Saturday, October 31, 2009


by Cara Mia DiMassa | LA Times LANow blog

October 31, 2009 |  7:27 am -- A 16-year-old girl died after a shooting following a football game at Wilson High School in Long Beach.Two people were wounded.

Long Beach police spokeswoman Sgt. Dina Zapalski said the shooting occurred Friday night at about 10 p.m., just as people were leaving a football game between Wilson and Long Beach Polytechnic.

Zapalski said details were still sketchy. LB Report said that a 18-year-old man and a 20-year-old man sustained non-life-threatening injuries and that the gunman was still at large.

Long Beach police interviewed students and others who were in the area near 10th Street and Ximeno Avenue.

It's unclear whether the victims were students at Wilson or Poly.

PLENTY OF QUESTIONS BUT NO EASY ANSWERS IN WAKE OF GANG RAPE: Brutality of the incident at Richmond High is hard to fathom.

Campus attack

A sophomore girl was raped and beaten at this Richmond High picnic area by as many as 10 people, police say. (Noah Berger/Associated Press / October 27, 2009)

By Sandy Banks | LA Ttmes columnist

October 31, 2009 - The sense of horror seems to be fading at Richmond High -- the Northern California school that made news around the world this week after a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped outside a campus homecoming dance while a crowd of students watched but did nothing to intervene.

Local school board members in this East Bay city near Oakland want to promote safety measures -- fences, lights, security cameras -- on the drawing board for years, now about to be delivered.

Richmond High students want outsiders to stop calling them animals and savages. "We feel like they're blaming the school," an angry senior complained at a school board meeting I attended Wednesday night. "It wasn't nobody's fault," she said. "People shouldn't be pointing fingers."

And school officials are making sure to emphasize the tragedies that didn't happen.

The homecoming dance "was a success in terms of safety because nothing happened at the event," a campus police officer announced. "We have a safe environment at Richmond High."

And I wondered if that made the students feel better, as I surveyed the secluded swath of campus where the sophomore girl was raped and beaten for two hours last Saturday night while the partygoers danced in the gym.

Police said as many as 10 people participated in the attack while 20 others watched -- jeering, taking photos and messaging friends to join them.

The sideshow went on until almost midnight, when police were called by a girl whose boyfriend had turned down the invitation to come have sex with "a drunk girl." Officers found the victim cowering under a bench, half-naked, intoxicated and semiconscious.

The girl was hospitalized for four days. Five suspects face felony charges.

I've thought about the theories offered by experts this week to explain the brutality of the attack and the onlookers' passivity.

They blamed music and video games that glamorize violence; desensitized men who treat women like pieces of meat; the disengagement of young people in a world ruled by technology, where real life is what's on YouTube. Or the powerlessness these disenfranchised kids feel in their violent neighborhood and fractured families.

All of it rang true to me. But it wasn't enough, so I headed for Richmond High and found students struggling to understand how their campus had become the latest example of urban depravity.

Their theories are drawn from campus gossip and what their own lives in this working-class town have taught them.

The troublemakers at Richmond are emulating what they see in popular culture. "A lot of them, they don't think they're going to be successful," said junior Olachi Obioma. "They've already been judged, so they go with that. They drink, they smoke, they pop pills. It's the 'bad boy' culture. That's how they see themselves."

And the girls are saddled with similar pressures. "It's our mentality that's wrong," said junior Kami Baker. "Look at our pop culture. The way the girls dress, the way the guys use them for sex and the girls keep going back. . . . It's hard for some girls to rise above that."

Kami is a friend of the girl who was raped. The last time she saw her, they were dancing together at homecoming. "She looked so happy, so pretty" in a sparkly purple dress, dangling earrings and silver heels.

"People are saying it's her fault because she got drunk. But that could have been me. They beat her up and no one did anything to help her."

Explain that, I asked the students I talked to. And their explanations were as good as the experts':

The kids who watched were scared to tell, afraid that "snitching" would make them targets.

Or they thought the girl was a willing participant; that it might be a gang initiation ritual. Guys get "jumped in" to gangs, girls get "sexed in," some said.

Or they didn't intervene because they didn't know the girl and didn't feel compelled to help a stranger. On a big, racially mixed campus like Richmond, you stick with your own and mind your business.

Or, they were simply so shocked their minds went blank.

"Maybe they were just caught in the moment," suggested Olachi, who wore a "Stop Violence Against Women" button pinned to her backpack.

She wasn't at the dance and didn't know the victim, but believes she would have tried to stop the attack. "I'm surprised that no one went and got a security guard," she said. "But maybe people didn't know what to do. Because we never thought this would happen. So we never learned about it."


I thought about all those sexual harassment classes and date rape warnings and "no means no" slogans we offer up to our sons and daughters. While they are binge-drinking, hooking up and freak dancing.

How, when confronted with such an obvious violation of humanity, could so many teenagers fall so short and feel so unashamed about it?

The students I talked to after the fact at Richmond High all said they would have intervened. And yet, none of them denounced the kids who didn't.

I sensed they couldn't reconcile the conflict between their ideals and their reality.

And we can't solve all their problems with taller fences, brighter lights and tighter security.

Kami Baker said she was friendly not just with the victim, but with one of the jailed suspects as well.

"He was a genuinely nice guy," she said. She'd tutored him in English class for one semester, two years back. "He was quiet, kind of shy."

The victim knew him too, she said. And when police found her stripped, beaten and violated, the boy was there.

"I just don't get it," Kami said.

Related stories

From other L.A. sources
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NAUGHTY ACROSTIC IN GOVERNOR’S VETO MESSAGE: What are the odds? (A lesson in statistical analysis – I swear)

By Ashley Harrell in San FranciscoWeekly News blog

Wed., Oct. 28 2009 @ 4:59PM



In examining Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's letter to the California State Assembly in which the letters I F-U-C-K Y-O-U appear vertically down the left-hand side, it is hard to imagine that it could have happened randomly.

The letter purportedly explains Schwarzenegger's refusal to sign AB 1176 -- an ordinary piece of legislation regarding the Port of San Francisco's finances -- which happened to be sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who recently told the governator to "kiss my gay ass." Motive? Check.

In all seriousness, we wondered what the chances were that the letters "I FUCK YOU" ended up on the page via sheer coincidence. So we called a few math professors.

Stephen Devlin, the chair of the math department at the University of San Francisco, got excited about the challenge. The first thing he had to do was estimate how frequently the letters in question generally appear at the beginning of words.

"I was very friendly to our governor, here," Devlin said. He assumed that F, U, C, K, Y, O, and U start words about 10 percent of the time, when really some of them probably only appear at the beginning 2 or 3 percent of the time.   

Next, Devlin calculated the chances that each of those letters would appear in order at the beginning of seven lines of the same missive by raising 10 percent to the seventh power. That comes out to one in 10 million. (Devin felt that starting a letter with I was very common, so didn't factor it into his calculations. If he had, the chance of a random I FUCK YOU would have been one in 100 million).

"Not surprisingly, it's virtually impossible for this to happen," Devlin said.

He didn't think it was necessary to consider the well-placed blank lines in-between the I and FUCK and the FUCK and YOU. We, however, thought that called for more calculations.

Gregory McColm, associate professor of mathematics at the University of South Florida, was willing to go there. "Oh good heavens," he said, upon viewing the letter in question. Then he mentioned something about Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold-Bug" and the frequency of letters, and eventually came up with same initial calculations as Devlin.

McColm, however, opted to include the "I" and go with one in 100 million. Then he did some fast figuring using something called "combinatorics" to account for the fact that the blank lines showed up in the right places to space out I FUCK YOU. McColm's ballpark figure of all this randomly occurring came out to one in 2 billion.

So you're saying there's a chance?

Friday, October 30, 2009


by Howard Blume| LA Times LA Now blog

October 29, 2009 | 11:39 am -- Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has asked his chief financial officer to study the possibility of shortening the school year to offset part of an expected shortfall of at least $500 million, The Times has learned. 

The strategy, if adopted for the 2010-11 school year, would run counter both to the direction of national reform efforts and to the wishes of Cortines, who agrees with research touting the benefits of an extended academic calendar.

"You know I fought fiercely for a longer school year and a longer school day," Cortines said.

At this week's school board meeting, Cortines said he had no alternative  but to consider all options. He added that some strategies had to remain off the table. He’s unwilling, for example, to make class sizes larger in middle and high schools. Classes are too large already, he said. Nor would employee furlough days be sufficient to make up the dollar shortfall. Cortines also stipulated that he would not shorten the school year for overcrowded, year-round schools, which operate on overlapping schedules that reduce each student's school year by 17 days.

Furlough days and shortening the school year would have to be negotiated with employee unions, said district spokeswoman Lydia Ramos. Cortines will review the internal analysis from Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly when he returns from a weeklong trip to China, which began today, Ramos said.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


By Larry Sand | Op-Ed in the LA Daily News

10/20 -- MUCH has been written about the "deal with the devil" made by Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines and United Teachers of Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy. It seems that Cortines and Duffy met in July to discuss the fate of about 2,000 teachers laid off in June due to the budget crisis.

Because the system is based on seniority, the newest hires were the first to lose their full-time classroom positions. Concerned about losing these young teachers to other professions entirely, Cortines made the infamous deal with Duffy.

It stipulates that the recently laid-off teachers would be given priority as substitutes over the system's existing 6,000 permanent day-to-day substitutes regardless of seniority. The regular subs screamed foul, claiming that Duffy went outside the contract and sold them out.

They insisted that they were valuable members of the educational community and had families to feed. (Additionally, health insurance is a major concern for subs. If a sub doesn't work at least one day a month and hundred days for the school year, they will lose their health insurance benefits.)

Duffy countered by saying that by retaining the newest hires as subs, there would be a greater likelihood for them to remain in the system and not look for work elsewhere. He also said that it would benefit children at hard-to-staff schools because the newly laid-off teachers might find full-time work at the same schools they worked at last year, which would help provide continuity for the children.

But on Oct. 7, the UTLA House of Representatives met and overwhelmingly rejected the Cortines-Duffy deal. Duffy said he would abide by the wishes of the union's governing body, but that since he could not unilaterally void a signed contract, the union would have to reopen negotiations with LAUSD.

It's anyone's guess as to how this situation will be resolved.

To be sure, it is painful for anyone to lose a job, but the truth is that someone has to go. Absent the contract, it would seem that Mr.Duffy's rationale is correct here. While some substitute teachers do rely on subbing as their sole source of income, many are musicians, writers, or mothers who want a part-time job.

As such, it seems much more beneficial to hold on to 2,000 fresh-faced teachers who are trying to make education their career. The budget crisis won't last forever, and if these 2,000 teachers succeed at finding jobs in another field, we could end up with a severe teacher shortage in the not-too-distant future.

I worked as a teacher in Los Angeles for 24 years, seven of those as a substitute in the worst schools LAUSD has to offer. As such, I have great sympathy for people who wake up in the morning and go into daunting situations that few would dare face.

While Mr. Duffy should be commended for his decision, it is important to note that rarely are children considered when seniority issues are debated. Children are left behind as incidental parties or annoyances in arguments between grown-ups.

Our children deserve the best teachers. As such, the seniority system must be abolished. If each school could hire and keep the teachers that their school really needs, this whole state of affairs would have been avoided.

Yes, some teachers would still lose their jobs, but the students would at least be taught by the best available teachers. It's time that educators and teachers' unions stopped putting themselves and their needs ahead of those of the children. In a city with hundreds of failing schools and an astronomical dropout rate, do we really have a choice?

Larry Sand, a classroom teacher in Los Angeles and New York for more than 28 years, is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network (

SUMMER AT SCHOOL: "My decision to work for a school district this summer was, in part, a decision to perform within a familiar terrain but in a different sphere"

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By Alejandro Tinajero | Business Week

Summer Internship 

October 29, 2009, 1:37PM EST -- My summer began and ended with street protests that clogged traffic that frustrated Angeleno commuters and delayed downtown bus schedules, thus attracting the local and national media. All throughout the summer, my internship with the chief of public schools [superintendent] of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second-largest public school district in the country, maintained a sense of urgency and caused change from the top, despite the hullabaloo going on around us.

Before I get into the details of my summer projects, I want to say that the opportunity to work at LAUSD was made possible by my participation with Education Pioneers (EP), an organization dedicated to reforming public education in urban settings by providing its "fellows" — graduate students from diverse backgrounds—an opportunity to work with an education organization on projects that fit each fellow's unique talents and abilities in a managerial setting. For more information about the organization and to learn more about the selection process, please visit

From the beginning, I made it clear to my friends at EP that I wanted to work with a public school district. Coming to business school with a background in education, I knew that school districts, especially the larger ones, have challenges equal to or more profound than those found in private-sector companies. My decision to work for a school district this summer was, in part, a decision to perform within a familiar terrain but in a different sphere.

Winning Over Longtime Employees

LAUSD has the largest school construction program in the country (it is opening 51 new schools in the next three years). As a result, it is losing student enrollment and "income," yet it is among the first districts in the country to heed the call for education reforms as urged by President Barack Obama. Evidence of this was the passage of a resolution by the school board on the last day of my internship to form partnerships with outside operators, including charter schools, to run the new schools and about 200 other underperforming campuses.

I worked on two separate projects. The first fell under the banner of operations. Of the two projects, this was the most frustrating and, paradoxically, the most rewarding. My task was to create and implement a strategic operations review process for key LAUSD departments, such as Procurement, Transportation, and Payroll. The most challenging part of this project was winning over longtime LAUSD employees who were set on doing business as usual by helping them to think of more effective and/or efficient ways of doing business for the benefit of their customers—schools, students, and LAUSD staff.

The second project involved the above mentioned school reform resolution, as it was often called by local leaders and the media. My task was to create the process by which the resolution was going to be implemented, from application requirements to how many community information meetings and what selection criteria should be used to select the winning applications, among other matters.

A New Skill Set

From day one, I was, in the words of my father, playing in the big leagues. More than once a week, I sat in on meetings with Superintendent Ramon Cortines, an experienced educator who has been at the head of some of the largest school districts in the country, including New York City, San Francisco, and San Jose, and his leadership team. My responsibilities were attached to tight deadlines and demanding expectations, and the results of my work had a life of their own after I turned over each project. On more than one occasion, my work followed me home.

There were three other EP fellows at LAUSD, each working within a different department. I worked for the superintendent, and the other three worked for the chief operating officer, chief academic officer, and chief financial officer, respectively. I often worked with fellows in the operations and finance divisions, who were MBA students like me. I was the only one who split my time working on two projects while the others worked on one project each for 10 weeks.

With this experience behind me, I believe I can tackle new challenges in education, a comfort zone of mine, by using a newly acquired skill set.

Alejandro Tinajero is a member of the UCLA Anderson full-time MBA class of 2010.

OSCAR DE LA HOYA CELEBRATES THE OFFICIAL GRAND OPENING OF OSCAR De LA HOYA ANIMO CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL: De La Hoya Hosts Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Officially Marking the Grand Opening of his Namesake High School in Boyle Heights, California


LOS ANGELES, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Green Dot Public Schools, the largest charter school organization in Los Angeles, together with Ten-Time World Champion fighter in six weight divisions, Olympic Gold Medalist and the pride of East Los Angeles, Oscar de la Hoya, hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony today, officially opening De La Hoya's namesake school, Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School in Boyle Heights, California. Councilmen Jose Huizar and several hundred community members attended the celebration.

The school was originally formed in 2003 with a donation of $1 million dollars by De La Hoya along with an additional $3.5 million dollar donation by De La Hoya in 2008 to support Green Dot and its efforts to transform education in Los Angeles. Until now, classes were taking place in a temporary site while construction was completed.

The Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School, built at the former site of De La Hoya's Boxing Gym, was designed by TFO Architecture and built by Howard S. Wright Constructors. It is the first public high school to be built in Boyle Heights in 80 years and will be home to 550 students in grades 9-12. The four-story school is 51,281 square feet covering 0.8 acres of land and includes a rooftop deck, 25 classrooms, two computer labs, four science labs, a covered parking garage and a boxing gym. The school has several green features including high efficiency mechanical and electrical equipment, natural lighting and low emission paint and flooring.

"This school has been a dream in the making since 2000 after the great success and popularity of the Oscar de la Hoya Learning Center that opened in 1998," said Oscar de la Hoya. "Providing our children a high-quality education and a safe environment is the best gift we can give them. Every student in the world should have access to a free, high-quality public education that prepares them for life. I encourage more people from the private and public sectors to take a more active role in education reform."

De La Hoya, whose foundation is dedicated to helping underprivileged families in East Los Angeles, has been actively involved with his namesake school since its inception in 2003 and has delivered the commencement speech twice. De La Hoya is a strong believer in supporting the community and often visited the temporary school to encourage the students to study hard and dream big.

"Oscar de la Hoya has been an incredible partner and true believer in the Green Dot mission," said Steve Barr, Founder of Green Dot Public Schools. "He continues to be a hero and a great role model for all the students who have graduated and are yet to graduate from Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School."

Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School has graduated 322 students in the past three years and 72% were accepted into four-year universities. The school was ranked 53rd among America's Best 100 High Schools by the U.S. News and World Report in December 2008 and was named a California Distinguished School in 2009. The school has a 96% attendance rate on a daily basis and has won several academic competitions when competing against schools with much higher income levels.

"Finally, we have a new beautiful campus," said Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School Principal, Dr. Harris Luu. "We will forever be thankful for Oscar's contribution and his continued commitment to supporting public education."

The success of the Green Dot schools, whose students score on average 113 points higher than Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high schools on the state of California's Academic Performance Index, is credited to the "Six Tenets" school model.

The "Six Tenets of High Performing Public Schools" calls for schools to:

  1. be safer and no larger than 500 students each;
  2. Implement a college preparatory curriculum for all students;
  3. empower principals, teachers, parents and students to own all key decisions related to budgets, curriculum and hiring;
  4. add more dollars to classrooms and significantly increase teacher pay;
  5. value and support parent participation;
  6. stay open later for community use.

By implementing this model, Green Dot has produced incredible results, helping students close the achievement gap, graduate from high school and attend four-year colleges."

About Green Dot Public Schools

Green Dot Public Schools is the leading public school operator in Los Angeles and is dedicated to changing public education in Los Angeles so that all children receive the educations they need to reach their dreams. It currently operates nineteen public charter high schools in Los Angeles' highest-need communities and one in New York. Each Green Dot school (branded "Animo" schools) vastly outperforms comparable traditional public high schools. For more information visit:

About Oscar de la Hoya Foundation

In 1995 the Oscar de la Hoya Foundation was created to bring a better quality of life to the people of East Los Angeles. Today, with the help of so many, the foundation serves thousands of people annually. The Foundation offers the Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School, the Cecilia Gonzalez de la Hoya Cancer Center and the Oscar de la Hoya Children's Medical Center, both located at the White Memorial Hospital and numerous after school programs to help guide young people toward leading positive lives and away from circumstances of gang violence, juvenile delinquency and substance abuse. Visit for more information on the Oscar de la Hoya Foundation.


BY GARY WALKER | The Argonaut [Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Westchester, Venice and Santa Monica]

<<LAUSD BOARD MEMBER STEVE ZIMMER says that new legislation benefiting charter schools will “level the playing field” with traditional public schools, but does not think that competition between the two is “a magic pill” for public education.



29 October - Charter school advocates say they are heartened by two bills recently signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that could give them the opportunity to expand their current crop of schools into areas where they have long sought to plant an educational stake.

“The governor recently took a bold step in his commitment to the equal treatment of public school students attending charter schools by signing into law Senate Bills 191 and 592,” Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said in a statement.

SB 191, sponsored by Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood, creates a uniform funding model for charters, which could ostensibly give school districts more incentive to approve them.

SB 592, introduced by Sen. Gloria Romero, will allow 30 to 35 charter schools to hold title to facilities built with state bond dollars, potentially allowing them to own and control approximately $500 million in charter school facilities.

“By giving charter schools ownership of their facilities, this important legislation will continue to address the ‘de facto cap’ that the charter school movement faces — a lack of equitable facilities resources,” Wallace stated.

Los Angeles Unified School District board member Steve Zimmer, who represents Westchester, Playa del Rey, Venice and Del Rey, believes that charter schools have a role in the educational debate.

“They are one of our greatest incubators for change,” Zimmer said in his first interview with The Argonaut since winning the District 4 seat in March to replace the retired Marlene Canter. “In an ideal world, charter schools would be instrumental in school and instructional design, and not seen as competitors to traditional schools.”

The two bills signed into law by the governor will “even the playing field” among traditional schools, charters and other independent operators, Zimmer added.

A group of parents in Mar Vista has been soliciting signatures from parents in Venice and Mar Vista for the possibility of creating a local charter middle school on the heels of LAUSD’s approval of the “School Choice Plan,” which will allow nonprofit charter schools and other independent operators to file applications to take over the management of schools that are deemed underperforming or failing.

Barbara Einstein, a Mar Vista resident who belongs to the local organization called the Parent Revolution, sent an e-mail in August to parents of elementary school-aged children in Venice, asking them to gather signatures to initiate the process of creating a charter middle school.

“As you know, on August 25th the Public School Choice Resolution was passed by the LAUSD school board. If implemented correctly, this resolution is going to give parents like us better options and choices in our schools,” Einstein wrote.

“But if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we can no longer wait for LAUSD and their huge bureaucracy to take action. That’s why we are going to begin to collect parent signatures for a new charter middle school in Venice to serve our children.”

The e-mail was directed to Coby Dahlstrom, president of the Westminster Endowment Group of Westminster Avenue Elementary School, which functions as a booster club for the elementary school.

The Parent Revolution is an entity with close ties to Green Dot Charter Schools. Many of its organizers and board members, like Ben Austin, previously worked for the nonprofit charter organization.

While charter schools have gained popularity and increased enrollment in recent years, they are not always the panacea that parents who are frustrated with school districts that have bloated bureaucracies and high dropout rates have sought.

The Argonaut reported in July that a study conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University appeared to dispel previous assertions by charter school advocates that students at independent, nonprofit charters fare better than students who are enrolled in traditional public schools like in LAUSD.

According to the report, 46 percent of the charter schools surveyed showed no significant difference in academic improvement versus their public school peers. Thirty-seven percent fared worse than their academic counterparts and 17 percent demonstrated academic gains that surpassed those in traditional schools.

“The Stanford study was very illuminating,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer also thinks that charter schools like Green Dot do a better job of marketing their strongest features than LAUSD. “I’m not talking about a public relations campaign where you hire a public relations firm,” the school board member explained. “I’m talking about parents going door-to-door with teachers to highlight why their school is an excellent school or how it is improving.”

He pointed out that Playa del Rey Elementary School in Del Rey had the most improved Academic Performance Index score (API) among elementary schools throughout LAUSD. Zimmer also mentioned that two other Del Rey schools, Short Avenue and Braddock Drive elementary schools and Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista had shown recent improvement.

Mark Twain has been cited by members of the Parent Revolution as one of the reasons to explore creating a charter middle school where Venice, Mar Vista and Del Rey students could attend. The school has not performed as well as other Westside middle schools, but has made significant gains in the last two years. Under the guidelines of some LAUSD administrators, it could be classified as failing.

Mark Twain Principal R�ul Fernandez disagrees, and so does Zimmer.

“From my point of view, schools that have been consistently trending downward despite assistance from the district would be the focus of (a possible takeover from independent operators),” the school board member said. “Mark Twain has been trending upward, and I don’t see that they are at risk to be classified as ‘failing.’”

Braddock Drive Elementary School teacher Hannah Leslie has mixed feelings about charter schools.

“Each one is different,” Leslie, who teaches first grade, noted. “If the reason is to have smaller schools where students can learn in a more creative environment, than that’s good. But if they’re pulling away the student population and teachers from traditional schools and deplete our funding, than that would hurt us.”

Zimmer said for parent groups that are unhappy with Mark Twain or other schools, there is a proper way to seek change.

“I would say to the Parent Revolution if the Green Dot folks are so convinced that they don’t want to send their kids to Mark Twain, there is a state process in which they can look at a charter conversion,” he said. “But I’m not into hostile takeovers, or I could not support an effort to shut a school down by promoting the failure of another.

“I would also hope that parents of young children in the area would want to be a part of creating a better school.”

Dahlstrom, who is impressed by Green Dot schools and whose son Wyatt is a third-grader at Westminster Avenue Elementary, agrees.

“I understand the frustration on the part of many parents and I think that having many options is always good,” she said. “But if everyone got involved instead of having fear about a particular school and sent their children to the neighborhood school, our schools would improve.”

Kelly Ann Murphy said she enrolled her sixth-grade son at Paul Revere Charter School in Pacific Palisades after he graduated from Beethoven Elementary School, instead of allowing him to attend Mark Twain.

“I think there is a great need for it,” Murphy responded when asked what she thought about a local middle school created by Green Dot or another nonprofit entity. “We looked at others in the area, including Mark Twain, and I wasn’t impressed with them.”

Murphy, a former Friends of Beethoven president, said that she knows other parents and friends in the Venice/Mar Vista area who send their children to Mark Twain.

“They are very happy there and they think it is beginning to improve,” she said. “But I feel that it was not a good fit for my son’s needs.”

Zimmer, who voted for the School Choice Plan, said he hopes that the public views the initiative as another way to pursue academic internal reforms within the district.

“We are not giving the schools away to charters,” he asserted.

Green Dot and LAUSD officials did not return calls for comment.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer LA Daily News | This article first appeared  in the Contra Costa Times online

Posted: 10/28/2009 08:17:35 PM PDT | Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines leaves for China today to participate in an international educators forum, district officials said.

Cortines will join other American educators at the "International Forum on Educational Leadership and Equality," organized by the Education Department of Shandong Province and the Education Bureau of Jinan.

Cortines is also expected to visit school sites of all grade levels, including higher education institutions, during his weeklong stay in China.

The trip is considered official business for the superintendent, who will be paid his regular salary during the visit.

Travel expenses will not be paid by LAUSD however. They will be covered by the Ameson Education and Culture Exchange Foundation, a student exchange group that is funding the forum.

Cortines is not expected to return to the district until Nov. 9.

more info:

from the Ameson website [The Ameson Foundation identifies university education  opportunities for elite (their word) Chinese students – and operates a testing program (The AST) for Chinese Students to gain admission to western universities]

International Forum on Educational Leadership and Equality to be held in Jinan

Ameson events

Oct 22 |02:54 AM

Four American education experts have been invited by the Ameson Foundation to participate in the “International Forum on Educational Leadership and Equality”, which will be on Nov. 1, in Jinan, Shandong Province.
The experts include Mr. Ramon Cortines, the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and former Deputy Mayor for Education Youth and Families for the City of Los Angeles CA; Professor Fernando Reimers, the Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of Global Education and of International Education Policy at Harvard University; Dr. Entwistle, the Superintendent of Schools in Belmont, Boston; Dr. Michael Harvey, Principal of Belmont High School. The visiting experts will be led by Professor Sean Zhang, Deputy Chairman of the Ameson Foundation, to participate in the forum.
The forum is organized by the Education Department of Shandong Province and  Education Bureau of Jinan. Government officials, scholars, school principals and university chancellors in Shandong Province will also take part in the forum.

[Updated] MANY L.A. STUDENTS NOT MOVING OUT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASSES: Almost 30% of those placed early on in such programs in L.A. Unified were still in them when they started high school, study says. The sooner students moved out, the more they excelled.

By Anna Gorman | LA Times

5:50 PM PDT, October 28, 2009 -- Nearly 30% of Los Angeles Unified School District students placed in English language learning classes in early primary grades were still in the program when they started high school, increasing their chances of dropping out, according to a new study released Wednesday.

More than half of those students were born in the United States and three-quarters had been in the school district since first grade, according to the report by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at USC.

¿Qué Pasa? Are ELL Students Remaining in English Learning Classes Too Long?
TRPI study finds academic benefits for English Language Learners who transition into mainstream classrooms.

Click here for the Press Release.

Click here for the Policy Brief.


The findings raise questions about the teaching in the district's English language classes, whether students are staying in the program too long and what more educators should do for students who start school unable to speak English fluently.

"If you start LAUSD at kindergarten and are still in ELL classes at ninth grade, that's too long," said Wendy Chavira, assistant director of the policy institute. "There is something wrong with the curriculum if there are still a very large number of students being stuck in the system."

Researchers tracked the data on 28,700 students from the time they started sixth grade in 1999 until graduation in 2005. They found that students who were moved to mainstream classes by the time they were in eighth grade were more likely than students who remained in English language classes to stay in school, take advanced placement courses in high school and pass the high school exit exam.

Mary Campbell, who is in charge of English language learning programs at L.A. Unified, said students must learn English as well as the grade-level material to move into mainstream classes. That often takes longer than learning the language, she said.

"We are aggressively looking at supporting these longtime English learners to ensure that they get the support needed to reclassify in a timely manner," she said.

The vast majority of the students in the segregated language classes are not recent immigrants but rather U.S.-born youths, according to the study. Nearly 70% of all students ever placed in the English language learning program were born in the United States.

Previous studies have shown that English language learners generally score lower on standardized tests than their English-only classmates for various reasons. Other studies have shown that students in English language classes are usually placed with less experienced teachers, focus on language skills rather than content and are segregated from students who speak English.

"The United States has never learned what is the best way to teach English to English learners," said Harry Pachon, president of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. "That's really a shortcoming."

The sooner students switch to regular classes the better, the new study showed. Students who moved out of English classes by third grade scored up to 40 points higher on standardized tests than those who stayed in the classes. If the students moved by fifth grade, they scored about 10 points higher than their peers.

And in some cases, students who were in English learning programs and then moved out performed better than students in English-only classes.

All students who speak a second language at home must take a test to see whether they should be placed into classes for English learners. Once they are enrolled, they must take another test to get out. But Pachon said the process to get in is easier than it is to get out.

Though the study didn't determine why students were staying in English language programs for so long, researchers say schools may avoid moving English learners into mainstream classes to keep test scores high.

more stories

Study: English-learning too slow in LA schools

San Jose Mercury News - Amy Taxin 

LOS ANGELES—More than a quarter of English learners don't make it into mainstream classes by the eighth grade in Los Angeles and most ...

English-learning students do better in HS, if they're in mainstream classes by ...

Orlando Sentinel

Students still learning English are more likely to stay in school, pass the state graduation test and even take Advanced Placement courses, if they've made ...

USC in the News 10/28/2009

USC News

La Opinion cited research by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC which stressed the importance of getting students out from under the designation of ...

Saber inglés tiene ventajas

La Opinión

Un estudio de Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) publicado hoy —titulado ¿Qué pasa? ¿Están los estudiantes de ELL aprendiendo inglés por demasiado tiempo? ...

scary update 10/31

smf: a bit of headline spin going on. The failure isn’t of the program – where it works it succeeds – but in the implementation – it doesn’t work with enough frequency. We don’t need more studies and meetings: We need action!

New study confirms that long-term ESL programs trap students

Hot Air (blog) - Ed Morrissey – ‎Oct 30, 2009

The Los Angeles Unified School District confirmed this week what many educators, parents, and critics have known for years. Long-term bilingual education ...

Study Finds Academic Benefits for English-Language Learners Who Transition ...

PressZoom (press release) - ‎Oct 30, 2009‎

Los Angeles -- Nearly 30 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students placed in English-language learning programs are not reclassified ...


by smf for 4LAKids

28 Oct 2009

  • The current H1N1 Influenza Pandemic is especially virulent in among pregnant women and girls, with six times the mortality rate of other populations.
  • One percent of the overall population is pregnant at any one time.
  • The general student population of all ages and genders are vectors for the virus, exposing pregnant students and staff to infection.

RESOLVED: Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA strongly advocates that all pregnant students in LAUSD and all pregnant staff in the school district – and all pregnant parents – receive the H1N1 influenza vaccine as soon as possible – and that the LAUSD Student Health and Human Services Department and District Nursing advocate and educate the community and make every effort – in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the County Health Department – to facilitate this effort.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED this message be shared with the Superintendent, The Board of Education, Thirty-first District PTSA and our units and councils.

Motion Made by Scott Folsom

Seconded by Cindy Wong

Passed by the Tenth District Executive Board Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Marty Wenkel, Secretary

H1N1 - THREE NEW SWINE FLU VACCINE CLINICS OPEN TODAY IN L.A. COUNTY: County plans to sponsor some public clinics at LAUSD schools

Molly Hennessy-Fiske in LA Times LA Now blog

October 28, 2009 | 10:07 am -- Three new H1N1 community vaccine clinics are scheduled to open today across Los Angeles County.

Clinics are scheduled from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. at El Camino College in Compton and the Pomona Fairplex and from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

Public health officials have opened more than two dozen clinics countywide since Friday, but today’s clinics are open later in an effort to reach those most at risk of infection, such as parents of young children and college students, according to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s public health director.

Staff at county clinics distributed more than 8,000 doses of the vaccine Tuesday, Fielding said.

Public and private health providers locally must rely on the federal government to supply the vaccine. So far, of 3,000 private healthcare providers that ordered the H1N1 vaccine in L.A. County, 2,600 have received some doses, though fewer than expected, for a total of 271,000 doses delivered countywide, Fielding said.

He urged those not in “priority groups” considered most at risk of infection to let others get vaccinated first. Priority groups include pregnant women, people living with or caring for infants younger than 6 months, emergency medical services personnel and healthcare workers, children and young adults ages 6 months to 24 years, and people ages 25 to 64 with chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes or weakened immune systems.

Those who are not among the most at risk but show up at today’s clinics anyway may get turned away, Fielding said.

“We will have much more active and involved screening,” he said.

Fielding said it remained unclear this morning how many vaccines will be shipped to the county next week. Today, school nurses in New York City started vaccinating students at 125 elementary schools against H1N1.

L.A. County health officials have said they plan to distribute 40,000 vaccines through the schools, possibly more in coming weeks.

Parents had to sign consent forms agreeing to vaccinate their children. Fielding said he had approached the Los Angeles Unified School District this year about hosting similar clinics, but officials told him the logistics would be too difficult, especially ensuring that parents consented to vaccinating their children.

But Fielding said the county still plans to sponsor some public clinics at LAUSD schools if vaccine supplies last, although no dates or locations have been set.

L.A. UNIFIED TO ALLOW PARENTS TO INITIATE SCHOOL REFORMS: Under the superintendent's school-control resolution, low-performing campuses can be forced to undergo major changes if a majority of parents demand it.

By Howard Blume | LA Times

Supt. Ramon C. Cortines

<<L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines says parents "have a right to be involved in the process" of reforming low-performing schools. (Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times / August 20, 2009)





October 28, 2009 -- For the first time in Los Angeles, parents will be able to initiate major reforms at low-performing individual schools, rather than waiting for the school district to make changes, under a plan unveiled Tuesday.

This new parental power has emerged as part of a school-control resolution that allows for groups inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to take over campuses. Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has included 12 underachieving schools and 18 new campuses in the process, but the parent option could add others to the list, especially in future years.

Under Cortines' plan, a majority of parents at a school could trigger reforms at a local campus. Parents whose students are matriculating from one school to another also could take part.

Parents, Cortines said, "have a right to be involved in the process."

But the superintendent's plan doesn't go far enough for school board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, the primary author of the school-control resolution, which was approved in August. She supported allowing more parents the ability to trigger reforms. The parents of a preschooler, for example, should be able to sign the petition for a middle school or high school, she said.

Her position aligns with that of Ben Austin, executive director of the Parent Revolution, a nonprofit closely affiliated with Green Dot Public Schools, which operates local charter schools. Austin has lobbied for the widest possible version of parent participation because, he said, improving a school can consume several years. The parent of a young child should have the right to set in motion changes to that child's future middle school, he said.

Leading up to the meeting, Austin, Flores Aguilar and their allies thought their position had prevailed. But Cortines refused to go that far.

In an interview last week, he said he didn't want the views of parents currently attending a school trumped by those of parents not enrolled, especially those who might be ill- informed. He stuck to that position Tuesday.

"Those same parents . . . won't even go and visit the middle school," Cortines said. "What they're doing is making judgments based on rumor or what they've heard."

Other complaints have come from the operators of charter schools, which are independently run but publicly funded. They contend that new restrictions in the reform resolution will limit their ability to manage academics and control costs, and they are threatening to pull out of the process entirely.

Cortines also opened the door to the possibility of allowing a majority of a school's staff to set off reforms. The rules for opening up additional schools to sweeping reform are still being developed and debated, so they're unlikely to result in more schools joining this year's list of 30 campuses, officials said. Cortines will recommend reform proposals for those schools in February.



You Are Invited to a Meeting with State Leaders about California’s Application for the Federal Race to the Top Funds!

November 2, 2009
Fresno County Office of Education
1111 Van Ness
Fresno, CA 93721
November 3, 2009
Los Angeles County Office of Education
9300 Imperial Highway
Downey, CA 90242
November 4, 2009
San Mateo County Office of Education
101 Twin Dolphin Dr.
Redwood City, CA 94065

As part of the larger American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the U.S.
Department of Education released draft guidance in July for a competitive grant
program—the Race to the Top (RTT) Fund—that will provide $4.35 billion to
selected states in order to create conditions for education reform, improve student
outcomes and graduation rates, close the achievement gap, and ensure student
preparation for college and career. California hopes to be one of these RTT states.

In preparation for California’s application for the RTT funds, leaders from the
Governor’s office, the State Board of Education, and the California Department of
Education will be engaging with stakeholders across the state to share information
and gather feedback.

These regional events, open to all interested parties, aim to share a general
overview of the requirements in the Race to the Top application as well as open up
discussions around the four key priority areas in the application: 1) standards and
assessments; 2) effective teachers and leaders; 3) data to drive instruction; and 4)
supports for struggling schools.

The event will kick off with a presentation by Kathryn Radtkey-Gaither,
Undersecretary of Education and Rick Miller, Deputy Superintendent for the P-16
Policy & Information Branch at the California Department of Education, providing a general overview of Race to the Top and will be followed by an opportunity for
participants to break out into small groups to have interactive discussions around the four priority areas of the application.

• Kathryn Radtkey-Gaither, Undersecretary of Education
• Rick Miller, Deputy Superintendent, P-16 Policy & Information Branch, California
Department of Education

For more information on Race to the Top:
- The U.S. Department Fact Sheet can be found here
- California’s Overview of Race to the Top can be found here:
- California’s Race to the Top Website:

Interested in Attending?
If you are planning on attending the event, please register here:,
follow links under “Hot Topics” or “Events.” A map to each facility listed above is
available on the site as well.

Please note that there is limited capacity for these events; if you are unable to
register due to maximum capacity, opportunities to weigh in on this topic will be
available through a webdialogue scheduled for November 9-10, 2009. Please visit for more information. For questions regarding these events or the webdialogue, please contact Patty Deras,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

LAUSD PLAN TO HAVE OUTSIDERS RUN 36 OF ITS SCHOOLS NEARS REALITY: Application for outside entities to operate schools readied

 Today's  Board of Education Meeting  10/27/2009 - Start: 1:00pm 

By Connie Llanos | Staff Writer | Daily Breeze

10/27 -- Pushing aside the threat of lawsuits and complaints about the process, Los Angeles Unified officials today will begin finalizing a controversial reform plan that allows the outside operation of three dozen schools.

The school board will meet today to finalize an application that could be released Wednesday to charter operators and other nonprofit organizations seeking to run 36 new and under-performing campuses.

Locally, Gardena and San Pedro high schools - two of the lowest-performing schools in the South Bay and Harbor Area - are targeted for takeover by outsiders.

District leaders said they refused to see their reform effort derailed by the threat of lawsuits by employee unions and concerns of charter school advocates.

"No one is ever satisfied, no matter how hard you try to involve people and make the process inclusive," Superintendent Ramon Cortines said. "This plan is about improving the education system for our boys and girls. It is not about giving away schools."

The 11-step application process crafted by Cortines requires applicants to have nonprofit status, as well as the financial capability and skills to successfully operate a school.

Plans call for LAUSD to begin receiving applications by Nov. 15 and the board to make a final decision by February.

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he is concerned about the timeline.

"This process is too quick and was designed that way by board members as a political favor to charter schools and other entities," Duffy said.

"I would like teachers to get at least six more months to work on their proposals."

UTLA and other employee unions are exploring whether to file suit to block the reform effort. The unions maintain the district is breaking promises it made to voters, who approved the bonds that funded the construction of the schools that will now be up for bid.

"We are still questioning whether it is legal for the district to gift school sites that were approved by voters to relieve overcrowding," said Adrianna Salazar, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters union.

In addition to the structural and operating requirements, the district is also mandating that operators of the 36 schools enroll all children within the campus' attendance boundary.

This runs contrary to a basic tenet of the charter school movement: Giving parents the right to choose a campus outside their neighborhood if they are dissatisfied with their local school.

Charter schools traditionally rely on an enrollment lottery and do not restrict admission to geographic boundaries. They receive grants based on this admissions policy.

"It is clear that the original spirit and intent of this resolution intended for charters to have the kinds of flexibility and autonomies they need to be successful with students," said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter School Association.

"But as we have gotten further through the process, a number of things have emerged that threaten the autonomy of charter operators, who are now wondering if it's even wise to participate at all."

School board member Yolie Flores-Aguilar, who authored the school choice plan, said she understands the ongoing debate over the application process but hopes that educators can move past the rhetoric.

"Everybody is going to have to give a little for kids to gain a lot," Flores-Aguilar said.

"I am putting my faith on people being adults and being student-centered and hope they can move out of their hard position and think about what is in the best interest of the students."

Monday, October 26, 2009


Tom Abate, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 -- California must improve adult education and community college programs to help laid-off workers retrain for technical positions that will open up in the next several years due mainly to retirements, according to a report issued Monday.

The study, titled "California's Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs," [see below]  uses federal data to look at current and projected employment in the state.

It divides jobs into three categories: 25 percent that can be done with a high-school diploma, 35 percent that require a bachelor's degree or higher, and 40 percent that require a post-high-school certificate or two-year degree.

Issued by a coalition including labor and business interests, the report looks at what it will take to retrain adults already in the workforce for that 40 percent of middle-skills occupations such as licensed vocational nursing, heating and air-conditioning installation, and paralegal work.

Although the report comes at a time when high unemployment has created a glut of workers, it anticipates that when the economy recovers in a few years, employers could be hobbled by a shortage of skilled technicians.

Any fix to the current unemployment crisis or the long-term skills shortage would probably have to include more money for community colleges and adult education programs that have been cut because of the state's budget crisis, but the authors say part of the solution involves changing how education is delivered.

"Adults who have been laid off because their industry has gone away can't wait two years to get a degree or certificate," said Virginia Hamilton, executive director of the California Workforce Association, a group involved in retraining.

Hamilton said night or weekend courses that allow adults to work or job hunt while they add skills could help.

Pamela Kan, president of a manufacturing company in Pittsburg, said the report urges a renewed emphasis on the middle layer of California's education system, between the K-12 and the state's four-year colleges and universities.

"We have this very strong culture in this state of four-year college or nothing after high school," said Kan, whose firm, Bishop-Wisecarver, makes moving parts for instruments like MRI machines.

Kan's roughly 50-person firm faces a challenge common to employers in this middle-skills category. Her most experienced employees are Baby Boomers who will eventually retire, and she must find or train replacements from adults in the workforce.

Right now the recession makes unemployment so high that employers find it easy to hire even in strong industries like health care.

But as the state economy recovers over the next few years, retirements will accelerate - up to 60 percent of the jobs in the years ahead will be replacement openings - and California companies are likely to face shortages in this middle-skills category.

The report argues that now, when so many unemployed Californians need retraining, is the time to start retooling the educational system to help adults gain the credentials to move into these occupations.

The group put no estimate on the cost of beefed-up training, but occupational training programs leading to jobs in medical technician specialties, for instance, are more costly to offer than academic courses leading to degrees.

"People are dying to get into these programs, but there aren't enough slots," said Jennifer Hermann, human resources director for UCSF Medical Center.


With a gross state product of $1.8 trillion dollars, California is the eighth largest economy in the world, ahead of global powerhouses like Russia, Canada, India and Mexico. Our diverse state economy encompasses internet startups in Silicon Valley, the agricultural fields of the Central Valley and the bright lights of Hollywood. We’re also home to some of the largest college systems in the world. Our state’s sheer size combined with the breadth and depth of our industrial base and extensive education system have long put California at the forefront of economic innovation and opportunity nationwide.

However, we face deep, systemic economic problems today that threaten to undermine the programs, policies and industries that have long made us strong. Our ranking as a national innovator is slipping. With layoffs, state budget cuts, housing foreclosures and business shutdowns dominating headlines for the past year, some may believe California’s economy has gone into a permanent decline.

California has been through economic crises before, and we have always found our way out of them. The question this time around is whether we can develop the policies to prepare our workforce for a future turnaround. To do this, we must understand what kinds of jobs will be in demand, and to begin to prepare our workforce for them now.

Despite all the changes and challenges our state is experiencing today, and despite popular perception, one crucial fact will not change.

Middle-skill jobs represent the largest share of jobs in California—some 49 percent—and the largest share of future job openings.

Middle-skill jobs are those that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Prior to the recession, California was already experiencing shortages of middleskill workers in crucial industries. Much of the job creation fostered by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be in middle-skill jobs. With rising unemployment in the state, this is precisely the time to ensure we are training the middle-skill workforce that will be critical to our economic recovery and long-term success.

Addressing the need for middle-skill workers will require attention not only to educational opportunities for young people, but also for those already in the workforce.

Fifty-eight percent of the people who will be in California’s workforce in the year 2020 were already working adults in 2005—long past the traditional high schoolto- college pipeline.

Who are middle-skill workers? They are the construction workers who build and repair our homes, bridges, and roads. The health care workers who care for us and our loved ones. Truckers who keep our stores supplied. Police and firefighters who keep us safe. The term middle-skill refers to the level of education required by a particular job. It should not be confused with the actual competence and capacity of workers and occupations—many middle-skill occupations require highly skilled trade and technical workers with several years of training and on-the-job experience.

Federal funds from the stimulus bill are expected to create new jobs and many of these will be middle-skill, especially in green jobs, construction, manufacturing and transportation. Matching the skills of our workforce to meet this demand will help our economy recover more quickly and prepare us for better times ahead. But it doesn’t end there. Retirement of large numbers of baby boomers will exacerbate demand for middle-skill workers, once the recovery begins.

California has made significant investments in training its workforce. But even before recent state budget cuts, these investments were not keeping up with the demand for middle-skill workers. We must take proactive policy actions to align our workforce and education resources to better meet the state’s labor market demand. We must also make significant investments in training programs that will prepare many more California residents—laid off workers, workers in low-wage jobs, potential workers with low basic skills—for better, more plentiful middle-skill jobs and careers. And we must address our state’s structural budget issues that will prevent us from sustaining these investments in the future.

If we are to realize our state’s full economic potential, educational access must reflect the demands of a 21st-century economy and the realities of the 21st-century workforce. The following vision can shape our state’s workforce and education policies and investments to meet these 21st-century realities:

Every Californian should have access to the equivalent of up to two years of education or training past high school—leading to a vocational credential, industry certification, or one’s first two years of college—to be pursued at whatever point and pace makes sense for individual workers and industries. Every person must also have access to the basic skills needed to pursue such education.

Businesses, labor, educators, community-based organizations and others must work together on this ambitious goal. Policymakers must step in with strong political leadership and commitment to ensure that California has the middle-skill workforce we need to recover and thrive.

California's Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs -

CALIFORNIA STUDENTS SQUEEZED OUT OF COLLEGE: Even with new program, college is a less attainable goal for some.

EDITORIAL in the Fresno Bee

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009 -- It's a difficult time for higher education in California because of the state budget crisis, which has meant more fee increases for students and pay cuts for professors and staff. That still hasn't closed the budget gap at California's public universities and they've had to limit admissions and reduce the number of classes they offer.

Students have a legitimate gripe when they complain they pay more for their educations and get less from the universities.

At the University of California, officials are trying to make it less expensive for some families to send their children to one of its 10 campuses, even while the system is preparing for more fee increases.

It's a juggling act that UC President Mark Yudof <<photo left, Skyler Reid/DailyCalifornian<< has learned to perform during his short tenure leading the system. On Friday, Yudof was in Fresno announcing a program in which students with family incomes of $70,000 or less would pay no fees to attend a UC campus. Next month, he'll be recommending to the Board of Regents a 32% increase in student fees for next year.

Under the Yudof plan, many students will not pay any fees at all while others will pay ever-increasing fees to fund a university system that is getting less money from the state. While we oppose the size and frequency of the student fee increases, we understand Yudof's challenge to maintain the quality of the system with fewer state resources.

Over the past 19 years, state support of the University of California has decreased 51%. Much of the funding shortfall has been made up with student fee increases, and we believe that is unfairly hitting the middle class. Students from poorer families get financial aid and students from wealthier families can afford the more expensive UC education.

But Yudof told The Bee's editorial board that his plan will not limit the number of middle-class students from attending a UC campus. He said the system is in the "opportunity business" and that is one of the reasons for his appearance Friday at Sunnyside High School.

He told the students if they can earn the grades to get into a UC campus, they will get help in paying for their educations. That is an important message for the San Joaquin Valley, which has many families living in poverty. Their economic circumstances should not limit them from getting a college education.

We support Yudof's opportunity plan, but believe that he and the regents should rethink the size of the student fee increase being proposed.


the Daily Breeze | From staff reports

Posted: 10/26/2009 07:50:12 AM | EXPLORE test tries to assess education paths for students: Los Angeles Unified School District announced that about 50,000 eighth graders will take a college assessment test today and on Nov. 13.

  • The EXPLORE College Readiness assessment is designed to assist students in looking at future career and educational options. It is also designed to improve student counseling.

    The assessment is based on eighth- and ninth-grade level English, math, reading and science. It includes questions designed to match student interests with careers. Schools are expected to receive student results within six weeks.

  • EXPLORE®: sample test questions

    SCHOOLS PUTTING DANCE MOVES ON HOLD: "Footloose" revisited?

    Contracts have helped tone down the hyper-sexed dance floor at some campuses, giving students clear guidelines on what's acceptable and what's not.

    By Carla Rivera | Los Angeles Times

    Downey High Homecoming Dance

    Downey High's contract lists specific moves that are prohibited -- "No straddling each others' legs. Both feet on the floor" -- so there is little room for interpretation. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times / October 24, 2009)

    October 26, 2009 -- Downey High School sent its homecoming queen packing, crown and all, after she was seen making sexually suggestive moves on the dance floor a few years back. Aliso Niguel High School Principal Charles Salter made good on a threat to cancel school dances in 2006 as officials there and elsewhere fretted over how to deal with freaking, grinding and other provocative dances.

    Their solution: Fight explicit teen dancing with an equal dose of explicitness. Downey and Aliso Niguel are among the first schools to draft "dance contracts," binding agreements that parents and students must sign before a teenager can step onto the dance floor.

    Administrators say the graphic descriptions in the contracts leave little room for arguments over interpretation and put everyone on notice about appropriate behavior.

    The Downey contract, for example, specifies "no touching breasts, buttocks or genitals. No straddling each others' legs. Both feet on the floor." Students get two warnings about sexually suggestive behavior before being booted without a refund and barred from other dances.

    In Ventura Unified, the high school contract reads: "When dancing back to front, all dancers must remain upright -- no sexual bending is allowed i.e. no hands on knees and no hands on the dance floor with your buttocks touching your dance partner."

    And then there's the issue of exposure.

    Dancers at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego cannot wear dresses that "expose cleavage, have slits extending above mid-thigh or are otherwise immodest."

    And the two-page Aliso Niguel contract allows strapless and spaghetti-strap tops but bans bubble dresses, garters or other exposed undergarments, sheer or low-cut dresses, and bare midriffs. Boys must leave hats, chains and canes at home.

    When in doubt, students can check the Aliso Niguel website for pictures of ensembles that pass muster.

    School administrators and parents say the agreements are working and sexually suggestive dancing is on the wane. But others say students' musical tastes are changing and argue the hip-hop-inspired dancing would have faded from fashion on its own.

    The contracts arose as schools became concerned about potential sexual harassment charges from the charged dance-floor environment, not to mention images of dancers ending up on student Facebook pages or YouTube videos.

    "I was a little apprehensive to do it and didn't think it would work," said Downey Principal Tom Houts. Now the school has a "freak patrol," a teacher who walks around the dance floor monitoring the action and, if need be, providing a first warning to dancers.

    Saraelena Ortiz, whose three children attend Downey High, said the contracts are a good idea.

    "It happens in every single city and school that some kids get a little out of hand," said Ortiz. "They're not adults, they're still learning. It's good to have restrictions."

    Some schools are forgoing contracts in favor of less formal methods. The private Pacific Hills School in West Hollywood will hold a Halloween dance Oct. 30 and if couples are caught gyrating, lights will be turned up or the music changed to Burt Bacharach or William Shatner singing "Mr. Tambourine Man," said Mickey Blaine, the dean of students.

    "We have close contact with all the parents and some [chaperons] have been known to snap a picture of a student and e-mail it over to their parents on the spot," Blaine said. "Dealing with it in a lighthearted manner usually works."

    The gym at Downey High on Friday night was festooned with black and white balloons and glow-in-the-dark art. Some students wore dresses and suitcoats but most attended the homecoming dance in jeans and tops. They bopped up and down to thumping techno and hip-hop beats. A few couples were cautioned for dancing back-to-front, but they were in the minority.

    Activities director Gordon Weisenburger said some students initially resisted the contract's strict guidelines, but threats to suspend dances were never carried out.

    "I don't think it's too restrictive," said Liz Calvillo, 17, Downey's student body president. "It's become such a routine part of going to the dance, get your parents to sign and you're good to go. I know they're taking precautions for a reason. It doesn't look good for the school to have kids dancing like that."

    Salter, of Aliso Niguel, said that it took embarrassing media scrutiny and the attention of the community to make students understand how their behavior reflects on the school.

    Dances weren't as much fun for some students in the aftermath of the contracts, said Sydney Jung, 18.

    "But as the years have gone by we felt more comfortable," the Aliso Niguel senior said. "The consequences are not worth taking the risk."

    While dance contracts may have had an effect, students say evolving musical tastes have been just as important. Hip-hop, the upbeat soundtrack to freak dancing, is still in style but so, too, are techno, R&B, country and pop.

    "Right now what's really popular is jerking, kind of like skipping backwards," said Elena Ortiz, 17, who coordinates Downey's dances. "There's more variety now. As students get into other kinds of music they change their dancing."

    Couples who still freak dance do not display as much sexuality or stand as close as they once did, said Jonathan Aguilera, 21, who goes by the name DJ Prizm and has performed at Downey and other high schools.

    "What's really big now is electro and techno, high energy, up-tempo beats," he said. "Instead of being two centimeters apart, it's pretty much a solo dance."

    Schools and parents will always find teen behavior that causes anxiety, said Karen Sternheimer, a USC sociologist. Currently, she said, concern seems to have migrated from freak dancing to the more high-tech "sexting" -- sending provocative pictures to friends via e-mail or cellphone.

    Sternheimer noted that the freak-dancing craze coincided with sharp declines in teenagers' sexual activity, pregnancies and rapes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "Anxiety often doesn't match the behavior," said Sternheimer. "It might offend the sensitivities of onlookers, but I don't know that anyone ever got a sexually transmitted disease or pregnant from dancing."


    ●●smf's 2¢:  Is it just me, does anyone else feel like breaking into a a chorus a "Why can't the be like we were, perfect in every way?" from Bye Bye Birdie? 

    Marx (Karl, not Groucho) argued that history repeats itself “occurring first as tragedy, the second time as farce”.  If Elvis going into the Army was tragedy, Birdie being drafted was farce. After farce repetition becomes just another tired plotline. And adolescents, dancing like they do, dance on the graves of adults behaving badly. And that, gentle reader, is the job description of teenagers – it's what they were born to do 13-19 years ago. We adults are practicing denial, but denial of what? Our own youth, our own experience? Our own working on mysteries without any clues?

    Contracts? If the community and parents and school administrators can't cut it as moral watchdogs let's let the attorneys have a go.

    Dance is a metaphor for sex, whether it's hip hop or bumps and grinds. Or the country club cotillion. Adults need to be careful but they need to stand back. And maybe they need to rent Footloose from Netflix cast an eye on  So You Think You Can Dance and Swan Lake. Or the cheerleaders on Friday afternoon on the playing field. Both Feet on the Floor is a rule for pocket billiards and 1920's boarding houses and 1950's dorm rooms.

    From the selfsame issue of The Times, in a dance review of the dance company Pilobolus at The Ahmanson:

    Both feet on the floor?

    Sunday, October 25, 2009


    By MARGALIT FOX | New York Times

    Published: October 22, 2009  || Theodore R. Sizer, one of the country’s most prominent education-reform advocates, whose pluralistic vision of the American high school helped shape the national discourse on education and revise decades-old ideas of what a school should be, died on Wednesday at his home in Harvard, Mass. He was 77.

    The cause was, colon cancer, said his wife, Nancy Faust Sizer.

    <Theodore Sizer, teaching a class at Brown University in 1987. photo: John Foraste / Brown University

    A former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Professor Sizer was later the headmaster of Phillips Academy, the preparatory school in Andover, Mass., and chairman of the education department at Brown University. He returned to Harvard as a visiting professor in 1997.

    Professor Sizer was best known as the father of the Essential Schools movement, which he founded in 1984. The movement’s umbrella organization, the Coalition of Essential Schools, spans a diverse array of public and private schools united by their adherence to a set of common principles.

    The principles hold, among other things, that a school is an egalitarian community and that the student is a valued worker in that community, with the teacher in the role of mentor or coach. Depth of knowledge is emphasized over breadth, with the mastery of a few core subjects preferred over the scattershot spate of electives the modern high school seems to favor.

    Begun with 12 schools, the coalition now encompasses several hundred across the country, plus a handful overseas. Essential Schools active today include the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Fenway High School in Boston, the Urban Academy Laboratory High School in Manhattan and University Heights High School in the Bronx.

    Coalition of Essential Schools National Affiliate Schools in LAUSD

    Academic Leadership Community @ Miguel Contreras LC
    Fairfax High School
    Imagine Academy
    John C. Fremont High School
    Jordan High School
    Los Angeles Leadership Academy
    Marshall High School
    New Heights Charter School
    Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc./Opportunities Unlimited Charter High School

    The Essential Schools movement sprang from Professor Sizer’s seminal book “Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School” (1984). In it, he created an archetypal hero, Horace Smith, a high school English teacher. Horace is devoted to his work but frustrated at every turn by the entrenched limitations of the American educational system, many of them holdovers from 19th-century pedagogic practice.

    Horace’s story provides the narrative armature for a battery of sobering statistics, amassed by Professor Sizer in the course of an extended study of dozens of American high schools. The “compromise” of the book’s title is the tacit compact between teacher and students that was the order of the day in far too many schools, Professor Sizer and his associates found. Do not make trouble for me, the teacher’s side of the compact went, and I will demand little of you in return.

    “Horace’s Compromise” was the first in a trilogy of influential books by Professor Sizer. The others are “Horace’s School: Redesigning the American High School” (1992) and “Horace’s Hope: What Works for the American High School” (1996). All were published by Houghton Mifflin.

    Professor Sizer was also the founder and first director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. Begun in 1993 and financed in large part by a $50-million gift from the publisher and philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg, the institute is dedicated to improving public education in the United States.

    With his wife, Professor Sizer wrote “The Students Are Watching” (Beacon Press, 1999), about moral education.

    Theodore Ryland Sizer was born in New Haven on June 23, 1932. His father, Theodore, was a well-known art historian at Yale. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale in 1953, the younger Mr. Sizer served as an Army artillery officer, an experience that would determine the course of his professional life.

    Few of the young soldiers who served under him had completed high school, but when treated democratically, as members of a cohesive group, they learned new skills readily, he found.

    “Whatever troops you got had to deliver,” Professor Sizer told Phi Delta Kappan magazine in 1996. “If one person didn’t do it, he put everybody’s life at stake. That made a deep impression. There was no tracking in the Army, just the beliefs that somehow these young men had to be trained and had to be reliable and that all soldiers can learn.”

    After teaching in high schools in Massachusetts and Melbourne, Australia, Mr. Sizer earned two graduate degrees from Harvard, a master of arts in teaching in 1957 and a doctorate in education and American history in 1961. He was a faculty member of the Harvard Graduate School of Education before becoming its dean in 1964. He held the post till 1972, when he became headmaster at Phillips Academy.

    In 1981, Professor Sizer left Andover to lead the study of American high schools, which was sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Independent Schools.

    A champion of the philosophy of the educational reformer John Dewey (1859-1952), Professor Sizer emerged from the study more persuaded than ever that education must be rooted in a kind of democratic pluralism. In his ideal, educational policy should be determined from the bottom up, at the level of the school, rather than as a result of state or federal directives. Schools, he argued, should abandon one-size-fits-all educational methods like standardized tests, grading and even the grouping of students into classes by age.

    Professor Sizer had his critics. Some observers, while sympathetic to his aims, felt that the tenets of the Essential Schools movement were far better articulated on paper than in practice. Writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1999 (the book under review was “The Students Are Watching”), James Traub encapsulated their point of view:

    “The coalition schools illustrate a vexing problem for progressives, for while the best of them are inspiring, most of them, as Sizer himself has acknowledged, fall far short of the founding principles.”

    Professor Sizer’s other books include “Secondary Schools at the Turn of the Century” (Yale University, 1964); “Places for Learning, Places for Joy: Speculations on American School Reform” (Harvard University 1973); and “The Red Pencil: Convictions From Experience in Education” (Yale University, 2004).

    From 1998 to 1999, Professor Sizer and his wife were acting co-principals of the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, Mass. Their experience inspired a book, “Keeping School: Letters to Families From Principals of Two Small Schools” (Beacon Press, 2004), which they wrote with Deborah Meier.

    Besides his wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1955, Professor Sizer is survived by four children, Theodore II, of Stuttgart, Germany; Judith R. Sizer of Cambridge, Mass.; Hal, of West Simsbury, Conn.; and Lyde Cullen Sizer of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.; two sisters, Hilda Sizer Warner of Washington and Elizabeth Sizer Allen of Redding, Conn.; and 10 grandchildren.

    Though much of Professor Sizer’s work focused on the roles of teachers and administrators, he seldom lost sight of the group he considered the primary actors in the educational process.

    “Horace Smith and his ablest colleagues may be the key to better high schools, but it is respected adolescents who will shape them,” he wrote in “Horace’s Compromise.” He added:

    “Inspiration, hunger: these are the qualities that drive good schools. The best we educational planners can do is to create the most likely conditions for them to flourish, and then get out of their way.”