Thursday, November 27, 2014

NCTQ: NATIONAL COUNCIL ON THANKSGIVING QUALITY (Part I) …and Yes, Virginia, there is a part II + III

from  NCTQ - reblogged by from Diane Ravitch's blog

Who We Are: 

We are a bi-partisan, not-for-profit established to reform current Thanksgiving Dinners.  We believe that every child deserves a high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner, and we advocate for raising standards and ensuring best Thanksgiving practices for all children in the United States.  We are supported by for-profit groups that seek to change the Thanksgiving-Industrial-Complex in a manner that moves profit from individual Thanksgiving laborers (your moms & dads, grandparents, and aunts & uncles) to shareholders who will standardize Thanksgiving Dinners, so they can all be considered highly effective.  Our board members combined have hundreds of years of experience in eating Thanksgiving Dinners, and thus they are experts.*


Why Our Work Matters:

No one would deny that every child deserves a high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner.  Literally millions of dollars are spent each year on Thanksgiving Dinners, and yet there is little tangible research pointing to the best ways to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner.  We seek to address this gap.  We also seek to report on the quality of Thanksgiving Dinners currently being offered to the nation’s children.  We already know that compared to other nations, American Thanksgiving Dinners are low quality.**  In fact, everyone really knows this, right?  We mean, come on: this fact is reported endlessly by the press, repeated constantly by politicians, and it’s denied by your moms, dads, and other family members.  Do we really have to provide evidence here?  Really?  You may like your own family’s Thanksgiving Dinner, but you know in your heart that the Thanksgiving Dinners of others in this country are of shamefully low quality.  Especially when compared to the Thanksgiving Dinners of other nations, as stated above.

We are also pleased to announce NCTQ’s not-for-profit partner, Thanksgiving For America (TFA), which uses government and private donations to replace moms and dads with elite college graduates with high grade point averages who will cook Thanksgiving Dinner for families in high-needs neighborhoods.  TFA offers a highly-intensive, 45-minute Thanksgiving Dinner training course, so you can be sure they will bring best practices to their cooking.***

(Continued in next post )

Remember, when you think NCTQ, think ‘Turkey”!
Footnotes, because there have to be footnotes.

* Few of our experts have actually cooked Thanksgiving Dinners, but they have read a lot of recipes.

** Other nations do not celebrate Thanksgiving, so we substituted other national holidays for the purposes of this report; thus, our research compares turkey to goat; dressing to Koshari; green beans to Jiaozi; and, apples to oranges. Note also, that in many other nations, only the food of the very wealthy was reported; thus the average American family’s Thanksgiving meal was compared to the holiday meals of the highest classes of other nations.  The gaps in quality between the meals we researched from other nations and US Thanksgiving Dinners was highly significant.

*** TFA fellows will use the kitchens and foods available in the host family’s kitchen.  If there is no stove, the dinner will be served cold.  If there no food, dinner will be replaced with standardized Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation™



Mary Plummer | KPCC 89.3 |

71089 full

File: Advanced violin students play their instruments at San Fernando Elementary. Ken Scarboro/KPCC

Audio from this story  ::  0:50 Listen

27 November 2104  ::  House of Blues has a holiday treat for budding musicians: its nonprofit foundation is handing out free instruments to students.

The campaign, known as "Give Music," is in its second year. Organizers expect this year to distribute about 350 instruments to aspiring musicians age 10 to 22.

"This program in particular is meeting the need to provide the opportunity for young musicians to practice or play music when they're not in school," said Nazanin Fatemian, program manager with the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation.  

RELATED: Outside funding brings 600 new instruments to LA schools

The musical instrument giveaway got its start when staffers noticed students in the foundation's school day programs didn't have enough time with instruments to practice what they learned. Organizers hope that if students practice at home with their own instruments, they will make real progress in their music and fully develop as performers.

House of Blues Music Forward Foundation is on track to help about 15,000 students in Southern California this school year through its music education programs.

Students can apply for a free instrument by visiting the foundation's website and writing a short essay for a chance to win. The deadline to apply is Dec. 5 and instruments will be delivered in January.

The public can also make a donation to support the campaign. Organizers say 100 percent of donations go directly towards purchasing instruments for students

from the HOB Music Forward Foundation website| :

What’s your musical wish?

This holiday season, we are partnering with friends and supporters around the country to give music to inspiring young musicians.

Here’s how it works: Do you need an instrument so you can practice, play, gig, jam, break-it-down, swing, groove or shred? Make a wish!

Tell us your wish in your own words (500 words or less). Start with: “Dear House of Blues…”

Need some ideas? Tell us why you love music. Share how this instrument would help bring music into your life. How would the instrument help you in the future?

If you are selected to receive an instrument, we’ll notify you and match your wish to the House of Blues community nearest you. Instruments will be given away at special receptions in January.

Opportunity is open to youth ages 10-22 who are currently enrolled in school. Applications must be postmarked or submitted online by November 30, 2014. Funds raised for Give Music will provide musical instruments and musical accessories only. Submitting a letter does not guarantee selection. Instruments will be delivered in January 2015.

Make Musical Wish Online Make Musical Wish By Mail

© 2014 • House of Blues Music Forward Foundation


from PBS  NewsHour |

2cents small  I monitor a lot of media in compiling 4LAKids – but my ‘go-to’ primary sources are The LA Times and NPR and PBS. When Times education reporter Howard Blume appears on on PBS NewsHour I pay particular attention. When the combined effort moves the LAUSD MiSiS Crisis to a “Disaster” I cannot help but consider that gospel.  Can 60 Minutes not be far behind? 

With Miramonte + iPads + MiSiS LAUSD could be the subject for an entire program – if not a season of 60 Minutes. Where is Mile Wallace when we need him?

November 26, 2014 at 6:15 PM EST  ::  A new student record system adopted by the Los Angeles Unified School District has caused chaos for kids, teachers and administrators. Kindergarteners were accidentally enrolled at high schools, while hundreds of older students spent weeks without class schedules. Judy Woodruff learns more from Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times.


JUDY WOODRUFF: This has been a very rough year for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Its new system for storing important student records like attendance, grades and test scores has not been working at all in many cases. It’s led to a chaotic fall for many of the 650,000-plus students.

Kindergartners were actually — were accidentally enrolled at, yes, high schools. Hundreds of students spent weeks without class schedules. The school board has replaced the district superintendent.

While the problem is particularly bad in L.A., it’s a cautionary tale for other school systems that struggle with coordinating large populations too.

I spoke about this recently with Howard Blume. He’s an education reporter at The Los Angeles Times.

Welcome, Howard Blume.

First of all, why did the L.A. school system need or want a new computer system and what was it supposed to do?

HOWARD BLUME, The Los Angeles Times: Well, they did need a new computer system, both — for a number of reasons.

One, it all began over a lawsuit over services to disabled students. They were essentially losing disabled students in the system and not keeping track of what their disabilities were and what special help they needed.

So, that was one issue. But then they realized as they got into this they needed a better tracking system and record system for all students, and they decided to try to do that. And it makes sense if you think about when the different departments switched from paper to computer, every department had its own system, they didn’t talk to each other. The systems are now old.

And we want to systems to do more than they used to do. So, like, for example, you want to find out if a student’s missing homework will turn into truancies, will turn into a dropout, so you can do all sorts of things with technology if you have the right technology working in the right way.

So it’s definitely a direction everyone wants to go in. It just didn’t work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you say, technology is supposed to be able to figure all this out, but it malfunctioned. What exactly went wrong?

HOWARD BLUME: What went wrong was lots of things.

Inadequate staffing, inadequate funding, inadequate planning, inadequate oversight — the system was just not ready. It was not able to bring all the information into it. It was taking information that was right and corrupting it. So students were getting wrong GPAs. They were getting classes they’d already taken. They were not getting the classes they needed to graduate or go to college.

The attendance accounting was wrong. There really wasn’t much that actually was working right. And something like this, you have to do a lot of things right and you have to move a little slowly if you need to and you have to test it, and you have to have some sort of independent voice to say, stop, if you need to say stop and slow down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It does sound like a nightmare.

Were students’ educations actually disrupted by this, or is this just a matter of delays and inconvenience?

HOWARD BLUME: Well, they were disrupted because, when you think about it, if you have a student getting their schedule right two-and-a-half months into the school year, that’s just a delay. That’s a disruption to their education.

And if they were taking — if they were supposed to be in a calculus class and they get in there two-and-a-half months after the start of the year, they are now behind and probably in trouble. If they needed a class to apply for college, if they needed a class to graduate, those are serious issues.

It got — those are the serious issues. They’re also comical issues, like in the elementary schools, they were bringing stacks of paper to school so that they could record this information by hand on paper, because they couldn’t do it on a computer anymore. But in some ways, it approached farce.

But there were definitely serious implications for students. And the district itself, its funding is based on accurate attendance accounting. So, if you can’t keep track of who’s in class, then the district itself won’t get the money it needs to continue operations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we reported, the former superintendent was asked to resign. He is gone. But what else is being done to fix this? How are they trying to get things back on track now?

HOWARD BLUME: Well, they have brought in experts from Microsoft, because the original software for the system goes back to Microsoft, and they’re working out a contract there. They have brought in retired administrators and counselors and sent them out to schools to try to get students’ records straight, and they’re focusing first on high school seniors who are most at risk of not being able to apply to college or not being able to graduate on time.

So they’re sending out an army of retired people, and they’re just — all hands on deck are trying to figure this problem. It is going to take, they estimate, more than a year to fix it and probably a lot of money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the lesson here though for other school systems around the country that, as you told us, may also be looking to update their data systems, their computer systems?


Everybody really has to do this. And once the system, if they ever get it working right, it will do some really great things. You will be able to track all the elements of a school child’s life and, of course, because of that, you also need privacy protections.

But the goal is that you can get students on the right program with the right help. But the key thing here is to make sure that you don’t unplug your backup system or your old system before you turn on the new system and figure out what’s going wrong. That’s one thing. You want to start off small and work out the bugs.

You need a little bit of distance and have some independent oversight, and make sure you’re fully staffed, that people are trained in how to use the system and that they get the help they need. Those are some of the lessons learned. And these things are expensive. If you do this — if you try to do this on the cheap or if you try to do it too fast, you are likely going to run into problems.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I have a feeling that people running school systems all over the country are watching this very closely.

Howard Blume with The Los Angeles Times, we thank you.

HOWARD BLUME: Happy to do it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle |

Updated 2:54 pm, Tuesday, November 25, 2014  ::  After 11 months of negotiations, the San Francisco Unified School District and the United Educators of San Francisco have agreed on a tentative contract that would give teachers and teaching assistants a 12 percent raise over three years.

The raises are among the largest recently agreed to for any urban school district in California, according to Superintendent Richard Carranza.

“To ensure our students get the education they need to be successful, we must invest in the people who are charged with teaching and supporting them in the classroom,” Carranza said.

Most beginning teachers now make $50,000 per year for 184 workdays. Once the raise is in full effect after three years, the starting salary would be around $56,300. The current salary for a teacher with average tenure — 12 years — is $69,135. In three years a teacher with 12 years of experience will be making almost $78,000 under the contract.

The contract will give educators “a fighting chance to stay, live and work in San Francisco,” said Dennis Kelly, who heads up the teachers union.

This deal “does not settle the problems we have with teachers staying in San Francisco,” he said. “But it helps. It helps very much.”

The tentative agreement also provides additional compensation for teaching assistants, known as paraprofessionals, most of whom work directly with students with special needs. Under the deal, paraprofessionals will receive the same 12 percent over three years as the teachers. In addition paraprofessionals with more than eight years in the district — about 70 percent — would get an extra 3 percent, bringing their three-year salary increase to 15 percent.

In addition to the salary increases, the agreement includes a significant increase in elementary teacher preparation time that includes time for teachers to collaborate and develop personalized instruction for every student. Prep time for elementary school teachers within the workday will jump from 60 minutes per week to 150 minutes per week.

The SFUSD Board of Education will vote on the agreement at an upcoming meeting. San Francisco teachers will vote on the tentative agreement by mail, with ballots due by Dec. 11, 2014. If everything goes as planned, the raises, which are retroactive to July 1, will show up in paychecks before the end of the year.

The union and the administrators reached an impasse in June, which led to mediation. But Kelly said that it was really when the mediator “stepped away” that progress was made. “You don’t solve these things through a mediator. You solve them by talking,” he said. “All in all this was a long road, but it was a fruitful road.”

Kelly said the union set out with three goals: a double-digit salary increase, extra raises for the paraprofessionals, and more preparation time for elementary school teachers. Originally Kelly had hoped to get 20 percent in raises.

Sandra Fewer, president of the Board of Education, said she was “relieved that (the tentative agreement) was done before the end of the year so that our employees can have a nice holiday. We get e-mails daily from teachers about this contract. Now they can concentrate on enjoying the end of the year.”

The contract agreement was announced at Francisco Middle School in North Beach. Patrick Whelly, a paraprofessional at the school who happened to be walking through the school yard during the announcement, was pleasantly surprised by the announcement. He said paraprofessionals have historically felt “underrepresented by the union.”

“Most people who work as paraprofessionals have other jobs to supplement their income,” he said. “This will help out a little bit.”


For LAUSD, more Chromebooks, iPads means more confusion

by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report |


Posted on November 25, 2014 4:41 pm  ::  While LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines was pretty clear on how he expected it to proceed, others in the district are not so sure.

Superintendent Deasy

“Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.”

Boardmember Zimmer

“[The Apple/Pearson/LAUSD contract] was absolutely cancelled. The resumption of the iPad contract, as it was, will never get through the Board of Education.”

Facilities Director Hovatter

“There was never any cancellation of a contract, and the contract was never suspended.”

stother martin in cool hand luke

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

The district’s Chief Facilities Director says the choice of devices might not be so wide as Cortines suggested, and at least one board member is uncertain how it will all play out.Last week Cortines gave the go-ahead to spend capital improvement funds to outfit 27 schools with tablet devices and 21 schools with laptops — the so-called Phase 2B. The so-called Phase 2A authorized devices for 11 schools.

In a written statement, Cortines said school principals “will be key in determining which educational tools are best for their school communities” and added that this round would include “more options than previous phases.”

But Mark Hovatter, the facilities director whose department oversees the procurement of devices, says school leaders will only have two choices: iPads pre-loaded with Pearson curriculum or Chromebooks with content developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Those are the only two that are within the budget that the board has authorized,” Hovatter told LA School Report. “They already approved Phase 2B under that contract.”

The board approved expanding the iPad program in January, allocating $114 million to the project. Under the existing contract the price tag on each Apple tablet is about $780 with all the bells and whistles, including a nearly indestructible protective case and keyboard. A Chromebook is about $100 dollars cheaper.

But how can iPads be part of the deal if the district’s contract with Apple was halted by former superintendent John Deasy?

Never happened, said Hovatter.

“There was never any cancellation of a contract, and the contract was never suspended,” he said. “We just made the determination not to place an order against that contract.”

That is a difficult position for board member Steve Zimmer to square. “It was absolutely cancelled,” he told LA School Report.

In August, Deasy said he was halting the iPad program and the corresponding deal with Apple and Pearson, amid questions about the bidding process.

At the time, Deasy told the school board, “Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.…Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology.”

For Zimmer, Deasy’s actions indisputably put an end to the deal with the companies. Furthermore, Zimmer added, “the resumption of the iPad contract, as it was, will never get through the Board of Education.”

Beyond that, Zimmer says he doesn’t believe the Pearson curriculum actually exists.

“Until I have it in front of me, until I see it demonstrated with a real child at every grade level, then the Pearson curriculum does not exist,” he said. “I have never seen it. I have never held it. I have never seen a child use it.”

But Hovatter contends that without any action by the board, the contract remains in place.

“The board never made the decision not to move forward, it was the [former] Superintendent who made that decision,” he said.

“If there had been a board action that had directed us not to move forward then of course, we would have to go back to the board” for approval to continue under the existing contracts, he added.

In other words, Cortines is not required to return to the board for another round of approval. That means Zimmer, other board members, or principals and teachers who had hoped for a better deal or different type of device, will have to wait a little longer.

The district intends to re-open the bidding process to new vendors and curriculum developers for Phase 3 of the one-to-one program. A timeline for that has yet to be determined.

The Common Core Technology Project team is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the rollout and set a timeline for the project.


2cents small The Board of Education meets on Tuesday.


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

Posted: 11/25/14, 7:25 PM PST | Updated: 11/26.14 ::  Before leaving Los Angeles Unified School District, former Superintendent John Deasy racked up credit card charges on more than 30 business trips, including visits to East Coast cities and dinner at a swanky steakhouse, according to media reports.

Deasy, who stepped down last month under scrutiny over technology blunders affecting classes for thousands of students, traveled more than 100,000 miles last year, visiting New York and Washington. D.C., five times each, according to an analysis of travel records by KPCC.

While a family-run philanthropic organization, the Wasserman Foundation, will pick up most of the charges, Supt. Ramon Cortines suspended travel last month after learning his predecessor and 25 high-level administrators traveled to Milwaukee for the Council of Great City Schools’ fall conference.

“I can’t imagine in good conscious how you could leave when Rome is burning,” Cortines said when he suspended all travel for the district.

Deasy’s Milwaukee trip occurred as Los Angeles Unified was scrambling to fix problems caused by Deasy’s decision to launch a new record-keeping system, MiSiS, before it was ready.

Transcripts, reports cards, attendance and other crucial records were crippled by the faulty system, which still needs to be fixed as the district gets ready for the start of a new semester. Students were stranded in auditoriums and the wrong classes at the start of the school year when the program failed to correctly enroll and schedule pupils.

Deasy did not return calls for comment on Tuesday. He remains on the district’s payroll, under “special assignment,” because the school board secretively struck a deal for his departure on Oct. 14.

Deasy’s expenses will be mostly or entirely paid for by the Wasserman Foundation. According to tax filings, the organization donated $1 million to the district and $875,000 to the LAUSD Educational Foundation in 2012.

The Wasserman Foundation did not return requests for comment.

Deasy charged the cost of flights, hotel rooms, meals and ground transportation for visits to Aspen, Austin, Birmingham and Boston, among other locations, KPCC reported.

In August 2013, Deasy booked tickets to Washington, D.C., New York, Pittsburgh and Albuquerque. His restaurant bills totaled $630 for the month, including a $250 charge at Fleming’s Steakhouse.

L.A. UNIFIED ADOPTS FREE HISTORY CURRICULUM FROM STANFORD UNIVERSITY: New history curriculum turns students into sleuths, not passive recipients of a lecture

By Teresa Watanabe, LA Times |

Stanford history curriculum at L.A. Unified

Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times: At Venice High, Daniel Buccieri's 10th grade students said their teacher's approach has completely changed their attitude toward history.

Novv 26, 2014  ::  Venice High sophomore Vanessa Pepperdine had always hated history class: the dry lectures, the boring textbooks, the forgettable factoids about famous dead people.

"You just read out of the textbook, and it wasn't interesting," Vanessa said.

But during a recent period of World History, Vanessa and her classmates were engaged in excited discussion about the 1896 Battle of Adwa between Ethiopia and Italy. Their teacher, Daniel Buccieri, showed them an illustration of the event and peppered them with questions.

Who do you think won? How do the American and Ethiopian accounts differ and why? How was Ethiopia able to defeat Italy in this pushback of European imperialism?

With that, the students became sleuthing historians in search of truth rather than passive recipients of a droning lecture.

That's the aim of a free, online Stanford University curriculum that is picking up steam nationally as educators grapple with widespread evidence of historical illiteracy among U.S. students.

Only about a third of Los Angeles Unified School District high schoolers were proficient on state standardized U.S. and world history tests last year; nationally, 12% were proficient in U.S. history in the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

L.A. Unified became the curriculum's largest booster this year when it signed an 18-month, $140,000 contract with the Stanford History Education Group for training and collaborating on more lesson plans. So far, 385 teachers and administrators — including about 40% of the social science instructors in the nation's second-largest school system — have attended Stanford-led workshops this year.

Nationally, the curriculum has been downloaded 1.7 million times by educators in all 50 states since the program was launched in 2009.

As the teaching of history comes under national scrutiny, with critics attacking the new Advanced Placement U.S. history guidelines as anti-American, the Stanford program takes no sides. With more than 100 ready-made lesson plans covering a range of U.S. and world events, the curriculum features a central historical question and provides primary documents for students to use in shaping their own answers, backed by evidence.

Was ancient Athens truly democratic? Were the "Dark Ages" really dark? Why did Chinese students support the Cultural Revolution? Did Abraham Lincoln actually believe in racial equality? What made the Vietnam War so contentious?

"This overturns the traditional textbook," said Sam Wineburg, the Stanford education professor whose research more than two decades ago laid the groundwork for the approach. "Students explore questions with original documents and cultivate a sense of literacy and how to develop sound judgment."

Stanford history curriculum at L.A. Unified

Michael Jamar attends a history class at Venice High. Only about a third of L.A. Unified high schoolers were proficient on state standardized U.S. and world history tests last year. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In a 2001 book, Wineburg argued that students must be trained to question history in order to understand it, just as professionals do; the curriculum is called "Reading Like a Historian." The ability to question the credibility of information and its sources, he said, is critically relevant in today's digital age — judging claims, for instance, that President Obama was born in Kenya.

The Stanford group has also developed free assessments, more than 65 so far, that gauge mastery of the targeted skills through short essay questions rather than traditional multiple-choice tests. In a test run five years ago, 236 students in five San Francisco high schools using the curriculum outperformed peers in factual knowledge and reading comprehension compared with those in traditional classes, Wineburg said.

For school systems such as L.A. Unified, the curriculum came at an opportune time — just as the district is shifting to new learning standards known as Common Core. The standards focus on cultivating such skills as reading complex texts and integrating and evaluating information from multiple sources.

"The Stanford curriculum aligns almost perfectly with Common Core," said Kieley Jackson, a district coordinator of social science curriculum.

Not all teachers have embraced the lessons. Some say they take too long, typically four days, although Stanford trainers say they can be adapted for one or two. Others say they are short on content. And some instructors prefer their approach of lectures and textbooks. Only about a quarter of social science teachers at Hollywood High use the curriculum, said Neil Fitzpatrick, the department chair.

But Fitzpatrick and many of the 60 colleagues who attended a training this month praised the curriculum and shared ideas on how they modified it — actions that Stanford fully supports — with bingo games, film clips, Play-Doh, poetry, poster sets, Google images.

Buccieri, of Venice High, said he added the Italian perspective of the Battle of Adwa to further enrich the lesson. He said he began incorporating elements of Wineburg's approach after reading his book more than a decade ago and found the Stanford curriculum on his own four years ago.

"History isn't a set of answers I'm passing down to kids," he said. "It's more a set of questions and problems. To me, that's more exciting."

Many students seem to agree. Michael Corley, a history teacher at Polytechnic High in Sun Valley, said nearly 90% of about 100 students he polled preferred the Stanford curriculum over their textbook.

Students don't feel they can argue with the textbook, he said. But using the Stanford lesson on Prohibition to debate why the 18th Amendment banning alcohol was adopted and evaluating perspectives about it from a medical doctor, anti-saloon activist and children's rights advocate? Now that excites them, he said.

He added that the Stanford curriculum seems to especially engage boys, perhaps by appealing to their competitive "gamer mentality," and said his students who typically earn Cs and Ds also do well because the lessons spark their interest. "You can see what they're truly capable of," he said.

At Venice High, Buccieri's 10th grade students said their teacher's approach has completely changed their attitude toward history.

Rosio Salas said she had 10 substitutes in one year who did nothing but assign textbook readings and worksheets. She didn't remember anything she learned. "You just did it because you had to do it."

Now, students say history is exciting. They understand it. They even remember it — as classmate James Gregorio proved by explaining that a Serbian terrorist's assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria ignited World War I.

"You're not just sitting there having to listen to him," sophomore Drew Anderson said. "You get to figure things out for yourself."


STANFORD HISTORY EDUCATION GROUP > Home > Curriculum > Reading Like A Historian |

Reading Like A Historian

The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities.

This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues. They learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence.

How do I use these lessons in my classroom?

The 73 lessons in the U.S. curriculum, initial 31 lessons of the world curriculum, and 5 lessons in the introduction to historical unit can be taught in succession. But these lessons are designed to stand alone and supplement what teachers are already doing in their classrooms. Most lessons take a full class period, though some extend over several. The U.S. and world history lessons generally follow a three-part structure:

1) Establish relevant background knowledge and pose the central historical question. Each lesson approaches background knowledge differently. For some, we've designed PowerPoints, in others we use a video clip from United Streaming* to establish historical context. Many lessons ask students to read a relevant selection from their textbook and answer questions. In some we've outlined mini-lectures or included a timeline that students might reference as they read the documents. Establishing background knowledge is the first step in the inquiry process. This background frames the central historical question, and motivates students to investigate the documents that accompany the lesson.

*Note: United Streaming requires a subscription to Discovery Education.

2) Students read documents, answer guiding questions or complete a graphic organizer. Our lesson plans include documents that address the central historical question. Most lessons draw on two or more documents with conflicting perspectives. The teacher's decisions on how or whether to assign homework plays a big part in pacing the lesson. Depending on the lesson plan, students will engage in different activities as they read and interpret the documents. The Reading Like a Historian curriculum is built around four basic lesson structures:

a) Opening Up the Textbook (OUT): In these lessons, students examine two documents: the textbook and a historical document that challenges or expands the textbook's account. For a sample OUT, see the Battle of Little Bighorn Lesson Plan.

b) Cognitive Apprenticeship: These lessons are based on the idea that ways of thinking must be made visible in order for students to learn them. In lessons following this format, teachers first model a historical reading skill, then engage students in guided practice, and ultimately lead them to independent practice. For a sample cognitive apprenticeship lesson, see the Stamp Act Lesson Plan.

c) Inquiry: All lessons in the curriculum include elements of historical inquiry, where students investigate historical questions, evaluate evidence, and construct historical claims. Some, however, are designed around an explicit process of inquiry, in which students develop hypotheses by analyzing sets of documents. Such inquiries are best suited for block or multiple class periods. For a sample inquiry, see the Japanese Internment Lesson Plan.

d) Structured Academic Controversy (SAC): For these lessons, students work in pairs and then teams as they explore historical questions. After taking opposing positions on a question, they work to gain consensus or at least to clarify their differences. These lessons are well suited to block or multiple class periods. They work best after students have gained experience working with primary documents. For a sample SAC, see the Lincoln Lesson Plan.

3) Whole-class discussion about a central historical question. The final segment of the Reading Like a Historian lesson plan is the most important. Too often, however, it is dropped due to time constraints. We think it's better to eliminate one of the documents than cut such a valuable opportunity to practice historical thinking skills, articulate claims and defend them with evidence from the documents. Only in whole-class discussion can students see that history is open to multiple interpretations, and that the same piece of evidence can support conflicting claims. Students often find this activity foreign and uncomfortable at first. But through practice they gain an understanding of their role as knowledge-makers in the history classroom.

Can I start the Reading Like a Historian curriculum in the middle of the school year?

Of course! Reading Like a Historian lessons are designed to stand alone or to supplement your existing curriculum at any point. However, because the Reading Like a Historian lessons present history in a way that may be unfamiliar, it's important to introduce students to the basic concepts of the curriculum. That's why the Introduction to Historical Thinking Unit includes five short lesson plans to orient students to the curriculum and five classroom posters to remind students what questions to ask when reading historical documents.

Featured Article

Reading Like a Historian: A Document-Based History Curriculum

This article explores a six-month intervention in five San Francisco high schools. Students using the Reading Like a Historian curriculum showed statistically significant gains in historical thinking, mastery of factual historical knowledge, and general reading comprehension. Read Article »

Monday, November 24, 2014



Written by The Red Queen in L.A.,  from her blog |

RED Queen Monday Nov 24 2014  ::  Why do some people seem to hate public institutions so? I just don’t get it. They apparently want public services, but won’t pay for them or don’t want to, and in a twist of killing the messenger, seem to express all this in a vicious hatred for middle management bureaucrats.

The type section for this suite of disjointed prejudices lies in Education of course.   Obviously we want the world’s best-educated next generation to own all the world’s resources and keep us in our golden years roaming the world via luxurious cruise ships. We fuss and whinge about international standardized tests and our loss of intellectual (as a surrogate for economic) supremacy to – to whom? To some other country, maybe a Superpower, maybe not – just anyone else. It’s all just too much, we can’t be not-number one. Never mind that various other metrices don’t even rank us so poorly at that, still we are spooked to the point of panic and precipitous curricular upheaval in reaction to the untenable notion of being not-number one.

But will we pay for a number-one Educational system? Will we adopt the behaviours of higher-ranking countries that treat teachers as honorable, highly remunerated professionals? No way, uh-huh, nope, yougottabekiddingme. All that panic seems to find outlet instead in simply excoriating public servants as a class (though not perhaps individually, everyone still loves their own school, their own teachers) but without recourse to mitigate their lot or our condition either. Thus the class of civil servants tasked with, say, teaching assumes a double-whammy of ignominy and poverty. Thrashed for doing a “poor job” for pay inadequate to commanding respect. Du-wha?

I had the task of assisting a pair of delightful octogenarians recently who were rightfully putout about having been forced to walk a half-mile to a public concert along cracked and broken sidewalks, despite holding a handicapped parking hanger to accommodate one who was hobbling along in a back brace. The lot where they might have parked was closed for lack of personnel to open it. They asked: “who can we talk to about this“? And the answer is: the rest of your fellow citizens who don’t pay enough to maintain our cities’ infrastructure, including sidewalks and city schools and personnel to have opened its parking lot thereby obviating their suffering.

In LAUSD, we don’t pay for enough teachers or staff, and those currently on payroll don’t receive enough of it. period.

This is a seemingly untenable truth, resulting in fury about the state of schools and those who comprise its state (teachers, school-site administrators), without reference to what composes the problem: insufficient funds throttled upstream. Thus the ultimate reasons for insufficiency may not simply be insufficient monies paying into the public fund, because dollars get grabbed at every stop in a massive hierarchy designed to feed on itself. The problem lies with those managing the institution from the top down, not the inherent nature of the institution, and certainly not with its ramifications at the “street-level”.

Where collateral ramifications amplify to enormous effect for: the well-being of our own children, obviously; for that precious external metric of superiority; for the stability of a working middle class that would teach those children; for the future of our society that is composed of these children; for our own position in that society as we become “redundant” with age; for the potential of society to maintain itself as a balanced, economic entity – when we husband our private resources and starve a public purse (whether directly or effectively, through poor management) there is grand, long-term consequences to the essence of our way of life. It is future generations who pay for mid-level stinginess and a failure to attach appropriate responsibility to management by and from the top.

Meanwhile the misplaced fury and prejudice toward public institutions and its stalwart personnel carries collateral damage. Killing the messenger without thought toward who sent the courier. Manifested in blatant dismissive presumptions of failure exemplified by this.

So much presumed disdain for “public schools” without reference to those who comprise it. So much disdain for a neighborhood institution that families flee into private schools or nominally “public” charter “choices”, effectively funneling public monies into private hands for little reciprocal benefit. Rather than address problems specifically, with upper-management or corruption surrounding budgets or contracts, a broad brush is used to paint disdain and dismissal of the broad notion of public service.

This goes for congress, for city council, for school politicians – we erupt in disdain and anger without recognizing we are shooting our own selves in the foot. By improperly husbanding public services like sidewalks and schools and the public budget for all of these, we wind up one day eighty years old and infirm, and unable to negotiate our way through public space.   Rather than nurture a functional mid-level of public servants we are left with a decrepit commons, crumbling amidst corruption and nothing but an opaque and narrow, parallel, self-selecting and self-serving, private sector.

The proper response to the outrage of children violated at Miramonte, as well as the subsequent millions strained from the budget to remunerate victims at the expense of future generations, is to decry entrenched upper-level mis-management and corruption that fails to identify monstrosities. With a school administration that actually affects feedback of teachers, that supports them and watches them and aides them while simultaneously, honestly, ceasing to excuse away problems (conducts a true analysis), with such leadership this all would all be different. If teachers were treated as respected professionals, evaluated authentically and paid concomitantly, it is hard to envision how this appalling behavior could have been sustained.

We need to recognize not only where the buck should stop, but demand accountability once it gets there. The problem with our public institutions is not with its civil servants or the system inherently. It is with its degenerate manifestation that would overfund elements to effectively shield a parasitic class hiding within its upper reaches. Not the teachers, not the students, not even the general budget but the administration that overlooked rogue teachers at Miramontes must be punished. Not the janitors, not the underpaid weekend staff, but the budget-eliminating, fiscally irresponsible community-shirking prop 13 must be recognized. We the public with the power of our vote must force better, true accountability from public institutions, not simply derivative finger-pointing and collective punishment. Now is the time to think about voting for better politicians at the top. Now is the time to start thinking about them.


2cents small On Thursday as I sit in the bosom of my family and give thanks for my blessings and my friends and for all we are about to receive,  I shall include among them The Red Queen and her intellect, her Queen's English, and – following an Oxford comma – her most excellent righteous indignation.    God save her and God bless us every one.

Saturday, November 22, 2014



By John Fensterwald | EdSource |

November 20, 2014 | Dozens and possibly hundreds of the state’s charter schools have adopted policies that illegally require parents to volunteer, the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates charged in a report issued on Thursday.

Some schools give parents the alternative of paying hundreds of dollars in lieu of volunteering and some charters policies threaten to dis-enroll children whose parents don’t comply, the Public Advocates report states (see school by school policies).

Public Advocates examined online documents of 555 of the state’s 1,184 charter schools, including charter petitions, handbooks and letters to parents. It found that 30 percent – 168 schools – imposed volunteer quotas. The report did not say how many of the charters had policies stating students would not be allowed to re-enroll if parents did not volunteer. An appendix summarizes all of the schools’ requirements and conditions.

John Affeldt, Public Advocates’ managing partner, said his firm did not contact any of the schools whose policies were cited to see how the schools enforced the policies and if they followed through with threats to prevent re-enrollment, he said. But, he said, the fact that a school has a policy requiring parents to volunteer is illegal and “discourages people from enrolling in a school who have a right to go there.”

Jed Wallace, the CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said that Public Advocates’ findings may be a case where charters’ “paperwork has not caught up with their actual practice.” The association has not heard of instances where charters have sanctioned students for their parents’ failure to volunteer. If it had, the association would have spoken out about this, he said.

Public Advocates said that the practice of requiring volunteer quotas violates children’s right under the State Constitution to a “free public school.” The firm also said it violates a 2012 state law banning public schools from demanding parents to provide “money or donations or goods or services.” Such policies discriminate against poor and working families, the report said, noting, “No public school should ever penalize or exclude a student because his or her parent or guardian cannot or chooses not to donate time or labor to the school.”

Wallace agrees. He said Thursday that the association has posted legal advice on the members’ portion of its website stating that “it is not legal or appropriate to take actions against students because of the actions of a parent.” He said that charters should actively encourage parents to volunteer and be flexible in seeking ways to involve families but they must not require it.

“No public school should ever penalize or exclude a student because his or her parent or guardian cannot or chooses not to donate time or labor to the school,” the report said.

Some of the schools Public Advocates reviewed had ambiguous policies or did not post policies online, the report stated. Volunteering requirements ranged from one event per year to one day per week, with 30 hours per year a common amount. Some charters permitted parents to buy back the hours at $5 to $25 per hour.

Public Advocates’ report calls on charter schools to halt the practice immediately and for districts to revoke charters of schools that continue it. Public Advocates also wants the State Board of Education to adopt regulations and the Legislature to amend charter laws to state that a forced donation of services constitutes an illegal fee and to demand that districts and county offices of education monitor for compliance.

Charters are public schools of choice, open to those who apply, that are independently managed – most often by nonprofit boards consisting of educators, parents and community leaders. They are overseen by school districts but are free from many of the regulations that the state Education Code imposes on districts. However, they are not exempt from the prohibition on charging fees and parental volunteer quotas, Public Advocates said.

James Trombley, Manzanita’s executive director, said the 150-student middle school relies on parents to be involved in the classroom and to help with custodial work. The school tries to accommodate scheduling conflicts and medical needs of its mostly low-income families. Those families that do not receive a waiver from the volunteer requirement lose their priority enrollment status but can enter the lottery the next year for admission, he said.

“We’re a distinguished school recognized for our parent partnerships,” he said.

Some confusion may come from a 2006 memo by Michael Hersher, deputy general counsel of the state Department of Education. Hersher wrote that it was his opinion that a charter school proposal “may lawfully include reasonable admission criteria, including a requirement that parents agree to do work for the charter school.” Affeldt said the memo is no longer on the Department of Education website, but at least one law firm serving charter school clients has posted it on its website. He wants the Department of Education to disavow it.

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union in California sued the state for permitting dozens of school districts to routinely charge fees, including charges for textbooks, AP exams, lab materials and gym uniforms. That led to the passage of AB 1575, which explicitly prohibits all public schools from charging fees for participating in an educational activity at the school. Public Advocates argues that forced volunteering constitutes a fee.

Going Deeper

Charging for Access: How California Charter Schools Exclude Vulnerable Students By Imposing Illegal Family...


by LA School Report |

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

November 21, 2014 5:35 pm  ::  Let the iPads roll. Again.

LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines today approved moving ahead with the next phase of the district’s iPad program, officially known as Phase 2B of the Common Core Technology Project.

It’s actually, iPads et. al.

The goal with this action is to complete the second round of buying digital devices by equipping teachers and students at an additional 27 schools with learning devices. That brings the total to 85 district schools with iPads or, in the case of the Phase 2B buy, other digital devices, such as Chromebooks.

The total reflects 47 schools receiving iPads in Phase 1 and 11 in Phase 2A, which was halted by former Superintendent John Deasy after questions arose about the procurement process.

The cost to date: $114 million, which covers devices, keyboards, charging carts, testing devices, and the laptop pilot program for 21 high schools.

In this latest phase announced today, each school will have the option of buying devices that the principal and teachers deem best for their students. And the district intends to sustain that approach going forward.

District officials said they expect this latest round of devices to reach students by February.

“Our students deserve the best tools available to meet the requirements to be successful in the 21st century workforce,” Cortines said in a statement. “Without the appropriate tools, they will be disadvantaged compared to their peers across the entire nation. We also need to keep the dialogue open with our schools. We want Phase 2B to provide more options than previous phases so that our students are fully utilizing the most appropriate and current devices available.”

Unlike iPads being purchased under a new request of $13.3 million from the Bond Oversight Committee for computerized testing at the end of the academic year, the Phase 2B devices will be loaded with instructional software.

The list of schools scheduled to receive new devices is here.


LAUSD sending iPads, laptops to 27 more schools

Annie Gilbertson | KPCC 89.3 |

69379 full

The Los Angeles school district is expanding its iPad program, adding 27 schools to those outfitted with tablets or laptops. DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Audio from this story:  0:46 Listen

November 21, 06:51 PM   ::  Los Angeles school district superintendent Ramon Cortines is expanding the iPad program to 27 more schools, the second round of computer purchases announced this week.

Without seeking new bids from tech companies for the latest purchases, the district may need to rely on a controversial contract with Apple that former Superintendent John Deasy said would be canceled.

"Our students deserve the best tools available to meet the requirements to be successful in the 21st century workforce," Cortines said in a statement on Friday.

Before a bond oversight committee Thursday, Cortines requested $22 million worth of iPads and Google Chromebooks to allow students to take new digital state tests.

In the latest announcement, the superintendent declared he would tap into a $114 million fund (allocated in January) to extend the school technology program to 27 more schools. That would bring the total of schools outfitted with tablets or laptops  to 106 of the district's more than 800 schools.

Deasy spearheaded the effort to supply all students with a tablet, but the program stalled after reports of missing iPads, inadequate school WiFi and a controversial contract with Apple.

KPCC found Deasy had close ties with executives at Apple and Pearson, the manufacturer of the curriculum software loaded onto many of the tablets.  KPCC reported in August that email conversations between top district staff and the vendors resembled bidding requirements, calling into question whether the bidding process was fair.

Deasy canceled the contract three days later, stating the district would reopen the bid. It hasn't.

"There was no need to cancel the contract," said Mark Hovatter, LAUSD chief facilities executive, on Wednesday. "We believe we got the best value."

Purchases under the latest two announcements allow for principals to choose their preferred device for their schools. Shannon Haber, a district spokeswoman, said the officials were still deciding whether to expand offerings beyond iPads and Chromebooks.

LAUSD school police return armored military vehicle, which is now in Barstow

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

The Los Angeles Unified School District has returned the $733,000 MRAP military personnel carrier it received from the federal government that looks like this one now owned by the Whittier Police Department. The LAUSD's MRAP is now in Barstow. (File photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)


Posted: 11/21/14, 5:24 PM PST | Updated: 11/22  ::  Los Angeles Unified’s school police have returned their armored vehicle after community outcry over a federal program that sent military weapons to local law enforcement agencies.

That “1033 program” came under scrutiny in the wake of scenes from Ferguson, Mo., where police confronted protesters with military weapons.

The school police had also accepted battle-ready weapons.

After returning three grenade launchers in September, School Police Chief Steven Zipperman said Friday he sent back the mine resistant and ambush proof (MRAP) vehicle his department received in June.

“We’ve decided that particular vehicle, based on its sheer size and maneuverability and the resources it takes to operate it, wasn’t viable for us,” Zipperman said.

At nearly 20 feet long, the more than 14-ton vehicle was designed to keep troops safe during ambushes in which enemies would blow up the lead vehicle of a convoy, while raining down gunfire on Marines and soldiers who were trapped.

School police wanted the MRAP to rescue people in the event of a wide-scale attack that would prevent other law enforcement agencies from responding to campuses, Zipperman said.

With a value of $733,000, the vehicle seemed a cost-effective alternative to armor-plated vehicles built for civilian use, which cost $300,000, Zipperman has said. However, the cost of maintenance and certifying a driver played a role in Zipperman’s decision to send the MRAP back to state officials who administer the federal program, he said.

State officials transferred the MRAP to the Barstow Police Department last month, said Alex Pal, an attorney in the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

As for a replacement, Zipperman said, the district will consider obtaining a used armored car and other cost-effective alternatives.

Manuel Criollo of the Community Rights Campaign has been advocating for LAUSD police to destroy its military arsenal, as part of efforts to demilitarize law enforcement across the city.

“We’re trying to demilitarize all police in Los Angeles, so clearly it’s an important breakthrough they’re returning the MRAP vehicle that was made for Iraq and Afghanistan and had no place on school grounds,” Criollo said.

Last month his organization sponsored a protest near Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. Youths who turned out for the demonstration told stories of how police patrol their neighborhoods in military gear, he said.

“It’s a real thing,” Criollo said. “It’s not just that people are fearing their right to protest and the reaction of police, but we see a lot of this military equipment in use.”

The Community Rights Campaign has requested an inventory of all weapons possessed by LAUSD.

The school district previously returned three 40mm grenade launchers that were used for fighting in the jungles of Vietnam — and obtained by LAUSD in the months following Sept. 11, 2001 — as a means to fire less-than-lethal rounds that could disperse crowds in civil unrest, Zipperman has said.

However, LAUSD’s armory still contains M16 rifles received through the program. The 61 fully automatic rifles were converted to semi-auto and are used in training by officers seeking credentials to fire assault rifles, he said.

Zipperman said his department is in the process of providing public records that will detail the district’s weapon inventory. Once that happens, Criollo wants the school board to ensure all of the weapons are either destroyed, disassembled or returned to the Department of Defense, according to a Nov. 10 letter he sent to board members.

The Community Rights Campaign is also part of a coalition of groups urging the federal government to end its 1033 program.

U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek wrote that state agencies decided how to distribute weapons to local agencies. However, Harnitchek notes that he fully supports President Barack Obama’s decision to review the program.

“I have directed my staff to cooperate fully with the review as I strongly support ensuring transfers of Department of Defense materials for law enforcement activities strike a proper balance of accountability and need,” Harnitchek wrote in an Oct. 17 letter.

Since 1993, Southland law enforcement agencies have collected $150 million worth of military gear, according to a database maintained by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. More than $4.2 billion in equipment has been given away nationwide since the 1990s, according to an Associated Press report that found a disproportionate share went to police departments in rural areas with few officers and little crime.

While federal authorities previously released a database detailing equipment giveaways to county law enforcement agencies, a database detailing equipment collected by local police is expected to be released any day, Pal said.

As police prepared to react to civil unrest in Ferguson, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday urged officers to show restraint.

“The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation,” Holder said.

ALEC: John Oliver explains it all for you

November 22, 2014  ::  Diane Ravitch writes in her blog:  “ John Oliver has some of the smartest political commentary on television. In this Youtube video, he explains ALEC, (The American Legislative Exchange Council) the corporate-funded organization that writes model legislation for states to benefit corporations and defund the public sector. One of every four state legislators, Oliver says, belongs to this secretive group that promotes privatization. ALEC supports charters and vouchers and test-based teacher evaluation. It opposes teacher tenure and unions. For some inexplicable reason, ALEC is tax-exempt.”

4LAKids is hiding behind Dr. Ravitch here because Mr, Oliver uses a naughty word that the LAUSD e-mail censors would block if they could hind it embedded in the video.

“The email you attempted to send to a member of the LAUSD community has been
rejected because it contains a word that has been associated with adult-oriented

Mr. Oliver is a Brit and they spell the word differently over there – maybe the NetNanny anti-Spam firewall wouldn’t detect it?

Let’s just say the video is NSFS [Not Safe for School) – and 4LAKids does not condone broadcasting it on the AllCall ConnectEd phone broadcast link home or the school PA system.

Especially at Palisades Charter High School where  the cranky neighbors are listening. (Apparently they didn’t notice there was a high school next door when they purchased their homes.)


Friday, November 21, 2014

L.A. SCHOOLS WILL PAY VICTIMS IN CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL $139 MILLION – not including $30 million previously awarded and its own legal costs.

By Stephen Ceasar, Corina Knoll, LA Times |

 Mark Berndt
Former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, 62, right, in court in November 2013, pleaded no contest to 23 counts of lewd conduct with students at his school. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Nov 21, 2014 11:42 AM  ::  The L.A. Unified School District will pay out $139 million in settlements in the Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal, bringing nearer to a close the costly and lengthy case that led to changes in state law and district policies, attorneys said Friday.

The payouts will go to settle about 150 legal claims from former Miramonte students who were subjected to third-grade teacher Mark Berndt's lewd acts and their families.

"We hope that this will help the community heal and move forward," said L.A. Unified general counsel Dave Holmquist. "We really want the community to feel healed by this."

The court will independently review each claim and determine the appropriate amount for each of the 81 families involved.

Attorney John Manly, who represents 38 children and 25 parents who sought damages, said the settlement showed that the district taking responsibility for its failures.

We hope that this will help the community heal and move forward. We really want the community to feel healed by this. - Dave Holmquist, L.A. Unified general counsel

It “shows a level of culpability and contrition by the district that is appropriate, and the hope for all of us is that it will lead to reforms so this doesn’t happen to another child in Los Angeles.”

L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon Cortines said he believed the district would continue to work with parents and communities to better protect students. The agreement balances the goal of sparing children the trauma of a trial with that of reaching a fair settlement, he said.

“There is nothing more important to us than the safety of the students we serve,” Cortines said. “Our goal from the outset of these appalling revelations has been to spare the Miramonte community the anguish of a protracted trial, while at the same time being mindful of the financial consequences stemming from settlements. Given these circumstances, we believe we struck a balance between those objectives.”

Berndt pleaded no contest to the abuse charges a year ago and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but the case against L.A. Unified has dragged out.

Dozens of claims were settled last year for about $30 million, but a contingent of parents and students opted to take their grievances to civil court, accusing L.A. Unified of not doing enough to protect students after receiving past complaints about Berndt.

Jury selection in the case began Monday, still L.A. Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley continued to push both parties to reach an agreement. The Board of Education met behind closed doors Tuesday evening to discuss settlement terms.

The case triggered a review of employee files going back decades in an effort to rid the district of potential problem employees. L.A. Unified also submitted, or resubmitted, hundreds of reports of alleged misconduct to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Reports of possible misconduct ballooned. The week before Berndt's arrest there were 19. The following week yielded 77, according to district records.

Then-Supt. John Deasy removed scores of teachers from their classrooms. A zero-tolerance policy for employee misconduct was enforced.

The teachers union charged that the district was overreacting, holding teachers allegedly involved in misconduct in what they called "teacher jails" for far too long without giving them information on their cases and unjustly firing other instructors.

L.A. Unified also temporarily replaced the entire staff at Miramonte in the second half of the school year, and required all employees to take a course on the reporting of abuse.

In January, the district assembled a team of experienced law enforcement investigators to take over probes into sexual abuse. The team has since investigated dozens of new allegations and has operated at a quicker pace than when investigations were left to principals, according to figures provided by the district.

In direct response to the Miramonte case, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this year aimed at speeding the dismissal of public school teachers for gross misconduct.

At the center of the scandal was a teacher who was once invited to students' birthday parties and quinceañeras. Fond of Hawaiian shirts and class field trips, Berndt was known to hand out lollipops and silly nicknames. He joined children for dodgeball games, sent them holiday cards and managed to turn seemingly mundane topics into interesting lessons.

But in the fall of 2010, a drugstore photo technician processed a photo that showed a child blindfolded and gagged with clear tape. Other photos showed a spoon filled with a milky liquid, which was also seen in and around children's mouths. Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators began quietly looking into Berndt.

A detective found a spoon in Berndt's classroom trash can that looked like the one in the photos. It tested positive for traces of semen that matched Berndt's DNA.

Authorities later found that Berndt had been the target of a 1994 police investigation in which a girl accused the teacher of reaching toward her genitals while she was taking a test. Prosecutors had determined there was insufficient evidence to file charges.

Two women who said they had been Berndt's former students in the 1990s came forward after his arrest and said they saw the teacher masturbating behind his desk. They said they informed a school counselor who advised them to stop making up stories. Other former students recalled to the Los Angeles Times that the teacher had a habit of putting his hand inside the waistband of his pants and that he often perched himself on the steps near the playground, his legs splayed wide.

Court documents released last month revealed that a parent had complained about Berndt as far back as 1983. The parent told the principal at the time that Berndt had dropped his pants during a student field trip to a museum. The principal made notes about the incident in a memo, but Berndt remained on staff.

"Thanks again for the support you gave me," Berndt wrote in a note to the principal. "I did learn at least one thing for sure! Not to take students to the museum while wearing baggy shorts!"

A 512-page report based on a two-year inquiry by the sheriff's department was also filled with allegations that Berndt touched children in a sexual manner and urged them to reciprocate. "There is a suggestion in the police report that Berndt watched videos of bondage of women, and that his taping of children was for Berndt some version of sexualized bondage," Judge Shepard Wiley wrote about the report.

In 2008, the district destroyed about 2,000 reports containing abuse allegations because officials determined that state law banned them from possessing the forms because of privacy rules, according to an L.A. Unified spokesman


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News  |

Chatsworth High School history teacher Jim Hayden carries a Navy Jack flag to a rally in front of Monroe High School in North Hills in support of pay raises and improvements to other working conditions at LAUSD schools, Thursday, November 20, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News),

Chatsworth High School history teacher Jim Hayden carries a Navy Jack flag to a rally in front of Monroe High School in North Hills in support of pay raises and improvements to other working conditions at LAUSD schools, Thursday, November 20, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News),

Harvey Abram, a teacher at Van Gogh

Elementary School in Granada Hills, carries a sign with teachers marching along Nordhoff Street at Monroe High School during a rally in support of pay raises and improvements to other working conditions at LAUSD schools, Thursday, November 20, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)

Posted: 11/20/14, 8:08 PM PST  ::  Kicking off a series of “escalating actions,” thousands of teachers from across Los Angeles rallied Thursday in support of union demands for a pay raise, smaller class sizes and other points of contention in contract talks with the nation’s second-largest school district.

At Monroe High School in North Hills, about a thousand teachers carried signs and sang “We Will Rock You” to music blaring from loudspeakers on a flatbed truck on Haskell Avenue, which was closed for the rally.

“The fact that we got a huge turnout in four other locations shows that educators, students and parents around the city are ready to fight for our demands,” United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said at the North Hills event.

The 35,000-member union and Los Angeles Unified School District remain at odds over key issues, including teacher demands for an immediate 10 percent pay raise and district efforts to implement an evaluation system that scores educators, in part, on the performance of their students.

“The teacher evaluation is unfair. It was (former Superintendent John) Deasy’s autocratic way of doing business. That’s why he’s out,” said Manuel Reyes, a fourth-grade teacher at O’Melveny Elementary School in San Fernando and who has taught in the district for 15 years. “We haven’t had a raise in seven years.”

Talk of a strike among union leaders and members continues. UTLA last walked off the job in 1989. That protest lasted nine days.

While Superintendent Ramon Cortines plans to work toward certain union requests, including smaller class sizes under an effort he has said will be evident on campuses when students return for second semester, he is standing by the pay package his predecessor offered.

Under a three-year deal, teachers would collect 6.64 percent in pay raises spread over the next 20 months and, additionally, a one-time bonus equal to 2 percent of their current pay. Before abruptly resigning, Deasy said the district would need to cut costs elsewhere to finance the raises. Meeting union demands, which previously stood at 17.6 percent, would bankrupt the district, Deasy had said.

Under UTLA’s current request, teachers would receive an immediate 10 percent raise and re-open negotiations for increases in coming years.

The two sides head back to the bargaining table Dec. 4.


by Vanessa Romo, LA School Eeport |

Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill

Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill

Posted on November 20, 2014 3:44 pm  ::  The LA Unified Bond Oversight Committee today agreed to approve another $25 million in bond fund spending to help the district fix MiSiS problems and equip schools with computers for standardized testing in the Spring.

A team of district officials, including Superintendent Ramon Cortines, made lengthy presentations to the nine member committee, insisting that in both cases the district would fail to comply with state and federal mandates without the additional financial help.

About $12.1 million of the money approved today is intended to provide a series of temporary “band aids” for MiSiS that will cover the costs of fixing bugs, stabilizing district servers so they can handle high volumes of traffic, and adding customer support and help desk staff. It will also pay for the implementation of MiSiS at the district’s charter schools, which the district has delayed doing despite a legal obligation.

“That part has been really difficult to do,” Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill told the committee, referring to computer systems that would prove incompatible with MiSiS. “What we found is that the charter systems have bolted on other applications and tools to their data management systems and given the number of charters we have, it’s very difficult to get them into MiSiS.”

Hill estimates it will cost about $1.3 million to integrate them into the student data management system.

Earlier in the week, Cortines announced he would be asking the bond committee for $53 million, but today he said the district had revised the figure, pending an assessment of future needs by MiSiS team leaders.

“We are being prudent and responsible by only requesting enough funding to carry us through February 2015,” Cortines said. But he added that he will return to the committee in January to request more support.

“At this point, we don’t know what we don’t know,” he said. “In January we’ll have a better idea of what we’ll need for the rest of the year.”

The committee also gave the go-ahead for disbursing another $13 million to buy a combination of iPads, keyboards, Chromebooks and device carts in anticipation of the Smarter Balanced tests in the Spring.

All students in third through eighth grade and all 11th graders are required to take the computer exam this year. Last year only a small fraction of district students took the test, and a review of the field test found a slew of problems preventing students from completing the test. The most common complaint was that students were not able to connect to the internet.

The district’s plan is to spend the $13 million as well as an additional $9.2 million it has in reserves from the last batch of approved bond funds to buy approximately 20,000 testing devices. Unlike the tablets and computers purchased under the one-to-one program, these will not be pre-loaded with instructional curriculum.

Cortines assured the committee that, like the testing devices purchased last year, these will also be available for instructional use once the Smarter Balanced tests are completed. However, three months into the school year, many of those  tablets have yet to be delivered to classrooms.

Although, several committee members expressed skepticism over the district’s timeline for purchasing and deploying the devices, Cortines assured them they would arrive by January, giving students ample time to become familiar with them.

“It’s not fair to this community and the children that they’ve been denied the ability to practice while other districts have been practicing all year,” he said.

Principal Jose Huerta from Garfield High School put a finer point on it.

“Our teachers and our students have put in great effort into teaching and learning the Common Core standards and this is our chance to show that off,” he said. “But without the appropriate conditions and the right technology to take the test, we won’t be able to do that.”


2cents small “We don’t know what we don’t know”: In fairness and reality, the superintendents ask of  $12.1 million over the originally stated ask of $53 million is NOT a reduction. The $12.1 million will cover MiSiS triage and emergency treatment (‘band-aids”) only though Feb 15, 2015 – there will be additional costs to complete MiSiS recovery and rehabilitation  and it is extremely doubtful that the total will be less than $53 million. It also must be noted that these costs only account for bond-funded MiSiS expenditure …there is substantial general fund costs associated with MiSiS Crisis recovery also.