Thursday, April 29, 2010

9 Million Reasons To Speak Up!: PTA CONVENTION KICKS OFF, Rally marks first day as thousands arrive for annual event



April 29, 2010

PTA convention kicks off: Rally marks first day as thousands arrive for annual  event

SACRAMENTO - Several thousand PTA members and delegates today kicked off the 111th annual convention of the California State PTA. The annual event will run through Sunday morning at the Sacramento Convention Center downtown, just blocks from the Capitol.

Among the first day's highlights was a rally outside the Capitol protesting budget cuts to education Click on image to download a high-res image.

public advocates

and other critical children's services. Hundreds participated in the afternoon event, which was part of the California State PTA's ongoing 9 Million Reasons To Speak Up campaign to highlight the needs of the state's more than 9 million children.

Image provided courtesy of Herff Jones Photography.

"The tremendous energy and turnout at our rally demonstrates, loudly and clearly, that Californians support investing in our children and in our future," said Debbie Look, director of legislation for the California State PTA. "We will keep raising our voices as we are doing today to make our elected leaders understand this, and to urge them to stop cutting budgets for education and critical children's services."

Another highlight of the opening day of the convention was a report to attendees from President Jo A. S. Loss.

"Now, more than ever, we believe our voice and participation are imperative," Loss said. "It is always the right time to do the right thing for California's children."

The annual convention is the premier training event for the California State PTA, the state's largest and oldest children's advocacy association, with nearly 1 million members. Informative workshops cover hot-topic issues. For instance, an early learning workshop on Thursday featured federal expert Carmen Nazario, Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The gathering also is a time for celebrating past accomplishments and making plans for the future, as delegates vote on policy resolutions that guide the work of the association.

Highlights of this year's convention include the following.

  • A Candidates Forum with leading candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund; at 11:30 a.m. Friday, April 30.
  • Inspiring speakers, including Kelly Kovacic, a California Teacher of the Year.
  • More than 75 workshops to help PTA members and leaders develop their skills.
  • Performances and displays by student artists honored by the PTA's Reflections program.

everychild. onevoice.

The California State PTA has nearly 1 million members throughout the state working on behalf of public schools, children and families, with the motto, "Every child, one voice." The PTA is the nation's oldest, largest and highest profile volunteer association working to improve the education, health and welfare of all children and youth. The PTA also advocates at national, state and local levels for education and family issues. The PTA is nonprofit, nonsectarian and noncommercial.

For more information about the California State PTA, visit

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


by JENNIFER MEDINA |New York Times

April 28, 2010--The Bloomberg administration, struggling to address the needs of a growing number of students with learning disabilities, is overhauling special education by asking every principal to take in more of the students and giving them greater flexibility in deciding how to teach them.

<<Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency -The city schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, left, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

This fall, more than 250 schools will be asked to accept more students with disabilities rather than send them to schools that have specific programs for special education, as has been the case for decades. By September 2011, principals at each of the system’s 1,500 schools will be expected to enroll all but the most severely disabled students; those students will continue to be served by schools tailored exclusively to them.

The shift echoes one of the central philosophies of the administration, giving principals more responsibility and control over their schools. It is also an effort to bring New York more in line with the nationwide trend of allowing special education students to benefit from regular classroom settings.

But some special education advocates and principals worry that the changes could be too difficult for principals with little knowledge of special education, who are already strained by day-to-day issues and impending budget cuts.

“This is fundamentally looking to change the way kids with special needs are treated in the city — they’re talking about changing the culture of all the schools in the city so that they can serve students that many of them were previously shipping out,” said Kim Sweet, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which helps parents navigate the special education system. “This could easily fall flat if it’s not done right.

“If kids are stuck in schools that don’t have the capacity to serve them and are denied requests to move elsewhere, that would be falling worse than flat.”

Like other large cities, New York has had difficulty figuring out how to provide appropriate services for disabled students without isolating them, and how to manage large spending increases on special education.

Enrollment in special education programs has climbed to some 177,000 students, or more than 17 percent of the system, up from roughly 13 percent in 2003. Experts in special education say it is difficult to know what has caused the increase. Theories include better identification of students with learning disabilities, particularly autism; parents being less reluctant to see their children identified as disabled; and the possibility that more children might actually have difficulties than in years past.

The city now spends $4.8 billion annually on special education, up from $3.8 billion five years ago. That includes $1.2 billion to send students to private schools. Recent state and United States Supreme Court rulings strengthened the rights of parents of special education students to receive private schooling at taxpayer expense if public schools cannot give them the services they need.

Education Department officials said that they did not believe they would save money and that costs did not factor in their decision to make the change. Rather, they said, it was an effort to improve results for special education students.

While graduation rates have risen over all, for example, the rates for special education students have remained stubbornly low — fewer than 25 percent received a regular diploma last year, compared with more than double that for traditional students.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the city schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, first pushed to move more disabled students into mainstream classes in 2003. The effort never took hold. Making matters worse, many student files were misplaced or lost, and some students received no services for months at a time. Since then, the department has spent more than $40 million to computerize records.

Laura Rodriguez, the deputy chancellor for special education and students still learning English, who was appointed last year to oversee the changes, said she was confident they would stick this time because so many educators were frustrated with the system.

“There has never been a golden age of special education,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “For the vast majority of students, there’s no reason they cannot be in a regular classroom setting if they get what they need.”

Some schools have no special education students. Others, particularly in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, have as much as one-third of the student body receiving services. Ms. Rodriguez said there was a narrow divide between some students classified as special education and those who simply struggled in math and reading.

Exactly how the new policies will be carried out remains uncertain. The department could not say how it would enforce the requirement that principals accept more special education students. Officials did say there would be no quota for each school. Selective schools like Stuyvesant High School would continue to grant students with disabilities extra time to complete admissions tests and would not be expected to soften their entry requirements. Officials also said they did not expect to make changes in District 75, which serves 23,000 special education students in schools dedicated to them.

Principals are also wary of violating myriad complicated special education laws. Many of the city’s services for students with disabilities are governed by court-ordered consent agreements, the result of lawsuits brought by parents demanding appropriate services for their children. But Ms. Rodriguez said the law allowed principals more flexibility than most of them realized.

“On the one hand, this is incredibly exciting to have more freedom to do what we think is the best for students,” said Allison Gaines Pell, the principal of the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters middle school in Brooklyn, which is involved in the changes next year. “But it’s also scary. I need to know that all my teachers have enough training. I need to know what all the right services are.”

In New York City schools, special education students are generally taught in one of three ways — in a traditional class but with an extra teacher, an approach known as collaborative team teaching; in small classrooms with 6 to 12 students; or by being pulled out of a traditional classroom to receive extra services like speech or physical therapy.

Charlene Carroll-Hall, whose son Traé is a high school freshman, said she thought the goal of integrating special education students with their peers was laudable but worried that students could slip through the cracks.

“My son had to fail at a regular zoned school first before I could get him the help he needed — they just put him in there and didn’t expect much and didn’t care,” Ms. Carroll-Hall said of one school her son attended.

In schools more focused on special education, she added, “he could finally catch up; they expected him to actually learn something and they knew how to teach it.” He now attends Queens High School of Teaching, a regular school, where he has a part-time aide.

Some principals say they are particularly nervous about having more demands on them at a time of budget cuts, though public money is provided to cover special education students’ services. For example, Ms. Gaines Pell said, if she decided midyear that a student should have a dedicated aide for reading, she wondered whether the school could secure the money for it. Others are concerned that they may overlook a nuance in the educational plan that states which services a student should receive.

“The fundamental question is, How much special education expertise am I expected to have, and how much special education services am I supposed to provide?” said Randi Herman, a vice president of the principals’ union, who has been involved in the department’s efforts. “They want to do right by the parents and the child, but right now, there’s a real sense of uncertainty around that.”


This American Life Episode Transcript from National Public Radio

Episode #406, “True Urban Legends”

Act One: “What’s That Smell?”

Broadcast April 23, 2010 | Listen to the Episode

Ira Glass: The way Steve Poizner sees it, he did something admirable, something daring, something unusual, and when I read his account of what he did, he seemed sincere about it, too. He’s a bit of a corny writer, though even that you can kind of forgive him. He’s not a professional author.

At the age of 45, after starting one Silicon Valley company that he sold for 30 million dollars and a second one that sold for a billion dollars, Poizner didn’t need to work any more.

He says he wanted to do some good for people, and so he called a dozen public high schools and volunteered to be a guest teacher of some sort. One called him back – a high school called Mount Pleasant and Poizner got in his car and drove the 15 miles from his neighborhood in Los Gatos in Silicon Valley to East San Jose.

Steve Poizner: [reading] I passed nearby my neighborhood French bakery and the local Ferrari dealership.

Ira Glass: This is Steve Poizner, reading from the book he wrote about this.

Steve Poizner: [reading] Several miles and a couple of highways later I took the Capital Expressway exit and drove into what felt like another planet. Signs advertising janitorial supply stores and taquerías. Exhaust hung over 10 lanes of inner city traffic; yellowing, weedy gardens fronted many of the homes, as did driveways marred by large oil spots or broken down cars.

Ira Glass: When he sees the sound walls that separate California homes from the highway he asks, “were they keeping out the city’s grit and noise, or hiding profoundly sad lives?” He’s allowed to teach one U.S. Government class for one semester, under another teacher’s supervision.

What he finds in the school are leaky roofs, hardened, unresponsive students, gangs and violence, a dropout rate twice the national average. He worries that one student is going to punch him and later that this student and his thug friends are going to push him up against a wall. He wonders if the kids are “too busy ducking bullets to consider their careers?” At the end of his first visit to school, he’s relieved to find his Lexus still in the parking lot where he left it.

Steve Poizner: [reading] The shadows grew longer and the surroundings became a bit scary.

Opening the door to my car I noticed a residential street just over the school’s parking lot’s fence.

There was an old Cadillac resting on two flat tires, something smelled rotten like trash that had sat around for too long, and a dog’s raspy bark sounded uncomfortably close.

Ira Glass: And the only problem with this is, a lot of it might not be true.

Male newscaster: Good evening. Steve Poizner released a new book today. It is about his time as a substitute teacher at a high school in East San Jose and what he put in print is drawing a lot of heat. ABC’s 7’s Lisa Amin Gulezian is live tonight to explain tonight….

Ira Glass: Steve Poizner’s book got more attention than most do because in the seven years since he spent one semester at Mt. Pleasant High School, Steve Poizner ran for assemblyman and lost, ran for a statewide office – California insurance commissioner – and won. He’s in his fourth year in that job now. And today, he’s one of two frontrunners to be the Republican candidate for governor of California. And right after publication, his book – which is titled Mount Pleasant: My Journey from Creating a Billion-Dollar Company to Teaching at a Struggling Public High School – jumped to number five on the New York Times bestseller list.

Female newscaster: Mt. Pleasant High School students, teachers, parents and alumni are outraged.

Woman in audience: Tonight we are here to denounce Steve Poizner’s comments…

Male Newscaster: Well you know, it got very heated inside Barnes and Noble before Steve Poizner’s book signing. Eddie Garcia, the president of the East Side Union School Board, got in Poizner’s face challenging him about things that were written inside Mt. Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant: My Journey from Creating a Billion-Dollar Company to Teaching at a Struggling Public High School


Ira Glass: I heard about Steve Poizner and the controversy over whether his book got things wrong when a publicist for the book contacted our show. She wrote an email describing the incident at the bookstore this way - “Liberal activists took offense at how he describes the school – ACCURATELY – as plagued by gangs, teen pregnancy, and disrepair. They are trying to shut him up and discredit his argument about charter schools.” (Poizner makes a case for charter schools late in the book). “This is a classic case of liberals refusing to listen to simple facts and rational solutions.” So I read the excerpt of his book online – there’s a full chapter and Poizner links to it from his campaign website, you can read it yourself. And the chapter raised more questions than it answered. It is a very odd chapter, all about Poizner’s first days teaching a class at Mt. Pleasant. There’s scene after scene where he’s floundering, standing in front of the class asking big, abstract questions – “would you want to live in a country where the leader didn’t want to lead? If the money issued by the government wasn’t any good, or people were treated unfairly?” None of the students respond. He’s a rookie teacher; he doesn’t know how to engage them yet. Nothing unusual there.

But here was the strange thing: the conclusion Poizner comes to – again and again during these scenes – isn’t that he’s doing anything wrong or has anything to learn as a teacher. Instead, he blames the kids. They’re tough, they’re unmotivated, they lack ambition, they’re wired differently. The students, meanwhile, in every scene in the book (I read the whole book), seem utterly lovely. Polite, they don’t interrupt, they don’t talk back, they just seem a little bored. His very worst student is a graduating senior who’s hoping to go into the Marines.

Checking school records I learned that Poizner’s unmotivated, unambitious class included one of the school valedictorians, Charles Rudy, who graduated and went to college.

Could he be getting this so completely wrong? I wondered. Could he have written an entire book misperceiving so thoroughly what was happening right in front of his eyes, and now is trying to use that book to run for governor? It seemed too incredible. And, that’s what brought me to San Jose last week, to visit the school and its neighborhood.

Joe Lovato: My eyes were rolling throughout the entire book. [laughs] Ira Glass: This is Joe Lovato, he teaches English at Mount Pleasant. His dad taught English at Mount Pleasant before him.

Joe Lovato: Well, in the book he tells stories of crossing the valley from his local Ferrari dealership past his local French bakery. Crossing town, getting off the freeway into my neighborhood and passing the taquería, and then wondering about the profoundly sad lives of the people who live behind the sound walls along the highway there. That’s me! I live there. I can tell you, I have the white picket fence…

Ira Glass: Literally.

Joe Lovato: Yeah, literally. A very well manicured lawn. My Infiniti is in the front and I’ve got a real cute dog. I’ve got two kids running around in the front yard with my wife chasing them around.

Mark Holston: The derogatory statements to our students, the inaccuracies, the exaggerations…that’s the part we’re upset about.

Ira Glass: Mark Holston is one of Joe’s colleagues in the English department – in the book, Poizner talks a few times about wishing he could have a Stand and Deliver moment with his students, and Mark says that’s the problem right there.

Mark Holston: There’s a narrative he had in his mind. He saw teacher movies and that was the narrative he had and it fits his narrative to show that this school is a horrible school. I wouldn’t work in the school he described. I would be afraid to the school that he described in the thing. It’s almost like he’s stepping over bodies and there’s gunshots as he goes to his classroom every day, and that’s completely inaccurate, but it fits his narrative. It fits promoting himself for the governor. And if anybody – some people say it’s not true, we know it’s not true, it’s an exaggeration, but anybody else outside of East San Jose reads this book, that’s the truth.

Ira Glass: Driving around the neighborhood, it is hard to disagree with the teachers who say it’s a perfectly nice middle class and working class area. Occasionally you’ll see a house in bad shape, but overwhelmingly it’s neatly tended yards, garages, decent cars and SUVs in the driveways. It’s suburban. I was surprised to learn that when Poizner taught here in 2003 there was a golf course just a few blocks from the school – there’s still a lake and the Raging Waters water park. He doesn’t mention those in the book. We called a half dozen local real estate agents who confirmed what teachers told us – that the neighborhood looks the same today as it did back in 2003. If anything, they said, with the recession it’s gotten a little worse – the average house price in 2003 near the school was $457,000. Today it’s $317,000.

Ira Glass: [dog barking] Well it’s 4:45, and I’m standing in the staff parking lot where Steve Poizner used to park his car, I suppose, and I am hearing the raspy sound of a dog’s bark. I can’t see any beat-up old cars over the fence. Mainly, it’s incredibly lush, and green, and beautiful.

There are little purple flowers. There are palm trees. And it’s just lovely, and it smells [sniffs] nice, though there is the dumpster for the school right by the parking lot. Conceivably on some day that he was out here, what was making the trash smell…was the school’s own trash.

Ira Glass [addressing Steve Poizner]: Now we went to the neighborhood and were told it hasn’t changed so much since 2003 when you were there and…

Ira Glass: So I ran all of this by Steve Poizner – the tidy houses, the golf course, what I did not smell in the parking lot.

Ira Glass: Are you overplaying the desperate poverty of this neighborhood? Steve Poizner: No, I don’t think so. I mean, it’s definitely not like some inner city areas. And I don’t know, what you described doesn’t strike me as the neighborhood I was at. I mean, at least in 2002 and 2003, the neighborhood is rough-and-tumble. In that there’s definitely a lot of crime, and no question lower income. And there’s a lot of, you know, signs that people were struggling economically. That’s why the crime statistics for surrounding the school – you know you can get those from the San Jose Police Department, like I did – and we definitely documented that not only did it appear to be a rough up and coming area, but the police will tell you that too.

Ira Glass: So we went to the police, and they informed us that no, the neighborhood around Mt. Pleasant high school is NOT especially dangerous or crime ridden. It’s average for San Jose. And while San Jose might have a reputation in the richer suburbs around it for being sketchy, and definitely was more dangerous in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a police spokesman told us that view is out of date, an urban myth.

According to FBI statistics, San Jose is one of the safest cities in the country. There were 371 violent crimes per 100,000 people in San Jose in 2003, the year Poizner was there. You’d be more likely to be a victim of violent crime in Austin, Texas, or Seattle or Phoenix or Columbus, Ohio or San Francisco. When it came to property crime that year, you were more than twice as likely to have something stolen from you in Honolulu, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco or nearly any big city you can name.

In his book, Poizner plays up the violence at the school itself. He mentions a shooting at the school that happened all the way back in 1990, where a Vietnamese student from another school shot a Mount Pleasant freshman, and Poizner tells the story of a student of his who lets him know that she won’t be at class for a couple days because her boyfriend is on trial for being the driver in a bank robbery. There’s another student in Poizner’s class that Poizner assumes must be in a gang – though confusingly in the book Poizner never actually goes to the trouble to find out if the student IS in a gang. That’s the student who Poizner worries will hit him, or get his thug friends and push him against a wall.

So is the school dangerous? I checked with the man who knows: Christopher Schroeder, the associate principal at Mount Pleasant in charge of discipline.

Christopher Schroeder: There is a gang presence in the area. They’ve been here for – we’re into the second and sometimes third generation of gang families, we know this, but at school we don’t have gang problems per se. Our students are able to sit next to each other in a classroom and not have conflicts. We don’t have fights in the classroom. We don’t have fights on campus. We have few fights. Off the top of my head, I think we’ve had about a dozen fights this year.

Ira Glass: That’s about the number of fights you’d get at any high school, even in a fancy neighborhood.

There are no metal detectors at the school’s entrances. Mr. Schroeder says the total number of gang members among the 1900 students here? 50. At most.

Christopher Schroeder: They are aware that we know who they are and we also have gang intervention specialists who work with them every day, almost every day. We have a gang intervention specialist out there with those guys, talking about their problems, talking about what’s happening on the street, making sure that we have peace on campus.

Ira Glass: When it comes to the dropout rate, Steve Poizner also seems to be choosing his statistics very selectively. Mount Pleasant’s dropout rate (including the year he was there) is consistently better – sometimes FAR better – than the state and national dropout rates, which is a huge achievement for a school like Mt. Pleasant that’s two-thirds Latino. Nationally, Latino dropout rates are much higher than those of other students.

In his book, Poizner doesn’t mention any of those numbers, and doesn’t mention the school’s stats at all, but instead quotes a number for the district the school is in, the East Side Union High School District. Even here, he cherrypicks. In 2003, the year Poizner was at the district, its dropout rate was slightly lower than the state and national averages. Poizner instead chooses to quote the number for one of the two years during the past decade, 2005, when the district had twice as many dropouts as the state and national numbers.

Statistically, Poizner did not teach at a terrible school in a terrible neighborhood, but an average school in an average neighborhood.

Mt. Pleasant student production [song]:

Lead: You got trouble

Chorus: Oh we got trouble

Lead: Right here in River City

Chorus: Right here in River City

Lead: With capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool Chorus: That stands for pool

Lead: We surely got trouble

Chorus: We surely got trouble

Lead: Right here in River City

Chorus: Right here

[music continues]

Ira Glass: These are the dangerous toughs of Mt. Pleasant High School rehearsing The Music Man in the brand new auditorium the school just built.

This school has 150 students studying animation in a special studio with rows of Macs and animation stands – this was all going on while Poizner was at the school, too. There are 19 AP classes. There’s a vocational program teaching metal and woodworking and computer-aided design, plus a variety of special projects and programs to close the achievement gap and get less privileged kids to college. School attendance is 95 percent.

[Voices sing and piano playing as music number ends]

Woman [to students]: All right, Iowa Stubborn! Everyone into place! Ira Glass: Some things about the school though clearly could be better. The school doesn’t hit its goals in statewide testing. It ranks in the 40th percentile of all CA schools, partly because a fourth of Mt. Pleasant’s student body is rated not proficient in English. But measured against schools with similar demographics, it’s in the 70th percentile.

For years, I was a reporter in the Chicago public schools for NPR’s daily news programs. I’ve been in great schools, I’ve been in dangerous schools—urban schools, suburban schools. Mt. Pleasant is definitely one of the better public high schools I’ve ever visited. And I know it may seem like I’m belaboring all this, putting this book under a microscope point-by-point, but so many of the political discussions in our country seem so disconnected from reality. Every year there are egregious examples of politicians and commentators who believe if they repeat some non-fact over and over, it becomes true. And the more I looked into Poizner’s book, the more it seemed like one of those rare cases that’s so obviously and provably untrue. Though in Poizner’s case, what made it especially interesting was that from his book it seemed very possible that he really is just a well-meaning, idealistic guy who wants to help people, who just got a lot of this wrong.

Though when I asked Steve Poizner if that’s what happened here, that it is not a dangerous, bad school, he stuck by his guns.

Ira Glass: You write really honestly in the book about how you aren’t from a neighborhood like this and how naïve you are going in. I mean you write really, really honestly about it. Do you think it’s possible you went into this neighborhood and you just misperceived how dangerous and tough it is and that’s what people are pointing out?

Steve Poizner: Well most people who are reading the book just don’t have that reaction, there are some…

Ira Glass: Well no, but I’m talking about the people in the neighborhood, who know the neighborhood.

Steve Poizner: I don’t think it’s a surprise that people who are in that neighborhood bristle at blunt observations.

Ira Glass: [Poizner talking underneath] But do you think it’s possible, but do you think it’s possible, I mean you talk so honestly about this in the book, do you think it’s possible that you just misperceived it, because you weren’t used to that kind of neighborhood?

Steve Poizner: Well this is a book about my experience…

Ira Glass: Exactly.

Steve Poizner: …and so that’s all that the book’s about, based on my background- this was the way that I perceived it…

Ira Glass: So are you saying you do think it’s possible? So you think it might be possible? Steve Poizner: No, I’m not saying that.

Mark Holston: What upsets me from the beginning and even now is his intent.

Ira Glass: Again, English teacher Mark Holston.

Mark Holston: Soon after his experience at Mount Pleasant he ran for assemblyman, and I think what kind of turned me off to him was I got some of his campaign literature, and on there he had businessman slash teacher, based on his … one semester of teaching, and it claimed he was a teacher by profession, and right away that’s kind of what offended me. A centerpiece of his campaign was his experience at Mount Pleasant High School. In his commercials, he said “I’ve taught in schools, I know what’s it like to work at a school, I can fix the problems” and things like that and from my understanding it was obvious that he was there to exploit our students, to exploit our school. He came there saying he had no political ambitions, he told our principal “this is not about politics, I just want to give back to the community, I just want to see what it’s like to teach in a school and get a better understanding of what the schools are like.” Even in his book he says, “I had no intention of running for office when I went there.”

Ira Glass: Poizner still insists on that.

It was two months after he left the school that he filed papers to run for assemblyman, and the spring after that his campaign came back to Mount Pleasant, to shoot a commercial with testimony from teachers and students about what Poizner had done for the school. A videographer set up a camera and lights in one of the classrooms during 7th period, and students were ushered in one at a time.

In campaigning, including in one of his campaign biographies—a biography, by the way, which calls Mt.

Pleasant an “inner city high school” – Poizner also touts the fact that the principal of Mount Pleasant named him “rookie teacher of the year.”

[people laughing]

Mark Holston: Oh the rookie of the year thing…

Ira Glass: Mark Holston and Joe Lovato explained that at the end of school that year, the principal quickly wrote up a bunch of certificates on his computer for a staff party. Lots of people got them, for all kinds of things.

Mark Holston: And that’s the other part that really incensed me, when he put out his press release as a result of his receiving a “rookie of the year” award, as if it was voted on statewide, and there was a board, and there was a panel, and the essays were written about how great he was. It was a certificate, printed out, and everybody that was leaving was getting certificates, and that was a certificate of appreciation.

Todd Richards: You know, the reason I’ve been wanting to talk to people about the book is that I hate to see somebody’s character assassinated unfairly, which is my judgment as to what’s been happening.

Ira Glass: Todd Richards is the social studies teacher who supervised Steve Poizner in classroom 6-12 back in 2003. He’s still there.

Todd Richards: Well, you know it’s still largely as it would’ve been when Poizner was here. You can see the usual white board in front, a screen for the LCD projector.

Ira Glass: In the debate among Mt. Pleasant teachers over whether Steve Poizner was a Machiavellian schemer who used them, or a sincere, perhaps slightly naïve guy who actually wanted to help out, Mr.

Richards is a principled agnostic. We can’t know what he was thinking, Richards says. So let’s judge his actions. Richards was as suspicious as anyone when this millionaire showed up. But over the course of the year …

Todd Richards: I came to think that he was someone who cared deeply about the students. I’d had people from the business world come in and really talk down to students, not put in any effort into it, speak to them in jargon, just, “I never want you back” kind of thing. Poizner clearly worked very, very hard on this class. He was a rookie, he made rookie mistakes, but he clearly wanted the kids to have a valuable experience. He clearly cared that they graduate and do well.

Ira Glass: When I recorded Mr. Richards teaching a class – his 6th period college-level macroeconomics class, for seniors –

Todd Richards [speaking to class]: So, C plus I plus G plus X minus N….

Ira Glass: He asked me if I’d like to take five minutes and ask a few questions of the students. He left the room so his presence wouldn’t bias anybody. I asked the students if there was anything they would want me to ask Poizner for them, or to say to him. One senior raised his hand and said he just heard from colleges.

Senior male: I’m going to Berkeley. Take that Poizner! [Class laughs] No, seriously, how is he going to talk about us the way he did when we had almost nine people get into Berkeley this year.

That’s ridiculous.

Ira Glass: Yvette Rodriguez, another senior, spoke up.

Yvette Rodriguez: Like a lot of things he said is something that you would expect someone who doesn’t live in this neighborhood to think of us. He was just like really quick to judge. He didn’t grow up here, and he says it in his book, like where he grew up they don’t have any of this, so how is he…. I’m not going to go judge him and say, you know, “he’s a rich white guy, and doesn’t know,” because I don’t know him. But yet he’s over here judging us. That’s stereotyping. I think he needs to come out and apologize I think, at least, because a lot of us felt really offended by it.

Ira Glass: When I visited the school, I went to Mr. Richard’s class and I asked the students if they had questions for you or anything that they would like me to say to you, and they had one request.

One senior girl said she’d like you to admit you got things wrong. She’d like you to apologize.

What do you want to say to her?

Steve Poizner: Well, no. I mean, I appreciate her feedback, and I appreciate their passion. And by the way, it’s been pretty interesting to see how much school spirit has emerged as some people at the school were, you know, concerned about whether their school was being fairly characterized.

But let’s step back for a second and just think about what I’ve done and what I’m doing. So here I sell my last company for a lot of money and I’m pretty financially well off, and I decide to go into Mt. Pleasant High School, and then after I teach at the school for an extended period of time, I then go back to the school every year to do guest teaching. And then my wife and I, you know, get all kinds of requests from teachers and students about certain projects and we end up donating over $80,000 to the school over a period of many years. You know, I love the school. And then I write this book about my experiences at the school. And the purpose of the book, even the critics at the school, I guess seem to understand the purpose of the book is to zero in on the fact that Mount Pleasant High school is underperforming. Huge opportunities to improve. The school is in the bottom 40%. And I guess you can argue about my characterizations of the school. I stand by them. But no seems to be arguing the conclusions of the book.

Well, sort of. Some conclusions obviously people do argue with. But this particular conclusion -- that being at the 40th percentile among California public schools is not good enough – is one that’s sort of gotten lost in the shuffle, in a lot of the discussion at the school.

Sudhir Karandikar: And that’s the part that kind of frustrates me.

Sudhir Karandikar created the AP calculus program at school and teaches 4 classes of AP calculus. He’s the only teacher I saw at school that could be described as dapper, and the only one wearing a suit, a charcoal grey pinstripe. He’s been at Mt. Pleasant 14 years. He says sure, Poizner got it wrong when he wrote that this was a dangerous school.

Sudhir Karandikar: The whole ducking bullets, and the kid’s going to hit him and his Lexus is going to get stolen, it was either a gross exaggerations for the sake of making a dramatic book or he just misread it. Let’s move on. We know he got the safety issue wrong. As far as academic performance of the school, he was dead on. Academically, I don’t find anything wrong in his conclusions or assessments of our school. Academically.

Ira Glass: We should be doing a better job with these kids, Mr. Karandikar said. That’s what we should move the discussion to now.

And a few teachers told me they agreed with Poizner, that academically the school should be better. And they liked the fact that Poizner gives lots of details in his book to help his readers understand the money problems the school faces. And that he shows some of the everyday teaching problems they’re up against, stuff that really isn’t talked about in the news or normal political discussions about schools. Here’s English teacher Vivian Bricksin.

Vivian Bricksin: He talks about one student that tells him, “I don’t think I want to do that,” [laughs] when he’s trying to encourage them to work a little harder, and that is kind of a surprising challenge to face as a teacher- “No, I don’t think I want to do that.” And the lack of motivation is a daily challenge, I think, for teachers in the school, even if they’re veterans.

Ira Glass: Steve Poizner says this is exactly what he hopes readers will take from the book. He wants it to lead to a better discussion about how to improve schools. In the book he talks mostly about charter schools as being a good laboratory for new ideas. In his gubernatorial campaign he also talks about cutting down on the central school bureaucracy in California – giving more control of the curriculum and more money to local schools – two things that teachers like of course. Many of Mt. Pleasant’s teachers are less keen on two of Poizner’s other big proposals – to make it easier to fire teachers and suspend rules at the bottom 40 percent of California schools, and to expel from public schools all the students who are in the country illegally. Which would, of course, affect students at Mt. Pleasant.

Poizner told me that in the end it doesn’t matter if he got facts wrong about the school, because everywhere but at Mt. Pleasant itself, this is the discussion his book will hopefully engender.

Steve Poizner: Most Californians have absolutely no idea, you know, what goes on, you know, in a classroom, what goes on in the public education system. And so at the end of it all, a month from now or a year from now when people are debating this book, they’re not going to be debating whether my characterization of the smells in the neighborhood are the same as yours when you went there. The purpose of the book is to improve the public education system.

Ira Glass: English teacher Mark Holston sees this one differently. He says for Poizner to misread what this school and this neighborhood are all about says a lot about his judgment, and that does mean something.

Mark Holston: Half the state of California who he’s trying to represent looks like our neighborhood. Our neighborhood looks more like California than the neighborhood he comes from. So I think he’s completely out of touch. I hate to think that somebody even getting this far could be that naïve and be that clueless. That’s even scarier, because I’m sure he’s going to run for something else, and he can’t be that way off. It’s terrifying if he’s that way off again. This is an average high school, and if he was the governor, he’d be the chief educator for the state of California. And if he can misinterpret what he sees in this school, and portray a school as one of the toughest when it’s an average high school in California, it’s scary for our future in California if he ever got elected.

Ira Glass: One week after Poizner’s book made it to #5 on the bestseller list, it dropped to #33. The campaign declined to give sales figures for the book, and declined to say whether it bought enough copies itself in that first week to put the book on the bestseller list.

The principal at Mt. Pleasant told me she now finds herself now with an awkward dilemma. Poizner has donated the profits from the book sales to the school, and she’s not sure they should take it. He got so many things wrong about Mt. Pleasant and offended so many people. But at the same time, with budgets being slashed, it’s hard to turn her back on any money that might help her students.



John Fensterwald in The Educated Guess

April 27th, 2010 -- A former Los Angeles Unified District B superintendent who has gone on to found and lead one of the state’s most successful group of charter schools will be one six Californians to receive this year’s James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award tomorrow in Sacramento.

Judy Burton, president and CEO of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, will receive the $125,000 award, and her charter organization will get additional  support from the Irvine Foundation. Burton is the only public school educator among the recipients this year.

The Alliance consists of 16 charter schools – 11 high schools and five middle schools – serving primarily Hispanic and African-American  students in low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods. It will open four more schools this fall with an eventual goal of 50 schools.

Last year, API scores of five Alliance schools ranked among the top dozen high schools in Los Angeles. As of this month, in six of the high schools, 80 percent of the seniors have been accepted to two or more four-year colleges, Burton said.

Burton attributes success of the Alliance schools to more instructional time (an extra hour each day and 10 more days each year); small personalized schools (500-student high schools, 375-400 student middle schools; well-qualified teachers, and excellent leadership (­ the ability to find and train good principals).

The Alliance is one of five charter groups that will share a $60 million teacher effectiveness grant from the Gates Foundation. Burton says that the groups will redesign the classroom environment and create new ways to assess and reward teachers.

Some critics – author and historian Diane Ravitch is the latest and loudest — dismiss charter schools as part of a campaign by foundations and pedagogically illiterate CEOs to “privatize” education. Burton, however, worked for Los Angeles Unified for  30 years as a teacher, principal, district superintendent of an area covering 80,000 students in North and Northeast San Fernando Valley and and assistant superintendent in charge of school reform. It was the freedom from state regulations and restrictions of the collective bargaining agreements that led her to establish charters, where she can focus on instructional priorities, she said.

Burton said she will commit $100,000 of the Irvine award to college scholarships, with $25,000 to professional development for teachers.

Burton and fellow recipients will be honored on the floor of the Assembly. She said she would use the opportunity to press legislators for a fairer shake for funding facilities for charter schools.

By John Fensterwald on April 27th, 2010

Comments on Charter leader receives big award

CarolineSF: agreed. That's why I stated that more instructional time is only one of the lessons from charters. But that strategy does seem to be a necessary ingredient when parents can't compensate for the current amount of instruction in traditional public schools. And the reason why I focused on additional instructional time is that I see it as the primary difficult issue to resolve. It seems natural that additional instruction will require additional government funding and demands on teachers' lifestyles, hence the primary difficulty. Curriculum can also be a difficult issue, but Ravitch seems to say in her book that we already know how to reach good compromises on curriculum. She sites the longevity of her work on the California History curriculum as a case in point.
- Paul Muench


The Irvine Foundation has leaned heavily toward charter insiders in its awards -- I think if you look at the recipients over the years, you'll find them heavily represented. ... Regarding Paul's comment, it's not as simple as longer school hours/days/years' being the automatic solution. Edison Schools, and the few remaining tattered shreds thereof, relied heavily on extended school time, with no consistent success to show for it. I know that Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" claimed miracle success for extended school time, but education is an area where Gladwell is uncharacteristically lacking in comprehension. ... Also, of course, the issue with teachers' unions and extended school time amounts to pushing teachers to work considerably longer hours for no extra pay, otherwise known as taking a big pay cut. Even the most hostile teacher-basher would at least understand why that would be controversial and would tend to make the teaching profession even less attractive as a career.
- CarolineSF

Actually Dianne Ravitch states in her book that she supports charters as experimental schools. She claims that the term charter was originally used for this purpose. And Judy Burton is exactly the type of person that Ravitch would have run a charter school. This is clearly stated in Ravitch's book. The issue that I think Ravitch side steps is how to work with teachers unions to bring the lessons of charters to scale in the traditional public schools. And if you think that teachers unions are the problem, then this avoidance on Ravitch's part may appear as simply being against charters. Given that one of the lessons of every successful charter school is extending instructional times (hours, days, weeks), how to work with teachers unions to use this strategy seems critical to improving the traditional public schools.
- Paul Muench


by Torey Van Oot from SacBee Capitol Alert


Wednesday, April 28, 2010  | 3:13 PM -The Senate Rules Committee today recommended rejecting Board of Education nominee Jeannie Oropeza. The full Senate will likely vote on the nomination Thursday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Oropeza last month for one of four open seats on the board. Oropeza, a Republican, works on education budget issues for the California Department of Finance. She also previously worked as an education budget consultant in the Assembly.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that while Oropeza was qualified for the post, her day job at the Department of Finance created a conflict of interest.

"The point of a four-year, individual term is that it be independent," Steinberg said. "If Ms. Oropeza's day job is defending the governor's budget and helping the governor create policy, how can she under any circumstance act independently of those positions as a voting member of the Board of Education?"

Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Penn Valley, voted against the recommendation to reject, saying the Republican caucus expressed support for the nominee. But he noted he had not raised the issue of conflict of interest to his colleagues.

"I don't know if they were fully aware of the possibility of a conflict of interest in making their recommendation," he said.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the Rules Committee had not required that the nominee come testify at today's hearing. That unusual move indicated to some that a "no" vote would be the likely outcome.

Schwarzenegger said in a statement that he was "disappointed (Oropeza) was not given the opportunity to present her case to serve the students of California."

"Jeannie is widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable people in the state on education policy and she would have been a great addition to the board," he said.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor believes Oropeza is qualified for the job. He pointed out that the Senate has given the OK to administration officials for Board of Education posts in the past, such as his former adviser Bonnie Reiss. Steinberg acknowledged that issue at the hearing, but countered that there is a difference between political appointees and the nomination of civil servants such as Oropeza.

This post was updated at 3:32 with a statement from Schwarzenegger.

Read more:


Thousands of New Jersey high school students walked out of class Tuesday to protest budget cuts, a statewide event organized through text messages and social-networking websites. (April 28, 2010, AP)


Students from throughout the Newark school system protest after 
walking out of class and assembling at City Hall and Military Park in 
protest of Gov. Chris Christie's proposed budget cuts, Tuesday, April 
27, 2010, in Newark, N.J.—Joe Epstein/AP


Governor pledges support for higher education

Larry Gordon | LA Times LA Now blog

April 27, 2010 |  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday promised the state’s public universities and community colleges that he would veto any budget that does not include the increases in their funding that he proposed earlier in the year.

The governor made his pledge at a forum in Sacramento that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the state’s much-lauded Master Plan for Higher Education. That plan established roles and expanded funding for the state's three public postsecondary systems. Top leaders of the University of California, the California State University and the California Community Colleges also attended Tuesday’s event.

In January, Schwarzenegger proposed a 2010-2011 budget that would return more than $848 million to public higher education after years of cuts that have caused hardships for students and employees. "I will not sign a budget without those increases in there," he said Tuesday. However, given the state's economic challenges, debate over the budget is expected to continue in Sacramento in the next few months.


Capistrano Unified teachers end strike

They return to classes after reaching a midnight deal to end the three-day walkout in Orange County’s second-largest school district.

By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times

April 28, 2010 -- Teachers in the Capistrano Unified School District returned to classes Tuesday after reaching a midnight deal to end a three-day strike that disrupted academic and extracurricular programs and shrank attendance in Orange County's second-largest school district.

The tentative agreement would maintain a 10% pay cut that was imposed by the school board in March but would restore salary and furlough days if school revenue increases.

Full details were withheld pending approval of the three-year deal by the union's membership. A vote is expected in the next few weeks.

The deal was struck after more than 32 hours of closed-door negotiations that began Thursday, the same day most of the district's 2,200 teachers formed picket lines.

"Teachers are so happy to be back in the classroom and happy they have this tentative agreement," said Vicki Soderberg, president of the Capistrano Unified Education Assn., which represents teachers. "They feel proud that they stood up to the school board and said you cannot treat us this way."

District officials also would not comment on the specifics of the agreement but said they too were pleased with the outcome.

"We could not be more delighted to have our family back together again and to have the teachers back in classrooms with the children who admire them so much," said Anna Bryson, president of the district's Board of Trustees.

The pay cut and other benefit reductions, Bryson said, were needed to help close a $34-million budget shortfall. But the tentative deal only covers only about $19.9 million of that amount. The district wants to impose similar pay cuts on all employees. Last year, 150 administrative staff got a pay cut between 10% and 11%.

The district had no information on attendance or the rescheduling of athletic games and other activities that had been disrupted by the strike, nor any estimate of the costs of employing nearly 600 substitute teachers during the walkout.

School attendance had been sharply affected. On Monday, only 13% of regular classroom teachers crossed picket lines to get to their classes while 37% of the students in the 51,000-pupil district showed up for school, officials said. The attendance rate for high schools was only 17%.

But there were signs that operations were returning to normal. News of the breakthrough was posted on the district website near midnight and a phone message informing them of the tentative deal was sent to all families and employees early Tuesday morning, spokeswoman Julie Hatchel said.

Word reached San Clemente High School Principal George Duarte about 6 a.m.. and he rushed to campus to inform parents and teachers. The automated message system initially blocked the calls because of the early hour, he said.

"But it was good news and I wanted to tell them that school was open and to come on down," Duarte said. "For some of the teachers it was the first time that they had heard."

As a result, many students and teachers were late, but the parking lot filled as the day wore on. Duarte said athletic practices resumed Tuesday and sports contests were scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Many students feared that the strike would affect their studies, especially those for upcoming Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, which can influence college admittance.

"I've asked teachers to work with kids and to make preparing for these to be a priority," Duarte said. "They have a lot of energy and want to reconnect with students. And kids are some of the most resilient members of any population. They're going to be right back on track."

LMU ANNOUNCE PATRICK & CANTER AS COMMENCEMENT SPEAKERS: Both are pro-abortion, favor same-sex marriage

from the CALIFORNIA catholic daily

April 26, 2010 -- The Democratic governor of Massachusetts and a former member of the LA Unified School District board of trustees have been selected as this year’s commencement speakers at Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit institution in Los Angeles.

“According to Kathleen Flanagan, vice president for communications and government relations, Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, and Marlene Canter, a former member of the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) board, will address the undergraduates and graduates, respectively,” the LMU student newspaper Los Angeles Loyolan reported on April 23.

“Patrick is the first black governor of Massachusetts and the second elected black governor in U.S. history,” said the Loyolan. “He also served as assistant attorney general under former President Bill Clinton.”

The student newspaper described Canter this way: “Canter served two terms on the LAUSD board and, according to the Los Angeles Times, is best known for her efforts to "ban sodas and junk food, while also improving the nutrition, taste and accessibility of school breakfasts and lunches.’"

What the Loyolan did not report is that both Patrick and Canter are pro-abortion and favor same-sex marriage.

Patrick was active with the Massachusetts legislature in its successful effort to prevent an initiative going before voters that would have eliminated same-sex marriages in the state following a ruling by the state’s supreme court declaring a ban on such ‘marriages’ unconstitutional.

Patrick also signed into law a measure later upheld by a federal appellate court that creates a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. The law – aimed at pro-lifers – makes it illegal for anyone who is not entering or leaving an abortion clinic to come within 35 feet of any clinic’s sidewalks or driveways.

In 2006, the Boston Globe reported that, when quizzed about his support for abortion and same-sex marriage by a constituent, Patrick said abortion decisions should be left to women and that the law regards everyone as equals, regardless of sexual orientation.

Patrick also supports stem cell research. In a 2005 policy document entitled “Moving Massachusetts Forward,” the governor said, “We will issue bonds to invest in expansion and development of stem cell research. Proceeds from the bonds will be invested in research facilities and faculty development in the public universities to stimulate their expansion.”

While serving as a Los Angeles school trustee, Canter joined a unanimous board in adopting a resolution opposing Proposition 8 before the November 2008 election, when California voters approved the measure. "This is an issue of simple fairness and basic human rights," said Canter in a statement following the school board vote. "We have an obligation to educate every student and support every family in this District -- we can not stand by while the right to marry for all is threatened."

A few weeks later, on Sept. 23, 2008, Canter again joined a unanimous LA Unified School Board in expressing opposition to Proposition 4, which would have required a family member be notified before a minor girl undergoes an abortion. The resolution mentioned Planned Parenthood by name, and, in fact, the resolution reads as though it had been written by Planned Parenthood, which spent millions to defeat the initiative.

Among other things, the resolution for which Canter voted said of Prop 4, “no law can mandate that families communicate,” “Not all children live in homes where honest communication is possible,” “Proposition 4 puts these young women in a potentially dangerous situation,” and “Parental notification laws in other states have resulted in teens delaying critical care; choosing illegal, unsafe procedures; going across borders to receive medical care; or worse options” – all talking points used by Planned Parenthood in its campaign against the initiative.

This year’s selection of commencement speakers at Loyola Marymount continues a trend by Jesuit institutions in California of inviting dissidents to speak at graduation ceremonies. For many years running, the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco has featured such speakers. (To read an article published earlier this month by California Catholic Daily about USF’s commencement speakers, Click Here.

Loyola Marymount, USF and other Catholic schools seem to be ignoring the spirit if not the letter of a statement issued in June 2004 by the bishops of the United States, “Catholics in Political Life.” Among other things, the statement said, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” (Emphasis in original.)

RttT: CALIFORNIA TAKES NEW TACK IN BID FOR US SCHOOL FUNDING. The state, which lost out in the first round of the Race to the Top grant competition, will have three large districts apply: L.A., Long Beach and Fresno.

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

April 28, 2010 -- California has a new strategy to win a high-profile federal grant for school reform: Three large districts, including Los Angeles Unified, will apply for those competitive dollars.

The state lost out in the first round of competition for a share of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants, held in March. Its application was opposed by about three-fourths of the state's teacher unions, and about half of the school districts also refused to sign on.

In the last few weeks, state leaders have been lobbied by federal officials who have argued that California should not back away from applying for the second round of funding. The Obama administration has made Race to the Top a major initiative aimed at pressuring school districts to adopt many of its favored reforms.

The state was a day or two away from giving up on applying, but Bonnie Reiss, who recently became the governor's education secretary, pushed for the new approach. She also suggested that California hire a consulting firm that earned high marks for helping other states with their applications. Foundations stepped forward to provide the funding.

Another nudge came from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who called Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and implored him not to pull out. Duncan, officials said, told the governor that the state's new strategy would receive due consideration.

It would be "disheartening" if California didn't try again, said Deputy Education Secretary Anthony Miller. He insisted the continued push for reforms that would accompany a new application would be "good for students" whether "you get a Race to the Top dollar or not."

The state's plan would still reach large numbers of students. L.A. Unified alone has 11% of the state's enrollment and more than fives times as many students as Delaware, one of the first-round winners. The Long Beach and Fresno unified school districts would also be included in the application under the new plan.

"We've got to go for it," said L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, citing an ongoing budget crisis that could result in hundreds of layoffs, program cutbacks and increased class sizes.

Union participation could be crucial for California, which was marked down in the first round for not drawing more support from labor unions and school districts. But some union leaders have said that the amount of money is not large enough — California stands to win as much as $700 million — and that some of the proposed reforms are problematic. They've faulted a federal emphasis on promoting charter schools and on linking teacher evaluations to student test scores.

"We need to find a way the bargaining units could be a part of this," Cortines said. "We'd craft it in such a way that they'd feel comfortable."

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, was noncommittal in an interview but earlier expressed opposition to linking teachers' reviews to their students' standardized test results.

In the first round, California ranked 27th in a competition that included 40 states and the District of Columbia. Only two states ultimately prevailed, Delaware and Tennessee, and several backed away from reapplying, judging their prospects to be hopeless.

"Many states were starting to say, ‘We made a lot of really tough decisions and didn't get much credit for strides we made,'" said Hilary McLean, communications director for the California Department of Education. "There is real money at stake. God knows we need it, but can we realistically get over the hurdles? … Is it an exercise in futility?"

California's plan relies on putting forward L.A. Unified as a model and laboratory for reform, along with the Long Beach and Fresno districts. A notable absence on that list is San Diego Unified, the state's second-largest district, which shunned participation in round one.

Long Beach is frequently cited for its leading-edge improvements. Cortines characterized L.A. Unified as a district on the rise, citing its teacher effectiveness task force, efforts to put schools in charge of their own budgets and an initiative to disclose more academic data to the public while also using it to guide teaching as never before.


By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

4/28 -- Los Angeles Unified officials announced Tuesday they plan to pursue a series of controversial reforms in the teacher hiring and evaluation process, an effort that is likely to set up a tough fight with local unions.

The reforms, spelled out for the school board by Superintendent Ramon Cortines, include pilot programs linking incentive pay to teacher performance and policy changes that raise the bar for teachers to earn tenure.

The recommendations were contained in a 24-page report presented to the board Tuesday and commissioned a year ago to study teacher performance and hiring and firing policies.

The release of the report coincides with similar legislative efforts by state officials, including a bill introduced by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week to end using seniority exclusively when laying off teachers.

Most of the recommendations in the report require changes to state law or negotiations with employee unions.

Union leaders said they will oppose legislative changes and local efforts that threaten teacher protections.

"There will be two ways to do this: They can either negotiate with us, which is the process we believe should be followed, or they can try and push legislative changes, which will inevitably put us in conflict with one another," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Duffy said UTLA opposes any changes that would eliminate teacher protections, such as recommendations to lay off educators based on merit and not just seniority and plans to streamline the teacher dismissal process. Duffy also said the union was opposed to the use of test data in teacher evaluations.

Still, Cortines will be able to test the program at a small number of schools because the district is applying for federal stimulus money that requires the change.

He said he plans to work cooperatively in negotiating with the unions. But he also stressed that he would move forward with changes that are within his control, such as increasing the efficiency of teacher evaluations and professional development programs.

"Now is the time to leap," Cortines said.

The "teacher effectiveness" report is the product of six months of meetings and discussions among some 50 local teachers, administrators, parents, academics and union leaders on a district task force. It was set up last year after board members failed to pass sweeping changes to teacher hiring and firing policies.

The report makes broad recommendations that include ensuring that every student will have an effective teacher by 2016 while also delineating specific recommendations like the inclusion of parent and student input in teacher evaluations

Ted Mitchell, the chair of the task force and president of the State Board of Education, said despite tensions surrounding discussions of teacher performance, he felt the report was valuable because it forced dialogue on issues that had been avoided for a long time and it helped prompt district officials to tighten procedures within their control.

For example, by next year administrators will have to actively decide whether to promote a teacher from non-permanent to permanent, or tenured. Until now, teachers effectively were given tenure, unless an administrator raised concerns, making it a passive process.

"We know we are dealing with a car that needs to be redesigned ... but while we work on those redesign plans, we can change the spark plugs and give the car a tune-up so that it runs better," Mitchell said.

Some board members expressed deep concerns that no real changes could happen soon on some of the biggest issues that they'd asked task force to tackle.

Tamar Galatzan was one of the board members who last year attempted to change teacher firing policies to allow local school districts to have the final decision on who stays and who goes.

"Everybody knew that the system was broken," Galatzan said.

"So we asked for this task force to study the issues and a year later they confirmed that it's broken ... but there is still nothing we can do about it and that is incredibly frustrating."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Melody Gutierrez  | Sacramento Bee

Apr. 27, 2010 -- Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said he is stepping up his role as an education advocate following his appointment to two national groups aimed at education reform.

Johnson will serve as the chairman of the newly formed Mayoral Leadership in Public Schools, a task force composed of mayors from across the country that will examine mayoral roles in public education and ways of engaging the community.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also tapped Johnson to serve as co-chairman on the Mayoral Advisory Council. Johnson will meet Thursday with mayors from across the state to discuss high school dropout rates.

smf: Former NBA player Johnson operates a controversial charter school program. Additionally, he is engaged to DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee.

Popular Comment/SacBee: Maybe we should ask our Mayor why so many Sac Charter students are "counseled out" of Sac Charter right before the State Testing starts. Just ask any Hiram Johnson or CKM teacher who receives these students. His school is a sham. He has no business (maybe monkey business) being on any committee or task force discussing education. Keep your hands off of my child's (education)-- misssappy

NEEDS OF ‘WHOLE CHILD MAY FACTOR IN ESEA/NCLB RENEWAL: Wide Range of Supports, Services, and Enrichment Seen as Vital but Costly

By Alyson Klein | EdWeek | Vol. 29, Issue 30, Pages 16,21

28 April 2010 -- As Congress gears up for renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, lawmakers and the Obama administration are seeking to address a perennial complaint: that the current version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act, places too much emphasis on students’ test scores and pays little attention to their health and other needs.

And at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee last week, lawmakers agreed that the idea of educating “the whole child” encompasses a wide range of support services, which advocates are hoping could be reflected in the rewrite of the ESEA.

Those include dental and mental health, as well as programs aimed at providing prekindergarten and library services, summer and after-school enrichment, mentoring, college counseling, and increased parent and community involvement. The whole-child concept can also refer to making sure schools attend to students’ nonacademic interests, through programs such as the arts and physical education.

Increasing offerings in such a broad array of programs would almost certainly mean schools would need to increase staffs, said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the committee. But he and other lawmakers acknowledged that might be a tall order in tight budget times.

“If you’re going to add all this stuff on, doesn’t this require more personnel?” asked Sen. Harkin, whose panel is holding a series of hearings on ESEA reauthorization. “As you add all this stuff on, you’re going to have to add more people, mentors, librarians. … How do we do that?”

Not Just One Thing

Still, witnesses at last week’s ESEA hearing argued that programs aimed at a “holistic approach” to education have to be part of the mix if schools are truly going to boost student achievement.

Geoffrey Canada, the president and chief executive officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which has earned national accolades for its success in closing the achievement gap, said his program ensures that students have access to myriad health and counseling professionals, including dentists and social workers. The community-based organization serves 17,000 children living in a nearly 100-block area in the Harlem section of New York City.

“In communities where kids are failing in record numbers, you can’t just do one thing,” he said at the hearing. “We start with children at birth and stay with them until they graduate from college. … In the end, you have to create a series of supports that really meet all of their needs.”

Schools in the Harlem Children’s Zone are open 11 months a year. “That’s what it took” to really make progress, Mr. Canada said. Still, he acknowledged the budget challenges facing schools as the nation struggles to rebound from a major economic downturn.

In response to the fiscal squeeze, schools are not just “cutting the fat,” he said. “They’re cutting the muscle. … Are we investing enough in our children in this nation? I think the answer is no. I think there are huge areas of this country where all kids need to be in an early-education [program]. … I think that we’ve got to hold people accountable for results, but we also need to be able to pay for realistic investments.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., a former Denver schools chief, asked witnesses whether Congress should start by providing school districts and communities with greater funding flexibility so that they could choose the support services that will be most beneficial.

Karen Pittman, the president of the Forum for Youth Investment,a nonprofit organization aimed at making sure students are ready for college, work, and life, said that might be a good approach since there is currently “enormous fragmentation” among such programs.

“Right now, there are over 300 federal programs that address [each] one of the problems we talked about today,” she said.

Early-Education Push

Across the Capitol, the U.S. House of Representatives that same day approved a bill aimed at helping to address one piece of the holistic education agenda: physical education.

The measure, which was approved on a voice vote, would require all districts and states to report on students’ physical activity, including the amount of time they spend in physical education. The bill would finance research to examine how children’s health affects their achievement.

The Obama administration is also trying to send a message that it understands that students’ health and welfare must be considered along with their academic needs.

The U.S. Department of Education last week announced that it will team up with the U.S. Department of Health and HumanServices to hold a “listening tour” aimed at gaining expert opinions on how to improve and expand early-childhood programs.

Also last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan touted the administration’s proposal, unveiled in its 2011 budget, to provide $210 million to help communities create Promise Neighborhoods. Those comprehensive programs would be modeled on Mr. Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone. The Education Department’s fiscal 2010 budget includes $10 million for the Promise Neighborhoods initiative.

“If our children aren’t safe, they can’t learn,” Secretary Duncan told a forum on health sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “If our children aren’t fed, they can’t learn. If our children can’t see the blackboard, they can’t learn.”

Sen. Harkin, who is also chairman of the subcommittee overseeing education spending, said in an interview that the $210 million proposed by the administration for the Promise Neighborhoods initiative is not going to be enough to help schools address students’ health and social needs. He declined to pinpoint what he thinks is a sufficient figure.

Sen. Harkin has said that he would like to hold a committee vote on a bill by June.


By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | LA Daily News

04/27/2010 -- Los Angeles Unified officials should have the power to reward some teachers with incentive pay and fire others for underperformance, according to a long-awaited report being presented to the school board today.

Many of the recommendations in the report require changes to state law or major negotiations with employee unions that could take months or years.

But the 24-page document contains some suggestions that can be implemented by the board immediately, paving the way for perhaps the biggest ever overhaul of the district's teacher evaluation process.

"There are a lot of things we've needed to do better for a very long time to be able to guarantee every student in this district an amazing and effective teacher," said LAUSD school board member Yolie Flores.

"We owe it to our kids to begin to tackle these sacred cow issues."

The report is the product of six months of meetings and discussions among 50 local teachers, administrators, parents, academics and union leaders who made up a district task force. It was set up last year after board members failed to pass sweeping changes to their teacher hiring and firing policies. It also coincides with recent efforts launched by state officials to make similar changes.

The report is expected to receive strong support from school board members and LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who is also set to ask for immediate action on some of the items that don't require changes to the state's Education Code or union contracts, like changes to make the evaluation process of teachers much stricter.

Still, the board was not expected to vote on any recommendations today.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • strengthening teacher evaluations by using, among other things, student test data to evaluate performance.
  • establishing a pilot program that would pay teachers more money if they work in harder to staff schools.
  • extending the time that a teacher is considered "probationary" or "non-permanent" from two years to up to four years.
  • advocating for changes in state law related to teacher layoffs and dismissals, including allowing the school board to have the final say in dismissing teachers.

Despite being active participants in all of the task force discussions, labor leaders are expected to voice their concerns today with the recommendations laid out by the report.

"Many items in this report are flawed and based upon premises that are not backed up by solid data," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, representing some 38,000 teachers and counselors.

Currently both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes have also introduced legislative proposals that seek to streamline the process for firing teachers and also want to eliminate the state laws that require school districts to base all of their layoffs solely on seniority.

Duffy said local and state efforts to curb teacher protections will be opposed by UTLA and other unions.








boardmember flores e-mail blast


Monday, April 26, 2010

SAVE SCHOOL LIBRARIES: A poem addressed to the honorable Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles

by Carole Koneff | Library Aide – Third Street Elementary

April 23, 2010

Dear Elected School Board

sitting there today

I wish I was standing in front of you

because I have something to say.

I want to save the libraries;

I want to save the books

I want to preserve a basic need

so children can sit in nooks.


I plead on behalf of Andrew;

I plead on behalf of Kate

Who come in the library every day,

as soon as they’re through the gate!

I plead on behalf of Felix;

I plead on behalf of Reese

Who like to come in and pick up a book

in a place of sanctuary and peace!


I beg on behalf of Ella;

I beg on behalf of Mack

Who fell in love with Bill Peet

and now do not look back.

I beg on behalf of Kinder,

I read to them every week

They’re always happy to see me

and always anxious to speak.


I beg on behalf of teachers

who need to get in the door

When looking for something for STULL day

that shows a little bit more.

I implore on behalf of parents,

busy with car pools and life

Knowing their kids can get books at school

helps a bit with the strife!


I plead on behalf of “Shiloh”;

I plead on behalf of “Holes”

Books about mushrooms or dolphins,

presidents, artists or moles

I plead on behalf of “Despereaux”;

I plead on behalf of “Hoot”

I plead on behalf of the library aides

about to be given the boot!


You need to let us stay open;

you need to let someone care

So that when they come in at recess,

the books will still be there!

If the doors do not remain open,

if the doors are forced to be locked

Then millions of hungry brain cells

from life-changing words will be blocked!


I hope that you all get the message;

I hope that you will see the light

And allow us to do what we do best;

we’ll never give up the fight.


libraries shape students’ lives.

Access to books in a nice quiet place

and just about everyone thrives.


Don’t tell me about “extra” money

don’t tell me there was a choice

Library aides work really hard

but nobody gave us a voice

Don’t abandon the libraries,

don’t allow them to wither and die

Dear School Board who “hold all the cards”

please hear my desperate cry!

“At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library,  we change their lives  forever,  for the better.    It’s an enormous force for good.”       -- Barack Obama --

Fremont High, Ánimo/Green Dot Social Justice Charter, Menlo Adult School: SOUTH CENTRAL PROTESTS SCHOOL CLOSURES + smf’s 3¢

Robert D. Skeels – author of the solidaridad blog - reports on a public forum of teachers and families who want to turn back plans to close and reconstitute three South Central Los Angeles schools in

Animo Justice students march against the planned closure of their 
school (O. Michael)<< Animo Justice students march against the planned closure of their school (O. Michael)

April 26, 2010 - LOS ANGELES--Students, parents, teachers and community activists came together on March 26 for a forum hosted by Unión del Barrio to discuss how to oppose school closures in South Central Los Angeles.

John C. Fremont High School is slated for reconstitution, and Ánimo Justice Charter High School and Menlo Adult School for closure.

The meeting began with a stirring introduction by social justice educator Jose Lara, who reminded everyone that what was happening at these three schools can happen at any school unless we begin to organize and fight back.

Joel Vaca, a mathematics teacher at Fremont High, discussed his school's long struggles with severe overcrowding, underfunding and a year-round calendar. He described how Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Ramon Cortines walked into a meeting, announced the reconstitution and told all the teachers they would have to reapply for their jobs.

Reconstitution is one of No Child Left Behind's (NCLB) more punitive provisions for schools failing to reach the impossible targets NCLB sets--and requires the termination of the entire staff.

While there's ample evidence that school reconstitution does nothing but exacerbate the issues that cause schools to struggle in the first place, Cortines has been unwilling to budge. Vaca said that Fremont teachers all vowed not to reapply for their jobs as an act of resistance.

Mirna Rico, a Fremont High School parent and activist, said, "The district still hasn't notified us parents or the community. We heard about the reconstitution on the news. They've been stonewalling us, and it doesn't give us a chance to decide what to do."

School reconstitutions, like charter takeovers of public schools, are extremely disruptive to students and their families. Fremont representatives discussed the ongoing community efforts to save the school and invited people to go to their Web site [2].

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

FOLLOWING THE Fremont speakers were those from Ánimo Justice, which was recently slated to close at the end of the school year on the fiat declaration by Green Dot Public Schools' CEO Marco Petruzzi and his unelected private board.

Earlier that day, students, parents, educators and activists marched from Ánimo Justice in South Central to Green Dot's headquarters in the elite Bunker Hill area of downtown Los Angeles. Along the roughly five-mile trip, marchers chanted and carried placards including one that said "¡Tenemos el Animo Pero No Justicia!" (We have the spirit, but no justice!)

These same activists had organized the sit-ins and rallies at Ánimo Justice [3] about a week before.

Marlon Silva, a junior at Ánimo Justice and one of the student leaders, described the march to Green Dot. He explained how Petruzzi told all the press to leave before agreeing to meet with students and parents.

"Green Dot's motto is parents and students have a voice and input," Silva said, "but when this decision was made, the only thing Green Dot cared about was money. It's a business behind a mask of a school."

Silva read a lengthy list of demands that were radical and inspiring. In the end, he said Green Dot needed to stop putting profits before students. In response, Petruzzi told the students, "We have no money. We're a nonprofit. We don't have a rich guy that gives us extra."

Petruzzi's last statement is perplexing, given the millions of dollars provided to Green Dot by billionaires and their foundations including Eli and Edythe Broad, the Walton Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates, Reed Hastings of Netflix and Donald Fisher of the Gap.

What's more puzzling is that Green Dot was recently vying to take over a portion of the newly built Esteban E. Torres High School through LAUSD Vice President Yolie Flores's woefully misnamed "Public School Choice" resolution. Fortunately, the school was awarded to a public school team headed by a collaboration of UTLA teachers and community members instead.

One speaker, who asked to remain anonymous because of their relationship with Green Dot, explained that Ánimo Justice was the only Green Dot school with sufficient English Language Learner and Special Education resources, and one of the few schools in that attendance boundary.

By all accounts, Ánimo Justice had been a grand experiment by the Charter Management Organizations to prove that they could serve similar populations to public schools, while still paying astronomical salaries to their executives and running schools in a heavy-handed, top-down fashion.

Ánimo Justice was supposed to serve as an argument against corporate charter critics who have shown charters are guilty of "skimming" and employ exclusionary methods to avoid educating every child. Sadly for Ánimo Justice families and the community, Green Dot supposedly serves, the experiment was failing and effecting Green Dot's profitability.

Coalition for Educational Justice's Frances Martin Turner summed up the situation best when she said, "Public schools don't have the option to say: 'We don't have enough money so close it down.'"

Social justice educator and Unión del Barrio member Jose Lara spoke on behalf of the Menlo Adult School. LAUSD recently announced it would close every Adult Education School, like Menlo, where it didn't own the property. Student leaders like Blanca Perez organized a 300-person protest at Menlo last month in response to the mendacity of LAUSD's Board President Monica Garcia.

Garcia had promised students that if Menlo's landlord lowered the cost of the lease, they would keep the school open. The landlord was willing to lower the lease by as much as 25 percent, but LAUSD still closed the school. Lara made a powerful speech about the importance of Adult Education Schools:

They are closing down the only places where students can return to complete high school. They are a critical resource for adults learning English as a second language, and for working people to finish their education.

All the speakers were able to tie the plight of their schools directly to the budget cuts and the underfunding of schools in general. UTLA teacher Sarah Knopp pointed out how the wealthy, politicians and the press are constantly trying to drive a wedge between teachers and families, because they know how hard it is for people to find jobs with health care and pensions these days.

This community forum showed that working people are tired of being lied to, stolen from and are ready to begin the much need struggle for justice and equality.


●●●smf's 3¢

  • For those hell-bent to be ‘data-driven’*, RECONSTITUTION – as is proposed for Fremont High School – is no magic bullet. No less an expert than NYC Chancellor of Schools Joel Klein – the foremost practitioner of it hints at its limits. Arne Duncan, the second most prolific reconstitutor  in his Chicago superintendency fails to admit it – and #3 Michelle Rhee in DC is stuck in denial. 
  • The Animo Social Justice (?) Charter is closing for no other reason than Green Dot cannot show a return on their financial investment. Skeels’ – a very adept freelance forensic accountant -  questioning of Petruzzi’s “We don’t have a rich guy….” is right on. It shows that Green Dot’s rich guys are putting their eggs in more lucrative baskets – like another Green Dot school on the Westside.  [Read the Billionaires Boys Club chapter in Diane Ravitch’s Death and Life of the Great American School System]
  • Closing the Menlo Adult School because its lease is costing the District money reeks of social injustice paralleling the decision above. Is there a community more deserving of Adult Ed than South Central?

All the decisions above require the approval of the Board of Education.


* from Wikipedia: “In computer science, data-driven design is the result of adapting abstract data type design methods to object-oriented programming (Wirfs-Brock & Wilkerson, 1989). This type of design is used in object-oriented programming to define classes during the conception of a piece of software. The paper actually promotes responsibility-driven design as a better approach for object-oriented programming, and argues that data-driven leads to bad object-oriented design.”

Responsibility-driven design … what a concept!