Sunday, January 31, 2010


from California’s Children blog |

Regina benjamin 1/29/2010 -- A part of Dr. Regina Benjamin's (at left) report, released yesterday, "The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation," is a guide for parents and providers of child care.

Providers, the report (which is supported by First Lady Michelle Obama as a keystone in her recently announced focus on childhood obesity), should:

  • Identify and use resources that recommend effective approaches to promoting physical activity, good nutrition, and healthy sleep in early childhood settings.
  • Establish and post policies, procedures, and practices that support these approaches in ways that respect local communities and cultures.
  • Stay current in these approaches through required regular training.
  • Educate and involve parents in training and other activities.

The Surgeon General also calls for "standardized national goals for early child care -- especially ones related to healthy weight -- [that] would improve the quality of early childhood settings and give childcare providers and parents a foundation to improve their knowledge and skills to support these goals."


Posted in Educated Guess By John Fensterwald

January 26th, 2010 --  The Legislative Analyst’s Office has given thumbs down to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s idea of a constitutional amendment to permanently reverse prison and university spending – and did so with strong language. The proposal is “an unnecessary, ill–conceived measure that would do serious harm to the budget process,” the LAO concluded.

A University of California vice president immediately criticized the LAO report, while mischaracterizing it as an endorsement of fee increases in lieu  of state support. (Read more and comment on this post)


By SAM DILLON | New York Times |

January 29, 2010 -- In his State of the Union address, President Obama held out the hope of overhauling the main law outlining the federal role in public schools, a sprawling 45-year-old statute that dates to the Johnson administration.

But experts say it would be a heavy lift for the administration to get the job done this year because the law has produced so much discord, there is so little time and there are so many competing priorities.

In 2001, when Congress completed the law’s most recent rewrite, the effort took a full year, and the bipartisan consensus that made that possible has long since shattered. Today there is wide agreement that the law needs an overhaul, but not on how to fix its flaws.

Since it was recast into its current form by the second Bush administration — and renamed No Child Left Behind — it has generated frequent, divisive debate, partly because it requires schools to administer far more standardized tests and because it labels schools that fail to make progress fast enough each year as “needing improvement.” That category draws penalties and has grown to include more than 30,000 schools.

Several states sued the Bush administration over the law in the last decade, unsuccessfully. Connecticut challenged its financing provisions, saying it imposed costly demands without providing adequate financing. Arizona fought rules on the testing of immigrant students.

“Its hard to see how they can get” a rewrite done, said Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, which includes about 80 groups representing teachers, superintendents, principals, school boards and others. “If there’s some bipartisan agreement about what the administration proposes, and the Republicans say, ‘We want to work together,’ then maybe. But I think its going to be tough.”

During the 2008 campaign and his first year in office, President Obama’s posture was popular with almost everyone: the law embodies worthwhile goals like narrowing the achievement gap between minority and white students, he said, but includes flawed provisions that need fixing. Once any rewrite begins in earnest, however, Mr. Obama will need to support specific changes that will be unpopular with at least some groups.

“Few subjects divide educators more intensely,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a speech about the law in September.

In that speech, Mr. Duncan leveled some of his own criticisms of the law, including that it labeled schools as failures even when they were making real progress, and that it often inadvertently provided incentives for states to lower academic standards to avoid sanctions. He said he was eager to begin a rewrite.

“This work is as urgent as it is important.” Mr. Duncan said.

Mr. Obama communicated a lower sense of urgency on Wednesday, perhaps because the administration’s legislative agenda for the year is already packed.

“I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay,” the president said.

While he also urged Congress not to abandon the health care overhaul, on the education law, he said only, “When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress.”

Mr. Duncan said in an interview on Thursday that key lawmakers “share our sense of urgency” about the need for an immediate rewrite, and were already pitching in.

Last week Mr. Duncan and more than a dozen other administration officials met with the Democratic chairmen and ranking Republican members of the education committees in both houses of Congress to discuss the rewrite of the law, first drafted in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“We are blue-skying this thing, taking a big-picture approach, to try to coalesce the themes that are most important,” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s early, a million things could go wrong, but I’m hopeful.”

Changes in the Congressional leadership could complicate the effort. The death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who worked closely with President George W. Bush in 2001, removed a passionate believer in the law.

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who replaced Mr. Kennedy as chairman of the Senate education committee, has other priorities. He wants to continue the law’s focus on closing achievement gaps, but to include an emphasis on school nutrition and physical fitness programs.

“We also need to take a new approach to things that are not working, like using the same solutions for all school problems,” Mr. Harkin said.

Some Republicans, including Representative John Kline, the Minnesotan who is the ranking minority member of the House education committee, say they want changes to the law, but are in no hurry.

“He’s not interested in an arbitrary deadline,” said Alexa Marrero, Mr. Kline’s spokeswoman. “It’s a lot more important on something like this to get it right than to just get it done.”

Chester E. Finn, Jr., an assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration, wrote in a blog post on Thursday: “One can only wish them well, but reworking this monstrously complex statute is apt to prove almost as challenging as health care.”

“The odds of getting a full-dress reauthorization done between now and August are very, very slender,” Mr. Finn said in an interview.

BILL GATES: $335 million investment in teacher pay incentives has high risk of failure.

2010 Annual Letter from Bill Gates: Helping Teachers Improve |

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $335 million in teacher performance/merit pay – some of it in Los Angeles
Gates: “The benefits of this would be unbelievably large, which is why we are pursuing it even though we know there is a high risk that it could fail. Previous efforts along these lines seemed to thrive for a few years, but if the system is not well run or if teachers reject differentiation, it gets shut down.”

The foundation works on health in poor countries because we think it’s the best way to improve lives globally. In the United States, we believe the best way to improve lives is to improve public education. America’s education system has been fundamental to its success as a nation. But the way we prepare students has barely changed in 100 years. If we don’t start innovating in education to make it better and more accessible, we won’t fulfill our commitment to equal opportunity, and our competitiveness will fall behind that of other countries.

Visiting an Algebra I class at West Charlotte High School with Melinda (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2009); Living Environment science class at the Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law (New York, New York, 2008).From left: Visiting an Algebra I class at West Charlotte High School with Melinda (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2009); Living Environment science class at the Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law (New York, New York, 2008).

In last year’s letter I wrote about the evidence that helping teachers teach more effectively is the best way to improve high schools. It is incredible how much the top quartile of teachers can improve the skills of even students who are quite far behind. This was a new effort for us at the time, so in 2009 I spent a lot of time trying to understand more about teaching: How do you identify the best teachers? How can they help other teachers be as good as they are? What investments are made to raise the average quality of teaching?

It is amazing how little feedback teachers get to help them improve, especially when you think about how much feedback their students get. Students regularly have their skills measured with tests. The results show how they compare to other students. Students know how to improve because they see where they did well and where they didn’t. They can talk to other students and learn from those who mastered the material.

Students get more feedback on their work than people in most jobs. One job where the worker is provided almost no feedback is the teacher at the front of the class. In a teacher’s personnel file there is rarely anything specific about where the teacher is strong or weak. Often there is just a checklist of basic things like showing up on time and keeping the classroom clean. In places where there is a rating system at all, 99 percent of teachers are rated satisfactory. Although this personnel system has the benefit of low overhead and predictability, it doesn’t help identify best practices and drive improvement.

The alternative is a system where time and money are invested in evaluation with the goal of helping teachers improve. Making this work requires both resources and trust. A new system needs to be predictable and help teachers identify weaknesses and give them ways to improve, and it should not make capable teachers afraid of capricious results.

A key point of contention about an evaluation system is how much it will identify teachers who are not good and don’t improve. A better system should certainly identify the small minority who don’t belong in teaching, but its key benefit is that it will help most teachers improve.

A new system requires more than just taking the test scores of the students and seeing how they improve after a year with a teacher. It also involves things like feedback from students, parents, and peer teachers and an investment of time in reviewing actual teaching. Tools like video can be used so that a teacher can send peers a video showing him trying to do something hard, like keeping a class focused, and ask for advice. Instead of people coming into the classroom, which is quite invasive, a webcam can be used to gather samples for evaluation.

To help develop an evaluation system to improve teacher effectiveness, in November we committed $335 million to partnerships in Memphis, Tennessee; Hillsborough County, Florida; Pittsburgh; and Los Angeles. The involvement and support of the union representatives in each of these locations was a key part of their selection.

This is an instance where there isn’t a clean separation between the creation of the innovation—ways to evaluate teachers and help them improve—and the delivery of the innovation, which requires teachers to embrace a change to the personnel system. We are working on both at the same time. Teachers will be evaluated and given incentive pay based on excellence. If most of the teachers in these locations like the new approach and they share their positive experience, then these evaluation practices will spread. The goal is for them to become standard practice nationwide. The benefits of this would be unbelievably large, which is why we are pursuing it even though we know there is a high risk that it could fail. Previous efforts along these lines seemed to thrive for a few years, but if the system is not well run or if teachers reject differentiation, it gets shut down.

The filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, who directed An Inconvenient Truth, has a new documentary about American education coming out this year. Waiting for Superman tells the story of several kids trying to get into schools with high-quality teaching—it’s literally a lottery that will decide the fate of these young people. Although I may be biased because I appear in the movie, I think it is fantastic and hope it will galvanize a lot more political will to improve teaching effectiveness.

Student at the Durham Performance Learning Center, Durham Public Schools (Durham, North Carolina, 2009); speaking with Danny Gilfort, principal of the Durham Performance Learning Center (Durham, North Carolina, 2009).

From left: Student at the Durham Performance Learning Center, Durham Public Schools (Durham, North Carolina, 2009); speaking with Danny Gilfort, principal of the Durham Performance Learning Center (Durham, North Carolina, 2009).

Melinda and I visited a number of schools in North Carolina during the fall and had a chance to see some amazing principals and teachers. In one inner-city Charlotte school, teachers look at test results each week to understand who is teaching which concepts the best way so they can learn from each other. In Durham, we visited a special high school called the Performance Learning Center , which is for kids who have dropped out of a typical public school but want to get their high school degree. One reason we visited them was to see how they use online learning. There are no lectures, and kids can move ahead at their own pace. A lot of the kids start out making progress more slowly than they would in a traditional class, but with the support of the teachers in the school and as they get used to the online approach, almost all of them move through the courses a lot faster than normal classes would let them. This is very motivational to the kids because they can do more than a year’s worth of schoolwork in a single year.


from Rough & Tumble and FCMAT News

Class cuts wreak havoc at California universities -- California's budget crisis came into stark focus in the halls of Sacramento State last week, where many students returning for spring semester were turned away from classes they had hoped to get into, or strained from hallways to hear lectures in classes that had enrolled way more students than there were seats. Laurel Rosenhall in the Sacramento Bee -- 1/31/10

Fensterwald: Tough graduation goals for CSU campuses -- The California State University System has set an ambitious goal of raising student graduation rate 8 percentage points, including 10 percentage points for low-income and minority students, over the next six years. John Fensterwald -- 1/31/10

Denham bill would cap college fee hikes -- Legislation that would require a 180-day waiting period and a 10% cap on fee increases at California’s public universities was introduced Friday in the state Senate, state Sen. Jeff Denham said during an appearance at California State University, Fresno. Eddie Jimenez in the Fresno Bee -- 1/31/10

Teacher pay can vary greatly by district, California report says -- The amount of money a California teacher makes these days depends greatly on the school district that cuts the paycheck, according to a state report released this month. And the gap between the high and low salaries is wide. Diana Lambert and Phillip Reese in the Sacramento Bee -- 1/31/10

Berkeley schools look to shift funds to help close achievement gap -- After talking about the problem for years, Berkeley school officials are on the verge of shifting millions of dollars to underperforming black and Latino students, adding to an old debate about how to reduce the disparities between the top and the bottom. Doug Oakley in the Contra Costa Times -- 1/31/10

Cost of teaching English learning students in SB County $34M -- San Bernardino County public schools are spending more than $34 million in state and federal money this school year to educate English learners, a group whose population has doubled since 1995. Stephen Wall in the Inland Daily Bulletin -- 1/31/10

UC sleuths seek proof for glorious claims on admission applications -- Like no other higher education system in the nation, the University of California has a quiet team of vigilant auditors that review the accuracy of randomly selected applications — and may yank ones shined up by too much balderdash, big-talk or bull. Lisa M. Krieger in the San Jose Mercury -- 1/31/10


NYC MAYOR IS A BILLIONAIRE, LA MAYOR HIRES HIMSELF ONE: What does Steve Lopez think about that?

Mayor Tony has given  banking billionaire Austin Beutner control over 13 city departments as his ‘jobs czar’.

According to Steve Lopez, here’s how it came to be:

Beutner broke his neck in 2007 after flying off his bike on a trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. After months of recovery, and still not 50, he decided to retire from private business.

He was about to take a job with the U.S. Treasury Department under President Obama, but changed his mind after a Breakfast of Champions meeting at the home of former Mayor Richard Riordan.

Eli Broad, Michael Milken and Steve Soboroff were there, the usual power elite suspects. The topic was the crummy local economy, and there was a consensus on the fix.

As Beutner summed it up:  "City Hall has to lead."

Before breakfast was over, Beutner had emerged as the man who could make that happen.


IGNORANCE BITES CALIFORNIA IN THE WALLET: A new poll [] shows that the people want control of the state budget, but most don't know where the money comes from or where it goes.


Some findings of the survey:

  • Two-thirds of Californians would pay higher taxes to avoid cuts in K–12 funding.
  • Seventy percent support spending cuts in prisons and corrections.

By Cathleen Decker | LA Times The Week Column

January 31, 2010 -- Last week brought a blizzard of polling on how Californians feel about their government and the economy. In two words: dislike and despair. The fine print suggested we should save a little distaste for ourselves.

A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that, overwhelmingly, Californians want themselves -- not the governor or the Legislature -- to be in charge of big budget matters.

It also found that, even more overwhelmingly, Californians haven't a clue where the state gets its money or how it spends it -- basic essentials for people who want to run the show. This is, of course, after years of headlines and hand-wringing about California's fiscal crisis, budget cutbacks, IOUs and the potential for one of the world's biggest economies to go belly up.

Those who favored the comics pages in decades past may recall the words of the possum philosopher Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

It's not quite as bad as it sounds, according to the institute's pollster, Mark Baldassare. It's not as though Californians are an egomaniacal bunch grabbing all the power for themselves while ignoring the state's fiscal basics. At least that first part is wrong, he said. Californians might be happy to turn over power to the governor and the Legislature if they had any confidence that either could handle things. But they don't.

"I don't think it speaks to how much they know, but how little they trust . . . the people in Sacramento to make the decisions," he said.

So, egotistic? No. Clueless? Well, yes.

Baldassare asked Californians where the state gets the biggest chunk of its money. Thirty percent said sales taxes, 28% said personal income taxes, 18% said corporation taxes and 17% said car fees. So more than seven in 10 got it wrong. Last year, 55% of state revenues came from income taxes, 31% from sales taxes, 10% from corporation taxes and a mere 2% from car fees.

As to how the state spends its money, almost half of Californians -- 49% -- said prisons took the most. Twenty-four percent cited health and human services, 16% said kindergarten through high school and 5% said higher education. Again, wildly wrong. The lion's share of state money, 41%, goes to kindergarten-through-12th-grade education, 30% goes to health and human services, 13% to higher education and 10% to prisons.

There was a clear ideological bent to beliefs about spending. Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to believe that prisons took the most money. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to see health and welfare services as most costly.

None of this surprises budget veterans. Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, recounted a running bet when she and others attend focus groups of Californians about the budget. How long will it take before someone asks: Schools don't have enough money? What about the lottery?

"It's never more than 13 minutes," Ross said. "That's because it was sold to voters as 'billions of dollars for your school.' It wasn't sold to voters as '1% of the money for your child's school.' "

Indeed, the lottery has paid more than $20 billion to education since 1985. That, however, is less than half the education budget for this year alone.

It's not just rank-and-file Californians who don't understand the budget. Politicians, too, are often in the dark, Ross said.

"People don't understand, with good reason, how it all fits together," she added. "I've been doing this professionally for decades, and it's hard to understand how it all fits together."

One reason for that is the organization of civic finance, a bowl of spaghetti even in good times. Revenues and spending flow between the state and counties and special funds, unseen and misunderstood by most Californians. Ever-changing configurations are meant to stave off fiscal problems that never go away, despite the effort.

Another reason is that few of those in charge have laid out the budget mess in all its gore. It's been easier to paint a rosy scenario -- except now, having had those scenarios proved repeatedly wrong, no one believes the painters.

This year's crop of candidates for governor -- one of whom will inherit the mess -- is no different.

Republican front-runner Meg Whitman has long contended that she would cut $15 billion out of the budget, but still hasn't said how. Her radio ads, on the air since September, emphasize her desire to cut spending.

"In Sacramento, they keep going back to the same old ideas, ideas that don't work," she said in one radio ad. "They seem to think if we just had a little more money to spend. . . ."

In reality, lawmakers and the governor have tried another tactic -- cutting spending. Even with millions more people relying on its schools, roads and other civic improvements, California now spends less than it spent in 2005-06. Billions less, in fact.

Whitman has not held a public campaign event since early December; last week she was on the East Coast promoting her new book, "The Power of Many." No specific solutions to California's mess were offered, though Whitman did launch one Zen gem about her general approach.

"I think leaders have to focus," she said on the set of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "In times of crisis, you cannot boil the ocean."

Jerry Brown, the unofficial Democratic candidate for governor, hasn't offered much more as he inches his way toward a formal candidacy. On a San Francisco radio show last week, he gave a downbeat assessment of the state and nothing in the way of solutions.

"I've been looking at this budget, like examining a Rubik's Cube, for the last year, and I tell you it's daunting to say the least," Brown told hosts at KGO-AM (810).

"The state is profoundly screwed up. And anybody who thinks they've got an idea -- I wish they'd give me a call. I'd like to listen to it because I can tell you, we're in for blood, sweat and tears over the next four years."

Politicians are in the business of pleasing people, and there's nothing very pleasant about the state's budget options. Still, without a clear understanding of the basics, it's hard to figure the way out.

When pollster Baldassare went through his numbers, he uncovered a sobering result: Only 6% of Californians could identify both the biggest revenue source and the biggest beneficiary of state money.

"It seems to me that what you need as a starting point are some basic facts about where the money comes from and where it's going, to make sound fiscal decisions," he said. "And they don't have that base of knowledge."

Each Sunday, The Week examines implications of major stories. It is archived at


by Larry Gordon |  LA Times LA Now blog| Study:

January 28, 2010 |  1:33 pm -- California’s three systems of public higher education need to coordinate better, eliminate duplicate programs and make it easier for students to transfer from community colleges to Cal State or University of California campuses, according to a report released today by the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

The study suggested more statewide oversight to ensure that UC, Cal State and community colleges don’t take steps that harm the other systems. For example, the report says that Cal State’s recent move to cancel spring admissions is causing a backlog of students needlessly staying at community colleges and that the upcoming UC changes in admissions standards may cut into Cal State’s enrollment.

The report, called "The Master Plan at 50: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts -- Coordinating Higher Education in California," said that too many decisions are based on the institutions’ pride rather than the state’s needs. So the study calls for reforms at the California Postsecondary Education Commission or replacing that agency with one that would better coordinate policies.

Fifty years ago, California established a landmark master plan for higher education that carved out different roles for UC, Cal State and community colleges, but the study says those roles are no longer clear. "California, which set the gold standard for higher education planing in 1960, now stands alone among sizable states in its lack of established goals, a statewide plan and an accountability system for higher education," it said.

-- smf:  The LAO report not only identifies a problem – and if identifying problems ever becomes a marketable skillset I will be a billionaire – it proposes solutions:

“These challenges underscore the importance of aligning the performance of the state’s higher education system with the state’s needs. Several states provide valuable examples of effective coordination leading to improved outcomes for students and states. Drawing on some of these examples, we recommend several legislative actions to improve coordination of higher education in California:

    • Adopt a clear public agenda for higher education, with specific statewide goals that can serve as the framework for an accountability system designed to align higher education performance with the state’s needs.
    • Strengthen several critical mechanisms of coordination, including funding formulas, delineated missions, eligibility standards and enrollment pools for each segment, articulation and transfer mechanisms, approval processes for new programs and sites, and accountability mechanisms.
    • Reform the California Postsecondary Education Commission or replace it with a new coordinating body to help create higher education policy leadership for California.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

California Education News Roundup from UCLA/IDEA


States said to lag in using data systems well

By Dakarai I. Aarons/Education Week

01-29-2010  -  States have made progress in building data systems that track student performance over time, but are behind the curve in sharing the information in a way that leads to meaningful decision making, according to a national survey released today. The Data Quality Campaign, a foundation-funded organization in Washington that promotes and tracks the use of data in education, has been focused since 2005 on identifying the key components of state data systems and pushing for their development. Now that much of that work is under way, the group is shifting its focus to describe and promote the use of the data. (more...)

New teachers facing tough times

  • 01-29-2010

by Linda Lou/Riverside Press-Enterprise

Jeri Bravo, 34, expects to receive her special education teaching credential in June. She isn't expecting a job offer by then. "I am pretty nervous about trying to find a job for the fall," Bravo said. "I am nervous and hopeful at the same time. I am going to keep trying until a door opens." Prospective teachers can attend a job fair at Cal State San Bernardino on Saturday. The university's Career Development Center is helping people such as Teryn Andersen, left, Carol Dixon, Angela Gallegos and Jeri Bravo. Just two years ago, 86 employers showed up at Cal State San Bernardino's annual education job fair. Carol Dixon, interim director of the university's Career Development Center, said the number was down to 40 last year. This year, only about 30 employers are attending the fair Saturday, and three large school districts that usually visit -- Los Angeles Unified, Riverside Unified and Colton Joint Unified -- will be absent, Dixon said. (more...)

Experts say a rewrite of nation’s main education law will be hard this year

  • 01-29-2010

By Sam Dillon/New York Times

In his State of the Union address, President Obama held out the hope of overhauling the main law outlining the federal role in public schools, a sprawling 45-year-old statute that dates to the Johnson administration. But experts say it would be a heavy lift for the administration to get the job done this year because the law has produced so much discord, there is so little time and there are so many competing priorities. In 2001, when Congress completed the law’s most recent rewrite, the effort took a full year, and the bipartisan consensus that made that possible has long since shattered. Today there is wide agreement that the law needs an overhaul, but not on how to fix its flaws. (more...)

Education is where Obama can claim success

  • 01-29-2010

Blog by John Fensterwald/Educated Guess

President Obama admitted mistakes, and issued a few mea culpas in his State of the Union address this week. But he also rightfully took credit for a fundamental change in approach to federal education policy, and promised more of the same. Obama’s approach to education hasn’t been bipartisan as much as it’s been entrepreneurial. With Race to the Top, Obama used a relative pittance when it comes to federal spending — $4.3 billion out of $70 billion in last year’s stimulus package for education – as bait to drive some big changes in the states.
In doing so, challenged two of the Democratic Party’s biggest allies, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, over expanding charter schools, using test scores to evaluate teachers, and replacing teachers and principals as one options in kick-starting failing schools. (more...)

Obama to seek up to $4B in new education spending

  • 01-29-2010

By H. Darr Beiser/USA TODAY

President Barack Obama said Wednesday his administration will work with Congress to expand school improvements across the country, saying the success of children cannot depend on where they live. As he prepares to ask Congress for billions of dollars in new spending for education, Obama said the nation's students need to be inspired to succeed in math and science, and that failing schools need to be turned around. In his State of the Union speech, Obama also called on Congress to finish work on a measure to revitalize community colleges. And he called for a $10,000 tax credit to families for four years of college, and an increase in Pell Grants. "This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools," he said. "The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. (more...)

New critiques urge changes in common standards

  • 01-29-2010

By Catherine Gewertz/Education Week

A draft of grade-by-grade common standards is undergoing significant revisions in response to feedback that the outline of what students should master is confusing and insufficiently user-friendly. Writing groups convened by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association are at work on what they say will be a leaner, better-organized, and easier-to-understand version than the 200-plus-page set that has been circulating among governors, scholars, education groups, teams of state education officials, and others for review in recent weeks. The first public draft of the standards, which was originally intended for a December release but was postponed until January, is now expected by mid-February. (more...)

$113 million, 2-year, S.F. schools cut asked
  • 01-29-2010

By Jill Tucker/San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco's school Superintendent Carlos Garcia laid out his plan Tuesday to bridge an expected $113 million budget shortfall over the next two years, describing it as a long list of "horrible and deplorable" cuts that rival those experienced during the Great Depression. It's that bad, Garcia said. His plan, presented to the school board Tuesday night, would eliminate up to 400 district positions, including 100 teachers resulting from an increase in K-3 class size, from 22 students to 25. Garcia also called for decimating summer school, teacher training and other programs; shrinking paychecks across the board through unpaid furloughs; and cutting busing, especially for high school students. "I absolutely take no pride in what I'm going to share with you," he said earlier in the day. (more...)

Possible teacher layoffs would have big impact

  • 01-29-2010

By Jennifer Medina/New York Times

For more than three decades, New York City schools have soldiered on through turmoil, politics, recessions, budget crises and a changing cast of mayors and chancellors. But since 1976, the system has never carried out significant layoffs of teachers. That may soon change. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said that if the city does not wring pay concessions from the teachers’ union and all of Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposed budget cuts are approved — a worst case — the city may have to get rid of 11,000 of its 79,000 teachers. Last year, about 3,800 were lost through attrition, mostly retirement, so if similar numbers are recorded this year, several thousand could receive pink slips. (more...)

California Education News Roundup

The California Education News Roundup is a daily publication that highlights news and commentary about California educational policy, educational reform, and related items of interest to California's educational justice community. Included are brief summaries and links to full articles from mainstream media, ethnic media, and select blogs. The News Roundup also features local education stories related to statewide education issues or to local advocacy campaigns. Finally, the Roundup includes selected national stories that may affect California educational policy and reform.


Corey G. Johnson | California Watch Blog

January 29, 2010 | Fresno school officials made an announcement this week that has raised eyebrows up and down the state: The public school district wants to go into the private charter school business.

As reported on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Fresno Bee, the Fresno Unified School District is seeking to use taxpayer funds to create a charter that would be managed by a district-created, nonprofit organization. The school would be open to children in kindergarten through 5th grade.

charter schools, school desks

The charter's proposed management board would include the superintendent, Michael Hanson, two board trustees and two parents. None of the school's teachers would belong to a union. The district will ask their trustees to approve the plan on Feb. 10.

“This is clearly about student futures and parental choice,” superintendent Hanson told the Bee.

Faster than you could say "Exorcist," heads began spinning.

The Fresno Teachers Association blasted Hanson for the move. Even the California Charter School Association's Fresno office questioned the action. According to Tuesday's Bee:

Creating a nonprofit to oversee the school puzzles John Madrid, general manager of the California Charter Schools Association regional office in Fresno.

He said the district could open a charter school without establishing a separate nonprofit, as it already does with Sunset Elementary School.

Madrid also questions whether the nonprofit would truly function independently, since the board’s majority will be Fresno Unified officials.

'Creating this independent organization and having the superintendent and others on the board … Is there a conflict of interest?' Madrid asked.

By Thursday, the state charter school group seemed to soften its comments. In an interview with California Watch, CEO Jed Wallace called Fresno's proposal "bold" and "novel."

He acknowledged that Fresno's proposal would face a number of legal issues, but he cautioned against criticizing the idea as a "non-starter." Wallace added that Fresno's plan has already sparked discussions in cities across the state, where similar approaches are being considered. The Fresno district would likely refine its proposal over time, he said.

"We see a lot of superintendents beginning to think about how they can get some of the flexibilities afforded by charter school status," Wallace said. "This kind of thinking is inevitiable. It's only going continue."

If what's happening in Fresno is truly part of a growing trend, then what impact will these unique arrangements have on charter oversight and spending accountability?

In Lassen County, for example, the superintendent of Westwood Unified School District, Henry Bietz, also worked as CEO of Westwood Charter School.

But since last August, Bietz has been on a leave of absence from his superintendent position, which was prompted by a state audit that uncovered instances where Bietz was being paid by the charter while possibly working on public-district time.

Over the denials of the charter's attorney, auditors found, among other things, that the charter had paid Bietz more than $830,000 in salary and consultant fees while he was drawing his superintendent salary.

The Lassen County district attorney forwarded the matter to the California Attorney General's Office, which is reportedly investigating the matter, according to the Lasson News and the Redding Record Sunlight. The state's audit report can be read here.

The California Teachers Association declined to comment on the possible conflict-of-interest issues posed by the Fresno charter plan, saying they still didn't know enough about what was happening, spokeswoman Deena Martin told California Watch yesterday. And despite repeated attempts, officials with the California Department of Education's charter school division weren't available to comment, either.

But Stephanie Farland, policy analyst for the California School Board Association, said her organization has twice proposed legislation that would make charters abide by the same conflict-of-interest and transparency requirements of other taxpayer-supported schools. Each time, the bills were vetoed by the governor's office – once during the 2003-2004 session and again in the 2007-2008 session.

Farland said the school board association is hopeful that the current bill, AB 572, sponsored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, won't face a similar fate. Currently, charters don't have to comply with laws governing access to records or public meetings. Nor do their boards have to be transparent about spending decisions or what role personal associations play in the awarding of contracts.

AB 572 seeks to change that. It is supported by a number of school associations and districts, including, ironically, Fresno Unified. It is opposed by the California Charter School Association.

"This is a big issue," Farland said. "Charters don't want the same conflict-of-interest requirements that everyone else have to follow. So right now is what they're doing legal? Yes. Whether it's best practices? Now that's another issue. And there isn't a whole lot we can do about it."

CLASS WARRIOR: Profile of Arne Duncan

Carlo Rotella, The New Yorker, February 1, 2010, p. 24


     "How you read Duncan's record (in Chicago) depends to some extent on what you think of his approach to reform. His signature move as C.E,O. was the turnaround: shutting down a school that has a chronic record of poor performance and reopening it with an entirely new staff.  (NY City Schools chancellor) Joel Klein told me, 'Closing a school is worse than a root canal. You're disrupting people's lives,' and it makes a superintendent very unpopular."

ABSTRACT: PROFILE of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. President Obama has allotted Duncan more than seventy billion dollars in federal economic-stimulus funds to hand out to the states—more money “by a factor of a lot,” as Duncan puts it, than any Secretary of Education has had before him. The stimulus money and the close relationship Duncan, who was the C.E.O. of the Chicago Public Schools before coming to Washington with Obama, has to the President give him extraordinary leverage.

Duncan has the potential to be a uniquely influential Secretary of Education. Any state that wants its full share of stimulus money needs to give the Department of Education what are known as the “four assurances”: progress in raising standards; in recruiting and retaining effective teachers; in tracking students’ and teachers’ performance; and in turning around failing schools.

Duncan has played basketball with Barack Obama for nearly two decades, and first met him through Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s older brother, who now coaches Oregon State University’s men’s basketball team.

In the fight over education in America today, there are, roughly speaking, two major camps: free-market reformers, who believe that competition, choice, and incentives must have greater play in education; and liberal traditionalists who rally around teachers’ unions and education schools. Obama’s choice of Duncan was widely received as a compromise. His appointment was a loss for the unions.

Republicans approve of Duncan’s commitment to market-based reforms. Duncan must contend with critics on the right who don’t accept the federal government’s active role in education, and ones on the left who see him as a neoliberal enforcer, exploiting Obama’s Democratic bona fides to impose the free-market reform agenda on the unions.

Tells about Duncan’s childhood on the South Side of Chicago and the after-school program his mother ran and continues to run in North Kenwood-Oakland. After graduating from Harvard, Duncan played professional basketball in Australia before returning to Chicago. Describes Duncan’s career in Chicago, leading up to him being named C.E.O. of the Chicago Public Schools in 2001. Writer discusses Duncan’s tenure as C.E.O. and interviews several critics of his policies. Tells about the rules by which the stimulus finds will be awarded to states and considers the legacy of No Child Left Behind. Many people who voted for Obama are finding out that on education, as on other issues, he is more of a centrist than they ever imagined.



Friday, January 29, 2010


Charles Kerchner

by Charles Kerchner - Research Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University | HUFFINGTON POST |

January 29, 2010  -- Think of it as a big chem lab experiment. The Los Angeles Unified School District is testing the hypothesis that allowing a bunch of people to compete for running schools will yield better ones. It's a starkly different idea than the traditional civil service model and probably the boldest experiment taking place in public education in America. So, what are the results so far?

Hypothesis 1: In a contest to run public schools, lots of teams will show up. Result: it depends. The public school choice resolution passed by the school board last summer, created two different contests. The first was for the operation of 18 newly constructed schools, built with bonds approved by voters several years ago. One would think that occupying a sparkling new school would be incentive enough to bring forward great numbers of charter school and other potential providers.

There is significant competition, but not as much as one might think. Charter school management companies that did not already operate schools did not jump into the game in large numbers. The only new-to-LA charter provider to submit a proposal was Aspire, which runs schools in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay area. The for-profit providers that operate multiple charters across the country are forbidden by law from applying, and so Los Angeles' education competition has a decidedly home-grown look.

The Sansei Foundation, a non-profit arm of a school consulting firm in Chicago that has ties to Paul Vallas, that city's peripatetic former superintendent who now heads schools in New Orleans, filed an intent-to-participate for all the schools, but was a dropout. The American Charter Schools Foundation that operates charters in Arizona also failed to submit any proposals.

In most new-school competitions, existing charter operators squared off against proposals from teams of administrators and teachers from LAUSD. The Julie Korenstein Elementary school in the San Fernando Valley has five competitors, for example, as does a new elementary school in South LA Four competitors vie to run the new Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy in South LA. There, the Inner City Education Foundation, which operates 10 schools in South Los Angeles, and sees its mission as drastically increasing the number of college graduates from the area, is competing with a District team and two other charters.

KIPP, whose charters have garnered media attention for their success among African-American students, did not submit a proposal. Green Dot, which has been depicted as a tidal wave, submitted only one proposal. It is in competition with the Alliance for College Ready Schools and others for one of the components of the newly constructed Esteban Torres high schools on the Eastside.

A second contest involves plans to run one of the 12 chronically underperforming schools, dubbed Focus Schools by LAUSD. These campuses have failed to meet their federal performance targets for more than three years, have proficiency rates of less than 21 percent in either math or English, and had no growth in state's Academic Performance Index last year. The chosen high schools also had greater than 10 percent dropout rates.

Nothing bright and shiny here: the prospect of running these schools offers only an invitation to run some of the toughest schools in America. As one might expect, there are fewer competitors.

Only the existing schools proposed to run Burbank Middle, Gardena High, Maywood High, and San Pedro High. But some of these proposals were quite innovative and sought to come to grips with the reasons achievement had lagged. The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, begun by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was the most vigorous competitor. It submitted proposals for three Focus schools including Jefferson High School on the near Southside. It faces vigorous contest by the existing faculty and staff. See Howard Blume's coverage  [] of the community meetings where proposals were presented.

The most vigorous challenge from an existing charter operator is taking place at Hillcrest Elementary School where the Inner City Education Foundation, is competing with the existing school and another charter, Be the Change in Education Foundation. That proposal, co-sponsored by 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, anticipates separating students by gender, a practice used in the 100 Black Men charter school in New York.

Another potentially interesting contest may develop on the Eastside, where the Montebello Unified School District, which operates the schools just outside of LAUSD, has submitted a proposal to operate Garfield High School.

Hypothesis 2: Competition will yield strong and innovative proposals. Result: a qualified yes.

I was struck by the extent to which existing District administrator and teacher teams created coherent plans that targeted student achievement. Although there are some clunkers, as a group these plans were much stronger than those produced during the school reform era of the 1990s. For a history of this era, see Learning from L.A.: Institutional Change in American Education  []. Clearly, the participants have learned about targeting student achievement directly rather than assuming that rearranging what adults do would boost student outcomes. One of the legacies of past reform efforts is to give the schools a much higher capacity to focus on student achievement. Both District and charter proposals showed this capacity.

The stronger proposals also had linkages to resources outside the district. Some, like the ICEF middle school proposal, had strong ties to the University of Southern California. Several cited relationships with UCLA and some with CSU system schools and private colleges and universities. Many of the proposals link to community service providers. All reveal a network-of-experts organizational structure that I believe will become the essential structure for public education in the future, the alternative to an old fashioned hierarchy.

Perhaps the most interesting player in all this is United Teachers Los Angeles, which has had a schizophrenic relationship to the whole choice process. Violently opposed to it, UTLA is challenging its legality. At the same time it registered intents to propose in all the new schools. In the end only one teacher team submitted a new school proposal, the South Area Teacher Collaborative that bid for a newly constructed South Los Angeles middle school. Their proposal made a bow toward non-hierarchical management and greater involvement of parents and community in school operations, but it didn't sketch out a school where students would learn in radically different ways or where teachers would have radically different jobs. No updated Summerhill or John Dewey Lab School. No teachers' cooperative.

However, high teacher and union involvement can be seen in several of the proposals, including those at Burbank Middle School, where the existing staff seeks to transform the school into three smaller ones run on the Pilot school model that gives participants some flexibility to change their work rules. In other, proposals, such as the one for San Pedro High School, the union chapter chair emerges as one of the key participants in reorganization.

Yet, in the political bump and rub of proposal adoption, UTLA's raw union muscle has emerged. Boisterous and contentious community meetings have featured rough attempts at intimidation, prompting a blunt letter from Superintendent Ramon Cortines to union president A. J. Duffy.

All the proposals included ways to gather student achievement data from classrooms and make mid-course corrections during the school year and before the high-stakes state tests are given in the spring. All of them included ideas for linking on-going professional development with improving the schools. A close reading of these sections distinguishes the good from not so good proposals. (Full disclosure: I reviewed a handful of proposals for the District.)

All of the proposals recognize that parents, family and community are a student's first educators. And there are some inventive ideas about engaging families and using community resources.

But there was also an almost universal belief in programs rather than people. The proposal template itself, and most all of the proposals I perused placed great reliance on picking a set of proven programs. No one, even among the charter operators, said that their proposal would work because they had the capacity to assemble a better-trained, more dedicated staff than their competitors. Everyone gave a nod to accountability--it was required by the proposal template--but no one stood up and said in effect "if we can't teach these kids we'll step aside."

All these proposals are online []. I have skimmed all of them, and read many of them carefully. You can too. It's also an experiment in local democracy, with public hearings, advisory votes, and ultimately a decision by Superintendent Cortines on February 23. The lives of 40,000 students are involved. It's time for your voice to be heard.

●●smf's 2¢: Heard… but as the votes are non-binding and advisory – not necessarily paid attention to.



by ELIZABETH BANICKI | Courthouse News Service

     Friday, January 29, 2010 -- 7:27 AM PT -- LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles Unified School District says the company it hired to install artificial turf on school playgrounds did not inform it that it would underlay the turf with carcinogens - carbon black and lead, in crumb rubber - that would come into direct contact with children.

     LAUSD hired Forever Green Athletic Fields of the West in 2005 to artificial turf systems on playgrounds and playing fields at 13 schools.

     In its Superior Court complaint, the school district says it knew that one of the materials used would be crumb rubber, which contains lead and carbon black. But LAUSD says it did not know that the chemicals would be in direct contact with children who play on the turf.

     The state of California says lead and carbon black are known to cause cancer, reproductive harm, neurological harm, decreased IQ and developmental toxicity. The chemicals can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

     LAUSD says it "understood that the crumb rubber would be applied only as an underlayment, as a foundational layer beneath the upper artificial grass turf," and that it would not be in direct human contact.

     But Forever Green used it as "infill" between plots of synthetic grass in places where it would be in contact with children and exposed to intense sunshine and heat, which contribute to the breakdown and release of chemicals, according to the complaint.

     LAUSD claims Forever Green knew that the crumb rubber was being sold throughout California in large quantities. The chemical exposure was "knowing and intentional," the district says.

     The district issued a Proposition 65 violation notice in November 2009 and sent it to the California Attorney General and the Los Angeles City Attorney.

     The district alleges violation of Proposition 65, breach of contract, product liability and negligence. It seeks civil penalties, compensation and costs.

     LAUSD is represented by Barry Goveman with Musick, Peeler & Garrett.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

e-mail from LAUSD(C):

In a message dated 01/27/10 22:14:55 Pacific Standard Time, The Los Angeles School Development Coalition writes:


Today was a great day and Carver MS Youth, Teachers, and Community came out to represent!

There was a good turnout tonight but there was a great pre-meeting with UTLA teachers beforehand and we are inviting them to join us too. Tonight, Rigoberto, Celes, Phyllis, Jesus, and I joined hundreds of community members to oppose the Public School Choice Resolution.

Last Monday, I was invited by Rigoberto to speak with Jefferson HS students, teachers, and parents and I interviewed many for a piece that will air on February 5, 2010 at 7pm on KPFK.

On Sunday Celes, Scott, and Rigoberto will be on the Knowledge is Power 106 show on 105.9 at 7am.

On February 9, 2010 the UTLA will help stage demonstrations in local areas and there seems  to be some rumblings from the students about staging a walk out...

Next Wednesday will we not meet and from now on we plan to meet on Thursday nights at 7pm. Our next meeting is on February 11, 2010 at 7pm at Celes King Bail Bonds located at 1530 West MLK Blvd. [map]

Please invite others to join the momentum that we are building.



By Carla Rivera | LA Times |

Students are to get more individualized support and be reminded of the benefits of getting a degree and the sacrifice required. Administrators have been 'enablers' to dawdlers, one official says.

January 28, 2010 - Students attending California State University may be in for a dose of tough love as they are asked to choose majors more quickly, be more disciplined about attending class and be willing to sacrifice family time and outside activities to earn their degrees, several campus presidents said Wednesday.

They spoke during a meeting of Cal State's Board of Trustees at which university officials formally announced an ambitious initiative to raise graduation rates, particularly for students who are from minority groups and low-income households.

Cal State is setting a goal of increasing its six-year graduation rate 8% by 2016, raising it to 54%, as well as cutting in half the achievement gap in degree completion by under-represented minority students. Each of the giant university's 23 campuses is scheduled to have a plan in place by this fall.    >>more>>

LACC ACCUSED OF CENSORING STUDENT NEWSPAPER: "Finding a 1st Amendment violation at LACC is like looking for a needle in a needle stack."

Civil liberties groups say administrators attempted to influence coverage and interfere with reporters in what they call one of the worst examples in recent memory.

By Amina Khan | LA Times

January 28, 2010 -- Los Angeles City College officials have infringed repeatedly on the rights of student journalists at the campus, according to two national civil liberties organizations.

"No institution in SPLC's recent memory has attempted censorship as persistently or with as many diverse methods as Los Angeles City College," officials from the Student Press Law Center and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote in a recent letter to Mona Field, president of the Los Angeles Community College District's board of trustees.

The letter alleges that college administrators have engaged in a "pattern of interference" with the work of the campus' student newspaper, the Collegian, starting in August 2008. Among its concerns, the organizations wrote: College officials have made unacceptable demands of the paper's staff, tried to influence its content and proposed moving its reporters under administrators' supervision for "counseling" about their stories.

"Finding a 1st Amendment violation at LACC is like looking for a needle in a needle stack," said the letter, sent Jan. 15.

The two groups urged the trustees to take action to improve the climate for student journalists at the college and noted that the situation had also drawn the attention of state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). They said they joined Yee in urging the college's president, Jamillah Moore, to comply with state laws protecting the students' rights to free expression.

Moore did not return calls for comment. Student Services Vice President Lawrence Bradford acknowledged the tensions between student journalists and administrators, but called it a distraction as the college copes with accreditation and financial problems.

In one of several incidents alleged in the letter, Collegian reporter Mars Melnicoff tried to cover a July 16 town hall meeting on the campus about the college's accreditation problems. The college had been placed on probation by an accrediting commission a week earlier and Melnicoff used her cellphone to record audio of the discussion.

After the meeting, the letter alleges, Moore told Melnicoff she would have to sign a release before she would be permitted to use her own recording, even though it was a public meeting. Melnicoff refused.

In September, as the college was tightening its budgetary belt, the administration cut the paper's printing budget by 40%. The contract shows the original $25,000 amount with a line through it and $15,000 penned in, with the initials "J.M." written beside it.

After news of the cut came out and Yee's office called administrators to express concern, administration officials said the 40% reduction was a mistake and changed it to 16%.

"Clearly there was some retaliation in terms of the budget, which they didn't recant until our office called them," said Adam Keigwin, Yee's chief of staff. Yee has written two laws protecting students' speech rights.

Daniel Marlos, head of the college's Media Arts/Photography/Journalism Department, said administrators blamed him -- falsely, he says -- for giving the budget document to reporters and a warning memo was placed in his personnel file. The warning was later removed.

"I received a counseling memo for giving a public document to a reporter when in fact I didn't," Marlos said. "Even if I had done it, I had a perfect right to."

On Oct. 7, Yee wrote a letter to Moore saying that the college's policies "suggest a retaliatory policy that is prohibited by California law." Community College District Interim Chancellor Tyree Wieder responded to Yee, saying officials had found no free speech violations on the campus.

Now, Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, said the organization hopes its letter persuades district trustees to look into and improve the situation for student journalists at the college.

And Collegian Editor in Chief Frank Elaridi said he and others on the staff are grateful for the support. "It feels like we're not just talking to a wall now," Elaridi said. "This will actually make the board take our allegations more seriously."

Knowledge is Power 106: 4LAKids in Big Boy’s ‘hood!

Knowledge is Power hosted by Wendy Carrillo LIVE!! Will be featuring a discussion of Education Reform in LAUSD, The Public School Choice Resolution, The School District Budget and the future of Public Education in our city. 
  • smf will be on hip-hop radio – how (un)kewl is that?
  • Tune in Sunday Morning Jan 31@7AM on FM 105.9!
  • Call in 818-520-1059

Knowledge is Power: Wendy Carrillo drops some knowledge and breaks down politics, hip hop and socially conscious movements to showcase how everything is related and affects real people everyday.

Re: New Yorker Article: PROTEST STUDIES - “Restoring state investment to a truly accountable system [of higher ed] …would cost the median California taxpayer just $32 next April 15th.”

Letters in response to Tad Friend’s article (January 4, 2010 - see following)
Related Links: Tad Friend’s “Protest Studies”

January 25, 2010

Tad Friend captures the anguish that has built up over the past decade in California’s public higher-education system (“Protest Studies,” January 4th). Complacently led and too easily divided, the system’s three segments have, even now, failed to unite and compete vigorously for state resources. While California’s elementary and high schools, health and welfare programs, and, especially, its prisons have all seen their budgets grow faster than population, higher education has been losing ground per capita for twenty years. Ideologically driven attempts to disinvest public funds, abandon the public mission, and float the universities on student debt have now pushed the system into reverse: denying opportunity, not creating it. According to my calculations, restoring state investment to a truly accountable system, while rolling back tuitions to 2000-01 levels, would cost the median California taxpayer just thirty-two dollars next April 15th. As long as talking about tax increases is taboo in Sacramento, gutting our colleges and universities appears irreversible and inevitable.

Stanton A. Glantz

Vice-President, Council of U.C. Faculty Associations

Professor of Medicine

University of California, San Francisco

San Francisco, Calif.

January 25, 2010
The consequences for education of Proposition 13 go far beyond the fact that, as Friend puts it, the law “in effect, broke the government.” Equally destructive was that it did away with taxation based on representation. By making property-assessment increases contingent on a super-majority legislative vote that could never be mustered, it projected an image of a politics free of negotiation or argument. This sham politics, which mirrors the sham “direct democracy” of the ballot-initiative system itself, draws its strength from the fiction that prosperity depends upon the outcome of a hand-to-hand struggle between beleaguered property owners and some predatory group of “have-nots” (the poor, the uneducated, the young, and immigrants) who must be stopped by law at the edge of the front yard. This fiction has encouraged millions of Californians to think that unless they profit directly from a public service they have no obligation to support it. Against this background, the students who are fighting for a decent and affordable education are also fighting for a politics of shared responsibility.

Timothy Hampton

Professor of Comparative Literature and French

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, Calif.

Tad Friend, Letter from California, “Protest Studies,” The New Yorker, January 4, 2010, p. 22

Read the full text of this article in the digital edition. (Subscription required.)

ABSTRACT: LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA about student protests at the University of California. The University of California has long been America’s best public university. U.C. is also the country’s most multifarious university, comprising five medical centers, four law schools, three Department of Energy laboratories—and suddenly, two serious problems. It’s as broke as the state that funds it, and many of its faculty and students are in open rebellion. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a budget that cut U.C.’s allocation by $637 million. As a result, two thousand U.C. staff members lost their jobs and the remaining staff and faculty were asked to take furlough days. In mid-September, U.C.’s Board of Regents discussed a budget-balancing plan proposed by the university’s unpopular president, Mark Yudof. The plan would increase undergraduate fees. The regents agreed to vote on the plan when they met again, on November 19th. This gave the opposition plenty of time to organize protests. In late October, Berkeley students convened a daylong Mobilizing Conference to Save Public Education. Discusses the proposals put forward at the conference. Tells about Ananya Roy, one of Berkeley’s star teachers. Roy was a stalwart of the faculty organization Save the University, but was only loosely affiliated with the more radical Solidarity Alliance, a coalition of union members, faculty, and students which organized a September 24th walkout at Berkeley. With state support withering away, many U.C. divisions and departments have felt the increasing pressure to pay for themselves, either by attracting research grants or by raising corporate or private endowments. Yet this approach, known as “privatization,” can introduce outside agendas and limit academic freedom. Tells about a Washington Post op-ed written by Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in which he suggested that the leading public universities could stay afloat if the federal government matched, at two to one, private endowment funds raised by the universities. The chancellor also decided to gradually increase Berkeley’s out-of-state enrollment. Describes the strike called for by the Solidarity Alliance to coincide with the Regents meeting in November and the ensuing unrest on the campus, including the occupation of Wheeler Hall by forty students who barricaded themselves inside the building. Campus police encircled the building, and soon hundreds of students were at the barricades. Tells about Ananya Roy’s role in negotiations between the protesters, the police, and the administration. On December 11th, police were again sent in to Wheeler, arresting sixty-six protesters who had occupied Wheeler for four days. That night, more than forty people carrying torches marched on Birgeneau’s residence. A handful of the protesters smashed the outdoor lights and threw cement planters and burning torches at the house, scattering only after the chancellor’s wife, who was writing Christmas cards, woke her husband and he called the police.


by Jason Song – LA Times LA Now blog

January 27, 2010 |  3:28 pm -- The Los Angeles Unified School District has fired a teacher who had been paid his full salary since being barred from the classroom more than seven years ago for alleged misconduct.

<<Matthew Kim, a former special education instructor, was removed from Grant High School in Van Nuys in 2002 after he was accused of touching co-workers’ breasts and making inappropriate comments to students.

The following year, the L.A. Board of Education voted to fire Kim, who was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. But he appealed the decision to a state commission, which overturned it. Kim and district officials have been locked in a court battle over his employment ever since. Earlier this month, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the state commission to overturn its decision and allow the district to fire Kim.

Kim has an appeal pending.


Thursday AM Jan 28

LAUSD schools' grades are improving

Los Angeles Daily News - Connie Llanos – ‎

Los Angeles Unified officials released the district's second annual school report cards Wednesday, giving parents of 617000 ...


LA Unified unveils revamped 'report cards' evaluating its schools

Los Angeles Times - Howard Blume 

LA school officials unveiled a more user-friendly school "report card" Wednesday that is more focused on information than public relations. ...

L.A. Unified unveils latest school report card, which aims to reveal warts and all

Los Angeles Times (blog)

Los Angeles school officials unveiled a more user-friendly school “report card” today that is more focused on information than public relations. ...

L.A. Unified unveils updated report cards

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Tuesday morning, the brand new LAUSD school report card was unveiled, and parents say they support anything that will help

LAUSD Releases Schools Report Cards

NBC Los Angeles - Robert Kovacik, Lorel Kane 

The Los Angeles Unified School District is sending out report cards on every single school in the district. ...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


by A.J. Duffy, UTLA President – from United Teacher, the newspaper of UTLA

  • The great thing about public education and educators in general is that we agree with each other 85% of the time. Duffy gets his fair share right here – and where he's not absolutely right he's still pretty right! He's writing to his constituency here – but 85% of them are getting it right 85% of the time. That's 72.25% ...and the truth is, they're doing far better than that almost all of the time! - smf

Jan 22, 2009 In many ways 2009 was a year we’d like to forget.

The challenges were countless, but the bright spot is that together, we fought every battle that came our way, and we proved we are resilient. It’s that resiliency that will carry us through 2010 and beyond. I can’t help but think how our load could be lightened if some key players could get a clue. To that end, I wrote a collection of New Year’s resolutions for them. Here’s hoping they will embrace these commitments to change.

LAUSD SUPERINTENDENT CORTINES: Resolve to immediately halt the reconstitution of Fremont High.

The staff at Fremont High received a most unwelcome holiday gift last month when they were informed that the school was being reconstituted— despite the fact that research shows it rarely works. That the decision coincided with a visit by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan makes the move even more suspect. It’s not too late for Cortines to stop this. Listen to the Fremont staff, Ray. They have already started down the path of school reform; give them the opportunity to finish. It’s the best chance the students have for getting the education they deserve. You and Arne have a favorite mantra: data, data, data. Where’s the data to show that reconstitution works?

ALL L.A. TV STATIONS, FROM CHANNEL 2 TO 62: Resolve to start reporting positive public education news.

Yes, I know the slogan “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning that salacious, violent, or negative news attracts the most viewers. But I refuse to believe there isn’t room to cover positive education news. When will the L.A. community see TV stations lead off their broadcasts with “Here are some great things going on in our schools”? Reporters: If you need any leads, give me a call.

THE LAUSD SCHOOL BOARD MAJORITY: Resolve to roll up your sleeves and do what you were elected to do—make LAUSD schools better by providing vision and resources, not by handing schools over to outsiders.

This one goes out to all the Board members except Marguerite LaMotte, who month after month has shown that she hasn’t forgotten where she came from—the classroom—and is willing to be the lone voice of sanity.

LAUSD CHIEF INSTRUCTIONAL OFFICER JUDY ELLIOT: Resolve to stop pushing standardized testing and scripted curriculum as the be-all,end-all of a proper education. How much longer can they find new ways to wring the joy out of learning and the creativity out of teaching?

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Resolve to inject accuracy (now there’s a concept) into the ongoing debate about public education by greatly increasing the input from genuine classroom practitioners. I never thought I’d say this, but the Times has gotten a few things right lately. It has written editorials calling out charters for non-inclusiveness and has acknowledged that teachers’ union contracts aren’t the impediments to change it used to claim they were. Last month, it printed an op-ed penned by myself and UTLA Vice Presidents Julie Washington and Gregg Solkovits that one readersaid in a Times online post was “the first sensible article on educational reform that I’ve seen in the Times.”

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE: Resolve to fix the tax structure in California to create a better way to fund public education and community services.

U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION ARNE DUNCAN: Resolve to take a one-year sabbatical and teach full-time in an overcrowded, underfunded school. There is a reason Duncan is promoting a destructive collection of education ideas, like merit pay and reconstituting schools: He doesn’t know nearly enough about the challenges and realities of teaching. His official bio has this audacious statement: It says that Duncan’s “afternoons in his mother’s tutoring program” in Chicago helped shape “his understanding of the challenges of urban education.” Well, he clearly needs a much deeper understanding. Duncan, get yourself to a classroom right now. I have a suggestion for your first assignment: Fremont High.

LAUSD DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS JIM MORRIS: Resolve to fix all payroll problems once and for all. If you are one of the lucky employees who are paid correctly—probably because you receive a straight-forward base salary, with no extra hours or pay codes—you may not know that the payroll problems go on. Morris has made some progress since being named director of operations, but it’s unconscionable that some employees are still going through the trauma of being underpaid or overpaid. Let’s take accountability to its logical end: No talk of pay cuts until everyone’s paycheck is fixed.

GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Resolve to never run for public office again until you learn how to do the job.

CHARTER MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS: Resolve to open your doors to all categories of students, to embrace greater fiscal transparency and accountability, and to treat your teachers with greater professionalism and respect. For years UTLA has spoken with a passionate voice about some of the problems with charters, and now our voice is being heard to some degree. More people are realizing that charters. do not educate all students—including English learners and special education students. I have a challenge for the charters: Level the playing field. Take all students and give up your right to later get rid of them. Then we can have a real comparison. I have a feeling it won’t be very flattering to charters, especially since studies show that charters overall do not outperform traditional public schools—even with the unlevel playing field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t end with a resolution for all of us, the 45,000 teachers and health and human services professionals who are UTLA. It is simply to keep fighting, and to keep our students in our hearts and minds in whatever we do, whether we are in front of a chalkboard or in the middle of a protest march. The consequences of not participating in every UTLA action and rally are too extreme to contemplate. Size does matter. A few hundred UTLA members rallying is not nearly as powerful as thousands and thousands of teachers and health and human services professionals who together are doing what is necessary to get our message across for ourselves and our students. We all have a serious choice to make.

We can no longer stand on the sidelines and let someone else take care of the problems facing our schools. That someone else is us—all of us.

  • The UTLA United Teacher is available in it's entirety here.


from the office of the superintendent

Tues Jan 26, 2009

Greetings Everyone!

I am sending this e-mail to solicit your support to become or recruit volunteers for the upcoming LAUSD Public School Choice Advisory Vote. We need to staff each of our 30 Advisory Vote Voting Centers with 8-10 volunteers – that means we need 300 individuals! This e-mail will provide information on how to become or recruit volunteers for the Advisory Vote overseen by the League of Women Voters.  Thank you in advance for your support!

The Advisory Vote 411

Please find attached this week's Superintendent's Update which provides details on the Public School Choice process and the Advisory Vote Guidelines produced by the League of Women Voters Los Angeles. 

The Advisory Vote will occur on Tuesday, February 2 from 7am-10am/3-7pm and Saturday, February 6 9am-12pm.  Please find attached a list of the voting locations. 

Become a Volunteer

Volunteer requirements:

  • No direct affiliation with an Applicant Team
  • No membership or participation in an organization that is affiliated or leading any electioneering or campaigning around the Public School Choice Process
  • Attend the MANDATORY Volunteer Training (info below)

Contact Ana Teresa Fernandez at or by cell at (323) 351-4370 with any questions or concerns about your eligibility to be a volunteer.

Ideally we would like volunteers for both full days BUT to recruit as many volunteers as possible, we are offering the following shifts:
SHIFT A – Tuesday, February 2 - 6-10:30am
SHIFT B -  Tuesday, February 2 - 2-7:30pm
SHIFT C – Saturday, February 6 – 8am-12:30pm
Mandatory Volunteer Training
The League of Women Voters is providing three sessions on Friday, January 29:
Session 1: 8-10am
Session 2: 11am-1pm
Session 3:  3-5pm

YOU ONLY NEED TO ATTEND ONE SESSION.   The training will occur at the LAUSD Headquarters in Conference Room 24-173.  Directions and parking information are attached.

To become a volunteer, please e-mail the following information:

Your Name:
Cell Phone Number:
Shifts You Are Available:
Voting Center Location Restrictions (i.e. distance limitations, possible conflicts of interests):
Company or Organization:
Disclose any potential conflicts of interest:
Indicate the Volunteer Training you will attend:

Recruit a Volunteer(s)
We need your help to spread the word.  Please use your best judgment per the voter requirements outlined above.  The League of Women Voters will ultimately decide if volunteers are acceptable.  Please copy and paste the information about becoming a volunteer and forward via e-mail to your nominees.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request and support of the Public School Choice Process.  I am available via e-mail or cell - (323) 351-4370 to answer any questions or concerns.

Thanks again,

Ana Teresa Fernandez
Special Assistant
Office of the Superintendent
Phone: (213) 241-7553