Wednesday, September 30, 2015


by Barbara Jones in LAUSD Daily  |

Phone survey seeks input for three-year school calendar

Sep 30, 2015  ::  In an effort to get as much input as possible into the planning process, LAUSD is polling parents, teachers and other school-site staffers about the upcoming school calendar.

More than 58,000 people responded last Friday and Saturday to the survey, which seeks information about what date the school year should start and when the first semester should end, how long winter break should be, whether elementary and secondary schools should be on the same calendar and how enrichment and intervention programs can best be accommodated.

The results will be compiled for a calendar committee convened by Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines. Rather than having to go through the process annually, he instructed the panel to recommend calendars for the next three years – through 2018-19.

“Our students and our employees and their families should be able to plan ahead,” the superintendent said. “This is not a debate that we should be having every year.”

The school calendar has become a contentious issue since 2012, when the school board instituted an “early-start” schedule, beginning classes in mid-August rather than after Labor Day. Critics complained that the early start to the school year cut into family vacations or put kids in classrooms during the sweltering summer days. Others, however, said that finishing first semester before winter break was better for them academically.

This year’s start date was Aug. 18, an effort to broker a compromise between the two sides.

The calendar committee is currently looking at six options; five of them would start school in early to late August, while the sixth would have a post-Labor Day start. The proposal, dubbed Option 5, includes a seven-week winter break and an official summer break of just five weeks, which would give students the opportunity to make-up classes or to take enrichment classes.

The phone poll had been scheduled to end on Tuesday, but some respondents reported that they were unable to complete the survey because of technical difficulties. As a result, Mr. Cortines has extended the deadline.

The District did a survey prior to implementing the early-start calendar, but it was conducted online and generated limited results.

“We opted to do a phone poll this time so that we could reach all parents, teachers and other employees who work at all of our schools,” said Zsuzsanna Vincze, director of School Operations.  “This is an important issue, and we want to make sure we get feedback from as many people as possible.”

School Board member Mónica Ratliff suggested a phone survey during discussions of this year’s calendar.

“I greatly appreciate Superintendent Cortines’ commitment to gathering feedback from the many stakeholders who lack internet access, and I look forward to reviewing this feedback. While internet surveys can appear easier to conduct than telephone surveys, they do not allow us to access the opinions of the many families who lack Internet access.”

“I was, obviously, disappointed by the reports of some technical difficulties that arose with the phone surveys. I commend the Superintendent and staff for their quick and diligent responses to these reports and for their commitment to facilitate input on the instructional calendar.”

More about Barbara Jones



Parents, teachers and other school-site staffers are expected to opine-in-an-informed-manner  upon the following in a telephone survey – a blind call – without the benefit of actually seeing the following?






¿COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT BY ROBOCALL?: L.A. Unified wants to know when parents want school to be in session (Redux)

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

also see+hear:


Students line up to board buses for the start of school in August this year. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

30 Sept 2015  ::  Los Angeles school district officials are considering redoing a telephone survey after technical glitches complicated a weekend attempt to determine parents' and employees' opinions about the academic calendar.

The survey sought feedback on when the school year should start, how long winter break should last and how important it is to have the same days off for elementary and secondary schools. The district also wanted to know how people feel about having the first semester finish before winter break and about the timing of enrichment and intervention programs.

The effort arose out of discontent with the L.A. Unified School District's decision to move up the start of the traditional school year into August, rather than beginning after Labor Day, in September.

Calls went out to 550,000 households, including both parents and employees. The automated phone system made the first attempt Friday night, and then tried again on Saturday if it collected no information.

But the system’s software is designed to pause if there is noise on the receiving end. And background noise, apparently, was enough to derail the effort. In all, the phone system collected 58,000 surveys, but the district also received about 50 complaints.

“Some people said they couldn’t respond to the survey,” said Paul Ishimaru, an administrator in operations who manages the phone system. With background noise over a certain level, the system “may either attempt to start and then stop, and or it may never deliver the message.”

One option for an academic schedule would be a significant departure from past practice: a five-week break in summer and a seven-week vacation in winter.  Although that alternative was one of six presented to a calendar committee, officials have not seriously considered such a schedule in recent times.

The survey presented that approach by asking parents if they would like a “year-round” style calendar that allowed for four-week intercession classes in both the winter and summer. These courses would allow students to catch up or get ahead academically.

In past years, there was no phone survey. Instead, district staff worked out the schedule with input from employee unions. The calendar then went to the Board of Education for approval.

On the recommendation of Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, the district had switched to the earlier, August start in 2011. The goal was to allow high school students to avoid having first-semester finals after winter break.

Before the switch, parents were able to weigh in with their views on the calendar through an online survey, but few participated.

Since then, a contingent of parents has been persistently unhappy over the early start. For one thing, they said school was in session during more of the intense heat of summer, especially a problem in the San Fernando Valley.

Some parents also had greater difficulty scheduling vacations and summer enrichment programs for their children. Parents turned in petitions with thousands of signatures requesting that school begin after Labor Day.

The district bent a little this year, starting later in August.

The discontented parents had an ally in school board member Richard Vladovic, who wanted the issue revisited, and Cortines agreed to do so.

The current calendar committee involves about 70 participants, including parents and students. The goal is to establish a calendar for the next three years. The survey was to provide broader feedback, said Zsuzsanna Vincze, director of school operations.

The feedback process was supposed to end Sept. 29, but has been pushed back as officials ponder their next move.

“I apologize for the inconvenience,” Cortines said in an email. “We are addressing these concerns. I have instructed staff to look into these glitches and reach out to those who had issues. Anyone who has not had the opportunity to take the survey will be given a chance to do so.”

Monday, September 28, 2015



First Day Of School, Bus Stop, Back To School

September 28, 2015 10:46 AM  ::  LOS ANGELES ( — Officials with the Los Angeles Unified school district want to hear from parents on a range of proposed changes to the district’s academic calendar.

An LAUSD advisory committee is reportedly weighing options for six different plans for altering the current school year, including one which would see summer vacation cut down to five weeks while increasing the winter break to seven weeks, according to Los Angeles School Report.

Starting last week, Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced teachers and parents would be receiving robocalls to hear feedback on the school’s calendar year.

The survey asks five questions concerning several topics, including the start of the school year, the length of winter break, and finishing the first semester before the start of winter vacation, district officials said.

For decades, LAUSD students began the academic year in September following the Labor Day holiday until the school district moved up the start of classes to early August in 2012.

The robocalls will continue to go out until Tuesday, officials said.



I don’t know what’s worse:

  1. CBS re-reporting as “news” what they read on LA School Report. or
  2. Governance/Parent Engagement by robocall.

Calls are coming to ask about a new school calendar for LA Unified

by Mike Szymanski, LA School Report |

CortinesSkepticalPosted on September 25, 2015 12:38 pm  ::  If you’re an employee at LAUSD or have a child going to a school in the district, expect a call this weekend to ask about what your preference is for a new school calendar.

Last evening, Superintendent Ramon Cortines sent out a recorded robo-call that notified teachers and parents that the district will be making three attempts over the next four days to get input into the school calendar year. A district advisory committee is reviewing six different plans, including one that could result in only five weeks for summer break and seven weeks for winter break.

“Good evening,” said the robo-call with Cortines introducing himself. “The school district is planning the instructional calendar for the next three years.”

The phone survey promises only five questions. According to Ellen T. Morgan, a district spokeswoman, the questions concern the following topics:

  • Start of the school year
  • Length of the winter break
  • Importance on having elementary and secondary schools on the same calendar
  • Finishing the first semester before the winter break
  • Accommodation of enrichment and intervention programs

The calls will be made today through Tuesday, Sept. 29 and three attempts will be made. If someone answers the first time, the phone number will not be called again.



  • LA School Report: “5 weeks for summer break and 7 weeks for winter break? LAUSD considers it” |


by Mary Plummer, KPCC |

102002 fullFILE:

Eighth-grader Kenny Martinez and the Berendo Middle School band perform before an arts education event on the state of arts education in the Los Angeles Unified School District on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at Rosalyn S. Heyman Auditorium. Maya Sugarman/KPCC


Audio from this story  |  4:03 Listen

28 September 2015  ::  In 2012, Los Angeles Unified school board members made arts instruction a core subject, designating it as important as subjects like math and English. The move was aimed at getting the arts to every student in the district, and it won applause from arts supporters around the country.

But as the district's decision nears its third anniversary this October, the goal of universal arts instruction remains elusive. A KPCC analysis of the most recent district data found that at about 100 elementary schools, the vast majority of students get no arts instruction.

Still, across the district, there are signs of improvement. Forty-five new art teachers were hired for the new school year, according to district numbers, and resources like professional development for teachers have been increased. Plus, the district's arts branch has launched a series of arts festivals that showcase student work.

Many of the changes stemmed from a recent survey of principals called the Arts Equity Index that attempted to take stock of each school's arts instruction, including the number of minutes students received in the arts.

The survey showed a wide disparity among schools in the amount of instruction in the arts students received. As a result, funding was redistributed to provide instruction where it was needed the most.

But for some, the changes also prompted some backpedaling as long-standing arts programs were dismantled and arts teachers were reassigned to new schools.

"I feel that we’re robbing from what’s working to make something that I feel is less effective,” said René Rowland, a vocal music teacher who has taught within the district for 20 years.

Rowland said she knows of art teachers who have taken early retirement as a result of the shifting of resources. Others, she said, are stressed by new school assignments that have them driving long distances to teach art at multiple schools.

One school tells the tale

At Walnut Park Middle School, a campus that's home to two separate middle schools, is a $6.2 million multipurpose room for the arts.

The facility holds a stage and audience seats for 800, yet since the school opened in 2012 it has never been used for a student play or production. The school also has a dance studio with a ballet bar and floor to ceiling mirrors, but no dance teacher. There are practice rooms for music, but no music teacher and hardly any instruments.

"We don’t use the lights at all because we don’t know how," said Principal Aida Coronado-DeLeon of Walnut Park Middle School's School of Social Justice, on a recent walk by the stage.

Since the Walnut Park campus opened, neither of the two schools has had an art teacher — until this year. Coronado-DeLeon is happy the reshuffling of resources following the arts equity survey landed her an arts teacher.

Teresa Wierzbianska, a first-year instructor, has been assigned to teach theater. She had almost no training or time to prep to teach theater. She had been trained in English and expected to be teaching that subject.

"I found out Friday I was teaching theater and I started teaching on Tuesday," she said, recalling the start of the new school year.

While her hiring is a sign of the progress underway in the district as arts instruction spreads, it is also indicative of some of the problems with the initiative, as when some teachers are assigned without adequate training or preparation time.

But Walnut Park was among dozens of middle schools that offered no art at all prior to the arts equity survey. Out of more than 200 secondary schools, Walnut Park’s district-assigned arts score ranked in the bottom six schools, meaning its arts instruction was next to nil.

Walnut Park's students are also among the poorest in the district. About 95 percent of kids from the two schools come from families whose low incomes qualify the students for free or reduced meals. By comparison, the district school average is 76 percent.

Rory Pullens, the head of arts education for the district, acknowledged some schools did lose arts instruction time so that others more in need could get it. He said there isn't enough funding to go around.

"My heart breaks as I, I look at where schools are on the arts equity index and I get calls from principals and we just don’t have enough," he said.

Pullens said he needs about $75 million to implement a fully functioning arts instruction plan across the district. Right now, he said he’s got $26.5 million.

Some question the way the district has gone about carrying out its arts instruction goal and allocating resources to schools.

“We feel that it’s a huge disservice to place unprepared teachers in schools," said dance teacher Ginger Fox, the arts education committee chair for UTLA, the teachers' union. She added that many of the changes this year affecting art teachers seemed careless and unplanned, not in the interest of helping kids learn. “It just seemed to be haphazard.”

Fox praised Pullens for making some improvements since he joined the district last summer, but said teachers need to be more involved in making decisions as the district expands the arts. She and a group of other teachers have prepared a list of concerns that they plan to submit to school board members.

Steve Venz, the visual and performing arts coordinator for Orange County’s Department of Education, spent many years working for LAUSD in various arts education roles.

Venz supports many of the district's improvements and its increased arts funding. But he said some of the district's efforts are short-sighted, like a controversial nine-week student instruction plan that the district expanded this school year.

"There’s just so many ways of doing this in a much more strategic way ... other than just hoping that you hit all of the schools within a short amount of time. Because there’s not going to be much rigor there," he said.

For many students and parents, the question unanswered is how soon pupils will get any arts instruction at all.

District officials have said without more resources, it’s possible that some students could go through most of their school career having not taken a single arts class.


I really don’t want to parse the grammar, but the Arts at the Core Resolution wasn't an “experiment”, it was a commitment that set District policy.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


by Peter Greene in his blog CURMUDGUCATION |

It's nothing short of amazing-- a plan to do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.

I am absolutely bowled over at the magnitude of this power grab. Imagine if Broad and his friends said, ‘We're not happy with the LAPD, so we're going to hire and train our own police force, answerable to nobody but us, to cover some parts of the city. Also, the taxpayers have to foot the bill.’

Or if they decided to get their own army?

Or their own mayor?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015  ::  The LA Times published further confirmation of the story they broke in August-- Eli Broad and friends would like to replace public education in Los Angeles, taking over half of the district's "business."

The confirmation comes by way of an extraordinary document-- the Great Public Schools Now Initiative. It's nothing short of amazing-- a plan to do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.

Granted, LA schools have never been short of people willing to just go ahead and impose their will on the school district. It was just last week the Times ran the news that a group of "concerned citizens" had gotten a meeting with LAUSD school board president Steven Zimmer to tell him what they think he should do about filling the superintendent spot. How cool is that?! I think I will call the mayor of my town and tell him I want to meet to discuss my recommendations for how to make a budget. In fact, speaking of budgets, maybe I'll just summon my state's governor and some key legislators to a meeting where I'll tell them what they should do about the budget impasse. Because, you know, representative democracy is for suckers and little people-- People Who Matter just pick up the phone and tell elected officials what's what.

But the Great Public Schools Now (GPSN)  Initiative puts the "aud" in "audacious" and the "balls" in "holy schneikes but you have a big brass pair on you!" It's forty-four pages of How To Completely Circumvent the Public School System For Fun and Profit.

The Times coverage hits some special highlights, so I am going to skate across this pond of barely frozen pig poo as quickly as possible. But just in case you think some of what you're seeing about this plan involves scrutinous depalabration (my new term for close reading-- patent pending), here are the goals of the plan in the plain executive summary English:

This effort will be structured over an eight-year period from 2016 to 2023 with the following objectives: (1) to create 260 new high-quality charter schools, (2) to generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats, and (3) to reach 50 percent charter market share.

That is, not incidentally, almost doubling the current charter capacity in LA. But the creators of this plan say that "the opportunity is ripe for a significant expansion" of charter baloney in LA.

Big Ripe LA Dreams

GPSN thinks that LA is redolent with potential, positively fecund with charter possibilities, because reasons. [Insert Chamber of Commerce boilerplate here.]

But the dream is not just to tap into the huge market of students trapped in failing blah blah blah waiting for their chance for high-quality seats (and, man, I would love to see one of these seats, sit in one of these seats, visit the High Quality Seat Factory and see how these seats are made) blah blah blah.

No, the dream is to "create a national proof point for other states and cities seeking to dramatically improve K-12 education." GPSN wants LA to be the new New Orleans, the exemplar for charter champions everywhere, as they head out to double down, buckle up, and cash in. Gosh, let's see what kind of program they have in mind, because I'm sure it won't turn out to be a hollow, costly, unscaleable, irreproduceable, unsustainable plan at all.

But first...

Background: LA Schools Suck

Urban minority students trapped in zip codes blah blah blah no change in last years blah blah blah. Poor minority students have potential for success, and that potential goes untapped because of schools and not at all because of systemic racism and poverty. Nuh-uh. Just bad schools. Which, incidentally we keep throwing money at, but they don't get any better. Also, achievement gap.

Charter Schools Fix Everything While Riding Unicorns Across Rainbows

LA is filled with parent demand for charters, plus the suckiness of LAUSD. Oddly enough, the Deasy-loving tablet-pushing reformsters behind GPSN are not going to pause to consider their own role in the LAUSD suckness. But it doesn't matter because they have the biggest charter sector in the world, and it's awesome.

Charters "have maintained impressive growth" and  now show a "total market share" of almost twenty-five percent. This is because of "the success of charters to push past environmental and political factors and achieve sustainable growth over time." So success = more of them, It's almost as if we're discussing an investment business, and not a school. And indeed, we go on to discuss charter unit growth and enrollment trends.

We will also discuss student achievement, relying on API (Academic Performance Index) scores, and we don't have time right now to discuss how much baloney is stuffed into this mostly-standardized-test-scores measure. But GPSN wants you to know that the charters do better at the API stuff, mostly, pretty much. The state also has a special sauce for setting predictions of outcomes, and while I'm not super-familiar, it sounds like one more variation on "We're going to compare your students to other imaginary students over here that are more or less the same even if they are imaginary."

At any rate, charters are awesome. This report does not address the possibility that charters are creaming and skimming, nor does it discuss the value in regular, intense test prep. Charter are awesome. Awesome! And CREDO, a group that exists primarily to promote charters, says so, too, so it must be true. So many days of learning (whatever the hell that is) are added.


If you believe that waitlists actually provide meaningful data, we have some charts for you. Everyone else can just move on. Unless you want to look at the map that highlights some great market opportunities.

Things We'll Need Our Friendly Elected Officials To Do

The California Charter School Association has helpfully dragged the LAUSD into court so that judges can 'splain to them that they have to give us whatever we want. Kewl, because we're going to need space for all those super seats.

We made some headway on the last school board elections. We just need to get more people involved in the elected school board who will roll over and let us stomp them in the head.

The public support is growing. As proof, they offer a picture of a rally. You know, the kind where charter operators get all their parents to come, or else. The data point GPSN likes? There are now more charter parents than unionized teachers.

Any Obstacles?

GPSN spots a few.

Real estate and builders are needed to get enough snazzy charters built and filled. But the state's tax-exempt bond market is opening up to charter operators, so that's a plus.

Human capital. Yes, that's what they call it. They are going to need many, many teachers, even as the teacher pipeline in California is choking and sputtering (teacher ed program enrollment down 53%). The charters will have to compete with LAUSD for both quantity and quality (And--update-- as commenter Jack Covey notes below, the LAUSD actually got back in the game by actually giving teachers a range, and free marketeers never want to apply the free market to teacher salaries). Charters look to "high quality providers," by which they mean TFA and Relay Academy, so it's possible they have some different definition of "high-quality"-- anyway, TFA is tanking and Relay hasn't arrived in LA yet, so charters are stuck trying to hire actual teachers with actual training. Of course, some charter outfits like Aspire are creating their own fake teaching credentials, but those don't serve the larger cause.

Also, finding principals will be a real bear.

GPSN wants to double the charter market in eight years, but by gum, they just won't sacrifice quality to do it. So funding. And closing down crappy charters that don't belong to the Right People.

Let's Talk Money

Speaking of sustainability.

Remember when a charter's selling point was that it could do more with less. That was apparently not in LA, where, if I'm reading these charts correctly, GPSN will need almost a half a billion-with-a-b dollars of outside money over the next eight years to pull this off (excluding any potential overruns, which I'm sure won't be an issue when building a few hundred new schools). In fact, late in this report, it starts to become clear that this is, in part, an investors prospectus.

That half-a-billion includes funds for building schools, "scaling" schools, getting teachers (this includes pumping up TFA and Relay), recruiting principals, organizing and advocacfy, and fund management (because you don't just stick $500 million in a desk drawer somewhere).

I am now really curious about what outside investors are spending on LA charters right now, but clearly, LA will be one more place where the effect charter schools will be to raise the total cost of the complete school system a whole hell of a lot. I'll say it again-- only charter school operators believe you can live in two homes for the cost of one.

They have many hopes, including parent groups, CCSA, and Emma Bloomberg's new Big Data group, Murmuration-- plus the United Way and other community groups who will, apparently, contribute to replacing a public school system with private profiteering.

Okay, "replace" is too strong a word. Fifty percent of LA students will be allowed to stay in the public schools, or whatever is left of them after the charters have sucked them dry. But don't worry-- I'm sure that the charters will call first dibs on the most challenging, difficult, expensive students in the system, taking on the challenges of students with special needs, English language learners, and the most vulnerable students, leaving the public school with the strongest, most capable, most resilient students in the city.

Bottom Line

I am absolutely bowled over at the magnitude of this power grab. Imagine if Broad and his friends said, "We're not happy with the LAPD, so we're going to hire and train our own police force, answerable to nobody but us, to cover some parts of the city. Also, the taxpayers have to foot the bill." Or if they decided to get their own army? Or their own mayor?

Who does this? Who says, "We can't get enough control over the elected officials in this branch of government, so we will just shove them out of the way and replace them with our own guys, who won't bug us by answering to Those People."

This is not just about educational quality (or lack thereof), or just about how to turn education into a cash cow for a few high rollers-- this is about a hamhanded effort to circumvent democracy in a major American city. There's nothing in this plan about listening to the parents or community- only about what is going to be done to them by men with power and money. This just sucks a lot.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015




from the report:

“Of the 192 LAUSD magnet schools and centers, 37 are for gifted or highly gifted students. However when overall scores are disaggregated by gifted or highly gifted magnets, students at magnets still out-performed the charter and state of California average, when all grade levels are combined.”

“Economically disadvantaged students scored lower than non-economically disadvantaged students in charter and magnet schools, similar to LAUSD and statewide. In charter schools, economically disadvantaged students scored higher than LAUSD at all grade levels. At magnet schools, economically disadvantaged students scored higher than the LAUSD average and charter schools at every grade level.”

“Among ethnicity groups in charter schools and magnets, Asian and white students had the highest percentages meeting or exceeding standards compared to African-American and Latino students. African-American students in charters scored lower than LAUSD in grades 6, 7, and 8. For grade 6, 12% of African-American students met or exceeded standards at charter versus 15% at LAUSD. In grade 7, 12% met or exceeded standards at charters versus 14% in LAUSD. In grade 8, 9% in charters met or exceeded standards compared to 14% in LAUSD.

“All other ethnic groups in magnets scored higher than charter schools and overall LAUSD scores with the exception of grade 3 where 100% of Asian students in charters met or exceeded standards.”

“For students with disabilities, magnet schools and centers out-performed charters and the LAUSD average. An equal percentage of students met or exceeded standards in grades 6 and 11 among charters and LAUSD.”




View the report here:
View the test score data here:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


L.A. Unified's bullying tactics wound abuse victims again


by Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times Columnist |



22 Sept 2015  ::  When it comes to handling sexual misconduct by teachers, the Los Angeles Unified School District loses even when it wins.

The district was let off the hook by jurors in a lawsuit filed by a middle school girl who'd been coaxed into sex, on and off campus, by her math teacher. The teacher was sentenced to prison for the abuse in 2011. But the district was absolved of blame in the civil trial over whether it had been negligent in supervising the teacher.

Last week a state Court of Appeal threw out that verdict and blasted the tactics the district employed: blaming and shaming the 13-year-old victim by casting her as a sexual sophisticate and willing partner.

LAUSD cannot blame 14-year-old for own sexual assault, appellate court rules

"The district's position is as outrageous as it is wrong," the court declared in response to an appeal filed by the girl's lawyers.

That appellate ruling ordered a new trial and took the trial judge to task for improperly allowing evidence about the girl's sexual history and for setting the bar too high for jurors tasked with deciding whether the school district was at fault.

The mess has sparked predictable mea culpas from district officials. They fired the lawyer last fall — but only because he made light of the victim's plight in a radio interview, not because his courtroom strategy was to malign the girl.

L.A. Unified's general counsel, David Holmquist, apologized "to the young woman and her family, who were hurt by the insensitive remarks" that lawyer W. Keith Wyatt made to KPCC-FM (89.3).

But intemperate comments and hurt feelings are the fallout, not the problem.

The district's win-at-all-costs strategy is a shocking example of either indefensible ignorance or callous indifference to the vulnerability of its students.


The facts are not in dispute.

In the fall of 2010, Edison Middle School math teacher Elkis Hermida reached out on a social networking site to a 13-year-old student and became her confidant. He talked about his sexual history; she complained about how strict her parents were. That led to months of hugs and kisses when the two were alone in a classroom.

Once, the teacher summoned her to the empty classroom and they had sex behind furniture he'd arranged as a shield. Three times he drove her to motels for sex. The abuse went on for seven months, until Hermida, then 28, sent the girl, then 14, a sexually explicit nude video of himself and she showed it to a friend.

That friend told a teacher, who reported the incident to authorities. Hermida was arrested at school the next day, and allowed to plead no contest to committing a lewd act on a child. His three-year sentence translated to 16 months behind bars. He was released in November 2012 and required to register for life as a sex offender.

What is at issue now is what sentence his victim — now 18 — will serve.

Her attorneys say she needs long-term therapy to heal, and the district should pay for that because previous incidents of "unprofessional conduct" — including frequent hugging of female students — should have alerted school officials that Hermida was unfit.

The district's lawyers could have cleanly battled that claim: There had been no formal complaints and nothing overtly sexual about the young teacher's demeanor.

Instead, they tried to dirty the victim and convince the jury that the case was about a young harlot looking for a payday.

Their expert witness was a psychologist who said the girl's relationship with her teacher would make her more mature, because she'd gone "through experiences which most teenagers don't have to deal with." As if that's a good thing.

That same psychologist would testify later for the district in another case that a 9-year-old girl with a low IQ wouldn't need long-term therapy after being sexually assaulted by a boy at school because low intelligence acts as a "protective factor" that can mitigate the depression associated with trauma.

Wyatt was the attorney in that case too. But the jury saw through the blame-the-victim act and awarded the girl $1.4 million.


I understand the need for the school district to be fiscally prudent when it comes to negligence payouts. That's the coldhearted logic behind Wyatt's approach: Damages depend on the extent of the injury and the assignment of fault.

It's more complicated to parse blame when the victim is a teenager who tells friends about a "quickie" with her teacher than when the victims are dozens of third-graders tricked into sampling their teacher's semen, as occurred in the $140-million Miramonte case.

But no matter how you feel about the school system being on the hook for teachers' misconduct, painting an eighth-grade victim as an equal partner in sex with her teacher is unconscionable.

That's precisely what Wyatt did: "So what we're here for essentially is to talk about who is responsible," he told the jury. "Well the logical conclusion is Mr. Hermida and the plaintiff, two people who participated in the sexual activity."

He apologized to the girl in court "for speaking of some of her conduct in an accusatory and harsh manner, but … we're in a trial in which she's come here to ask you to pay her for doing these things. She wants to be paid for doing something like that, that she knew was wrong."

He convinced the jury that she deserved nothing for her pain.

I only hope the district took a similarly hard line with the lawyer when his bill arrived — and refused to pay him for doing something that he should have known is wrong.


By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Original Article: The Great Public Schools Now Initiative: WE WANT ½ OF LAUSD STUDENTS IN CHARTERS IN 8 YRS REPORT SAYS + full report


Charter schools

Teacher Michelle Lee, center, works with students in a kindergarten class at Metro Charter Elementary. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)


21 Sept 2015  9:5PM  ::  Critics of Los Angeles public schools have outlined an ambitious $490-million plan to place half of the city's students into charter schools over the next eight years, a controversial gambit that backers hope will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the nation.

According to a 44-page memo obtained by The Times, the locally based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates want to create 260 new charter schools, enrolling at least 130,000 students.

Organizers of the effort have declined to publicly release details of the plan. But the memo lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.

The Great Public Schools Now Initiative

The Great Public Schools Now Initiative

The document cites numerous foundations and individuals who could be tapped for funding. In addition to the Broad Foundation, the list includes the Gates, Bloomberg, Annenberg and Hewlett foundations. Among the billionaires cited as potential donors are Stewart and Lynda Resnick, major producers of mandarin oranges, pistachios and pomegranates; Irvine Co. head Donald Bren; entertainment mogul David Geffen; and Tesla Motors' Elon Musk.

L.A. Unified already has more charters than any school system in the country, representing about 16% of total enrollment. Charters are independently run, publicly financed schools that are exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses; most are nonunion.

But the proposed expansion would mean more than doubling the number of charter schools in Los Angeles, a feat that even backers say might prove demanding.

The push is already generating resistance from the school district as well as from powerful L.A. Unified employee unions.

Critics say charter schools create greater inequities because they frequently draw more-motivated and higher-achieving students and leave traditional schools worse off.

The situation, they say, leaves district schools with less money to serve a larger percentage of students with behavior problems and disabilities and those who need to learn English. And in some areas with active charter programs, traditional schools don't have enough students.

"While I continue to support and be proud of the successful charter schools we have in Los Angeles, this plan is not one for transforming our public schools, but an outline for a hostile takeover," said school board President Steve Zimmer.

Others, however, argue that parents deserve more options for their children, especially those who have to deal with struggling schools.

"We must reflect the urgency that exists in our district to do everything we can do to support more learning and achievement for our youth," board member Monica Garcia said. "The thing I want to extinguish is illiteracy and poverty."

Charters have proved popular with parents. The expansion campaign is shaping up to be something of a referendum on L.A. Unified's performance. The memo repeatedly criticizes the district for failing to prepare students for college and careers, robbing Los Angeles of a better-trained, smarter workforce.

"The opportunity is ripe for a significant expansion of high-quality charter schools in Los Angeles," the memo states. "Thanks to the strength of its charter leaders and teachers, as well as its widespread civic and philanthropic support, Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to create the largest, highest-performing charter sector in the nation. Such an exemplar would serve as a model for all large cities to follow."

The Broad Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is "transforming K-12 urban public education," did not respond to requests for comment. (The Broad Foundation has granted funds to the California Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles to support Education Matters, a new Times digital initiative devoted to more in-depth reporting on schools.)

Last month, when The Times first revealed that a charter expansion effort was underway, the Broad Foundation called it an early, exploratory phase, subject to change. At the time, the plan outlined in the memo was circulating among supporters. The draft obtained by The Times dates from June.

The memo paints a bleak picture of L.A. Unified, saying that it is unable to "improve academic performance, resolve its financial deficit, and provide stable leadership.... The problem is particularly acute in certain neighborhoods where parents have zero quality options at some grade levels."

The document cites research and data showing that charters have achieved higher student test scores. Charters also have created competition that has led to some improvement within L.A. Unified, the memo states.

Dealing with political hurdles is a key element of the expansion plan, for which backers want to set aside $21.4 million. The money would pay for outreach to parents living in neighborhoods with low-performing schools or with charters that have waiting lists. There also would be a legislative strategy to "undo regulatory interference" from government that could hinder charter growth. And there are plans, too, for a "telling the story" effort to engage the media and counter opposition.

An important ally for the charter push, according to the memo, could be the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and other community groups it can rally.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines defended the work of district employees.

"I believe we should be celebrating our successes in both regular schools and charter schools and learning from each other, not tearing one or the other down," he said.

A few hundred teachers protested Sunday at the new downtown Broad museum against rapid charter expansion.

The timing of the charter plan is troubling, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

She said the district has made recent strides, "but instead of building on this success ... Mr. Broad and his allies are trying to advance a plan that would destabilize the second-largest school district in America."

Adding so many new charter schools so quickly will take huge sums of money. But even if that money can be raised, charter backers must find enough strong educators to make it work.

"The challenge will be to find great operators who can grow that quickly and maintain quality," said Peter Cunningham, executive director of Education Post, a Chicago-based nonprofit. "They'll have to import a lot of talent. They'll have to develop a lot of talent."

  • Times staff writer Zahira Torres contributed to this report.

Monday, September 21, 2015


from Politico Morning Ed for 21 Sept 2015

SHUTDOWN WATCH: Lawmakers have 10 days left to figure out a way to avoid a government shutdown and right now, there's no clear path to keeping the government open come Oct. 1. Republican leaders have been considering using procedural maneuvering to decouple the budget from controversial efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding, but conservatives have balked [] at that idea, calling it a "ruse" that would leave Planned Parenthood unscathed. With few legislating days left - and much of the capital's attention this week focused on the Pope's visit to Washington D.C. - work to keep the government funded is likely to come down to the wire.

  • Remember: Federal funds for most of K-12 and higher education are sent well in advance, so don't expect most public schools or colleges to feel the immediate burn of a shutdown if there is one. But a shutdown will likely be devastating in some corners of the education world. Last time around, Head Start programs serving thousands of young children had to close because they didn't get their annual grants. And some schools that rely on Impact Aid, a program that isn't forward-funded, had to take out loans just to keep the lights on.
  • The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing government agencies' shutdown plans, an OMB official tells Morning Education. All agencies were supposed to submit updated plans in early August for how they would manage a shutdown, part of a planning exercise that "is not dependent on the current status of appropriations," according to the OMB official.
  • See the Education Department's 2013 plan for how officials would manage during a shutdown:


from Politico Morning Ed for 21 Sept 2015

The entire membership of the Seattle Education Association approved a new contract on Sunday, cementing an end to a strike that delayed the start of school for about a week. The teachers union's executive board and representative assembly approved [ ] the agreement with Seattle Public Schools earlier this week, allowing school to start last Thursday.

Included in the agreement:

  • New policies to reduce over-testing, 
  • base salary increases for teachers and
  • additional staff to reduce teacher workloads.
  • Student test scores will also no longer be tied to teacher evaluations.


By RAVI SOMAIYA | New York Times |

Civic and business leaders have complained about The Los Angeles Times’s out-of-town ownership from time to time over the last 15 years, since its purchase by the Tribune Company. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

SEPT. 20, 2015  ::  LOS ANGELES — In January, Jack Griffin, the chief executive of Tribune Publishing Company, took his senior management team to visit The Los Angeles Times, the jewel in his company’s portfolio of newspapers.

At a reception at the newspaper, and a dinner downtown, there was one notable absentee — The Times’s new publisher, Austin Beutner. At meetings the next day, he showed up for just an hour, to make a presentation on his strategy for the paper — one squarely at odds with that of its corporate parent.

Tribune has long pushed to centralize virtually all operations and direct them from headquarters in Chicago, running its newspapers as a group.

Mr. Beutner, 55, a prominent Angeleno who made a fortune in finance and who once served as deputy mayor, was outlining an independent path for The Times that was relentlessly local and focused on better technology, new sections and events.

He was forging close relationships with Los Angeles civic and business leaders who wanted a vibrant Los Angeles Times as part of the fabric of the city. He had driven the acquisition of The San Diego Union-Tribune, part of a plan to dominate journalism in California.


Austin Beutner was dismissed as publisher of The Los Angeles Times after a year in the job. Credit Kirk Mckoy/Los Angeles Times, via Associated Press

Two weeks ago, he was called to a conference room and fired.

His departure, from a position he had held only a year, widened a divide between The Times and its corporate parent. In Chicago, executives saw him as imperious and defiant, imperiling a centralization strategy that had recently saved the company $75 million, according to a figure it provided The New York Times.

But to many at The Los Angeles Times, Mr. Beutner and his plan represented ambition and optimism after more than a decade of management turnover, layoffs and cost-cutting that had demoralized many employees and reduced the newsroom from 1,200 to its current staff of about 500. The strategy, focused on growth, had quickly yielded more than $1 million in new revenue, and looked poised to yield more, said three people with knowledge of the company’s finances.

Newsrooms everywhere are given to apocalyptic predictions of their own demise. But more than a dozen current and former Times and Tribune staff members — both in the newsroom and on the business side — suggested that The Times was facing a crisis more dire than any it had previously weathered. It has been battered by cutbacks for so long, they said, that it cannot wait any longer for the company’s strategy, which has shown few signs of working, to bear fruit. It must grow its way to the future, they said, not slash.

Their concern is shared by some of the most powerful people in Los Angeles, many of whom Mr. Beutner numbers as friends. They have risen up to unleash what seems like years of pent-up frustration. “Tribune has just destroyed the paper over the years — they sucked the blood out of it — and only over the last year, since Austin became publisher, did it start to feel like a hometown newspaper again,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor in whose administration Mr. Beutner served as deputy mayor.

Mr. Villaraigosa is one of 50 local leaders who signed a letter to Tribune Publishing protesting Mr. Beutner’s firing. The City Council sent its own letter, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution along similar lines. Hispanic groups have expressed concern that Tribune’s Chicago-based management team has little understanding of one of the most important constituencies in Los Angeles.

The Times is not the first newspaper in a major American city to be threatened by industrywide challenges. It used to be family owned, with so much money it had a Picasso collection, and is now part of a publicly owned company, staring at precipitous advertising revenue declines.

Its battle with its ownership, however, has been singularly relentless. Two former top editors (including Dean Baquet, the current executive editor at The New York Times) were forced to leave after refusing to cut jobs. Many Times journalists have never accepted an ownership structure that they felt subjected the paper to the pressure of quarterly earnings at the expense of its journalism.

The former Tribune Company, which spent years in bankruptcy, had long been troubled and had a reputation for making job cuts long before Mr. Griffin arrived in 2014. Tribune Publishing was spun off later that year; the parent company, now known as Tribune Media, took profit-making digital and television assets, and the newspapers’ real estate holdings. The publishing unit took on $350 million in debt.

Those protesting the treatment of The Times see a potential savior in Eli Broad, the billionaire Los Angeles philanthropist who has long wanted to buy the paper but has been repeatedly rebuffed. In the wake of Mr. Beutner’s ouster, Mr. Broad is preparing to try again, his friends say.

In an interview at Tribune Publishing’s New York offices, Mr. Griffin said that though the board would consider any offer, he did not want to see The Times sold. It is vital to his strategy of reducing duplication and sharing content and services across eight major newspapers and several smaller ones. The changes will take time, and require “a team of people rowing in the same direction,” an apparent allusion to Mr. Beutner’s defiance.

Six people familiar with the newspaper’s finances, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs or of complicating an already difficult relationship between the newspaper and its parent, said further layoffs were imminent. They will be on the order of $10 million in savings, or about 80 jobs, these people said, and will fall mostly on the newsroom.

When asked if his strategy would increase revenue quickly enough to preclude further layoffs, Mr. Griffin said, “I didn’t say that.” He declined to comment further. Tribune Publishing also declined to make Timothy E. Ryan, who succeeded Mr. Beutner as publisher of The Times and The Union-Tribune, available for an interview.

Jack Griffin, Tribune Publishing’s chief executive, said The Los Angeles Times was vital to corporate strategy. Credit Dominick Reuter for The Chicago Tribune

Mr. Beutner declined to comment, citing legal restrictions. In a Facebook post on the day he was fired, he said that “cost-cutting alone is not a path to survival in the face of continued declines in print revenue and fierce competition in the digital world.” Friends say he remains deeply engaged in The Times’s struggles, and is in close contact with the city’s civic leadership.

As the public face of Tribune Publishing, and the man who helped design and execute its current strategy, Mr. Griffin, 55, has drawn most of the criticism from opponents in Los Angeles. Mr. Beutner and Mr. Griffin had a relationship, said those who know them both, that was somewhere between nonexistent and hostile.

Mr. Griffin emphasized he came from a newspaper family (“I grew up a news junkie,” he said), and worked as a reporter and then as an executive at a series of publishing companies, most recently Time Inc. He left Time Inc. shortly after he joined, in 2011, amid complaints about his management style.

When asked about Mr. Griffin’s tenure, John Huey, editor in chief of the company’s magazines at the time, declined to be interviewed, but provided a statement. He disputed  the characterization, aired by Mr. Griffin’s supporters at the time, that he had been done in by the old guard.

“He was welcomed with good will, but when faced with the reality of a large, complex business like Time Inc. he had no clue what to do except spend millions on multiple consulting firms,” Mr. Huey wrote. “He was very threatened by strong players who pushed back so he replaced them with small-timers who, like he, weren’t up to the task.”

Time Warner, Time Inc.’s parent company at the time, “had to get rid of him,” Mr. Huey said. “He was impossible for those above and below him, and he was wrecking the place.”

In response, Tribune Publishing provided an email sent to Mr. Griffin by Jeffrey Bewkes, the chief executive of Time Warner, praising his performance. “You’re doing a great job, and almost everybody at Time Inc. knows it,” Mr. Bewkes wrote. “I also want to convey how very impressed my executives here at Time Warner are by your leadership and what you’ve accomplished in just a few months.”

Mr. Bewkes dismissed Mr. Griffin about three months later. Time Warner declined to comment on the email to Mr. Griffin, but referred to a statement it put out at the time of his dismissal, unusually frank for such circumstances, which said that “his leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner.”

Tina Brown, the former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, who has worked with Mr. Griffin and admires him, said that Mr. Bewkes made a mistake in firing Mr. Griffin, whom she said might have been undercut by people with vested interests. “I’ve found working with him that he’s so smart,” she said. “He’s a great, decisive guy, a very, very hardheaded guy.”

His strategy at Tribune Publishing, Mr. Griffin said in an interview on Friday, is simply the one he was instructed to carry out by the Tribune Company. “For better or worse, the company was set up as a platform company with shared services to build and grow and consolidate,” he said.

The board has affirmed its commitment to him, he said, and he intends to continue with his five-point transformation plan, which was recently described in a conference call about company earnings as “one, accelerating our transition to digital; two, diversifying our revenue base; three, accelerating our national sales initiatives; four, maintaining a disciplined cost structure; and five, pursuing accretive acquisitions.”

The current and former Times and Tribune staff members — who requested anonymity because of the fraught relationship between The Times and its owner — said that they viewed the plan as vague and ineffective. They point out that after a decade or more the centralization strategy has not shown signs of turning the newspapers around.

They also lamented the company’s digital technology was dated — specifically, among other things, that it was complex for readers to subscribe online, where other publications have more seamless systems, and that editors must file a corporate ticket to Chicago to make a change on the home page.

Timothy Ryan became publisher after Mr. Beutner's dismissal. Credit Gene Sewwney Jr./The Baltimore Sun, via Associated Press

After the company introduced a new website infrastructure, known as NGUX, unique viewers to The Times’s website declined by 9 percent, and page views over all by 17 percent, according to an internal document from early 2015 obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Griffin said that there was no magic switch he could flip to make technology better, but that he was working on it, and was seeking to hire people to improve it. A company spokesman said Tribune Publishing remained profitable.

Even by the low standards of a troubled industry, Tribune Publishing has struggled. Its stock price has dropped from a high of over $23 to about $10 since the spinoff. The Los Angeles Times is responsible for about 40 percent of the company’s newspaper revenue, and must bear the same proportion of corporate costs, despite disagreements about strategy. Total revenue for The Times, according to internal figures from earlier this year, is about $480 million. The profit margin, said three people familiar with the newspaper’s finances, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide confidential information, was about 13 percent.

Projections suggest that revenue at The Times will drop as much as 10 percent, based on declines in print, before the impact of any acquisitions. It is possible, those people said, that the newspaper can cut its way to profitability again for another year or so. But it is not clear what will happen after that. Every round of cuts threatens to diminish the quality of the paper, employees said.

“The last time they cut they hit bone,” said one journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being included in the layoffs. “This time they are going to end up cutting right through.”

Civic and business leaders have complained about the newspaper’s out-of-town ownership in fits and starts for 15 years, ever since Tribune Company’s $8 billion takeover of Times Mirror from the Los Angeles-based Chandler family. But this flare-up has a different tone — it is more biting and more public and involves fond memories, perhaps a bit time-warped, of the pre-Tribune era.

Mr. Beutner’s firing also seems to have struck a nerve because he is a member of the city’s elite. In interviews, local leaders pined for the days when the Chandlers ran the paper, and they had a sympathetic ear in the publisher’s suite. “At least the Chandlers cared about L.A.,” Mr. Villaraigosa said.

It is unclear whether city leaders, for all their agitation, can effect any genuine change. Still, David Fleming, founder of the Los Angeles County Business Federation, and other leaders who signed the letter to Tribune, including Mickey Kantor, a lawyer and former United States commerce secretary, said they were optimistic that the latest outcry would lead The Times back into local hands — with most still pointing to Mr. Broad as the white knight. “I know Eli is still interested,” Mr. Fleming said.

Mr. Kantor said he believed that Mr. Broad intended, if possible, to reinstall Mr. Beutner as the paper’s publisher. That path seems problematic, given that Tribune has already rebuffed Mr. Broad several times. Others close to Mr. Beutner and Mr. Broad admitted that they had no magic bullet even if the newspaper could be acquired, but said that it must be run as a civic trust, not as one branch of a struggling company.

Mr. Ryan, a longtime Tribune executive with no ties to Los Angeles, has been thrust into the middle of the fight. Many in the newsroom doubt that Tribune Publishing can give him the tools to elevate the paper’s fortunes. A national sales strategy, said one person involved at a strategic level, could work if Tribune Publishing were truly national, but the company does not have newspapers in large areas of the country.

Michael Rooney, the company’s chief revenue officer, disagreed. “I think the plan is perfectly aligned to grow revenues. I will tell you that our goal is to be print profitable and digitally dominant,” he said.

All the newspapers benefit from being sold to advertisers as a package, nationally, and can keep local staffs for local sales, he said. He cited the fact that The Times is in the biggest auto market in America, and said it helped the other papers, which include The Hartford Courant and The Orlando Sentinel. When Mr. Rooney was asked how the other papers helped The Times, a Tribune spokesman ended the interview.

In the interview Friday, Mr. Griffin was asked whether, were he an employee at one of his newspapers, he could see why he might want it to be owned by a local billionaire rather than Tribune Publishing. “I can,” he said.

When asked why, he cited the public debate on the matter and said, “It seems to have been made pretty evident." But he said that he had a responsibility to the company as a whole, not just The Times. Pointing to a stack of the company’s various newspapers in the middle of a conference table, he said, “All that’s at stake, too.”

Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on September 21, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Firing at Los Angeles Times Focuses Discontent .

“The Great Public Schools Now Initiative”: BACKERS WANT HALF OF LAUSD STUDENTS IN CHARTER SCHOOLS IN EIGHT YEARS, REPORT SAYS …w/link to full report

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Gala

The foundation funded by philanthropist Eli Broad is working on a plan to rapidly expand charter schools in Los Angeles. A draft obtained by The Times put the goal at 50% of public school student enrollment.  (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Sept 21, 2015  1:18 PDT  ::  Backers outlined an ambitious strategy to place half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District into charter schools over the next eight years, a move they said would serve as a model for the rest of the nation, according to documents obtained by The Times.

The 44-page report is dated June 2015 and outlines a campaign of fundraising and building political awareness aimed at reaching the goal, which the report said would require $490 million.


The Great Public Schools Now Initiative/click for full 44 page report

The report cited numerous foundations and individuals who could be tapped to raise money, including the Bill and Melinda Gates, Bloomberg, Annenberg and Hewlett organizations. Among the individuals cited as potential targets for fundraising were Eli Broad, Irvine Co. head Donald Bren, former entertainment mogul David Geffen and Tesla's Elon Musk.

It also suggested a strategy of grassroots organizing and civic engagement designed to generate more interest among parents in charter schools.

L.A. Unified already has the largest charter school program in the country, representing about 16% of total enrollment. But getting to 50% would mean creating 260 charter schools that would provide 130,000 seats, the report said.

“The opportunity is ripe for a significant expansion of high-quality charter schools in Los Angeles,” the report states in its executive summary. “Thanks to the strength of its charter leaders and teachers, as well as its widespread civic and philanthropic support, Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to create the largest, highest-performing charter sector in the nation. Such an exemplar would serve as a model for all large cities to follow.”

Charters are independently run, publicly financed schools that are exempt from some rules that govern traditional schools; most are non-union.

The Times broke news of the charter expansion plan in August, relying on confidential sources who cited the 50% figure. When contacted last month, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation said the charter plan is in an early, exploratory phase, but declined to provide specific information.

The June draft talks of massive fundraising to affect three areas: facilities, talent and political climate.

“Los Angeles schools are currently on a trajectory to create around 62,000 seats,” the plan states. “With an added investment of $490 million, however, charter schools should be able to create an additional 68,000, reaching the goal of 130,000 seats by 2023.”

For years, the growth of charters has been a point of contention in Los Angeles and across the nation. Locally, the schools have proved popular with parents, contributing to their growth.

Their increase in number also has been fueled by grant support from the Obama administration and philanthropy, including from the Broad Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Broad and his wife have invested $144 million in charters in L.A. and elsewhere, according to their foundation.

A few hundred teachers on Sunday protested against rapid charter expansion at the new downtown Broad museum featuring the Broads’ extensive modern art holdings.

"Charter schools are destroying public education," retired kindergarten teacher Cheryl Ortega said at the demonstration. "Mr. Broad wants to own 50% of our schools.... That's untenable."

In a response a spokeswoman for Broad said, "As families demand high-quality public school options -- and more students want to attend public charter schools, we want to support them in meeting that demand. Our only interest is in supporting the growth of high-quality public schools."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

LA Times Education Matters: THIS IS WHY I SEND MY SON TO PRIVATE SCHOOL + someone else’s 2¢

By Michelle Maltais in the Education Matters blog |

Archer School for Girls

College pennants line the hallway at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Sept 15, 2015  ::  Did you see the test scores last week?

This is why I send my son to private school.

Sure, the scores were said to be lower than the year before -- and yes, this was a baseline year -- but it was something else that triggered that response in me: The achievement gap.

It was no surprise, really, that the scores would be lower than last year's. Many officials warned us ahead of time. The head of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nonprofit group that represents the country's state education leaders, explained to The Times’ Howard Blume: "This is going to show the real achievement gap. We are asking more out of our kids, and I think that's a good thing."

OK, asking more sounds like a good thing on the surface.

But the real question is, will that be carried out across the board?

Or could black and brown students be allowed to continue to slip because expectations aren’t that high for them to begin with?

One thing I continue to learn as a mother is that kids perform to the level of expectation. Set the bar high, and they will strive to reach it. They don't know anything other than to reach and reach further -- if that's what's expected of them. Expect them to fail, and they will.

My 4-year-old is just starting to navigate all of the adventures that come with going to school. He’s an amazing little sponge, as all kids at that age are. I can see him, with our guidance and that of teachers, making connections and constructing for himself a floor, a foundation on which the rest of his academic experience, curiosity and love of learning will stand. My job is to push and block and fight to make sure he -- and later, his baby sister -- gets the best possible education.

The challenges of raising and educating a black male in a major American city are not lost on me.

We live in a predominantly black community and checked out the schools nearby. Everyone in the parenting circles I'm connected to extols the virtues of magnet and charter schools. But getting into those schools is largely a matter of chance.

The neighborhood magnet left us a little cold: The children at this "high ability gifted magnet" are performing at grade level, the director told us. According to the LAUSD website, "Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability Magnets serve students who demonstrate ability to work two years above grade level in academic subjects."

That doesn't inspire much confidence in that system, either.

The case for higher expectations

Getting the best possible education for kids can be an uphill climb for many families, whether looking at public or private options. (Michelle Maltais)

My husband and I are mostly the products of private education. We grew up hearing how our struggling middle-class moms scrimped and sacrificed to give their kids the best education. To a large degree, when it comes to the education we are responsible for providing our children today, that narrative is ingrained in our DNA.

From kindergarten through eighth grade, I went to Palm Valley School in Palm Springs. Though I was the only black student in every one of my classes, all of us were expected to perform to a level of excellence. My next four years, I went to a public high school that opened the year I started. What a different experience.

Straight from private school, knowing nothing else, I was an annoying overachiever my freshman year. But lowered expectations in most of the public classrooms eventually had a detrimental effect on me by my senior year.

A typical teenager distracted by all the things that come with the fabulous life of a 17-year-old, I turned in a really substandard essay in my English class.

At a conference with my mom, an English professor herself, the teacher said he understood our challenge: It must be rough for me working two jobs to support my family.

While that is a reality in some families, this assumption was preposterous in my case. He never really asked.

First, I had a weekend job at a movie theater -- primarily so that I could buy my own clothes and gas up the car. Second, this was an honors/AP English class. The performance standards should have been higher -- for all students. I was excused from the expectation of high standards and given a pass in the name of "understanding" instead of digging deeper to find out what was really at play.

Later in the year, when I submitted an essay that was really up to my standard of performance, that same teacher accused me of cheating. Lowered expectations.

I want more for my son. I expect more of my son -- and so should his school.

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I was in school. And that was Palm Desert. This is Los Angeles -- a diverse, overpopulated and overtaxed school system that struggles to even keep the air conditioning current and functional.

Yes, much has changed. However, the basic truths haven’t: Schools are still struggling to lift performance across the board. Teachers are still overworked and underpaid -- and underappreciated. Resources are still hard to come by.

Black and low-income children overall are consistently still at the bottom of the achievement list. And, no, most of them can't afford the luxury of a private education. I get that. It's hard for my family, who can't afford it either, but it's certainly harder for others. That is real.

While state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson might be "encouraged that many students are at or near achievement standards," this mother is sobered by that.

The fact is most students in the state are falling short of learning targets and are not on track to succeed in college. Black students have traditionally performed more poorly on these tests. They aren't expected to reach the same level of achievement as the rest of their class. That just will not do in my home.

That lowered performance bar has a detrimental effect on expectations -- those of the teachers, those of the students themselves and collectively and certainly of the system overall.

The fact that the bar is only now being set higher overall doesn’t really strengthen my confidence as a parent that the education system will challenge, encourage and expect or even consider excellence from my brown-skinned children.

There are no do-overs or reboots, and our primary job as parents is to lay a solid foundation for our children’s future.

Sure, it’s not all up to the schools to spark and develop the drive to strive for excellence. That should but doesn't always happen at home, too. But the place our kids spend the majority of their days cannot be the force working to undo all of our work as parents. We must work together as a team, setting and facilitating high expectations.

As Antonio Villaraigosa said of his family's choice to move from public to Catholic school when he was running for mayor: "We want our kids to have the best education they can. If I can get that education in a public school, I'll do it, but I won't sacrifice my children any more than I could ask you to do the same."

Put bluntly: My kids are not an experiment for a foundering system.



The ever pseudonymous “Quentin Compson” writes to the Times |

Okay. My head is spinning.

The LA TIMES has gone beyond pathological in its take-no-prisoners public school war.

Michelle Maltais has a four-year-old whom she will not deign pollute in a public system. She, unlike most other parents, so loves her child, she will "sacrifice" anything to give this child the "best".

Maltais looks at the test scores of public schools and sees a system that does not set high standards for kids.

She sees a school system and parents that accept mediocrity as the norm.

As we proceed sentence by sentence further in this commentary, this woman's INSUFFERABLE privilege becomes written in neon.

Columbia J-School educated Maltais looks at the kids and families who would surround her children and it obviously makes her sick. Not that they are not good, hard-working people--but definitely not people who care about education as she and her private school educated husband do. Not like private school parents.

She ticks off the problems with society that undermine the schools as if they were mere obvious nuisances--but nothing that couldn't be overcome by setting a high bar.

She ends, "Put bluntly: My kids are not an experiment for a foundering system."

Yes, your kids ARE an experiment in a foundering system. A system that culls children based on race and class from the start and is run by politicians and bankers to the detriment of these kids.

And your grotesque "take" on that society in relation to your kids propagates that system.

God speed, Ms. Maltais. You love your kids. Wish you loved ours

THE SURPRISING THING ABOUT SCHOOLS WITH LOTS OF TECHNOLOGY: The best way to use computers in schools is “moderately” + smf’s 2¢

By Joy Resmovits |LA Times |

Technology in schools doesn't always add to learning

Teacher Michelle Lee, center, works with Audrey Eckert, 6, left, and Jaqueline Hernandez, 5, at Metro Charter Elementary in downtown Los Angeles in June. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Sept 15, 2015  ::  More time spent on technology in the classroom doesn’t necessarily help kids do better in school, a new study has found.

In fact, above a certain threshold, an over-reliance on technology might actually detract from learning.

“Limited use of computers at school may be better than no use at all, but levels of computer use above the current … average are associated with significantly poorer results,” states a new report released late Monday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“Students who use computers very frequently in school don’t outperform students who use them moderately, even when we modify for social background,” OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher, said in an interview.

It’s a lesson Angelenos might want to consider as the Los Angeles Unified School District rethinks its relationship with educational technology, thanks in part to a failed attempt to provide iPads to every student districtwide. In Los Angeles, the FBI is investigating the bidding process that led to the iPad program, which now includes other devices.

Supt. Ramon Cortines decided in February that the $1.3-billion program was too expensive to continue. At the start of this school year, only one school had devices for every student because the other schools had not yet had their technology instruction plans approved by the district.

L.A. Unified chose the schools now slated to receive the devices by examining campuses and determining which schools had such minimal or outdated technology that they needed an immediate boost, or which schools were optimally positioned to incorporate new digital tools into their lessons. The district also chose schools that were part of a U.S. Justice Department settlement agreement to provide more resources to schools with large populations of black students.

A report released earlier this month found that the district still struggles with integrating devices. That LAUSD-commissioned report -- conducted by the American Institutes for Research -- found that teachers didn’t receive enough tech support, and that Wi-Fi access on campus remained inconsistent.

Now, an L.A. Unified task force is devising a technology plan for the district.

The new study is based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, an international exam given to 60,000 15-year-olds in 32 countries. OECD has previously released results on the subject tests — many Americans are familiar with these scores, as they create educational rankings between countries.

Monday’s report marks the release of the digital test associated with PISA — in general, students took the pencil-and-paper test in the morning and the computer test the afternoon of the same day.

Overall, the report finds that the best way to use computers in schools is “moderately.”

What exactly does moderately mean? Not too often, and for deliberately chosen activities. For example, as Schleicher notes, students who “practice and drill” on computers in school at least once a week perform more than 20 points below students who don’t do this.

And while some degree of browsing the Internet for assignments is helpful, performance drops significantly, on average, when it is done “almost every day” or more regularly.

Why might this be? “If you have 21st century technology added to 20th century classrooms, it might be unrelated and take opportunities away,” Schleicher said. “Schools probably haven’t become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that use technology well.”

If you have 21st century technology added to 20th century classrooms, it might be unrelated and take opportunities away. - Andreas Schleicher, OECD's education director

For example, while a school might call itself tech-savvy for having students copy and paste answers on Google to pre-fab questions on smartphones, “it won’t make kids smarter,” Schleicher said. “If it’s used on a smaller scale, which is more useful, it’s usually more interactive teaching. If you want students to become smarter than a smartphone you have to think about instructional methodology and learning environment.”

That’s another lesson for Los Angeles. Cortines has said that the district lacks a coherent way for wrapping technology into pedagogy.

According to a self-reported survey, students across OECD countries spent at least 25 minutes online every day at school. That number ranges from 58 minutes in Australia to less than 10 minutes in South Korea.

American students performed better on the reading test on screens than they did on paper. On the general PISA, the U.S. performed at the average level of OECD countries. But on the digital test, America performed slightly better than average. And on PISA’s pencil-and-paper math test, Americans performed below average. But taking the test online bumped the U.S. up to the OECD average.

“We were quite disappointed by the findings in general,” Schleicher said. “Bringing technologies to the classroom didn’t seem to be related to positive skills outcomes.” There’s a lot of investment in educational technology right now, he said, “but we haven’t gotten it right.”



This is not “just another survey”, this is the PISA/OCED Survey – the gold standard in comparing educational outcomes across nations/around the world (see blizzard of news stories below) used frequently by those who would beat-up the US education system and and American teachers.

It is also interesting (in a couriouser+couriouser way) that The Times provides links to the AIR report critical of LAUSD’s tech roll-out – which is about something else - but none to the actual survey that that this article is about – which follows.



Students, Computers and Learning


Making the Connection

In series:PISA view |

Published on September 15, 2015

Are there computers in the classroom? Does it matter? Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection examines how students’ access to and use of information and communication technology (ICT) devices has evolved in recent years, and explores how education systems and schools are integrating ICT into students’ learning experiences. Based on results from PISA 2012, the report discusses differences in access to and use of ICT – what are collectively known as the “digital divide” – that are related to students’ socio-economic status, gender, geographic location, and the school a child attends. The report highlights the importance of bolstering students’ ability to navigate through digital texts. It also examines the relationship among computer access in schools, computer use in classrooms, and performance in the PISA assessment. As the report makes clear, all students first need to be equipped with basic literacy and numeracy skills so that they can participate fully in the hyper-connected, digitised societies of the 21st century.

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    Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection (Andreas Schleicher, (Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills) from OECD Education


    Click  on the thumbnail above for the complete infographic

    Cliquez sur l'image ci-dessus pour accéder à l'infographie complète


    • The archived webinar with Andreas Schleicher Director of the Directorate for Education and Skills at the OECD and Francesco Avvisati, OECD Education Analyst,  discussing the findings from Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, is available here.



    Country notes



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