Monday, September 01, 2014

LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S OFFICE PROPOSES PARADIGM SHIFT IN MANAGING STATE EDUCATION: Beyond compliance to true collaborative oversight – not “permissible” …but “effective”

By Jane Meredith Adams | EdSource Today  |

The California Department of Education building in Sacramento.

August 29, 2014 |  Proposing a fundamental change in the way the California Department of Education operates, a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office Thursday suggested the department move beyond its current focus on federal compliance, an emphasis it said school districts find “increasingly reactive and punitive.”

Instead, the 28-page report proposed that the department encourage collaboration among its staff members, particularly those who are overseeing federally funded programs for students with disabilities, English learners and low-income students. The goal would be to make oversight activities more valuable for school districts, the report said.

As an example, the report noted that education departments in other states have merged staff responsibilities to include not just an evaluation of  whether federal funds are being spent in ways that are permissible, but whether districts are spending funds in ways that are effective, the report said.

“Such an approach would represent a paradigm shift for CDE and would require more coordination across – or a reorganization of – CDE divisions,” the report said.

Richard Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent of public instruction, praised the report as “thoughtful.”

“What the report is urging us to do, and I don’t think we disagree with them, is where we can find opportunities to have more supportive models of compliance, we should,” Zeiger said.

Yet, he noted, when department staff members visit schools, districts like to know “are you the compliance person or the helper person?”

Special education is an area where the state already is examining better ways to deliver services, he said.

Vicki Barber, co-executive director of the Statewide Special Education Task Force, said the task force had received numerous comments from the public that, like the LAO report, suggested increasing collaboration and coordination among California Department of Education staff members. The task force will be releasing its recommendations in a final report in late fall.

While the report suggested that the department “explore ways to add value” to its federally required compliance activities, it also stated that county offices of education continue to be better sources for on-the-ground support for school districts, including professional development and technical assistance.

In other findings, the report said staffing at the department is reasonable given its current responsibilities, but new assignments would require additional staffing.

In a recommendation that was warmly received at the department, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reviewed 77 reports that the Legislature requires the department to create and suggested the repeal of 54 of those reporting requirements. Those 54 reports are “no longer pertinent, do not provide sufficient information to merit their costs” or the information is already available or available upon request, the report said.

The report was the first from the non-partisan office, which analyzes finance and policy for the Legislature, about the department, which has about 1,500 employees and an annual budget of around $250 million.

  • Jane Meredith Adams covers student health and well-being. Email her or Follow her on Twitter. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.


By John Fensterwald | EdSource Today |

Credit: John Fensterwald/EdSource Today - Surrounded by other members of the student group Californians For Justice, Karla Rodriguez, a junior at James Lick High in San Jose, asks the East Side Union High School District school board to include students in the LCAP process during a meeting in May. The State Board of Education will consider amending LCAP regulations to require school districts to solicit the views of students.

August 28, 2014  ::   The State Board of Education next week will consider and possibly settle a debate over one word in the proposed final regulations for the Local Control Funding Formula. The decision would end a year-long disagreement between school districts and civil rights organizations over spending flexibility under the state’s new school funding formula.

The word at issue is “principally.” It would be in a section of regulations controlling the Local Control and Accountability Plan, the three-year budget and academic improvement plan that districts completed in June. It would spell out when districts can use money allotted for “high-needs” students – low-income students, students learning English and foster youths – for purposes that would benefit all students in a school or district. In those cases, districts would have to justify that the services and programs using that money would be “principally directed towards, and are effective in, meeting the district’s goals” for high-needs students. For example, a district could propose using funding for high-needs students to extend the academic day or offer summer school for all students who are behind. The district would have to show that such a use would help close the achievement gap for the high-needs students who must benefit from  the extra money under the funding formula.

Advocates for low-income children, including Public Advocates, the ACLU and Children Now, lobbied to have “principally “ added to prevent districts from using money in ways that wouldn’t benefit high-needs students. Organizations representing districts and school administrators wanted the word taken out. In a July 3 letter to the state board, the California School Boards Association said that “principally” is subjective. “Its inclusion would likely confuse the public rather than make the LCAP more transparent,” it said. School board members predicted in testimony that including the word might lead to needless litigation.

The staff of the state board has sided with the advocates and left “principally” in the proposed regulations, while arguing that, really, it won’t make that much difference.

“We think ‘principally’ is consistent with the provision,” said Brooks Allen, deputy policy director and assistant legal counsel with the state board. “It provides a little more emphasis but does not substantially change the meaning. We don’t understand how this represents a significant change.”

There is more agreement among education and advocacy groups over the other final changes to the regulations that the state board staff is proposing.

One, strongly pushed by student activists who demonstrated at two state board meetings this year, would state that district administrators should seek the ideas of students when creating the LCAP – and not just wait until it’s been written.

Staff have also redesigned sections of the LCAP template, which districts must use to make it clearer and make it easier to match a district’s academic goals with expenditures to achieve them. There also would be a separate update section so that the public could readily see whether a district spent the money on programs it committed to and whether it was making progress toward improving student engagement, parent involvement, academic achievement and other goals.

The state board will adopt the proposed changes either at its meeting on Sept. 4 or at its next meeting in November.

Going Deeper


School Innovations & Achievement



from the SI&A  Newsroom |

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Package of Truancy Legislation Passes State Legislature

State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General
Kamala D. Harris ~ Attorney General

Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that a package of legislation to help local school districts and communities address California’s elementary school truancy crisis has passed out of both legislative houses and is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

“Each year approximately one million California elementary school children are truant from class. Good education policies are meaningless if students aren’t at their desks,” Attorney General Harris said. “I applaud the legislature for bringing us one step closer to stopping this crisis.”

If signed into law, these bills will:

Help schools and counties work with parents to address the core reasons behind truancy and chronic absence.
Give local school districts and counties tools to comply with attendance tracking requirements in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), state truancy mandates and state and federal reporting requirements.
Modernize state and local systems to track and prevent truancy and chronic absence.
Ensure that schools, districts, counties and the state can evaluate the success of interventions to combat truancy and chronic absence.

Attorney General Harris announced her sponsorship of the four bills and introduced the legislative package at a March 10, 2014 press conference with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Assemblymembers Raul Bocanegra, Rob Bonta, Joan Buchanan, Isadore Hall and Chris Holden.

A complete list of education, public policy, and law enforcement leaders and organizations who have endorsed the legislation is available here:

The legislation will, if signed, put recommended reforms from Attorney General Harris’ 2013 report, In School + On Track ( into law. The report contained the first state-wide statistics on California’s elementary school truancy crisis. It revealed that in the 2012-2013 school year, 1 million elementary school students were truant and 250,000 elementary school students missed 18 or more school days at a cost of $1.4 billion in lost funds to California school districts. Annually, dropouts cost California taxpayers an estimated $46.4 billion in incarceration, lost productivity and lost taxes.

Next month, Attorney General Harris will issue the 2014 In School + On Track report containing updated statewide figures on elementary school truancy and its fiscal impact on local school districts.

Attorney General Harris’ Truancy Legislation Package:

ASSEMBLY BILL 1866 - Statewide Attendance Data System

Author: Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra

Adds truancy and absenteeism to the information collected by the state Department of Education. California is one of only a few states in the country that does not collect student attendance data. This bill will allow local school districts to monitor and analyze attendance patterns, as required under the Local Control Funding Formula.

ASSEMBLY BILL 1672 - Enhanced Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) Reports

Author: Assemblymember Chris Holden

Expands annual reports from local School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) to include information on student enrollment, absence and truancy rates, district attorney referrals and SARB intervention outcomes. Current annual SARB reports provide minimal information about intervention outcomes, so it is difficult to get the full picture of SARB efforts around the state. This bill ensures schools, districts and counties can evaluate the success of truancy intervention efforts.

ASSEMBLY BILL 1643 - Improved SARBs

Author: Assemblymember Joan Buchanan

Adds representatives of a county district attorney’s office and county public defender’s office to both county and local School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs). This will provide local courts with a broader understanding of attendance issues and will enhance the ability of SARBs to solve the root cause of truancy problems.

ASSEMBLY BILL 2141 - District Attorney Referral Outcome Reports

Authors: Assemblymember Isadore Hall, Assemblymember Rob Bonta

Requires that district attorney’s offices provide a report to school officials on the outcome of a truancy related referral. This helps school officials determine which outcomes are most effective and guarantees baseline information sharing between referring agencies and prosecutors.

Reposted from the SI&A  Newsroom |

The costs of chronic absences

The Bakersfield Californian
By: The Bakersfield Californian and Al Sandrini
Posted: June 2, 2014

It's unfortunate that when people talk about truancy or school absences it is always through the prism of lost funding to schools. There is a much larger, dangerous and destructive effect of truancy/chronic absences I choose to address: the impact of students not learning.

Research abounds that if kids miss school at any age -- but especially in the first three or four years of school -- though not destined, they are heading toward that well-known "school-to-jail pipeline" where citizens' taxes are paid to incarcerate them instead of educate them.

Did you know that, nationally, 1,300 teens drop out of school every day? Did you know 500,000 kids drop out every year? In California, for every 120,000 high school dropouts, the state loses $45 billion due to lost tax income, crime prevention expenses and other costs (California Dropout Research Project). Over two-thirds of dropouts will use food stamps to pay for food and other necessities. Dropouts make up 30 percent of federal prisoners, 40 percent of state prisoners and 50 percent of all prisoners on death row.

Guess what? A leading contributor, in addition to poverty, to those startling numbers is chronic absences of children between kindergarten and Grade 3. Chronic absences are described as missing 10 percent or more of school for any reason -- excused, unexcused, etc. In 2012, five out of six elementary schools in Oakland, Calif., reported between 12-16 percent of their students were chronically absent. Students chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently in third grade. Chronic absences within families seldom "spike" from year to year. Analysis by Attendance Works provides that each year of chronic absence in elementary school is associated with a substantially higher probability of chronic absence in the sixth grade. Lower test scores and higher levels of suspension are also measurable impacts on chronic absences in a student's early years.

Over 61 percent of high school seniors who dropped out of school in a Utah study were chronically absent during their four years of high school, according to the Utah Data Alliance.

Three massive myths perpetuate this problem: 1) Absences are only a problem if they are unexcused. 2) Sporadic versus consecutive absences aren't a problem. 3) Attendance only matters in the older grades. (As a life-long educator, I must confess to falling victim to the first one.)

Why do primary age kids miss school? A variety of reasons exist, but the root of chronic absences can often be found when one of the following conditions exists: The child is struggling academically. There's a lack of engaging instruction. There's a poor school climate or ineffective school discipline. The child's parents had negative school experiences. Or, the child lives in poverty.

What has to happen to change this self-fulfilling prophecy? It's never easy, but the answer lies in that we must first recognize chronic absences as a problem. Second, we must recognize it is not just a school problem but a societal problem. Third, and most difficult, we must change the culture and attitude of schools and parents that excused absences are OK.

In December 2013, at the invitation of Juvenile Court Judge William Palmer and several others from Kern, I had the good fortune to attend a summit, "Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court Initiative," sponsored by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Representatives from each county in California were challenged to address this problem at the local level.

Over that past several months, we have met with representatives from the offices of the district attorney, public health, welfare, probation, foster care and TRACK (Truancy Reduction & Attendance Coalition of Kern). In Kern, we were fortunate to discover we had the superstructure in TRACK (led by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools) to begin our assault on chronic absences. We needed to reach beyond Truancy to focus on all absences, and we need cooperative work of all agencies -- from the mayor's office, to the Kern County Board of Supervisors, to any person who wants to create a better world for our current youth and future adults.

It will take more than the resolutions adopted by local leaders. It will take more than laws passed in Sacramento (Local Control and Accountability Plan). It will take more than schools accepting chronic absences as injurious to the future of students. It will take more than educating parents that accumulative absences are harmful to their children, and they must find the will to get them to school on time and ready to work.

September has been declared "Attendance Awareness Month." Let's not wait until then to start our efforts to improve attendance. Let the discussion and eventual solutions to chronic absences and its impact on society begin today.

Photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian. Al Sandrini is former superintendent of the Norris School District and former executive director of the Sacramento-based Small School Districts' Association.

DEADLINE L.A.: Howard Blume explains iPadGate/The iPad Kerfuffle …whatever it is.

Deadline L.A. with Barbara Osborn & Howard Blume on KPFK 90.7 FM  |

Deadline LA Mondays, 3:00 PM (pst)

CO-HOSTS: Barbara Osborn and Howard Blume,  Producer: Laurie Kaufman

DESCRIPTION: Deadline L.A. is KPFK's roving eye on the media. We praise and pummel the news media for how it is - or isn't - covering stories.

    Host Barbara Osborn is a communications consultant at Wow The Crowd. She consults on strategy, storytelling and style for nonprofit leaders. She also teaches a doctoral seminar at USC Annenberg in community based participatory research.
    For 15 years, she was strategic communications director at Liberty Hill Foundation, one of the country's leading social change foundations. She  also has an extensive background as a  print reporter, and radio and TV documentary producer. She has conducted several studies of the local L.A. news media in conjunction with Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. In them, she revealed that our most cynical suspicions about the local tv news are true: If it bleeds it leads and surfing dogs do get more airtime than public officials. Shortly after its debut in spring 1997, Deadline LA, was hailed as L.A.'s "best new radio program" by New Times L.A.
  • Co-host Howard Blume is an education reporter at The L.A. Times. Prior to joining The Times, he was managing editor at The Jewish Journal and an award-winning reporter at The L.A. Weekly. He joined Deadline L.A. in November 2004.


Monday, September 1, 2014 3:00 pm

from Howard’s Tweets:

Howard Blume @howardblume : On Deadline LA today, we discuss the LAUSD iPad project (first half-hour) , and we also tackle environmental issues with Louis Sahagun. (second half hour) It's all on a special, one-hour edition of Deadline LA, from 3 to 4 PM today on KPFK 90.7 FM and .


by Becky Vevea | fromWBEZ | Morning Edition | National Public Radio |

Listen to the Story | 3 min 53 sec

There aren't mass layoffs of librarians; they're just doing different jobs. i

There aren't mass layoffs of librarians; they're just doing different jobs.  - Robyn Mackenzie/iStockphoto

September 01, 2014 4:22 AM ET  ::  Two years ago, the Chicago Public Schools budgeted for 454 librarians. Last year, the budget called for 313 librarians, and now that number is down to 254.

With educators facing tough financial choices, having a full-time librarian is becoming something of a luxury in Chicago's more than 600 public schools.

It's not that there's a shortage of librarians in Chicago, and it's not mass layoffs. The librarians are being reassigned.

"The people are there, they're just not staffing the library; they're staffing another classroom," says Megan Cusick, a librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School. She says all across the district, certified librarians are being reassigned to English classrooms, world languages or to particular grade levels in elementary schools.

"We got down to the point of saying, well, we have a classroom and it doesn't have a teacher," says Scott Walter, a parent at Nettelhorst Elementary, a popular school in the upper-middle-class Lake View neighborhood on the city's North Side.

He says when the district stopped funding specific positions and let principals and school councils decide how to spend their money, the numbers weren't adding up.

"Here's the position and she can be in a library or we can have a teacher in front of 30 kids. And no matter how much you love libraries, and as much as I do, you can't have a classroom without a teacher in front of it," Walter says.

Ultimately, Nettelhorst had to move its librarian, who is also a certified teacher, into a fourth-grade classroom.

In Illinois, all librarians must also have teaching certifications, and most have endorsements to teach specific grades and subjects.

There's no required amount of minutes for library instruction in the state, so schools won't face any repercussions if they don't have a librarian or a school library.
Scott Walter says Nettelhorst students are still able to check out books, because the clerk and parent volunteers help staff the library. Still, he says, it's a lose-lose.

"It feels [like] CPS [Chicago Public Schools] has set us up into a situation where we have to decide which finger we don't want," he says.

School officials wouldn't go on tape for this story. In a fact sheet sent to WBEZ, they touted the district's expanded virtual libraries available to all students. A spokesperson wrote, "we will not be satisfied until we have central and/or classroom-based libraries in every school."

At a school board meeting this summer, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett addressed the issue and said the real problem is with hiring.

"It's not that we don't want to have librarians in libraries. Nobody can argue that point, but the pool is diminished," she says.

Cusick says if the hiring pool is empty, that's because so many librarians are being reassigned.

She says with so many librarians being transferred to the classroom something bigger is being lost. In the library, they teach kids how to do research, how to find and evaluate information, which she says is even more important in the digital age.

"Kids don't just know how to do that. It's not a skill that they develop just because they have an iPhone or because they have a computer at home, which many of our students don't have," she says.

Cusick and her colleagues don't want to see librarians added at the expense of other positions, like art teachers and physical education teachers. But they also don't want to see school libraries just become places where books are stored and meetings are held.


By Sharon Noguchi, San Jose Mercury News |

8/31/2014 03:39:02 PM PDT  ::  SACRAMENTO -- Trying to protect children from marketers, identity thieves and predators, California could establish the nation's toughest protections of student privacy and forbid the sale and disclosure of schools' online student data.

"It's a big win for kids," said James Steyer, whose advocacy group Common Sense Media pushed hard for the bill. He called it a landmark for student privacy and said he hopes other states will follow suit.

Despite forceful pushback from high-tech heavies, the bill by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg passed the Legislature unanimously last week.

If signed by Brown, Senate Bill 1177 would prohibit targeted ads based on school information and creating student profiles when not used for education purposes. And it would require that educational tech data be kept secure.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, called the bill "a reasonable but aggressive measure that makes clear that data collected by private companies needs to be used only to enhance and improve the education for young people."

A tandem bill by Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, that was also approved by the Legislature requires that student data managed by outside companies remain the property of school districts and in their control. Some data-management contracts have awarded companies the right to use records as they please.

The legislation comes amid rapid growth in the educational software and digital content industry, estimated more than a year ago at $8 billion nationally. School districts outsource management of student records -- covering attendance, grades, discipline, health, academic progress as well as parent and student contact information and sometimes even a child's physical location.

Teachers use programs to teach and track progress or control behavior. Both types of systems include individual accounts brimming with information on each student, the type of data enticing to those wishing to sell to or prey on children.

Needed guidance

Federal law already prohibits districts from releasing student information but doesn't limit the firms that contract to manage data.

"That information is never supposed to leave the district, but, by definition of the cloud infrastructure, it's already left the district's hands," said Steven Liao, a Danville parent who has been alarmed about gaps in schools' cybersecurity. Classroom technology, he said, is proliferating more quickly than systems to manage it.

"Teachers are under tremendous pressure to implement web-based technology. Students learn to type in third grade, do Google Docs in fourth grade, blog in fifth grade," said Liao, a former information security auditor.

"It puts children's physical security at risk," he said. "It's irrelevant for the data to be encrypted if people have access to it."

The bill offers needed guidance for educators and protection for students, said Kelly Calhoun, chief technology officer of the Santa Clara County Office of Education. It will enable teachers, she said, "to use good instructional materials without worrying about what might happen to any data shared in the process.

Industry officials have vehemently denied that they use any student data for anything other than the intended educational purposes, even though studies have pointed out that educational technology contracts often fail to prohibit the sale of students' personal information.

Last spring, Google admitted to Education Week magazine that in its classroom applications it scanned the content of student emails for advertising purposes. Illustrating the sensitivity of the issue and the push to protect children online, tech companies did not register formal opposition to the Steinberg bill and declined to explain any concerns about it. In a statement, Mark Schneiderman of the Software & Information Industry Association said that current laws already safeguard student privacy.

"We appreciate both Senator Steinberg's leadership on this issue and his willingness to work with industry groups and other interested parties on SB1177," the statement said, adding that the group and its members will carry out the law, known as the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act.

Track performance

The bill is likely to force companies to more diligently encrypt data, although it's unclear how that will work in class. San Francisco-based ClassDojo, an application that helps manage class behavior, is encrypted -- but some schools block such encryption in order to monitor teacher-parent-student communication, company cofounder Sam Chaudhary said.

But Los Altos parent Tony Porterfield has found portions of ClassDojo not fully encrypted. He has lobbied schools, sports teams and companies to tighten privacy protections. And he calls the bill "a great start."

Unlike the finance industry, he said, for education technology "there are no standards and no real transparent metrics for a lay person to know if a site is secure or not."

Porterfield pointed to proliferating software that helps educators track how students perform and that collect names, achievement and behavior. In the case of behavioral management programs, "What if they aggregate that and start tracking kids?" he asked. "That's a huge concern."

Aden Fine, chief privacy officer for EdModo, said the San Mateo-based company "never had any concerns with the intent of this bill." The company was founded to link teachers and students securely online; last year it became fully encrypted.

Steyer of Common Sense Media said that "technology used wisely can transform learning, but students should never have to surrender their privacy at the schoolhouse door."


By Hillel Aron | The Informer || LA Weekly |


Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 6:30 AM  ::  In a surprising reversal, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy has abruptly halted the district's billion-dollar technology program, which aimed to put an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher by the end of, yes, this year.

It's a rare retreat for the headstrong superintendent intent on getting the tablets into classrooms as soon as humanly possible. But it comes after more than a year of negative news stories – everything from LAUSD students "hacking" devices to the incomplete iPAD-friendly software to an allegedly chummy bidding process in which Deasy gave Apple and Pearson, the software company, a leg up.

"We have an opportunity to put a halt on the current contract, write a new contract, address those issues that are suboptimal,"  Deasy tells us. "We’re a tiny way into it. We've given them out to 47 schools. There are 1,019 [schools] to go."


Deasy's plan had gotten all sorts of bad press over its cost, over Apple's involvement and over the troubled initial roll-out to the schools. And during the weekend, the Los Angeles Times and KPCC published eyebrow-raising emails that were released to both news organizations in response to their public records requests.

The emails between Deasy, district officials, Apple and Pearson showed that Pearson, which sells the interactive software the kids are using on their tablets, was chummy with LAUSD's top dogs long before the district began officially soliciting bids.

The stories seemed to confirm the longtime rumor that Pearson and, to a lesser extent, Apple, were unfairly favored.

Critics say the specifications of the "request for proposals" – bureaucratic jargon for the wish-lists government agencies are required to publicly release, detailing how they plan to spend taxpayer money on a specific project – were tailor-made to help Apple and Pearson win their bids.

Deasy says he "didn’t write the bid specifications" and "was not allowed to see the bid specifications" created by the district bureaucracy. Deasy had recused himself from the process, in part because at the time he owned a bit of Apple stock.

He is dismissive of the notion that he shouldn't have been chatting up the two firms long before bidding, saying, "I meet with vendors all the time, and of course I should. If people want to be vendors, they want to discuss what [you want]."

The district started small — for LAUSD — when it awarded a pilot project to Apple, but that immediately set off questions raised by the losing bidders (as well as Deasy's critics, like the school employee unions) about why the district hadn't set up parallel pilot programs to test other devices and software simultaneously.

Deasy seemed intent on embracing just one type of device, even though older students — high schoolers in particular — clearly needed keyboards to write their reports and papers. IPads don't automatically include keyboards, and that lack of foresight forced LAUSD to spend a large extra chunk of money on Bluetooth keyboards, driving up the contract costs.

And there were other troubles. As Deasy himself tells us, "There were firewall issues. People have criticized the content. Fine. ... Now we'll pause and correct those problems."

But initially, Deasy was anxious to get the devices out to kids as quickly as possible.

A Facebook group called "Repairs Not iPads" responded by highlighting the fact that many schools are in desperate need of physical repairs (the page has over 5,000 "likes"). They and others pointed out that the iPad money was being taken from school construction and modernization bonds that many critics think should be used only for physical improvements.

Last year, Los Angeles magazine writer-at-large Ed Leibowitz, who'd authored a rather glowing profile of John Deasy, wrote a new piece criticizing Deasy's iPad program:

Unfortunately, repairing hazards like broken play structures and corroded gas lines, or replacing trailers that pock so many LAUSD schools with new classrooms, doesn’t carry the kind of cachet than iPads bring—or at least, brought 15 minutes ago, before the fast-paced digital economy came out with something even newer and exciting. 

In June, school district leaders began backing off of their "all-iPad" stance, allowing several LAUSD high schools to choose among six laptops instead of Apple's tablet. That was a tacit acknowledgment that one-size-fits-all was not going to work.

That same month, the board voted to reappoint Stuart Magruder, an outspoken critic of the iPad plan, to the school bond fiscal oversight committee.

Now, in the wake of the Deasy-Apple-Pearson emails, the district will open a new bidding process, soliciting offers from companies like Google and Microsoft for their tablet computers and laptops.

The schools that already have iPads and Pearson software will continue to use them – assuming they can overcome technical glitches.

The goal of this technology program was always one part practical, one part idealistic.

The practical part is to give children some practice in the months leading up to California's big switch in testing, when some students, this spring, will begin taking their standardized tests on computers, not on paper. Loads of students won't do well if they don't know their way around a computer.

The idealistic part is to narrow the very real digital divide that separates poor and working-class Los Angeles children from middle-class and rich kids.

"My responsibility is to lift kids out of poverty," says Deasy. "They have the right to technology."

A lingering question is how this will affect Deasy's already-tenuous relationship with the elected school board, which can fire him at any time. As Steve Lopez writes in today's L.A. Times:

It remains to be seen whether the superintendent, having lost a great deal of credibility, can survive the political fallout and learn enough from his blunders to lead the way more capably.

"I think that John Deasy lives by the sword and suffers by the sword of urgency," L.A. Unified board member Steve Zimmer said. "I wouldn't want him to not be urgent, and not be impatient, but sometimes there's a cost to that."


by Ed Palmer| Financial Wired |

August 26, 2014  ::  by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is on watch after Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy says he is suspending a $1 billion iPad initiative with AAPL amid scrutiny over Deasy’s close ties with AAPL and Pearson Plc (PSO) and the integrity of the bidding process.

An initial $30 million contract with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and PSO was approved just over a year ago, according to the LA Times. That was expected to expand to about $500 million with the project rolling out over the next year or so. An additional $500 million investment was to be made for expansion of Internet and other infrastructure at schools.


By Howard Blume , LA Times |

California's governor takes opposing view from reelection opponent in lawsuit over teacher protections
An appeals court will now decide such issues as whether tenure laws should be declared unconstitutional

Gov. Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the American Federation of Teachers convention in June in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes, AP)

Aug 30, 2014  ::  The state’s two largest teacher unions are expected to follow suit in the case of Vergara vs. California. A tentative ruling, announced in June, became final this week, starting a 60-day window for an appeal.

We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. 

- Tom Torlakson, superintendent of public instruction

The decision, by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, threw out the state’s tenure process for gradeschool teachers. It also stripped instructors of rules that made dismissing them more difficult and expensive than firing other state employees. And he eliminated regulations that made seniority the primary factor in deciding which teachers to lay off.

Treu accepted the argument of plaintiffs that these rules resulted in a lower-quality teacher work force, damaging the education of students, especially low-income or minority students.

The outcome of the trial “is a victory not only for our nine plaintiffs, but also for students, parents, and teachers across California,” said attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, who represented the students who brought the case.

Treu didn’t ban these job protections in all forms, but absent a successful appeal, his ruling would leave teachers without them pending action in the Legislature.

Schools' next test is getting tenure ruling to pay off in class

One time defendant, now star witness for the plaintiffs John E. Deasy>>

The litigation was pursued under the banner of Students Matter, a Silicon Valley group founded by tech entrepreneur Dave Welch and also supported by other philanthropists active in education policy.

The group had urged the governor to let the ruling stand and had taken encouragement from Brown’s silence on the issue. Brown was under pressure to appeal from teacher unions, who are among his biggest political backers.

Poll shows state voters are willing to weaken teacher job protections

The notice of appeal cited several issues, including that “changes of this magnitude, as a matter of law and policy, require appellate review.”

<< Plaintiff Beatriz Vergara

The notice also faulted the trial judge, saying that he had “declined to provide a detailed statement of the factual and legal bases for [his] ruling.”

The appeal was submitted by state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris.

Any position the governor took could have political impact as he runs for reelection, but he didn’t have the option of waiting until after Election Day.

In Superior Court, the state defended the challenged laws, assisted by lawyers representing teacher unions. They argued that limiting the rights of teachers would be bad for students as well as their members.

“This ruling says that education reform should be driven by how we fire teachers,” said Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers.  “We think that completely misses the boat about what needs to happen in school,” he said, citing such issues as the proper training, mentoring and evalution of teachers and funding for lower class sizes.

Earlier Friday, an intent to appeal was announced by state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a Democrat and teachers union ally who also is running for reelection.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full,” Torlakson said in a release. “We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.”

Torlakson also noted that a bill somewhat streamlining the teacher dismissal process has become law since the Vergara filing.

His opponent, Democrat Marshall Tuck, applauded the Vergara ruling.

Torlakson “stands with his Sacramento funders and not with students,” Tuck said in a release. “Never has it been more clear that it is time for change in California than when the only [statewide] elected official dedicated to education will not side with kids -- even after an independent judge found that the status quo ‘shocks the conscience.'”

Brown’s challenger, Republican Neel Kashkari, also strongly supports the Vergara ruling.

In the wake of the Vergara case, legal challenges to teacher job protections have launched in other states. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014


LA Daily News Editorial |

●●: This slipped through the 4LAKids cracks two weeks ago. It is no less timely.

8/15/14, 2:44 PM PDT   ::  Of the many battlefields where the half-century-old War on Poverty has been fought, there may be none so important — or difficult to conquer — as our public classrooms.

Here in Southern California, the connection between education and poverty is clear: More than 25 percent of the region’s workers without a high school diploma live in poverty, according to U.S. Census data, and the total number of those living in poverty jumped from 1.9 million in 1990 to 3.2 million in 2012.

This troubling trend has been brought sharply into focus by the Southern California Association of Governments, which reports that the poverty rate has increased three times as fast the population has grown in the six-county region it serves.

Business owners looking to prosper, association officials say, must join the fight to end poverty.

Why? Because poor communities translate into poor business growth opportunities.

Everyone knows regulations and taxes in California stifle the abilities of some businesses to grow. But an unskilled labor force is equally as damaging to the state’s sluggish economic recovery, SCAG officials have found.

That’s why the association plans to mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of an “unconditional war on poverty in America” with a gathering Wednesday of business, civic, educational and nonprofit leaders in the hopes they will begin a regional discussion about their role in the fight.

Federal subsidy programs have lifted millions of families over the poverty line, SCAG officials say, but discussions about how these and other families will truly prosper always return to education.

In meetings throughout Southern California, SCAG leaders have been talking up the role business leaders play in ensuring that K-12 schools, community colleges and universities are training students for the right kinds of jobs, especially in high-tech industries.

In partnering with schools, business leaders can be a formidable foe against union interests and other forces that threaten the educational system’s ability to quickly adapt to the needs of emerging industries.

Business leaders must ask, are students learning the kinds of skills employers want and need? Are the students engaged and do they understand the relevance of their studies to future job opportunities? If not, what can business and civic leaders do to help? Partnerships like the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce’s financial literacy program for sixth-graders, for example, are a practical way to influence the labor market.

Wednesday’s summit is first step toward creating these kinds of coalitions. For their own good, business owners must take more than a passing interest in their local schools.

EARLY CHILDHOOD ED GETS FUNDING BOOST: LAUSD will restore funding for thousands of early childhood education student slots that had been cut + smf’s 2¢

By Sara Hayden, LA Times |

Aug 30, 2014  ::  The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday to increase funding by millions of dollars for the district's early education program.

The resolution, which passed in a 6-1 vote, is intended to eventually restore funding over the next few years for thousands of slots for children in early childhood education programs that have been slashed since 2007-08 as a result of the recession.

“We were hoping the state or federal government would step up, but we can’t wait any longer, so we decided to invest ourselves,” said Juan de la Cruz, deputy chief of staff for board member Bennett Kayser.

Los Angeles Unified's early childhood education programs will receive up to $4.9 million in 2014-15, according to De la Cruz. An additional $14 million will be added in 2015-16 and another $20 million will be added in 2016-17. Funding is expected to come from a mix of state, federal and local sources.

It’s “an investment that will help ensure more children are prepared for success in the classroom and in life,” said a statement from Kim Belshe, executive director of First 5 LA, which advocates for educational opportunities for children 5and under.

Much of the money will be dedicated to professional development, preschool, parent engagement and physical and mental health initiatives. It will support programs that serve low-income children, English learners and foster youth, whose reading levels and vocabulary often lag behind those of their peers.

“We want to target areas where there’s a need,” De la Cruz said.

California ranks 34th in per-pupil spending, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kim Pattillo Brownson, director of educational equity for the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, said the resolution represents one of the largest California school district investments in early childhood education in the last decade.

The amount is more than twice that of the much smaller Fresno Unified School District, which had the next-largest allocation and could restore by 2016 nearly 2,000 slots that were cut.

"Although it doesn't bring us back to 2008 levels, it certainly puts us on the path," she said.

●● smf's 2¢:

  • Restoring previous cuts is is a good thing, but it is not a “funding boost!’
  • Given the current regime’s fecklessness, a board resolution doesn’t represent a budget increase – it just asks for one,  Both the Board of Ed and the superintendent could use a massive transfusion of feck.  (It’s a Scots word, I’m. a Scot. I don’t have to explain it!)

Saturday, August 30, 2014


By The Associated Press, from the LA Daily News |

8/29/14, 10:31 PM PDT | Updated: 8/29/2014 8:25 am :: LOS ANGELES  ::  California Gov. Jerry Brown late Friday appealed a court ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state’s teachers.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed the appeal in a Los Angeles County court on behalf of the governor and the state.

The move came a day after Superior Court Judge Rulf Treu finalized his June ruling that found five laws violated the California Constitution by depriving some of the state’s 6.2 million students of a quality education. He’d earlier said the system “shocks the conscience.”

The governor’s one-page notice of appeal said that under the state’s constitution “the important issues presented in this case — if they are to have statewide legal impact — must be reviewed by a higher court, either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of California.”

It says that for reasons that are “unclear and unexplained” actual school districts were dismissed as parties to the lawsuit before trial, meaning the court’s decision “applies only to parties that have no role or duties under the challenged lawsuits.”

It also criticizes Treu for failing to provide details on the legal basis for his reasoning, and simply making his tentative decision final instead of elaborating and expanding on in the ruling that was affirmed Thursday.

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had asked the attorney general for the appeal earlier Friday because he lacked the legal authority.

Torlakson was among those named in a lawsuit brought by nine students that argued California’s hiring-and-firing rules for teachers saddled schools — especially those in poor and minority neighborhoods — with bad teachers who effectively couldn’t be fired.

The judge has declined to tell the state Legislature exactly how to change the system, but he has expressed confidence it will do so in a way that passes constitutional muster.

However, Torlakson said in a statement Friday that the ruling isn’t supported by facts or law and is too vague to guide state lawmakers in making alterations.

The trial represented the latest battle in a nationwide movement to toughen the standards for granting teachers permanent employment protection and seniority-based preferences during layoffs. Dozens of states have moved in recent years to get rid of such protections or raise the standards for obtaining them.

The powerful teachers’ union in California and unions elsewhere have fought to keep the rules, arguing that they protect academic freedom and help attract teachers to a tough and badly paid profession.

Torkalson, who has union backing as he seeks reelection this fall, said teachers were being blamed unfairly for failings in the educational system.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children,” Torkalson’s statement said.

A challenger to Torlakson’s re-election, Marshall Tuck, said Torlakson’s appeal effort shows that he is standing “with his Sacramento funders and not with students.”

by email to 4LAKids


Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction 2014

Aug 29, 2014


Earlier today I issued a statement regarding my decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara case, which has drawn considerable public attention in recent weeks.

Here is the complete text of my public statement:

"The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.

"We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.

"No teacher is perfect. A very few are not worthy of the job. School districts have always had the power to dismiss those who do not measure up, and this year I helped pass a new law that streamlined the dismissal process, while protecting the rights of both teachers and students. It is disappointing that the Court refused to even consider this important reform.

"In a cruel irony, this final ruling comes as many California teachers spend countless unpaid hours preparing to start the new school year in hopes of better serving the very students this case purportedly seeks to help.

"While the statutes in this case are not under my jurisdiction as state Superintendent, it is clear that the Court’s ruling is not supported by the facts or the law. Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court. Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review."

Best regards,

Tom Torlakson Signature


August 28, 2014
Contact: Cynara Lilly (m) 206.915.7821 -or-

FINAL VERGARA RULING -- Tuck to Torlakson: Drop Plans to Appeal

"Kids should not have to sue to get a quality education"

Los Angeles -- In response to today's final ruling in Vergara v. California, the Marshall Tuck campaign released the following statement:

"The Vergara ruling is a big win for the kids of California. Now that the Vergara ruling is official, my opponent State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and other Sacramento insiders should do the right thing for California kids and drop any plans to appeal the ruling. I applaud the nine students who took a courageous stand for all of California’s kids. But the truth is, no student should ever have to go to court to get a quality education – and no elected official should ever put bureaucratic laws ahead of students’ interest."

The Vergara ruling found that laws governing teacher tenure, dismissal and layoffs violate the California Constitution and handcuff schools from giving every student an equal opportunity to learn from effective teachers. Judge Rolf Treu remarked that the evidence presented in the case “shocks the conscience.”

Earlier this summer Marshall outlined a plan to address the Vergara ruling based on his experience working to turn around failing schools. Read the whole plan here.

In addition to releasing his plan, Tuck also invited parents, teachers, students and community members to join him in calling on Tom Torlakson and the State of California to drop any plans to defend the broken system by appealing the Vergara ruling.


Letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times |

Aug 29, 2014

To the editor: Every new detail about the iPad debacle underscores Supt. John Deasy’s ineptitude and disrespect for teachers, students and schools.  ( "Calls mount for new LAUSD inquiry," Aug. 27, and “Can Supt. Deasy survive iPad fiasco?” Column, Aug. 28)

Of course iPads are missing and huge amounts of funds wasted. They were thrown at overcrowded, understaffed, overstressed and crumbling schools.

Now L.A. Unified will be indefinitely tied up with this deplorable scandal, more investigations, and then on to the next billion-dollar money pit.

We need a competent leader who actually listens to and supports educators while prioritizing safe, well-maintained schools and enriching curriculum. Why is that such a pipe dream?

Wendy Blais, North Hills


To the editor: I am writing to express my appreciation toward The Times’ reporters and investigators for calling into question the legitimacy of L.A. Unified’s $1-billion iPad program.

As a public high school teacher for the district, I urge you to continue to shed light on the situation.

The Times must maintain its integrity by offering equal weight to both sides of every issue, and it must work to expose corruption and injustice in California’s public and private institutions for public benefit. Amid layoffs, underfunded school sites and lack of school supplies, and a stagnation in teacher salary, it is imperative this story should continue to be reported on extensively.

Susan Spica, Winnetka


To the editor: The decision, and subsequent process to purchase iPads for every district student, was a horrible idea from the start. If Deasy really wants to level the playing field and allow access for our less-fortunate students to a rich and meaningful education and vital life experiences, I suggest filling every school with a well-rounded arts program. That would increase creativity and intelligence, rather than sap it, as these gadgets in the hands of adolescents often do.

Bradley Greer, Altadena


To the editor: Who suffers the most from this fiasco? Students, children, kids who need what this district has failed to provide.

Only Luddites claim that students have enough experience with technology in their lives. In fact, many students are not proficient with today’s technologies in ways that provide access to college, professions and jobs. The need is real.

But Deasy, in his sweeping arrogance, believed that he could wave a wand and look like a magical provider, while in reality he was paving the corporate avenues to the district coffers so prominent in his vision of education.

Lynne Culp, Van Nuys


To the editor: Executives of the L.A. school system apparently steered a billion-dollar contract to a former employer and big business, likely resulting in an incredible loss of funds from a botched deal.

Actually, it’s small businesses that create the greatest number of jobs in our country and are the basic framework of our free-enterprise system.

But if small businesses are excluded from contracting opportunities, we as taxpayers and as citizens suffer.

We must stop preferential treatment, and we must demand full disclosure and transparency in the disbursement of government funds. People have a right to know where their money is going.

Raymond J. Bishop, Tarzana

  • The writer is chairman of the Los Angeles County Small Business Commission.

IN L.A. UNIFIED, PROFESSIONAL CONFLICTS AND PERSONAL AGENDAS HAVE OUTSIZED INFLUENCE: The iPad fiasco is a rebuke of Supt. John Deasy's single-minded way of doing business

L.A. Unified exemplifies the forces that stifle public school reform


by Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times columnist |


Supt. John Deasy

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy sees education as a social justice issue, but he loses points when he casts his opponents as enemies of children's civil rights. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Aug 30, 2014  ::  By now, Los Angeles Unified was supposed to be the technological model for big-city school systems.

All of its pupils would have iPads, teachers could access student data with the click of a mouse, and parents could check their children's attendance and grades daily online.

But the student data and tracking system stumbled out of the gate three weeks ago when the new school year began. On some campuses teachers had no rosters, student schedules were scrambled and classrooms were either empty or overflowing. The computer system was so overloaded, it couldn't process simple commands.

Alex Caputo Pearl

L.A. teachers union President Alex Caputo Pearl blames Deasy's "autocratic style" for the technology missteps. (Katie Falkenberg, Los Angeles Times)

And the iPad project — the crown jewel of Supt. John Deasy's reform campaign — was bungled so badly in its rollout last year that district-wide expansion was scaled back, then scrapped this week in the midst of concerns that the contracting process was tilted toward companies Deasy favored.

So instead of a groundbreaker, the district has become a national model of the tensions that stifle public school reform. Our technology projects were stranded between high-minded ideals and grass-roots realities; tripped up by jockeying over priorities, politics and power.


Deasy is devoted to reforming the district and he won't apologize for that. He sees education as a social justice issue; his job is to level the playing field for underprivileged kids.

He gets high marks around the country for his passion and his zeal. But inside the district, the superintendent is considered by many to be self-righteous and thin-skinned. Community groups praise his advocacy, but the teachers union considers him an adversary.

Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl blames Deasy's "autocratic style" for the technology missteps. He said Deasy's inner circle minimized early reports of problems and rejected teachers' suggestion that the student tracking system be phased in.

The union leader wants a team of parents, teachers, students and staff to consult with district leaders on future tech projects. But Deasy, he said, wants to limit their power. That battle is likely to play out during negotiations over contracts for teachers, who complain that too little attention is paid to instruction and too much to technology.

[John Deasy] has a vision and no one can get there fast enough for him. He underestimates how long it takes in LAUSD to turn the ship even a few degrees. - Tamar Galatzan, school board member

The district's technology czar, Ron Chandler, insists the beleaguered new data system will win over its detractors. He admits it may have been rushed and apologized for the problem-plagued rollout. But the problems owed less to lack of input than lack of consensus, he said. "We had really good positive dialogue, but it was hard to get agreement on some things."

That's partly because the computer system is so large and so complex. But it's also emblematic of a district where professional conflicts and personal agendas have outsized influence.

Chandler walked me through the tech project, explaining the need for an interface, the importance of owning the code, the efficacy and functionality of various modules.

I understood none of that. But I do understand the teachers' frustration over error messages, blank screens and long waits to input data.

The computer network "maxed out" on the second day of school, Chandler said. "Everybody's trying to use the system... They're waiting in a long virtual queue, and all they see is that spinning wheel" on the computer screen.

I see a metaphor for L.A. Unified in that stalled computer example.

We root for progress, but all we see is a perpetually spinning wheel, delaying or derailing whatever new scheme is supposed to fix our schools.


I don't think Deasy understands that his benevolent dictator persona — whether that's valid or not — is costing him public support.

He ought to get credit for successfully promoting important ideals — like a revamp of school discipline practices and increased financial support for struggling schools.


But he loses points when he casts his opponents as enemies of children's civil rights. Deasy doesn't have a monopoly on wanting the best for Los Angeles students. In order to run a district this large, you have to do a lot of listening. That is not the strong suit of our hard-charging superintendent.

"John Deasy is impatient," said school board member Tamar Galatzan, a Deasy supporter. "That is one of his greatest flaws, and also probably what's driving him to push so hard.

"He believes, as many of us do, in making technology accessible to every kid ... And he wants that to happen five minutes ago," Galatzan said. "He has a vision and no one can get there fast enough for him. He underestimates how long it takes in LAUSD to turn the ship even a few degrees."

Deasy told me this week that he's trying "to build a more collaborative process." Still, it's going to be hard for him to erase the stain of the iPad fiasco.

He hasn't acknowledged that things have gone wrong in ways that are bigger than a few embarrassing emails or computer programming glitches.

The hitch in the iPad program is not merely a pause to correct "suboptimal" measures, as Deasy likes to insist. It's a rebuke of his way of doing business. And that's what he needs to fix.

I think he gets that intellectually, but it goes against his grain: "I understand it's better to be more deliberative and engage more people," he said. "But you then have to compromise speed... How many more years do you allow kids to graduate without the technology [skills] they need?"

That's a valid question. But a better question for Deasy to ponder now is what kind of superintendent does this school district need.

IPadGate: EX-LAUSD OFFICIAL DENIES STEERING CONTRACT TO FORMER EMPLOYER, Aquino says his role in contract awarded to former employer was 'by the book'

By Howard Blume, Kim Christensen |

Jaime Aquino

LAUSD Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino gives a high five to Hillcrest Elementary School teacher Rhonda Marie Smith as teachers attend a iPad training class in 2013. Aquino is no longer with the district. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Aug 29, 2014  ::  The former Los Angeles schools official under scrutiny for his role in the district's $1.3-billion iPad program defended himself Thursday, saying that he did not improperly steer the contract to a company that once employed him.

Former Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino said his involvement in the project was "by the book" and with the approval of the district's legal counsel.

"I have nothing to hide," Aquino said in emails to The Times.

Aquino, 49, has come under criticism for correspondence with education giant Pearson, which ultimately was chosen to provide the curriculum for the district's iPad program. Aquino had worked for a Pearson subsidiary before joining the district.

In one email, Aquino appeared to be strategizing with Pearson representatives when he wrote: "I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one."

Document: Related: Emails from John Deasy, others regarding LAUSD iPads

Related: Emails from John Deasy, others regarding LAUSD iPads

Aquino said Thursday he was not trying to subvert the open bidding process — that he meant only to emphasize to Pearson the district's intention to choose the lowest bidder.

In the full email, sent in May 2012, Aquino expresses concerns about the cost of training 2,000 teachers who would then work with their colleagues to learn the Pearson software. He goes on to voice worries about whether the district's bandwidth can handle every student using a computer for the 2013 school year.

He also weighs whether the district should have an open bidding process, then makes the comment about Pearson coming in with the "lowest one."

"I was simply explaining that they have to be the low bidder," he told The Times. "That's not proprietary information. That's simply explaining how it works. I would say the same thing to any bidder. I had similar conversations with other vendors."

Aquino on Thursday also addressed whether he broke ethics rules by discussing contracts with Pearson at all. L.A Unified policy prohibits employees from such dealings with former employers for 12 months. Aquino joined L.A. Unified in July 2011 from America's Choice, a Pearson affiliate. Less than a year later, records show, he was exchanging the emails with Pearson.

But he said there was an explanation for that.

"While I officially terminated my employment from America's Choice on June 30, 2011, my last day of work was April 26, 2011"— just over a year before the date of the first email.

He added that schools Supt. John Deasy had asked him to be involved in talks with Pearson — and that the district's general counsel, David Holmquist, had given him the go-ahead.

Holmquist said Thursday that he was not allowed to discuss legally privileged internal communications.

Aquino left the district at the end of last year and now is an executive with New Teacher Center, which provides support and training for incoming instructors. Its clients have included L.A. Unified, but the Board of Education this week did not approve a contract extension for the firm.

Deasy has defended Aquino and said Sunday that "nothing was done in any inappropriate way whatsoever." On Monday, he suspended new purchases of iPads in response to concerns about the earlier bidding process and other issues.

The $30-million iPad contract, approved by the board in June 2013, initially was expected to expand to about $500 million, with another $500 million spent on upgrading wireless access at campuses. So far, the district has spent about $61 million to purchase about 62,000 iPads.

Until the iPad controversy thrust him into the spotlight, Aquino was relatively unknown beyond education circles.

A native of the Dominican Republic, he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo. While there he also "volunteered to teach literacy to underprivileged children and adults, to work with handicapped children and to work with people with leprosy," according to his biography.

Aquino moved to the United States in the late 1980s, and in 1990 was named New York State Bilingual Teacher of the Year. He later held various posts in the New York system and was a deputy superintendent for Hartford Public Schools.

In 2005 he moved west to become chief academic officer for Denver Public Schools. Michael Bennet, now a U.S. senator, was the superintendent who hired him. He said the school system has made "huge progress" in recent years, much of it due to Aquino's strategic planning and other work.

"He was absolutely an essential actor in all of that," Bennet said.

The current superintendent, Tom Boasberg, worked alongside Aquino as a top deputy and called him a "straight shooter."

"He is a person of complete integrity, extraordinary ability and one of the hardest-working people I've ever met in my life," Boasberg said. "He has extraordinary passion for what he does. When he left Denver, it was literally a day of mourning for the school system."

Kim Ursetta, a former president of the Denver Classroom Teachers' Assn., had a different view.

"Quite honestly, collaboration was not always at the forefront of Jaime's agenda," Ursetta said. "We would often find out about initiatives after they'd already begun.... And often times the way it rolled out was not the way he said it would be."

It was the next stop in Aquino's career that would eventually raise concerns among critics of the iPad effort.

He served as a regional manager of the education consultancy America's Choice from 2008 to July 2011. America's Choice was acquired by Pearson in 2010.

In one email exchange in May 2012, Pearson representative Judy Codding — Aquino's former boss at America's Choice — suggested to him that a bidding process was not necessary, that L.A. Unified could deal exclusively with her company.

District officials instead set up bidding that centered on signing the primary contract with a computer maker, such as Apple, and using school-construction bonds to fund the effort. The complex rating system for bidders was overseen by Aquino, as part of a small executive committee.

In June 2013, district staff told the Board of Education that the Apple/Pearson team offered not only the best product but also the best price.

Board member Steve Zimmer recalled asking Aquino if the bidding process had been beyond reproach. It was, he said Aquino responded, the best he'd ever been associated with.

After little discussion, the board approved the contract without opposition.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Annie Gilbertson | 89.3 KPCC |

L.A. Unified has already purchased 75,000 iPads, half with Pearson software. Here, second graders at Baldwin Hills Elementary swipe through their iPads for the first time and call out the apps they see.

L.A. Unified has already purchased 75,000 iPads, half with Pearson software. Here, second graders at Baldwin Hills Elementary swipe through their iPads for the first time and call out the apps they see. Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Listen Now [1 min 6 sec]

August 29, 05:00 AM  ::  Los Angeles Unified officials who evaluated bids for its massive technology project received iPads from Pearson, met with a Pearson software executive and attended a weekend sales pitch for that software — all ahead of the public bid process, documents show.

The revelation is important because Superintendent John Deasy has repeatedly said the bid process was not affected by early conversations on the software — which he asserts were limited to a small pilot project.

According to travel reports received through a public records act request, Susan Tandberg and Gerardo Loera, top administrators in the district's office of curriculum and instruction, attended a Pearson conference at a Palm Desert resort in July 2012 where all attendees were given iPads loaded with Pearson's learning software.

A third office of curriculum and instruction staffer, Carol Askin, also attended the conference and would have received an iPad, records show.

Both Tandberg and Askin later sat on committees that directly reviewed bids for the $500 million one-to-one technology contract. Loera served as a "technical advisor" to those evaluation committees.

In addition, Tandberg, Loera and their boss, Jaime Aquino, agreed to met with Sherry King, vice president of Pearson's iPad software initiative, in October 2012, according to internal emails.

King also suggested the L.A. Unified team meet with her twice more in November, "to start some planning," the emails show.

Tandberg, Loera and Askin issued a joint statement through district's office of communication, saying their attendance at the conference "in no way influenced [their] decision" in evaluating bids.

"In our profession, we talk to numerous education companies and vendors every day," the statement said.

L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy canceled the iPad/Pearson contract on Monday after KPCC published emails showing he and other L.A. Unified officials had meetings and conversations with Pearson and Apple executives starting a year before the contract was awarded.

California's Fair Political Practices Commission bars gifts from a single source exceeding $440 in a year. L.A. Unified purchasing policy also prohibits companies from making gifts of that size.

Apple's suggested retail for new iPads at the time was $500-$700, depending on storage capacity. Pearson quoted L.A. Unified $50 per year per device for its software, which is still in development.

Loera did not declare the iPad on the school district's mandatory gift disclosure forms. Tandberg declared $500, what she estimated Pearson covered of her food and lodging, but also did not disclose the iPad.

Testifying in public hearings before a school board committee in the 2013-14 school year, Loera explained that because the district paid for a portion of the conference, he did not consider the devices a gift. Other district officials testified the devices became district property, not personal gifts.

Tandberg approved a $50,000 payment to Pearson for 50 L.A. Unified employees - including her - to attend the July 2012 Pearson conference, documents show. Pearson's foundation subsidized the rest of the expenses.

Deasy has declined to comment to KPCC since last week, but has pointed out to other media that he was not on the bid selection committees nor did he participate in creating the bid requirements.

School district officials appointed 40 staff members to review the 19 proposals received by the district in March 2013, records show.

KPCC has found inconsistencies in how district staff scored Pearson's competition for the software. Some products either weren't scored at all or score sheets were lost. At least two popular, gamed-based programs were discarded as “digital textbooks," causing their scores to plummet.

"A number of questions were asked regarding potential conflicts and gifts involving Apple-Pearson and LAUSD decision-makers," board member Monica Ratliff wrote in a report released Tuesday, the culmination of her work leading a committee looking into the project throughout the 2013-14 school year.

As for the meetings, Pearson officials on Monday said they agreed with Deasy's statements to other media that the early communications between the company and L.A. Unified officials related only to planning an eight-classroom pilot program.

However, emails show L.A. Unified officials discussing training 2,000 teachers on the Pearson software and Pearson offered to hire four, full-time staff members to help train teachers – an extraordinary expense an eight-classroom pilot.

2cents small Much of this is old news, repackaged anew.  Although – in the context of the newly discovered emails - it all becomes curiouser+curiouser.

  • Did LAUSD pay the conference attendees to attend, or only pay for their attendance?  Were they reimbursed for their mileage? Were they volunteers …or voluntold?
  • Because the district paid for a portion of the conference, Leora did not consider the devices a gift, It isn’t like the attendees paid for the other portion of the conference - wouldn’t that make them district property?
  • It is clear that the attendees paid for no portion of conference, accommodations or meals. The tab was picked up by LAUSD & Pearson. Did Pearson pay Apple for the iPads?
  • Were these iPads included in the inventory of electronic devices accounted and unaccounted for in the IG audit reported this week?
  • And unreported above: Superintendent Deasy attended and made a presentation to the Pearson conference at a Palm Desert resort in July 2012

Pearson 4-Day Bringing Common Core to the Classroom Training, July 16-20, 2012, Palm Desert, CA.

in July of 2012 Pearson hosted a training for approximately 300 people from various schools and districts around the country. It was referred to as the Pearson 4-Day Bringing Common Core to the Classroom Training.  They paid for 5 days and 4 nights of accommodations, hotel and food and you left with a free IPad.

About 50  teachers from LAUSD attended as well as Jaime Aquino and Dr. Deasy who spoke at one of the sessions.  UTLA President Warren Fletcher insisted that some of the teachers selected for the trip be of his choosing, Dr. Aquino said the training was full, so Warren paid for 3 teachers to attend on UTLA’s dime. 

Day One:  Plenary session: Judy Codding, Managing Director, CCSoC; Marjorie Scardino, CEO Pearson plc.

Day Two:  Plenary session: Vicki Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Day Three:  Note: This day was split into subject area for the morning, and into grade-level subject blocks in the afternoon. 

  • Plenary Session: Dr. Deasy.
  • Session C: ELA
  • Session D: 9-12 ELA
  • Presentation: Projects and Out-of-School Learning:Kathleen Cushman. Independent Write and Co-Founder of What Kids Can Do; Stephanie Norby, Director of Education, Smithsonian Institute.

Day Four:  Plenary Session: Cyndie Schmeiser, Former President, Education Division, ACT.

Session E: John Twing, Pearson Assessment and Information

Session F: 9-12 ELA Personalization and Projects

Session F: Mathematics

Plenary Session: Polling and Student Voice: Russell Quaglia, The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations.

Day Five:  This short day included an additional presentation and focus groups where Pearson staff attempted to elicit responses from the attendees.


         The Pearson Foundation is offering a three-day (sic) professional development opportunity entitled Bring Common Core to the Classroom , July 16-20, 2012 in Palm Desert, California.  From this professional development, the Pearson Institute will establish a national network of classroom educators who will help courses and a dynamic library of resources to meet the demands of the CCSS in Literacy and Mathematics.

         Teachers who attend this training will be engaged in small group seminars on the CCSS and instructional strategies designed for student success.  Teachers will also have the opportunity to review digital resources and provide feedback and suggestions.  .

         Teachers who attend will receive:

  • Four days of professional development
  • Housing for four nights,
  • All meals for Monday night through Friday morning
  • Airline transportation and transfer to the hotel
  • Paid registration fee
  • Use of a district iPad (given to the district from the Pearson Foundation)

●● The Stamford schools figured out who the iPads belonged to!


Thomas Himes | Contra Costa Times (LAUSD might as well amuse Northern California too!) |

Posted:   08/29/2014 02:06:56 PM PDT  ::  In the third week of school, an estimated 45,000 students were missing from the Los Angeles Unified School District’s new computer system, according to a union that represents principals and administrators.

Those students were not listed in the district’s faulty record-keeping system, MiSiS, as of Monday, according to the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles. For its report, the union used an established system that forecasts enrollment, called E-cast.

Although district officials had previously said that less than 1 percent of students were affected by the faulty system, the report released Thursday by the union is the first supported measurement of widespread problems in the 650,000-student school system.

“We cannot begin to tell you the countless numbers of calls that have come into AALA about this catastrophe,” stated the report that was sent to union members.

District officials did not immediately answer questions about the report.

At one unidentified elementary school, MiSiS listed 11,000 students as being enrolled, according to the report. At another school, MiSiS had zero students enrolled.

On Sept. 12, all LAUSD schools will need to report their enrollment to the district for “norm day” – a process used to allocate funding and resources to campuses. If the computer system is not accurately reporting all students, the work will have to be done by hand.

“It also means that administrators and staff are going to be even more overworked trying to do a hand count of the number of students enrolled in the schools,” the report stated.

Counselors and other administrators have already worked overtime, dusting off old ledgers and breaking out pencils to schedule students by hand after the system’s disastrous launch on school’s first day, Aug. 12.