Friday, September 30, 2011

CCCTEC CHARTER FAILURE “…symptomatic of other charter school defaults, which happen ‘with great regularity’”. Zeiger sees tens of millions of dollars lost


previous CCCTEC stories:


By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess |

9/29/11 • The bankruptcy of a one-year-old charter school in West Sacramento has underscored difficulties with state and federal funding of startup schools and raised questions about the State Board of Education’s long-term capacity to oversee dozens of charter schools that it has approved.

There are probably practical fixes to the funding issue that could reduce the odds that millions of dollars would be squandered on bad-bet charter schools. The issue of the State Board’s oversight of charters raises a deeper question: Who should approve and monitor charters ­– local districts, the State Board on appeal, or perhaps independent agencies and universities, as in other states, with the expertise and a disinterest in the charters they would regulate?

Louis Freedberg, the new executive director of EdSource, writes about both developments in a two-part blog posting that ran Wednesday and today. He details the cautionary tale of the California College, Career and Technical Center, which came up at the State Board’s September meeting.

Before declaring bankruptcy this month, the charter had spent nearly a million dollars funded through a federal startup grant, a state loan, and standard state tuition payments. CCCTEC had encountered setbacks from its opening, when delays with its facility led to a sizable defection in student enrollment, contributing to escalating financial problems that led to a default in payments and loss of government money.

Richard Zeiger, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, told the State Board that CCCTEC’s failure was symptomatic of other charter school defaults, which happen “with great regularity,” and over two decades totaled “easily into the tens of millions of dollars, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it went higher.” Zeiger didn’t elaborate further at the meeting and didn’t provide Freedberg with specific numbers, saying the Department of Education is doing the research. It’s presumably a small portion of the 1,400 charters that have been granted over two decades, including more than 900 currently operating.

The federal Department of Education is already paring back grants to California and setting aside more money for proven charter management organizations. On Wednesday, it announced multimillion-dollar startup grants to Palo Alto-based Rocketship Education ($1.9 million), San Francisco-based KIPP ($9.5 million), and Los Angeles-based Alliance College Ready Public Schools ($3.1 million).

However, Eric Premack, executive director of the Charter Schools Development Center in Sacramento, which provides technical advice and training for charter operators, acknowledged that the state could cut funding losses by tightening procedures for awarding grants and tracking attendance.

Charter operators run on thin margins and need advance money to get rolling, especially first-time charters that start with one or two grades and are projected to break even when they reach full enrollment. That’s why the federal government started the Public Charter School Grant Program, with grants of up to $600,000, and the state started a revolving loan fund, repayable over five years. Throw in deferrals of state tuition payments and unexpected encounters with fire marshals, and new charters can find themselves in precarious spots.

But a more competitive process for grants, with check-off dates for when charters must have enrollments and facilities lined up, could catch problems. There also needs to be stricter scrutiny of attendance figures, on which advance state payments are based, made on the 20th day after the opening of a school. In CCCTEC’s case, fewer students attended than enrollment figures indicated, leading to $219,000 in overpayments last year alone, according to Freedberg.

Time for more authorizers?

Most charters are granted by local districts, but the State Board has granted three dozen – less than 4 percent of the total number of charters statewide – mostly on appeal after rejection by district trustees and county school boards. CCCTEC is one of those.

As State Board President Michael Kirst told Freedberg, “There are charter schools that are turned down by both local districts and counties that deserve to operate and so there needs to be some state appeal mechanism.” Some local trustees are unabashedly antagonistic to charters.

Whether the State Board should be saddled with oversight responsibilities – or contract out that function and leave the Board strictly with policy decisions – is a question that the State Board should confront as the number of appeals and approvals increases.

Charters pay fees, between 1 and 3 percent, to their authorizers, but, with rare exceptions, few districts do the monitoring well. It’s not clear that the State Board should have caught CCCTEC’s spending anomalies and possible misrepresentations earlier. But a review of the events leading up to bankruptcy should be part of the Board’s postmortem.


By J.D. Velasco, Staff Writer | San Gabriel Valley Tribune |

Wilson High student Kevin Mendoza, 16, gets a Tdap shot during the last day to get a free vaccination at Los Altos High School in Hacienda Heights on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. (Watchara Phomicinda / Staff)

Posted: 09/28/2011 04:31:13 PM PDT - Despite some dire predictions earlier this year, school districts in the San Gabriel Valley are so far reporting widespread compliance with state-mandated whooping cough vaccinations.

According to state law, all students in grades 7 through 12 must be vaccinated for whooping cough within the first 30 days of the school year. Parents who have a personal objection to vaccinations can request a waiver.

State law originally required students to be vaccinated before even setting foot in a classroom this year, but concerns from education officials led the state legislature in July to grant the 30-day extension.

"The bottom line is we really want to keep kids healthy, safe and in school," said Linda Davis-Aldritt, school nurse consultant for the California Department of Education. "(But) if they have not complied, then they do need to be excluded."

Davis-Alldritt said the state won't have receive official figures about vaccinations until December, but she said she's heard so far has been encouraging.

"Anecdotally, I'm hearing good news from around the state," she said. "I think the picture is pretty good."

Locally, officials from several school districts, including Bonita Unified and Rowland Unified, said they have reached 100 percent compliance among their students.

Lois Klein, assistant superintendent of educational services at Bonita Unified, said the vaccination clinics sponsored by the district helped.

"Part of it is because of the clinics," Klein said. "(But) a big piece of it was a very proactive cooperative communication with parents."

Other school districts, such as Bassett Unified, Baldwin Park Unified and Walnut Valley Unified, haven't achieved 100 percent compliance, but are very close.

Bassett Unified Superintendent Marty Galindo said as of Tuesday, the district only had one student left who need to be vaccinated.

"We kicked butt on this," he said. "(Our staff) did an awesome job."

A few school districts are still dealing with quite a few stragglers.

Azusa Unified still had about 40 students out of about 10,900 who need vaccinations, said spokeswoman Kathleen Miller on Monday.

Charter Oak Superintendent Mike Hendricks said his district, has more outreach to do.

"I believe district-wide we have ... just a little over a hundred," Hendricks said.

West Covina Unified has about 170 who are still unvaccinated. It will reach its deadline on Monday, officials said.

But even these larger numbers of unvaccinated students are small when compared to the total student population of school districts.

El Monte Union High School District's 200-or-so unvaccinated students represent less than 2 percent of the district's total enrollment.

"We're very fortunate," said. El Monte Union Superintendent Nick Salerno.


John Thompson: Gates Foundation Teacher Effectiveness Researcher Seems to Support the 'Status Quo'

By Anthony Cody /EdWeek – Living n Dialogue |

September 27, 2011 10:48 AM | The National Bureau of Economic Research just published "School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment" by David J. Deming, Justine S. Hastings, Thomas J. Kane and Douglas O. Staiger. Tom Kane, of course, heads the Gates Foundation's $400 million dollar "Measuring Effective Teaching" experiment, and yet his work provides little or no support for the policies preferred by Gates and other "reformers." In fact, the study confirms the judgments of teachers and education researchers who the accountability hawks condemn as the "status quo." If Gates and Kane had had any idea that their research would yield the results reported in this and other recent papers, it is hard to believe they would have started down their market-driven path.

As usual with the Gates crowd, the actual evidence found by these economists is as solid as their interpretations are convoluted and strange. They acknowledge that progress in improving urban high schools has been disappointing compared to elementary and middle schools. Kane and company add the weird explanation that research has been "largely limited to test score gains as outcome measures" because they were focused "almost entirely on elementary and middle school students,"as if the data-driven accountability movement has not played a role in defining student performance by that single metric.

When reporting the results of an ambitious "reform" in the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system based on "choice," they seemed to forget that the Gates' $400 million "teacher quality" movement was based on the hypothesis that improved instruction could be the key to increasing student outcomes. If the head of that effort had found that students, who were freed from the lowest quality schools and were given an opportunity for the supposedly better instruction in the high quality schools, had improved test scores, the Gates PR machine would be proclaiming such a finding throughout the education world. If those efforts had been successful and reported during a week when the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools were being celebrated for their market-oriented, standardized test-driven policies, these economists might have remembered that the last decade of "reform" has been based on the idea that holding teachers accountable for academic outcomes is the key lever for change.

Regardless, the better schooling did not improve student performance in English or math. And the new study has gained no more attention than the other embarrassing revelation - the Charlotte Mecklenburg student performance "failed dismally in meeting academic targets for 2011."

Neither did Kane mention that their findings were consistent with a large body of research by "the status quo." As explained by the old-fashioned research of James Heckman, Gordon MacInnes and E.D. Hirsch, the key to improving student performance is starting early, nurturing socio-emotional skills, and teaching reading for comprehension by third grade. Once children "learn to read," so they can "read to learn," the "Matthew Effect" takes over. Those children learn how to learn, almost without regard to teacher quality, while it is virtually impossible for high school teachers to make up for those deficits.

The headline of "School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment" should have been the study's inadvertent confirmation of the Matthew Effect and the limits of high schools alone to remedy deficits from the early years, but it is better late than never. In fact, if the conclusions in the report's last page were presented in the introduction where they would have received equal prominence, I would be leading the cheers for the paper. Buried in the report's last page was the reminder that the so-called high-quality schools failed to improve English Language Arts performance of kids from low-quality schools and the extraordinary statement, "Provided that these results could be replicated in other settings, they have important implications for the design of school accountability policies. It makes little sense to hold schools accountable for outcomes that they cannot control."

The actual headline, however, was that lottery-winners from the lowest-performing schools, attended high-quality schools that did not prove to be better in adding value in terms of test score growth. But these students were 8.7% more likely to graduate from high school and 5.7% more likely to graduate from college.

Kane et. al explained:

Unfortunately, we cannot say much about the underlying explanation for the gains experienced by lottery winners from low-quality neighborhood schools. Because the choice schools were often magnet schools, with specialized programs such as career academies, arts education, and intensive college prep, the benefits could come primarily from improved student engagement in high school. It is possible that having demographically similar but more able peers led to increased student learning and engagement inside the classroom. Better peers could also have an impact on behavior inside and outside of the classroom.

Who would have thunk it? Perhaps engaging instruction and building a respectful learning culture are better ways of helping low-income kids. And heresy of all heresy, perhaps the way to improve college-going rates is to invest in career counseling and courses that stress college preparatory learning for mastery and not rote instruction for jacking up test scores.

It is looking more and more like research by scholars supporting data-driven and market-driven "reform" is providing support for the traditional reforms that the
accountability hawks have ridiculed. By now, Kane and other Gates economists
must be worrying that their money and talent would have been better
invested in traditional academic research and better funding the
educational systems previously known as "the status quo."

What do you think? Will this research cause any of our leaders to re-think their approach?

  • John Thompson was an award winning historian, with a doctorate from Rutgers, and a legislative lobbyist when crack and gangs hit his neighborhood, and he became an inner city teacher. He blogs for This Week in Education, the Huffington Post and other sites. After 18 years in the classroom, he is writing his book, Getting Schooled: Battles Inside and Outside the Urban Classroom.


Circular Reasoning at the Gates: Education Nation off to a Confusing Start

By Anthony Cody edWeek / Livng in dialogue |

September 26, 2011 11:05 AM | Last September NBC brought us the first Education Nation, developed in coordination with the release of the pro-charter documentary, Waiting For Superman. The network ran into a few bumps in the road, catching flak when it was pointed out that panels were loaded with "superheroes" like Michelle Rhee, and critical voices like Diane Ravitch, and those of classroom teachers, were largely absent.


Brian Williams: “just their facts, ma’am”

…the Gates Foundation, one of the sponsors of this event, and the largest single funder of education anywhere in the world. It's their facts that we're going to be referring to often to help along our conversation.”


In 2010 the federal education budget for discretionary spending was $64.1 billon.

The State of California proposes to spend $57.8 billion on K-12 education this year

Gates doesn’t come close!

This year, NBC has made an effort to be a bit more balanced and inclusive of teachers voices, and the Teacher Town Hall yesterday made a start in that direction.

On a stage dominated by the largest golden hood ornament I have ever seen, Brian Williams interviewed mostly teachers, while Tamron Hall roamed about the audience taking comments from the crowd.

The comments from the teachers present are worth a listen, but my mind kept dwelling on the interview with Melinda Gates. First, here are some of the things Brian Williams said about Mrs. Gates and her husband.

At the top of the show, we were told:

We're also going to be joined by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates Foundation, one of the sponsors of this event, and the largest single funder of education anywhere in the world. It's their facts that we're going to be referring to often to help along our conversation.

Then, in his introduction of Melinda Gates, Brian Williams said:

You could refer to our guest as the top funder of education in the world. A partner and sponsor of this year's gathering. Also spending half a billion dollars to devise a way figure out what makes a great teacher, what makes them most effective. The estimates are the Gates Foundation has already spent, obviously a record for any education spending, spent or committed to spending five to seven billion dollars.

But I want to focus on what Mrs. Gates said, because there is something deeply disturbing about the way the issues have been framed. And since this foundation is, according to Brian Williams, the source for the very facts that are guiding this conversation, it seems crucial to understand the thinking that is behind their work. Please review her thoughts, and see what you think of the reasoning that is at work.
Brian Williams asks:

You and your husband have always said this all comes back to a single relationship a student and a teacher. What have you learned about what makes a great teacher?

Melinda Gates responds:

Everybody says 'you can't just look at test scores at the end of the year, because there are so many factors, there's poverty and other things that go into this.' But nobody had done the research to say 'how do we know that a teacher's making a difference in a student's life?' So we set out to do this enormous piece of research. Three thousand teachers signed up in six different districts. We videoed the teachers, and we said 'at the end of the day, what is predictive of great teaching? What besides that test score?' And it turned out a teacher who's good one year is good usually in the second year. It turned out you could look at the test scores and see in terms of value added, how had they moved kids up in the system. But then you could also look at student perceptions. It turned out that student perceptions of a teacher were also predictive of how they would do at the end of the year and whether they learned all that material.

Brian Williams:

How do you keep that from becoming a popularity contest?

Melinda Gates:

We learned you have to have multiple measures of what make a great teacher. Right now teachers are observed by their principals at regular intervals. We need to have peer observations. But we need to know that the tool that we're using -- there are ten different tools for peer observations. But which ones actually predict whether the students learned the material at the end of the year? So we need to test the peer observations, and the principal observations, and we need to look at the scores at the end of the year, and we need to look at the student data. When you ask the students did you have an effective teacher, you ask specific questions, 'did the teacher help you when you didn't understand the homework, or what you missed on your homework? Did they go help you learn that? Did the teacher get a sense of when he or she didn't explain the information well, and help get your class on track? Did your teacher manage the classroom well? It turns out there are about six questions you can ask the students - not 'did you like the teacher,' but what they did in the classroom that actually measures and correlates to whether the test scores got better at the end of the year.

Do you notice what is bothering me? Mrs. Gates begins by acknowledging that good teaching cannot be reduced to a test score - or at least that this is often said. She then asserts that the half billion dollars they have spent on research in this area have uncovered a number of things that can be measured that allow us to predict which teachers will have the highest test scores. A great teacher is defined over and over again as one who made sure students "learned the material at the end of the year."

If you look closely at how she describes peer observations, the method at work is even clearer. Teachers tend to support peer observation, because it can be a valuable basis for collaboration, which yields many benefits to us beyond possible test score gains. But what does Melinda Gates say about it? It can be worthwhile, BUT: only the models of peer observation that have been proven to raise test scores should be used. And presumably we can count on the Gates Foundation to provide us with that information.

In spite of all the billions they have spent, it appears that the Gates Foundation is laboring under the same logical fallacy that doomed No Child Left Behind.
In a way which employs circular reasoning, they have defined great teaching as that which results in the most gains on end of year tests, and then spent millions of dollars identifying indicators of teaching that will yield the best scores.

The most deceptive strategy is how they then try to pretend that these indicators are "multiple measures" of good teaching. In fact, these are simply indicators of teaching practices associated with higher test scores. In spite of Mrs. Gates' feint at the opening of her response, everything she describes, all these things that supposedly go beyond test scores - peer observations, student perceptions - are only deemed valid insofar as they are correlated with higher test scores.

Melinda Gates begins with the question "How do we know a teacher's making a difference in a student's life?" That is an excellent and complex question. However, when we look at her answer, we find she commits the logical fallacy known as "begging the question." One begs the question when one assumes something is true, when that is actually a part of what must be proven.

The question she begs is "what defines great teaching?" This is not answered by finding teaching methods associated with higher test scores. This question remains hanging over the entire school reform enterprise. Until we answer that question, we are devising complex mechanisms to elevate test scores assuming this will improve students' lives, when this is manifestly unproven. In fact, I would argue that many of the strategies used to boost scores are actually harmful to our students. And many dimensions of great teaching are not reflected in test scores -- and are systematically undermined when educators are held ever more "accountable" for these scores.

This episode should remind us of the crucial need to teach critical thinking in our schools - and apply such thinking to the dilemmas we face.

The other thing that was rather disturbing was the omnipresence of the Gates Foundation's largesse. Towards the end of the show, Brian Williams offered this advice to viewers:

This is a couple who have decided to give away their fortune. I heard two educators earlier today, one said to the other, "they never set out to do anything other than put money into education and help kids." So thanks to our audience for being mindful of that.

There was some pushback, however, and NBC deserves some credit for giving space for some differing views. New Haven teacher Matt Presser was one of the winners of an essay contest, and he offered his thoughts:

Too often school reform is something that is happening to our students as opposed to with them or for them, and so many decisions are being made by people in board rooms, people in the White House, when the real people who know what our students need are the people here today, the people in our classrooms every day.

This must have seemed to be a bit ungrateful to Brian Williams, because he then asked,

We just had Mrs. Gates here. This is a guy, I think the Forbes latest figure is $60's the Gates family, spending upwards of $7 billion so far, haven't broken a sweat yet, trying to talk to you guys, ask you questions, including students, asking questions about what's working, what's not working. Do you support their efforts? Do you think it's money well spent?

Matt Presser replied,

I think it's a shame that we have to rely on philanthropy to support our schools, to make up for an educational debt that has accrued for generations. I think certain communities, especially in urban areas, have been neglected by education for so many years, we have so much to make up for - not just in education, but in housing policy and job discrimination. In so many areas across the country, that even those efforts to get more money into our schools, there needs to be more a wholistic approach, instead of just something that is thrown at our schools.

But perhaps the most potent counterweight to the Gates approach was offered by teacher John Hunter. He said,

My first job interview, I asked the supervisor, what should I do? She said "What do you want to do?" As a teacher, to be given that kind of open space, that kind of mandate-less position to be in where you can create out of the emptiness, it allowed me to create that kind of template for my students, where I could ask them, "what would YOU like to do today? What is your passion? What drives you?" If the students have the interest and you build towards that, then they can come with more passion for learning.

He took advantage of this latitude to create a now-famous eight-week long interactive game where his students are challenged to solve world problems. Was this great teaching? Do we have to wait until we see how his students performed on the end-of-year standardized tests to find out?

What do you think? Does the Gates Foundation's research into great teaching beg the question by relying so heavily on test scores? How does this affect the direction of education reform?


-- Howard Blume | LA Times/L.A. NOW |

September 30, 2011 |  6:36 pm - L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy has cautioned school board members to avoid taking sides over who should control 15 new and 22 low-performing campuses next year.

Deasy was responding to complaints that school board member Bennett Kayser is openly backing plans being developed by three groups of district teachers for academies at South Region High School #8, a campus set to open next year in Maywood.

The school board is expected to choose the winning bidders early next year. Under a board policy, new and low-performing schools can be taken over by groups inside the district or those from outside, including charter operators.

“This causes me great concern,” Deasy wrote in a Sept. 30 memo to the seven-member board. “Highly visible board member involvement during the planning and submission process could have a major chilling effect on competing stakeholders at those schools.” He added: “Such activities raise substantial questions with many as to … fairness and impartiality.”

He asked board members to “reserve their public statements.”

Kayser, whose recent election this year was heavily funded by the teachers union, had written a “to whom it may concern” letter of recommendation for the three plans offering “my full support.”

“I know they will provide an enriching and successful education environment for our students,” he wrote in his Sept. 20 letter, which could be used to attract additional backing for the teacher-led plans.

The subsequent protest came from groups that strongly backed creating the bidding process.

“Board Member Kayser has abdicated his responsibility to be a fair arbiter,” advocates wrote in Sept. 28 letter. They called on Kayser “to immediately recuse himself from voting on … recommendations.”

Signatories to the letter include Families That Can, a parents group closely allied with charter schools; Inner City Struggle, a community group usually allied with school board president Monica Garcia; and Families in Schools, which has helped monitor the bidding for schools and generally sided on policy debates with charter schools rather than the teachers union.

Also signing the letter was Yolie Flores, who preceded Kayser in representing District 5 on the school board. Flores now heads Communities for Teaching Excellence, a nonprofit that is advocating for changes to teacher hiring and evaluations that have been opposed by the local teachers union.

While on the school board, Flores had led efforts to allow bidding by outside groups, including charter schools and a nonprofit controlled by L.A Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Charter schools are independently managed; most are non-union.

The issue of board favoritism has come up before. Advocates also had criticized board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, another teachers union ally, of openly backing a teacher-led plan last year.

The union and others, in turn, have criticized the school-board majority for canceling non-binding elections in which community members chose between competing plans. Teacher-led groups typically won these votes overwhelmingly in balloting frequently characterized by low turnout and allegations of misconduct.


Written by Imperial Valley News |

Friday, 30 September 2011 -- San Fernando, California - California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) Acting Secretary Mike Dayton joined Los Angeles Unified School District officials today at Valley Region High School #5, Teacher Prep Academy in San Fernando to launch the updated Guide and Checklist for Nonstructural Earthquake Hazards in California Schools.

Originally released in 2003 by order of the California Emergency Services Act, the revised Guide and Checklist provides further direction for creating safer educational facilities. It gives school district officials concrete examples and recommendations to reduce the potential of seismically related hazards associated with nonstructural components in schools, including mechanical systems, ceiling systems, light fixtures and furnishings.

"I am pleased to offer the Guide and Checklist to California school officials to assist in their efforts to mitigate injury and damage in the event of an earthquake," said Secretary Dayton. "Something as simple as using a metal clip to secure a bookcase can prevent injury to students and staff. Los Angeles Unified School District has done a commendable job at using the document to its fullest potential to not only protect students and staff but to mitigate the damage to school property and the potential for further economic impact."

In light of recent seismic events, both in the nation and globally, the timely Guide and Checklist uses common, non-technical descriptions and easy to understand graphics as a practical approach to help school staff undertake these important safety measures. The revised edition maintains this easy-to-follow format, but incorporates newer equipment items now more common in schools, such as flat screen televisions.

In addition to Cal EMA, other partners in the document included the Department of General Services (DGS), Division of the State Architect, the Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission and the California Department of Education.

Mike Gardner, Chair of the Seismic Safety Commission, commented, "The Commission is proud to have participated in the development of this important report. While California school buildings are among the most earthquake resistant anywhere, the building contents may not be well-secured and can cause injury and death in a major earthquake. The Guide and Checklist will aid school districts, teachers, and parents in taking low cost, highly effective steps to ensure that things like light fixtures, books and ordinary classroom items are secured or stored in ways that reduce the chance they will fall during an earthquake."

In addition to securing items from falling, the guide makes recommendations to maintain safe and clear exits for evacuation and access for first responders, and to prevent chemical spills, fires and gas leaks. It is applicable to school districts across the state and in other states susceptible to seismic activity.

The Valley Region High School #5, Teacher Prep Academy, in the Los Angeles Unified School District is an example of the recommendations from the Guide and Checklist coming to fruition. LAUSD has used the Guide and Checklist as part of an overall emergency preparedness strategy.

"I'm very proud of the efforts we've undertaken at new schools such as VRHS#5 to keep our students as safe as possible in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster," said Board Member Nury Martinez. "It is absolutely essential that parents know that their children are attending classes in buildings that are structurally sound."

"There's nothing more paramount to us than the safety of our students and staff," added LAUSD Chief Facilities Executive Kelly J. Schmader. "New schools are being built, and existing schools modernized, to the highest safety standards -- they not only comply with the structural and fire-life safety requirements of the Field Act, but are also designed to reduce potential seismic hazards associated with nonstructural components. Thank you Cal EMA, DSA, DOE and CSSC for providing us with the Guide and Checklist for Nonstructural Earthquake Hazards in California Schools and for recognizing our commitment to the recommended safety standards."


by smf for 4LAKidsNews

The agenda for the Community College Board meeting next week (follows) was forwarded to me for comment -- with my attention directed to the item appointing LA City Controller Wendy Greuel to independently investigate appointment of the LACCD Inspector General.

It’s a lengthy agenda and I scanned it in its entirely …but not in any real depth. Too many questions that beg other questions spring off the 108 pages

I have some real concerns and questions - especially in light of the State Controller's Report and the series of LA Times articles by Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland of misbehavior in the expenditure of bond funds - which identify a lack of oversight and accountabilityby LACCD staff and the various bond oversight committees. There is one oversight committee for each community college campus plus a central one. Ultimately accountable are the trustees of the Community College District themselves - they are responsible to the voters and taxpayers and the students of the district for the expenditure of the LACCD's Proposition A and AA and Measure J construction and modernization bonds.

I am sharing my thoughts here.

Re: BT3. Resolution Authorizing an Independent Review of the Selection Process and Qualifications for the Inspector Genera! (pp10 of 108)

I am unconvinced the city controller is the right independent investigator. 

  1. There has already been a controllers investigation by the State Controller, a 'second opinion' – or 'watchdogging-the-watchdog' - is not what's called for.  The LACCD can’t just call up audits and investigations until they get one they like!
  2. Second, this proposed review will be bought-and-paid-for by the LACCD with a limited scope - so independence becomes a question.
    • The alleged improprieties in the selection of the LACCD Inspector General and the alleged improprieties in the use, lease, environmental study and further acquisition of property at Van de Kamps are intimately coupled.
    • Any further investigation stemming from the OSC report should be free to follow leads wherever they go. My reading of the OSC report and my understanding of the oral presentation that accompanied it was that further investigation should be of possible criminal and not just civil impropriety.
  3. Ms. Greuel is a declared candidate for mayor of Los Angeles - and it is obvious to me that any further investigation may identify the current mayor as part of the problem with LACCD actions at the Van de Kamps campus. There is the appearance of a potential conflict of interest.

Re: BT5. Resolution to Request California Attorney General Opinion on Los Angeles Community College District's Proposition 39 Compliance (pp12 of 108)

  1. Yes. The AG is the right agency to investigate any and all of this …unless a grand jury is empanelled.

BT6. Resolution to Adopt a Master Budget Plan and to Implement Policies to Strengthen Oversight and Spending Practices for the District's Construction Program (pp13 of 109)

BT7. Resolution to Strengthen the District Citizens' Oversight Committee's Authority and Responsibility to Ensure that Bond Moneys are Spent Appropriately (pp.14 0f 108)

  1. These two resolutions are an interesting combination of too-little/too-late and rushing-too-fast.
  2. The many agenda items that follow in the 108 pages approve and authorize contracts and expenditures for construction and modernization under the bonds – including 'emergency contracts' and bond expenditures for questionable items - in the same old absent-a-master plan/un-overseen way that got us to where we are today. Remember Einstein's definition of 'insanity'.

The trustees must stop and question all these expenses and staff recommendations – and must empower the Bond Oversight Committees' responsibility and authority to oversee before they go ahead doing it the way they always have.

A Resolution for Oversight and Resolution for A Master Plan are not the same as having those things in place.

To proceed before establishing the things called for under these two resolutions – Strong Accountable Oversight and A Master Plan - or without resolving the allegations of prior impropriety - is the epitome of hubris.

The central Bond Oversight Committee must have independent staff and counsel – as should the trustees themselves - who can answer questions like "Is the expenditure of long term bond funds to purchase short-lifetime I-Pads – especially in contracts with only one bidder fiduciarilly responsible, wise …or even legal?"    (pp.41 of 108)

There are excellent things happening in the Community College District – the joint use contracts  and co-development of the Middle College High School with LAUSD is a case in point.

But legal? That's a whole other matter.


LACCD Agenda 10-5


Principal Susan Kim calls designation, under terms of No Child Left Behind Act, 'very misleading'; other local principals echo her sentiments.

By Mike Szymanski, Studio City Patch |


Principal Susan Kim explains to Valley View parents that they did well, but got labeled 'PI' - CreditMike Szymanski


Sept. 30, 2011 - 10:44am -- It’s her first partial year as principal at Valley View Elementary School, and the school test numbers came in well this year.

Three subgroups that failed last year, including the “socio-economically disadvantaged,” scored in the proficient range, and the entire school got among the highest Academic Performance Index point increases in the East Valley region.

Yet, Principal Susan Kim was forced to send out letters Wednesday that explained to parents that this tiny school in the Cahuenga Pass was now labeled a “Program Improvement” school under the federal No Child Left Behind Act—and the letter was to let parents know that they could transfer to another school if they wanted to, and that the Los Angeles Unified School District would pay for their transportation.

The principal gave the bad news at Back-to-School night on Tuesday and sent the official LAUSD letter out on Wednesday.

“I’ll be honest; it’s a little disappointing, but we are on our way up, and we will make sure that we get to proficient levels in all our categories,” Kim said.

A school gets labeled “Program Improvement” if one of the subgroup categories falls below a set proficiency target. At Valley View there are 17 identified subgroups, distinguished by ethnic background, race, English-speaking, special needs or economic needs.

For the second year in a row at Valley View—which has 250 students and is one of the smallest schools in the LAUSD system—the 54 Latino and Hispanic students did not score high enough in the English-Language Arts test. They scored at 51 percent and needed to get to 67.6 percent.

Now, the school has a label on it that is sometimes difficult to get out of, but Valley View—although situated in the wealthy neighborhoods of the Hollywood Hills and has a population of mostly Studio City and Toluca Lake residents—does get Title 1 money because it has enough socioeconomically disadvantaged students from other parts of the city who choose to be there. That $4,000 in Title 1 money will be used to help with programs to target the students who need to improve their test scores, Kim said.

Some of the parents are disappointed because the label tarnishes their secret little gem of a school.

“This is very distressing to me, because when I looked at schools for my daughter, I specifically did not look at schools labeled ‘Program Improvement’ and I would have overlooked this school, which I love,” said Bonnie George, who is now the co-president of the school's PTA. “I know that we will be fine next year.”

Kelly Cole, the other co-president of the PTA, also purposefully picked Valley View for her son after doing a lot of research on local schools, in different districts and both public and private. She said, “Statistics never tell the whole picture. It’s obvious after you spend 10 minutes at the school that you see how active and involved the parents and teachers are with the students, and how exceptional a school it is.”

The school Academic Performance Index for the past five years increased 13 percent:

2007     746 score

2008     764 score

2009     827 score

2010     820 score

2011     845 score

Halfway through last year, Harold Klein, who was the principal for the past six years at the school, was forced to resign, and Kim took over in January.

Klein said, “It is a shame. These test scores do not show how hard these teachers worked to improve the scores overall. For a whole school to be labeled like this for one category just seems silly.”

It’s a problem echoed at other schools. North Hollywood Senior High Principal Randall Delling has been protesting the unfair federal restrictions practically since they were implemented. His school, while winning national math and science honors, has had the “PI” label on it for three years. One of the three categories that hasn’t improved in his school is the English test for the students labeled “English Learners.”

At Walter Reed Middle School in Studio City, Principal Donna Tobin did not want to take away from the success of her school hitting 828—higher than their goal of 821.

“We are thrilled with the score,” Tobin said. “The teachers, staff, parents and students all worked so hard, and we did better than what we hoped to do.”

She added, “But no, we’re not out of the waters with Program Improvement.”

For the fifth year, Reed was considered a “PI” school, and last year nine of their 33 categories did not make proficient marks. Those categories included math scores for American Indian/Alaskan Natives and math scores for socio-economically disadvantaged students; and both math and English test scores for “Students with Disabilities,” English learners and Hispanic/Latino students.

At Valley View, Kim said she has a plan to tutor students that may need help with testing, and she said she wanted to start a club with those who scored a perfect 600 on the math and English tests—and they had a surprising lot of them. “I want to see if those students will help their fellow students out,” she said.

Kim added, “This label is simply misleading, it’s very misleading.”



Studio City Patch's series from last year on Valley View : A LITTLE SCHOOL IN CRISIS

A Little School in Crisis, Part 1: How a Tiny School Helped Save Their Principal—At Least for Now
A Little School in Crisis, Part 2: Losing Back-up Staff Creates Unsafe Conditions at School
A Little School in Crisis, Part 3:  How the PTA Saved The Library
A Little School in Crisis, Part 4: With More Budget Cuts Looming, What Now?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The new math and the changing numbers: THE CSEA SETTLEMENT, CLERKS AND LIBRARIANS

by smf for 4LAKidsNews

Sept 29, 2011 – Last Tuesday – while John Deasy and Monica Garcia  were charming the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board, the LA Times reported:

Under mounting public pressure and amid worry about unmanageable campuses, Los Angeles Unified School District officials and a union representing non-teaching employees announced a tentative agreement Monday that is expected to restore close to 400 financial managers, clerical staff and library aides.

I’m not going to get into it with about whether elementary school librarians are ‘non-teaching employees’ – that’s a bit of educratic hogwash the Times and LAUSD leadership  have ingested along with  the Bill Gates/Eli Broad Kool-Aid.

From the US Dept of Ed:

What is the Improving Literacy through School Libraries Program?  Title I, Part B, Subpart 4 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended.

The purpose of this program is to improve student literacy skills and academic achievement by

    • providing increased access to up-to-date library materials,

    • a well-equipped, technologically advanced school library media center,

    • and well-trained, professionally certified school library media specialists.

…no matter what you call them,  they are well-trained, professionally certified school library media specialists.

Tuesday the Daily News also reported LAUSD OKs rehiring hundreds of clerks, aides

Los Angeles Unified agreed Monday to rehire hundreds of office clerks and library aides under a tentative agreement reached with the union representing support staff, district officials announced.

Under the tentative agreement with the California School Employees Association, the district would allocate $8 million to fund the rehiring of support staff, with the district selecting which positions would be restored.

Los Angeles Unified had come under fire from parents and community members for laying off more than 1,100 workers last week in a cost-cutting move. The laid-off workers include 450 office clerks and technicians and 230 library aides.


ON THE SAME DAY The Galatzan Gazette, the newsletter of Boardmember Tamar Galatzan  reported:

District and Union Hammer Out Deal to Bring Jobs Back to Schools

Sept 27, 2010 - Some Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD) library aides, office clerks and financial managers will return to the job after their union, The California School Employees Association (CSEA), and the District reached a tentative agreement Monday afternoon.

The agreement, if approved, would restore hundreds of jobs in exchange for at least 4 unpaid furlough days. The number of furlough days could increase if state revenue does not meet forecasts.

Tamar Galatzan hailed the news saying, “I’m delighted that beloved employees of this District can begin returning to schools and getting back to work serving our students and families.”

Parents and activists had mobilized in recent days in an effort to stave off cuts and protect the employees that mean so much to their schools. While Board Offices were flooded with calls and emails, the District’s negotiating team and CSEA leadership were bunkered down, hammering out a deal.

If approved by CSEA members the agreement will become effective and employees could start returning to schools within weeks.

The total number of jobs saved in Board District 3 is not yet available but it is expected that over 400 positions will be restored District-wide.

Update on Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 8:35AM by Gazette Staff

Originally, the Gazette reported the number of restored positions would be over 400, however that figure was incorrect and the number has been corrected to approximately 178.

So, out of the ‘more than 1,100 workers’ laid off Friday …‘approximately 178’ will be brought back?

  • THERE IS A SUBSTANCIAL DIFFERENCE between “over 400” (or the LA Times’ “close to 400”) and “approximately 178”. 
  • “Approximately 178’ isn’t even  the Daily News’ or the Gazettes’ “hundreds of jobs”.  This fails both the Math and the English part of the test: One needs at least two hundred to achieve “hundreds”.

And then there’s the  bait and-switch/wishy-washyness of  the following, also from The Times.

Much of the recent parent anger over the cuts has been directed at the closing of elementary school libraries. Some of those positions will be restored, but Deasy said other priorities may take precedence, such as middle school financial managers and clerical staff needed to keep schools operating.

Gentle readers, watch carefully – because elementary school librarians appear about to be thrown under the proverbial bus!

Spreading the Gospel of Bill+Eli throughout the land: LESSONS FROM L.A.

By Keven Ann Willey, Vice president and editorial page editor -THe Dallas Morning News |

12:20 PM on Tue., Sep. 27, 2011 | We had an interesting Editorial Board meeting this morning with the president of the Los Angeles Unified School District board and the district's new superintendent. (Well, semi-new. He's been there about a year.) They are in town for a conference sponsored by the Dallas Chamber later today to talk about education reform. What an inspirational confab we had!

I would like to pluck President Monica Garcia and/or John Deasy and transplant them to Dallas. They both exude positive energy, plus an aura of order, accountability and a real inner core dedicated to change.

Our very own Bill McKenzie has written a good bit on our blogs and on our newspaper Editorial and op-ed pages about some of the successes in LA. For me, meeting these people and conversing with them about their challenges, ideas and vision really drove home many of the points Bill has made in print about lessons for Dallas from this district.

Among the most interesting headlines from this meeting that left a lasting impression on me:

  • Both Garcia and Deasy had warm praise for LA Mayor Villaraigosa, who has grabbed the issue of education reform by the scruff of the neck and really shaken it to attention. They report that the majority of the school board and administration welcome the mayor's intervention in education even though it's not technically part of a mayor's charter power. They see him seeking the same goals - better education for kids in a long-underperforming district - and welcome his elbow grease and bully pulpit leadership.
  • This district is governed by seven board members and oversees something like 650,000 kids. (Is that even possible?) By comparison, DISD is governed by a nine-member board and oversees something closer to 150,000 kids. (And I use the word "governed" loosely since the board of trustees historically has had a tough time showing sustained leadership of any sort.) Interestingly, Garcia said her board splits roughly along 5-2 lines (the five being helped to election by Mayor Villaraigosa and the two not). It sounds as though they are still able to make considerable progress on really tough issues.
  • One of those tough issues is performance evaluations for teachers and principals, which is made even more complex by California's labor union protections. Still, the district is on track to make "student achievement over time" a "significant" component of its performance evaluations.

Currently, student achievement plays zero role in the evaluations. We asked what "significant" meant. It seems as though ongoing negotiations may settle out at "no more than 30 percent", meaning that up to 30 percent of a principal's annual evaluation will be based on mulitple student achievement measures. I'd like to think there are lessons for DISD here!

Deasy sounded a decidedly upbeat DISD note when he observed that DISD is currently in crucible moment. The district has pockets of demonstrable successes, which can be used as a basis for scaling to greater success, he said; it is about to begin interviewing for a new superintendent and it is building meaningful external partners with Commit! with the support of the Dallas Chamber.

I agree - if only the DISD Board of Trustees properly exploits this opportunity....

…But wait – there’s more!

DISD's defensive posture

By Keven Ann Willey/Editor | | Bio

8:14 AM on Thu., Sep. 29, 2011 | Permalink

Careful readers of this blog might remember my post from earlier this week expressing enthusiasm for the ideas and reform energy shared with our Editorial Board by the president the Los Angeles Unified School District, Monica Garcia, and its superintendent, John Deasy. Here's a link to the full post, in which I noted there are lessons for DISD from the LAUSD experiences.

That post elicited an email from a DISD official that was worded very carefully to acknowledge the exciting leadership in LA but continued:

Just wanted to give you a couple figures as food for thought: LA Unified's most recent, self-reported (2009) 4-year cohort graduation rate is 52%.


Dallas ISD's most recent 4-year cohort graduation rate (2010) is 74.6%, with gains each of the last 3 years.
I am not suggesting in any way that Ms. Garcia and Mr. Deasy are responsible for their numbers nor am I in any position to say that they are not up to the task because, by all accounts, it looks like they are. All I'm saying is that, while Dallas ISD still has plenty of room for improvement - and we all know it, particularly in the area of college readiness - more progress has been made in the last few years than our community seems to acknowledge.

This email troubled me on a number of levels. I tried to explain to the writer my concerns. Here's how I responded. See what you think.

Thank you for your email commenting on my blog post yesterday.

I can understand that you sometimes feel as though the pockets of success within DISD get overlooked by critics. And there are times when I'd agree with you. (In our editorials, we are careful to reflect this nuance; i.e. we even predicated our invitation to the writers for our special Points section last Sunday with a recognition that test scores and graduation rates in some areas of the district are rising and that the focus on teacher quality seems to be increasing.)

But really, this isn't the issue. The issue is scalability. The fact is DISD has had a difficult time taking those successes and scaling them in a sustainable way across the district. That is the challenge for DISD. It is the challenge for many other urban districts as well.

When administration officials keep zeroing in on pockets of success you perpetuate the image - inadvertently, I'm sure - of a district in a defensive posture.Seeking more attention for those pockets of success diverts attention and energy from the real task at hand: How to scale those successes across a district that is still under serving so many of its students. It has the effect of diluting the sense of urgency around the need to change, improve, reinvent, innovate.

To you, I'm sure it feels like you're simply seeking recognition of good. But to those outside the DISD bubble, it feels like a district blind to the forest for the trees.

Frankly, I believe much of DISD's challenge starts with the school board. The fact that the three most recent seats up for election went unchallenged is simply outrageous. The district's external partners share responsibility here - both in failing to field candidates and, in previous elections, for the types of candidates they did field.

But that's another issue we can discuss another time. In the meantime, I hope you'll think about my points above. I offer them constructively. I am a product of public schools and a DISD supporter.

PS: One of the things I like about the LAUSD website is how clearly the district states its five goals and then displays tracking information in an easily understandable manner to show progress toward those goals. (Again, you've plucked one measurement out of that panoply of information which compares unfavorably to Dallas to bolster DISD's position.)

The LAUSD link you provided is to data from a year ago; Deasy spoke of the same goals/measurements yesterday.

My point is that I'm not sure if you asked DISD's leaders what the district's top five goals are that you'd get the same five goals from everybody, never mind any sort of shared understanding about performance against them.

No wonder scalability is an issue.

Leave Comment

1 comment

Score: 0


9:07 AM on 9/29/2011

For the people in government, rather than the people who pester it, DISD is an early-rising, hard-working bureaucracy. It is a popular delusion that the District wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.

Redacted from P. J. O'Rourke (b. 1947), U.S. journalist."The Winners Go to Washington, D.C."
he was talking about Washington D.C.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011



By Nancy Visser/Reporter, Dallas morning News |

12:51 PM on Tue., Sep. 27, 2011 | The official launch of Mayor Mike Rawlings' Commit! initiative kicked off today with a "State of Education" luncheon hosted by the Dallas Regional Chamber featuring keynote speakers from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

LA superintendent John Deasy and board president Monica Garcia were invited to discuss reform efforts for the nation's second largest public school system, which serves nearly 680,000 students on more than 1,000 campuses.

Deasy, who was named LA superintendent early this year, said it's the right of every youth to graduation college-ready. That's a huge goal in LA, where only about half the students graduate and only 30 percent of them are graduate college-ready, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Among the LA reforms is an issue the Dallas ISD board is taking on: the system for teacher evaluations. The LA district is pursuing new principal and teacher evaluations that will include some measure of student achievement. Deasy said he has agreed that no more than 30 percent of a performance evaluation would be based on student achievement numbers, but the final figure has not been decided. The current evaluations have no measure of student achievement. "What we have today does not serve the kids well," Garcia said in a meeting with The Dallas Morning News editorial board.

The change in evaluations is opposed by the teacher's union, though 1,400 teachers volunteered to be in a pilot program that will use student achievement as a measure an educator's success, Garcia said. Deasy said teacher evaluations must help build teacher skills, spotlight the best and brightest and exercise quality control so that underperformers are let go. "We are dead serious about the quality of who gets to be in front of our schools," he said.

In seeking a new superintendent, Deasy and Garcia recommended that Dallas find someone who can lead and manage, who understands the role of an instructor, who can adopt innovative approaches to improving the district and who can collaborate with the community and entities will to reach out to help.

The Dallas board of trustees hopes to have a new superintendent selected by next summer, in time for the second year of Commit!. The mayor's initiative will bring a number of entities together to work in the district to educate Dallas children from "cradle to grave." Some initial partners the chamber, the Dallas Citizens Council, the Real Estate Council, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Read about it in this report from DISD staff writer Tawnell Hobbs.


* Suspect Math: that $12.6 million is for 28 schools in 12 cities.

-- Teresa Watanabe/LA Times LA Now |

Photo: Judy Burton, President and CEO of Alliance. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Judy Burton, president and CEO of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

September 28, 2011 |  2:07 pm - Two California-based charter school organizations have been awarded $12.6 million in federal grants to start 13 new campuses in Los Angeles, federal education officials announced Wednesday.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, which received $3.1 million, will open 10 new campuses in Los Angeles County, adding to 20 existing middle and high schools.

The organization, headed by Judy Burton, a former Los Angeles Unified superintendent, focuses on smaller campuses, longer school days and years, rigorous instruction and high expectations.

"This is absolutely great news," Burton said. "Given all the financial cuts in California now, it makes a huge difference to know we have startup funds for the new schools."

KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, will open three new middle school campuses in South and East Los Angeles beginning with fifth-grade classes next year.

The charter organization received a total $9.4 million in grants and will also open 15 other schools in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Washington; Gaston, N.C.; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New York; and San Antonio.

KIPP, which also emphasizes high expectations, more time in school and effective school leadership, operates 109 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia, enrolling more than 32,000 students.

KIPP and Alliance have been highly praised for raising academic achievement among their students, who are overwhelmingly low-income Latinos and African Americans.

Burton said one of the biggest reasons for success has been more instructional time.

Alliance school days are an hour longer than those in traditional schools, and while the school year is 190 days at a time, many school districts have cut back to 175 days to reduce costs.

In addition, Alliance students attend a 20-day summer session.

"We believe that, particularly at the secondary level, the students can learn -- they just need more time to learn," Burton said.

Marcia Aaron, executive director of KIPP LA, said high expectations, giving principals power over budgets and hiring, and focusing on results are key to her students' success.

"We believe all can and will learn given the right environment," she said.

The awards were among nine grants totaling $25 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. All told, the new schools will serve nearly 45,000 students in 124 new and three expanded charter schools over the next five years.

Charter schools are publicly financed and independently operated; most are nonunion.

"Several high-quality charter schools across the country are making an amazing difference in our children's lives, especially when charters in inner-city communities are performing as well, if not better, than their counterparts in much wealthier schools," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.



Huffington Post |

Los Angeles Schools Cheating

Posted: 9/28/11 02:34 PM ET  - A second cheating scandal has hit the Los Angeles Unified School District, this time at one of the district's most promising campuses.

Virgil Middle School, located in Koreatown, is the latest LAUSD school to be penalized for misconduct or cheating by a teacher.

Here's what an unnamed algebra teacher is accused of, according to the Los Angeles Times:

Officials have accused her of scanning the test into her computer, then preparing a review sheet for students based on actual test questions, according to documents submitted to the California Department of Education.

The teacher decided to retire rather than be dismissed from her position.

The Academic Performance Index (API) of Virgil Middle School has been steadily rising in the past few years. In 2008, it scored 641, and its score this year would have been 714. The statewide performance goal for API scores is 800 out of a possible 1000.

Schools across the nation are grappling with the pressure to raise test scores and improve standards, and several school administrators are responding by cheating.

Earlier this month, test scores from both the LAUSD's Short Avenue Elementary School and Animo Leadership Charter High School were thrown out when several irregularities were found on completed tests. At Animo, there were too many suspicious erasures, reports the Daily Breeze. At Short, the test booklet of a student who left several answers blank was found to be completed for her, according to the Los Angeles Times. Both of the schools' Academic Performance Index scores were withheld as a result. California Watch has more on the fallout for these schools:

The two schools cannot receive any special achievement honors from the state for two years because of the infraction and won't meet state and federal annual progress requirements, said Eric Zilbert of the state Department of Education.

In New York, a decision to conduct "erasure analysis" on completed scantrons (despite the lack of funding for this investigation) has revealed at least 64 possible problems at 62 different schools, reports the New York Times earlier this week.

●●smf’s 2¢: California Watch points out that

Last year, Short Avenue's Academic Performance Index ranking was 848, well above the state target of 800. Animo Leadership (the Green Dot Charter school located in the Lennox School District) would have scored an API near 800 this year if the allegations hadn't caused its results to be thrown out. Both schools serve a mix of low-income and minority students.

All three of these schools are – on the face of it – successful programs – as were the shuttered Crescendo schools. All were on an upward performance curve - driven by expectations, NCLB, AYP, and ‘value-added’ pressure on teachers to do better on test scores.

additional coverage

Another LA school suspected of cheating

San Jose Mercury News - ‎9 hours ago‎

The Los Angeles Times ( says Koreatown's Virgil Middle School could lose a $3.5 million state grant because of cheating allegations against a teacher who is now retired. Documents submitted to the California Department of ...

School Suspected Of Cheating On Standardized Tests

KCRA Sacramento - ‎9 hours ago‎

The Los Angeles Times says Koreatown's Virgil Middle School could lose a $3.5 million state grant because of cheating allegations against a teacher who is now retired. Documents submitted to the California Department of Education allege the Algebra ...


Education officials allege that Gov. Brown and lawmakers illegally shortchanged them by $2 billion. And disability rights groups plan to sue to block $100 million in service cuts. The suits add to the headaches facing the Capitol.

By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times |

Gov. Jerry Brown

At the Convention Center, Gov. Jerry Brown announces an action that will help put as two groups announced lawsuits challenging the spending plan. (Katie Falkenberg / For The Times / September 27, 2011)

September 28, 2011 - Reporting from Sacramento -- California's precariously balanced state budget, already teetering in the continuing economic upheaval, came under further siege Tuesday as two groups announced lawsuits challenging the spending plan.

School officials, including those at the L.A. Unified School District, said they would file suit Wednesday alleging that Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators illegally manipulated California's voter-approved education funding formula to shortchange them by $2 billion. And a coalition of disability-rights activists said they planned to sue Wednesday as well to block nearly $100 million in cuts to services for the developmentally disabled.

The new legal challenges add to a growing list of fiscal headaches for Sacramento.

The state is already in court battling redevelopment agencies over an attempt to take $1.7 billion from them. And California officials are pleading with the Obama administration for permission to reduce Medi-Cal spending by $1.7 billion.

The sluggish economy and turmoil in the financial markets, meanwhile, remain a huge budgetary threat. Lawmakers stitched together California's spending plan in June by building in a $4-billion windfall from a rebounding economy. It is unclear whether that money will materialize.

"The recovery is stalled out," said Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. "Slow growth means less income; less income means less tax revenue."

If state income falls short of lawmakers' budget forecast, automatic cuts inserted as a fiscal safeguard will go into effect, slashing spending on schools, universities, libraries and programs for the needy. Some school districts could shorten the academic year by up to seven days.

"There is a good chance we will see some of the spending cut triggers in the budget actually pulled," Nickelsburg said. The first tier of cuts would take effect if California finance officials determine that the state's tax collections later this year are at least $1 billion less than anticipated.

California finance officials say it's not time for doom-and-gloom predictions — yet.

"It is too early to know," said Jason Sisney, director of state finance at the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, though he noted that the state faces strong economic "head winds."

Tax revenue through August lagged $596 million behind projections, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance. But he said the most important data — the state's fall economic forecast, for example — are still to come.

The new lawsuits could compound the state's financial troubles. The schools litigation is a particularly unwelcome surprise for Democratic lawmakers and Brown, who believed they had averted a legal challenge by striking a last-minute deal in June with the state's powerful teachers union that protected classroom jobs.

Spokesmen for the Legislature's top leaders declined comment until the suit is formally filed. Palmer said the administration expects to prevail in court.

By law, school spending accounts for about 40% of state spending. Brown and lawmakers skirted that requirement this year by converting more than $5 billion to local funds, thus reducing the education calculation. The teachers union signed off on the plan when it received guarantees that instructors would not be laid off and state officials agreed to pay back the missing $2 billion if a broad tax measure fails at the ballot in 2012.

The coalition of school boards and administrators decided to sue anyway.

"We were really terribly underfunded before the recession began three years ago," said Bob Wells, executive director of the Assn. of California School Administrators. "There just has to be a stop to those sorts of cuts."

Los Angeles Unified spokesman Tom Waldman acknowledged that his district would be among the plaintiffs but declined to comment further until the suit is filed.

Advocates for the disabled are suing over a smaller slice of the budget: a nearly $100-million cut in providers' reimbursements. Tony Anderson, executive director of the Arc California, a disability-rights group that is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he was "fearful of the future of the system" and the litigation is necessary to preserve programs for the needy.

Palmer declined to comment on that lawsuit because his office had not yet seen it. But he said the state felt "very confident" about the redevelopment litigation, which is expected to be resolved by the state Supreme Court in the coming months.

Palmer said state officials are also "feeling good" about their chances of receiving a federal waiver to enact at least a portion of the $1.7 billion in Medi-Cal cuts. He said the state had received positive preliminary responses to its effort to reduce what medical providers, such as doctors, are paid for Medi-Cal services.

SECOND LAUSD SCHOOL SUSPECTED OF HEATING ON STATE TEST: Koreatown's Virgil Middle School stands to lose $3.5 million in state grant funds as a result of suspected actions of a teacher who has since retired.

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

September 28, 2011 - A Koreatown campus that is one of the fastest-improving middle schools in Los Angeles has become the latest to be penalized over suspected cheating on the state's standardized tests.

Virgil Middle School's misfortune brings to 23 the number of schools in California that have lost their important Academic Performance Index rating because of suspected cheating, other misconduct or mistakes by teachers.

But in this instance, officials are concerned that the suspected actions of one teacher could cost the school a state grant worth more than $3.5 million over the next three years. The money, which pays for about a fourth of the teaching staff, requires schools to meet improvement targets that are linked to the API scores.

Virgil is the second affected campus within L.A. Unified, the state's largest school system. The other is high-performing Short Avenue Elementary in Del Rey, where three teachers are suspected of improperly coaching students, changing answers on tests or both.

The accused teacher at Virgil was a veteran algebra instructor who spoke about her case but asked that her name not be used because allegations haven't been proved and she wants to protect her reputation. The instructor, who acknowledged that she'd been under pressure to improve her teaching, defended both her integrity and her effectiveness.

Officials have accused her of scanning the test into her computer, then preparing a review sheet for students based on actual test questions, according to documents submitted to the California Department of Education.

"It was egregious," said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, adding that the district moved to dismiss the teacher, who opted to retire.

One of the teachers at Short Avenue also has retired.

The Virgil teacher suggested that either she was framed or that campus administrators, eager to push her into retirement, jumped to hasty and mistaken conclusions.

"I was collecting all questions and trying to make a folder electronically," said the instructor, who taught for decades at Virgil. "I had a stack of questions I had collected from the teachers."

After being accused, "I was told they were going to do some kind of criminal investigation and I would lose all [my] years of service," the instructor said, referring to her pension and retiree health benefits. "I was scared."

The teacher said she had been under pressure for several years from administrators who questioned her performance. Before that, she said, she'd had years of strong evaluations.

The suspected cheating came to light after the teacher fell and fractured her shoulder on the first day of testing.

A student told an adult about seeing the same questions on the test as on a review sheet. Interviews with students elicited the same account, said Principal James Kodani. The teacher had left her flash drive in a computer at school when she was injured, and a scan of the test was on that flash drive, he said.

The teacher had 93 algebra students whose scores could have been affected, among 1,277 students with math scores. Virgil's API score would have been 714, a steep 51-point rise from the previous year.

"Virgil is making really good progress," Deasy said. "I can tell you people at the school are really disappointed."

"We had worked so hard as a staff," said a Virgil teacher who accepted a job at another campus this year. One teacher sobbed, she said, when Kodani first alerted faculty in June that Virgil might lose its ranking. That teacher had tutored students before and after school.

Over the last five years, the school undertook new programs aimed at improving instruction, including a weekly review of sixth-grade math skills — data used to develop lesson plans. The school used new reading programs and scheduled extra intervention periods for students below grade level. Teachers also analyzed the test formats and publicly released items from past exams to design corresponding curriculum.

Then-principal Ada Snethen-Stevens also began to gather documentation on teachers she judged ineffective. One of those was the teacher accused of misconduct, the teacher and other sources confirmed. Snethen-Stevens, who now oversees principals at 12 schools, declined to discuss the performance of individual teachers.

Three years ago, a group of students circulated a petition asking for a different teacher, saying they weren't learning enough in her class, according to a student organizer and several staff members. Another teacher agreed to work with the students after school.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

RETHINKING SCHOOLS: The 25th Anniversary Edition

Dear friend of Rethinking Schools….

smf: I got an e-mail pushing the above …I was wary.

Usually slick publications like Rethinking Schools end up being more of the same Bill Gatesian/Eli Broadian  edubabble – promoting the shiny sheet metal,  the effortless handling – and the power – of the vehicles contending in Race to the Top.

No more waiting, Superman is here. Buy a case of magic bullets.

The Kool Aid is cold+sweet.

Get some today!

Not so! I read on:

Parents have plenty of reasons to be upset with our schools. Unfortunately, their anger is being channeled by corporate funders whose schemes for privatization, smashing unions, and ever more testing will only make things much, much worse. In this issue we shine a light on two efforts to manipulate parents into supporting corporate "reform"—Stand for Children and parent trigger laws.

I posted two of the articles to 4LAKidsNews already, the ones about The Parent Trigger and Ms. Frazzle’s Value-addled Assessment

Following is the whole wretched mess.The counterattack on on - this is no time to be Fair+Balanced! 

Read on!

Vol. 26, No.1

COVER STORIES • Still Fighting for All Our Children

Blowin' in the Wind

By the editors of Rethinking Schools

The Birth of Rethinking Schools
By Bob Peterson

Rethinking Schools and the Power of Silver
By Christine Sleeter


For or Against Children?
The Problematic History of Stand for Children
By Ken Libby and Adam Sanchez

Trigger Laws: Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice?
By David Bacon

Patterns and Punctuation
Learning to Question Language
By Elizabeth Schlessman

‘Before Today, I Was Afraid of Trees’
Rethinking Nature Deficit Disorder
By Doug Larkin

Why the Best Kids’ Books Are Written in Blood
By Sherman Alexie

What Do You Mean When You Say Urban?
Speaking Honestly About Race and Students
By Dyan Watson

It’s OK to Be Neither
Teaching That Supports Gender-Variant Children
By Melissa Bollow Tempel

The New Model of Teacher Evaluation: How Would Ms. Frizzle Fare?
By Marni Barron and Leigh Dingerson




SOS March Builds Pushback to Corporate Reform
By Stan Karp

By Herb Kohl




Your friend smf @ 4LAKids wanted to tell you about Rethinking Schools ( Here will you find articles and books that promote justice and equality in the classroom -- innovative lesson plans that speak to the real lives of students, and classroom materials that teach respect for diversity.

Rethinking Schools examines harmful education policies and offers alternatives that are backed by research and the experience of teacher-editors who work in real classrooms every day. Advocates for public schools rely on Rethinking Schools to keep them informed. And we hope you will too.

Rethinking Schools

1001 E. Keefe Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53212 USA

414-964-9646 / ORDERS: 800-669-4192