Wednesday, April 16, 2014


by smf for 4LAKidsNews

At the risk of taking credit where other people did all the work I am pleased to forward this info along on a project I helped set up by introducing my friend Chiara Tellini to my friend Tony White.

We also serve who say "Chiara, meet Tony" ...and then just stand back!

Your job - and you have no other choice but to accept - is to pass this word on to every music teacher and music student …and parent thereof  in LAUSD. 

And then sit back and enjoy the blues!

Blues Camp Logo

The first annual Blues Kids Camp is finally coming to LAUSD!

Do you have ”musicians” at your schools? This is a great opportunity for kids with an aptitude for music to come together with student musicians and professionals to play the blues! At the end of 4 days of collaboration, they will perform live for their local community in the Blues Kids Concert.

  • Students must audition (flyer and details below)
  • Students must be 12-18 years old (unless you have a super gifted young student, then they may possibly be considered for a scholarship)
  • Once accepted they will receive a scholarship to participate in the Blues Kids Camp in LA this June.

Please share with your school, and other schools you know would be interested.

This is a very cool opportunity, don’t miss it!


June 30 - July 3, 2014

The Los Angeles Unified School District and the Blues Kids Foundation proudly present Fernando Jones' Blues Camp this summer. Blues Camp is free for student musicians ages 12 to 18.  To be part of this incredible opportunity you must audition in person at: El Sereno Middle School and Magnet Center, 2859 N Eastern Ave, Los Angeles, CA | 5:00PM - 8:00PM

Blues Camp Audition Form + Songs

For More information click here: For more information on Blues Kids...

Blues Camp Flyer


By Louis Freedberg | EdSource Today

April 15th, 2014 | California’s school funding reform law has triggered a burst of outreach efforts to solicit parent and community input in at least some districts – along with a plethora of suggestions about how to spend the additional education funds they will receive from the state.

But what is not clear is how these multiple recommendations – in some districts running into the thousands – will be prioritized so that they will be useful to school officials and school boards as they draw up their Local Control and Accountability Plans before the rapidly approaching deadline of July 1.

The funding law championed by Governor Jerry Brown that went into effect last summer requires parents and other key stakeholders, such as school personnel and community representatives, to provide input into the draft accountability plan. But the law is most silent on how they should provide that input. That is in line with the spirit of the new law, which is intended to shift the locus of decision-making from Sacramento to individual districts.

But some parent advocates worry that districts may have generated so much input it may not be focused enough to provide guidance to school boards and superintendents as they come up with their accountability plans.

San Diego Unified, for example, has sponsored five meetings to review its Vision 20/20 strategic plan, and is currently in the process of holding 16 smaller meetings to discuss the district’s LCAP. Lisa Berlanga, president of San Diego United Parents for Education, attended a meeting on March 20 at Patrick Henry High School  – the same school where her son is enrolled.  Berlanga said that all of the information collected by the district will pose a challenge for the people who end up crafting the LCAP.

“Parents are concerned about how they are going to meaningfully use all this data,” she said.

Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education and one of the architects of the new law, does not share those concerns.

“People are going to have to get used to a new system, and a new way of setting priorities,” he said. “I think most people realize that they are not going to get everything they want, and you can’t do it all in a year.”

He said that this is how the budget process is supposed to happen – get input from key stakeholders, then forward it to elected school boards to review what they have received and make decisions after they have done so. “The key thing is that there is an endgame here,” Kirst said. “It is the annual budget. It forces you to state your priorities.”

The Natomas Unified School District near Sacramento has generated over 3,000 suggestions from more than 1,000 people, gleaned from an aggressive effort to get community input. The suggestions are all listed on the district’s website in a file spanning 127 pages. The list is compiled from surveys of parents and teachers, community meetings, student gatherings, and a range of other sources.

The suggestions have been divided into categories such as “academic support,” “school climate and emotional support,” “college and career and student success,” “high quality staff,” and “English learners.” They include a range of ideas and suggestions, such as “better lunches,” “better Wi-fi,” and “more AP options.”

The six community meetings held in January and February in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District have similarly generated hundreds of recommendations, all written down on flip charts at the meetings, but not summarized on the district’s website. The recommendations run the gamut from tablets for every child and mindfulness/peer support programs to  all-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes.

The 100-plus community forums held by the Los Angeles Unified School District or community partners, along with online surveys, have spawned more than 10,000 recommendations. In its draft accountability plan released last week, the district says these have yielded budget priorities such as increased employee salaries, expanding adult education and summer schools, reducing class sizes, and increasing the number of counselors and librarians in schools, along with funding for the arts.

District officials are taking different approaches to synthesizing the materials. San Diego, for example, is working with a doctoral student from San Diego State University to compile public comments and identify themes and priorities that emerged during the district’s public meetings.

The Santa Ana Unified School District is relying on WestEd, a San Francisco-based policy and research organization, to synthesize community members’ concerns garnered at each meeting.

Following the San Bernardino City Unified School District’s final LCAP meeting on April 23, Linda Bardere, the district’s director of communications, said the school system will form a writing committee to review the public input recorded during their meetings and start developing a draft of its accountability plan.

Paul Richman, executive director of the California State PTA, said one way for parents to prioritize their input is to tie recommendations to one of the eight “priority areas” stipulated by the new funding law, including indicators of student achievement, implementation of the Common Core state standards, school climate, and  levels of parent and student engagement.

In general, Richman said, the more input a school district can get the better. ”It is very positive that we are seeing districts getting overwhelming feedback, because it shows that parents want to have a voice, and want to be involved in  decision making,” he said.  ”But it is a whole new process and we are all going to have to learn together about how to make this work.”

In the coming months, the decision making process will shift to parent and district advisory committees that the law specifies must give input into a district’s draft Local Control and Accountability Plan before it can be adopted. These committees will have the chance to give more specific input than the more general community forums have typically done so far.  However, it will be challenging even for these committees to agree on a manageable set of recommendations that districts could then incorporate into their accountability plans.

Kirst noted that even though districts may be overwhelmed by a flood of recommendations, “not everything has to be done in 2014.”  ”This can be done over time,” he said. “This is what boards are all about.”

Karla Scoon Reid and Alex Gronke contributed to this story.

This report is part of EdSource’s Following the School Funding Formula project, tracking the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula in selected school districts around the state.


2cents small from the above: “In the coming months, the decision making process will shift to parent and district advisory committees that the law specifies must give input into a district’s draft Local Control and Accountability Plan before it can be adopted. These committees will have the chance to give more specific input than the more general community forums have typically done so far.  However, it will be challenging even for these committees to agree on a manageable set of recommendations that districts could then incorporate into their accountability plans.”

Superintendent Deasy has opined that the LAUSD Local Control Accountability Plan Parent Advisory Committee is purely advisory; his compliance with its mandate is obligatory+perfunctory. State Bd of Ed President Kirst is right:  LCFF and the LCAP will not be totally implemented in the coming year – but the direction for the District will be established in June  for this first three years of LCFF and continuing into the future. Hopefully, thankfully and realistically Dr. Deasy will not be LAUSD superintendent for the entirety of the future.


by Kimberly Beltran, SI&A Cabinet Report ::

APRIL 16, 2014  ::  (Calif.) With scores for the annual Academic Performance Index suspended for the next two years, school districts will still be required to meet accountability mandates set out in the Gov. Jerry Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula.

Under a plan detailed Tuesday, districts will be allowed to use one of three options: last year’s API scores; an average of the last three years of scores; or a combination of several other scoring measures tied to the LCFF but still being refined.

“The state board did approve your recommendation to not to calculate an API for either elementary, middle or high schools this coming fall,” said Keric Ashley, director of accountability at the California Department of Education, during a meeting of the panel convened to make recommendations on restructuring the API.

“AB 484 did envision the possibility of not having an API and allows for the use of last year’s scores, so we will be rolling over last year’s scores and keeping them available for any purpose that’s needed, including for districts’ Local Control Accountability Plans,” he said, referring to legislation that ushered in state testing changes.

Up to now, the state’s API was used to measure student progress and to meet federal accountability requirements. Also until now, the API had been calculated using only student test scores – configured to give a school an overall score ranging between 200 and 1,000, with the state target being 800. Schools not meeting annual growth targets had been subject to programmatic changes and possible sanctions if they failed to improve.

But with the adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards and new assessments aligned to those standards, lawmakers suspended calculation of the API until 2015-16 to give schools and students time to get up to speed.

Meanwhile, Brown’s LCFF gives local districts greater authority over spending decisions but also requires them to increase services to disadvantaged students and to compile Local Control Accountability Plans showing how their spending helps schools meet eight state priorities.

Among the state priorities are student outcomes, which districts may address by reporting, among other things, API scores, federal AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) scores, English Learner reclassification rates, Advanced Placement test passing rates or percentages of students who are considered college and career ready.

But even the advisory panel – known as the Public Schools Accountability Act Advisory Committee – is struggling to define college- and career-ready.

A new law this year restricts the API formula to no more than 60 percent test scores. Graduation rates must be incorporated as well as other “valid and reliable” data showing that students are prepared to enter either post-secondary study, the workforce or both.

The PSAA Committee, led by Ashley and the CDE, are working with a consultant to determine what other indicators, based on valid data, should be used and how they will be incorporated into the API formula.

On Tuesday, the consulting firm, EPIC, provided indepth exploration of potential indicators: Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs and ACT and SAT college-prep testing.

The committee is continuing to explore options and will hear another report from EPIC in June, possibly about dual or concurrent enrollment in which high school students take college courses while still in high school.

The challenge for the committee is narrowing down indicators for which all high schools can provide data in order to make API scoring fair and equitable.


2cents small Is this is Trend Analysis as practiced by the tailors of the Emperor’s New Clothes!? Or maybe a new Orwellian newspeak definition of “Accountability”?

Using the previous year’s scores  - or averaging the three year’s results before one implements change – and then using those data to determine progress is a pretty counterintuitive (ie: bogus) way to measure success. Indeed it’s a formula that would seem to demonstrate exactly what would have happened had one done nothing!

We could  demonstrably increase high school freshman success rates if we were to use their 8th grade grades – or average student’s grades in 6th, 7th and 8th grades – and say that score equals their 9th grade grades!  Problem solved!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Parental Involvement Is Overrated

By KEITH ROBINSON and ANGEL L. HARRIS, OpEd in the New York Times |

April 12, 2014, 2:32 pm ::  Most people, asked whether parental involvement benefits children academically, would say, “of course it does.” But evidence from our research suggests otherwise. In fact, most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it.

Over the past few years, we conducted an extensive study of whether the depth of parental engagement in children’s academic lives improved their test scores and grades. We pursued this question because we noticed that while policy makers were convinced that parental involvement positively affected children’s schooling outcomes, academic studies were much more inconclusive.

Despite this, increasing parental involvement has been one of the focal points of both President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and President Obama’s Race to the Top. Both programs promote parental engagement as one remedy for persistent socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps.

We analyzed longitudinal surveys of American families that spanned three decades (from the 1980s to the 2000s) and obtained demographic information on race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, the academic outcomes of children in elementary, middle and high school, as well as information about the level of parental engagement in 63 different forms.

What did we find? One group of parents, including blacks and Hispanics, as well as some Asians (like Cambodians, Vietnamese and Pacific Islanders), appeared quite similar to a second group, made up of white parents and other Asians (like Chinese, Koreans and Indians) in the frequency of their involvement. A common reason given for why the children of the first group performed worse academically on average was that their parents did not value education to the same extent. But our research shows that these parents tried to help their children in school just as much as the parents in the second group.

Even the notion that kids do better in school when their parents are involved does not stack up. After comparing the average achievement of children whose parents regularly engage in each form of parental involvement to that of their counterparts whose parents do not, we found that most forms of parental involvement yielded no benefit to children’s test scores or grades, regardless of racial or ethnic background or socioeconomic standing.

In fact, there were more instances in which children had higher levels of achievement when their parents were less involved than there were among those whose parents were more involved. Even more counterintuitively: When involvement does seem to matter, the consequences for children’s achievement are more often negative than positive.

When involvement did benefit kids academically, it depended on which behavior parents were engaging in, which academic outcome was examined, the grade level of the child, the racial and ethnic background of the family and its socioeconomic standing. For example, regularly discussing school experiences with your child seems to positively affect the reading and math test scores of Hispanic children, to negatively affect test scores in reading for black children, and to negatively affect test scores in both reading and math for white children (but only during elementary school). Regularly reading to elementary school children appears to benefit reading achievement for white and Hispanic children but it is associated with lower reading achievement for black children. Policy makers should not advocate a one-size-fits-all model of parental involvement.

What about when parents work directly with their children on learning activities at home? When we examined whether regular help with homework had a positive impact on children’s academic performance, we were quite startled by what we found. Regardless of a family’s social class, racial or ethnic background, or a child’s grade level, consistent homework help almost never improved test scores or grades. Most parents appear to be ineffective at helping their children with homework. Even more surprising to us was that when parents regularly helped with homework, kids usually performed worse. One interesting exception: The group of Asians that included Chinese, Korean and Indian children appeared to benefit from regular help with homework, but this benefit was limited to the grades they got during adolescence; it did not affect their test scores.

Our findings also suggest that the idea that parental involvement will address one of the most salient and intractable issues in education, racial and ethnic achievement gaps, is not supported by the evidence. This is because our analyses show that most parental behavior has no benefit on academic performance. While there are some forms of parental involvement that do appear to have a positive impact on children academically, we find at least as many instances in which more frequent involvement is related to lower academic performance.

As it turns out, the list of what generally works is short: expecting your child to go to college, discussing activities children engage in at school (despite the complications we mentioned above), and requesting a particular teacher for your child.

Do our findings suggest that parents are not important for children’s academic success? Our answer is no. We believe that parents are critical for how well children perform in school, just not in the conventional ways that our society has been promoting. The essential ingredient is for parents to communicate the value of schooling, a message that parents should be sending early in their children’s lives and that needs to be reinforced over time. But this message does not need to be communicated through conventional behavior, like attending PTA meetings or checking in with teachers.

When the federal government issues mandates on the implementation of programs that increase parental involvement, schools often encourage parents to spend more time volunteering, to attend school events, to help their children with homework and so forth. There is a strong sentiment in this country that parents matter in every respect relating to their children’s academic success, but we need to let go of this sentiment and begin to pay attention to what the evidence is telling us.

Conventional wisdom holds that since there is no harm in having an involved parent, why shouldn’t we suggest as many ways as possible for parents to participate in school? This conventional wisdom is flawed. Schools should move away from giving the blanket message to parents that they need to be more involved and begin to focus instead on helping parents find specific, creative ways to communicate the value of schooling, tailored to a child’s age. Future research should investigate how parental involvement can be made more effective, but until then, parents who have been less involved or who feel uncertain about how they should be involved should not be stigmatized.

What should parents do? They should set the stage and then leave it.

  • Keith Robinson, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a professor of sociology and African and African-American studies at Duke, are the authors of “The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education.”

Teachers often blame parents for problem students

Teachers say that many disruptive students can be blamed on unsupportive parents, but that's not always true. Teachers and parents should be partners in a child's education.

Sandy Banks, LA Times columnist |

7:58 PM PDT, April 14, 2014  ::  I figured that teachers wouldn't let me off easy — even though my Saturday column took their side.

I wrote about the recent classroom scuffle between a teacher and student at Santa Monica High, defending the teacher and listing the forces that make teaching so hard — including spineless administrators and unruly students.

Still, many of the teachers I heard from last weekend had the same indignant response:

What about the parents? If parents raised their children right, we wouldn't have problems on campus.

Good parenting skills are "indispensable to quality education," insisted Andy Ligeti, a Glendale Community College history professor and former high school teacher.

"When students become a problem in the classroom, 9 [out of] 10 times, the root of the issue is a lack of parent support and responsibility for children's educational welfare," Ligeti's email said.

I hear some version of that from teachers whenever I write about any problem involving public schools.

Blame them, not us, they say. Teachers can't work miracles or undo parents' failures.


It's not fair to presume that any child who frustrates adults is a product of derelict parenting. Teenagers, particularly, tend to break rules, challenge authority and test their budding autonomy in unhealthy and embarrassing ways.

Depending on the child, the teacher and the moment, I may have been lumped in with those "irresponsible parents" by a teacher or two as my three daughters moved through school. Maybe that's why I'm sensitive to the claim that parents are almost always to blame for a kid's boneheaded move.

Still, I understand that teachers are frustrated too. They are expected not just to teach, but to tend to the social needs of children warped by instability, poverty and family dysfunction.

There are indeed bad parents; some are selfish, absent, neglectful or cruel. But others are just overwhelmed or failed themselves at school. And compounding that is a cultural shift that has reshaped the relationship between parents and teachers.

Today's parents grew up in an era when challenging the powers that be was an honorable thing. We tend to bring to child-rearing more pride in self-expression and less respect for authority.

Kids mouth off at school because they are allowed to at home. "Our children are made to believe that they are above the schools and the teachers," Riverside's Vincent Hoang wrote. "And the parents are made to believe that the rules apply to everyone else but them."

Some parents behave like schoolyard bullies, belligerently taking their children's side in any dispute: Junior's being picked on. The teacher's not fair. The classroom rules are stupid.

In some neighborhoods, they threaten lawsuits. In others, they show up on campus, shouting and ready to brawl. That's contributed, teachers told me, to a climate of fear. School officials back down, parents gloat and teachers privately fume.

Children take a lesson from that. "These misguided parents believe they are being a good parent by protecting their child," said Ventura County teacher Charley Bensley. "The result is we are educating a significant number of students that there are no consequences for their poor behavior."


My problem with the "blame the parents" mantra is that it doesn't move us forward. When teachers believe that poor parenting blocks students from success, I imagine them writing off chunks of children they have already deemed failures.

It's a societal shame, but the campus might be the only stable space in a struggling student's life.

That's why schools need support teams: counselors, librarians, nurses and classes small enough that no child gets left behind. That's why what happens in the classroom has such life-changing importance. And that's why the relationship between student and teacher matters so much.

When teachers care enough to reach out to a problem student's parents, they often see more clearly why things are going wrong in class.

"The struggle with disruptive students is constant," high school science teacher Fred Lammers wrote. "I cannot tell you how many parent conferences I have had, via phone or face-to-face, and have had a parent say to me 'I can't do anything. I don't have any control over him (or her).' "

When discipline problems get a student bounced from Lammers' classroom, the child can't return unless a parent agrees to a conference. "I want to clarify with the parents the unacceptable behavior of their son or daughter and receive assurances that this is being dealt with in the home," he said.

Does that stop the problem? Not always. "Some students still will refuse to work and create disruptions," he said.

But it does remind the parents that what they say and do at home is important to students' success. In fact, research shows that the biggest contribution that parents make to lifting academic achievement is by communicating to their children the value of education.

What better way to do that than by partnering with teachers?

Teachers need to understand and accept the challenges that parents face. And parents need to be aware of and held accountable for their children's conduct in the classroom.

2cents small First: Doctorates in Sociology must be being given away as Cracker Jack prizes, evidenced by the thinking behind the Socratic Q&A:

“What should parents do? They should set the stage and then leave it.” 

Yes, so called “Helicopter Parenting “and “Tiger Mom-ing” are extreme and outcome-skewing disruptions to data-driven ivory tower sociologists and ®eform Inc educators who would let the Return on Investment in Public Education be measured on spreadsheets -  whether in scholarly treatises or corporate P&L statements or USA Today graphic snapshots. But Robinson and Harris have a book to sell and writing inflammatory op-eds  that encourage  parents to abandon their children to the system is a strategy. 

I won’t be buying the book.

The business-model-would-be-®eformers should remember that parents are their customers. And that well-informed customers are the best customers  …unless you’re selling an inferior product.

And thank you Sandy Banks.

Missed in the discussion is the importance of parenting as practiced in the home – of parents being involved in their kids everyday daily lives; every day. Knowing who your kid’s friends are. Knowing what’s going on in their lives.  Listening. Supporting. Reading what they read, watching what they watch. Knowing what they think about things; who their teachers are and what their homework is. It sounds easy; it’s very hard.

Giving space but being present. 

Setting the stage, helping with the production and attending the performance.

“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”― Elizabeth Stone

Forever is a long term investment.

LAO Report: THE 2014-15 BUDGET - Maintaining Education Facilities in California

While we commend the administration for highlighting deferred maintenance as a problem, the LAO has concerns with the Governor's specific proposals and recommend the Legislature consider various alternatives. …we believe the state should have a long-term strategy for properly maintaining education facilities.

April 11, 2014  ::  The Legislative Analyst's Office has just issued the following report:

  Due to a combination of poor budgeting practices and competing funding priorities, all of the state's education segments currently have a backlog of deferred maintenance projects. The Governor’s budget includes a package of proposals to begin addressing this backlog. While we commend the administration for highlighting deferred maintenance as a problem, we have concerns with the Governor's specific proposals and recommend the Legislature consider various alternatives.

Looking beyond 2014-15, we believe the state should have a long-term strategy for properly maintaining education facilities. While a one-size-fits-all response very likely is not appropriate for such a diverse array of education segments, segment-specific plans likely could be very helpful. To this end, we recommend the Legislature require the education segments to develop plans that detail how much they set aside annually for scheduled maintenance, how they plan to eliminate their existing deferred maintenance backlogs over the next several years, and how they plan to avoid creating new backlogs thereafter. (In contrast to the other segments, we believe the state should not impose additional maintenance requirements on elementary and secondary schools at this time. The different approach for schools acknowledges the state’s recent decision to shift fiscal decision making and accountability for many aspects of schools’ operations—including maintenance—to the local level.)

Maintaining Facilities 041114

Sunday, April 13, 2014

SANTA MONICA COACH MAY BECOME A HERO FOR EXASPERATED TEACHERS: A teacher at Santa Monica High School was placed on leave Friday after what a district official called an "utterly alarming" confrontation involving the teacher and a student.

By Robin Abcarian, LA Times |

April 5, 2014, 6:52 p.m.  ::  No doubt, the situation was “alarming,” as the school superintendent described it, and deeply upsetting to the students who witnessed it.

A well-regarded wrestling coach and science teacher at Santa Monica High School got into an altercation Friday with a male student in his classroom. A video shot by a student on a cellphone, and broadcast by KTLA-TV showed the teacher making some wrestling moves, like lifting the student’s leg to unbalance him, before the teacher pinned the student by the legs on the floor. There was no punching, no kicking, no screaming. Once the pair stopped, the teacher seemed simply to be restraining the student.

So what on earth happened?

And did the school district’s superintendent act too hastily when she suspended the teacher before an investigation had even taken place, offering words of support to the student, who has not been identified, and his family?

Santa Monica-Malibu School District board member Oscar de la Torre told my colleague Matt Stevens that the incident arose from a conflict over drugs. That would seem to bolster some of the rumors being passed around by students that the boy in question was carrying contraband on campus.

But did he deserve to be wrestled across a classroom and to the ground?

Supt. Sandra Lyon didn’t think so. On Friday afternoon, she sent an email to the school community, forwarded to me by a parent of a Samohi junior:

"Today, a deeply disturbing incident involving a teacher and student occurred in a classroom at Santa Monica High School, resulting in the Santa Monica Police Department being called to the campus. A number of videos capturing at least a portion of the incident are circulating, and I can tell you that what I witnessed on one of those videos is utterly alarming.

We have been in contact with the student’s family, and we will work with them to offer the support that they may need. I am grateful that there is no reported serious physical harm to students or teachers, but that neither dismisses the severity of this situation nor my commitment to gather all the facts and make sure the proper actions are taken.

Until the investigation is complete, we will not have all the details that led up to this incident; nevertheless, based on the what I have viewed, the kind of physical restraint used by the teacher is unacceptable. I have placed the teacher on leave pending the outcome of an independent investigation.

As a parent, I know that we want our children to be safe at school. This is a fundamental expectation that I honor and respect. I am committed to ensure that any disciplinary action taken in this matter is based on facts, the law and all students’ right to a safe learning environment."

Lyon's note struck many as blaming the wrong party. Was she wrong to give the student the benefit of the doubt? That’s the sentiment expressed on the “We Support Coach Black” Facebook page, which had more than 3,000 “likes” by late Saturday afternoon.

Parents, teachers and students commenting on that page say Black is the one who needs support, not the student.

“If you had a child in this class and another student was selling drug[s] in clear view, you would want any teacher to do what Mark Black did,” wrote Steve Martinez, who identifies himself on Facebook as a former Santa Monica-Malibu District administrator. “He did in fact try to resolve this situation peacefully by asking the student to turn over the drugs to him. The student resisted and became aggressive … Support this great teacher and wonderful person. He needs us at this time.”

And here's what a former student and Samohi wrestler wrote in tribute on Facebook: “You should all know that I lost my father when I was quite young. Black has been like a second father to me, just as he has to hundreds of other kids throughout the years. He's kept kids off the streets, gotten others into college, and shaped the lives of so many others throughout his long service to this community. When you continue to hear about this story, and hear people try to defend the student or attack Coach Black, I beg of you to speak out against their false accusations.”

Well, we don’t know what’s a false accusation yet and what is not. Black sounds like a fine coach and human being. It's hard to watch an adult and a teenager get into a physical tangle like that. Certainly, we expect the adults in our classrooms to answer to a higher standard than the teenagers.

Still, as a parent, I have to admit I got a little shiver of satisfaction knowing that a teacher who just happens to be a wrestler was able to physically subdue a student who may have been flagrantly violating the rules.

Students have the right to learn in drug-free classrooms. And I don’t care how a kid treats his parents, but when he gets to school he needs to show his teachers respect. A student  flashing drugs in the classroom is a provocation that no teacher should ignore.

We don’t know yet exactly what happened in that Santa Monica High School classroom on Friday.

But I have a feeling when it’s all over, Coach Black is going to be considered a hero to exasperated teachers everywhere.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Cortines School's Greg Schiller was removed by L.A. Unified after two students' Science Fair projects were deemed to resemble weapons.

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Also see: IN TEACHER JAIL: by Gerald and Esther Schiller in 4LAKidsNews | “Our son is in jail. But there are no bars or armed guards, or wardens. And he does go home to his wife each afternoon. Our son is in “teacher jail.”  ||

Science project confiscated

Rogan and Susan Ferguson say district officials confiscated their son Asa's science fair project, "Evolution of a Coil Gun." Here, Asa holds some of the wires used in his project. (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times /April 8, 2014

9:27 PM PDT, April 9, 2014  ::  A popular Los Angeles high school science teacher has been suspended after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom.

Students and parents have rallied around Greg Schiller after his suspension in February from the downtown Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts. Supporters have organized a rally on his behalf at the campus for Thursday, gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition calling for his reinstatement and set up a social media page.

Schiller was ordered to report daily to a district administrative office pending an investigation after two students turned in science-fair projects that were designed to shoot small projectiles.

One project used compressed air to propel a small object but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)

Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said his parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.

A school employee saw the air-pressure project and raised concerns about what looked to her like a weapon, according to the teachers union and supporters. Schiller, who said he never saw the completed projects except in photos, was summoned and sent home. Both projects were confiscated as "evidence," said Susan Ferguson, whose son did the coil project.

L.A. Unified School District administrators have told Schiller that he was removed from his classroom for "supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons," said union representative Roger Scott.

School administrators did not respond to inquiries. District officials said they could not comment on an ongoing probe.

"As far as we can tell, he's being punished for teaching science," said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Schiller teaches Advanced Placement biology and psychology as well as regular and honors biology. Students are concerned about Advanced Placement exams for college credit in May.

"The class is now essentially a free period," said 17-year-old psychology student Liana Kleinman. "The sub does not have a psych background and can't help us with the work."

Schiller initially prepared lesson plans for the substitute, but the district directed him to stop in an email.

"This is really hurting my students more than anything else," Schiller said in an interview. "I would never do anything to set up a situation where a student could be harmed."

He coaches the school's fencing team, and administrators have determined the team cannot compete safely without Schiller in charge.

Schiller, 43, also was the teachers union representative on the campus and had been dealing with disagreements with administrators over updating the employment agreement under which the faculty works. His suspension, with pay, removed him from those discussions.

The expensive Grand Avenue arts high school has a troubled brief history, including repeated administrative and staff turnover.



by Kimberly Beltran  SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet


April 9, 2014 (Calif.)  ::   The Brown administration asserts that agriculture education and career technical training for high school students will receive greater focus – and continued funding – if state money for these programs is rolled into the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula.

But administrators, teachers and students of these programs from all over California testified on Tuesday that they fear the exact opposite is true. An Assembly budget panel agreed, formally rejecting Brown’s proposal to permanently “flex” these previously restricted dollars by including them in the LCFF, which gives local districts greater control over spending decisions.

“If the outcomes of career technical education are not required, specifically funded nor measured then the school districts are not incentivized to fund the programs, especially where all school districts throughout the state of California are still trying to recover to from seven years of devastating budget cuts and to restore those cuts,” said Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat from Torrance and chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education, lamenting the threat to specialized education programs posed by local control over spending.

Muratsuchi, whose district is home to the state’s oldest and largest career tech education facility, the Southern California Regional Occupational Center, has been leading a legislative charge to fund CTE, agricultural education and a few other specialized programs separate from the LCFF in order to protect them.

Brown’s 2013-14 budget, which implemented his LCFF and its associated Local Control Accountability Plan, consolidated two-thirds of all categorical – or specially funded – programs into one fund and reallocated the funding based on a district’s size and its student populations.

But 13 categorical programs continue to be funded outside the LCFF, including the $4.1 million Agricultural Education Incentive Grants and the $4.8 million Specialized Secondary Programs, created in 1984 in order to provide students with advanced instruction and training in specialized fields, such as technology, science and the performing arts.

Brown proposes to roll the funding for these two programs into the LCFF.

The $486 million in financing for the categorical program Career Technical Education – the majority of which is used to fund Regional Occupational Centers and Programs, or ROCPs – was flexed in 2008-09 due to budget cuts, and then included in the LCFF beginning with the 2015-16 budget.

This means that after the 2014-15 school year, local educational agencies are not required to offer CTE and can spend this ROCP funding on any purpose.

“We would note that, under the Local Control and Accountability Plan, districts must address as one of the – included within one of the – eight state priorities, career technical education,” the Department of Finance’s Chris Ferguson told the budget committee. “We view that as actually a higher level of responsibility to CTE than we’ve ever had before because now districts are being held to an accountability plan that addresses career technical education.”

Still, program administrators and supporters on Tuesday told the same story: Under prior flexibility due to budget cuts, ROCP and CTE budgets were significantly reduced, courses eliminated and students shut out. Those cuts have yet to be restored, they said.

Fred Jones of the California Business Education Association cited statistics he pulled from the California Department of Education’s data recording system, CalPADS, showing that in the 2012-13 school year, 1,228 high school CTE courses were eliminated, affecting 43,805 enrollees. Since categorical flexibility in 2007-08, he said, “we’ve lost” 215,000 high school enrollees in CTE courses.

“That’s because districts respond to what this building requires; what it forces districts to measure and what it’s willing to directly fund,” said Jones. “The only one of those three drivers that have preserved what we have left of CTE is the funding driver. And because of [categorical flexibility] and now LCFF we’ve lost that driver as well.”

Specialized Secondary Programs provide monies for two purposes: competitive grants for start-up costs and ongoing funding for two specialized high schools, while the Ag grants program provides ongoing funding to high schools with approved agricultural programs.

The purpose of the Ag program is to maintain a high-quality vocational program in California’s high schools to ensure a trained and skilled workforce within the agricultural sector.

An integral part of each school’s agricultural education program is the California Association of Future Farmers of America, established in 1928. There are approximately 70,523 FFA members in California within 305 high schools that are impacted by the state grant program. 


The agreement will provide $60 million in raises, services and staff at 37 campuses, but doesn't address whether seniority should be the basis of layoffs.

By Howard Blume, LA Times |

L.A. Unified settles suit

A student passes by a mural of President Obama at Markham Middle School. The lawsuit was launched after layoffs in 2009 at Markham, Gompers and Liechty middle schools. (Christina House / For The Times)

April 8, 2014, 10:28 p.m.  ::  Los Angeles school district officials announced a lawsuit settlement Tuesday that will provide $60 million in pay increases, services and staff at about three dozen schools, many hit hard by teacher layoffs. But the pact fails to deal with whether instructors should continue to be dismissed based on seniority.

The case of Reed vs. L.A. Unified, filed in 2010, was intended to protect a school from disproportionate layoffs during difficult economic times. Three campuses named in the suit had lost about half their faculty because teachers had less experience than those elsewhere in the system.

Although attorneys representing students had sued L.A. Unified, the negotiations pitted the teachers union on one side versus the district and the plaintiffs. The union was defending "last hired-first fired" rules; the other side sought to change them.

Under the three-year agreement, 37 schools will have more counselors, more administrators and more training for teachers. In addition, principals can receive a hiring bonus of $10,000, plus $7,500 after the first year and $10,000 after the second. Mentor teachers will be given extra pay and time to help less experienced colleagues.

"The youth in greatest peril at these schools will benefit tremendously from the additional administrative and teacher support," L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy said in a statement.

The hope is that veteran teachers will be attracted to these campuses and that younger instructors will no longer choose to leave when jobs are available elsewhere. Over time, the schools would be less susceptible to seniority-based layoffs.

Also, the district could limit future dismissals of teachers who have received special training, under a provision in state law.

An earlier settlement, crafted in 2010, took a strikingly different approach. Under it, about 40 schools were protected entirely from layoffs. And dismissals across the system were distributed more evenly, even if that meant releasing veteran teachers.

But the teachers union appealed, arguing that because instructors' legal rights were affected, it had to be a party to any settlement. The court agreed and nullified that pact in 2012.

As a trial loomed, the parties negotiated. Meanwhile, the economy improved, contributing to increased funding for schools.

"We focused on surveying academic research, on why teachers leave schools," said Erin Darling, staff attorney at Public Counsel, a Los Angeles public-interest law firm that was involved in the case, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Counsel and the firm Morrison & Foerster.

"These schools will now be regarded as a great place to teach," not to mention a good place for students, Darling said.

The effort to limit teacher job protections was "a total failure — and this new settlement is a final recognition of that," said Jesus Quinonez, an attorney representing United Teachers Los Angeles.

The case was launched after layoffs in 2009 at three Los Angeles middle schools — Gompers, Markham and Liechty. These campuses dismissed about half their teachers.

Gompers and Markham were run by the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit under the control of then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The partnership appealed to district officials for relief, but none was forthcoming.

The layoffs occurred as scheduled at the end of the 2009-10 school year. Another round of dismissals was expected at the end of the following school year, as budget cuts still were required.

By then, Villaraigosa had approached public-interest firms that sued on behalf of students. And in May 2010, the court issued an injunction halting layoffs at the three campuses.

The battle over seniority and other teacher job protections is continuing in another Los Angeles County Superior Court case. In Vergara vs. California, plaintiffs seek to overturn layoff rules, the current teacher tenure process and other state laws that make it more difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers.

They contend that these laws violate the constitutional rights of students by making it more likely that they will be assigned to weak teachers.

The Reed settlement could be a "a tremendous victory" for students at affected schools, but seniority rules "will continue to harm low-income and minority students every time there is a layoff in California," said Ted Boutrous, who represents Vergara plaintiffs.

Jim Finberg, an attorney representing teacher unions, said the settlement "shows that under the existing law districts have the ability to protect teachers and stability of the school."

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the agreement at its April 22 meeting. The settlement also must be approved by the court.

YESTERDAY’S LAUSD BOARD MEETING: The headlines say it all + smf’s 2¢

LAUSD outlines plan to spend $837 million on disadvantaged students

Los Angeles Times :: April 8, 2014, 8:35 p.m.. Disadvantaged students in L.A. Unified stand to benefit from a multimillion-dollar infusion for more tutoring, counselors, English language coaches, nurses, librarians and other support under a budget plan presented Tuesday ...

Los Angeles Unified's draft accountability plan shows promise of new funding law

EdSource Today ::  The potential of the state's new education funding system was on full display this week when Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent John Deasy presented a draft accountability plan that included a dizzying array of new and expanded programs.

Deasy releases draft of LAUSD's next budget, with new money

LA School Report : LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy made public today the first draft of a $6.8 billion budget for the 2014-15 school year, a presentation that offered the first glimpse of how the new Local Control Funding Formula is going to work.

LAUSD board receives Deasy's plan to help disadvantaged kids

2cents small I suppose the headline:

Superintendent Deasy shows how we would spend the New State Money (which is really the old money withheld over the past seven years being paid back over the next seven years) in a way that appears to be be in alignment with state law …but probably isn’t

                      …would’ve been too much to ask!

The supe’s  Budget and the Draft Local Control Accountability Plan are really Deasy’s wish list: “What I would like if I could get away with it” …not necessarily in alignment with:

  • the Board of Education’s wish list,
  • The Local Control Accountability Plan Parent Advisory Committee's wish list,
  • the community’s wish list
  • or the District’s labor partner’s wish list. 

There are zero dollars earmarked for employee raises. The plan is very tenuously aligned with state law and regulations – let alone the legislative intent. Half the money goes to Special Ed …even though Special Ed students are not among the target “unduplicated students” .

Undoubtedly there are Special Ed students among the Economically Disadvantaged, English Learners and Foster Kids …but they do not come close to making up half of that population!




By Karin Klein, LA Times editorial writer |

Standardized testing
Students at Sage Hill School, a private school in Newport Beach, take the PSAT. (Los Angeles Times /April 8, 2014)

April 8, 2014, 11:47 a.m.  ::  Sixteen consecutive years of the state's standardized testing are now under my belt, all of them spent covering the accountability program as a journalist, as well as having one or more of my three children filling in bubbles in public school for the annual assessments. And on the 17th year, the last spring that I have a student scheduled for testing, it's time for a rest.

My 16-year-old daughter is in standardized-test burnout mode, and to a lesser extent, so am I. Juniors are the only ones taking the test in high school this year in California; they start this week at her school. Eleventh grade also happens to be a big year for all kinds of tests. The PSAT. The SAT. The SAT 2 subject tests: three of them. There was a brief winter flirtation with the ACT. And next month, four Advanced Placement tests.

The California standards tests were never useful for my kids; of course, they're not designed for use at such a granular level. After one of the earlier versions gave a low score to my eldest on reading comprehension, my husband and I shrugged and knew there had to be something wrong with the test. That's the daughter who is now finishing off her dissertation for a doctorate in literature. (And yes, I know the chances are slim that she will be supporting me in my old age in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed.)

As a journalist, reviewing an early state test that had been leaked to the paper by a teacher, I saw how thin and fault-riddled it could be. One question asked students to mark what they thought would be the best title for a certain reading passage. The answer the test sought was obvious; the title was direct and on topic, though flat and uninteresting. There was another choice, a better one, it seemed to me. It wasn't as obvious an answer; it struck me as the one that a director would pick for a movie rather than the one a test creator would pick. The difference, if you will, between “Star Wars” and “Luke Travels in Space and Shoots Down a Big Weapon.”

The schools in Laguna Beach, where I live, don't go into testing high-alert each spring, for which I'm grateful. A couple of math classes gave a retroactive grade bonus to students who scored proficient or advanced. There are teachers who prep heavily for the spring test and those who don't. One year, my younger daughter's history teacher gave the class three weeks of straight practice tests. Later, my daughter noted with surprise how many of the questions in those practice tests had appeared on the official one, quite possibly because the state, to save money, repeated so many questions on the tests from year to year. Her English teacher that year -- the inspiring, engaging one -- surprised the students just as much by announcing she would do no test prep. She had given them her best all year, she said, and it was time for them to go forth and do their best. Her students got three more weeks of learning that year. I could tell you how my daughter fared on the tests, but an experimental universe of one doesn't yield meaningful results.

Opting out has occurred to me before, but that seemed selfish. The idea of the tests is to look at the larger picture of how much progress the schools, the districts and the state are making. Participation was the socially responsible thing to do.

The scores have risen impressively in our district, but I can't honestly say that I have noticed an improvement in actual learning over the years. What has been noticeable: more teachers who don't feel they have time to do the creative projects with their students that they used to do. There was one elementary school teacher I particularly wanted my youngest to be taught by; she conducted poetry tea parties with her students, nurturing a love of writing, listening to writing and some good old-fashioned manners. But by the time my daughter was lucky enough to be assigned to that teacher, the poetry teas had disappeared in favor of covering everything in the curriculum that would be on the test.

I'm hoping the Common Core curriculum standards will help, and several teachers have told me that they already do. The related curriculum covers fewer topics, allowing more time to delve into each.

I envy the home-schoolers, who take their children on exciting field trips, cover the curriculum quickly and efficiently, tackle more interesting projects, minimize the testing, maximize the learning and still have time to head for the beach during uncrowded weekdays. They seek out a local Audubon wilderness preserve that offers hands-on science lessons, at nominal cost, for all school-aged children. The public schools aren't allowed to bring their classes, the preserve's manager told me, because the lessons are adapted to the skills needed in the natural sciences rather than being aligned with the California curriculum as the state requires of field trips.

When I attended a talk in Los Angeles by Erica Jong a few months ago, I drove home wishing that my 16-year-old, who loves creative writing and has an over-tendency to perfectionism, had heard this strong, articulate woman talk about her first failure while writing “Fear of Flying,” and the anxieties about writing that never really disappear. I had an extra ticket, but Aviva had far too much homework that night.

My guilty sense was that I had gone along with the mind-numbing academic program for far too long; done too much to prep her for a life of tests and not enough to prep her for the pursuit of great and original adventures.

I'm not one for whining about standardized tests. (Not until now, anyway.) They have certain, limited uses. At their best, the state tests could be used to guide better teaching; at their worst, they are used as the main measure of educational quality. They're an imperfect fact of life, and one of the important lessons students get out of public schools is that life is not perfect. We deal with it.

But this year, knowing how much Aviva dreaded yet another bubble test, the words just came out: “We are allowed to opt out, you know.” (Actually, the field test is administered by computer, not a fill-in-the-bubble form.) She perked up so markedly, I had to write the waiver note to the school. The decisions we make as parents sometimes have to be different from those we make as a member of the larger society.

Her test results could, in an immeasurably small way, have helped the state draw up better exams in the future. Right now, I think the small, joyous rebellion of saying no, during the last year we have the chance, is more important for both of us. Take that, world of Scantron.

Karin Klein

Editorial writer

Karin Klein is an editorial writer covering education, environment, religion and culture. She occasionally contributes columns to the op-ed page. She is the 2006-07 winner of the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writers, under which she spent a year studying and writing about the first wave of children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, now that they have reached adulthood.
Klein was previously an assignment editor with The Times, and also has worked at the Orange County Register, San Jose Mercury News and Sacramento Bee. She attended Wellesley College, did her graduate work in journalism at UC Berkeley, and is currently an adjunct professor of journalism at Chapman University in Orange. She lives in Laguna Beach, where she is a volunteer naturalist.

2cents small California has been passé/blasé about the Common Core – and the No Child Left Behind testiness. 

Up until now.

We had our own standards, We had our own tests. We had our own way of measuring results: (AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress]  instead of NCLB’s API {Academic Progress Index] ) We had our own way of doing things.

No more. Now we have the so called “Common Core State Standards” – called that because “National Standards” would be

     1. politically unpopular and

     2. unconstitutional.

Plus 45 states (now 43) agreeing on common standards aren’t exactly national standards …and aren’t exactly state standards either!

And having two flavors of national tests (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) doesn’t exactly make them “national” either.

But isn’t Smarter Balanced a brand of margarine? What if some of us want want butter?

     The Alderney
     Said sleepily:
     “You’d better tell
     His Majesty
     That many people nowadays
     Like marmalade

The Common Core State Standards were dreamt up by the National Governor’s Association,  completely independent of the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in them by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the political efforts by the Arne Duncan Department of Education – because governors by their very nature are inherently disinterested in money and politics.  But in the end if the CCSS and their tests aren’t accepted by parents like Ms Klein – or if they don’t pass muster with the good citizens of Indiana and Oklahoma and the other states of the union they are doomed. Federal law says that the results of tests only count if 95% of students take them. If only 5% of parents take the route espoused by Ms. Klein the whole program is as doomed as the contents of a vegetable cart in the first shot of a chase scene in a car chase movie.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


by Gerald and Esther Schiller, from an email circulating widely

Our son is in jail.

But there are no bars or armed guards, or wardens.

And he does go home to his wife each afternoon.

Our son is in “teacher jail.”

For those who may be unaware of this bizarre institution, “teacher jail”   is the name applied (with no affection) to what the Los Angeles Unified School District calls teacher “housing.” And this euphemism refers to the act of removing teachers from their classrooms, if there are accusations against them, and placing them in large rooms where they, basically, sit for days, or weeks, or months, or even years. It may come as a surprise to many people but there are currently several hundred Los Angeles School District employees in this situation.

These “housed” men and women remain there, are allowed no contact with their schools or colleagues, and continue to collect their salaries, while substitute teachers (each hired at several hundred dollars per day) cover their classrooms.

The rationale for this “housing” is that these teachers pose a risk to the safety and well being of the students and staff of their schools.

Our son, however, is not a thief, a rapist, a pornographer, or a child molester.

On the contrary, he is an exemplary instructor who has distinguished himself for almost twenty years with nary a blemish on his record. He teaches Advanced Placement (college credit) classes in biology and psychology. He supervises numerous school clubs. He coaches fencing.

And he works assiduously on many school committees.

He has been praised by his students and their parents, given high marks by his colleagues, and spends long hours at the school where he works.

What then was the heinous offense that caused his placement in “teacher jail?”

Two students in one of his classes created projects for a science fair.

Each of these projects had the word “gun” in its title though neither resembled a gun in any form. But an administrator saw the projects when they were brought to the cafeteria for display and confiscated them, calling them “dangerous.” Our son, who had not yet seen the completed exhibits,was called into the principal’s office, and then, rather than being chastised and told never to repeat such an offense again, was told to report to “teacher jail.”

And there he sits. Now for more than a month.

There is both irony and tragedy in what has occurred.

Irony in that one of the confiscated projects—according to several parents— was similar to a science fair exhibit that won national awards and was included on the Los Angeles School District’s own website as an example of an outstanding student science achievement.

There is irony that the administrator who confiscated the projects and called them dangerous, has a background in teaching English, not science.

And it is highly ironic that our son was actively involved with the committee that chose the current principal—a principal who now seems eager to see him removed from the school.

But among the tragic aspects of this situation is that our son’s Advanced Placement students, now deprived of a qualified “AP” teacher may not be adequately prepared for their national examination, just weeks away.

It is also tragic that the students who submitted the projects are now extremely upset and feel guilty that they were responsible for their teacher’s removal.

Most tragically, however, is the fact that a caring, dedicated, and beloved teacher may be driven from a job he not only cares deeply about, but is also masterful at.

It seems that in the bizarre and arcane complexities of the Los Angeles Unified School District, because of its fear of public criticism and its terror at media finger-pointing, competent teachers like our son are too often pulled from their classrooms.

And there they sit.

In teacher jail.

Gerald and Esther Schiller are retired teachers. Both worked for many years with the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Their son is on the faculty of Ramon C. Cortines High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, the arts school formerly known as Central High School #9.

Monday, April 07, 2014


By Howard Blume, L.A. Times |

8:04 PM PDT, April 4, 2014  ::  Buoyed by rising state funding, the Los Angeles Unified School District's draft budget proposal for the new fiscal year is the healthiest spending plan in years.

The general fund would increase from $6.2 billion to $6.8 bill under the proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins July 1, officials said. The state’s improving economy and higher taxes are major factors for the increase.

But L.A. Unified also will receive additional dollars through the state’s new funding formula for every student who falls into one or more of three categories: foster youth, students learning English and students from low-income families.

The funds generated by these students are supposed to go to services that benefit them under the new system developed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature.

One example in L.A. is a foster youth support system that would grow from three to 75 full-time positions.

“I am proud and pleased to propose new investments that bring justice to our youth,” Supt. John Deasy wrote in a memo Thursday to the Board of Education. “However, it does not resolve all problems or desires for all new programs, restorations or opportunities.”

During the recent recession, the nation's second-largest school system laid off thousands of employees.

As part of the new budget process, L.A. Unified must show in writing how its spending plan would especially help the three special categories of students. The district also must report how the effectiveness of these efforts will be measured.

Deasy’s proposal also calls for a modest reduction in class size. For example, math and English classes would be reduced by two students in 8th grade and 9th grade. For 8th grade math, that could mean classes shrinking from about 34 to about 32 students. Over three years, a two-student reduction also will occur for other middle and high school grades.

Among other particulars, Deasy would like to return part-time library aides to elementary schools and gradually restore middle school librarians.

“Mr. Deasy takes a huge step forward, aiming fresh funding to schools that serve the most disadvantaged families in order to close  achievement gaps,” said UC Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller, after reviewing the proposal.

Statewide, there’s been some concern about whether the new, designated dollars truly would go to benefit the students with the greatest needs. Some advocates said they would oppose using these funds, for example, to pay down debt or for an across-the-board salary hike.

Fuller noted one area of possible concern with Deasy’s budget. He said his preliminary review suggested that Deasy’s proposal uses the new funds, in part, to pay for already existing district programs that had been paid for through other sources.

"It's unclear whether this meets the letter or spirit of Gov. Brown's finance reform," Fuller said.

L.A. Unified’s budget proposal incorporates an anticipated raise for employees, but Deasy declined to say Friday how much salaries would rise. The teachers union has asked for a 17% raise, but hasn’t specified the period of time over which that raise should occur.

The school board will take up the budget proposal Tuesday. A final version is not likely to be approved before June.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


By John Fensterwald |  EdSource Today

April 4th, 2014 | Signaling the resolution of an acrimonious issue, Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, introduced a bill Friday to make dismissing teachers charged with severe misconduct quicker, easier and cheaper.

Buchanan praised the compromise that was reached, and said that Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed her version of the bill last year, would sign it. Brown spokesman Jim Evans confirmed in an email, “As introduced, the Administration supports Assemblymember Buchanan’s approach.”

Joan Buchanan

“I want to thank the education community for its willingness to continue to work on this critical issue,” Buchanan said in a statement. “We share a common goal of keeping our children safe and providing a fair and efficient process.”
Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. Source: EdSource>>

In a further sign of movement, Bill Lucia, CEO of EdVoice, an advocacy organization, said he would withdraw a proposed ballot measure dealing with teacher dismissals if the bill, as proposed, becomes law by mid-June. In an unusual alliance, Lucia and the California Teachers Association, who have clashed over teacher evaluations, charter schools and, until now, teacher discipline and dismissals, issued a joint statement praising the compromise and each other’s efforts.

“AB 215 is the culmination of several years of effort by diverse stakeholders to address the need to reduce the complexity and cost of suspension and dismissal appeals,” Lucia said. “EdVoice is pleased to support and join the hard work of the CTA in arriving at these needed and significant improvements to current law.”

The teachers association had supported Buchanan’s bill last year. “AB 215 meets our goal of keeping our students safe by streamlining the dismissal process while maintaining due process for teachers,” said Dean Vogel, president of the teachers association.

The California School Boards Association, which led the opposition to Buchanan’s AB 375 last year and submitted its own bill this year with some similar elements to AB 215, was not included in the negotiations with EdVoice and the Brown administration. A spokeswoman said Friday that the association was still reviewing Buchanan’s bill.

Most of the big changes in Assembly Bill 215 would apply only to charges of egregious misconduct – acts that would include sexual abuse, child abuse and some drug crimes. While these make up a small percentage of firings – most dismissal cases are for unsatisfactory performance – they also are the most horrific, threatening children’s health and safety.

Superintendents already can immediately suspend teachers suspected of immoral conduct. Usually this has been done with pay, and districts have complained that the firing process can take toolong and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lucia cited cases in which districts, to avoid costly hearings, reached resignation or transfer agreements in which they agreed to remove charges from a teacher’s record and not report them to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The commission has the authority to revoke teacher licenses.

AB 215 would address these complaints by:

  • Creating a separate, expedited hearing process after a school board has voted to fire a teacher for egregious misconduct. The case would go before only an administrative law judge, whose decision would be binding. (Either side could still appeal the decision to Superior Court.) Cases not involving egregious misconduct would continue as before, with hearings by a three-person panel consisting of an administrative law judge and two educators, one chosen by the district and one by the teacher.
  • Imposing a seven-month deadline for the administrative law judge to issue a decision in all dismissal cases, unless the judge agrees to a delay for good cause. This is the same deadline that Buchanan had proposed last year in AB 375, and both Lucia and the California School Boards Association opposed it as implausible and counterproductive. They said wrangling over evidence would cause delays, forcing judges to reset the clock or dismiss the case. But Lucia said Friday that he now believes the deadline would work. The bill specifies that egregious misconduct cases must become a court priority, going to the head of the docket. It would require the hearing to begin within 60 days. And it would streamline the process by eliminating the ability of either side to appeal evidentiary rulings to the Superior Court. This was another reason that cases were drawn out, Lucia said.
  • Clarifying the law to allow districts to suspend without pay teachers charged with egregious and immoral conduct.
  • Prohibiting districts from cutting deals with teachers to have charges of misconduct expunged from their record – potentially enabling them to relocate to an unsuspecting district. It also requires a district to disclose charges of misconduct that it has reported to the credentialing commission when another district asks about an employment application.
  • Permitting evidence of allegations of child abuse or sexual abuse more than four years old to be introduced.
  • Permitting dismissal charges for egregious misconduct to be filed at any time, not just during the school year.

Buchanan said that Brown had opposed limits on evidence and refiling of charges that were in AB 375, saying he wanted to give districts more flexibility. AB 215 removes them for cases involving egregious misconduct but applies them to other dismissal charges.

A series of high-profile sex abuse cases (among them, here, here and here) had turned the heat on the Legislature to strengthen the state’s dismissal laws. But lawmakers failed to do so during the past two years after contentious debates. In 2012, the state’s teachers unions pressured Assembly Democrats to bottle up a bill sponsored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-San Fernando Valley, that they said would erode due process rights and could expose them to dismissals based on false charges. Last year, Buchanan worked with the California Teachers Association on AB 375, which she said represented a good-faith effort at compromise, only to have Brown veto it while encouraging her to try again.

At first she was reluctant, she said in an interview, but did in the end. “All parties put in hundreds of hours working through this,” Buchanan said. “AB 215 is fair and holds to our core belief that people who abuse children should not be in the classroom.”

2cents smf: AB215 (Buchanan) is what is known in legislative parlance as a “gut-and-amend bill”, a variety of legislation never discussed on Schoolhouse Rock.   AB 215 went to the legislature as a nice little bill about Solid Waste Recycling – and then, one day this week everything about it was changed, lined through and tossed out  …except its number. Now it’s about School employees: dismissal or suspension: hearings.

"Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." - Otto von Bismarck>

I’m sure somewhere someone mourns that Solid Waste Recycling has been tossed aside like – uh – un-recycled solid waste. 

And to be honest, the recycling of solid waste is probably a greater societal challenge and a better thing for our legislators to be occupied with  than egregiously misbehaving teachers.  The three cases cited above all resulted in prosecution and none of those teachers are still teaching …but at least some kind of effluvia has been kind-of recycled.

The full text of AB 215, as amended, Chesboro Solid waste recycling Buchanan School employees: dismissal or suspension: here.

STAKES RUN HIGH IN TRIAL RUN FOR EXAMS: Field-Testing Set to Begin on Common-Core Exams

By Catherine Gewertz | Education Week |

Sydney Matai and other 7th graders at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, Mass., look at a PARCC practice test to give them some familiarity with the format before next week's field-testing of the computer-based assessments aligned with the common core.

Sydney Matai and other 7th graders at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, Mass., look at a PARCC practice test to give them some familiarity with the format before next week's field-testing of the computer-based assessments aligned with the common core. —Gretchen Ertl for Education Week

Published in Print: March 26, 2014  [Includes correction(s): March 27, 2014]::  This week marks a major milestone in an assessment project of unprecedented scope: the start of field-testing season for new, shared tests of a common set of academic standards.

Between March 24 and June 6, more than 4 million students in 36 states and the District of Columbia will take near-final versions of the tests in mathematics and English/language arts. Those exams—tied to the Common Core State Standards that all but a handful of states have adopted—were created by a bevy of vendors hired at the request of two groups of states: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

“I don’t think a trial of this magnitude has been done anytime in the history of student testing in the U.S.,” said Keith Rust, a vice president at the Rockville, Md.-based Westat, where he oversees the sampling of schools and students for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

The exercise won’t produce detailed, scaled scores of student performance; that part is still a year away. Instead, this spring’s field-testing is a crucial part of the assessments’ design stage, undertaken to see what works and what doesn’t. Questions like these are on test-makers’ minds: Will schools’ hardware and bandwidth be able to handle large-scale, computer-based testing? Do the tests work equally well on desktops, laptops, and tablets? Which items might confuse or overwhelm students?

Immense stakes are riding on the field tests. The federal government is watching closely to see how well its $360 million investment—awarded in grants to the state consortia developing the exams—is paying off so far, especially since it has let more than a dozen states drop all or part of their current testing regimens in order to participate fully in the field tests.

States that pledged loyalty to the project need to see that they can rely on the tests, since those states plan to base crucial decisions on them—such as how to evaluate schools, teachers, and students—within a year or two after the final tests are available in spring 2015.

School districts have made massive investments in technology to manage the consortium tests, and have spent countless hours preparing teachers, students, and parents for the new system—all on the faith that enduring the inevitable problems during the transition will pay off in a much better assessment than what they’ve been using. Amid a wave of anti-testing sentiment, many parents and activists are poised to seize on problems in field-testing as one more sign that large-scale testing is misguided.

A Combustible Moment

Those elements create a combustible moment: An experiment deliberately designed to uncover weaknesses in a high-profile test takes place under intense public scrutiny.

“The consortia are going to have to be pretty confident they’ll see minor glitches, but not major problems,” Mr. Rust said. “You wouldn’t want to go into this on a wing and a prayer. If it goes badly wrong, it shakes people’s confidence that it will be right the next time.”

In fact, just days before the planned March 18 start date for field-testing by Smarter Balanced, the organization took the major step of postponing the launch by one week to allow time for what Jacqueline King, a spokeswoman for the consortium, called some final “quality checking.” She said the delay was not about the test’s content, but rather ensuring that all the important elements, including the software and accessibility features—such as read-aloud assistance for certain students with disabilities—were working together seamlessly.

Making Assessments More Accessible

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium say their computer-based tests will offer an array of accessibility features. Many of these features can be used by any student, but some are geared specifically to students with disabilities, or to English-language learners. The field tests will offer the first opportunity for students to try the accommodations in a test situation.

There are some key differences between the field tests and the fully operational assessments that will be used in the spring of 2015. Length, for instance: Students will typically be involved in three to four hours of field-testing, less than half as long as what they’ll face next spring.

In the real PARCC test, students will take both a multiple-choice, end-of-year component and a more extended and complex performance-based section. On the field test, only 25 percent to 30 percent of students will take both pieces, and only in one subject, said Jeffrey Nellhaus, the director of assessment for PARCC. The rest will take either the end-of-year or performance segment.

The Smarter Balanced operational test in 2015 will be computer-adaptive—adjusting the difficulty of questions to the student’s skill level—but the field test, for the most part, will not be. A small number of students will get the adaptive version at the end of the field-testing window, said Ms. King. That’s because test-makers will use the questions students answer earlier in the field test to calibrate the adaptivity of the test engine later in the field-testing window.

Representative Samples

While some schools volunteered to participate in the field tests, most were chosen by their state or their state’s consortium as the multistate groups sought to build demographically representative samples of students. The result is a distribution of students taking the field tests that is wide nationally but not, in general, deep in individual schools.

The PARCC field tests will involve about 10 percent of the students in the participating states and districts, but they are scattered across half the schools. That pattern is deliberate and beneficial, Mr. Nellhaus said.

“A more spread-out testing pattern,” he said, “means that you won’t get a clustering effect in the sampling” that could magnify the impact of anomalous conditions in any one place. “It also avoids a heavy impact on school life.”

Most students are taking the field tests in only math or English/language arts; a subset will be tested in both subjects. Some states, however, such as California, Connecticut, Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota, have chosen to wade much deeper into the field-test exercise. They’re involving all—or nearly all—of their students. While that takes a greater toll on schools’ time and focus, leaders in those states decided that the payoff would justify the effort.

Those states were among the ones that obtained waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to cut back or eliminate their existing state tests to free up time to try the field tests. Since the new tests aren’t final, the data they produce can’t be used for accountability purposes, so the federal government has agreed to let the waiver states hold their accountability ratings steady for another year.

“We decided that it was a great opportunity for students to experience the test when it doesn’t count,” said Deborah V.H. Sigman, the deputy state superintendent of education in California, where 95 percent of the students will answer Smarter Balanced field test items in both subjects, and the rest will take the test only in one content area.

“It’s also a way for adults in the [school] building to think about what they need to do to optimize the experience for next year.”

Some districts are doing more comprehensive field-testing than their states. The suburban system in Burlington, Mass., 15 miles west of Boston, chose to give the PARCC field test to every student in grades 3-11 in both subjects. Eric Conti, the superintendent of the 3,600-student district, said he thinks it’s good for adults and students to experience something “as close to the real thing” as possible.

A federal waiver allows Massachusetts students participating in the PARCC field test to skip the state’s regular testing under the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, although 10th graders still must take the MCAS to graduate.

Burlington was originally chosen by PARCC to do only the paper-and-pencil version of the field test, and only in some classrooms, in grades 3, 4, 8 and 10, Mr. Conti said. But he wanted to put his district’s technological readiness to the test—it has a computer for every student—so he appealed to the state for permission to use the computer-based version with all children in tested grades, he said.

The district has made a deliberate research subject of itself, not only with PARCC, but with the Cambridge, Mass.-based Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy. Working with the state teachers’ union, the superintendents’ association, and the state education department, the Rennie Center will examine what happens in different field-testing scenarios in Burlington and in Revere, a small urban district near Boston.

Burlington, for instance, will “livestream” the field test, so any loss of its network connections will interrupt the exam availability, Mr. Conti said. Revere, on the other hand, will “cache” the field test, downloading it and pumping it out locally. Burlington is trying the field test on varying devices, including iPads, Chromebooks, Mac desktops, and PCs, in a bid to see what works well and what doesn’t.

“It makes no sense to show off technologically,” Mr. Conti said. “We could probably test all our kids in three days. Our network could handle it. Instead, it will be a three-week disruption.

“But the point is to see what happens,” he said. “As a superintendent, I plan 18 months in advance. When we do it live a year from now, it will impact my budget if we have to make changes. I’d rather know that sooner than later.”

Balancing Opposition, Potential

The Nashville, Tenn., school system illustrates both the promise and the risks districts face when taking part in what the consortium test designers call “testing the test.” About 10 percent of the district’s 83,000 students will take the PARCC field test, either in math or in English/language arts.

Jesse Register, the district’s director of schools, said he thinks the experience will “take away the fear of the unknown” for teachers, students, and parents. It also complements the work the district has been doing to invest heavily in technological infrastructure and in training teachers to use technology to differentiate instruction, he said.

Since Nashville’s schools enroll one-third of Tennessee’s English-language learners, Mr. Register considers his district’s participation pivotal to ensuring the PARCC test works well for students whose native language isn’t English. “For our data to be included in how PARCC is going is important to influencing the design of the test,” he said.

Even as the Nashville schools inform a potentially better test, the district is treading on bumpy turf. Without a federal waiver for Tennessee, Nashville’s students will have to take both the PARCC field tests and the state’s regular assessments. And that likely will draw some criticism, Mr. Register said.

“We’re getting some pushback now about too much assessment,” he said. “We have to communicate very effectively with our parents and with our teachers to make sure this doesn’t become a negative.”

Looking for Weak Spots

More than a few worries are shadowing the landscape as field-testing gets underway. Technological capacity is high on the list.

“We have 60 computers in one computer lab in our school. Our tech people are worried about our servers,” said Kristin Winder, a 6th grade teacher in Great Falls, Mont.

One district experienced such problems in the run-up to the PARCC field tests that it decided against participating. District sources said their faith was undermined by last-minute changes in test dates, student files uploaded but then lost, and other logistical and communications slip-ups.

“We simply couldn’t allow our system’s first experience with PARCC to be a negative one,” a district official said in a confidential email obtained by Education Week. “We believe it would have undermined our work and our staff. Students and parents deserve better.”

The complexity of mounting field tests on such a large scale is daunting. PARCC’s field-test-administration manual weighs in at 180 pages. The readiness exercise has spawned countless memos and staff meetings across states and districts as systems gear up for the field test. Educators have spent time trying practice tests with students, and administrators overseeing the coming exams have experimented with “training tests.”

“You can imagine the planning it takes to put something like this in place,” Ms. Sigman said of preparing for the Smarter Balanced field tests.

Some see big benefits in all that planning, as it provides a glimpse into how the common standards should inform instruction and a preview of the forthcoming tests. Others see those hours as a tragic mischanneling of education energy and resources.

“Schools are spending all this money trying to get wired and ready for PARCC and Smarter Balanced. And who’s getting that money? Corporations,” said Peggy Robertson, an Aurora, Colo., literacy coach who co-founded United Opt Out National, which seeks to eliminate high-stakes standardized tests. “The less money schools have, the more likely it is that they’ll fail. All of it is a setup for charter schools and the privatization of public education.”

Teams from each consortium will be watching many aspects of field-testing closely to figure out what works well and what doesn’t.

Questions of technology loom large: How many children can a given school test at one time? If a teacher is streaming video in her classroom while other children take the test down the hall, will it overload the system?

The teams are looking for many other outcomes as well. What kinds of answers does a given question elicit from a range of students? Test designers will have detailed student-level information—pegged to unique new identifiers to protect students’ identities—to enable them to see if some questions stump subgroups of students, such as those in a given area of the country or those from certain racial or socioeconomic backgrounds. Do students who perform well on most parts of the field test consistently trip on some items?

Those kinds of observations will lead to a weeding-out or revision of questions, typically as many as 10 to 20 percent of the total, Ms. King of Smarter Balanced said.

Other questions involve how to scale and score the tests. PARCC officials, for instance, will be considering whether to treat the end-of-year portion and the performance-task portion as separate exams, with separate scales and scores, or to combine them into “one big test,” Mr. Nellhaus said. And if they are combined, should the two pieces be weighted differently?

In the end, the two consortia are keenly aware that they’re asking a lot of participating schools and districts: major time investments and schedule disruptions for what amounts to a research project to refine the test.

“This is why we do this,” Ms. King said. “To see what works and what doesn’t.”

Even some of those most committed to the project are feeling trepidation. One district official who described himself as “knee deep” in preparations said he is bracing for blowback from his staff and his parent community if even moderate problems arise with the test.

“I just hope it’s worth it in the end,” he said.