Saturday, September 29, 2012

TALKS CONTINUE ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS: UTLA remains opposed to tying evaluations to individual AGT/VAM ratings.


From The September issue of United Teacher |

21 September 2012 :: UTLA is in court-ordered negotiations with LAUSD officials over changes to the teacher evaluation system, but no agreement has been reached. The union continues to push back against LAUSD’s proposal to link a percentage of a teacher’s evaluation to his or her individual Academic Growth Over Time score. AGT is LAUSD’s version of VAM, or value-added model, which research studies show to be an inaccurate and unstable measure of teacher effectiveness.

“UTLA will continue to reject any system that would impose a quickand- dirty number on an individual that serves no purpose other than to discipline or fire them,” UTLA President Warren Fletcher says. “It’s attractive to think that the complex work of teaching can be distilled down to one simplistic number, but individual AGT/VAM has no true meaning and it can’t be used to improve instruction, which must be the goal of any evaluation system.” Impact of judge’s ruling: Because UTLA has stood firm in contract negotiations on tying teachers’ evaluations to their AGT/VAM scores, earlier this year the Broad Foundation and other groups attempted an end-run around the union by trying to get a judge to order implementation of LAUSD’s AGT/VAM evaluation system immediately.

The judge refused to do that, instead ruling that the District must negotiate any changes in the evaluation system with UTLA. He did, however, order that in any system that UTLA and the District eventually do negotiate, there must be a “nexus” between teacher evaluations and “student achievement” for it to be legal.

UTLA is committed to following state law and complying with the judge’s ruling, but the judge made it clear that the nexus does not have to be an individual AGT/VAM rating and that the District and UTLA must jointly develop what the final product looks like.

Prominent new report supports UTLA’s position: UTLA’s stance has been bolstered by a new report from the Task Force for Educator Excellence that rejects the use of individual AGT/VAM for teacher evaluations. The task force, chaired by Long Beach Unified Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser and Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, found that such efforts produce results that “are very unreliable and often inaccurate at the individual teacher level.” The report was commissioned by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

UTLA studying AALA agreement: The LAUSD administrators’ union, AALA, reached a one-year agreement with LAUSD last week for a new evaluation program for administrators that would incorporate schoolwide AGT scores. UTLA is studying the AALA agreement and has reached out to education experts, such as Darling-Hammond, for feedback on schoolwide AGT systems.

Unlike individual AGT/VAM, which has been discredited by a wide collection of research from the scientific and academic community, there is no similar body of research—pro or con—on schoolwide AGT/VAM.

For the latest news from the table, go to




By Sean Cavanagh, Education Week |

September 18, 2012  ::  This year's presidential campaign offers at least one unequivocal contrast on education issues: The Republican candidate supports private school vouchers, and the Democratic incumbent does not.

But at the state and local levels, Democrats' views on vouchers are more diverse and nuanced than what is suggested by the party's national platform, which makes no mention of private school choice, or by the policies of the Obama administration, which has consistently opposed providing public money for private school costs.

Some Democrats see vouchers as offering an escape hatch for students who would otherwise be forced to stay in academically struggling public schools. Others say publicly funded private school scholarships provide opportunities for students to obtain a religious education they otherwise could not afford. Still others in the party accept vouchers when they are relatively narrowly defined, limiting eligibility to special education students, for instance, or restricting participation to impoverished students in substandard schools.

The strongest supporters of private school choice cite those instances of bipartisan backing as evidence of the concept's broad appeal, which they predict will grow among Democrats over time.

"There's a pretty remarkable amount of support that doesn't get as much attention as it should," said Malcom Glenn, a spokesman for the American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher group in Washington. "The traditional party breakdowns on school choice, the ideological breakdowns, are a thing of the past."

Mr. Glenn offered another gauge of vouchers' standing among Democrats: In the 2010 election cycle, his organization's political action committee devoted about 40 percent of its $3 million in state-level campaign contributions to Democrats, based largely on their support for vouchers.

Others see little evidence that vouchers are, or will ever become, broadly accepted among Democrats. They say the tuition aid unfairly redirects money away from public schools into the private sector and, in the view of many in the party, fosters inequity.

"We need to find a way to bring equity and access to all," said Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, a major backer of Democratic candidates at the federal and state levels. "With vouchers, you never find a way to get to all."

Divisive Issue

While many Democrats and Republicans at the state and national levels have demonstrated ideological compatibility on certain issues—such as support for charter schools, merit pay, and teacher evaluation based in part on students' academic performance—in many cases, vouchers are where the consensus ends.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, like many in his party, backs vouchers, and he favors allowing parents to use federal Title I dollars and aid for special education to cover private school costs.

President Barack Obama does not support that approach. His administration recently proposed cutting off funding for the District of Columbia's voucher program, arguing that there was enough money to support existing enrollees. The administration instead has touted the benefits of public school choice, such as charter schools.

Other Democrats, however, have gone in a different direction.

One such official is Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., a voucher supporter who was given a prominent speaking role at the Democratic National Convention earlier this month. Although his speech at the convention made no mention of the issue, the mayor described private school choice as a potentially life-changing option for students in an address delivered in May at an event hosted by the American Federation for Children.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, has voiced support for private school vouchers despite the prevailing views of many in his party. —Paul Sakuma/AP

Mr. Booker, who joked that he'd heard from members of his party disappointed that he was addressing a "right-wing organization," told attendees that on education issues, "partisanship doesn't serve my city."

Too many children "by law are locked into schools that fail their genius," said Mr. Booker, who added that "there are parents every day who scheme and plan, 'How can I liberate my child's potential from failing schools?' "

Support by Democrats is also evident in some state legislatures, where lawmakers have shown an increasing appetite for voucher programs, particularly following major Republican gains in the 2010 elections.

When Florida's GOP-controlled legislature in 2010 approved an expansion of a program that gives corporations tax credits for awarding needy students private school scholarships, the measure had significant backing from Democrats. When the original program was launched almost a decade earlier, only one Democrat in the entire legislature voted for it.

State Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, said he supported the recent tax-credit expansion because it would help needy families in his district seek out Roman Catholic schools and other options.

"Religious education is very important and popular to a lot of my constituents," Mr. Soto explained in an interview. "There's room for a strong public education system, as well as private options."

In other states, though, Democrats have been united in opposing GOP-designed voucher proposals. Such was the case in Indiana, where an ambitious measure championed by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels made it into law last year despite not garnering a single Democratic vote in either chamber.

Historical Support

Vouchers are perhaps most famously associated with the late economist Milton Friedman, who saw private school choice as the embodiment of a thriving free market in education.

Yet Democrats' interest in vouchers dates back at least as far as the 1960s, notes Adam Emerson, the director of the program on parental choice at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington.

George McGovern, the Democratic Party's nominee for president in 1972, publicly backed creating tax credits to cover families' private school costs. The party's platform that year supported directing "financial aid by a constitutional formula to children in nonpublic schools."

Another influential backer of that idea in the party was the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who had a strong interest in helping Catholic schools and argued that distinctions between public and private schools mattered little to families.

For those Democrats, private school choice was part of a "social justice movement," said Mr. Emerson, who supports vouchers for poor families.

Today, some Democratic support for vouchers in the states comes from African-American caucuses representing districts with large numbers of low-performing public schools, though in other states the backing is more varied, said Mr. Glenn. In general, many Democrats are more inclined to favor expanding existing voucher programs than the politically volatile decision to approve new ones, he said.

At the same time, some rural Republicans, Mr. Glenn noted, oppose vouchers, reasoning that they don't help their constituents because of a dearth of school options in isolated areas.

Michelle A. Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia schools, said her view of vouchers shifted dramatically during her time in that position, upon meeting parents who had tried and failed to secure coveted spots for their children in the system's highest-performing public schools, through no fault of their own. Those one-on-one meetings convinced Ms. Rhee that vouchers in certain circumstances—for impoverished students in academically struggling schools—make sense.

Ms. Rhee's position as chancellor was nonpartisan, though she is a Democrat and was appointed by a Democratic mayor. She now leads StudentsFirst, a national education advocacy organization that has backed the campaigns of candidates in both parties.

It was unrealistic to tell a parent "it's just five years to fix the system, just hold on, honey, cross your fingers and hope for the best—no, " said Ms. Rhee, in an interview at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. "From a system point of view, it's better not to allow those kids to leave," she said, but "there's no way that I was going to deny those moms the same thing I would do for my own kid."

Another national advocacy organization, Democrats for Education Reform, has no official position on vouchers, and there are very different views on the issue among its donors and the candidates it supports, said the group's executive director, Joe Williams.

Mr. Williams speculated that many state and local policymakers in his party regard vouchers as a distraction from politically difficult changes in policy—such as to teacher tenure and evaluation—that are already regarded warily by teachers' unions and others, and could be viewed as encouraging parents to leave the public system.

"You've got a lot of elected Democrats who've been looking to do some pretty tough reforms in their systems," he said. "The last thing you want to do is undercut all that."

Related Stories

By Alyson Klein, Education Week |

September 25, 2012 :: Divisions are emerging in the Republican Party on whether the Common Core State Standards—an initiative launched by governors and state schools chiefs—are a truly state-led, bipartisan effort to improve learning outcomes throughout the nation, or a federal movement that at least one opponent has dubbed "Obama Core."

And some state officials who support the common academic standards say President Barack Obama's touting of the effort on the campaign trail isn't helping matters.

The standards, which have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, have come under scrutiny in at least five states, where lawmakers have considered measures to slow or halt their adoption. But so far, no state has decided to back out, despite pressure from conservative activists.

Proponents of the standards are quick to point out that they were developed through a partnership led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, and have been embraced by a cadre of Republican governors and state chiefs, as well as the president.

GOP Headwind

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the Common Core State Standards. But the effort has faced some opposition:

SOURCE: Education Week

Still, the standards have already sparked a few brush fires. For instance, one GOP stronghold, Utah, recently backed out of one of the assessment consortia that are designing tests to align with the standards.

Mr. Obama's championship of the standards may not win them many fans in right-leaning states, but it's also unlikely to lead to a mass exodus, said Andrew Smarick, who until recently served as the deputy commissioner of education in New Jersey. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush.

"It incites or inflames the people who are strongly against common core, which is not necessarily good" for the standards, said Mr. Smarick, who is now a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit research and consulting organization in Washington. "But [the standards] seem pretty solid in most places. I don't think this is an issue that too many places want to relitigate."

Federal Stamp?

The Obama administration has required states to adopt standards for college and career readiness in order to get wiggle room under mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Most states choose to fulfill that requirement through signing on to the common core, although Virginia was able to secure an NCLB waiver without joining.

The administration also gave states that adopted the standards an edge in securing a slice of the $4 billion Race to the Top fund, which rewarded states that embraced certain education redesign principles. It also steered $360 million to two consortia of states to help in the creation of assessments that match up with the standards.

Mr. Obama appeared to draw a connection between Race to the Top—his signature K-12 initiative—and the standards during a recent campaign stop at Canyon Springs High School, in North Las Vegas, in the swing state of Nevada. The speech did not mention Race to the Top—or the common core—by name, but the reference was clear.

"For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, almost every state has now agreed to raise standards for teaching and learning—and that's the first time it's happened in a generation," the president said.

And in his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that the president "demanded reform ... and 46 states responded by raising education standards."

That kind of talk doesn't necessarily go over very well in deeply Republican Utah.

"Clearly, I don't mind that the president supports the standards. I hope [Republican presidential nominee Mitt] Romney supports them," said Larry Shumway, the state's superintendent of public instruction, who is appointed by the nonpartisan state board of education.

"But [when] President Obama talks about these and connects them to his administration, it plays into the conspiracy theorists" who think the standards are a way for the federal government to put its own stamp on K-12, he said.


There are plenty of conservative activists suspicious of the standards in the Beehive State. Gayle Ruzeicka, the president of the Utah Eagle Forum, refers to the standards as Obama Core—an obvious play on Obamacare, the name that the president's opponents applied to his landmark health-care law.

"It's been co-opted by the Obama administration," Ms. Ruzeicka said in an interview last month at the Republican National Convention. "They've done everything they can to tie us in to these standards. We're Republicans and we're letting Obama take over our education system."

She would like the GOP to take a stronger stance against the standards in the presidential campaign, but she still supports Mr. Romney, who has been largely silent on the effort.

But Mr. Obama's support doesn't bother Mitchell D. Chester, who serves as the nonpartisan commissioner of education in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts.

President Obama can't take credit for the standards themselves—they were conceived back in 2008, before he took office, Mr. Chester pointed out. But he can take credit for "setting a high bar in terms of what states need to expect" when it comes to student achievement," Mr. Chester continued.

"That is a signature policy from this administration."


For their part, high-profile Republicans remain divided on the issue. There was no explicit mention of the common core in the GOP platform, for example. And while Mr. Romney is supportive of the effort, the former Massachusetts governor believes the Obama administration has gone too far in encouraging states to adopt them, both through the NCLB waivers and Race to the Top.

Those policies "effectively are an attempt to manipulate states into" adopting the common standards, Oren Cass, Mr. Romney's domestic-policy director, told reporters earlier this year.

But former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who wrote the foreword to Mr. Romney's campaign white paper outlining the nominee's K-12 proposals, doesn't think the effort smacks of too much federal involvement.

"I don't believe that common core is a federal initiative," Mr. Bush said in a recent interview. "A majority of the Republican governors support this. ... I don't think it's coercive."

Still, other top Republicans have a different view. Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who was a runner-up for the GOP presidential nod, took an apparent dig at the standards during his own speech to the Republican National Convention.

"A solid education should be [a key rung] on the ladder to success, but the system is failing. Obama's solution has been to deny parents choice, attack private schools, and nationalize curriculum and student loans," Mr. Santorum said.

But most states have moved past such political divisions, said Chris Minnich, the director of member services for the CCSSO. "While you have pockets of resistance, we're not seeing large-scale pushback on the idea of higher, clearer standards," Mr. Minnich said. "States are moving on implementation, and that's the exciting thing."


"So long as there are children who are coming to school hungry, there will be a need for school breakfast programs, and until workers are guaranteed a living wage, there will undoubtedly be hungry kids."Dana Woldow: Why Walmart loves free school breakfast - Sep. 10‚ 2012

by Robert D. Skeels - Echo Park Patch -  Posted on September 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm  |

Expired Food from BIC: Expired Oatmeal Bars arrive for the day's Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC)Credit Robert D.Skeels

September 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm   ::  Ballyhooed as "historic" by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) President Mónica García, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Broad Foundation backed InnerCity Struggle, Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) is a poorly thought out program with noble intentions, but plagued from start by insurmountable implementation issues.

While social justice minded peoples support the goal of assuring that all schoolchildren are fed and that schools are an appropriate place to provide nutrition, there has been no genuine discussion about where, when, and how schools are to provide these important services. Serious questions about BIC cutting into precious instructional time, causing serious hygiene and health concerns, and several other pressing issues remain unaddressed by BIC promoters.

The roll out of BIC in LAUSD has been a logistical nightmare with a range of problems surfacing. However, it was reports that the program was a dumping ground for expired food that were most disconcerting. These reports have now been confirmed with photographs and multiple eyewitnesses. Several schools reported receiving Quaker Oatmeal Bars that were all past the expiration date. On September 24, 2012 an educator took photos of the food provided for that day's BIC with expiration dates of September 11, 2012. With no written policy from LAUSD on what to do about expired and potentially spoiled food, educators and parent volunteers are caught in a dilemma.

Educators are loathe to serve expired food to schoolchildren, but are fearful of district reprisals for not following the mandates of the high profile program which was ushered in at the behest of ideologically charged billionaires and their foundations. Many educators were strongly rebuked by President García and Superintendent John Deasy for raising legitimate concerns about BIC in general, and they are fearful that questioning expired food will be portrayed by the district as obstructionism. Training and program materials disseminated to LAUSD staff don't address this and many other crucial issues. Neither does the district's strident, fact-deficient, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Several teachers told me that their principals instructed them to contact the LAUSD program manager, Victor Carranza, but they have not been able to reach him despite repeated attempts. My calls to the district with questions regarding these incidents went to voicemail and remain unanswered as well.

So far verified reports of expired foods being provided for BIC have been at schools serving predominantly low income and immigrant children. It's my hope that publicizing this information will mobilize the community so that they can stand behind these parents and educators and tell LAUSD Administration, The Walmart Foundation, and the Nonprofit Industrial Complex that we will not stand for them serving expired and potentially dangerous food to children! Contact LAUSD Food Services at (213) 241-2993 and President García (213) 241-6180 and let them know that expired food is not okay.

Many readers will be surprised to know that the primary funder behind BIC is the right-wing Walmart Foundation, who has pushed the program in many cities nationwide. Of course, corporate behemoth Walmart never does anything for purely altruist reasons, and respected school food advocate Dana Woldow outlines several of the low wage retailer's more nefarious motives for bankrolling BIC in Why Walmart loves free school breakfast.

While not nearly as grievous as expired food, other problems with LAUSD's BIC have been documented as well. While the district claims in their FAQ that there are no problems with pests, BIC meals are being distributed with syrup—which potentially attracts ants. At the elementary school where these syrup photos were taken, one child had to send home for a shirt after dousing themselves with syrup. When I was telling a parent volunteer that the district FAQ stated that "custodians in schools with BIC have noticed that students are neater throughout the school day," they laughed and said "have the people who wrote this ever known a child?"

The BIC FAQ also makes the assertion that "Breakfast in the Classroom takes just 10 minutes each day at the time the school period starts." This is not what parent volunteers and educators have been experiencing. Here's a typical anecdote shared with me by a veteran substitute teacher:

"We were provided pears, bread, and milk for Breakfast in the Classroom. We couldn't use the pears, which were too hard to be edible even for adults. These are small children, many of whom are transitioning from baby teeth. That left the bread and milk. My parent volunteer was great, they were coaching the children in what I call "power eating." He'd tell them take two bites from the bread, chew, now drink some milk. It was a very efficient operation. Total time for BIC with just a piece of bread and container of milk? Twenty five minutes from start to finish. You can imagine what it's like on days with more complicated meals."

The teacher's story sounded like myriad ones I've heard since the program went district-wide a few weeks ago. For a district so cash strapped that it shortened the school year, one would think instructional time would be at a premium. There has to be a better way of getting children fed while avoiding the myriad issues of BIC. Perhaps breakfast in the cafeteria? Had the program been discussed with various stake-holders instead of being implemented by fiat declaration, many of these issues could have been avoided. However, with intense pressure from the Walmart Foundation it's hard to imagine any input being solicited from the people the program affects the most.

It's interesting too that opportunistic career politicians like García and Villaraigosa are acting like they invented to concept of providing free breakfasts to children, when the programs BIC is based on originated in 1964. Discussing this with another activist elicited their response "glad Moníca [García] and Maria [Brenes] finally got the memo from President [Lyndon] Johnson regarding the war on poverty." Indeed.

BIC implementation, ideological, and funding issues aside, it is wholly unacceptable to serve schoolchildren expired and potentially spoiled food. Moreover, it is cynical and irresponsible of the district to leave the onus of what to do with those foods on individual educators and parent volunteers. There needs to be a clear policy that the district will not serve expired foods and that there are no repercussions towards employees or volunteers who carry that policy out. Ultimately, we need to have a schoolboard that listens to the communities it serves rather than large foundations and 501C3s.


update: september 30 2012

  1. According to sources within LAUSD and and The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education neither Walmart nor the Walton Family Foundation directly funds the  Breakfast in the Classroom program in LAUSD.
  2. Senior LAUSD Food Services staff , responding to this article,  say they have "sent many memos to our managers about not using expired foods”.


2cents smf smf: Do not misunderstand this - I support Breakfast in the Classroom. I believe that time taken from the beginning of the sacred+sacrosanct instructional day to nourish the stomachs of kids is better spent than than Drill+Kill Teaching to the Test and Open Court. I don’t buy that BIC is the nanny state run amok and I don’t buy that BIC is a collective bargaining issue. (I do recognize that current LAUSD leadership, in ignoring labor’s concerns and force feeding the program, has enhanced BIC as a labor/management dispute!) 

I have seen Breakfast in the Classroom done right and work in San Diego.  Of course, for every way to do something right there are myriad ways to do it wrong.

From a Boston Globe Story : Prisoners get expired food from school lunch programs - April 12, 2011:

“US Department of Agriculture guidelines say that food properly stored or frozen can remain safe after expiration dates, but it loses nutritional value and taste.

“Food beyond “best-if-used-by’’ dates that is deemed safe to consume may be donated to prisons instead of tossed out, a USDA spokesman said yesterday.”


Q: How can I tell when a product has gone out of condition? Is there a single date I can refer to?

A: Experts disagree on how long a product can be kept in storage before it goes out of condition. There is no single date before which most products must be used, and after which they must not be used. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The exception is infant formula. Infant formula and some baby foods are unique in that they absolutely must not be used after the use-bydate that appears on the case and unit.

Some commercial products may display recommended quality dates. A “best-if-used-by” date means that the manufacturer recommends using the product by this date for the best flavor or quality. At some point after that date, the product will change very gradually in taste, color, texture, or nutrient content. But, the product may be wholesome and safe long after that date. You may also see a “sell-by” date on a food product. This means the manufacturer recommends that a store sell the product by that date. It is assumed that the product may then be stored for some period of time before it is used. Therefore, a “sell-by” date would be reached earlier in the life of a product than a “best-if-used-by” date. These various dating systems do not represent expiration dates, and they do not indicate when product safety becomes an issue.

Q: How can I tell if a product is safe to eat?

A: Absent any defects in packaging or obvious signs of spoilage and assuming proper storage, you can be reasonably confident that products are wholesome and safe.

If you have reason to question the wholesomeness or safety of a food product, open a case or individual package and carefully examine the cans or packages for rust, bulging, broken seals, insect infestation or other visible defects. If any of these conditions are present, the food is generally considered NOT fit for human consumption.

●● “…generally considered?”  This guidance seems pretty mealy-mouthed to me!

  • Most retail groceries pull “about to expire” food and put it on the reduced price shelves.
  • And when the date is reached, it is pulled from the shelves altogether.

Parents and children – who cannot elect to shop elsewhere - have a right to expect the same standard.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Kathryn Baron | EDSOURCE Today |

September 28th, 2012  :: The California Community Colleges Board of Governors unanimously named Dr. Brice Harris*, a longtime community college leader, as the 15th chancellor of the statewide higher education system. Just hours later he received an unexpected gift from Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed SB 1456, the Student Success Act of 2012, into law.

The bill, by Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), seeks to improve graduation and transfer rates at community colleges through better academic counseling and support services, setting tougher standards for students to receive fee waivers and requiring colleges to make public completion rates of students and progress toward closing the achievement gap.

Brice Harris

Dr. Brice Harris >>

Harris succeeds Jack Scott, who retired earlier this month and personally courted him to apply for the position. “This is the right person, for the right job at the right time,” said Scott at a news conference yesterday morning in Sacramento. “He has the experience, he has the skills, and we are extremely fortunate that he also has the willingness to tackle a job of this nature.”

As Chancellor, Harris will earn $198,500, the same as the man who talked him into seeking the job.

Michelle Pilati, President of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and a member of the search committee, described Harris as “a smart man, a good communicator and kind of everything that you want in a chancellor.” She said another plus is that having been part of the system for so long, he understands and appreciates the struggles the colleges are dealing with.  “I think he’s going to be good for everyone.  I think he’ll work well with everyone across the system.”

California has the largest community college system in the nation, with 112 campuses and 2.4 million students. Harris oversaw 85,000 of those students as chancellor of Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento. Before that he was president of Fresno City College. He started his community college career four decades ago, in 1972, as a young faculty member in Kansas City, Missouri.

“At that time, we looked at California and what was going on here and thought it was the most exciting place to be in terms of American higher education,” said Harris. “Everything that was great that was going on in higher education in America was going on right here in California.”

He still feels that way, despite $809 million in budget cuts since 2008 that forced colleges to reduce courses and led to a drop in enrollment of nearly half a million students. “You can’t look at any other corner of the globe and find a more diverse, a more comprehensive system of higher education that is impacting a given state or jurisdiction more than the California community colleges.”

Day one, Prop 30

Harris is also keenly aware that it’s a system facing significant challenges that will affect the state’s economic vitality, and he may have to confront the worst-case scenario on his very first day at the helm. Harris officially steps into the chancellor’s post on November 6, Election Day, when Californians will vote on Proposition 30, Gov. Brown’s initiative to raise some taxes to increase funding for K-12 education and community colleges.

If the tax measure succeeds, community colleges may be able to open up a few more seats for students. If it fails, they stand to lose another $338 million and perhaps another 100,000 students.

Harris said he sees the impact of the current cuts on a daily basis. The young woman who works at the coffee shop where he stops most mornings told him it’s taken her four years to get all the classes she needed at Sacramento City College. Now that she’s finally eligible for Sacramento State, the college is so affected by the cuts that it isn’t accepting transfers until next fall.

He hears similar stories from neighbors whose sons and daughters can’t get into the English and math classes they need to graduate or transfer. He hopes that instead of just being frustrated by the situation, people will understand the connection between adequate state support and access for themselves and their families.

“I believe we’re starting to see some of that. Now how that will translate in November I don’t know,” Harris told EdSource Today. “The risk that we run is that we could look back ten years from now and realize we left a good chunk of an entire generation of Californians standing on the street corner without access to education.”

Efforts to stabilize shaky finances will dominate his time at least for the coming year, but there are other issues that Harris is eager to work on, including some of the proposals outlined in the newly minted Student Success Act.  He was a member of the Student Success Task Force, which spent a year holding hearings and developing the recommendations that became part of the bill.

* Brice Harris is a member of the EdSource Board of Directors.

Going deeper

Brice Harris Bio

Impact of budget cuts on California Community Colleges

Student Success Task Force

SB 1456, the Student Success Act of 2012

STATE REPORTED INFLATED RATE OF TEACHERS LACKING CREDENTIALS: When the benchmark is bad, all the data is bad

Joanna Lin | CaliforniaWatch |

U.S. Census Bureau >>

September 28, 2012  ::  The rate was startling: Nearly six in 10 teachers at California's lowest-performing schools were not properly credentialed for the classes they led. It's a rate California has worked to shrink for the past six years. It's also a rate that was wrong.

The percentage of teachers and other certificated staff lacking proper credentials was actually 29 percent, not the 58 percent the state reported for the 2005-06 school year. The revelation, sparked by errors in state data identified by California Watch, means the state has been using an incorrect baseline as it measures progress at its lowest-performing schools.

Misassignments, as they're known, have decreased dramatically since the state agreed to give the problem greater attention at low-performing schools. Unlike higher-performing schools, which are monitored every four years, the lowest-performing schools are monitored annually. The action was one of many stemming from the settlement of Williams v. California, a landmark class-action lawsuit that sought to ensure all students were taught by qualified, credentialed teachers.

The 2005-06 school year was the first year of this increased scrutiny, and the misassignment rate "seemed incredible and insanely high," said Brooks Allen, director of education advocacy at the ACLU of Southern California and the attorney overseeing the Williams settlement's implementation.

The following year, the state reported that the same low-performing schools had pushed misassignments down to 12 percent.

"The fact that it dropped off that quickly, that far … it seemed really dramatic," Allen said.

Although the initial scope of the problem is half as large as reported, it still "indicates there was a gigantic problem, and that there was substantial progress made once attention was paid to it," he said.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which collects and reports misassignment data from counties, will present the latest figures [PDF] at its monthly meeting today. It will also explain the erroneous data from 2005-06, said Erin Sullivan, an assistant consultant in the commission's office of governmental relations.

California Watch alerted the commission in July to thousands of duplicate records in six years of misassignment data it received through a public records request. The commission responded last month that all records in 2005-06 were duplicated; it could not determine how the error occurred and was unable to reproduce it. Sullivan said that while there were some duplicate records in subsequent years, those duplicates were intentional because of how data was reported.

The commission has made changes to its online reporting system "that we expect will seriously mediate if not block the possibility of duplicate reporting by counties and provide us with additional tools for identifying potential duplicate reporting on a more detailed level," Sullivan said in an email. In an interview, she said a warning message will pop up if a county enters duplicate data and will ask if the entry was intentional.

The commission provided California Watch with revised data last week, and Sullivan said it would correct previously published reports as well. While the figures show an overall decline in misassignments, they also highlight the problem's persistence. In 2010-11, the most recent year of data available, 13 percent of certificated staff – more than 12,000 in all, most of whom were teachers – at the lowest-performing schools did not have the appropriate credentials for their assignments.

Teachers without the credentials to teach core academic subject areas – English, math, science and social science – composed 20 percent of misassignments in 2010-11. About 13 percent of teachers serving English language learners were not authorized to do so. Seventeen percent of misassignments were for nonteaching program coordinators.

The overall misassignment rates in prior years, based on a different cohort of low-performing schools, were even higher: 18 percent in 2007-08, 14 percent in 2008-09 and 19 percent in 2009-10.

"Why is it that there seems to be this persistent and stubborn … floor at 12, 13, 14 percent that we don't seem to be able to break through?" Allen said.

That's an issue the Legislature and the commission should address, said John Affeldt, who served as lead counsel on the Williams lawsuit and is a managing attorney at Public Advocates.

"We should be thinking about ways to really get that number down," he said. "If not 0, 1 or 2 or 3 percent should be exception, not the rule."

Affeldt said the misassignment rate was "especially frustrating" in light of the thousands of teachers, many of whom were fully credentialed for their assignments, laid off from California schools in recent years.

"I don't think it's an issue of just saying times are tough, fiscal budgets are tight, because we've actually created an opportunity where there's a bigger supply that maybe didn't exist before," he said. "It seems we should have made more of a dent in the number."

“Won’t Back Down”: IT’S JUST A MOVIE …AND NOT A VERY GOOD ONE AT THAT! (3 stories)

As school reform, 'Won't Back Down' doesn't measure up: Instead of humanizing the education debate and bringing clarity and nuance to it, the movie is more likely to add to the ill-informed rancor surrounding the issue.

Opinion by Karin Klein,  L.A. Times Editorialist |

"Won't Back Down"

Maggie Gyllenhaal, right, and Viola Davis in a scene from "Won't Back Down." (Kerry Hayes / 20th Century Fox / Associated Press)

September 28, 2012  ::  Has school reform gotten sexy? Not likely, even if it is the subject of a feature film, "Won't Back Down," opening Friday and starring such big names as Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. Rather, the movie is, as many reform efforts tend to be, simply well funded. In this case, backing comes from Walden Media, which is owned by conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz and which was also the force behind the documentary love song to charter schools "Waiting for Superman."

With that kind of background, it's not surprising that "Won't Back Down" concludes that California's "parent trigger" law — under which parents can force a major change at a school if half or more sign a petition — is a wholly wonderful thing that can, say, turn around the reading problems of a dyslexic child almost overnight, as it does in the movie. Although the film claims to have been inspired by actual events, the truth is that there hasn't yet been a school takeover via parent trigger (and the parent takeover in the movie only slightly resembles how the law works).

The movie does an injustice to both serious school reform and the education system it targets by smugly oversimplifying the problems in public schooling — and the remedies — to the point where they are nearly unrecognizable. And whose bad idea was it to have a white mom be the chief "rescuer" of a low-performing inner-city school when in reality almost all of the students at such schools are black and Latino — as are the parents who try to bring about change?

In this film, there isn't a single decent person who doesn't join the reform side. The emblematic "bad teacher," union boss and unhelpful principal aren't just uncaring, they're immoral monsters. The Teach for America recruit is inspiring and just plain hot. And even though the school will be nonunion when it completes its transition to an unexplained model that doesn't exist in the real world, no teacher dedicated to children's welfare will need to worry about losing a job. Try telling that to the teachers who signed the petition for Locke High School in South Los Angeles to go charter and then weren't offered jobs by Green Dot.

Turning around schools is complicated, difficult work that often doesn't succeed despite the best intentions of those who try. Some charters are models of excellent education, but equal numbers do a worse job than traditional public schools. The big screen has the potential to humanize the education debate and bring clarity and nuance to it. "Won't Back Down," though, is more likely to add to the ill-informed rancor surrounding school reform than to our understanding of it.


Movie review: 'Won't Back Down' doesn't let up on unions - Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis star in a manipulative film that blames a teachers union for a failing school. But the movie's biggest flaw is the lack of drama.

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic |

'Won't Back Down'

A teachers union is set up to be a villain in "Won't Back Down," starring Viola Davis, left, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. (Kerry Hayes / Walden Media)

September 27, 2012, 3:50 p.m. ::  When movies are at their most mindless, i.e. much of the time, it's tempting to wish things could be otherwise. What adult moviegoer hasn't hoped Hollywood could rouse itself at least every once in awhile to pay attention to the issues of the day.

But while the hot button-hugging "Won't Back Down" would seem to do just that, it also serves to warn us to be careful what we wish for. This poor film is so shamelessly manipulative and hopelessly bogus it will make you bite your tongue in regret and despair.

Nominally "inspired by actual events" (though even fantasies like Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" could make that claim), "Won't Back Down" wastes any number of capable actors, starting with stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, on a story that mixes simple-minded analysis of a complex problem with melodramatic contrivances Michael Bay might be ashamed to use.

That problem, which has been all over newspaper front pages and op-ed sections in recent weeks, is the crisis in American education. "Won't Back Down" avoids the most controversial aspect of the current situation — whether teachers should be held directly accountable if student standardized test scores are weak — but it has no hesitation about creating a villain for all seasons: teachers unions.

Of course, you wouldn't know that from the film's press material, which avoids the word "union" like the plague. (Financier Walden Media was also responsible for the pro-school privatization documentary "Waiting for Superman.") Or from co-writer (with Brin Hill) and director Daniel Barnz, who has been inexplicably quoted as saying he is "extremely pro-union." And the truth is, if "Won't Back Down" were an exciting, involving story, its political orientation wouldn't be an issue. But it isn't.

Pittsburgh single mom Jamie Fitzpatrick (Gyllenhaal) isn't thinking about unions when the film starts. She's trying to hold her salt-of-the-earth life together, juggling not one but two impeccably blue-collar jobs (used-car lot receptionist by day, bartender by night) while worrying that her daughter Malia (Emily Alyn Lind) isn't getting a good education.

In fact, young Malia is getting the world's worst education, courtesy of Adams Elementary, labeled a failing school for 19 years and counting. Worse than that, Malia has a monster of malfeasance for her teacher, a woman who, brazenly protected by union seniority, texts while her students create chaos, refuses to let them go to the bathroom and insists that union rules prevent her from working past 3 p.m. (American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten flatly calls this particular claim "an egregious lie.")

Equally unhappy about her life is Nona Alberts (Viola Davis, vibrant as ever even in a thankless role). She's an Adams teacher but is so troubled by the school's failings, as well as a host of personal problems (she and her husband, played by "The Wire's" Lance Reddick, are splitting), that she walks through the halls like a zombie.

Desperate to improve her daughter's chances, Jamie gets a break when someone at the board of education tells her about a new law that allows a combination of parents and teachers to take over a school and turn it around. (Similar statutes called "parent trigger" laws do exist in several states, including California, but no group has been able to put them into practice yet.)

Nothing if not determined, not to say manic, when her child's welfare is at stake, Jamie decides to spearhead a school takeover movement, and she steamrollers Nona to be Ms. Inside to her Ms. Outside.

Never mind that everyone tells them the task is flat-out impossible, that the deck is stacked against them, that it takes years and years even to get to 'No.' Jamie, powered by an enthusiasm level that would shame the Energizer Bunny, won't back down. If you are worried even the tiniest bit about her chances despite this tsunami of obstacles, Hollywood has a bridge in Brooklyn they'd love for you to buy.

Jamie even involves her brand new boyfriend Michael (Oscar Isaac), whose use of music in the classroom magically makes him the only effective teacher Adams has. Michael is one of a few characters who half-heartedly mouth pro-union platitudes in a feeble attempt to give labor equal time, but his enthusiasm for solidarity isn't fated to last.

That's because unions turn out to be the most pernicious of all the obstacles to healthy schools, worse even than the stick-in-the-mud school board. While no one, not even unions themselves these days, denies that there are things that must be changed about how they operate, the notion of them as total evil only makes perfect sense to companies that believe in unionless, private charter schools that increase profits by paying teachers whatever they can get away with.

The union in "Won't Back Down," the Teachers Assn. of Pennsylvania or TAP, is fictitious, as well it might be given the awful things it stoops to, including vicious character assassination and attempts to manipulate Jamie by appealing to the best interests of her beloved child. For shame, unions! For shame!

Though the film's pernicious propagandistic bias is irritating and misleading, it can't be overemphasized that what is really wrong with this film is how feeble it is dramatically. When Nora is trying to decide if she should work with Jamie, she remembers her mother's question: "What are you going to do with your one and only life?" Anyone who values their one and only life would be well-advised not to spend two hours of it here.

'Won't Back Down'

MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements and language

Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute

Playing: In general release


“WON'T BACK DOWN'S” 'PARENT TRIGGER' SCHOOL STORY DRAWS PROTEST -  stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as a mom and teacher who try to improve a failing public school. Anti-charter advocates aren't fans.

By Nicole Sperling, Los Angeles Times |

"Won't Back Down"

Viola Davis, left, and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in "Won't Back Down." (Kerry Hayes, Walden Media / July 19, 2011)

September 26, 2012, 5:22 p.m.  ::  The new film "Won't Back Down" tells the story of a crusading single mother and a dedicated teacher who take on a bad principal, an unforgiving union and an entrenched bureaucracy in an attempt to improve a failing public elementary school.

The real-life tale couldn't be more topical: The Chicago teachers strike brought public school reform to the forefront of the national conversation. But the film's relevance is proving problematic too. Pro-union, anti-charter school advocates began denouncing "Won't Back Down" weeks ahead of its Friday release, making the movie a target in ways its makers hadn't intended.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a public letter at the end of August condemning the movie for laying the blame for underperforming schools at the feet of the teachers union.

Earlier this month, protesters spoke out against "Won't Back Down" when it screened in Charlotte, N.C., during the Democratic National Convention. And most recently, demonstrators lined the street at the film's New York premiere objecting to the idea that it's up to parents to reclaim troubled schools.

"I am surprised," said producer Mark Johnson of the early negative response to the movie. "Maybe I've been naive about this, but I think it's a David and Goliath story: two women, two mothers from completely different backgrounds who get involved in trying to do something about the sorry state of this particular school."

Written by Brin Hill and director David Barnz, "Won't Back Down" stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as struggling Pittsburgh mom Jamie, who, concerned that her young daughter Malia is receiving a substandard education at Adams Elementary, takes advantage of a newly enacted "parent trigger" law that allows parents and teachers to reclaim failing schools.

She finds a powerful ally in Davis' Nona, a beleaguered instructor at the school.

California enacted the first "parent trigger" law in the country in 2010, around the same time Barnz was hired to direct "Won't Back Down." Coming from a family of teachers, Barnz says he had a personal connection to the material, but he was aware of the mixed reaction to Davis Guggenheim's 2010 documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" which critics also decried as anti-union and anti-teacher.

"Won't Back Down" features plenty of committed teachers, some pro-union, others critical of its policies, and a bureaucrat (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) willing to help the activists in their cause. But the film also includes a checked-out teacher who shops online and rarely engages with her students, and a union head, played by Holly Hunter, who tries to bribe Jamie and considers engaging in a smear campaign against Nona.

Her colleague, played by Ned Eisenberg, is shown to be completely out of touch with what goes on in the classroom.

Still, Barnz disagrees with the idea that the film, which was financed by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz's Walden Media, the same company that worked on the release of "Waiting for 'Superman'" with Participant Media and Paramount Vantage, is anti-union.

"That is not the point of the movie. The movie is about how parents come together with teachers to transform a school for the sake of the kids," said Barnz, adding that despite Anschutz's conservative politics, the businessman never gave Barnz input on the script.

Over the last few weeks, the film's distributor 20th Century Fox has hosted scores of word-of-mouth screenings across the country, in addition to special events at both the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the DNC in Charlotte.

Those screenings included question-and-answer sessions with Barnz, Johnson and many advocates for school reform including Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., school district, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, among others.

"I hope it activates people to do something about education in our country," said Gyllenhaal of the film.

Opening weekend expectations for "Won't Back Down" remain soft, with the $19-million movie on track to pull in less than $5 million when it opens against the sci-fi time travel film "Looper" and the animated comedy "Hotel Transylvania."

"On opening day, 95% of the audience that goes to see the film will go based on advertising material rather than any of the so-called controversy," Johnson said.

He went on to point out that at a time when female-driven, adult dramas are hard to find, "Won't Back Down" is the rare issues-driven underdog story featuring lead performances from two Oscar-nominated actresses.

"If you look at the successful issues movies, 'Erin Brockovich,' 'Norma Rae,' and you think about why you liked those movies, I bet you don't remember what the issues are. What you remember are the characters realizing they can accomplish something, going up against a monolithic institution and being able to change it."


By Tami Abdollah - Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC |

Deasy walks campus

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

28 Sept 2012, 4:12 PM  ::  LAUSD plans to give $20,000 bonuses to up to 80 "effective" science, technology, math, engineering and special ed teachers who agree to teach at 40 high-need schools under a new federal grant.

Los Angeles Unified Schools Superintendent John Deasy said that a $49 million federal grant awarded to the district this week to improve teacher effectiveness will help pay for a new multiple-measure teacher evaluation system and more professional development programs, including a bonus for certain teachers at high-need schools.

The five-year grant includes an initial $16 million; more money would follow based on availability and the district's progress. The grant award details say the school district can use Teacher Incentive Fund grants to support performance-based pay for effective principals and teachers in 40 "high-need schools."

The district plans to use effective educators as coaches and models for their peers' professional development. Teachers who are experts in their subjects will provide coaching based on information from the evaluation.

L.A. Unified also aims to increase the number of effective teachers in the STEM subject areas (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) at high-need schools. The district will give $20,000 recruitment bonuses to up to 80 effective or highly effective STEM and special education teachers who agree to teach at the high-need schools.

"It's trying to address a national problem around teacher distribution and making sure high-need schools are getting access to the most effective teachers," said Drew Furedi, the executive director of L.A. Unified's Talent Management Division. Furedi led the team that wrote the grant.

He said teachers in other subject areas depending on the school's needs may also receive bonuses.

The 40 "high-need" schools have not yet been identified by the district, Furedi said. L.A. Unified is working on developing criteria and an application process to identify schools for the grant program, Furedi said.

"Almost every school we've got would fit into that" federal grant defintion of a high-need school, Furedi said.

Deasy said in a statement Friday that the district will work to strengthen its partnership with higher education institutions so it can improve teacher and administrator training.

“We have established a national reputation for being on the cutting-edge of teacher effectiveness strategies,” Deasy said.

“With the support of the TIF grant, we will enhance the quality of teaching at the LAUSD and provide superior learning to our students now and in the future."

L.A. Unified has piloted a teacher evaluation system that factors in students' standardized test scores despite opposition from the teachers' union. The district is in negotiations to develop a new performance-based review system by a court-imposed deadline of Dec. 4; the administrators' union reached a one-year agreement earlier this month but is negotiating a long-term solution.

L.A. Unified was one of 35 districts or charters in the nation to receive the grants announced Thursday. New York City Public Schools received a grant of nearly $53 million to target about 70 high-need schools.

This story has been updated.


by Howard Blume | LA Times/LA Now |

September 28, 2012 |  7:00 am  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District and three local charter-school groups have won federal grants to develop their teacher and principal evaluation systems, the U.S. Department of Education has announced.

L.A. Unified, California’s largest school system, will receive $16 million, one of the largest grants. But the top prize in dollars, more than $23 million, went to the District of Columbia Public Schools, a system less than one-eighth the size of L.A. Unified.

The local charter schools that landed the funds were Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (nearly $2.2 million), Aspire Public Schools (nearly $12 million), and Green Dot Public Schools (nearly $2 million).

All the winners already have new evaluations systems underway or in development. The charter organizations have benefited from substantial support provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The L.A. proposal envisions creating a “career ladder” to reward the best teachers with promotions and higher pay. The most controversial aspect of L.A. Unified’s plan is its decision to include student progress on standardized test scores as one measure of a teacher’s effectiveness. The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has mounted a legal challenge to the plan.

“A key factor in the success of these new pay systems is having labor and management cooperation in their development and implementation,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. “In many cases this happened, but we are disappointed that some applicants…did not seek meaningful input from their local teachers union."

In L.A., the union participated in a task force but differed on the plan itself and declined to back it.

Weingarten added: “Time will tell whether these programs will provide ongoing systems of professional development and support for teachers, or simply incentivize top-down, ill-conceived and poorly implemented policies that do nothing to improve teaching or learning.”

Among the California winners, only Green Dot’s evaluation system has achieved official endorsement — albeit narrow — from a teachers union. Alliance and Aspire are non-union operations.

"We are proud of our record of working collaboratively with our teachers," Green Dot chief executive Marco Petruzzi, said in a statement.

There were 35 winning applications nationally.

The District of Columbia is among the school systems with the most developed evaluation systems, although it has remained controversial.

There, officials predicted that by the end of the 2016-17 school year, at least 90% of teachers and principals will be “highly effective” or “effective” under its ratings.


By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer | LA Daily News |

9/27/2012 03:17:17 PM PDT  ::  Los Angeles Unified and three local charter school networks were among 35 recipients of $290 million in federal grants awarded to boost the pay of effective teachers and administrators, officials said today.

The nation's second-largest school district received a five-year, $49.2 million award from the Teacher Incentive Fund, a Department of Education program that supports the development of performance-based pay systems. About $11.7 million will be available the first two years.

LAUSD will use the money to develop and implement a performance-based pay system, for educator training and to recruit science, math and technology teachers to 40 high-needs schools.

Superintendent John Deasy learned of the award during a meeting with education leaders in Washington, D.C.

"This help us honor teachers and principals who are doing exceptional work," he said in a phone interview. "We can develop teacher leaders without teachers having to leave the classroom, and principals can develop new leaders in their schools."

The grant comes as LAUSD pilots a performance evaluation system that includes student test scores, classroom observation and parent and student feedback.

The district is also under a court order to negotiate with its teachers and administrators unions on a new performance-based review system. It has a deadline of Dec. 4 to come up with a plan.

The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles has reached a one-year deal with the district, and is negotiating on future contracts. Talks continue with leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles.

AALA President Judith Perez expects the grants will help compensate administrators for additional training and work involved in doing more time-consuming performance evaluations. "Right now, we have limited to no resources available for training, and there's no way to transform the system without adequate resources," said Perez, who wrote a letter to the DOE supporting the district's application. "We're very pleased we'll be able to support our members."

Three of Los Angeles' largest charter operators also received five-year TIF grants:

-- $27.8 million to Aspire Public Schools, which operates charters from Los Angeles to Sacramento.

--$11.7 million to Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 18 charter campuses in South LA.

--$8.9 million to Alliance College-Ready Public School, a network of 21 charter middle and high schools in low-income areas Los Angeles.

In addition, the Santa Monica-based National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (Lowell Milken) received about $11 million to operate programs in Minnesota and Tennessee.


SB 1458 broadens how the Academic Performance Index will be calculated. Test results will now account for just 60% of a high school's API score.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

September 27, 2012, 12:56 a.m.  ::  California's key measure of public school quality will be redefined to lessen the impact of standardized test scores under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The law, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), will broaden how the Academic Performance Index is calculated by limiting test scores to 60% for high schools and including graduation rates and other factors.

The 1,000-point index, which is currently based entirely on student test scores, has been criticized as an inaccurate gauge of campus quality even as it is widely used by parents to choose schools and real estate agents to sell homes.

"For years, 'teaching to the test' has become more than a worn cliche because 100% of the API relied on bubble tests scores in limited subject areas," Steinberg said in a statement. "But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids."

Test scores must count for at least 60% of the API for elementary and middle schools, where alternative data are less developed.

Under the new law, the state Board of Education will work with the state superintendent of public instruction to incorporate other factors into the index, such as student readiness for college and technical training. The law specifies an increased emphasis on science and social science, which carry little weight in the current API.

The bill, SB 1458, was supported by dozens of business, education and parent groups, including the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"I think the common theme among all of us is that test scores should never be the drivers of everything," said Sherry Griffith of the Assn. of California School Administrators, which took no position on the bill.

Brown vetoed another Steinberg bill, SB 1235, that would have required the state superintendent each year to compile a list of schools that suspend a high percentage of students. It also would have invited the districts to attend meetings to discuss the problem.

The bill was one of several proposed this year aimed at encouraging the use of alternatives to suspensions in an effort to keep more students in school. Steinberg noted that California recorded 750,000 suspensions in 2009-10, with a disproportionate effect on minority students.

Brown, who signed four bills last week that advocates said would help reduce suspensions, said he vetoed SB 1235 because the discipline issue was best left to "local school boards and the citizens who elect them."

All told, Brown signed 19 education-related bills and vetoed five. Among those he signed:

•SB 1290 by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), which gives school districts greater authority to close charter schools that fail to make sufficient academic progress. The Obama administration has withheld millions of dollars in federal aid until the state could demonstrate that it was making academic achievement the highest priority for renewing the publicly-funded charters.

•AB 644 by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills), which expands the availability of online courses for high schools by changing related funding formulas. The new law will allow schools to receive state funding for students enrolled in online courses.

•AB 960, by Sen. Michael Rubio (D-East Bakersfield), which bars California State University student fees from being established, adjusted or reallocated without the approval of student representatives. The new law explicitly bars CSU campus presidents from using alternative processes to impose or reallocate fees without student consent, as occurred at the Fresno, Northridge and Long Beach campuses, according to Rubio.

Brown also acted on a raft of animal-welfare measures Wednesday. They all take effect Jan. 1.

It will be illegal to use dogs to hunt bears and bobcats under one bill, which sprang from complaints that the practice is cruel and unsporting.

The Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of celebrities including Doris Day, Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Maher lobbied heavily for the ban. Many hunters opposed the measure, SB 1221 by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), saying it would infringe on their right to use a safe method of hunting.

Brown also signed a bill that prohibits landlords from requiring tenants to declaw their cats or cut vocal cords in their dogs. Landlords who violate the law could face a $1,000 fine under the measure, SB 1229 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).

The governor also designated the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle as the official state marine reptile, signing AB 1776 by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale).

Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento contributed to this report.


Governor Brown Issues Legislative Update – Signs bills to improve education in CaliforniaCalif. Gov. Jerry Brown

from the Governors Press Office |

9-26-2012 – SACRAMENTO  ::  Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that he has signed the following bills to improve education in California:

• AB 644 by Assemblymember Robert Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys) – Schools: average daily attendance: online instruction.

• AB 1723 by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes (D-Los Angeles) – Postsecondary educational institutions: meetings: live video and audio transmission.

• AB 1955 by Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) – Public postsecondary education: campus law enforcement agency and student liaison.

• AB 1967 by Assemblymember John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) – Pupil instruction: health and science education: organ and tissue donation.

• AB 2122 by Assemblymember Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate) – Standardized testing: testing accommodations.

• AB 2269 by Assemblymember Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland) – Pupil instruction: Labor History Month.

• AB 2296 by Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) – California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009.

• AB 2307 by Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D-Marina Del Rey) – School employees: reemployment.

• AB 2435 by Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D-Baldwin Park) – Education finance: indirect cost rates.

• AB 2491 by Assemblymember Robert Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys) – Pupil instruction: gifted and talented pupil program: standard for pupil identification.

• AB 2662 by Committee on Education – Education.

• SB 121 by Senator Carol Liu (D-Pasadena) – Pupils: foster children: special education.

• SB 298 by Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) – Charter schools: at-risk pupils: Los Angeles County Board of Education.

• SB 754 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) – School funding: economic impact aid.

• SB 960 by Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) – California State University: campus-based mandatory fees.

• SB 1028 by Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Education finance.

• SB 1290 by Senator Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) – Charter schools: establishment, renewal, and revocation.

• SB 1458 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) – School accountability: Academic Performance Index: graduation rates.

• SB 1568 by Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) – Pupils: foster children: educational placement.

The Governor also announced that he has vetoed the following bills:

• AB 1811 by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) – Charter schools: funding. A veto message can be found here

• AB 1919 by Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) – Pupils: achievement data: charter schools. A veto message can be found here

• SB 885 by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) – Public education accountability: longitudinal education data system. A veto message can be found here

• SB 1235 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) – Pupils: suspension. A veto message can be found here

• SB 1497 by Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) – Pupil data: dropouts: report. A veto message can be found here

For full text of the bills, visit:


By Steven Greenhut , Bloomberg News |

Sep 27, 2012 3:40 PM PT  :: It is hard for education reformers to be too optimistic about the post-strike prospects for Chicago schools. The resulting contract significantly boosts teacher pay in exchange for some modest changes such as a lengthened school day and improved teacher testing.

As school officials figure out how to pay for the new deal and bolster vastly underfunded teacher pensions, new disputes are likely to arise. At least officials in Chicago recognized that educational improvements require taking on unions and their counterproductive work rules.

By contrast, officials in California are still peddling the idea that the state’s public-school system -- which receives 40 percent of the general-fund budget, by constitutional edict -- is struggling because it lacks money.

“We can’t keep cutting our schools and still keep the economy strong for the next generation,” Governor Jerry Brown wrote in support of Proposition 30, an initiative on the ballot in November that would impose higher income taxes on Californians who earn more than $250,000 a year and raise sales taxes for everyone.

Brown’s pitch is as cynical as it is untrue. The tax increase, which is favored in opinion polls, doesn’t provide additional funds for schools. The governor and legislators passed a budget that increases spending for many other priorities, but cuts $5.4 billion from public schools, unless voters approve the tax increase. So it is blackmail -- raise taxes or watch school programs get cut. Brown and his fellow Democrats didn’t have to set up the budget this way.

Charters’ Challenge

At the same time, the state’s political establishment is trying to defeat Proposition 32, which strikes at the heart of the school problem by attacking the way unions, including the powerful California Teachers Association, are funded. That initiative, lagging in the polls after a labor-financed ad blitz, would stop automatic union-dues payroll deductions, which bankroll the political campaigns that make the union such a powerhouse.

But the real battle over education isn’t being waged in Sacramento, but in poor and middle-class neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where desperate parents have increasingly turned to charter schools. Such schools, which are free of the union collective-bargaining constraints and many state regulations, have flourished by offering students educational choices and a model based on results.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2010, “Fueled by money and emboldened by clout from some of the city’s most powerful figures, charter schools began a period of explosive growth that has challenged the status quo in the Los Angeles Unified School District.”

The city, which has the second-largest U.S. school system after New York, has the highest number of charter schools in the nation. United Teachers Los Angeles fights the movement in any way it can, from rallies (“Hell, no, we’re not fools, we don’t want no charter schools” was one chant) to regulation efforts. A proposal to expand restrictions on charters and halt new approvals of such schools in the interim is up for a vote in October. If the union can’t beat them, it is trying to organize them.

But it is unionization that is afflicting public schools, not lack of funds. At the state level, there is little debate over education policy beyond efforts to find additional tax revenue. Even reforms that should be noncontroversial have no hope of passing if the California Teachers Association opposes them.

Quashing Reform

A bill introduced in the state Legislature after the arrest of a Los Angeles elementary-school teacher on horrific molestation charges would have streamlined “the labyrinthine ‘dismissal statutes’ that require districts to navigate a seemingly endless maze of hearings and appeals,” wrote Larry Sand in City Journal. But the union got the proposal quashed.

In 2009, the Los Angeles Times exposed how the school district places teachers accused of serious wrongdoing in “rubber rooms,” where they collect millions of dollars in pay and benefits as the cases against them wend their way through the system. That is why the Los Angeles school district gave the teacher indicted for multiple sex crimes a $40,000 severance package just to get rid of him.

It is impossible to run an efficient, productive and compassionate school system when miscreants and incompetents can’t easily be fired; where seniority trumps teaching skill; and where city leaders, however reform-minded, have little authority over the classroom.

Yet all that Californians hear about from their state leaders are laments about a lack of money. “Spending on K-12 programs has decreased to $7,530 per pupil in the current budget from a 2008-09 peak of $8,414,” reported the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters. Yet a Pepperdine University study in 2010 found that K-12 per-pupil spending soared almost 26 percent in the five years before the peak.

These per-pupil spending numbers can be vastly understated, according to some researchers. Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute, for example, calculated that, when local and state bond measures and capital expenses are included in the spending calculation, Los Angeles spent almost $30,000 a student in the 2007-08 school year.

“More money -- they repeat that like it’s some kind of mantra,” said Lance Izumi, a California education scholar and member of the board of governors of the California community colleges. “There’s no correlation between higher spending and performance. If that were the case, the Washington, D.C., public schools would be the best ones in the nation.”

Administrators Galore

Meanwhile, the schools superintendent in Los Angeles, John Deasy, told a community group this month that the district is so financially pressed that it can’t cut its lawns because “we fired all the gardeners.” It is hard to feel too sorry for the district, given that the Pepperdine study found that while classroom funding fell, spending soared on the number and pay of administrators. This spike, while not necessarily the fault of the union, is another failure of a noncompetitive school system.

Will California voters buy into the poor-mouthing and hand over more cash? Or will they look closely at Los Angeles, where the only hope for change comes from competitive school alternatives, and at Chicago, where a Democratic mayor could finally draw a line with the teachers union?