Thursday, October 08, 2015


Howard BlumeHoward Blume | LA Times |

Thousands of LAUSD teachers’ jobs at risk with charter expansion plan

Members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union protest last month on the opening day of the Broad, a new L.A. art museum. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is spearheading a $490-million plan to open 260 new charter schools in L.A. in eight years. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Oct 8, 2015  ::  If a proposal for a massive expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles moves forward, the casualties probably would include thousands of teachers who currently work in the city's traditional public schools.

As new charters open, regular schools would face declining enrollment — and would need fewer teachers.

Under the $490-million plan being spearheaded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, 260 new charters would be opened in the city in eight years. The goal is to more than double the number of students attending these schools, which are independently run and mostly nonunion.

The Great Public Schools Now proposal makes no mention of recruiting instructors from the ranks of L.A. Unified — even though the foundation acknowledged this week that the charter growth would require about 5,000 instructors.

The plan talks about hiring from an expanded Teach For America and other groups that work with young, inexperienced instructors.

If the plan is carried out, "Los Angeles will have the strongest set of teacher and leader development programs of any city in the state of California," according to the proposal.

The Broad Foundation said this week that teachers are key to the success of the proposal.

"We are in the process of listening to educators and community members to determine how best to support the dramatic growth of high-quality public schools in Los Angeles," spokeswoman Swati Pandey said. "We know that without great teachers, there can be no great public schools. We're eager to engage and support teachers as part of this work."

The fate of teachers is becoming a major political issue in the debate over charter expansion, with L.A.'s teachers union at the forefront of the opposition.

"The charters are specifically looking for educators who have not had the experience of being in a union, which means that, by and large, they're looking for teachers who may find it more challenging to raise their voice about curriculum or school conditions," said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Union leaders said they believe the charter expansion also is designed to dilute its political strength by reducing the number of dues-paying members. Teachers unions and their allies have squared off with Broad and his allies in recent and costly school board elections. Additionally, the union does not support the types of changes and accountability measures favored by Broad and others.

The number of teachers in L.A. Unified has shrunk to about 25,600 over the last six years from about 32,300. About half that decrease stems from the growth of charters, according to the district. Charters enroll more than 100,000 students, about 16% of the total in the nation's second-largest school system.

Charters typically employ younger, less-experienced teachers who remain in the classroom for a shorter period of time, according to research from UC Berkeley and a 2015 analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass.

The Broad proposal, which would set aside $43.1 million for a "teacher pipeline," refers to Teach For America as the "strongest human capital partner" for charters in Los Angeles. That group recruits recent college graduates and provides training that consists of six weeks before they start teaching — more in some cases — combined with ongoing support and course work.

The plan also looks to other fast-track programs, the New Teacher Project and the Relay Graduate School of Education, as avenues for hires. The New Teacher Project recruits those who want to change careers as well as recent grads; Relay is an emerging program developed in conjunction with charter leaders. It's based in New York City, with regional campuses in five states, not yet including California.

Younger teachers offer a workforce that charters consider more flexible and one that is willing to work at a pace that may be unsustainable over the long term, some experts said.

"I completely understand why charters go for those kids — they are great, energetic young adults who want to make a difference, who are willing to work 60-hour weeks," said Stephanie Medrano Farland, whose company, Collaborative Solutions for Charter Authorizers, helps school districts oversee and assist charter schools. "There are no limits because they have no union contracts. That also means they burn out."

The California Charter Schools Assn. points to the success and popularity of charters as evidence that their instructors are serving students well. Los Angeles charters, on average, tend to perform higher on state standardized tests than traditional schools.

"Great teachers change students' lives. Charter school teachers do that every day and the evidence is in their students' progress," said Jason Mandell, a spokesman for the charter group. "Teachers are the heroes of the charter school movement."

And supporters applaud the idea of expanding the talent pool, especially given a looming teacher shortage in California as many instructors reach retirement age and the number of applicants to teacher-education programs has dropped.

"On one hand, teachers unions claim we need to replace thousands of teachers over the next decade," said Jim Blew, president of the Sacramento-based advocacy group StudentsFirst, which supports charters as well as vouchers to allow students from low-income families to attend private schools. "On the other, they say there's no room for teachers from organizations with proven, documented records of creating quality teachers.... L.A. needs more great teachers, and everyone should welcome them regardless of who recruited them to the city."

The Broad proposal, which the foundation called a "preliminary discussion draft," specifies a need for 2,413 teachers. But a spokeswoman clarified this week that about twice that number would be needed to staff all the new charters.

Even in choosing among young teachers, charters have distinct hiring preferences. Many rely on nontraditional sources, said Kate Walsh, president of National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based advocacy and research firm.

The issue is partly philosophical, Walsh said. University-based programs focus extensively on the history and theory of learning, whereas charters want more practical training for their recruits, such as how to keep a classroom quiet enough for students to learn effectively, Walsh said.

Some experts insist that there's value in having a range of experience and ages among teachers in a school, to reach students in different ways. Some also stress the value of a faculty with less turnover from year to year.

At KIPP LA, a well-regarded charter group with relatively strong test scores, 69% of last year's teachers returned to the classroom this year, according to the group. In L.A. Unified, 94% of teachers returned, according to the district. Half of those who left were retirees. Among new teachers, 92% returned.

"If you're tapping teachers who have very little preparation and you have lots of them in schools, without veterans to support or mentor them, the turnover rates are typically high," said Ken Futernick, professor emeritus at Cal State Sacramento, who has studied the role of teacher quality in school reform. "Teachers learn to collaborate in teams over time. And the constant churning of teachers coming and going makes it difficult to create a successful school environment."


  • (The Broad Foundation has given money to the California Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles to support Education Matters, a new Times digital initiative devoted to more in-depth reporting on schools.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

“CONNECT ENTHUSIASTICALLY + LEAD BRAVELY.” How To Change the Story About Community-Based Public Education

by Sarah Lahm in The Progressive |

unnamed%20(2)[1] Posted: October 1, 2015  ::  Just as the Progressive launched its new "Education Fellows" project, as a way to refocus education policy on democratic, child-centered principles, one of those fellows--California professor Julian Vasquez Heilig--came to Minnesota to talk about community-based education reform.

Vasquez Heilig spoke at the University of Minnesota on September 24 to a late afternoon crowd of around 100 people. Outside the elegant, refurbished halls of the University's historic Northrup Auditorium, rain clouds threatened to explode, but inside, Vasquez Heilig warmed the audience with his insistence that they, too, can help determine what happens in our nation's public schools.

University of Minnesota professors Mary Vavrus and Roozbeh Shirazi introduced Heilig. Vavrus and Shirazi have been studying how the mainstream media helps push a negative story about public schools--that they are failing because of union policies and bad teachers.

"Our emotions are being weaponized," Shirazi said, describing pro-charter school films Waiting for Superman and Won't Back Down. Both films--the former non-fiction and the latter fiction--have a school choice lottery scene as their climax. Each has a storyline about a fed-up, downtrodden parent whose child attends a miserable, failing public school. The child's only hope is to get a seat in a stellar, "high-performing" (according to standardized test scores) charter school, which is painted as every child's educational salvation.

These films are part of a massive attempt to win our "hearts and minds," Shirazi pointed out, by depicting an overflowing, unmet demand for charter schools. Left out of the picture is the information that charters exclude students who need extra services like special ed, and results are mixed. Some schools serve some kids exceptionally well. Others have been mired in fraud and abuse. None can replace a democratically controlled, universal public school system.

Vavrus noted that the media have been complicit in promoting charter schools, high stakes testing, and anti-union policies as the best solutions for everything that ails our public school systems.

But if the dominant narrative about public schools is just a manipulative storyline pushing false solutions, what should we be advocating for instead?

Vasquez Heilig stepped to the podium to condemn what he called an "aristocratic" approach to education reform. Aristocratic reform is controlled by elites, where opportunities for profit and privatization override any thought of giving communities greater democratic control over their schools.

These elites--such as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, and infamous reform poster child Michelle Rhee, along with the political action committee, Democrats for Education Reform—get more support from hedge fund managers than they do from local communities. Their strategies are rooted in the interests of the 1% but cloaked in the language of the civil rights movement.

The school choice movement, Vasquez Heilig pointed out, pits schools against one another based on test scores, promotes mayoral control of districts versus democratically elected school boards, and uses Teach for America recruits in high poverty schools, at the expense of investing in a well trained, diverse pool of career educators.

But for every top-down, outsider's approach, Vasquez Heilig insisted there is a community-based alternative to boosting school quality. Twenty or thirty years ago, he pointed out, assessment measures for school kids were primarily local. Then, No Child Left Behind became law in 2002.

"No Child Left Behind privatized assessment" by making it top-down and turning it over to for-profit companies such as the testing and publishing giant Pearson. Suddenly, there were "similar stakes and similar consequences" for the very different school communities across the United States.

But people who care about public schools should not give up. Vasquez Heilig, who teaches at the University of California Sacramento, spoke about the "local accountability" movement going on in California, where community groups are working with school districts on prioritizing what should be measured in their schools. Instead of measuring school quality with only a one-off test score, these schools also include other measures, such as discipline and college attendance rates, in their assessments of school quality.

Near the end of his talk, Vasquez Heilig also returned to Teach for America as a case study. While calling out TFA for its role in promoting aristocratic reform, as he does regularly on his blog, Cloaking Inequity, Vasquez Heilig acknowledged the organization's "unparalleled local and national ecology."

TFA took New Orleans by storm in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, helping push through the controversial transformation of that city's school system, where virtually no local public, non-charter schools remain. And, Vasquez Heilig pointed out, San Jose billionaire Arthur Rock--a private individual--has paid for TFA alums to be placed as education policy staffers on Capitol Hill, thereby cementing the group’s web of influence on the national reform scene. (Politico reporter Stephanie Simon covered this in an important 2013 piece, “TFA rises as a political powerhouse.”)

Instead of being defeated by the school privatizers and their lobbyists, Vasquez Heilig recommended that defenders of democratic public schools help create an “alternative media ecology.” Social media, he reminded everyone, is a “platform without gatekeepers,” and thus a ripe field for sharing the kinds of ideas that are often shut out of typical media channels. To help make this possible, Vasquez Heilig walked the crowd through the various forms of social media he uses.

Contradicting the power of the 1%, with its tightly knit, massively funded ecosystem of policymakers and profit seekers, will not be easy, Vasquez Heilig warned. Highlighting the stories of the people on the receiving end of pro-privatization education policy will lead to conflict, he acknowledged, telling the audience that they “will be challenged by powerful structures.”

Still, he offered this call to action: “I challenge you to connect enthusiastically, and lead bravely.”

Sarah Lahm is the Northcentral Regional Fellow of The Progressive Fellows


By Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle |

From left, Alejandro Atilano Cornejo, Chris Saniere and Austin Wong from Ali Mayer's 9-12 grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School watch a video about Hands Only CPR on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle

Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle  From left, Alejandro Atilano Cornejo, Chris Saniere and Austin Wong from Ali Mayer's 9-12 grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School watch a video about Hands Only CPR on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif.

October 6, 2015 Updated: October 6, 2015 4:15pm  ::  California kids will get one of the most rounded educations on sex and sexuality in the country under new legislation that advocates called a victory in providing information that could prevent disease and teen pregnancy as well as sex-based violence and prejudice.

The new mandate ensures that public school students get a comprehensive sex education, offered at least once in middle school and once again in high school. That means teaching about condoms and emergency contraception, abstinence and abortion, sexual consent, gender identity and sexual orientation.

More on Sex Ed

Under the measure signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, individual parents can opt out, but schools cannot.

“I think this new law really vaults California into a leadership role nationally on this issue, particularly in terms of the content related to LGBTQ youth and needing to affirmatively address gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Phyllida Burlingame, reproductive justice policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of California, which co-sponsored the legislation.

California school districts have been required to offer curriculum on HIV/AIDS prevention, but sex education was optional. While most districts chose to offer it, the content and the topics covered varied widely, with some avoiding contraceptives in favor of abstinence or avoiding sexual orientation or gender identity entirely.

The new law was backed by a list of education leaders and community groups as well as the state PTA, Burlingame said. “This is something that educators in California really felt they needed,” she said. “It’s in the interest of local education agencies to have a clearer, stronger law at the state level.”

Jonathan Cerrato Cruz from Ali Mayer's 9-12 grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School practices Hands Only CPR on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle

Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle  | Jonathan Cerrato Cruz from Ali Mayer's 9-12 grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School practices Hands Only CPR on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif.

Some districts ahead

The law kicks in Jan. 1, and while some districts will have to create sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention courses — or revamp the ones they have now — officials in San Francisco and Oakland said they’re already in compliance.

Oakland, for example, offers a weeklong sex education course in ninth-grade English and science classes in the spring. The classes include physiological and anatomical information as well as practical knowledge like condom demonstrations, in addition to conversations about sexual consent, values and norms and healthy relationships, said Ilsa Bertolini, program manager for the district’s HIV/STD prevention program.

“We’re teaching all of our students to communicate all of their needs effectively to become consenting, healthy adults,” she said. “I think it gives the students a chance to talk about what they read and hear and see.”

Parent Miranda Martin has a fifth-grader in San Francisco schools and believes her daughter should get not only the ABCs in schools, but information on sex and sexual health as well.

“I kind of think the more the better, as long as it’s in the right environment,” she said, adding that she believes schools are a safe and supportive place for those conversations. “You have no idea what they’re being exposed to out of school.”

California sees 5,000 new HIV infections each year, a statistic linked to high rates of sexually transmitted diseases. The gonorrhea rate for teenagers 15 to 19 is 185.2 per 100,000 in the state, but is much higher for African Americans — and black females in particular, who have a rate of 1,397.5 per 100,000.

Yumei Zhao from Ali Mayer's 9-12 grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School listen to a lecture about Hands Only CPR on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle

Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle  Yumei Zhao from Ali Mayer's 9-12 grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School listen to a lecture about Hands Only CPR on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif.

“Our schools are a critical environment for providing young people with the knowledge and skills that they will need to protect their sexual health,” said the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego. “This is about empowering all young men and women — whatever their orientation or gender — to make the healthiest decisions possible.”

Still, sex education is always a touchy topic, and the Bay Area has seen its share of controversy. In Fremont last year, parents protested when the district adopted a health textbook that they considered too sexually explicit, with its diagrams of male and female sexual organs in various stages of arousal. The school board backed off the book.

Alameda protest

Captain Zack TIbbets fields questions from students in Ali Mayer's 9-12  grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle

Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle  Captain Zack TIbbets fields questions from students in Ali Mayer's 9-12 grade Health Education class at Abraham Lincoln High School on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif.

In 2009, many parents in Alameda were outraged — and some sued — after the district sought to reduce bullying with 45 minutes of yearly instruction on differences in families and other topics related to sexual orientation. The second-grade lesson included a story about two male penguins adopting an egg and raising the chick. The district eventually broadened the curriculum to include gender, religion, race and other issues that may be associated with bullying.

The law signed by the governor Thursday emphasizes that schools must “affirmatively recognize that people have different sexual orientations and, when discussing or providing examples of relationships and couples, shall be inclusive of same-sex relationships.”

“This legislation ensures that all students have access to medically accurate and unbiased sexual health education,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “By affirmatively recognizing that people have different sexual orientations and teaching pupils about gender identity, LGBTQ youth will be safer in school.”

New law’s critics

The Legislature passed the measure in late September, largely along party lines, and the governor signed it with little fanfare. But some critics saw politics infringing on education.

“School districts now have no choice based on their own community attitudes whether sex education is appropriate and the degree of sex ed is appropriate,” said Brad Dacus, an attorney and president with the Pacific Justice Institute, which focuses on cases related to religious freedom and parental rights.

The law requires districts to communicate how successfully treated HIV-positive people can have a normal life expectancy, which offers a “positive spin” on AIDS, Dacus said.

“At no time should political agendas shortchange a straightforward and truthful education,” he said. “The controversial provisions, without question, make this legislation a huge mistake for the health and safety and balanced truth that is needed for students in our public schools.”

Jill Tucker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.



Posted on LA School Report |  by Mike Szymanski |


< The last o’ th’ great bubble tests?

October 7, 2015 12:03 pm  ::  The whole world can now prioritize the characteristics necessary for LA Unified’s next superintendent through an online survey the district released last night.

The question is — as some school board members pointed out before the survey launched — why would anyone want anything less than all 21 qualities included in the survey?

With a pull-down menu in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Armenian, the survey asks respondents to rate characteristics on a scale of 5 to 1, signifying greater or lesser importance.

They include such qualities as:

  • Hold a deep understanding of the teaching/ learning process.
  • Foster a positive, professional climate of mutual trust and respect among faculty, staff, and administrators.
  • Establish a culture of high expectations for all students and personnel.
  • Hold all employees accountable for their performance.

Some of these are “duh!” questions, and when the school board looked at them at its last meeting, several members said so.

George McKenna looked over the questions handed to him by the search firm on Sept. 15 and pointed out the obvious. “Why would someone not choose all fives?” he asked, with a reference to the highest rating. “I don’t know how you say no to any of these?”

Further, none of the charcteristics reflects anything specific to LA Unified, such as, “Has the political skills to balance the interests of an assertive teachers union and a well-funded state charter association.” Or, “Has the temperament to manage the diverse interests and personalities of seven bosses.”

Nor does it seek to learn if respondents want a superintendent who might stick around awhile, bringing a degree of stability to the district. Since 2000, LA Unified’s superintendent office has changed occupants six times. Long Beach Unified has had the same superintendent since 2002.

In fact, the characteristics cited on the LA Unified survey are almost the same as those in many of the other searches now underway by firm hired by the district to carry out the search, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates.

Nonetheless, board president Steve Zimmer tells respondents in an open letter , “The public will be involved in helping to shape the conversation and to provide critical input. I ask you to participate in every way that you can. Your voice as a stakeholder is very important to the Board of Education.”The survey page includes  a link to a booklet that explains how a search is carried out, and a report by HYA of what makes a successful superintendent. (Not surprising, it includes all of the characteristics in their survey.)

Board member Scott Schmerelson was insistent that the survey include a question involving the candidate’s experience as a teacher or principal, and the search firm complied, with the question: “How important is it to you for the new superintendent to have had experience as a teacher and a campus administrator?”

Hank Gmitro, president of HYA told the board that the characteristics were compiled as the best traits of a successful school superintendent. He said it was important to get input from diverse communities, and the school board members will be able to discern from the data what each district said, and how parents, students, teachers and administrators, among others, responded.

The survey also asks respondents to suggest “a good candidate for this position.”

The search firm is planning to hold community meetings at each of the six Local Districts in LAUSD and another at the district headquarters during the weeks of Oct. 19 and 26. Anyone from the public can attend any of the meetings no matter what part of the district. Not all of them have locations and times set yet.

The search firm plans to compile the surveys to allow the seven school board members to come up with the best characteristics of a new superintendent. But even that could be difficult.

“That we would all agree on the same characteristics would be a flawed assumption, given the bizarreness of one of two of us,” McKenna said. “And ultimately, this superintendent answers to us and not to all the other people answering (these surveys).”



Your Voice Counts: The Search for the Next Superintendent

  A Message from Board President Steve Zimmer


In July 2015, the Los Angeles Unified School District launched a nationwide search for a new Superintendent of Schools to replace Ramon C. Cortines, who announced over the summer that he intended to step down from his position in December.
The District chose Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, an executive search firm that specializes in finding school district executives. The firm will aid the Los Angeles Board of Education, which oversees the Los Angeles Unified School District, in finding a new leader.

The public will be involved in helping to shape the conversation and to provide critical input. I ask you to participate in every way that you can. Your voice as a stakeholder is very important to the Board of Education.
In the coming days and weeks, I specifically encourage you to:

  • Attend the meetings. (Look in the coming days for a full schedule that will be posted on this webpage.) 
  • Complete the online survey.
  • Follow the conversation on LASchools on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Return to this page for the latest updates.

Thank you for engaging us at this important moment in the history of our school district.
Steve Zimmer
Los Angeles Board of Education

En Julio de 2015, el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles lanzó una búsqueda a nivel nacional para un nuevo Superintendente de las Escuelas que reemplazara a Ramon C. Cortines, quien durante el verano anunció que tenía la intención de dejar su puesto en diciembre.
El Distrito eligió a Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates una firma ejecutiva de búsqueda que se especializa en encontrar ejecutivos para los distritos escolares. La firma ayudará a la Junta de Educación de Los Ángeles, que supervisa al Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles, a encontrar un nuevo líder.
El público estará involucrado en ayudar a dar forma a la conversación y proporcionar información crítica. Les pido que participen en toda manera que usted pueda. Su voz como una persona con interés es muy importante para la Junta de Educación de Los Ángeles.
En los próximos días y semanas, yo específicamente les animo a:

  • Asistir a las reuniones. (un calendario completo con fechas se publicará en los próximos días en esta página web.)
  • Llenar la encuesta en línea
  • Seguir las conversaciones en LASchools de Facebook y por Twitter en #LAUSDsuper.
  • Regresar a esta página para recibir información actualizada.
  • Gracias por estar involucrados con nosotros en este importante momento en la historia de nuestro distrito escolar.

Steve Zimmer
Junta de Educación de Los Ángeles 


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“THE ASTROTURF IS RESTLESS”: ‘CLASS’ (which was formed to Save John Deasy) demands its say in LAUSD superintendent search

Groups pressure L.A. Unified board to step up search for new superintendent

Howard Blume

Howard Blume | LA Times |

Ramon C. Cortines, left, and Steve ZimmerL.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, left, and school board President Steve Zimmer confer at a meeting last year. Cortines, 83, would like to hand over the job to a successor by the end of the year. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)


October 6, 6:41 PM  ::  A coalition of Los Angeles groups has stepped up pressure on the Board of Education over how it should choose the next leader of the nation’s second-largest school system.

In a letter to the board released Tuesday, the groups requested that a committee of key civil rights and community leaders interview the top three candidates and provide recommendations to the school board.

image image image

The board is scheduled to meet next week to hammer out details of the search process, including the dates and locations of community meetings to be held over the last two weeks of October. Current Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, 83, said he would like to retire by the end of the year.

The district also set 8 p.m. Tuesday for the launch of a website for the superintendent search. The site includes a survey about the qualities desired in a superintendent, a report from consultants on “What Makes for an Effective Superintendent?” and a still-evolving calendar of events, among other things. The calendar will include public meetings within each of the district’s six geographic regions.

Leaders from some of the groups, in an earlier meeting with board President Steve Zimmer, had pushed for an outside committee to review candidates. One proposal was to have the outside committee control the process, presenting the school board with finalists. Zimmer brought these ideas to the Board of Education in a closed-door meeting, but none won support from a majority of the seven-member body, according to district insiders.

The letter seeks “information on the number of candidates who have applied and a brief profile on their professional backgrounds.” This would allow the coalition -- and others -- to judge how broad a range of candidates was being considered.

Groups signing the letter include: the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Community Coalition, the California Charter Schools Assn., Teach for America-Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation and Public Counsel.

The group said its positions were informed by input from more than 50 organizations that represent over 150,000 members as well as from town halls, a focus group with teachers, students and parents, and surveys of more than 110 civic and community leaders and of more than 450 students from low-income families.

The groups want the next superintendent to support a range of options for parents, including charter schools. Charters were not the only type of school they endorsed, but their inclusion of charters comes as the locally based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is circulating a plan for a massive charter expansion among foundations and civic leaders.

The Broad Foundation did not sign the letter, although it has provided grants to some organizations that did.

Some of the groups are closely aligned with supporters of former Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure a year ago. He and his allies are associated with a set of aggressive reforms that include limiting traditional job protections for teachers and using student standardized test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation. Other groups are not associated with pushing for those policies.

In the letter, the groups said the next schools chief should have knowledge about various school models and a history of supporting them. Other types of schools mentioned are those that focus on career training; traditional campuses run by outside groups; and pilot schools, which are managed by L.A. Unified but have some of the freedoms of charters.

Charters are independently managed schools that are exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses. Most are non-union.

Zimmer said he welcomed the letter.

“I appreciate the input from all stakeholder groups, and I look forward to their formal engagement as part of the community outreach process in the superintendent search,” Zimmer said.

Parts of the letter call for measures that are not controversial. It said the groups seek “a tireless advocate for the children of Los Angeles” and a leader who is “politically aware, open and courageous.”

“The ideal candidate would have a track record of improving equity and performance in areas that are core to our communities such as: graduation rates, early education outcomes, third-grade reading levels, access to college-preparatory ... instruction, and safer, more welcoming school climates,” the letter states.



Community organizations want public search committee to help select new LAUSD superintendent

by KPCC staff |

93868 full

It wouldn’t be a story about LAUSD without a picture of “Dr.” Deasy: Former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy who stepped down after a controversial tenure. Damian Dovarganes/AP

October 06, 03:38 PM  ::  A group of community organizations sent an open letter Tuesday making recommendations for how the Los Angeles Unified School District should conduct its search for a new superintendent. They're calling for a committee of community leaders to interview top candidates and to make recommendations to the Board before a new superintendent is hired.

"It's critical that LAUSD not make these decisions in a vacuum, without meaningfully incorporating community leaders into that process," the United Way of Greater Los Angeles's president/CEO Elise Buik said in a press release.

The groups, which also include the Los Angeles Urban League, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and others, are asking for the search committee to include community leaders representing students, teachers, business leaders, civil rights leaders, union leadership and higher education experts, among others.

The traits the groups say they're looking for in a new superintendent include a commitment to fairness and the ability to navigate L.A. politics, according to the release. Those characteristics are based on information including a survey of various leaders, a town hall, a student survey and focus groups with teachers, students and parents.



Community groups want a say in LAUSD superintendent search

By City News Service from the LA Daily News |

In this Jan. 11, 2011 file photo, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines, left, talks to the man who replaced him, John Deasy, at LAUSD headquarters. After Deasy resigned, Cortines returned to the job but now wishes to retire. (File photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)


Posted: 10/06/15, 12:52 PM PDT  : LOS ANGELES — A coalition of community groups sent a letter to members of the Los Angeles Unified School District board today outlining desired characteristics for the district’s next superintendent, and asking that a panel of civil rights and community leaders be allowed to meet with the top three candidates.

“Our expectation is that you will hire the type of superintendent who will lead this district down the path of continued student achievement gains, like the ones we have seen in recent years,” the letter states. “This is a critical moment for LAUSD. It calls for collaborative leadership and solution- driven action.”

Superintendent Ramon Cortines has announced plans to step aside, saying he would like to leave by the end of the year. He was brought in to fill the post after the firing of John Deasy.

Groups supporting the letter sent to the board members include the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Foundation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Educators 4 Excellence, Public Counsel and East Los Angeles Boys & Girls Clubs.

The letter calls for the next superintendent to be a “trusted partner to the community,” driven by achievement, and be “responsible, accountable and transparent.”

The groups also asked that “a committee of key civil rights and community leaders have the opportunity to sit with the top three candidates and provide their recommendations to the board.” They also asked for the release of limited background information on the candidates who apply for the position.

“It is critical that the LAUSD not make these decisions in a vacuum, without meaningfully incorporating community leaders into that process,” said Elise Buik, president/CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “In addition to the community input sessions and survey that the board is leading, we believe the district must also create a search committee that includes representation from key leaders who have a stake in this decision -- students, teachers, business leaders, civil rights leaders, union leadership, higher education experts, to name a few.”

Monday, October 05, 2015

BAIN v. CALIFORNIA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION: Judge Rejects Suit to Let Teachers' Union Members Avoid Political Spending

By Mark Walsh | EdWeek |

October 1, 2015 4:28 PM  ::  A federal district judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to allow teachers to join unions, but opt out of paying the portion of dues that go for political expenses.

The suit against the major national teachers unions and their California affiliates was a twist on a high-profile case involving the unions pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The latter case asks the justices to overrule a longstanding precedent and no longer require teachers who do not wish to join the union to pay service fees for collective-bargaining.

In the Bain v. California Teachers Association case decided Sept. 28, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of Los Angeles ruled against a suit brought on behalf of four teachers who work in Los Angeles, Arcadia, and West Contra Costa school districts.

The teachers are all dues-paying members of the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers and want to remain members. But they argued that California's "agency-shop" system effectively compels them to fully join the union and be required to pay dues that go for collective-bargaining activities and political activities.

The lawsuit was organized by the group Students First and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is behind the Vergara v. California lawsuit that challenged teacher tenure in the state.

The plaintiffs contend that the combination of state law establishing an agency shop and union practices coerce teachers into having to pay for the unions' political activities.

The plaintiffs' lawsuit said full union membership brought certain benefits in areas such as disability insurance, free legal representation, life insurance, and others that are not available to non-member agency-fee payers.

"The unions provide these employment-related benefits directly to members instead of bargaining with the employer school districts to make them available to all teachers," the lawsuit argued. "And the unions tout these benefits to deter teachers from exercising their First Amendment rights. By withholding these benefits from non-members, the unions, under color of state law, punish teachers for refusing to contribute to unions' political and ideological expenditures."

In his ruling, the judge noted that the unions "engage in significant political and ideological expenditures against the will of many of their members."

"The expenditures go to causes that are disagreeable to some teachers: political donations go almost entirely to the Democratic Party, some teachers do not support education-related measures supported by the unions, and the unions support causes that are unrelated to education altogether," the judge said.

However, Wilson disagreed with the plaintiffs on the key question of whether there was "state action" inherent in union membership that implicates the First Amendment free speech rights of the members.

He analyzed the case under four separate legal tests, and under each the union's "bundling" of its benefits for members could not be attributed to the state, he said.

"It appears that plaintiffs' ultimate grievance is the lack of state action in prohibiting bundled employment-related benefit and political expenditures as a part of membership dues," the judge said. "Because plaintiffs fail to establish a connection between the unions' relationship with a government actor and the specific decision to bundle membership requirements, they cannot establish state action on this theory."


By Mark Walsh, Ed Week |

October 5, 2015 1:31 PM  |  Washington  ::  The U.S. Supreme Court returned to the bench on Monday for the formal start of its new term, just a short time after issuing orders denying most appeals that had piled up over the summer. A few of those were in noteworthy education cases.

The court declined to hear a consolidated appeal from three families challenging New York state's mandatory vaccination law.

One New York City mother challenged the denial of a religious exemption for her child, while two other New York city families that received such exemptions challenged a state regulation that allowed school officials to exclude their children from school during an outbreak of chickenpox. All three families challenged the state law and regulation on grounds that they violated their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and their 14th Amendment right to due process of law.

Both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, rejected the families' arguments.

The appeals court said early this year that the argument that New York's mandatory vaccination requirement violates the families' due-process rights was foreclosed by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1905 decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. That case held that it was within the common-law "police powers" of a state to require vaccinations for admission to schools to preserve public health.

The appeals court went on to say that Jacobson combined with dictum in a later Supreme Court decision meant that mandatory vaccination as a condition for admission to school does not violate the free-exercise clause.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court in Phillips v. City of New York (Case No. 14-1445), the families argued that "childhood vaccination mandates today are so radically different than what Jacobson upheld in 1905 that this court must step in to help these innocent children."

The justices declined the appeal without comment.

Meanwhile, the court also declined to hear the appeal of an Ohio woman born without a left hand alleged that a school district discriminated her based on disability when it refused to hire her as a school bus driver.

Tammy Rosebrough was encouraged to apply by the Buckeye Valley school district because it needed drivers, and she obtained a required waiver from the state Department of Education. But training did not go smoothly, with some employees allegedly making comments that Rosebrough would have difficulty with certain buses, that she was "high maintenance," or that parents would not be happy with a driver missing a hand.

Rosebrough did not obtain a required commercial driver's license and never finished her training. She sued the district under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ultimately ruled that the school district did not discriminate against her under the ADA.

"The record contains no facts suggesting an effort by Buckeye Valley to obstruct Rosebrough from taking her CDL exam or becoming a bus driver," the appeals court said in 2014.

The justices declined to hear her appeal in Rosebrough v. Buckeye Valley High School (Case No. 14-1291).

Meanwhile, the court refused to hear the appeal of a New York state man who sued to require that state child-protection laws requiring fingerprinting and background checks for prospective public school employees also be applied to private schools.

The man, identified in court papers as U.L., is an Orthodox Jew who contends that instances of child sexual abuse in private religious schools demand stronger measures from the government. Two lower federal courts rejected the man's claims that New York state lawmakers refusal to extend the protective measures to private schools violated his and his daughter's constitutional rights.

The justices declined without comment to hear the appeal in U.L. v. New York State Assembly (No. 14-1522).

And in yet another case from New York state, the justices declined to hear the appeal of a local school board member who was removed from the board by his fellow members for allegedly failing to complete six hours of training on financial oversight.

Edward Lilly sued the Lewiston-Porter Central School District after the board removed him for failing to complete the training within the first year of his term in 2007. New York state's education commissioner overturned the action because Lilly had several days remaining to complete the training at the time he was removed. Lilly was reinstated to the board, but his federal lawsuit against the school district and the board for alleged violations of due process of law was rejected by lower federal courts.

The justices declined without comment to hear his appeal in Lilly v. Lewiston-Porter Central School District (No. 14-1529).


By Jane Meredith Adams | EdSource ED Health |

Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource Today

Oct 1, 2015 | Sexual health education will become mandatory on Jan. 1, 2016 for California public school students in grades 7 through 12 under a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday.

The comprehensive sexual health education law will combine education on HIV prevention, which already is mandatory, with sexual health education, which has been optional, into a single, mandatory course of instruction with updated curriculum, according to Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, author of Assembly Bill 329. Parents will have the option of excusing their child from instruction.

The new law seeks to remedy the uneven instruction in sexual health in public schools in the state, as documented in a study by researchers at UC San Francisco and in a lawsuit against the Clovis Unified School District brought by two parents and several advocacy groups that alleged inaccurate and biased information about sexual health was being taught. The parents alleged that a textbook on HIV prevention did not mention condoms and a video on sexual health featured a man on his wedding night comparing a woman to a dirty shoe because she was not a virgin.

“The previous law was important, but there were districts that were out of compliance with it,” said Phyllida Burlingame of the ACLU of Northern California. “This takes us to a new level.”

A Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled that Clovis Unified violated the 2003 California sex education law by providing abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula without also providing accurate information about contraception. Judge Donald Black stated that student access to medically accurate sexual education is “an important public right” – a ruling thought to be the first to address the sex education law.

According to Phyllida Burlingame, reproductive justice policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, more than 90 percent of high schools in California already offer some form of sexual health education.

But because instruction was not mandated, the districts were “picking and choosing” what they wanted to teach, she said. In some cases, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students have been “made to feel invisible – or worse, stigmatized – in health classes,” Burlingame said.

The new law states that curriculum “affirmatively recognize that people have different sexual orientations.”

“The previous law was important, but there were districts that were out of compliance with it,” Burlingame said. “This takes us to a new level.”


Among the new areas required, the curriculum will include information about “sexual harassment, sexual assault, adolescent relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking.” Schools must provide “comprehensive, accurate and unbiased” information on sexual health and HIV prevention and provide students with “the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family,” according to the text of the law.

In addition, the governor signed legislation on Thursday requiring curriculum on affirmative consent, known as “yes means yes,” in school districts where high school students must take a health class before graduation, such as Los Angeles Unified and Elk Grove Unified. That law, known as Senate Bill 695, was authored by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.

Edward Trimis, principal of Verdugo Hills High School in the Los Angeles Unified district, said in a statement that he welcomed the curriculum. “We can and will make it a regular part of our health curriculum to ensure all students are getting the same message, that not only does ‘no mean no,’ but ‘yes’ must be affirmed to mean a clear ‘yes,'” Trimis said. “It’s the right thing to do and the right thing to teach.”

Jane Meredith Adams covers student health and well-being.

Going Deeper


By Theresa Harrington | Ed Source |

Laurie Udesky/EdSource Today | Students taking Smarter Balanced practice tests at Bayshore Elementary School in Daly City.

Oct 2, 2015 | Although parents were originally supposed to receive their children’s scores on new Smarter Balanced tests over the summer, most school districts received reports to send to parents much later than anticipated.

Some educators say they are frustrated that parents had not received the reports earlier so they could discuss them at back-to-school and other beginning of the year events.

Pam Slater, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education, said the delays were due in part to a desire to ship all the reports at once, instead of piecemeal.

“Additionally, the deployment of the new and complex reporting system required quality control measures be added that resulted in the delay of the reports,” she said. On Oct. 2, Slater said all reports had been shipped to districts by that day.

Districts had received the scores electronically earlier, but not the more detailed printed reports which explain to parents what the scores mean. The reports were prepared and mailed to districts by the Education Testing Service, which administered the new Common Core-aligned tests. Once they receive them, districts have the responsibility to mail them to parents.

Districts must send the reports to parents within 20 days of receiving them and were initially supposed to send them no “later than the first 20 working days” of the next school year, according to the state’s education code.

The delay frustrated some district officials because they say it has hampered their ability to discuss the scores with parents. Some, such as Garden Grove in Orange County – which just received its reports last week – are preparing their own letters to parents explaining the results and are planning special parent meetings to discuss the scores.

“The report the state has provided for parents is not the easiest to comprehend,” said Garden Grove Superintendent Gabriela Mafi.

Statewide, average scores were lower than parents were used to seeing on the previous paper and pencil California Standards Tests in math and English language arts, which schools last administered for about 15 years until the spring of 2013. Thirty-three percent of students in grades 3-8 and 11 met or exceeded standards in math, as defined by the Smarter Balanced consortium that drew up the tests, and 44 percent met or exceeded English language arts standards on the new tests.

The Smarter Balanced tests – which are part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP – were administered online and assessed critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and required more writing than previous tests.

The newness of the tests, and results presented in unfamiliar formats, has prompted some schools in the Aspire charter school network to make presentations to parents about how to how to interpret the scores, said Elise Darwish, Aspire’s chief academic officer.

Aspire’s letter to parents stresses that the tests assessed students on new, more rigorous academic standards — and that the scores reflected those higher standards.

“If your student receives low scores, it does not mean that students have fallen behind, learned less or will be held back from moving to the next grade,” the letter from Aspire Bay Area Superintendent Kimi Kean states. “It means that we raised expectations for our scholars to ensure that (they) are more prepared for college.”

Like those in Aspire, average student scores in  Visalia Unified in the Central Valley district were lower than statewide averages.   The district received its student reports earlier this week and plans to send them out by Monday, said Superintendent Craig Wheaton.

It also plans to train its teachers to discuss the results during parent-teacher conferences in November.

“I was surprised they’ve taken so long to get here,” Wheaton said last month. “I’m sure that teachers will need to be prepared to give information and answer questions, when you start talking about, ‘How’s my child doing?’ I can just imagine some parents saying, ‘What’s this? My child’s not at grade level?’ We’re going to have to educate our educators about this.”

The reports include overall scores in English language arts/literacy and math that fall into four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met or standard not met. They also show achievement levels in subcategories such as reading, writing, listening and research/inquiry in English, and communicating reasoning, concepts and procedures, and problem solving and modeling/data analysis in math.

But there are only three achievement levels listed for the subcategories and they don’t include any scores or show how students compared to others statewide. These levels are above standard, at or near standard, or below standard.

Mafi said the “at or near standard” level is so broad that it’s difficult to interpret.

“As a parent, it’s very challenging,” she said. “We’re doing a cover letter to our parents to explain that this is a new test. We don’t know a lot about it yet. In the interim, we’re still doing classroom assessments and district-wide assessments.”

In addition to student score reports in English, the state is providing districts with a two-page guide to the scores available in English, Spanish and nine other languages, including two versions of Chinese. Sample letters that could be sent out with the reports in English and Spanish are also available.

However, these documents merely explain the contents of the report, without going into details about the tests themselves. To give parents a better idea of the kinds of questions their children were asked, the state Department of Education teamed up with the California PTA to create parent guides in English that explain elementary, middle and high school results.

The GreatSchools organization has also created an interactive online tool called the GreatKids California State Test Guide for Parents at that explains the Common Core standards assessed on the tests for grades 3-8, available in English or Spanish. Bill Jackson, chief executive officer for GreatSchools, said his organization created guides for every state that is administering Common Core-aligned tests to help parents understand what the scores mean and how they can help their children improve.

“You can see the kinds of questions the test used to assess your kid,” he said, adding that parents can help build their children’s skills and knowledge in everyday interactions with them.

For example, if children didn’t meet 8th grade reading standards, the guide advises parents to have discussions with them about books, films or magazines and to work on building their academic vocabularies. It also recommends talking about students’ skills with teachers to identify strengths and weaknesses and to ask about how to help.

But in some districts, such as Fresno Unified, parents may not receive their reports in time to discuss them at parent teacher conferences. The first quarter ends Oct. 9 and elementary parent conferences will take place from Oct. 12-23.

Fresno Unified spokesman Jedidiah Chernabaeff  said the district plans to send the reports out sometime this month, but he could not confirm whether parents would receive them before the conferences. Students in the district scored well below the state average, with fewer than 30 percent meeting or exceeding goals in math and English language arts.

Superintendent Michael Hanson said last month that the state’s delay in sending out the reports hindered the district’s ability to effectively explain scores to parents before their children started the new school year.

“The primary use should be so we can help a student understand where they are and to help a teacher understand that,” Hanson said, after the state released district and school results Sept. 9. “For us not to be able to communicate that – that’s a problem.”

Theresa Harrington covers Common Core for EdSource.




2cents_thumb I can understand the frustration.  Part of the Smarter Balanced/CAASPP promise was that these scores would be timely and usable by teachers+schools  during the school year …not after-the-fact as the STAR test scores were.

“Districts had received the scores electronically earlier, but not the more detailed printed reports which explain to parents what the scores mean. The reports were prepared and mailed to districts by the Education Testing Service, which administered the new Common Core-aligned tests. Once they receive them, districts have the responsibility to mail them to parents.”  There are multiple levels of muddle/middlemen inserted here – including  ETS, Aspire Charter Schools and - that add delay and cost and confusion to the process. The intent to mail results all at once is laudible but totally unimportant. CDE should mail to parents+schools direct when the scores are available.

Finally, this year’s scores – the article itself says it was “a practice test” - were benchmark scores – used to calibrate the tests and detect anomalies, outliers and testing+process error. Because of this the actual tests themselves were substantially different from the real tests which roll out next year.

Hopefully with results delivered  in a timely manner.

Saturday, October 03, 2015


Posted  by LA School Report |

school report buzzOctober 2, 2015 2:39 pm  ::  UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl released a 12-minute video on YouTube today in which he asks members to vote for a dues increase.

According to Caputo-Pearl, the union has not updated its dues structure since its inception 45 years ago, which now “literally threatens the future of UTLA.”

In the video, Caputo-Pearl points out that UTLA’s monthly fees are lower than other large teacher unions in the country and lower than most other teacher unions in the state.

The video also includes a humorous reference to former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned a year ago. Deasy and Caputo-Pearl locked horns frequently, but now Deasy is working at the Broad Center, and its affiliated Broad Foundation is currently developing a plan to expand charter schools in the district to include half of all students.

Caputo-Pearl claims in the video that UTLA has confirmed that Deasy is, in fact, the architect of the plan, which was outlined in a 48-page draft report. Caputo-Pearl calls this the “reanimation” of Deasy. Reanimation? Is that a reference to the 80s cult classic film, “Re-Animator“?

reanimator_1024x1024The film is about a doctor who discovers how to bring corpses back from the dead. Using the film as a metaphor, it certainly shows the ironic position Caputo-Pearl finds himself in. He helped chase Deasy out of the district, which he hailed as a “victory” for UTLA. But now Deasy is arguably in a much more powerful position as he allegedly orchestrates a plan that would wipe out half of the jobs of UTLA members.

As the trailer for the film says, “Once you wake up the dead, you’ve got a real mess on your hands.”

Check out the full UTLA video below.

A Call for a Californian

LA Unified is currently in a hot search for a new superintendent and is already receiving applications and putting together a list of potential candidates. As the district contemplates what kind of superintendent it wants, the union that represents its principals, the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), has an interesting request: make sure he or she is from California.

The opening of AALA’s latest newsletter reads: “The time has come for the District’s next superintendent to be from California! The previous superintendents from Florida, Colorado, Virginia, and Prince George’s County [MD] have produced a mixed-bag of results for the District at best! Besides, the proof is in the pudding with Superintendent Cortines. This is his third tour of duty with the Los Angeles Unified School District and, by all accounts and Google searches, he is a Californian!” (follows)

Just simply finding any qualified candidate, let alone one with as specific a credential as where they grew up, has proven to be a challenge for LAUSD in the past. As one district staffer told LA School Report a year ago when Deasy stepped down, “The truth is there aren’t a lot of superintendents out there who have run any government agency of this size. That leaves LAUSD with a very short list of candidates with actual experience.”

Then there is Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, who said back then: “I don’t know a single person on earth who would want that terrible job. It won’t be a change agent. It will be a status quo candidate who will make life pleasant for himself by enjoying all the wrapping of the superintendency and being smart enough not to try and change a thing.”

Certainly there must be at least one Californian out there fitting that criteria.

image image

OCT 1 MARKED BEGINNING OF APPLICATION PROCESS FOR LAUSD MAGNET SCHOOLS AND OTHER EDUCATIONAL CHOICES; Process ends Nov 13. Magnets currently+historically outperform other school options – including charters!

by Daryl Strickland | LAUSD Daily |

Apply for popular magnet schools and other educational choices starting today


Oct 1, 2015  ::   Beginning today, the Los Angeles Unified School District will begin accepting applications for the popular magnet program.

This process, known as eChoices, which starts today and ends Nov. 13, provides parents with more options for educating their child. For nearly 40 years, the magnet school and Permits with Transportation programs have proven popular among families living within District boundaries and looking for educational options.

Magnet schools offer different themes, such as business, dual languages, International Baccalaureate, liberal or performing arts, gifted or enriched studies, allowing students to focus on particular academic interests. Student enrollment in k-12 has grown steadily, along with the number of magnets. Roughly, 200 schools operate in the District, with plans to open more in the coming year.

“Our magnet schools highlight innovation, personalized pathways, and choice opportunities for integration across the city of Los Angeles,” said Dr. Frances Gipson, Local District Superintendent-East.

The magnets have been outperforming other school options in standardized test scores, including the most recent results. Moreover, since 1986, the state Department of Education has named 78 magnet schools as California Distinguished Schools. In addition, the federal government has honored 14 other magnets with National Blue Ribbon School status.

Another educational opportunity for families is the Permits with Transportation program. This allows Hispanic, black, Asian and other students of color to attend an integrated campus, with District-provided bus transportation if the child lives more than two-miles from the school. Also, white students have an opportunity to voluntarily attend a school that are predominately Hispanic, black, Asian and other non-Anglo schools.

This weekend, Local District-East has organized a Magnet School Fair that expects to draw large numbers of parents considering their options. Each school will have representatives attending the event to meet families, and to answer questions.

“Together, magnet coordinators and their school communities have organized our local magnet fair to assist our families in knowing about choices in our community,” Gipson said. “These schools reflect personalized choices for learning and engagement,” she said.

To apply for the programs, go to the eChoices website [] and fill out an application, or call Student Integration Services with questions at (213) 241-4177.



Howard Blume

by Howard Blume, LA Times |


Arne Duncan

WHY ARE THESE MEN SMILING?: Former L.A. Unified schools Supt. John Deasy, left, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan listen to a reading class at Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy in Los Angeles in 2014. Duncan is stepping down from his post in December.  (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Oct 2, 2015  6:59 PM  ::  Arne Duncan, who on Friday announced he will step down as U.S. Secretary of Education in December, had a sometimes stormy relationship with California, despite its status as a stronghold of support for Democrats and the Obama administration.

An early conflict was the state’s effort to secure grants through Duncan’s signature Race to the Top effort. States competed for the funds based on their willingness to pursue reforms favored by the U.S. Department of Education. The sticking point for California was that states had to agree to a teacher evaluation system based, in part, on measures such as student standardized test scores. In addition, state teachers unions had to sign on to a state’s application.

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, supported the requirements but could not secure agreement from teachers unions. The state’s application was downgraded as a result and other states got the money.

Other elements of Duncan’s push for major policy change included increasing the number of charter schools. Charters are independently managed and exempt from some rules that govern traditional public campuses. Duncan also promoted aggressive school “turnarounds,” which in many places meant replacing the entire staff at a school or closing a traditional school, with its union-represented workforce, and replacing it with a non-union charter school.

Duncan’s department had a huge influence in shaping education policy because it used grants to fill a vacuum left by Congress, whose members could not agree on education policies.

Both support and criticism for Duncan’s actions crossed party lines. Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican presidential candidate, opined that he’d be willing to keep Duncan on the job in a Republican White House. Meanwhile, Duncan's staunchest critics included teachers unions, a critical Democratic constituency.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will step down in December

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will step down in December >

California Gov. Jerry Brown came into office as an ally of teachers unions and a skeptic of many reforms he regarded as faddish and unproven. His administration resisted federal conditions for certain grants and refused to bend when Duncan wanted the state to continue using old state standardized tests until new ones were ready. In that resistance, Brown was joined by majorities in the state Legislature and by Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who also had political support from teachers unions.

California’s issues with Duncan were related not only to test scores and teacher evaluations, said Michael W. Kirst, president of the state Board of Education. Duncan wanted states to exert more authority over local school systems at a time when the state was trying to be less heavy-handed, to promote creative solutions at the local level, Kirst said.

Allies of Duncan, meanwhile, were concerned that local control in California would equate to tolerating poor academic achievement.

In contrast to California — and in exchange for federal money — many states quickly embraced Duncan’s reform agenda, which also had support from major philanthropies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Unable to move state government in Sacramento, advocates in California sometimes turned to the courts instead. In 2014, they won a ruling that overturned traditional teacher job protections such as tenure rights and layoffs based on seniority. At the time, Duncan said the court’s decision represented an opportunity “to build a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students’ rights ... while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve.”

The group that brought the case, Vergara vs. California, lauded Duncan on Friday.

“Secretary Duncan refused to turn a blind eye to broken systems that chronically fail the students in our country already struggling through poverty and violence outside of school,” said Manny Rivera, a spokesman for the advocacy group Students Matter. “Secretary Duncan spurred states to take action to elevate the quality and equity of America’s public schools.”

Brown is appealing the Vergara ruling, in conjunction with the state’s two largest teachers unions.

Praise for Duncan also came from the Broad Foundation, which has circulated a plan to enroll half the students from L.A. Unified in charters over the next eight years.

"Secretary Duncan has done a remarkable job,” said Paul Pastorek, co-executive director of the foundation. Duncan, he said, “was relentless in focusing on reducing the number of chronically low-achieving schools.”

On some matters, California political leaders proved to be welcome allies for Duncan and vice versa.

When a nationwide recession gripped California, forcing staggering cutbacks in state government spending, school districts were poised for draconian budget slashing. Federal economic stimulus money prevented deep cutbacks from becoming cataclysmic, according to both supporters and critics of Duncan.

And California, in turn, proved fertile ground for the new learning goals called the Common Core, which were developed with substantial federal assistance. California also agreed to take part in new standardized tests that are based on the Common Core learning targets.

The tests, and even the learning goals themselves, have been increasingly debated. Texas and seven other states never approved, or backed away from, the Common Core. In New York, about 20% of parents refused to let their children take the new tests, which could compromise their statistical validity.

"Some of his policies were not a good fit for California and some were,” Kirst said.

In Los Angeles, Duncan was cautiously allied with opponents of the teachers union on policy. He repeatedly praised former Supt. John Deasy as one of the nation’s top superintendents. But Duncan also tried to avoid picking fights -- he also praised current Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who has a better rapport with employee unions.

Duncan also gave L.A. Unified valuable relief from the outdated federal No Child Left Behind Law. That law imposed penalties on districts that could not reach unrealistic achievement targets. The administration only relaxed these punitive measures when states agreed to meet certain federal conditions. Duncan could not agree on terms with California, and he began to work instead with a group of California districts that included L.A. Unified. Duncan ultimately granted these districts a waiver from No Child Left Behind, which returned control of millions of dollars annually to these schools systems.

Both for L.A. Unified and the nation as a whole, Duncan was an enormously positive force, said Deasy, who called Duncan the "most consequential secretary of education ever."

"He had a huge imprint on the education landscape, especially for youth in poverty," Deasy said. "He was unflinching on high expectations for all."

Deasy also praised Duncan's interim successor, John King, who is a deputy secretary in the Education Department.

Valerie Strauss describes John King’s stormy tenure as State Commissioner of Education in Néw York: “If you thought Arne Duncan was controversial, meet his successor” | The Washington Post |

"No better person to follow and lead the department," Deasy said. "Between his own personal story and leadership experiences, the department and the youth of the country are in very, very good hands."

King previously was commissioner of New York's state education department and also co-founded a charter school. His time in New York was marked by controversy over the pace at which he moved the state to the Common Core. Critics also faulted him for immediately linking teacher evaluations to tests based on the new learning standards.

"New York wanted to be first to show that high-stakes testing was the policy of the country, and John King wanted to make sure that New York was first," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "It had a terrible polarizing effect.”

She said she also worried that King would continue along Duncan’s ideological path, including his preference for spurring the growth of charters, which she said has become a dangerous “magic bullet” strategy in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, leader of L.A.'s teachers union, had a negative appraisal of Duncan, including the secretary's support for charter schools. Caputo-Pearl sides with those who say that many charters try to exclude students who are more difficult and expensive to educate.

"He expanded the number of schools that don’t play by the same rules in terms of serving students," Caputo-Pearl said. "He also increased the amount of time spent on testing rather than learning. And he contributed to the philosophy that you should run schools like a business, and the idea that test scores are the bottom line."

In recent years, as a backlash developed against some of Duncan’s favored reform strategies, he eased his insistence on some of them. He began speaking more about gauging student achievement through measures other than test scores or, at least, through measures in addition to test scores.

“His position really evolved over time,” said Dale Russakoff, who has written a book on how these favored reforms were pursued in the Newark, N.J., school system. “He came in with this idea of Race to the Top, that had very prescriptive changes that every state would make. But he moderated his viewpoint. It says something about the whole reform movement: There was an attitude of, ‘We know what works’ that has evolved to incorporating more of the perspective of teachers, parents and community groups.”