Saturday, October 25, 2014


Readers React: By LA Times Letters to the Editor Editor Paul Thornton  |


LAUSD desk

An early-era LAUSD desk has a etching of a teacher in an exhibit of historical items from the district. (Los Angeles Times)

Submit a Letter to the Editor25 Oct 2014  ::  The teachers in Los Angeles who write to The Times — and I may be understating the intensity of their views here — are no fans of John Deasy. So when the embattled former superintendent resigned from the Los Angeles Unified School District last week, one might have expected a collective sigh of relief from our educator letter writers.

Hardly. Though a handful of teachers celebrated Deasy's departure, the vast majority who wrote us expressed continued anxiety and frustration over their jobs. If letters are any indication of broader opinion, it's safe to say there may be a morale problem in L.A. Unified classrooms.

Melanie Panush Lindert of Los Angeles takes the pulse of teachers: at several campuses:

I thought it couldn't get worse, but indeed it has: LAUSD teachers are even more stressed than last school year.

As an itinerant dance teacher, I work with several dozen teachers a year. I trudge to a different school every day. The teacher inferno has reached epic proportions this year, with no relief in sight. We must remember that what befalls our teachers trickles down to our children.

We have the endless flow of testing. One fourth-grade teacher explained how frustrated she was because there was no opportunity to prepare her children for a math test. Teachers must know the new Common Core curriculum, terminology, objectives and how to record data on computers.

Parents and principals are demanding more. There is a new, complex system for evaluating teachers, and teachers are required to take workshops to comply with this new system.

I thought it couldn't get worse, but indeed it has: LAUSD teachers are even more stressed than last school year. - Melanie Panush Lindert, Los Angeles

Teachers are serious, responsible, caring, creative, resourceful and patient. Why haven't these professionals been part of the team to create the very best system for our kids?

Rancho Palos Verdes resident Michael Whittemore gives credit to his fellow teachers for gains in achievement:

I am a retired teacher (30 years of experience), and I am amazed by the arrogance of education "talking heads" claiming credit for student achievement.

They don't teach; teachers do. It is the joy of that nexus that brings progress. Teachers love teaching.

Giving us decent class sizes, materials (most teachers spend their own money on classroom materials) and administrative support will result in even greater achievement.

Jim Wakeman of Long Beach says education reforms are driving away teachers:

Deasy's sympathizers give him credit for reducing the number of student suspensions and raising students' test scores.

Well, when teachers are required to keep students in class in spite of their behavior, yes, there will be fewer suspensions. And when teachers' jobs may be threatened by low student test scores, some teachers, understandably, will "teach to the test." Then, yes, test scores will improve.

Neither of these predictable results will improve student learning, but they will drive more teachers away from the profession.



2cents small The L.A. Times is obviously getting farther out on a limb than they feel comfortable. I guess if your window on the world is through The Times mailbag yours is a rather limited perspective – as evidenced by the editor/headline writer’s use of the qualifier  ‘possible’.  The world is possibly round and chocolate is possibly tasty. The newspaper industry is in a possible downturn.

District morale is abysmal, all the way to eleven on the knob.  And, like Captain Bligh in the old joke, apparently the flogging won’t stop until the morale improves.

All surviving LAUSD staff, whether in the classroom, the school, the local district, or the central office - have been through six years of RIFs, class size+workload increases and program cuts. They haven’t got a raise in slightly less than forever. They have worked hard, they have raised test scores, they campaigned for Prop 30 which brought in more money to schools – and are rewarded by the superintendent taking a 17% pay raise and offering them 2%. There is money for iPads and failed technology but none for the District’s most valuable asset: Its human resources. The powerless-that-be have turned back the billionaires who would break their unions and take away their jobs and outsource public education to charter schools at the ballot box…and are rewarded with a Time Magazine cover that hammers Bad Teachers with a Judge’s Gavel.  Never mind that the  cover story doesn’t even agree with the cover picture and headline – “Bad Teachers” sells magazines!

“Bad Teachers” allegedly don’t teach to the test with enough urgency. The “Embattled+Beleaguered Superintendent” may have fixed a contract according to The Times own reporting.  And the Publisher/CEO of the LA Times goes on the radio and bemoans his downfall.

LAUSD Parents Seek Los Angeles Superior Court Civil Grand Jury Investigation/Audit Into iPADS AND MiSiS DEBACLES + smf’s 2¢

by K12News Network Site Admin |

21 October 2014  ::  BREAKING: this morning, LAUSD parents filed a citizen complaint to ask that the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Civil Grand Jury investigate/audit the iPad and MiSiS deals that were costly but seemed highly ineffective. They want an independent body outside of LAUSD to conduct its own investigation.

The Civil Grand Jury consists of 23 residents of Los Angeles who consider whistleblower evidence presented by city or county employees, perform investigations and audits into county or city agencies, scrutinize jail conditions, and also consider requests by Angelenos to address the actions or policies of Los Angeles County agencies. They issue a public report and operate under the guidance of the Los Angeles Superior Court and the judges who sit there.

In addition to holding a press event, one of the main parents driving the request, Kahllid Al-Alim, also spoke to the LAUSD School Board during public comment at the regular session .

Open Letter to the Civil Grand Jury, 10-20-14 by k12newsnetwork

2cents small

  • There is an online petition to sign if you support this effort.
  • There are at least three issues in play:
    • The iPads piece, which has the potential for criminal, not just civil grand jury investigation. And federal, not just superior court action. Contract fixing is a felony.
    • The MiSiS piece, which is currently being adjudicated in the Alameda County Superior Court,
    • The letter writer is a member of the Local Control Funding Formula/Local Control Accountability Plan LAUSD Parent Advisory Committee and has every cause to be concerned that that committee was intentionally ignored in opposition to the legislative intent of the LCFF legislation.

Friday, October 24, 2014


from Politico Morning Education | by-email

  BATTLING THE BAD APPLES IMAGE: 24 October 2014  ::  American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is mounting an attack on Time Magazine, urging people to sign a petition [] demanding the magazine apologize for its recent cover about teacher tenure. The cover [ ], which shows a judge's gavel coming down on an apple, reads "Rotten Apples: It's nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that." Weingarten said the cover made her feel "sick." "This Time cover isn't trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need - it's intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies," she said. Weingarten is imploring people to tweet with the hashtag #TIMEfail. And she said the cover of the story doesn't even reflect Time's own reporting. "The Time article itself looks at the wealthy sponsors of these efforts," she said. "And while it looks critically at tenure, it also questions the testing industry's connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of these players." More from Diane Ravitch's blog: And Time's story, ICYMI:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


On his first day, Cortines feels a 'sense of urgency' at L.A. Unified

By Howard Blume, LA Times |

Ramon C. Cortines, who led L.A. Unified School District in 2000 and again from 2008 to 2011, agreed to return again through June. "We have some major challenges that together we have to address," he said on his first day back. (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times)

Oct 20, 8:35 PM  ::  Ramon C. Cortines' first day in his latest tour at the helm of Los Angeles Unified started in a familiar fashion: early, with his first meeting at 7 a.m.

That was practically indolent for Cortines, who is known to schedule meetings for 6 a.m. But on this Monday at least, the 82-year-old administrator-in-chief eased back from retirement.

The Board of Education turned to Cortines as the logical stopgap to replace John Deasy, who resigned last week under pressure. Cortines had led the school systems in New York City, San Francisco, San Jose and Pasadena. And in L.A. Unified, he previously served as interim superintendent in 2000, then led the district again from late 2008 through April 2011, when Deasy took over.

People are not celebrating anyone's demise. They're celebrating the return of Ray. He is welcomed. He is appreciated. He is respected. - L.A. school board member George McKenna

Now Cortines is back through June, at a prorated annual salary of $300,000, which is $50,000 less than his predecessor received. Cortines also elected to move into a smaller office and convert Deasy's space into a conference room.

Either the board or Cortines can terminate the agreement with 30 days' notice. Officials have yet to work out details on a search for a permanent replacement.

(The district on Monday also updated details of Deasy's separation agreement. He'll receive about $61,000 for unused vacation days in addition to about $70,000 in severance to be available as needed through year's end.)

Neither Cortines' schedule nor his history suggests that he'll be a caretaker. During a six-month stint in 2000, he reorganized the school system, hired an executive team and made major decisions about instruction and building projects.

Expect another busy period, he said.

"There's a sense of urgency," said Cortines at the end of the day. "The last three and a half years there's been progress in the district, but we have some major challenges that together we have to address."

On Monday, within a span of eight hours, his meetings covered a sweep of issues that have dominated public attention, including a crisis involving a student records system and labor negotiations with the teachers union, which has talked of a possible strike.

Board member George McKenna said he sensed relief at district headquarters on Beaudry Avenue with the arrival of Cortines.

"People are not celebrating anyone's demise," McKenna said, referring to Deasy. "They're celebrating the return of Ray. He is welcomed. He is appreciated. He is respected."

Poor relations with board members were a major factor in Deasy's downfall, and Cortines squeezed in meetings with two board members who had criticized Deasy: Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser.

The latter had met Cortines once before, as a teacher who was protesting the closing of a school.

"He remembered," Kayser said.

At 9 a.m. Monday, Cortines met with Vivian Ekchian, the district's chief labor negotiator. It's no secret that he would like to resolve protracted contract negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles.

"It was as though nothing had changed," said Ekchian, comparing the past and present Cortines.

At about 2:30 p.m., he left to meet with Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA, at the union's Wilshire Boulevard headquarters.

It isn't clear whether UTLA was willing to reach a deal of any kind with Deasy, who had become a rallying point for union organizers who talked of strike preparations. Union leaders regard Cortines as more collaborative. But that doesn't mean Cortines is able or willing to offer a much better deal than his predecessor.

"Ray Cortines listened, and we had some preliminary conversations," Caputo-Pearl said.

Accompanying Cortines to the meeting was Deputy Supt. Michelle King, who had expressed interest to the board in serving as interim superintendent. It was Cortines who had urged her to do so, before the board began to pressure him to return.

Cortines has made it clear that he wanted King to play an integral role; his first meeting of the day was with her.

Also on Cortines' schedule were meetings with Ron Chandler, who heads the district's technology division, and chief strategy officer Matt Hill. They are managing the district's technology efforts; two troubled projects contributed to Deasy's departure.

The first was a $1.3-billion effort to provide an iPad to every student, teacher and campus administrator. Deasy recently announced he would relaunch the bidding process; more than 100,000 devices have been purchased. Cortines indicated he would reexamine the district's approach to classroom technology.

This fall, another issue emerged when a new student records system malfunctioned. Thousands of students had faulty schedules and lost instructional time or couldn't get courses they needed to graduate or fulfill college entrance requirements. Some seniors had troubled getting transcripts or grade point average calculations.

"I have to find out how that happened, who was asleep at the wheel," Cortines said. "How dare we do what we've done to some of these students and some of these parents and some of these schools — and some of those schools are the most needy ones."

Deasy's exit reflects other school battles across the U.S.

By Teresa Watanabe and Stephen Ceasar, LA Times |

John Deasy

John Deasy's departure as L.A. schools superintendent last week shows how difficult it has been for big-city school leaders to make changes in their districts. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

21 Oct 2014, 3AM  ::  Like Deasy, top leaders in some of the largest school districts have come under tremendous pressure

John Deasy was one of a group of big-city school leaders to push for radical change: More independent charter schools, using student test scores to help evaluate teachers and relying less on seniority when teachers are laid off.

And Deasy's departure as L.A. schools superintendent last week shows how difficult it has been for them to succeed.

Top leaders in some of the largest districts — in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., Texas and elsewhere — have come under tremendous pressure: some lost their jobs, one faced a massive teachers strike, and lawsuits have been filed against them, among other things.

John Deasy

Deasy left his job in the nation's second-largest school system despite gains in such areas as student test scores, graduation rates and attendance (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

These administrators have been fought by teacher unions and some community activists who have joined to oppose so-called corporate reform because it often involves data-driven performance reviews that can affect high-stakes personnel decisions, and expanded school choice for parents that includes charters.

Deasy left the L.A. school district last week after 31/2 years, during which time he clashed repeatedly with the teachers union and struggled to maintain solid relations with some school board members. Union leaders say Deasy's exit marked a repudiation of his policies.

"Deasy's resignation is a reflection that this top-down, my way or the highway, competition-driven, test-score-fixated way of doing schooling is not working," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in an interview. "The John Wayne strategy does not work."

Deasy supporters sharply dispute that. They assert they want to hold teachers and schools to higher performance standards so that children, especially those in poor communities, receive a quality education. The unions, they said, feared that those policies would weaken their power.

"The job of a good superintendent like John Deasy is to push hard for school improvement, and too often good superintendents get a lot of grief for trying," said Bruce Reed, president of the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation in Los Angeles, which runs an academy for superintendents. "In L.A. and cities across the nation, we still have a long way to go to give kids the equal education they deserve, and we should all be pushing harder and faster for equal opportunity. Parents don't want a go-slow approach."

The fight between these forces is intensifying nationally.

"There is clearly a pushback, and it's having a real effect," said Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank. "The riptides are so strong that even a superintendent like Deasy, who tried to be strategic and deliberate, got pulled out in the undertow."

In L.A. and cities across the nation, we still have a long way to go to give kids the equal education they deserve, and we should all be pushing harder. - Bruce Reed, president of the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation

Deasy left his job in the nation's second-largest school system despite gains in such areas as student test scores, graduation rates and attendance since he took over in 2011. But his ability to lead was compromised by a confrontational teachers union, a shift in the school board makeup and back-to-back policy snafus on two technology projects, the iPad rollout and the computerized student information system.

The fate of his key policies are still unknown. But they and similar efforts across the nation are facing new challenges.

Charter schools, which are independently run but publicly funded and frequently non-union, are embroiled in bitter battles in New York, Louisiana and elsewhere. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio succeeded charter enthusiast Michael R. Bloomberg and vowed to start charging charter schools rent and temporarily forbid new schools from using public facilities. With the backing of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, charter advocates succeeded in winning the right to use public space, but De Blasio remains ambivalent.

The Journey for Justice Alliance, a new educational advocacy group funded by national teacher unions and such philanthropists as the Ford Foundation, has unveiled a new tactic against charters: federal civil rights complaints.

The Advancement Project has helped parents in Newark, New Orleans and Chicago file complaints with the federal government, arguing that the closure of their neighborhood public schools and the expansion of charters violate their children's educational rights. In Chicago, closures of some campuses have created massive overcrowding at others, and some students in New Orleans were denied admission to nearby charters and forced to attend distant alternatives, said Jitu Brown, national director for the Chicago-based Journey for Justice.

In Los Angeles, United Teachers Los Angeles is pushing contract proposals requiring stricter oversight of charters and other sweeping changes in struggling schools, such as replacing staff and curriculum. Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said his members will work to slow charter approvals in favor of a "community schools" model that widely collaborates in developing reforms.

Jed Wallace, chief executive of the California Charter Schools Assn., said parents will continue to back charter schools. Nearly a quarter of L.A. Unified students attend those campuses, with tens of thousands on waiting lists — a show of support, he said, that charter opponents cannot stop.

"They can make it more difficult, but ultimately they cannot stop this process from happening," he said.

Standardized testing is another hotly contested subject. Diane Ravitch, an education historian and critic of Deasy and others with similar positions, called testing the "linchpin of the corporate reform movement" because low scores can open the door to school takeovers by private operators. They are also being used for such crucial decisions as teacher hiring, firing and pay in some districts, with instructors judged in part by their students' gains in test scores.

Resistance to standardized testing has mushroomed across the nation, with student unions forming against them in such cities as Providence, R.I., and Portland, Ore. In Texas, 90% of school districts have adopted resolutions against high-stakes testing. In Florida, 11 school districts representing 42% of public school students called for the state to suspend standardized testing.

Caputo-Pearl said the union would push for changes in Deasy's teacher evaluation system, including an end to testing data for anything other than framing goals or shaping teaching practices.

That will probably draw a challenge from organizations such as EdVoice, a Sacramento-based educational advocacy group funded by the Broad Foundation and others. Bill Lucia, the group's executive director, said California court rulings have ensured that policies involving teacher evaluations and job protections would continue regardless of who runs the school district.

In 2012, an L.A. County Superior Court judge affirmed that state law required the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, while another judge this year struck down five laws involving traditional teacher job protections, saying they violated students' constitutional rights to an equal education by keeping "grossly ineffective" teachers on the job. Deasy supported both cases.

Most agree that the growing backlash against testing, charters and other policies opposed by teacher unions and other activists is spelling peril to superintendents who push them. Last week, former school superintendents in Oakland and Sacramento spoke out in support of Deasy, saying their efforts to push changes had also sparked huge teacher union opposition.

Tony Smith, the former head of Oakland's schools, said some of his changes — including closing schools, sidestepping seniority rules and requiring some teachers at failing campuses to reapply for their jobs — prompted union members to march on his house in protest.

"Anybody who is talking about putting students first from the superintendent's seat is a target," Smith said in an interview.

Hess said Deasy's departure follows the exit of similarly minded school chiefs, such as Joel Klein in New York and Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C. He predicted that their critics could aim to take down others like them, such as Tom Boasberg in Denver, Terry Grier in Houston or Rhee's successor in D.C., Kaya Henderson.

"Deasy was one more domino in the chain," Hess said. "The biggest effect is that the anti-reform angst that got targeted on Deasy will now rush to find a new target, and some superintendent who was getting less attention is now about to win the lottery."



By Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters in the Huffington Post | 



LOS ANGELES, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Updated: 10/20/2014 11:59 am EDT  ::  Former Los Angeles public schools Superintendent John Deasy said on Friday, a day after resigning from his post, that his testimony in a landmark case on tenure rules for teachers created a polarizing atmosphere over his leadership.

The former top official of the second-largest school district in the nation, who has been praised by reform groups seeking to hold teachers to more stringent standards, also told reporters in a conference call that he might eventually run for office.

Deasy, who led the school district since 2011 and oversaw a problem-plagued $1.3 billion effort to equip students in the district with iPads, announced his resignation on Thursday in a joint statement with the school board.

Former Superintendent Ramon Cortines will replace Deasy on a temporary basis, starting on Monday. Deasy will stay on in a new role for the rest of the year to aid the leadership transition.

Earlier this year, in a landmark California court case that saw a judge overturn some state-mandated teacher job protections, Deasy testified students were hurt by rules that made it costly and difficult to remove bad teachers.

The controversial ruling, which led the teachers union to accuse Deasy of scapegoating instructors in his role as a star witness, is on hold pending an appeal by California officials.

Deasy told reporters his testimony "did intensify a polarizing debate around leadership and my own leadership." But in a conference call organized by Students Matter, which helped bring the lawsuit, Deasy stopped short of criticizing the board that had negotiated his departure.

Deasy, who last year wrangled with the teachers union over factoring student test scores into performance evaluations, also said that approach and other policies could be endangered with his departure.

"I think all the policies could be at risk, and I think that would be a shame for youth," he said.

School board member Steve Zimmer said in a phone interview the school district would proceed with changes begun under Deasy, including the framework for teacher evaluations and an overhaul of student discipline to avoid suspensions.

"Every major initiative that we agreed on together will move forward," he said. "It's not a question of whether we move forward, it's just a question of how."

Zimmer acknowledged Deasy's testimony in the teacher tenure case created tension with the board, but he said that did not lead to Deasy's departure. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Beech)

Monday, October 20, 2014

POLITICO MORNING ED: California superintendent battle escalates

By Allie Grasgreen w/ help from Caitlin Emma and Stephanie Simon, POLITICO's Morning Education | by email

Oct 20, 2014  ::  FIRST LOOK: CALIFORNIA BATTLE ESCALATES: Money has been pouring into the hard-fought race for Superintendent of Public Instruction in California. In just the last two weeks, wealthy supporters of challenger Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive deeply rooted in the education reform movement, have spent more than $4.5 million. Their website: . Incumbent Tom Torlakson, meanwhile, has benefitted from the prodigious resources of the California Teachers Association, which has spent more than $2 million in the same period. Now the American Federation of Teachers is joining the fray. The AFT's independent expenditure PAC made a six-figure digital ad buy that hits Tuck hard for the two years he spent as a Wall Street banker - and for his ongoing support from the business community.

- The video depicts an elementary school classroom that's taken over by Wall Street fat cats, who replace the blackboard with a stock ticker board, usher the teacher out the door - and even steal a little girl's lunch. ("Jelly is outstanding," one banker comments as he gulps down her sandwich.) "Marshall Tuck would sell off our schools and sell out our kids," the narrator says. Watch the ad: and the related website, both produced in association with the California Federation of Teachers: There's also an ad running on Pandora that suggests Tuck is for "more tests" while Torlakson wants "more art, music and learning."

- On the campaign trail, Tuck takes offense when Torlakson refers to him as a "Wall Street banker," given that he spent just two years in the job after graduating college. The response from his campaign manager, Cynara Lilly: "No amount of childish ads or false attacks will change the fact that California schools are failing and Tom Torlakson will do anything to defend a broken status quo."


Breitbartlogo With the Los Angeles Unified School District Board ready to fire Superintendent John Deasy, he resigned as head of the nation's second-largest public school system just six months after he spiked his annual salary to $384,184 with $54,184 in buy-outs.

by Chriss W. Street \ Breitbart California |

18 Oct 2014  ::  After serving just four years and four months, Deasy will be able to immediately cash out 36 days of accrued vacation for about $48,286. He will also start receiving a spiked lifetime pension of roughly $39,955 per annum from the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), about $6,000 more than a District teacher who worked for 30 years.

The Los Angeles area beginning teacher salary is $34,000 a year. If a teacher worked for the LA School District for 30 years and is earning the average annual salary of $50,012 a year, she could retire this year with a lifetime pension of $36,009 a year.

In March 2014, Mr. Deasy talked the District into rolling a $20,000 payment for a prior employment pension the District was funding into his salary. He also was able to roll 24 days a year of vacation time he said he was always too busy to take into his salary at the rate of $1,341 a day. The impact raised his $330,000 salary to $384,184 a year.

Mr. Deasy came to the LA Schools in August of 2010 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he served as Deputy Director of Education. Prior to that, he served as Superintendent of the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Public Schools. Although there is no disclosure of his compensation at his prior jobs, he undoubtedly will also be receiving pensions from both organizations. 

Mr. Deasy’s tenure as Superintendent has been incredibly controversial. He championed a $1 billion-dollar expenditure on iPads from Apple Computer and Common Core curriculum from Pearson Publications. But when the program failed miserably and was suspended, Deasy received criticism over his close personal ties to both corporations due to his work at the Gates Foundation pushing Common Core. 

United Teachers Los Angeles union representatives called for Deasy to be put on leave in mid-September amid the iPad fiasco and investigation. Throughout his tenure, Deasy often sparred with the teachers' union.

ABC Eyewitness News reported that the LAUSD Board discussed Deasy's performance review during a closed-door session two weeks ago, and that four members were ready to vote Deasy out. Knowing that, the source says Deasy agreed to step aside and enter into negotiations for a separation agreement. With twenty months left on his contract, Deasy could also be in line to pick up another check for about $640,306.

Mr. Deasy seems to symbolize everything that is problematic about public school education in America. He was highly paid, spiked his compensation and pension in his last year, and many parents and teachers complained he was a horrible leader. But Mr. Deasy was allowed to resign just before being fired and still pick up a boat load of cash and plenty of pension benefits for the rest of his life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Sandy Banks | Los Angeles Times |

Oct 17, 4:33 PM :: Los Angeles school officials knew what they were getting when they hired John Deasy in 2010.

He'd led national efforts to hold teachers accountable for student performance. He was brash, impatient and high-minded. He had the ear of billionaire Bill Gates, the backing of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and access to local philanthropists looking for projects to fund.

Deasy promised that in five years, he'd make Los Angeles a showcase for school reform. But he didn't stick it out that long. Because the world around him shifted and he could not — or would not — adapt:

The city's hard-charging "education mayor," Antonio Villaraigosa, has been replaced by a hands-off mayor content with incremental gains. The school board is no longer dominated by big-picture reformers. The teachers' union has a tough new leader and an uncompromising agenda.

The changes left Deasy marooned, with few allies and no insulation from his own personality flaws: He pushed too hard, bristled at criticism, didn't know how to build consensus. He plowed ahead because he thought he knew better than everyone else.

That stands, for now, as the epitaph for Deasy's too-short tenure.

But it doesn't reflect the risks he took and challenges he faced.

It's clear the district is better now than it was four years ago. And in pockets of Los Angeles, Deasy — for all his missteps — is a hero and a martyr.


Deasy had considered resigning last year, and the school board seemed ready to accede. Then hundreds of parents, community activists, civic leaders and civil rights advocates weighed in.

"He's been a real warrior on behalf of vulnerable, marginalized kids," said Robert Ross, president of the California Endowment, the state's largest healthcare foundation.

He recalled meeting with Deasy to express concern about disproportionate punishment doled out to black and Latino boys. "I was expecting to be stonewalled," Ross said. "I thought it would be a fight. Instead he was finishing my sentences. We were on the same page."

Deasy is credited with raising the profile of social issues that interfere with learning. He arranged for children to have breakfast in their classrooms, ended reliance on student suspensions as a disciplinary tool, and directed more money to schools with the neediest pupils.

For decades, L.A. Unified leaders had focused on wooing and keeping middle-class students in district schools. Deasy made clear that underprivileged children were his priority. His goal was not just raising test scores, but "lifting youth out of poverty."

He said that so often, the phrase became Deasy's trademark among supporters — and a way to mock him among those who thought we ought to focus less on feeding hungry kids and more on teaching English.

"John Deasy told the unvarnished truth about the fact that these children were being shortchanged," said Mark Rosenbaum of Public Counsel, which sued to force the state to intervene in problem-plagued local schools.

"He brought it to the attention of the school board, the court, the public.... I'd get emails from him at all hours of the day and night. He never stopped working for these kids. I think this is a huge loss, and the children of Los Angeles are the biggest losers."

Even teachers union President Alex Caputo-Pearl gives Deasy credit for pushing issues like student discipline onto the public stage. "He jumped on the crest of waves that had been building around issues for years. He brought a sense of urgency; he weighed in, and things became policies."

But some of Deasy's policies amounted to little more than grandstanding, Caputo-Pearl said.

"He'd get some national headline: We're doing away with suspensions. We're going to be the first big urban district with a computerized student data system. But there was no preparation, no professional development …no plan for when things went sideways."

Deasy got the credit, and overburdened schools were saddled with the mess.


It will take a while to settle on Deasy's legacy. District test scores have soared and graduation rates are finally rising.

But Caputo-Pearl doesn't buy the "things are better now" version of Deasy's tenure. Morale is lower at schools than it's been in decades, he said. Administrators are furious, teachers frustrated and parents bewildered by changes imposed with little training and no input from the trenches.

That's why interim Supt. Ramon Cortines plans to make mending fences his priority. Everyone could use a break from Deasy's passion and the school board's drama.

No one is saying yet where the district plans to look for Deasy's successor. Some of his deputies are educators he brought into the system after he was hired; others he plucked from campuses and catapulted into top spots.

Deasy's been such a commanding presence, it's hard to imagine that his underlings are ready for the spotlight.

In fact, it's hard for me to imagine why anyone would want the job at all. The politics are toxic, the problems intractable, the pressure hard to bear.

In Cortines, we will have a peacemaker running things. But I hope there's another troublemaker, like Deasy, waiting in the wings

Saturday, October 18, 2014


By e-mail to 4LAKids from a knowledgeable school-based educator and occasional contributor

Thur, Oct 16, 2014 11:58 pm | Updated further Oct 22 (see following)

As I read about Supt. Deasy's resignation, I have two thoughts:

The MiSiS debacle was more of a factor than the iPads.

The decision to implement MiSIS this year was negligent, and schools are a shambles due to MiSIS. Unfortunately, there's no obvious way to extricate ourselves from this mess that affects, to varying degrees, every school in LAUSD. Students will be hurt, and after multiple system failures, employees have lost all faith in LAUSD’s Information Technology Division. At a series of eight meetings (22 hours total) hosted by Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) between November, 2012 and May, 2014, Chief Information Officer Ron Chandler, Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill and other high district and ITD officials were warned repeatedly, and in compelling detail, by school site administrators and coordinators, but they chose to ignore the school-based experts who would have to use the system.

Most stories state that Supt. Deasy raised test scores, so I reviewed the data this evening.

The Deasy superintendency began in April, 2011, shortly before the CST exams were given, so 2011 seems a sensible baseline. Since the CST was not given in 2014, claims about Supt. Deasy raising test scores rest on the 2012 and 2013 CST. Attached (following) is a spreadsheet that includes the 2011-2013 LAUSD and (for comparison) statewide CST ELA scores for grades 3-11, the CST Math scores for grades 3-6, and the CST Algebra 1 scores for grades 7-11. Cohort views of the ELA and Math are included so that one can see how the same (or substantially the same) group did through three years of testing. There are a few bright spots (6th grade and 10th grade English; 4th and 6th grade math; 8th grade Algebra 1), but there are no huge, across-the-board improvements. Besides, the achievement of an 8th grader on the 2013 CST is the consequence of at least nine years of schooling, only two of which were during Mr. Deasy's superintendency.

  • UPDATE: at the request of the anonymous contributor a misspelling was corrected in the first paragraph. At the request of another the spreadsheet has been made more legible.
            CST ELA % Proficient        
CST ELA % Proficient         by Cohort       Change Change
        Change Change   2011 2012 2013 2011‐2013 2012‐2013
Grade 3 2011 2012 2013 2011‐2013 2012‐2013   Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5    
LAUSD 39 43 40 1 (3) LAUSD 39 62 53 14 (9)
CA 46 48 45 (1) (3) CA 46 67 60 14 (7)
Grade 4             Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6    
LAUSD 58 62 58 0 (4) LAUSD 58 54 49 (9) (5)
CA 64 67 65 1 (2) CA 64 63 60 (4) (3)
Grade 5             Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7    
LAUSD 51 54 53 2 (1) LAUSD 51 47 47 (4) 0
CA 59 63 60 1 (3) CA 59 59 60 1 1
Grade 6             Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8    
LAUSD 41 47 49 8 2 LAUSD 41 49 44 3 (5)
CA 55 59 60 5 1 CA 55 62 57 2 (5)
Grade 7             Grade 7 Grade 8 Grade 9    
LAUSD 44 49 47 3 (2) LAUSD 44 48 45 (1) (3)
CA 57 62 60 3 (2) CA 57 59 62 5 3
Grade 8             Grade 8 Grade 9 Grade 10    
LAUSD 42 48 44 2 (4) LAUSD 42 39 43 1 4
CA 57 59 57 0 (2) CA 57 57 52 (5) (5)
Grade 9             Grade 9 Grade 10 Grade 11    
LAUSD 37 39 45 8 6 LAUSD 37 39 40 3 1
CA 55 57 62 7 5 CA 55 50 48 (7) (2)
Grade 10             Grade 10 Grade 11      
LAUSD 35 39 43 8 4 LAUSD 35 41   6 NA
CA 48 50 52 4 2 CA 48 48   0 NA
Grade 11                      
LAUSD 37 41 40 3 (1)            
CA 45 48 48 3 0            

CST Math % Proficient         CST Math % Proficient        
        Change Change by Cohort       Change Change
Grade 3 2011 2012 2013 2011‐2013 2012‐2013   2011 2012 2013 2011‐2013 2012‐2013
LAUSD 66 69 65 (1)     Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5    
CA 68 69 66 (2)   LAUSD 66 67 61 (5) (6)
            CA 68 71 65 (3) (6)
Grade 4                      
LAUSD 67 67 70 3     Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6    
CA 71 71 72 1   LAUSD 67 61 46 (21) (15)
            CA 71 65 55 (16) (10)
Grade 5                      
LAUSD 60 61 61 1     Grade 5 Grade 6 NA    
CA 63 65 65 2   LAUSD 60 45      
            CA 63 55      
Grade 6                      
LAUSD 41 45 46 5              
CA 53 55 55 2              


% Proficient




CST Algebra 1






LAUSD Grade 7






CA Grade 7






LAUSD Grade 8






CA Grade 8






LAUSD Grade 9






CA Grade 9






LAUSD Grade 10






CA Grade 10






LAUSD Grade 11






CA Grade 11








by email from another anonymous source

Update: Oct 22, 2014

This graph shows each grade level's change in ELA CST from grade 3 – grade 11 between 2011 and 2013; LAUSD on the left, CA on the right.

This graph shows each school type's change (Upper Elementary, Middle, High) in ELA CST from Upper Elementary – High School between 2011 and 2013.

Combining the grades into these three groups makes it a little bit easier to see a pattern and the groupings do make some sense pedagogically.
The overall trends of all three groups are the same in LAUSD as in CA at large. Note the scales were not constructed to be the same (and they should be). The years are 2011 2012 and 2013 respectively – obviously axes aren't labeled properly. All three school groups are considerably less on average in LAUSD than in CA as a whole; the trends are all similar but the magnitude of change, but rise and fall, are smaller (more flat) in LAUSD than CA – which is interesting given how much larger all of CA is – one would possibly expect more buffering and less volatility. Note that LAUSD is the largest school district and contained in the CA numbers – these are not independent groups. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the overall trends are the same. A comparison with all that is not LAUSD would be even more diminished in absolute value (that is the {CA, w/o LAUSD} curve would be even higher and more distant from the {LAUSD} curve).

All these differences in all directions and dimensions are statistically significant … but are they meaningful?

Recall that API scores cannot be used as a longitudinal comparison. They must and may only be used to compare pairs of years, not three in a row. And that only if the adjusted API is used as a base comparison. Because the components of API change completely from year to year, there is nothing comparable between years about them. However, the statistics are recalculated every year in the spring to use next year's new set of metrics. Every year therefore has two sets of API scores, one that compares with last year's, and the new one. The old one is what is reported so that it is comparable with what one knew from the previous year – the re-calculated one that is. But often instead what is compared is the previously-reported "old" API, which is comparable only with the previous years', not the forward-years'. This is all never explained – for example, who knows which APIs are reported here in this data?

It all matters…

And, it makes further analysis of these scores pointless. They are not comparable over a series of three years, as minimal as that snapshot would be!