaboration between unions and districts, the committee is also requiring that the bill be reviewed in five years and sunset in six if found not to work.

But opponents of the bill, which now include an unlikely combination of activist and civil rights groups, the state PTA, associations representing school boards, school administrators, and individual school districts, appear united in their criticisms that the bill has been rewritten too many times in too few days for its implications to be fully understood. And they argue that the amendments don’t overcome two overriding flaws:

  • AB 5 will limit districts’ control and prerogatives  by subjecting all aspects over teacher evaluations to collective bargaining.
  • The bill includes a requirement, not in the Stull Act, that the tests used to measure academic growth be “valid and reliable” for the curriculum, the pupil being taught and for the purpose of teacher evaluation. Calling this a “poison pill” to discourage the use of test data, critics are predicting that unions will challenge bad reviews and teacher dismissals by hiring experts to testify in Public Employee Relations Board hearings  that the assessments used in reviews weren’t suitable for teacher evaluations.

"The greatest expansion of collective bargaining in 20 years," Ed Trust-West's Arun Ramanathan says of AB 5.

Arun Ramanathan>>

“AB 5 will guarantee that rather than improve the system, California will end up with one of the least rigorous, most inconsistent, and most adjudicated evaluation systems in the nation,” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, which represents minority families.

While districts are predicting a litigious and cumbersome evaluation, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers argue that collective bargaining – guaranteeing teachers a voice – is indispensable to an evaluation system based on best practices. Teachers won’t improve without confidence in the system, Fuentes said, and their participation is vital in setting a combination of criteria that may include multiple classroom observations, use of student portfolios and measures of student progress, and contributions to the school community.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat from Long Beach and chairman of Senate Education Committee, took this optimistic view while suggesting a sunset provision six years after the bill is to take effect. “We are hoping this works out. There is real potential for a robust evaluation process, demonstrating that teachers and administrators can work together,” he said, while acknowledging the possibility that the result may be contentious and unproductive.

But Sen. Joe Simitian, a former longtime Palo Alto Unified board member, abstained on the vote to pass AB 5, saying he wasn’t convinced that the bill represented a step forward and would wait to see the final amendments.

By the end of the evening, Fuentes was calling AB 5 a “pilot program,” although there would be nothing optional about it, and Fuentes resisted the suggestion by Republican Sen. Sam Blakeslee that AB 5 be a pilot only for the 20 percent of low-performing schools that would receive $60 million in funding next year to train evaluators and prepare for the implementation of the law. AB 5 would go into effect for all districts on July 1, 2014, despite uncertain funding for the other 80 percent of schools.

AB 5 has split the parent community, with Public Advocates, the Campaign for Quality Education, and Parent Leadership Action Network Bay Area Plan among the groups who had sought a provision that Fuentes included. It would require that districts seek suggestions from parents on evaluation criteria and then report back to parents after the completion of negotiations with teachers. The presumption is that school board members would at least consider the inclusion of parent and student questionnaires.

What should be negotiable?

The Stull Act has been much maligned, and its mandates have been largely ignored by districts. One reason is that it sets up a pass-fail system with unclear criteria for judging teacher effectiveness. In many districts, 95 to 98 percent of teachers, including probationary teachers, have gotten good reviews. AB 5 would create three performance levels, singling out excellent as well as satisfactory and unsatisfactory teachers, and it would more frequent reviews for veteran teachers – every three years instead of five. It also would require that districts use the California Standards for the Teaching Profession as objective criteria for evaluating teachers.

Critics agree these are valuable, but AB 5, in explicitly stating that the best practices standards are negotiable, marks a change. The  Stull Act requires that districts negotiate evaluation procedures but not the criteria for determining effectiveness.

The Stull Act also includes a key provision that AB 5 eliminated but that Fuentes has now agreed to reinstate: the explicit requirement that districts set academic standards, by subject and grade, for the purpose of evaluating teachers. As Bill Lucia, president and CEO of EdVoice wrote in a letter to Lowenthal this week, “Establishing expectations for grade level student achievement and linking it to effectiveness of staff is a key feature of accountability” – one that should not be bargained away.

For years, many school boards have ignored the requirement of setting district standards for evaluating teachers; other districts have invited unions to negotiate evaluation criteria. Perhaps signaling a new assertiveness by districts, Los Angeles Unified has said that it alone has the right to create the standards for teacher evaluation.  So far, however, it has yet to force the issue, opting for now to create a new  voluntary evaluation program.

But if there were doubt about what the Stull Act required, in May, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that Los Angeles Unified must use student results on state standardized tests as well as assessments based on local standards as part of teacher evaluations. Judge James Chalfant has given the district and union until December to come up with a plan for using test results, and to report back to him about the progress next week.

As originally written, AB 5 would have nullified the decision by permitting but not requiring the use of test scores – one reason both state teachers unions pushed hard for the bill’s passage.  Fuentes has since amended the bill to mandate the use of standardized test scores, though it would be up to districts to decide how much weight to give them. And the bill now says that local agreements reached before the July 2014 enactment of AB 5 would be grandfathered in. But Lucia, whose organization filed the successful suit against Los Angeles Unified, and Edgar Zazueta, the director for the Office of Government Relations for  Los Angeles Unified, testified Wednesday that AB 5 continues to undermine negotiations with the union and would give the union reason to stall.

The Los Angeles Unified ruling was on the minds of Democratic Sens. Loni Hancock and Carol Liu at the Senate hearing Wednesday. Both said they were wary of passing a bill that might interfere with a court ruling and Los Angeles Unified’s negotiations. Fuentes promised the next set of amendments, which will go to the Senate Rules Committee for approval on Thursday, would eliminate any potential conflict. Lucia disputed that this could be done.

Going deeper


By Tom Chorneau, SI&A Cabinet Report  |

Thursday, August 30, 2012  ::  In a cost-cutting move that has near unanimous opposition from schools, a majority in the state Senate moved Wednesday to back a plan to eliminate most state funding tied to school management behavior issues of special education students.

The preparation and management of Behavioral Intervention Plans has been a longstanding state mandate on schools – but under AB 1476, most of the state law requiring the program would be removed.

But repealing the requirement is not good news for schools because the federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, will likely still mandate many of the same activities. With the state mandate removed, however, schools would no longer receive state support for the often complex and expensive activities.

Opponents include the Association of California School Administrators, California School Boards Association, California Teachers Association, Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego Unified – among many others.

In a letter to members of the Assembly – where the bill will next be considered – critics argued that the bill contemplates a major policy change on a last-minute basis before interest groups have had a chance to fully vet the bill.

“The language in the bill is not precise, with several technical errors, which could result in unintended consequences and the creation of new mandates,” the opposition letter read. “California already spends millions of dollars annually to resolve special education due process cases, many of which are the result of poorly written special education law and regulations.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers continued to plow through scores of bills as they face Friday night’s session close.

Among the bills approved and sent to the governor was

AB 644 by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, authorizes school districts to claim revenue limit attendance for high school students enrolled in online courses, where the teacher is also participating in real-time.

The bill helps resolve a major problem facing districts interested in promoting classes using the internet but locked into a school funding formula that is based on the count of students attending class.

Currently, the state supports online learning but requires extensive paperwork from districts – so much so that it has inhibited its use.

AB 644 would require the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop rules for implementing the law, including how school districts include pupil attendance in online courses in the calculation of ADA and how to ensure a pupil meets the minimum instructional time under existing law.

Also moved ahead Wednesday:

· AB 1246 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park, would provide for a new adoption of mathematic instructional materials in 2014. The bill would also impose a new fee on publishers to help pay for the adoption and makes a number of changes to the state’s process for providing new textbooks to K-8 public schools that are aligned to the new common core content standards.

· AB 1811 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Martinez, would phase in a new method for computing the funding entitlement for a high school that is converted into a charter to account for an existing differential.


Ruben Vives in South Los Angeles and Robert J. Lopez, LA Times/LA Now |


Photo: Preston Carter, 100, sits in a chair after the accident near Main Street Elementary School. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

August 30, 2012 |  4:02 am  ::  Victims were being treated at local hospitals after a 100-year-old man backed his car and struck nine children and two adults in South Los Angeles.

Preston Carter struck the victims Wednesday afternoon shortly after classes had let out at the school at 53rd and Main streets, officials said. The victims ranged in age from 14 months to 48 years old. Four of the children were injured seriously but were listed in stable condition Wednesday night.

Carter, who will turn 101 on Sept. 1, has a current driver's license and no history of traffic violations, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said.

Los Angeles Police Department traffic detectives were looking at whether Carter mistakenly hit his accelerator pedal instead of the brake shortly before he rammed into the crowd about 2:30 p.m., a police official said.

Carter was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol as he reversed his car onto 53rd street from the eastern side of a Food 4 Less parking lot and struck the victims, Capt. Jorge Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Police Deaprtment said.

“It was a miscalculation on his part,” Rodriguez said. “He thought he was turning onto the street.”

The issue of older drivers was thrust into the national spotlight in July 2003 when an 86-year-old man plowed into pedestrians at a crowded farmers market in downtown Santa Monica, killing 10 people and injuring 63 others.

In California, all drivers 70 years and older are required to pass a vision and written test every five years, DMV spokesman Mike Marando said. Motorists younger than 70 with clean driving records are eligible for two automatic license renewals every five years before having to appear at a DMV office for a vision test, thumb print and photo.

Carter told reporters at the scene that he “lost control of the car,” explaining that his brakes failed.

At his home Wednesday evening, Carter declined to comment further. His 78-year-old daughter, Ella Fleming, said the family was grateful that no one was killed. She said that her father would not be driving any more and that he was planning to give his car to the family.

“I’m so sorry that it happened,” she told a Times reporter, “and I’m thanking God none of them died.”


●●smf: Back in 2008 I was principal-for-a-day at Main Street Elementary – an excellent school doing great work in a challenged and challenging community. It is a tenuous and temporary connection – but the experience was an uplifting and educational experience for me – and I send my best wishes for speedy and complete recoveries to the injured students – and all the students, parents, faculty and Staff at Main Street ES. ¡Onward/Adelante!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Takeover Artist: from Wikipedia |

“When [a] company gets bought out (or taken private) – at a dramatically lower price – The Takeover Artist gains a windfall from the former top executive's actions to surreptitiously reduce share price. This can represent tens of billions of dollars (questionably) transferred from previous shareholders to the takeover artist. The former top executive is then rewarded with a golden handshake for presiding over the fire sale that can sometimes be in the hundreds of millions of dollars for one or two years of work. (This is nevertheless an excellent bargain for the takeover artist, who will tend to benefit from developing a reputation of being very generous to parting top executives). This is just one example of some of the principal-agent / perverse incentive issues involved with takeovers.

“Similar issues occur when a publicly held asset or non-profit organization undergoes privatization. Top executives often reap tremendous monetary benefits when a government owned or non-profit entity is sold to private hands. Just as in the example above, they can facilitate this process by making the entity appear to be in financial crisis. This perception can reduce the sale price (to the profit of the purchaser) and make non-profits and governments more likely to sell. It can also contribute to a public perception that private entities are more efficiently run, reinforcing the political will to sell off public assets.”


A Q&A with Los Angeles Magazine writer-at-large (and the husband of the editor)Ed Leibowitz  about his September feature on John Deasy


By Matthew Segal, Los Angeles Magazine Online Extra |

clip_image0039/1/2012 :: In “The Takeover Artist,” which appears in the September Los Angeles magazine, writer-at-large Ed Leibowitz profiles John Deasy, following him through his first year as the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Executive editor Matthew Segal speaks with Leibowitz about Deasy, who’s set out to radically transform a system that is facing profound challenges—challenges that will no doubt shape the city’s future.

Ed, you opted to follow Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John Deasy for an entire school year. What was the thinking behind that approach?

The first day of school is one of possibilities. All the days that follow, at least in a school district such as the LAUSD, are going to be about hard realities and minor miracles. For Deasy, the school year would test his optimism and his ambitions against these realities and give our readers a sense of how well they held up. Deasy himself has a formula for measuring academic progress over time—a teacher’s “value-added” influence on his or her students’ performance during a given academic year. I wanted to chart Deasy’s impact on the entire school system from that same perspective.

Deasy’s a busy guy—up at 3:30 every weekday, home by 10 or 11 at night, with half a Sunday to devote to leisure. What did he say when you proposed the story to him?

He was enthusiastic, although he was puzzled why I would want to devote so many months—and why Los Angeles magazine would allocate so many words—to such a story. He had commanded a lot of press during his meteoric career in education, but most of it in the form of newspaper articles and short TV segments.

How much access did he give you?

A tremendous amount. Over the school year I spent a good deal of time on the 24th floor of LAUSD headquarters, sitting in not only on sessions Deasy led but also on those led by his subordinates. Some of those meetings were filled with so much jargon and acronyms that I could have benefited from a decoder. The bureaucratic language of public education administration is something.

So Deasy says he wants to see to it that as of 2016, every single kid who graduates from a public school in Los Angeles is capable of getting into a Cal State or a UC school. Currently about 38 percent of LAUSD kids don’t even graduate, let alone meet the basic criteria to get into a state school. In a nutshell, what does he say to the many skeptics out there?

This moment didn’t make the article, but at one point, when I was in his office and asked him that very question, he pointed up to an axiom he’d scrawled on a whiteboard in his office that read, “If we appear to seek the unattainable, we do so to avoid the unimaginable.” It’s actually a truncated quote lifted from the Port Huron Statement, the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society that Tom Hayden wrote 50 years ago. The “unimaginable” isn’t just fully imaginable but the norm now at the LAUSD—thousands of poor students of color relegated to a life of continuing hardship through a substandard education. Of course, by the end of the ’60s, the SDS itself disintegrated after falling far short of the unattainable.

Right. But in terms of what is truly attainable, even when the district was flush with money before voters approved Proposition 13 in 1978, nowhere near 100 percent of LAUSD high school grads could have gotten into a Cal State or UC school. Do you think Deasy really believes this is achievable under any circumstances, let alone the ones he currently faces?

Deasy comes from a science background, which made it all the more surprising to me that his sense of moral right so often seems to trump clear and otherwise overwhelming evidence that works against his aspirations—not the least of which was that mandate for 100 percent four-year college readiness.

You liken his effort to the Apollo moon shot of the 1960s—setting lofty goals that might seem impossible but are ultimately achievable if we work hard enough. But there were resources with the Apollo mission.

Sure, there were unlimited funds for the moon shot. California doesn’t have deep pockets in this economy, and even in better times, any surge in home prices isn’t going to support the state’s schools to the degree it used to before the Prop. 13 anti-tax revolt virtually froze property taxes for most California home owners.

We should back up for a minute. I think people may have a general idea that the district is strapped for money. Objectively speaking, how bad are things in the district?

The LAUSD gets about $6,000 a year per student from the state to educate a student body that for the most part needs an enormous amount of extra support, especially at the middle and high school levels, because of poverty, because of the language barrier, because of external threats to their education from neighborhood violence to eviction from overcrowded apartments. There are many students who will attend two or three schools before the academic year’s over, just because their living situation is so tenuous. New York City’s public school students face similar challenges, but its school system receives $18,000 a year for each student from the city and state—more than triple what L.A. does.

So it’s the classic situation of trying to do more with less. Do you get the sense, then, that, to borrow from the Apollo analogy, he’s sort of aiming for the stars in the hopes that they might reach the moon? Aim for 100 percent college readiness and you might reach 70 percent?

I think he’d argue that being happy with a 70 percent success rate means you’re happy with consigning 30 percent of an entire generation to a life of poverty, with some even winding up homeless or in jail.

One of his critics in your story suggests that what he really seems to believe in is magic.

I don’t know if I’d entirely agree with that, but one thing that did become clear to me is that once you make a high-stakes bet like 100 percent college readiness for all students, you have to make other implausible assumptions in order to envision a big win in your favor. At one LAUSD meeting Deasy declared that based on his experience students don’t drop out because the bar is being raised higher but because they are bored or not challenged enough. He also said that the district already had enough resources to meet his goals. As for the money, the district has so much less this year than last year that it had to cut ten days off the academic calendar—I heard the cleaning fluid budget was cut at my son’s local elementary school for the summer to save a few bucks. Under Deasy’s college-readiness curriculum, students who fail algebra would have to take it again until they pass it. At one point during this same meeting, school board member Marguerite LaMotte asked what would happen if she took college-ready algebra semester after semester and kept failing. Would she be deprived of her diploma? Deasy didn’t have an answer.

A lot of people in L.A. just don’t care about the LAUSD. They don’t have kids, or the kids they have don’t attend a school in it. Casey Wasserman, the multimillionaire who runs a sports-management agency, has invested heavily in Deasy. He also had some strong words about L.A.’s wealthiest citizens.

Going back to the Apollo comparison, there was a national consensus after Sputnik that Americans had to be the ones to take that first step on the lunar landscape. Among L.A.’s civic elites, there’s little curiosity about the LAUSD’s students and their future, let alone concern. There was a real threat of humiliation—a potential loss of national or even international standing of L.A. civic leaders—if they did not band together to build Disney Hall. There’s apparently no comparable risk of disgrace for disregarding the city’s poorest, whether they’re school age or beyond.

The district covers an area far larger than the city itself—several hundred square miles, in fact—and has more than 660,000 students. Can you explain why it’s so big?

The LAUSD grew much like L.A. did, in fits, bursts, and seeping sprawl—without a granule of central planning. Communities that agreed to dissolve themselves and become part of the city became part of the LAUSD, so did unincorporated areas of the county. It was all a matter of absorption.

Is that why there’s been no serious effort to break up the district into smaller districts?

There actually have been efforts, although much of the impetus has come from areas like the West San Fernando Valley, which would depart the LAUSD with some of its best-off students and parents, leaving other pieces of the district the poorer. Can you make the LAUSD contiguous with L.A. city limits? Then what do you do with those unincorporated pieces of the system that might be hundreds of miles away from one another?

In a way the push for charter schools is one means of addressing the district size. What is Deasy’s overall view of charters, which operate within the district and receive some of the district’s funding but operate outside of it at the same time?

Deasy says he’s agnostic about charters, and at one point he told me that as many charters had been closed down during his administration for poor performance as had been opened. Under his local school initiative program, he did partner up with Steve Barr, who launched Green Dot, one of the better charter school operators, to develop learning academies that would be LAUSD schools but have charter-like independence. When I spoke with Barr, he told me that the district won’t be able to turn itself around until it can provide safe, effective middle and high school education for upper-middle class kids who now typically leave the LAUSD after elementary school. The idea is to broaden the parent constituency in the higher grades beyond the most disadvantaged to include those who have the kind of money and the political and public-opinion-making power to make the sort of ruckus that politicians and the press will have to listen to.

Because L.A. is so big, the city’s problems are almost by necessity large as well. So it’s always eye-opening when there’s measurable progress in any troubled area. The city used to have too few schools. A multibillion-dollar bond measure passed by voters almost a decade ago changed that. Now we have plenty of new schools, some of them quite fetching.

We love building things in Southern California, more than we do allocating funds that might actually allow those buildings to function as they’re meant to. So we have brand-new libraries with bare shelves that are closed a good deal of the time on weekdays, and beautiful new public school campuses where classrooms remain as crowded as ever, not for lack of space but for lack of available pay for teachers. I visited a history class with Deasy at a brand-new middle school that had one teacher in it and 50 students.

Nine months out of anyone’s lifetime—including yours, the writer’s—is significant. Then again, considering what Deasy is trying to achieve, it’s a sliver of time.

Given the shelf life of an LAUSD superintendent—less than five semesters—the 2011-2012 school year could turn out to be a large chunk of the time Deasy will have had to transform the district. I was researching other articles during the school year, but I rarely spent so much time on one subject as I did talking with Deasy, attending speeches, school board meetings, and strategy sessions, and visiting the occasional school site.

What do you think is going to stick with you most from this story?

What impacted me most is how the LAUSD is a system incapable of being moved, that if anyone tries to change it in any major way, it will budge just enough to crush the would-be change agent and then go back to being inert. And still, knowing the outcome, so many adults decide that, for their students’ sakes, they have to get in the way. Deasy is arguably the district’s leading change agent, and I admire his commitment and, to a degree, his impossible dreams as well. Still, there is another story that I wasn’t at liberty to explore as fully but that affected me at least as much—about remarkable teachers and principals who operate on quicksand, their livelihoods constantly under threat from layoffs, their salaries and instruction hours cut back by unpaid furloughs, their campus budgets constantly chipped away at. Yet they manage to pull resources out of nowhere and inspire kids who are counting on them not just for an education but for so many other things—support, encouragement, two solid meals a day, and a relatively safe haven from the violence and turmoil that’s often beyond the school gates. I do hope the superintendent will realize how much he and these adults who work under him have in common, even if they fall behind the 100 percent standard of excellence he has set as his own bar.

    • To read "The Takeover Artist" by Ed Leibowitz, pick up a copy of the September issue on newsstands or subscribe NOW.