Monday, May 31, 2010


By Christopher Dawson | ZDNet Education News&Blogs |

 imageMay 27, 2010, 1:29pm PDT -- Microsoft released a new white paper today outlining ways in which its emerging business intelligence platform can (and has been) used by schools to far more effectively manage, mine, and analyze the data with which schools are inundated. While most public schools are collecting massive amounts of data in a variety of silos from student management systems to state-provided data warehouses, few are able to proactively apply those data to predict which students will struggle, fail, and ultimately leave the system without completing high school.

Microsoft is not known as a BI company. SAS, IBM, SAP, and Oracle immediately come to mind for most CIOs when they think business intelligence. For that matter, the term “business intelligence” sounds antithetical to educational pursuits and isn’t something that tends to enter into the educational meme. However, not only has Microsoft developed a powerful and highly accessible BI platform, but schools are increasingly realizing that they must find new strategies if they wish to live up to the ideal of “data-driven instruction” and harness wide-ranging data points to improve outcomes for students.

The Microsoft white paper identifies Key Predictive Indicators, or KPIs associated in particular with student dropouts. The company has worked extensively with the National Dropout Prevention Center to assemble these KPIs and help schools and partnering developers create business rules around student achievement. Again, the idea of business rules sounds strange rolling off an educator’s tongue, but just as, for example, a mutual fund may use a variety of data to determine when to buy or sell shares of stock, so must schools have data-driven triggers for implementing interventions. These interventions would ideally happen before a student drops out, fails a class, or loses credit, rather than after the fact.

One of the things that most impressed me at the Office/Sharepoint 2010 launch was the ease with which any Excel power user could perform powerful ad hoc BI analysis from virtually any back end data store. Thus, teachers, principals, guidance counselors, and any other educator can leverage familiar tools in Excel to monitor and act upon student data if schools, districts, and states invest the time to integrate those data stores and make them accessible.

This is no small task, of course. In fact, as anyone who has tried to tackle NCLB, local, and formative assessment data to come up with something meaningful knows, it’s incredibly daunting. However, companies are emerging quickly, as are partnerships (this one sponsored by Microsoft) that can steer educational institutions in the right direction. Despite the potential cost and effort, it’s important to remember that corporations have been relying upon data to make key decisions and predict outcomes for years. Doesn’t it make sense that schools, whose deliverables are arguably more valuable than just about anything corporate America might create, should do the same?

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer and consultant with years of experience in educational technology and web-based systems.


photograph by John Moore

Maine Voices: STUDENTS VARY TOO MUCH TO RELY ON TESTING: The newspaper's pleas for improvements based on scores is simplistic and ignores how worst-performing schools got that way.

High school students’ abilities and knowledge can’t be measured adequately by standardized tests, a teachers’ union leader says.

By CHRIS GALGAY | Op-Ed in the PortLand (ME) Press Herald

  • 4LAKids is in Maine this week. This is what they are saying here, pretty much no different from what they're saying there … no matter where there is …or who they are!
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Galgay ( is president of the Maine Education Association, the union representing a majority of Maine’s public school teachers.

May 30 -- AUGUSTA — These newspapers have a habit of seeking simple answers to complex problems in education; those answers are, unfortunately, usually wrong.

Thus, the editorial, (Our View: Bad grades bring big opportunities for schools | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram, embraces one of the flaws embedded in the federal government's School Improvement Grant program.

The editorial says the student test scores being used to create the list for Maine's "low-performing schools" list are valid.

It says it is like getting a bad report card that should spur improvement by students and teachers. After all, what could possibly be wrong with evaluating school programs and student performance based on a single test, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the Maine Educational Assessment?

What the paper fails to comprehend is the complexity that most teachers and schools face today. Let me convert it into the simple terms that you prefer.

Let's assume you take all the journalists in CEO Richard Connor's newspapers and give them a test on English usage and grammar. I would expect them to do well.

But, what if we gave the test to all of the employees in the organization, including the graphics, advertising and printing departments and the route carriers? Not surprisingly, the test scores would fall because that is not necessarily the skill set or knowledge base of those employees.

That is the situation in Houlton and Deer Isle, where the top students do well on the SATs but others do not, because they are going to work on the farm or at sea and the SAT is not germane to their skills and knowledge.

Conversely, let's give your journalists an exam on diagnosing and fixing a problem with a tractor motor or a marine engine. How would they do? Not as well.

Or, let's assume that we give a test to the journalists on mathematics, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus. How would they do?

Rather poorly, I expect, because that is not your area of interest or expertise. And, that may be the reason for poor SAT scores in Lakes Region High if students are tested on subjects beyond their knowledge base or interest.

Or, let's assume that the journalists take a grammar and vocabulary test in a foreign language like Spanish or Somali. How would they do?

Would they do as well as some of our students at the Riverton School in Portland or the Longley School in Lewiston, for whom English is a second language?

Or, let's suppose that we give the SAT exam to all MaineToday Media employees, including those who just received a layoff notice. What will that do to the average test score?

It will plummet, just as it does in small high schools like Sumner or Carrabec in North Anson where a few disaffected students can sleepwalk through an exam and ruin the test score average because they see the SAT as irrelevant.

Or, let's assume that we give the SAT exam to MTM employees who have just had a death in the family or a divorce or have just been released from the hospital? How would they do? I imagine they would do about as well as our students who are abused, neglected or disadvantaged as they take the tests.

Educators do not dispute the need for appropriate testing; we do it all the time. We spend hours teaching and testing, reviewing and testing.

Testing is not easy, because students are human beings, with all their frailties -- not widgets on a production line.

Testing is a complex pedagogical science; I doubt any educators worth their salt can defend the use of the SAT or MEA in this manner. Their use as a means of fulfilling a School Improvement Grant requirement is a matter of expediency and the cynical pursuit of money and nothing more.

There are schools that need help and additional support, but using this definition for the 10 "lowest performing schools" tells our students that it is all about the money and that the ends justify the means.

Before you endorse the latest hare-brained idea out of Washington, I suggest you actually visit the schools labeled as "failures" and talk with the students, educators, parents and school board members about their programs.

They are the best judges of successful and unsuccessful schools and have excellent ideas for improving their programs.



Washington Post Editorial

Friday, May 28, 2010 -- IN A SPEECH MONDAY on the Obama administration's economic policy, National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers argued that deficit spending is still needed to boost growth -- but must be designed to produce maximum "bang for the buck." "There is no macroeconomic rationale for wasteful spending," he insisted.

So why are Mr. Summers and Christina D. Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, along with the rest of the Obama administration, promoting the $23 billion education jobs bill now before Congress? Its sponsors on Capitol Hill have labeled it "emergency" legislation, worthy of exemption from President Obama's anti-deficit pay-as-you-go rules. But it's certainly not a uniquely effective way to stimulate the economy. Ms. Romer suggests on the opposite page today [“How To Prevent Huge Teacher Layoffs”/following]  that keeping teachers at work will enable them to maintain their spending, thus supporting economic growth -- and saving on unemployment benefits and the like. The real question is whether this bill promotes more growth than other possible uses of $23 billion. Ms. Romer did not explain why retaining teachers stimulates the economy better than retaining, say, construction workers. Nor does she weigh the costs and benefits of not borrowing another $23 billion from China.

Ms. Romer argues that the bill is less costly than it seems because it ensures a better-educated, and hence more productive, populace in the future. Fair enough -- though you could say the same for construction workers, since better roads and bridges boost economic efficiency, too. She is right that school districts around the country, having run through $100 billion from the February 2009 stimulus bill, face a crunch. Officials have issued more than 100,000 layoff notices, according to data compiled by teachers unions. The unions predict layoffs could go as high as 300,000. It's hard to imagine losing that many teachers without some damage to learning.

But that many teachers almost certainly are not going to lose their jobs. For technical reasons, school districts must send notices in the spring to more teachers than they actually expect to let go in the fall. What's more, the unions' 300,000 estimate includes not only classroom teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade but also support staff and college professors. The bill would distribute money to states according to their population, not expected layoffs; states where no layoffs are imminent would get checks anyway, and the majority of states would receive more than they could possibly need to avoid layoffs. The Senate version of the bill permits them to spend the excess on other things.

If the goal were to preserve the maximum number of good K-12 teachers at minimum cost, the bill would encourage states to lay off teachers according to ability, rather than seniority -- as current rules, sacrosanct to unions, dictate. In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, has been fighting stiff union resistance to achieve such a reform. But the bill's sponsors, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), say there's no time to waste on that problem. Many jobs could be saved if more teachers accepted wage and benefits restraint, as workers in other hard-pressed industries have done. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has urged teachers to take a one-year wage freeze, but the vast majority so far have refused. And the bill places no such conditions on aid.

Instead of passing a bill that perpetuates the status quo, Congress should use its power of the purse to leverage reform. As Mr. Summers also said on Monday, "excessive budget deficits, when associated with spending that is wasteful, erode confidence in government and trust in public institutions. Ironically, this may make it more difficult to bring about reforms that are necessary to make the public sector function better and enhance our long-term productive capacity." That strikes us as a near-perfect description of this bill and its likely impact.



Op-Ed in The Washington Post By Christina D. Romer

Friday, May 28, 2010  -- The emergency spending bill before the House would address the education crisis facing communities across America -- and the jobs of  hundreds of thousands of teachers are at stake. Because of continued high unemployment, state and local budgets are stressed to the breaking point. Many states and localities are drastically cutting education spending. This year school districts in Hawaii went to only four days of instruction a week. In many other districts, officials are ending the school year early to save money.

Most worrisome, hundreds of thousands of public school teachers are likely to be laid off over the next few months. As many as one out of every 15 teachers could receive a pink slip this summer, the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates. These layoffs would be spread throughout the country -- in urban, rural and suburban districts.

Such layoffs are terrible for teachers, for communities and, most important, for students. For the families directly affected, layoffs mean not only lost wages but often lost homes and postponed dreams. Because unemployed teachers have to cut back on spending, local businesses and overall economic activity suffer. And the costs of decreased learning time and support for students will be felt not just in the next year or two but will reduce our productivity for decades to come.

Additional federal aid targeted at preventing these layoffs can play a critical role in combating the crisis. Such aid would be very cost-effective. There are no hiring or setup costs. The teachers are there, eager to stay in their classrooms. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included some of this aid for 2009 and 2010. The recipient reports filled out by states and school districts show that, last quarter, Recovery Act funds supported more than 400,000 education positions.

Furthermore, by preventing layoffs, we would save on unemployment insurance payments, food stamps and COBRA subsidies for health insurance, and we would maintain tax revenue. Accounting for these savings, the actual cost of the program is likely to be 20 to 40 percent below the sticker price -- perhaps even lower when one considers the spillover effects of maintaining employment. And the country will recoup much of the cost in coming years, as a better-educated workforce leads to higher tax revenue and less reliance on the social safety net.

The American economy has made tremendous progress over the past year. We have gone from job losses of three-quarters of a million per month, in the first months of 2009, to now adding jobs -- nearly 300,000 in April. But we still have a very long way to go. Overall employment is down almost 8 million from its December 2007 peak. And for the millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet without a paycheck, this is still an economic crisis.

Further targeted actions to speed the recovery and reduce unemployment, such as the teacher layoff prevention fund that is included in the emergency spending bill, are good for the economy and good for families. With teacher layoffs imminent, the time to act is now, before schools send out more layoff notices and make their staffing decisions for the fall.

Yes, we all understand that our budget deficit is too large. Profligate policies of the past and rising entitlement spending have created a mess that simply must be dealt with as we return to full employment. But it would be penny-wise and pound-foolish to deal with that issue by failing to allot essential spending on teachers at a time when the unemployment rate is still near 10 percent.

The right way to deal with a budget problem that was years in the making is by formulating a credible plan to reduce the deficit over time and as the economy is able to withstand the necessary fiscal belt-tightening. That is what President Obama is doing.

Let's also do what we need to do now -- keep hundreds of thousands of teachers in the classroom and prepare our students for the challenges of the future.

The writer is chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.


by Gale Holland | LA Times LA Now blog

May 26, 2010 |  8:04 pm --The Los Angeles Community College District agreed Wednesday to lease just under half of the renovated Van de Kamp bakery building to the city of Los Angeles to operate job training and placement classes and offices.

The decision came over raucous protest from the community group that fought to turn the historic Glassell Park building into a satellite campus of Los Angeles City College, a plan the district has said it had to abandon because of state budget cuts. Members of the Van de Kamp Coalition accused the seven trustees of making a backroom deal to get revenue from the city, which will pay $400,000 rent over four years.

"You have turned this site into a profit-seeking site," coalition member Laura Gutierrez said.

Trustees, who approved the lease on a 7-0 vote, said there was no way they could afford to run a satellite campus. "The district had to cut 6,000 classes this year," trustee Georgia Mercer said. "We could not predict the whole world economy could be so impacted."

Another building constructed as part of the $72-million project, funded with voter-approved bond money, was rented to a charter school last year. Part of the rent money will go to cover $150,000 in tenant improvements made to the Van de Kamp building to accommodate the city. The district's legal counsel ruled earlier that state law prohibited spending bond money on tenant improvements.

●●smf's 2¢:

  • The voters voted – twice – for bonds to build a satellite community college campus in Northeast L.A., indebting the taxpayers for $72 million – plus debt service/interest on the bonds = taxpayers on the hook for approximately $144 million.
  • The trustees of the LACCD held public meetings and promised the community a satellite community college campus.
  • No public meetings were held at all to discuss this change of plans – and the desires of the community …or the will of the voters ...or the indebtedness of the taxpayers.
  • No discussion or finding of fact has been made that “no way [the LACCD] could afford to run a satellite campus”.
  • The city – which has no money - had already negotiated subleases of the property to other entities – who will be paying the rent from federal ARAS (stimulus) grants. This has become a real estate deal – robbing Peter to pay Paul – with the taxpayers being both Peter and Paul.
  • Applying a portion of previously negotiated rent as a workaround of the legal prohibition of using bond funds for tenant improvements is a shell game played with the taxpayers’ money.
  • What will it cost the College District to operate the facility as landlord for the term of the leases to the charter school and the city sublease tenants? It’s hard to imagine that the discounted rents will cover maintenance and operations and wear and tear.
  • There never was an environmental study for this ‘repurposing’ of the VdK property. That failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is currently in litigation; the cost of defending that suit alone could well exceed the income from the leases.
  • Where was the Request for Proposal and open bidding process on the awarding of these leases, both by LACCD and the City of LA?
  • Meanwhile, the Community College District continues to discuss purchasing more land on the VdK site.
  • It’s doubtful many folks voted for Mayor Tony + his crew for their ethical integrity; it’s fairly common knowledge that the LA Times is sitting on an a series of  investigative articles on this scandal brouhaha. While 4LAKids wishes everyone a Pulitzer Prize – and wrongdoers their ultimate comeuppance – the Northeast Los Angeles community deserves their promised community college more. Better students in classrooms than politicos in court.
  • Visit for more.

Sunday, May 30, 2010



By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

05/30/2010 - PACOIMA — The blaring car horns, neglected alleys and towering freeway columns that surround Pacoima Middle School are nothing to sing about.

But in Classroom 75, tucked away in a back corner of this gritty campus, students are singing ... and dancing and twirling. In fact, they're grooving all the way to Canada for an international music competition this week.

Known as the Pacoima Singers, the group of 32 students belong to a long tradition of musical talent at the campus' Television, Theater and Performing Arts magnet, whose strong reputation draws students from well beyond Pacoima.

Inside Classroom 75, in a scene reminiscent of the hit television series "Glee," students practice intensely on numbers that

Anna Chavez rehearses with the Pacoima Singers Musical Theater Group at Pacoima Middle School Wednesday, May 26, 2010. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

blend choir, music, theater and dance.

"This is like a magical world ... the perfect place to be," said eighth-grader Tessa Debole, 14, taking a break during a recent rehearsal.

While the competition for solos can get tough, the group's founder and director, Scott Mandel, says that teamwork and discipline are key to the Pacoima Singers' long-term successful.

"In here, they are learning real-life skills - team-work, discipline and consequences," Mandel said.

"I am tough on them ... but that is because I never want them to settle for anything less than their best."

The show choir - a combination of choral singing and theater - has earned top honors in local, state and national contests over the last 17 years. They've performed for local and national officials, including then-first lady Hillary Clinton in 1997.

On Monday, the current class of Pacoima Singers will go note to note against their middle school peers from across the United States and Canada at the Heritage International Music Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia.

For students like Debole, who dreams of becoming a professional performer someday, the thrill of singing on stage and hearing an audience's applause is the highlight of her school day.

"All these feelings bubble up in my chest and I get nervous but the second the music starts it's like second nature ... so much fun."

Beyond the medals and stage experience, Pacoima's Singers are earning top grades. This year, the group boasts a collective grade point average of 3.65, even while many of them squeeze high-school level math and English classes into their schedules.

The academic excellence is no small feat at a campus that for more than a decade has struggled with low test scores and where last year only one in three students performed at grade level in math and English.

Mandel believes the show choir and his students' academic success are directly linked. The program director requires students to maintain a "B" average or better if they want to perform. If they fail a class, they are automatically banned from participating in any shows.

To help his students stay on track academically, even when competitions are near and daily after-school rehearsals take over, Mandel has set up a peer tutoring system, which builds teamwork on and off stage.

Eighth-grader Anna Chavez said it isn't uncommon to find students cramming a few pages of science or social studies homework in between rehearsals. If students see a classmate struggling they "help each other out."

"We become like a family," Chavez said.

School board member Nury Martinez said the Pacoima show choir is a great example of the successes that Los Angeles Unified can achieve as a district.

"It's programs like these that inspire students to love school and that support academic performance," Martinez said.

Julie Corallo, an LAUSD music specialist, said Pacoima's program also proves the value of an arts education.

"As a school district I think we need to provide these kinds of experiences to all students, to help even out the playing field," Corallo said.

"This allows us to even reach at-risk kids and motivate them to carry a violin instead of a weapon. ... If a kid is happy in school, they are going to do better."

The reputation of the Pacoima Singers has even motivated students from more affluent communities in the San Fernando Valley to apply for Pacoima Middle School's magnet.

Rhianna Wicken, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, could have attended schools with higher average test scores if she had stayed within Granada Hills, where she lives. But the teen said she saw a Pacoima Singers performance at a local street fair and urged her mom to enroll her in the magnet program.

Since she enrolled, she's been to Washington, D.C., to compete in a national show choir contest and this week she is packing for Canada.

Wicken said she feels proud to help sing the praises of the school and build a new reputation for this working-class community.

"I like to show that we're not just a school from the ghetto, if that's what they want to call our neighborhood," Wicken said. "But that we are actually a really good school."

The program often will attract multiple siblings from a single family for the musical theater boot camp.

Gisella Melendez, a Sylmar resident, said her teenage daughter, now in high school, thrived as a Pacoima Singer. Her 13-year-old son, currently an eighth-grader at Pacoima, is also enjoying his time performing with the group.

And Melendez said her youngest, who is in kindergarten, has already said she wants to be like her brother and sister and join the group.

"They are given an opportunity that they wouldn't get anywhere else... where they are traveling outside the city, state and even country... I don't know of any other program like it," Melendez said.

To run the Pacoima Singers, Mandel has to raise some $50,000 a year to pay for trips, competitions, materials and costumes.

In recent years fund-raising has become more of a necessity - and challenge - for Mandel, who does everything from arranging rummage sales to asking for corporate sponsorship to raise money for the singers.

Amid talk of even more budget cuts to local arts education programs, the 25-year veteran teacher said he has no intention of lowering the curtain on the Pacoima Singers.

"Some of my kids will go on to music careers but most won't," Mandel said. "But they all succeed in what they pursue after here... because it's here that they've learned they can succeed."

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Themes in the news By UCLA IDEA Staff

05-28-2010 --  Maya Robles-Wong, along with about 60 other students, is suing the state of California for failing to meet its constitutional requirement to adequately and equitably fund public schools (San Francisco ChronicleEducation Week, New York Times blog). Other plaintiffs in Robles-Wong v. California, which was filed last Thursday in Alameda Superior Court, include nine school districts, the state PTA, and associations for school boards and administrators.

Ten years ago, when Maya was a first-grader, another group of student-plaintiffs sued to gain necessary and equitable access to materials, facilities and qualified teachers. That suit, Williams v. California, was settled in 2005, allocating $138 million in extra funding for the lowest-performing schools. However, the adequacy and equity issues are far from resolved, prompting new lawsuits. 

In 2005, Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders requested a set of independent studies on California’s system for funding public education. The “Getting Down to Facts” studies released in March 2007 found that the state’s education finance system was unnecessarily complex and not aligned to support performance standards. Several of the studies pointed to the need for California to dramatically increase funding in order to meet its educational goals.

The studies did not prompt immediate action from state leaders. And, the recession and budget crisis that began in 2008 has pushed further down the road any talk about education funding reform. Even long-term planning has been forestalled. Last year, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 8, which would have created a bipartisan working group to explore a new education funding structure (Educated Guess).

The Robles-Wong suit, and another to be filed soon by Public Advocates, is reigniting the conversation on the misalignment of California’s education funding system. The state expects its students to meet some of the highest academic standards in the nation while simultaneously attending schools that are among the most poorly funded. “They haven’t provided us with what we need to succeed,” said Nigel Robinson, a Sacramento-area middle school student (KPCC).

Filed shortly after the governor released his revised budget, the lawsuit is not seeking a specified amount of money (Dan Walters/Sacramento Bee).  It asks for an overhaul of the system of school funding barriers that keeps California near the bottom of all states in its support for schools (Editorial/Sacramento Bee). According to the complaint, with adjustments made for cost-of-living, last year California was $2,856 below the national average in per-pupil spending, ranking 47th among all states. Among other provisions, the suit seeks changes in Proposition 98, a voter-approved initiative that provides a formula for minimum education spending.

State officials argue that education is a priority since it comprises more than 40 percent of the state’s budget, even in tough economic times when officials need to close a $19 billion budget gap this year (San Jose Mercury News). But the lawsuit claims that California has been underfunding its schools long before the current budget crisis (New York Times blog), and the irrational and broken funding system will continue to jeopardize students regardless of the state’s economic circumstances.

The lawsuit is an opportunity for stakeholders across the state, including students, to get involved in a public discussion about education—what is wanted, what is needed, and what people are willing to invest so that schools can receive support reliably and fairly.

Frank Pugh, president of California School Boards Association and a plaintiff in the suit, called the current system unreasonable and unfair: “Our goal is to…start the conversation about what is a proper, appropriate, dependable funding source for education, one that links expectations with resources." (San Francisco Chronicle)


by Howard Blume | La Times LA Now blog

May 28, 2010 |  7:56 pm -- The Los Angeles teachers union won’t sign the state’s application for federal Race to the Top school-reform grants, diminishing the state’s chances of claiming up to $700 million in grants tied to specific, but controversial reform strategies.

The grant has the potential to bind the state to future policies that would cost the state more than the one-time dollars would pay for, said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. He added that the extra costs could strain school district finances and ultimately result in damaging budget cuts.

California fell short during the first round of competition for a share of the $4.35 billion in federal grants, but tried again at the urging of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and developed a new strategy. A few school districts would pursue reforms more specific and more aggressive than in the original state submission.

The approach was a calculated gamble because federal evaluators rewarded plans that reached as many students in a state as possible. The two winning states — Tennessee and Delaware — scored high marks for doing so.

A handful of school districts, including Los Angeles Unified and Long Beach Unified, expressed early interest. The number of school systems has since swelled to 123, along with dozens of independently operated charter schools. These school systems represent more than 1.7 million of the state’s 6.3 million students. That’s more students than in all but six other states. Unions in 17 districts also signed on.

But other unions followed the lead of the California Teachers Assn. and nonunion critics in opposing the effort, including the unions representing San Francisco Unified and Long Beach Unified, according to state documents.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said the money would help pay for reforms that L.A. Unified already was pursuing. These include revamping the teacher evaluation system, making better use of data to improve instruction and turning around struggling schools.

Duffy, however, characterized the required blueprint as vague on key points and overly prescriptive on others.

“We agree we need a new evaluation system, no question about it,” Duffy said. “But this money requires the evaluation system of teachers to be tied to standardized test scores and there’s too much solid evidence to show this is not effective.”

The union's leadership made the decision not to take part in Race to the Top on behalf of the membership.

The state will formally sign its application Tuesday -- the federal deadline -- at an elementary school in Long Beach. Expected participants include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

“We feel like we’ve put together a strong application that puts together the best thinking of some progressive district leaders,” said education department spokeswoman Hilary McLean. “We’re hopeful the federal government will recognize the innovative ideas we’ve put forth.”


RELATED: States Make Last-Minute Reforms to Improve Race to Top Bids

North Carolina and New York moved to enact new legislation before applying to second round of the $4 billion federal grant competition. (EdWeek - May 27, 2010)


Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | KPCC

[Download Radio Broadcast ]

May 28, 2010  -- The parents and guardians of nearly 700,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students had to make alternate plans for their kids today. It’s the first unpaid day off for the staffs of most district schools.

L.A. Unified’s 70,000 employees took the unpaid day off to help close a $600 million budget deficit. In March, the school district’s largest union, United Teachers Los Angeles, agreed to five furlough days this academic year and seven next year.

The district’s 29-story headquarters in downtown L.A. closed for the day. So did more than a thousand campuses. The furloughs are expected to save the district $140 million. That money, by agreement with the teachers union, is to be used to save about two thousand jobs – mostly for teachers.

The furlough day resulted in more teenagers out and about in L.A. streets and malls. In the neighborhoods, more families with young children were visible, compared with the middle of a typical Friday. The 340-officer L.A. Schools Police is not subject to furloughs. A watch commander reported few incidents, but no one was available to explain how the school district shutdown affected the police force’s deployment.


by My-Thuan Tran | LA Times LA Now blog

May 28, 2010 | 10:13 am -- Paula Kahn, a junior at Cleveland High School in Reseda, could have gone to the beach or the mall Friday.

Classes had been canceled due to a furlough day. Instead, Kahn decided to head to school -- to join a “walk in” to protest against Los Angeles Unified School District budget cuts. Kahn joined about 50 students, parents and teachers Friday morning.

They held signs that said “Invest in your future by investing on ours,” and “To earn we need to learn” and walked around the perimeter of the campus.

“It does sound tempting to really relax and take the day off, but I can’t take a day off knowing it’s going to affect my future,” said Kahn, 16. “We’re protesting the fact that it’s gotten to the point that we have to be cutting back on our education. The priorities of spending in California are very wrong.”

In April, the LAUSD decided to shorten the school calendar this year and next. The move could save the district up to $140 million and save the jobs of about 2,100 employees and maintain class sizes.

Under the agreement, teachers would take an unpaid day off the Friday before Memorial Day and schools would close four days earlier for summer vacation.

Seven additional instructional days would be cut from the 2010-11 academic year. The school district is facing a budget deficit of up to $640 million.

Friday, May 28, 2010

LAUREL SCHOOL OPENS DOORS FOR FIRST 7th GRADE CLASS IN SCHOOL’S HISTORY: OPEN ENROLLMENT THROUGH JUNE: City of West Hollywood to Provide Student Resources Including Computers for Education

City of West Hollywood Press Release

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Laurel School will open their doors to the first class of 7th graders in the school’s history this fall making it the first middle school option available in West Hollywood for students. Prior to this year, Laurel School served kindergarten through 6th grade students. Laurel School is the only LAUSD school located in the West Hollywood area to serve middle school students. Open enrollment will take place through Wednesday, June 30, 2010. In support of Laurel School’s growing student body and the new 7th grade class, the City of West Hollywood will provide student resources including computers for education.

“The School Board Office and West Hollywood City Council will also launch a planning process this summer to determine whether Laurel will transition to a K-8 Span School or be a stand alone middle school in the future”

“We are so excited about the inaugural 7th grade class starting at Laurel this fall,” said West Hollywood Councilmember Abbe Land. “This is something we all have wanted for so long, and we are thrilled that through our collaborative partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, and in particular with the office of School Board Member Steve Zimmer, that middle school will now be a reality. As we have strongly supported our local elementary schools, the City of West Hollywood and the families in our community will extend our support and assistance in making this middle school the best it can be,” continued Councilmember Land.

“We are thrilled that West Hollywood families now have a new Middle School option, with the introduction of a 7th grade class this fall,” said West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath. “We want Laurel School families, teachers, students and our entire community to know we will support this school 100%. West Hollywood's donation of used computers to Laurel School is only one step in demonstrating our partnership with parents, faculty, and LAUSD to ensure quality education for our youth,” continued Councilmember Horvath.

“LAUSD is proud to announce 7th grade enrollment at Laurel Elementary School for the 2010-11 school year. In response to ongoing requests from families for a middle school option in the City of West Hollywood, we’ve worked collaboratively with the West Hollywood City Council and LAUSD local district 4 to begin the inaugural program for the 2010-11 school year,” said Steve Zimmer, LAUSD School Board Member. “The School Board Office and West Hollywood City Council will also launch a planning process this summer to determine whether Laurel will transition to a K-8 Span School or be a stand alone middle school in the future,” continued LAUSD Board Member Zimmer.

Laurel School has a population of approximately 250 students and is a socio-economically diverse campus with more than 26 languages spoken. Laurel School emphasizes student achievement by creating an environment rich in academics, social consciousness and the arts. The students at Laurel School thrive in a nurturing, safe environment while developing skills necessary to become well rounded, contributing citizens. Laurel Elementary partners with the City of West Hollywood and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to enhance learning opportunities.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour of Laurel School, please call (323) 654-1930 or Corri Planck, Deputy to West Hollywood Councilmember Abbe Land at (323) 848-6460.

  • smf adds: Despite the implication of the above, students in West Hollywood did previously receive middle school educations – just not within the environs of the City of West Hollywood!         WestHo City Hall is served by Bancroft Middle School.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System: IS CALPADS UNFIXABLE? NO ANSWER YET

by Johns Fensterwald in The Educated Guess

May 27th, 2010 -- State education officials expressed deep disappointment last week on learning that California was out of the running for money to expand the statewide student data system.

They haven’t heard yet why the state placed 26th out of 50th in a grant competition that funded only the top 20 states. But they shouldn’t be surprised if the feds’ answer is, “Are you kidding? Why would you expect taxpayers to enlarge a data system when  you have yet to get it to work right?”

Nearly one year into its operation, CALPADS, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, is still struggling. Five months after a consultant warned of an imminent system collapse and urged a top-to-bottom review, the student data system is still being fixed. It will take at least a month before it becomes clear whether the processes work, and the system can perform as designed. Still to be determined is whether management problems – a big factor behind the poor operation ­– have been straightened out.


Rep. Mike Honda

by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley) in the Huffington Post

May 26, 2010 01:22 PM  -- Rarely do education-related lawsuits hit so close to home for me personally and professionally. But the lawsuit filed last week by over 60 students and several education organizations (Robles-Wong v. CA) against the State of California and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is one that strikes a particularly resounding chord.

As a former California educator for nearly 30 years, it is inspiring to witness the newfound courage among students of my state in challenging California's inequitable education system. Their goal is to compel California to study the actual costs of providing education services to "all children with all needs."

On the need for this, I couldn't agree more. California is falling far short of providing each child with the education he/she deserves. The lawsuit calls for the complete transformation of California's finance system -- a reform effort similar to the one I championed in this Congress when I created the Educational Opportunity and Equity Commission, now housed within the U.S. Department of Education and readying its rollout.

The Commission's intent, by initiating a national dialogue on the topic of educational equity, is to ferret out a fix for the Californias of our country. I fought hard to establish it because our education finance structure is outdated and relies on factors like average daily attendance, average costs for "regular" students, and concentrations of low-income, special-education and English-language-learner students. Outdated systems like California's are inexcusable in an economically recessed nation falling behind globally.

California's case is demonstrative of a problem that persists nationally. The plaintiffs in Robles-Wong v CA claim that California has created a pattern of disparities that fails many of our children, some more than others, by not documenting the costs of delivering the constitutionally-required education program. Robles-Wong v. CA concludes that the state's education finance system is irrational, unstable, unpredictable, and has made no attempt to align funding policies and mechanisms. Sadly, California is not alone. Most states, in fact, struggle with similar disparities.

If California wants to correct its incoherency, and quickly, it first needs to conduct an analysis of all physical and personnel costs associated with schooling in order to meet state-prescribed standards. Secondly, it must conduct an analysis of the costs associated with varying learning needs of each student. Thirdly, it must develop an education finance system that is based on the actual costs for both schooling and student needs.

Rep Michael Honda (CA-15) is a former teacher, principal and school board member and serves on the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

NEW STUDY CALLS FOR SYSTEMIC REFORMS TO IMPROVE ENGLISH LEARNER EDUCATION: “REPAIRABLE HARM - Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California’s Long Term English Learners”

California Community Foundation Press Release

27 May 2010 – LOS ANGELES — Systemic issues in California’s public education have created a majority of high school English Learners who despite many years in our schools are still not English proficient and have developed major academic deficits, according to a recent study authored by Californians Together and funded by the California Community Foundation.

The report, Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California’s Long Term English Learners, calls upon state policymakers and leaders to provide solutions and outlines basic principles and promising approaches for school districts to meet the needs of English Learners more effectively.

”Educating our youth is key to a successful society, and we are letting these kids down.We must invest in them, and find solutions to support students, teachers and school districts to encourage success for all students,” said Antonia Hernández, president and CEO of the foundation. “This report highlights concrete issues and solutions that policymakers and school districts should take to heart.”

“When these students started out, they looked like any other student who has succeeded in the system,” said study author and researcher Laurie Olsen. “But school policies, programs and practices have not served them well. To make matters worse, most students and their families don’t realize how underprepared for graduation and college they actually are.” Key findings and recommendations from the report include:

• 59 percent of California’s high school English Learners are Long Term English Learners (defined as students in U.S. Schools for six or more years who have not been able to achieve English proficiency), according to a survey of 40 school districts across California

• In some districts, Long Term English Learners make up 75 percent of all English Learners

• State policy should require the districts to collect data ad monitor the progress of English learners to prevent the development of Long Term English learners

• Policymakers must commit to providing materials, program, ,professional development and curriculum support to help English Learners succeed and ensure that students do not become Long Term English Learners While state policy provides no definitions for Long Term English Learners and little to no direction about this issue or how to address it, a number of school districts are stepping up to take responsibility. “In El Monte, this is a problem we refuse to ignore, said Nick Salerno, superintendent of the El Monte Union High School District. “We’re mobilizing administrative, certificated, and classified staff and resources to promote success for these students. Through our work with Californians Together, we have an invaluable forum from which to learn, share ideas, and make real progress for our English learners.”

In addition to the survey upon which the report is based, Californians Together has convened interested school districts to deepen their understanding of these issues and how they might prevent the systemic issues that have caused high numbers of Long Term English Learners. Californians Together will also head efforts to mobilize legislators and policy makers, as well as convening future workshops, to provide leadership on how best to accelerate language and academic development for Long Term English learners.

Read the report at

Executive Summary download |  The Report download

Californians Together is a statewide coalition of 22 parent, professional and civil rights organizations that mobilize communities to protect and promote the rights of 1.6 million English Learners, 25 percent of California’s students. Californians Together has served for 11 years as a statewide voice on behalf of language minority students in California public schools. The coalition is committed to securing equal access to quality education for all children. Visit

As L.A.’s foundation, the California Community Foundation has been around since 1915 and has more than $1 billion in assets. We manage more than 1,600 funds whose donors chose us because we help them create the change they envision through our personal service and expertise. Visit


Report Finds Long-Term ELLs Languishing in Calif. Schools

After six years in the U.S., secondary-level English-language learners still lack English proficiency, according to a new report. (May 27, 2010)

Percentage of High-Poverty Schools Rises

The students at these schools are less likely to attend college or be taught by teachers with advanced degrees. (May 27, 2010) 


By The Associated Press

27 May 2010  (AP) New York - An "unintended consequence" of the No Child Left Behind initiative has been a decrease in civics knowledge, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said Wednesday, promoting computer games that try to put a fun spin on learning about government.

The federal education program appropriated funds "based on good test scores in math, science and reading," she said, but did not distribute money for history or civics.

She made the remarks at a conference where she was promoting, a website designed to remedy civics ignorance among middle-school students.

"Barely one-third of Americans can even name the three branches of government, much less say what they do," O'Connor said. "Less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how civic participation benefits our government. Less than that can say what the Declaration of Independence is, and it's right there in the title. I'm worried."

Games on iCivics include "Do I Have A Right?", in which the player runs a firm specializing in constitutional law; "Executive Command," which offers a chance to play president; "Supreme Decision," about the Supreme Court; "Branches of Power," which gives the player control of all three branches of government; and "LawCraft," in which the player is a member of Congress.

The iCivics program is based at Georgetown University Law School. O'Connor is the project founder and leads the board of the nonprofit iCivics Inc., iCivics spokesman Jeffrey Curley said. The project began in 2007 and is in use at schools around the country, he said.

The games on iCivics are free, teacher-friendly and effective, and kids like them so much in school that they play them at home, too, O'Connor said.

"I'm an old grandma; I'm not a techie," O'Connor said, but noted she has been converted to the notion that kids can learn through playing the games.

No Child Left Behind, the controversial 2001 act championed by former President George W. Bush, pushes schools to boost the performance of low-achieving students. Critics have complained it focuses too much on test scores.

Ted McConnell, executive director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, of which O'Connor is co-chairwoman, said that the decline in civics education started before No Child Left Behind but that "studies have shown that the emphasis on raising reading and math scores has had an effect in narrowing the curriculum further."

A handful of state legislatures in recent years have imposed requirements on schools to teach civics, most recently Florida, which this session passed what it called the Sandra Day O'Connor Civic Education Act, McConnell said.

O'Connor got a good round of laughter from the audience when she said iCivics is aimed at middle-school students because "by the time they go to middle school, the light bulb has turned on if it's going to, and they're eager to learn, but they're not spoiled rotten teenagers yet."

The conference was organized by Games For Change, a project to promote computer and video games for social change.

The iCivics website was launched Monday. It is a rebranded, expanded version of an earlier site called

L.A. UNIFIED FACES TOUGH TASK IN SELLING PARCEL TAX: Turnout for the June 8 primary is expected to be low and trend old and Republican. But backers maintain hope and say the emergency is dire.

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

May 28, 2010 -- Save a niche in local political history if the Los Angeles school system passes a parcel tax June 8.

Convention holds that there's no logical way Measure E can achieve the two-thirds majority it needs. Backers maintain hope, insisting that, above all, the cause is just and the emergency dire.

Measure E would raise $92.5 million annually over four years for the Los Angeles Unified School District through a tax of a flat $100 per parcel. The money would undo some cutbacks made to offset a $640-million deficit for next year and beyond.

The district has a tall political hill to climb. Relatively low turnout in the primary is expected to trend conservative, older and Republican — all bad for L.A. Unified, experts say. Worse still, the Republican tickets for governor and U.S. senator are hotly contested; the corresponding Democratic races are uncompetitive.

And parcel taxes have fared best in smaller, prosperous enclaves such as San Marino and South Pasadena, although even a bid in Santa Monica fell short this week. Larger, economically diverse districts, including Long Beach Unified and Rowland Unified, have generally failed to pass parcel taxes. Pasadena Unified fell far short earlier this month.

A parcel tax is always a tough sell, said Glenn Gritzner, a political strategist who has helped the district pass construction bond measures but is not involved in this campaign.

"This particular election presents its own unique challenges," said Gritzner, a managing director for Mercury Public Affairs. "The majority of voters in this election will not necessarily be naturally sympathetic."

Polling suggested waiting for the friendlier, more Democratic-leaning November electorate, but that would delay the cash infusion, officials said.

"If we do not invest in our kids in this moment, if we do not figure out a way to keep the most vital and essential programs whole, the fallout from that will go on for years and years," said school board member Steve Zimmer.

The 710-square-mile district stretches across the city of Los Angeles, nine other municipalities and parts of 24 others. Homeowners are already paying off five local school-repair and construction bonds passed since 1997. The bill this year is $151.80 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Without the parcel tax, elementary schools are slated to lose all library staff, and arts programs face a 50% reduction. Class sizes and counselor loads will swell further. Even with the money, most summer school classes would remain canceled, and the school year would still be shortened by five days this year and next.

Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has proposed a first-year budget for the tax proceeds that would set aside about $41 million to partially restore custodians, counselors, nurses, psychologists and others at schools; $15 million would keep elementary arts and music education at current levels; $10 million would retain more high school teachers in core academic classes such as math and English. About $27 million would go directly to school governing councils, composed of administrators, teachers and parents, so they could prioritize local needs.

San Fernando Valley parent Angel Zobel-Rodriguez wants to see money go directly to schools, but "I have absolutely zero faith that the kids at my daughter's school would benefit one iota.... It's not worth the risk of sending that money downtown into the black hole."

In recent months, the campaign was practically invisible, although district employees and area union members will be among those receiving mail and phone calls from either the official campaign or a late-starting union collaboration.

The district's $250,000 information campaign and a $300,000 political campaign add up to far less than what was spent to pass the construction bonds.

Many supporters of past measures have found reasons to say no this time, including the city's two major newspapers and independently operated charter schools, which object to being denied proceeds of the tax. Even the leaders of the city's teachers union had to go twice to their governing body to win support.

"Past history has shown that the district is frivolous with people's money," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. "This money is to save arts education and to keep classrooms smaller. We need this stuff. We're desperate for this stuff."

But count Westwood parent Lisa Chapman among the dissatisfied who are voting no, even though she's sent her children to public schools and raised money for them.

"We need an overhaul of LAUSD at the highest levels and accountability measures in place before we throw any more money into a broken and dishonest system," she said.


 Ganadores de la competencia Stock Market Game competition de este año (izquierda a derecha): Gabriel Galarza, Jason Bedolla, Juan Gonzalez and Alan Villafan, estudiantes de la escuela intermedia Maclay junto a su maestro de algebra, Tim Henricks (en el centro). | Winners of this year’s Stock Market Game competition (left to right): Gabriel Galarza, Jason Bedolla, Juan Gonzalez, and Alan Villafan of Maclay Middle School with their algebra teacher, Tim Henrick, (center).

Estudiantes de Maclay Middle School Tienen Buenas Ganancias

Written by San Fernando Valley Sun

Wednesday, 26 May 2010  -- PACOIMA — En el proceso de invertir en una competencia hipotética del mercado de valores pro internet, un grupo de estudiantes de la escuela Maclay Middle School en Pacoima también están invirtiendo en su educación.

"Es gratificante ver estos jóvenes triunfar combinando efectivamente las matemáticas, los negocios y la economía", dijo Nury Martinez, miembra de la junta educativa del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Angeles (LAUSD) y quien representa la escuela. "Que bien por estos estudiantes empresariales y su maestro innovador, Tim Henricks".

Alan Villafan, Juan Gonzalez, Gabriel Galarza y Jason Bedolla ganaron la competencia Stock Market Game ( de otoño y verano, en el cual los estudiantes invierten hipotéticamente dinero a medida que aprenden sobre el mercado de valores y la economía.

Empezando con una "inversión" de $100,000, el equipo generó un retorno del 30 por ciento, obteniendo $131,144 en solo tres meses.

Los alumnos entraron en la competencia gracias a Tim Henricks, su maestro de algebra, quien ha registrado sus clases en el juego Stock Market Game por los últimos ocho años.

"Estos chicos realmente no sabían nada sobre el mercado de valores cuando empezamos", dijo Henricks. "Y ahora están muy interesados en seguir el mundo de las finanzas en el futuro".

El portafolio de 10 "stocks" del grupo incluía una variedad de compañías como The Cheesecake Factory, Nike y Big 5. Al final de la competencia, los estudiantes vencieron a otros equipos representando más de 1,000 escuelas, incluyendo varias secundarias a través del Sur de California.

Stocks Soar for Maclay Middle School Students

Written by Information Provided to San Fernando Valley Sun

Four Students Sweep this Year's Competition in Stock Market Game

Wednesday, 26 May 2010  -- PACOIMA —In the process of investing in a hypothetical stock market competition online, a team of students from Maclay Middle School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are also investing in their education.

"It is gratifying to see these bright young men triumph by effectively combining math, business and economics," said LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez,who represents the school. "Kudos all around to these entrepreneurial students and their innovative teacher, Tim Henricks."

Alan Villafan, Juan Gonzalez, Gabriel Galarza and Jason Bedolla swept both the fall and spring competition of the Stock Market Game, in which students invest hypothetical money as they learn about the stock market and economics (

Starting with an "investment" of $100,000, the team succeeding in generating a 30 percent return, earning $131,144 in just three months.

The students entered the competition through teacher Tim Henricks' algebra class, who has registered his classes in the Stock Market Game annually for the past eight years.

"These kids really didn't know anything about the stock market when we first went into it," Henricks said. "And now they're very interested in going into finance in their future."

The group's 10-stock portfolio included a variety of companies including the Cheesecake Factory, Nike and Big 5. At the end of the competition, the students beat out teams representing over 1,000 schools including multiple high schools throughout Southern California.

●●smf's 2¢: Perhaps the Maclay MS Stock Market Game Team could help Louis Pugilese and 4LAKids – or even the LAUSD Budgeteers - in our budget prognostications re: WHAT IT REALLY COSTS TO RUN AN LAUSD SCHOOL?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


By Louis Pugliese | OpEd in the Daily News

Louis Pugliese is a lecturer in educational psychology at CSUN and a national board certified teacher.

05/26/2010 11:06:39 AM -- IN June, once again taxpayers will be asked to ante-up in a parcel tax for the financially and academically bankrupt LAUSD - the money-sucking bureaucratic nightmare that should have disintegrated long ago and gotten out of the business of running schools.

It's high time that Los Angeles Unified School District comes clean on the real costs to run a school - without the added cost of the district administration as the toll collector. Taxpayers, parents and teachers have the right to know what operating a school would take without the district's bumbling bureaucracy, fees, consultants, waste and "encroachments."

Of course, they'll never do that. So maybe it's best we just do it ourselves.

In the past, when pathetic attempts have been made to explain just what money comes in and what goes out, district estimates for student funding and costs have shifted faster than the Dow Jones average or the price of gasoline. However, we did get a usable set point recently when district officials whimpered that they were losing enrollment-based state funding from kids who were attending schools out of the district. That figure was $5,000 a year for each student - "more or less."

If we assume this is a good approximation, we can do some simple math ourselves to build a model of a 500-student school with only 25 students per class, teachers paid union-level wages and benefits, and half-time teacher aides in every classroom.

Sounds like a great school.

Here's what it would cost per year to operate:


500 students x $5,000 = $2.5 million


20 teachers = $1.4 million

2 administrators = $200,000

3 office staff = $175,000

2 custodians = $100,000

10 school aides = $173,000

Books, furniture and equipment ($1 million, over five years) = $200,000

Total cost: $2.248 million

The surplus cash of $252,000 could be used for special school programs, supplies, training, etc. That's a spectacular $504 extra per student, per year - and more than $12,000 per classroom each year!

Eat your heart out, status quo. Some teachers stay up all night for months writing grants to bring in a fraction of that.

What about special education, mandated programs, intervention, lunches, and English Language programs? Simply, much of the cost for those programs get paid to schools in addition to the $5,000 per student. In reality, many if not most district schools receive more than $7,500 per student based on student demographics.

With that figure, each 500-student school would have a whopping $1.5 million dollar surplus. It's no wonder that charter schools are keeping class sizes low and still offering college-prep classes, sports and the arts, while the district continues to ransack our kids' education.

As far as facilities and building costs, not only does the district own the schools outright and tax-free, but they hit us up for another $8 billion more in construction bonds two years ago. And let's not forget that the district is now stuffing up to 40 kids in some classes at gargantuan schools with thousands of students.

So where is the money? And why does LAUSD need more? Why do our kids continue to suffer overcrowded classrooms, program cuts and shortened school years? Why do our teachers have to bear the burden for this incompetence and selfishness? And why, oh why, should we fork over even another dime for this abuse?

The estimates above are not exact. In fact, the income projection is purposefully low. While there will be some unaccounted-for costs, there are also plenty of unaccounted-for revenues that always seem to get left out when the district cries poverty.

No matter how district officials now plead their case for the parcel tax, as long as they address the real dollar-for-dollar costs and income of individual schools, there will be no way that LAUSD can show us that teachers, students, parents and taxpayers wouldn't all be better off without them.


●●smf's 2¢: Louis Pugliese is a great guy – I consider him a friend and a friend to public education. But he is not a fiscal specialist, he is "a lecturer in educational psychology". You really don't want him doing a budget.

He misses some key budget points beyond the ones he glosses over. Special Education – a federal mandate - is spectacularly underfunded – the "unaccounted for revenues" don't come close.

Pugliese's school has no library or librarian. No nurse. No food services. It has no music or art teacher. Using his numbers it apparently doesn't pay any employers share of social security or employment taxes. Let alone insurance, pensions, healthcare benefits, retirement plans. 

(The not paying the employers share of the taxes puts at least one of two administrators in prison. Who pays for the legal defense, court costs, fines and penalties?)

In Pugliese's school with no nurse the teachers and staff never get sick, so there is no need for substitute teachers, ever.  When it turns out there is lead in the water from the old pipes who pays for the testing and the fix? Who fixes the computers, the copier, the roof? There is no allowance  for Maintenance and Operations, no wear and tear. No utilities and water. I love schoolchildren, but wear and tear are their job descriptions.

Mostly Pugliese's school has no union contract.

In rule-of-thumb reality, it costs twice as much to educate a special ed/special needs child – using Pugliese's back o' th' envelope budgeteering those kids cost $10K per year  to educate and bring in maybe $6K or 7K – and 11% of the general ed population fits into this category. Suddenly the math becomes complicated and algebra raises its ugly head.

(There is a simple solution: Evidence shows that charter schools tend to push these kids out and back to district schools.)

Pugliese's "spectacular" $5o4 savings amounts to $2.40 per student per school day. For this you get no library, no nurse, no M&O, no food service, no water, no power, unfixed plumbing and computers, no toner for the copier, no TP or paper towels in the restrooms and the principal in the slammer.

No thanks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


By Connie Llanos,Staff Writer | L.A. Daily News

05/25/2010 09:27:18 PM PDT -- The Los Angeles Unified school board Tuesday unanimously approved rescinding 522 layoff notices for elementary school teachers.

The move drops the number of overall expected layoffs next year to about 1,000 - down from the initial decision earlier this year to send layoff notices to nearly 3,100 teachers, administrators, nurses, librarians and counselors.

The number could be further reduced as officials continue to look for additional funding sources and savings.

To date the district has rescinded pink slips for 1,802 elementary school teachers, 85 counselors and 56 nurses. It has also saved the jobs of 63 permanent librarians and expects additional savings from individual schools that are allowed to "buy back" teacher positions through shifts in their own budgets.

Most jobs have been saved as a result of a deal reached with the local teachers union, which agreed to taking 12 furlough days over the next two years to save the jobs of pink- slipped colleagues.

That agreement also cut the school calendar by a week this year and next.

While teachers union officials celebrated saving jobs, they also urged the district to try to rescind more notices.

Over the last few weeks union officials said there has been a discussion with the district over exactly how many positions should be saved based on the furlough agreement.

Union officials said they are still waiting for about 200 more teaching positions to be saved, based on their agreement with the district.

District officials, however, say the remaining positions will have to be re-purchased by schools after they finish their local budgets, which allow them to buy back teaching and other staff positions.

"We are pleased that the district finally did rescissions for over 500 teachers," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

"But there is still some disagreement about the number of teachers and health and human service professionals that remain that still need to be rescinded either from the original agreement and or through purchases made at the local school site."

The district and the union also seem to disagree on the total number of teachers, counselors and other school support personnel that are set to lose their jobs on July 1.

District officials estimate that 1,008 layoff notices will become permanent in July while the union expects that figure to be closer to 844.

Monday, May 24, 2010

BUSING FOR PALI HIGH STUDENTS IN JEOPARDY: June 6 fundraiser hopes to raise a portion of $600,000 shortfall

By Dan Jahns  |  Brentwood News/

May 24, 2010 - Palisades High School, affectionately called 'Pali High', has a lot to be proud of. In 1993 it was approved as a financially independent Charter school by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), in 2005 it was recognized as a California Distinguished School, and in 2006 it was acknowledged by Newsweek Magazine as among the top 1% of American high schools.

But one of the biggest sources of pride for the Dolphins is its diverse student body with Hispanic, African American and Asian students totaling over 50% according to the school’s website. However, Pali High is now in jeopardy of losing its ethnic diversity.

Due to budget cuts for education in the State of California the LAUSD has announced that it will no longer be able to fund the transportation of Pali High’s students which means that many minorities may not be able to finish

out their high school years there since many of these students are transported to and from school each day through a program subsidized by the LAUSD.

According to Nancy Babcock, a member of the Brentwood Community Council representing Educational Institutions (Public Schools) who has a child at Pali High, about 1,000 of Pali High’s 2,700 students take the bus to school, many of them traveling over an hour each way.

Incoming 9th graders and their families have already been notified that transportation will not be covered for them or future freshman classes, but Executive Director Amy Dresser Held and her staff are hoping to be able to provide continued transportation services for current students through their graduation year.

They have negotiated successfully with LAUSD to pay for the transportation of the 12th grade students during the 2010-2011 school year and the parents of some of next year’s traveling 10th and 11th graders have agreed to pay $120,000 out of their own pockets. But that still leaves a shortfall of $600,000 according to a Pali High document on the transportation issue.

In an effort to help defray the remainder of the transportation costs for the current students Pali High is turning its 2nd annual Spirit Awards event into a fundraiser. The Spirit Awards, honoring those who have contributed positively to the Pali High community, will be held Sunday, June 6 from 4 – 7 p.m., at the home of former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan. For more information about the Pali Spirit Awards fundraiser and how you can contribute please call 310-454-9033.

Even if Pali High is able to fund this project fully that only protects the diversity of the student body for the next few years. Held acknowledges that the decision by the LAUSD is a “devastating blow to ensuring [Pali High] remains integrated” and sees the task ahead as a “huge challenge.”

She is hopeful that the reputation the school has already built for attracting minority students will result in continued ethnic diversity (among the wealthier minorities who can afford to pay for transportation), but fears that what will be lost will be the socio-economic diversity that has been a hallmark of the school for years.


By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | L.A. Daily News

05/24/2010 04:25:10 PM PDT -- Los Angeles Unified officials released a list Monday of 17 new and chronically underperforming campuses that will be up for grabs under a district reform plan that allows teachers, charter operators and nonprofits to apply to operate campuses.

Eight chronically underperforming schools were selected: Woodcrest Elementary; Audubon, Henry Clay, Bret Harte, Horace Mann, and John Muir Middle schools; and Los Angeles and Huntington Park High schools.

This year none are in the San Fernando Valley.

In addition, nine new campuses – which could house up to 29 small schools – are slated to be part of the School Choice program that was approved by the district school board last summer.

Those new sites include long-awaited high schools in Granada Hills and the city of San Fernando.

"We are working to create the conditions for success for all of our schools," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines, in a written statement.

"I remain committed to our three guiding principles: educational quality, community involvement and urgency. Our students deserve the best we can offer."

LAUSD's "School Choice" process opens all new and select low-performing public schools up to a competitive process.

Applications are then reviewed by district officials and voted on by parents, educators and community members. Cortines then makes a recommendation to the school board, which makes the final decision.

Last year, more than 200 applications were submitted by groups that hoped to take control of three dozen schools.

In the end, the board voted to allow charter operators, which had bid to operate 18 schools, to have full control of three campuses and partial control of another – the remaining 28 went back to district operators.

District officials said they have made a few changes to the School Choice process to address concerns raised last year.

For example fewer schools are participating and applicants have been given more time to develop proposals and get community members involved.

Still,charter school advocates said fewer operators have expressed an interest to apply for district campuses.

Allison Bajracharya, policy director for the California Charter Schools Association, said many of her members were disappointed by the process that they said limited the access outside applicants got to students, parents and district employees.

"The handful of charter applicants (that apply) in round two, will enter the process with the expectation that it will include level opportunities," Bajracharya said.

"Simultaneously, they will participate with the conviction that the operator with the strongest track record of success will be the selected operator."

Charter operators also took issue with the community vote element of the School Choice process, which they said resulted in foul play and electioneering.

All district employee unions were also completely opposed to the School Choice process last year and United Teachers of Los Angeles - the district's largest union – even filed a lawsuit against the plan, which later failed.

A.J. Duffy, president of UTLA, said his union is still opposed to the School Choice plan which he called a "wholesale give away of our schools by the district."

"The other side of this though, is that we believe firmly that plans developed locally by teachers, administrators and parents have the best chance of being successful over a long period of time," Duffy said.

Duffy said in an effort to keep district educators at the helm of schools, UTLA will team be organizing its teachers and providing them with the help and resources they need to submit high quality proposals.

The union will also be involved in reaching out to the community and parents on behalf of teacher-led proposals.

"E" IS FOR….

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HERE IS THE LAUSD PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE "We are LAUSD" LOGO: The achievement arrow points down …and where are parents?


by Howard Blume | L.A. Times LA Now blog

May 24, 2010 |  4:55 pm -- Eight low-performing Los Angeles-area schools and nine new campuses will be open to bids from groups inside and outside the school system, officials announced Monday. The winning bidders would take over management of these schools in the fall of 2011.

The two high schools on the list are Huntington Park High and Los Angeles High in Mid-Wilshire. Most are middle schools: Audubon in Leimert Park, Clay in unincorporated West Athens, Harte in Vermont Vista, Mann in unincorporated Westmont and Muir in Vermont-Slauson. Woodcrest, also in Westmont, is the sole elementary school.

Except for the high schools, all the low-performing campuses are, broadly speaking, in low-income minority neighborhoods north and west of the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways.

This is round two of bidding under a school-control process that the Los Angeles Board of Education approved last year. A first round concluded in February for 12 struggling schools and 18 new campuses. Teacher-led groups claimed most of the campuses, with a handful going to charter schools and the education nonprofit controlled by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Independently operated charter schools were unhappy at being shut out from most of the new campuses in the L. A. Unified School District. Their discontent has continued into the spring over disagreements with the school system over the distribution of classrooms districtwide. Under state law, charters are entitled to "reasonably equivalent" facilities.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, charters complained that they typically receive only leftover classroom space, if that, often in unworkable configurations.

District officials insisted that charter schools are being treated equitably, given competing demands on space and resources.

To become eligible for outside control, a school had to fall short of federal improvement targets for at least the last five years and score less than 600 on the state’s Academic Performance Index, which is based almost entirely on test scores. These schools also have improved less than 100 points on the state index over the last five years. In addition, less than 20% of students are proficient in English or math. And the high schools have a dropout rate greater than 10%.

As with the first group of schools, the bidding process will include public information sessions, non-binding school-level votes by parents and staff, and then a recommendation by L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. The school board will make the final selections.

These “focus schools” can escape this bidding process if this spring's test scores show marked improvement when they are released in the fall.

Fifteen other schools also met the criteria based on data, but they already are engaged in substantial reform efforts, officials said.


By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | LA Daily News

Posted: 05/24/2010 03:44:16 PM PDT -- The California Charter School Association filed a lawsuit today against the Los Angeles Unified School District, in an effort to gain better access to public school campuses.

The latest legal claim comes two years after both organizations settled a lawsuit intended to give the publicly-funded and independently run schools more access to district campuses.

According to the charter association's interpretation of Proposition 39, LAUSD officials have a legal obligation to offer space to all charter schools that request it.

The measure was approved by California voters in 2000 and said district facilities must be shared "fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools."

"We've had another year of evidence that the school district is simply ignoring the needs of charter school operators,their students and their families" said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter School Association, or CCSA.

"They are failing to provide adequate learning environments for public school students even though there is a law requiring them to do so."

According to CCSA, 81 charter schools applied for LAUSD facilities under Prop 39.

CCSA says only 45 charter operators received final offers from the district and they argue that none of them were compliant with the law.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A good sign…



Carl Barnes, right, father of plaintiffs Kibew Diop, 10, bottom center, and Lumumba Diop speaks about the Robles-Wong v. California lawsuit at a news conference on May 20 at A.P. Giannini Middle School in San Francisco, Calif.  —Jeff Chiu/AP

By Lesli A. Maxwell | EdWeek  Vol. 29, Issue 33

May 21, 2010 -- In what could become the most important school finance litigation in 40 years in California, parents, students, school leaders, and education advocates sued the state Thursday, claiming the way it finances public schools violates the state constitution.

The plaintiffs—including nine school districts and 60 students and their families—argue that although the state prescribes what teachers must teach and what students must learn, it does not provide the resources to deliver on those requirements. They are asking the courts to order the governor and the state legislature to scrap the current finance system and design a new one that is “sound, stable, and sufficient.”

“This lawsuit is the last resort,” said Frank Pugh, the president of the California School Boards Association, one of the plaintiffs. “The governor and the legislature, and I mean both sides of the aisle, have known for some time that the current school finance system is harming students, and yet they’ve done nothing to remedy the crisis.”

The suit was filed May 20 in Alameda County Superior Court.

California, with K-12 enrollment of 6 million public students, ranks near the bottom of the 50 states for its per-pupil funding, according to the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, which determined that the state spent $8,164 per pupil in 2007, more than $2,000 less than the national average of $10,557.

California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will oppose the lawsuit and believes the state will prevail.

"We will continue to fight to keep education a budget priority as well as fight for the other reforms essential to ensuring a great education for all our students," she said in a statement.

Over the past two years, California’s budget woes have forced lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, to make deep spending cuts to many of the state’s core services, including K-12 education. The cuts to public schools have added up to roughly $17 billion over those two years, and more could be in the offing as lawmakers and the governor wrestle with closing a $20 billion gap in the budget proposed for fiscal 2011. State spending on K-12 in fiscal 2010 still accounted for about 37 percent of California’s $91.4 billion overall budget.

But the plaintiffs, which include the districts in San Francisco and Santa Ana, contend that the school finance system—with funding formulas that date back as far as 60 years—has been dysfunctional for years. Their lawsuit, which could take years to play out, is not directed at the upcoming budget negotiations in the state legislature, said Abe Hajela, a Sacramento lawyer for the plaintiffs.

“This was a systemic problem before we had the budget crisis, and it will probably be there after the crisis is resolved,” he said.

Mr. Hajela, who is representing the CSBA, as well as the California State PTA and the Association of California School Administrators, said the case is unlike other school finance lawsuits that have focused purely on equity or adequacy issues, including the 1976 Serrano v. Priest case in California that determined that property-tax rates and per-pupil expenditures had to be to equalized across all of the state’s school districts. The Serrano case was appealed to the California Supreme Court by the defendants, but the case was closed in 1987 after the plaintiffs withdrew.

The essence of the new case, Mr. Hajela said, is that the state’s politicians have consistently fallen short of delivering on the state constitution’s guarantee that education funding be a priority.

“This case is different because the state is exercising its constitutional authority when it comes to having developed an educational program for the state where it’s clear what schools must teach and what students must learn,” Mr. Hajela said. “But the state isn’t living up to its duty to provide the resources to actually deliver on that. This is a systemic attack on school finance. We’re not trying to fix a discrete problem in one district, but an entire system.”