Thursday, January 31, 2013


Voters Back Counselors over Cops by More Than 2-to-1; Oppose Arming Teachers

from the office of Rusty Selix | by email

Rusty Selix is the Executive Director and legislative advocate of the Mental Health Association in California and the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies. For nearly 20 years, he has been one of the state's most successful advocates for increased access to mental health care.

Survey Results following

31 Jan 2013  ::  Sacramento, CA - California voters strongly believe that more mental health services and better emergency response training for school staff are the best strategies for preventing violence in schools, according to a survey of 1,200 voters released today by The California Endowment. When asked whether hiring a school counselor or a police officer would be more effective at preventing violence, voters chose counselors by a margin of more than two to one (67% to 26%).

"California voters understand that counseling and mental health services can help prevent senseless tragedies on campus-and frankly, that focus on prevention has been the missing ingredient from school safety efforts in recent years," said Barbara Raymond, Director of Schools Policy for The California Endowment.

"Addressing gun policy and smart policing strategies are important pieces of the puzzle, but we can't make schools safe without also improving mental health services.  Counselors, nurses and other support services are part of a range of strategies that will help make Health Happen in Schools, because we know the physical and emotional well-being of students is essential to their academic success," Raymond said.

The survey was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) on behalf of The California Endowment, which advocates for healthier school environments through its Health Happens in Schools campaign. The survey measured voter support for a wide range of policy options currently under consideration in Sacramento and Washington. Of the options considered, California voters supported emergency preparedness measures and expansions in mental health services most strongly.

For example:

· 96%  of California voters support training school staff in emergency response (including 78% "strongly support");

· 96% support requiring every school to have a comprehensive safety plan (79% strongly-California law currently requires schools to maintain safety plans and update them annually by March 1);

· 93% support training teachers in conflict resolution techniques (64% strongly);

· 91% support expanding mental health services in communities (69% strongly);

· 91% support providing mental "first aid" training to school staff, so they can recognize the signs of mental illness in young people (64% strongly);

· 84% support increasing the number of trained counselors in schools (55% strongly);

· 50% support putting armed police officers in every school (23% strongly); and

· Only 31% support allowing teachers trained in firearms to carry guns on school grounds (16% strongly).

When asked to compare policy options directly, voters backed improving mental health services over installing more security cameras and metal detectors by a margin of 66% to 27%, a difference nearly identical to their preference for counselors over police (67% to 26%). Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (65%) agreed that too many guards and gates on campus risks creating a tense, fortress-like environment that can be detrimental to a school's educational mission.  Regardless of their position on placing police in schools, 88% of voters agreed that officers assigned to schools should get special training in youth development, so they better understand teens and can work more effectively with students and teachers.

The opinions of California gun owners are similar to those expressed by all voters. By a margin of 58% to 36%, gun owners agreed that placing school counselors in every school was a more effective strategy than placing armed police officers in every school. Gun owners also backed increasing mental health service in communities (93%) and providing mental health "first aid" training to school staff (87%). California gun owners were evenly split on allowing teachers to carry firearms on school grounds (49% support; 48% oppose).

"After the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, our nation finds itself at a fork in the road, facing many different options to keep our schools safe," said Raymond. "After the Columbine High School shooting nearly 15 years ago, schools invested deeply in increasing school police and physical security, but that wasn't enough to keep our children safe. Now, voters are telling us to take a more complete approach that includes mental services and aims to prevent school violence in the first place."

The voter preferences revealed in the survey have generally not been reflected in policy decisions made in recent years at the state and federal level. According to the American School Counselors Association, California currently ranks worst in the nation at providing access to school counselors, with only one counselor per 1,014 students-four times worse than the recommended standard of one per 250. And since the economic downturn began, California has reduced funding for mental health treatment by $4.6 billion, despite increased demand.

Dave Metz, who supervised development of the poll for FM3, added, "the overwhelming priorities voters place is surprising, especially because gun policy and police in schools have been the most talked-about policy options following the Sandy Hook tragedy. However, the evidence is clear and unmistakable: California voters favor a complete approach to preventing school violence that includes better emergency preparedness and improved access to mental health services."

A group of California young people also advocated for a comprehensive approach to preventing school violence in this video, titled "California Teens Demand a Real Plan."  The video, which features students and youth leaders active in The California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities initiative, has received more than 1.1 million hits on YouTube since its release on December 21.


The California Endowment is a private, statewide health foundation, which was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno, and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people's health. The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention. For more information, visit The Endowment's homepage at

Survey Methodology:  From January 16-21, 2013, FM3 completed telephone interviews with 1,200 likely voters across California. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish, and on landline and cellular phones. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 2.8%; margins of error for subgroups within the sample will be higher. Some proportions may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

Office of Rusty Selix | 1127 11th Street, Suite 925 | Sacramento | CA |95814

California Voter Attitudes on School Safety by


®eform Fatigue In L.A.?

Joy Resmovits On Education, hUFFINgTON pOST |

1/30/2013 8:30 am :: Antonio Villaraigosa Led The Way On Education Reform, But His Potential Successors Are Reluctant To Pick Up The Torch," reads the headline of an L.A. Weekly blog post.(following)  The two top mayoral contenders to replace Villaraigosa at the helm of the nation's second largest school district aren't campaigning Villaraigosa-style reforms. The West Coast city's dynamic seems to echo New York's -- mayoral candidates have eschewed, for the most part, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's big, controversial reform agenda.



Antonio Villaraigosa Led The Way On Education Reform, But His Potential Successors Are Reluctant To Pick Up The Torch

By Gene Maddaus , LA Weekly |

Thumbnail image for villaraigosaMTP.JPGTue., Jan. 29 2013 at 7:03 AM  ::  For the last eight years, education reformers have had a staunch ally in the L.A. mayor's office. From the start of his administration, Antonio Villaraigosa showed he was willing to fight the teachers' unions, and to pay a political price for it.

Ed  Transportation reformer Antonio Villaraigosa>>

But in a few months, Villaraigosa will be gone. And at the moment, it appears that his successor will not be as strong an advocate for bringing private sector principles into the public schools.

Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, the top two contenders, talk often about improving education. But neither has campaigned on the more controversial elements of the education reform agenda.

Of the two, Garcetti would be the bigger departure from Villaraigosa on education. At last night's debate at UCLA, Garcetti pushed back a bit against the reform movement, arguing that teachers have been maligned.

"I'm sick of us bullying our teachers," he said. "We're so obsessed with firing the bad teachers, we forgot to lift up the good ones."

Garcetti also said he was against relying too heavily on quantitative measurements -- like test scores -- in evaluating teacher performance.

In an earlier debate, at the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, he was asked how he felt about a range of education reform items, including using test scores in teacher evaluations and the parent trigger law, which allows parents to take over a school by petition. (Disclosure: I was the moderator.)

Garcetti said his top priority would be increasing per-pupil funding. He framed the rest of his answer by reminding the audience that he is a former teacher -- he taught public policy at Occidental College.

"I think that teacher evaluations are critical, and that we should be looking at doing that collaboratively with the teachers," he said, "because as a former teacher, the best thing I got was feedback from my students, and actually then I could sit down with my department head, and we could work together on how to be better."

Garcetti did not express support for the parent-trigger law, but he did say that he backs charter schools.

When Greuel talks about education, she always reminds her audience that she is the mother of a child in L.A. Unified. (Her son, Thomas, attends Colfax Elementary.) She often speaks about the need for greater parent involvement and local control of schools, but she tends to shy away from the more aggressive education reform measures.

Asked recently by the L.A. Weekly about the parent trigger, she said she has "supported the concepts of it" -- without explicitly endorsing it. She said she opposed a proposal to put a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. She also spoke favorably of Superintendent John Deasy, who is seen as an ally of education reformers.

But most often, she avoids taking firm stands, instead slipping into platitudes. "The decisions that are made, whether by the superintendent or the school board, need to be made by what's best for the kids," she told the Weekly.

Two other candidates -- Councilwoman Jan Perry and radio host Kevin James -- have been much more forthright about their support for education reform. Perry speaks about streamlining the charter-approval process and pushing to elect pro-reform candidates to the L.A. Unified school board. James supports the parent trigger law and reforming the teacher evaluation process. But Perry and James have trailed in fundraising and in the polls.

The mayor does not have formal authority over L.A. Unified -- despite Villaraigosa's best efforts. But since the tenure of Mayor Richard Riordan, the mayor has had substantial influence over school board races, and therefore, over the district.

United Teachers of Los Angeles has not endorsed in the mayor's race, but is believed by several campaigns to be leaning toward Garcetti. UTLA officials declined to comment.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Posted by Jeff Solochek  to Tampa Bay Times Gradebook |

2:30:51 pm on January 28, 2013  ::  The days of all-computerized state testing are fast approaching for Florida schools. The push toward digital textbooks and instructional materials also is moving quickly.

But many schools built more than five years ago lack the infrastructure to make the move. They don't have adequate electrical wiring or internet Wi-Fi capability to handle the load.

The Florida Board of Education has proposed a 2013-14 budget of $441.8 million to outfit schools with internet bandwidth, wireless capacity and other technology tools. There's some talk in Tallahassee that the request will get serious consideration among lawmakers, who already have been asked by Gov. Rick Scott to give all full-time classroom teachers a $2,500 raise.

"We've got to put resources in that area" of technology, said Sen. John Legg, chairman of the Education Policy committee and a member of the Education Appropriations committee. "The Senate proposal we're putting together is pretty aggressive to do that."

He expected a bill to emerge in the next few weeks that will look at a two-year plan to improve schools' computer capabilities. The bill also will include other overarching issues including more closely connecting education standards to college and employment demands.

Legg told the Gradebook that he hoped to keep the discussion tightly focused on "real reform" such as these ideas, with a longer-range impact, and away from politically-tinged diversions

"It's my desire to get these long-term policy initiatives up and out early in session," he said, noting that some heated debate could surround the proposals. "It's my desire not to get distracted."


Dr. Steven Krashen writes in in SchoolsMatter |

Florida Boondoggle

28 January | The Florida Board is eager to spend nearly a half billion dollars to buy and set up equipment primarily so that children can take tests online.

There is zero research support for this kind of testing program. Nor is there any demand for a pilot study to be done.

As soon as the equipment is set up, it will be declared obsolete.

It will not improve student performance, so a more full-proof and expensive computer system will be developed.

The result: A permanent boondoggle, an ever-increasing drain on the budget that will profit only testing and computer companies.

2cents smf Worth noting:

        • This initiative + funding is coming from the State of Florida, NOT the local school districts.
        • Common Core State Standards (and Testing) is NOT  a Federal Program (that would be illegal …so federal funding would probably be also) – is theoretically a combined state initiative – though it was really dreamed up by testing companies and the education non-profit foundations (®eform, Inc/Billionaire Boys Club, etc.).
        • The word “hardwire” implies that wireless is not being considered. There is controversy over wireless in LAUSD over microwave exposure to students and staff. And, absent this, because of Florida’s unique geography – being a swamp with ground water and ground level being the same level: wiring and electrical grounding is always an issue – one would presume wireless would be the first consideration.
        • Note the proposed $441.8 million expense for all of Florida is less than the proposed $500 million for LAUSD – though the Florida budget does NOT include the digital platforms (laptops/tablets/e-readers or desktop computers.


by John Fensterwald | EdSource today |

January 29th, 2013   ::  The parents at 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified will have plenty of choices for an operator to take over their school under the “parent trigger” process they initiated this month. One of the contenders will be the district itself.

The school’s Parents’ Union announced Monday it had received letters of intent from eight organizations saying they would submit detailed proposals on how they would turn the low-performing school around. They include six outside charter school operators, a former teacher at the school who created a management organization and Superintendent John Deasy, who pledged “to collaborate with the parents and students of 24th Street by implementing the necessary reform efforts to vastly increase student achievement and the community engagement efforts to date.”

Ten days ago, parents at 24th Street Elementary became the third group, following efforts in Compton Unified and Adelanto Unified, to file a petition under the state’s three-year-old Parent Empowerment Act. That law permits a majority of parents at a low-performing school to petition for a change in governance. The 24th Street Elementary Parents’ Union became the first to actually be welcomed by their district.

In receiving their petition, Deasy had promised to collaborate, not thwart, the parents, and he reaffirmed that commitment by meeting with parents at a park in the rain last week. His three-page letter, submitted by Friday’s deadline, outlined how the district will do so. The letter implied that the district will move forward immediately by assigning Angel Barrett, the district’s instructional director, to conduct a three-day comprehensive assessment of the needs of the school and then create an action plan..There will be a particular focus on English learners, who comprise 45 percent of the students. Deasy also pledged to work with community groups, including Parent Revolution, the nonprofit organization that has organized parent groups around the parent trigger.As a low-achieving school, 24th Street Elementary already is in the district’s Public School Choice program.

As part of that process, the principal and staff at the school submitted their own plan to turn the school around. But Deasy rejected that plan days before the parents submitted their petition. In his letter to the parents, Deasy said it “did not inspire confidence that 24th Street is on a path toward rapid improvement.”

Deasy also expressed appreciation in the Parents’ Union’s “confidence in LAUSD as the parents’ preferred partner in this transformational process.” The parents, though, will make the final decision after reviewing all of the proposals, which are due March 8. Charter operators that indicated they will submit are Academia Moderna; Crown Preparatory Academy; Frederick Douglass Academy Elementary School & Vista Academy Elementary School; Global Education Academy; Para Los NiƱos, and Celerity Global Development. Celerity was the choice of the parents’ union in Compton Unified, the site of the first parent trigger. After litigation prolonged the process, Celerity abandoned its quest to operate McKinley Elementary and started a school in a nearby church.

Parent Trigger LAUSD Letter of Intent 24th St School by


Re-reforming ®eform: The school is about two years into its current reform plan

Stephen Ceasar, LA Times/LA Now |

January 28, 2013 |  7:39 pm  ::  Parents, students and teachers rallied Monday in front of Crenshaw High School to protest a plan to restructure the low-performing campus and require teachers to reapply for their jobs.

Under the plan, approved this month by the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, the school would open next fall as three magnet programs, which are open to students from across the nation’s second-largest school system.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said starting over was necessary to address high dropout rates and low student achievement. Deasy has described the Leimert Park campus as one of the district's biggest disappointments.

But a couple dozen community members defended both the staff and ongoing academic efforts. They said Deasy’s directive, which they referred to as a “reconstitution,” would disrupt students’ education.

“Don’t destabilize and reconstitute our school,” said parent Christine Williams.

The Crenshaw group has joined forces with a national movement to stop the closing of low-performing schools, which has become a widely favored reform strategy and has been endorsed by the Obama administration. Instead of being closed, schools should receive the help needed to improve, said the Crenshaw group.

Opponents of school closings are expected to testify at a U.S. Department of Education hearing Tuesday. They cite research suggesting that changing the staff doesn’t fix the problems at a school.

But Deasy has used the strategy increasingly at schools that have lagged in achievement for years or even decades. He has the authority under federal law to replace the staff at Crenshaw because of the school's poor performance. District officials have maintained that there is no limit on how many teachers can return, although few instructors have returned to some other recently restructured schools.

Crenshaw High, which has 1,500 students -- nearly all from low-income families -- has made virtually no progress in raising student achievement in English and math, according to state tests. The percentage of students at grade level in English has declined slightly over four years, from 19% to 17%; in math, the figure has inched up from 2% to 3%.

This year there was an upward bump in the school’s overall test results, but the campus remains among the state’s lowest-performing. The school has experienced an enrollment decline, with many potential students choosing other district schools or independent, publicly funded charter schools.

, which it calls the Extended Learning Cultural Model. It involves teachers receiving training on the culture of their students and students taking part in projects relevant to their lives. Speakers at the rally called on the district to provide support and resources for the effort.

“They should want to support this, not destabilize it,” said teacher Alex Caputo-Pearl.


BY Dalina Castellanos and Howard Blume, la tIMES/la nOW | Escutia
January 28, 2013 |  2:44 pm  ::  A former state senator called Monday for an investigation into what she said was a disproportionately large number of Latino students believed to have been victimized by teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Martha Escutia, now an attorney working for a law firm that represents families suing the district over teacher sexual misconduct, called for an independent investigation as she appeared at a news conference with a handful of parents in front of George de la Torre Elementary School in Wilmington.

Last week, a former de la Torre teacher, Robert Pimentel, 57, was arrested on suspicion of molesting 12 students at the school. Pimentel has pleaded not guilty.

“I just want accountability and transparency,” Escutia said. “Their silence is deafening,” she added, referring to district officials.

District officials defended their intentions and recent actions regarding misconduct but didn't directly address Escutia’s accusation that Latinos were, in effect, allowed to be targeted.

“Every child we serve is important, and we would never willfully place students in harm’s way,” said district general counsel David Holmquist. “We are consistently working to strengthen student safety, including implementing numerous policy changes and supporting meaningful statewide legislative reforms.”

The idea that Latinos have been more exposed to risk because of negligence or willful action has circulated for some time. It’s been documented that some teachers and principals have moved from school to school, causing problems in more than one place. Some advocates for children say such transfers would never have been tolerated in more affluent communities.

District officials say repeated transfers of employees with poor performance or questionable behavior are a thing of the past. They point to newly adopted policies, district participation in a state audit and the launch of an investigative commission led by retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.

The case attracting the most attention has been that of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, 62, who faces 23 counts of lewd conduct for allegedly spoon-feeding semen to blindfolded students and taking bizarre photos of them. Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty, spent his entire teaching career at Miramonte.

Pimentel taught at schools in South Los Angeles, Carson and Wilmington. In Carson and Wilmington, he worked for principal Irene Hinojosa. According to L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, Hinojosa received allegations that Pimentel had touched students inappropriately but she didn't report those allegations to police.


Escutia, who has an LA school named for her, is an attorney representing kids in Miramonte case. "We wouldn't even be here having this press conference if LAUSD would speak up," she said. "Their silence has frankly been deafening."

By Rob Kuznia The Daily Breeze/lA  Daily News |

<<Former state Senator Martha Escutia, an attorney and child sex abuse survivors advocate, calls for an immediate investigation into what she believes is a pattern of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated against students by teachers and other employees at schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District at a press conference in front of George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington.

01/29/2013 05:30:47 AM PST  ::  In the wake of yet another sex abuse arrest in the Los Angeles Unified School District, former state Sen. Martha Escutia came to a Wilmington elementary school Monday to call for an LAUSD investigation into what she believes is a pattern of such abuse against Latino youth by teachers in low-income areas.

Escutia, an attorney who serves on the legal team representing more than 30 children allegedly abused by teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles, blasted the district for refusing to turn over documents pertaining to 600 complaints about teacher misconduct.

She likened the LAUSD's reaction to the abuse cases to that of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which kept its sensitive documents sealed until ordered by a judge to release them.

Former state Senator Martha Escutia, an attorney and child sex abuse survivors advocate, is calling for an immediate investigation into what she believes is a pattern of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated against students by teachers and other employees at schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Escutia gives a press conference in front of George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington on Monday morning, January 28, 2013. >>

"I don't think LAUSD wants to become the next Archdiocese of Los Angeles," she said.

Escutia's comments come several days after law enforcement officials announced the arrest of former LAUSD teacher Robert Pimentel on charges he sexually abused at least 20 children at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington, where Escutia held her press conference.

In that case, the school's principal at the time took no action when similar allegations were leveled against the same teacher at another school, according to LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy. Pimentel and the principal, Irene Hinojosa, both retired on the same day as Deasy was moving to fire them, he told the Los Angeles News Group, which includes the Daily Breeze.

Despite Deasy's comments on the latest case, Escutia accused LAUSD officials of being generally tight-lipped on the matter.

"We wouldn't even be here having this press conference if LAUSD would speak up," she said. "Their silence has frankly been deafening."

LAUSD responded to her complaints with a statement Monday detailing the efforts it has made to crack down on abusive teachers since the Miramonte scandal erupted nearly

<< Former state Senator Martha Escutia, an attorney and child sex abuse survivors advocate, speaks at a press conference in front of George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington on Monday morning, January 28, 2013.


"We've been waiting on LAUSD and hope they have finally put together the paperwork we need to save this proven job training program."

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

Arturo Sanchez, left, Stephen Miller and Allison Retig look at an inspection plate that allows mechanics to see the cables inside the wing of this Cessna 150. Students enrolled at the North Valley Occupational Center Aviation Mechanic School at Van Nuys Airport get an education in airframe and power plant mechanics on Feb. 10, 2011. After they conclude the training program, graduates are virtually guaranteed jobs. Van Nuys, CA. (File photo by John McCoy/staff photographer)

1/28/2013 07:27:39  ::  Los Angeles Unified would have enough money to continue operating its embattled mechanics school at Van Nuys Airport if the federal government agrees to slash the rent to $1 a year, according to a new business plan.

The rent on the 3-acre site is set to double July 1 to $12,000 a month, which district officials say would force them to close the Aviation Center or relocate it to a smaller location. Even at $6,000 a month, the school district would be hard-pressed to continue the program, which has operated for 40 years out of a hangar off Hayvenhurst Avenue.

But a budget compiled at the request of city and airport officials, who are working with LAUSD to salvage the popular adult school program, shows the center would be financially viable if the Federal Aviation Administration lets the airport cut a deal for free rent.


Stories and opinion


"Once the burden of the lease is removed from the budget, operational expenses and salaries are well within amounts provided by the district," says a letter by Michael Romero, chief of the district's Adult Education Division.

Based on costs for the current fiscal year, Romero estimates salaries and benefits of about $270,000 for the center's principal, three teachers and a custodian, plus $80,000 for instructional materials and operating expenses.

With its 100 students paying $900 a year in fees - and without any rent - the cost for the district pencils out to roughly $260,000 annually.

"This is an amazing facility, and the perfect example of the connection between education and jobs," said school board member Nury Martinez, who has been working to get the proposal before the FAA.

She's written a letter of support to Los Angeles World Airports, which is putting together its own proposal for a lease waiver that will be submitted to the FAA.

Local officials are hoping the federal agency will sign off on the deal in time to avert the rent hike.

"It's frustrating that we're not able to give students an answer as to whether the school will still be there next year," Martinez said.

The Aviation Center is ranked among the nation's best, a two-year program in which students prepare for FAA certification for aircraft maintenance work. Many of its graduates get entry-level jobs paying $50,000 a year.

City Councilman Eric Garcetti has taken the lead at City Hall, in supporting the center, sponsoring a motion asking LAWA to provide free rent for the school district.

"We've been waiting on LAUSD and hope they have finally put together the paperwork we need to save this proven job training program," Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said.

Monday, January 28, 2013



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To build classrooms and sports facilities, many districts have been relying on bonds that can require as much as $20 in payments for every $1 borrowed.

By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times |

Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) co-introduced the bill.

Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) co-introduced the bill, which would bar school districts from using capital appreciation bonds that take longer than 25 years to mature or cost more than $4 for every $1 borrowed. (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press / May 29, 2012)

●  SEE: California schools asked to put moratorium on controversial bonds


January 28, 2013  ::  Two state lawmakers have moved to crack down on a costly method of finance that hundreds of school districts have been relying on to pay for new construction.

Assembly members Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) and Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) introduced legislation Friday that seeks to check the use of long-term capital appreciation bonds, which can carry debt payments many times the amount borrowed to build schools, classrooms and sports facilities.

Fiscal watchdogs, including county treasurers and California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, have warned repeatedly that the bonds are risky and reminiscent of the lending and Wall Street excesses that contributed to the Great Recession.

"We have been very careful to draft the bill in a way that will solve the problem," Hueso said. "All the points we put together should address any potential abuse in financing strategies."

The legislation would reduce the maximum maturity of capital appreciation bonds, or CABs, from 40 years to 25 years and limit a school district's repayment ratio to no more than $4 in interest and principal for every $1 borrowed.

Districts would be given an option to refinance CABs with maturities greater than 10 years if better terms become available. Schools also would be required to provide their boards with public reports that detail planned borrowings that involve capital appreciation notes.

The analysis would include the cost of the bond issue, a comparison with conventional forms of financing, the reason for using capital appreciation notes and disclosures by brokerages hired as underwriters.

CABs with maturities of 25 to 40 years result in debt payments that can be as much as 20 times greater than the principal.

According to a Times analysis, at least 200 school and community college districts in California have borrowed billions of dollars using the long-term notes since 2007. The bonds have saddled them with staggering debts that will eventually have to be paid off by district property owners who are assessed a tax per bond issue.

Nearly 70% of the money borrowed involves extended 30- to 40-year notes, which will cost taxpayers $13.1 billion, or about 6.6 times the amount borrowed on average.

The bill is expected to be heavily scrutinized by members of the state public finance industry, school district officials and various education-related interest groups.

Although the CABs are more costly than conventional notes, local educators have said such devices have been an effective way to finance capital improvement projects during the tough economy while still complying with statutory limits on property taxes.

Officials for the Coalition for Adequate School Housing and the California Assn. of School Business Officials have said the Legislature should not take a cookie-cutter approach to school finance or restrict districts' flexibility to pay for construction.


2cents smf smf notes: LAUSD has sold no CABs and to date nobody has publicly suggested we do. It is extremely doubtful that the LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee would endorse such a sale. However with the District bent on extra-curricular investments like Tablets for Everyone and with un-or-under-funded routine maintenance, deteriorating infrastructure capital needs exceeding current unsold bond potential the temptation might prove …uh… tempting!   Voters in LA County rejected (by slightly more than one-half-of-a-percentage-point) Measure J last November – which would’ve extended transit bond debt for thirty years until 2069. J would’ve been repaid for by sales tax, not property tax.

HIGHER-ED PRIMER: Paying for College

These websites help students and parents navigate loan and scholarship programs.

By Reid Kanaley, L.A. Times |

First subject: Paying for college

Several websites can give loan and college cost information to parents. Above, Cal State Long Beach students head to classes as the spring semester gets underway. (Christina House, For The Times / January 28, 2013)

January 28, 2013  ::  College acceptance letters are starting to arrive, and families now must figure out how to pay the tuition. Here are some sites that offer guidance to the world of financial aid:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A relatively new federal agency, the bureau has a beta site on college finances. One of the bureau's goals is to make students' borrowing costs clearer. Near the top of the page is a college-prep timeline showing the steps from researching schools to repaying college debt. Along the way, one presumably gets an education.

Federal student aid. The first step in requesting federal aid for school is to fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid. You have to do it only once a year, no matter how many colleges you apply to. And the earlier the better. As soon as you file the electronic form, you'll see what is likely to be a shocking ballpark number for the education expenses you're expected to pay out of pocket.

U.S. News & World Report college roundup. The section on paying for an education is meant to explain some of the terminology and procedures that students and families will encounter. Take note of the "overlooked ways to pay for college," which include getting an early start on college savings accounts called 529 plans and digging around for otherwise-overlooked community sources of scholarship money.

College Board. This group, which runs the SAT college-entrance examination system, also offers advice on financing your higher education. This page includes a link to the board's scholarship-search service. Many scholarships have obscure criteria, so how would you even find all the ones that might fit you? Fill out a questionnaire that can help match students to what the board says is $6 billion available in scholarships through 2,200 programs.


San Jose's school district, which requires all students to pass the classes necessary to apply to California universities, initially reported strong results. But its success was overstated.

By Howard Blume and Sarah Butrymowicz, Los Angeles Times |


People outside an L.A. Unified school board meeting in 2005 protest a proposal that would require high school students to pass college-prep courses. (Lori Shepler, Los Angeles Times / May 24, 2005)

January 28, 2013, 3:31 a.m.    Eleven years ago, the San Jose school district began requiring all students to pass the classes necessary for admission to the state university systems. Educators elsewhere watched with enthusiasm as early results showed remarkable success.

But San Jose Unified has quietly acknowledged that the district overstated its accomplishments. And a Times analysis of the district's record shows that its progress has not, in fact, far outpaced many other school systems' and, more important, that most San Jose students have never qualified to apply to a state college.

Those results should raise warning flags for other school systems, including Los Angeles Unified, that based key policy decisions on San Jose's misreported data. The risk is that L.A. Unified's version of a college-prep policy could drive students to drop out or delay graduation.

In 2000, before the college-prep program took effect, 40% of San Jose graduates fulfilled requirements for applying to University of California and Cal State University. In 2011, the number was 40.3%. Latino and black students have done worse. Among those who entered high school in fall 2007, about 1 in 5 black and Latino students were eligible to apply to a state college four years later.

Students could graduate without fulfilling college-prep requirements because of two escape hatches: Students were allowed to get only a D in these classes, whereas the state colleges demand a grade of C or better to be eligible. And students who are failing the rigorous classes could transfer to alternative schools and graduate from there.

About 15% of traditional high school students in San Jose Unified don't finish the college-prep sequence, primarily because of credit deficiencies, according to the district. Some — mostly minority students — transfer to an alternative school as early as 10th grade.

A notable difference was visible last spring at two graduation ceremonies in San Jose's Rose Garden.

In the afternoon, seniors from Leland High School gave speeches about college and the world beyond, of curing cancer or pursuing world peace. They talked about the robotics club, the debate team presidential awards and National Merit Scholars.

The school's enrollment is 85% white and Asian; less than 8% of students are from low-income families.

Earlier that day, at a more sparsely attended affair, the district held its alternative education graduation for 304 mostly Latino students who had transferred out of traditional high schools. Students spoke about overcoming tough times and thanked those who believed in them.

Compared with its traditional high schools, San Jose's alternative programs enroll nearly 50% more Latinos.

The ethnic imbalance is ironic given that San Jose's college-prep program grew out of concern that far too many Latino students, the largest group in the district, were not on track for college.

Taking simpler courses, they would "end up with a diploma that means very little in today's world," said former Supt. Linda Murray, who led the effort.

Murray, who left San Jose in 2004, said the college-prep program was a success because many students took classes that they would not have otherwise. But it also was important, she added, to have an alternative program so that students who didn't pass all the rigorous courses were not pushed out of school.

Overall scores on state standardized tests have improved, and the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement courses increased incrementally; the dropout rate did not worsen.

"This policy raises expectations for our students," said San Jose Supt. Vincent Matthews, "which in and of itself is a compelling strategy to drive student achievement — especially for students who have historically not achieved success in educational institutions."

The classes necessary for entrance to the UC and Cal State systems include two years of history or social science; four years of English; three years of math (through Algebra 2); two years of lab science; and two years of foreign language.

The San Jose class of 2002 was the first required to take the minimum college-prep workload and pass each class with at least a D.

For six years, the district misreported its results, counting seniors who were close to completing the college-prep requirements as having done so. San Jose claimed that the percentage of graduates who got at least a C in all these classes rose to nearly two-thirds from just over a third. The rate for Latino students rose to nearly 50% from 18.5%, and for black students to more than 50% from 27%, the district incorrectly reported.

After the district corrected its errors, the district reported only incremental progress that was comparable to school systems without the requirements. Of that class of 2011, a little more than a third completed the college-prep sequence.

Activists and educators elsewhere had used the inflated results to pressure their school districts to follow suit. Supporters saw the move as a way to reverse low expectations that had excluded or simply dissuaded generations of black and Latino students from pursuing college. Similar efforts have been underway in other states.

In 2005, L.A. Unified passed a college-prep mandate that's being phased in over eight years. To graduate, this year's freshmen will, for the first time, have to pass the minimum number of college-prep classes with a D or better. Next year's ninth-graders must earn a C or better.

If that policy were applied to San Jose's current results, only about a quarter of its black and Latino graduates would earn a diploma by the end of their senior year, the Times analysis found.

In L.A. Unified, about 83% of students are black or Latino. Last year, about 20% of L.A. Unified high school students completed the college-prep requirements within four years.

L.A. school officials said their program will include the support necessary to help students succeed. Supt. John Deasy has insisted that requiring students to get a C or better in these classes is necessary for a diploma to be meaningful and to ensure that low-income and minority students don't have to settle for coursework that is "orange drink" rather than "orange juice."

"This is all about a kid's civil rights," Deasy said. "I am confident in our students, that they will rise to the challenge."

Some experts, however, expressed concern.

Given the economic consequences of dropping out, "there should be a reasonable chance for students who pass their courses at any level to get a diploma," said UCLA professor Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project. He added that getting more students prepared for college is the right goal.

Long Beach Unified has adopted a different approach to increase the percentage of students who qualify for state universities. It sets annual improvement targets for schools, but no student is denied a diploma for not completing the college-prep classes.

"Why should I deny a kid a diploma because he or she hasn't passed Algebra 2 with a grade of C or better?" Supt. Christopher J. Steinhauser said. "We set the bar really high and look at our progress and we will not be satisfied till we get to 100%."

Long Beach is far from an unqualified success — only 25% of Latino students and 27% of black students were eligible for state universities in 2011. Those results are somewhat better than in San Jose, according to state and district data.

Recent San Jose graduate Alexander Dickerson, 18, shows the benefits and limitations of that district's efforts. Once, when his guidance counselor at Pioneer High summoned him to discuss his grades — four Fs and two Ds — he talked of dropping out. Instead, in the fall of 2011, he ended up at Broadway High, an alternative campus.

Dickerson's grades were too low to qualify him for a state college, but the diploma "was a big thing for me," he said. "I am young, but high school was what's going to give me a future."

Dickerson took some classes at Mission College in the fall — a college-prep diploma isn't required for community college — and is thinking about majoring in history.

  • Butrymowicz is a reporter with the Hechinger Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Part Time Security without Benefits: 1000 CAMPUS AIDES WILL BE ADDED TO LAUSD ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS + smf’s 2¢

Kate Mather, LA Times/LA Now |

January 27, 2013 |  4:43 pm  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to hire more than 1,000 campus aides to help boost security at elementary schools, a $4.2-million plan that will more than double the number of assistants employed by the district.

The move — outlined in a memo Senior Deputy Supt. Michelle King sent to board members and Supt. John Deasy last week — will bring 1,087 new hires to elementary, middle and span schools, ensuring each campus has at least two aides. According to the memo, which was first published by the Daily News, 1,028 aides currently work at middle and high schools, but some elementary schools have none.

The district is taking steps to bring in the aides as quickly as possible, the memo said, "working diligently with various divisions to ensure that we successfully staff our schools with efficient personnel as early as March 1, 2013."

The memo said the district planned to reach out to former employees as potential hires and planned to ask current employees "to identify potential candidates so as to enhance both the quality and quantity of our candidate pool and fill these positions as quickly as possible."

Aides will receive mandatory training in child abuse awareness, mediating student conflicts, conducting a "random metal detector search" and responding to campus threats, the memo said. They will also receive instruction on what to do if a school is placed on lockdown and their assigned duties during an emergency.

Aides, who will work in three-hour shifts, will be equipped with two-way radios and vests "for high visibility," the memo said.

Deasy could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

Monica Garcia, president of the Board of Education, called the plan a "good thing."

"It means another human being — two human beings — helping the work of the school," Garcia told The Times. "It is about safety. It is about supporting the work of the campus. It is about another set of eyes ... another pair of helpful hands."

The move comes just weeks after a rampage at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, where a gunman killed 20 children. He is also accused of killing six adults. The shooting sparked increased conversations about school safety across the nation and resulted in changes at many districts, including LAUSD.

Both Los Angeles police and the Sheriff's Department have increased their daily patrols at area schools in the wake of the incident.

"Safety is an everyday challenge for all of us and it is our collective responsibility," Garcia said. "We live in urban America, and so we are on a constant mission to have safe campuses to focus on learning."


2cents smf As I wrote in the 4LAKids e-newsletter last Sunday: LAUSD INTENDS TO ENSURE STUDENT SAFETY with 1000 part-time "security aides" - armed with a vest, a walkie-talkie and a roll of slickers. Wouldn't schools be safer, cleaner and more healthy with their own plant manager/custodian? An actual dedicated employee with an actual job and an actual knowledge-of-and-familiarity-with the school, staff and students?

Sunday, January 27, 2013



Report: Opportunity Lost: The Widespread Denial of Services to California English Learner Students (follows)

Students struggling with English not getting help, report says

More than 20,000 California students struggling with English are not receiving legally required services to help them, setting them up for academic failure, says a report by two civil rights groups.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

January 26, 2013, 8:20 p.m.  ::  More than 20,000 California students struggling with English are not receiving any legally required services to help them, setting them up for academic failure, according to a recent report by two civil rights organizations.

The study compiled 2010-2011 state data showing that students of all ages in 261 state school districts were receiving no specialized support to help them acquire English, as required under both state and federal law.

The districts with the largest number of students receiving no aid included Los Angeles Unified with 4,150, Compton Unified with 1,697 and Salinas Union High with 1,618, according to the report by the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Students who have been designated "English learners" make up one-quarter of all California public school students; 85% are U.S.-born. Continued failure to teach them English — they are among the lowest-performing groups of students — will leave them further behind and jeopardize California's future, the report said.

"State educational officials are creating a caste system whereby tens of thousands of children — nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens — are denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians," said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California.

The two organizations, along with the Los Angeles law firm Latham & Watkins, warned of possible litigation unless the state responds in 30 days with a plan for action. The legal advocates are demanding stronger state monitoring, including investigations of districts that report they provide no services, requirements to create a plan to do so and sanctions if they fail to comply.

But state education officials said that 98% of the state's 1.4 million English learners were receiving services and that recent court decisions had found that the California Department of Education was fulfilling its legal obligations to monitor help for them.

"Despite the enormous financial strains of recent years, California has made dramatic progress in seeing that all English learners receive appropriate instruction and services," state education official Karen Cadiero-Kaplan said in a statement. She added that any parents with concerns should contact their school district.

Jessica Price, an ACLU attorney, said some parents opt out of specialized programs for their children but that the law still requires districts to provide aid until the students are no longer classified as English learners. She said some districts simply don't know how to help the students, while others willfully ignore them — state compliance monitors found that one Northern California district had used state and federal funds for English learners to buy computer monitors and cameras, she said.

One parent, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by school officials, said she only learned at a district meeting four months ago that her children were entitled to special classes designed for English learners.

She began investigating and learned that her children had never been placed in any of the specialized classes. Neither she nor her children knew they existed, she said.

L.A. Unified's unserved students represented just 2% of its 194,904 English learners. Six of the 15 districts with the highest percentage of students without services were in the northern counties of Yuba, Siskiyou, Shasta, Butte, Sutter and El Dorado.

William S. Hart Union High School District in Los Angeles County reported it provided no services to 1,142 students, representing 54% of all English learners.

  • Times staff writer Dalina Castellanos contributed to this report.

Districts deny that their language aid lags

By Diana Lambert, The Sacramento Bee |

Friday, Jan. 25, 2013   ::  Wheatland High School sits along a country road bordered by fields, a pumpkin farm and a cemetery. Its 710 ninth- through 12th-grade students are a mix of local teenagers and military kids from nearby Beale Air Force Base.

There isn't usually much news coming out of the Yuba County school.

That changed Wednesday when a report was released that listed the Wheatland Union High School District as the California district with the highest percentage of English learners – 85 percent – not receiving required language classes.

The district is made up of the high school and a community day school on the high school campus.

The report, issued by the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, lists 251 state school districts that failed to offer English learner classes to all students needing them in the 2010-11 school year, the most recent year that data is available.

School district submit annual reports to the California Department of Education.

Two other local districts – Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento and Rescue Union Elementary School District in El Dorado County – joined Wheatland on the list.

Officials from all three districts seemed to be caught off-guard by the news.

Wheatland Principal/Superintendent Vic Ramos said he didn't know why school officials reported they had only served four of 27 of their English learners in 2010-11. "We may have misreported it," he said.

He said that every student at the school speaks English and that only a few – 15 this school year – are categorized as English language learners.

"I'm very familiar with the challenges of having students who don't speak English," said Ramos, who previously was the principal at Rosemont High in Sacramento. "We don't have those challenges."

He said English learners are integrated into regular classes in which teachers differentiate instruction. "We monitor their progress," he said.

The principal acknowledges that the school had a number of problems when he arrived in 2009-10, including teachers without the appropriate credential to teach English learners. That has changed, he said. Now the district's teachers either have the credential or are on their way to earning it, he said.

He points to a 37-point increase in the district's Academic Performance Index score last year, increasing it to 784. Latino students, who make up a majority of the school's English learners, increased their collective API by 48 points, he said.

Twin Rivers, which has 8,852 English learners among it 28,000 students, did not offer services to 5 percent of that population – 407 students in 2010-11, according to state data.

District officials blame the high numbers on seven independent charter schools within Twin Rivers Unified, saying 362 of the 407 unserved students in their district attended those charters. One of the charter schools has since closed.

"Because they are independent charters, the district has no control over their instructional services," said a prepared statement from the district.

School boards must approve each charter, however, and have the power to decide whether to renew charters when they expire. Twin Rivers officials said they will take this into consideration when they renew the charters in June of 2017.

Rescue Union Elementary School District did not offer services to 30 percent – or 39 – of its English learners, according to the report.

Rescue Superintendent David Swart said the information is inaccurate and that the district provides services to 100 percent of its English language learners. He said Thursday that the information was put in the system incorrectly by district staff.

The district, which serves 4,065 students at seven elementary and middle schools, has a 907 API. Its English learners increased their score by 14 points to 764 in 2011-12.

"We are getting help to the kids who need it the most," he said.

The data reported by districts as part of an annual census shows that 20,318 English learners attending California schools in 2010-11 didn't receive any of the instructional services required, according to the California Department of Education's website.

The numbers for 2010-11 aren't unusual, said David Sapp, an attorney for the ACLU. "It's been an issue for decades."

The lack of services has a debilitating effect on English learners, said the civil liberties group in a letter to state Superintendent Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst sent Wednesday. They said the students that aren't provided services are most at risk of dropping out or struggling academically.

The ACLU and the legal center warned state education officials they could face a lawsuit if they do not address the problem immediately.

"There are so many districts violating the law and the state isn't taking any action," Sapp told The Bee.

Education Department officials turned down a request for an interview for this story, issuing a news release instead.

"Despite the enormous financial strains of recent years, California has made dramatic progress in seeing that all English learners receive appropriate instruction and services," said Karen Cadiero- Kaplan, director of the English Learner Support Division at the Education Department in the prepared statement.

"School districts – which are responsible for providing instruction to students and appropriate services to English learners – currently report that 98 percent of the state's 1.4 million English learners are receiving services."

The number is from the same 2010-11 data, according to state education officials.

Then some students "have not received services and that would be illegal," Sapp said, when told of the state's response. "That number should be zero."

Opportunity Lost: The Widespread Denial of Services to California English Learner Students

If a picture is worth 1,000 words – this t-shirt is worth 1,009

Get yours today.


Policymakers need to tackle the underlying causes of poverty and the significant obstacles poor children face.

By Mike Rose / Christian Science Monitor |

Khadeeja Miller compares items with her daughters at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Indianapolis Nov. 27, 2012. Op-ed contributor Mike Rose says 'My worry is that we will embrace programs that are essentially individual and technocratic fixes – mental conditioning for the poor – and abandon broader social policy aimed at poverty itself.' - Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

January 23, 2013 | Los Angeles  ::  The foster care system failed Sam miserably. There wasn’t a nurturing household in his long string of placements. He grew up on his own, got into trouble with the law, kicked around in odd jobs, and found the community college where he turned his life around.

Sam is 25, a big guy with a full smile who cares deeply about education and leading a meaningful life. Though he was sleeping in his car for a semester, he’s maintained strong grades, participates in student government, and works on campus as a tutor and in a summer program for middle school kids.

Sam’s progress toward his associate degree has been stalled, however, because severe budget cuts forced his college to limit course offerings during the year and pretty much eliminate summer classes. Illness from when he was living in his car made it harder to concentrate – though he maintained a full load. And he had to miss classes when his car was impounded because of lapsed registration and parking tickets he couldn’t pay. Still, as he puts it, nothing will stop him.

There is an emerging opinion about poverty and the achievement gap that holds that America can boost the academic success of poor people like Sam – and younger incarnations of Sam particularly – through psychological and educational interventions that will help them develop the qualities of personality or character needed to overcome their circumstances. These are qualities that Sam displays in abundance: perseverance, self control, and belief in one’s ability.


America has a longstanding shameful tendency of attributing all sorts of pathologies to the poor. Writing in the mid-19th century, the authors of a report from the Boston School Committee bemoaned the ‘undisciplined, uninstructed…inveterate forwardness and obstinacy’ of their working-class and immigrant students.

No doubt these are powerful attributes, and they contribute mightily to a successful life, regardless of how old you are or where you sit on the socioeconomic ladder. But policymakers need to be careful not to assume that character education is the long-awaited key to helping the poor overcome the assaults of poverty. My worry is that we will embrace programs that are essentially individual and technocratic fixes – mental conditioning for the poor – and abandon broader social policy aimed at poverty itself.

Western cultural history – from Aristotle to the humanistic psychology of Abraham Maslow – affirms the qualities of persistence, self-discipline, and self-esteem, and they’ve been part of our folk wisdom about success since well before Dale Carnegie made millions by promoting the power of positive thinking. But they’ve gained even greater luster through economic modeling, psychological studies, and the technological advances of neuroscience.

Because brain imaging allows researchers to see the frontal lobes light up when someone weighs a decision, the claims about the power of character development seem cutting edge. It is this aura of the new that contributes to a belief that we have found a potent treatment for the achievement gap.

A diverse group of players is championing this concentration on character, nicely summarized in an engaging new book by journalist Paul Tough, “How Children Succeed,” and in a September 2012 airing of Public Radio International’s popular show “This American Life.”

Nobel Laureate in economics James Heckman advocates early childhood intervention programs that emphasize the development of character for poor kids. Charter schools like KIPP infuse character education throughout the school day. And a whole range of smaller extra-curricular and afterschool programs – from Chicago’s OneGoal to a chess club in a public school in Brooklyn – focus their efforts on helping the children of the poor develop a range of mental strategies and shifts in perception aimed toward academic achievement.

I have worked with economically and educationally disadvantaged children and adults for 40 years and know the importance of efforts like these. They need to be funded and expanded, for poor kids carry big burdens and have absurdly limited access to any kind of school-related enrichment, especially as inequality widens.

But it is difficult for enrichment programs alone to lead to educational mobility. Children from poor communities need social policy that involves schools and enrichment programs, but also need programs to address the conditions that devastate students' lives: poor nutrition and healthcare, inadequate housing, parental unemployment, violent streets, and a dysfunctional immigration system. When we ignore these broader conditions, we turn an ungenerous scrutiny on the children themselves.

America has a longstanding shameful tendency of attributing all sorts of pathologies to the poor. Writing in the mid-19th century, the authors of a report from the Boston School Committee bemoaned the “undisciplined, uninstructed…inveterate forwardness and obstinacy” of their working-class and immigrant students. There was much talk in the Boston report and elsewhere about teaching the poor “self-control,” “discipline,” “earnestness,” and “planning for the future.” Sound familiar?

Given the political tenor of our time, we can easily fall into the trap of blaming the poor for their circumstances – attributing them to character deficiencies and championing character development as the way out of their problems. There’s as much variability among the poor as in any group, and we have to keep that fact squarely in our sights, for we tend toward one-dimensional generalities about poor people’s character and motivation.

Sam could be the poster boy for the advocates of character education; he possesses exactly the qualities they are trying to engender in young students. But what happens to Sam if after his Herculean effort he leaves the college that has given his heretofore chaotic life structure and finds limited jobs, or none at all? What if he slams up against discrimination? What if he can’t afford to leave a neighborhood that has weighed on him for years? What if he gets in an accident or gets sick?

Sam has been able to hold onto his dream with stunning tenacity, but what happens, in short, if the material world around him continues to threaten his drive and hope?

And beyond that, is it fair or moral that a young person in the United States should have to expend superhuman effort to complete a standard, even basic, education that will in the end benefit both him and society? The exertion required of Sam becomes another measure of inequality. He’s traversing the achievement gap all right, but with a backpack full of lead and a head-splitting level of stress.

Given a political climate that is antagonistic toward the welfare state and has further shredded our already compromised safety net, psychological and educational interventions may be the only viable political response to poverty available. But can you imagine the outcry if, let’s say, an old toxic dump was discovered near Scarsdale or Beverly Hills and the National Institutes of Health undertook a program to teach kids strategies to lessen the effects of the toxins but didn’t do anything to address the toxic dump itself?

We seem willing to accept remedies for the poor that we are not willing to accept for anyone else. We should use our science to figure out why that is so – and then develop the character and courage to fully address poverty when it is an unpopular cause.

Mike Rose is a professor of education at UCLA. His most recent book is “Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education.” He blogs at

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Student Discipline Policy: WHY PUNISHMENT DOESN’T WORK


EdWeeks’s Bridging Differences |

Bridging Differences is presented as  epistolary  dialog -  guest blogger Alfie Kohn blogs with Deborah Meier for the next month.

 January 24, 2013 8:36 AM

Dear Deb,

Thanks for inviting me to join you on this forum so we can be overheard by people other than a waiter when we affectionately poke each other. Of course you're right that we agree on the big issues—those that all educators most urgently need to be discussing. But perhaps we can stimulate some thought by exploring a few questions on which we see things a little differently.

Whenever it appears that I disagree with someone, I like to begin by figuring out where we've parted company. Is our disagreement substantive or just a function of how we're defining our terms? Is it about description (the way we think things are) or prescription (the way we think they should be)? Is it about ends or means? With respect to the issues you've raised this week, I'd add a more specific question: Do you think punishment is sometimes appropriate and beneficial, or do you agree with me that it isn't but contend that it sometimes must be used as a transitional measure, the idea being that it should be faded out once the students' (or their parents') trust in the educators has been established and a caring school community has been constructed?

I'm hoping you'll say the latter because then we can just argue about whether other stopgap measures might be used instead—or, if students are going to be punished, we can quibble about how often and for how long. I'd certainly agree that it's difficult to quit cold turkey, but I think it's important to invite educators and parents who may have been raised with punishment to question its value. (A small study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology found that preservice teachers were more likely to endorse punitive strategies with students if they themselves had been punished when they were children.)

By definition, to punish is to deliberately make someone suffer, either because a primitive version of justice seems to demand it (If you do something bad, then something bad must be done to you.) or because it's assumed that punishment will teach you a lesson. The premise here is that when we make you unhappy by forcing you to do something you find aversive, or by preventing you from doing something you enjoy, you'll become a better person.

What punishments—even if they're euphemistically called "consequences" (so we can feel better about making a child feel bad)—really do is make the child angry, teach him that you get your way in life by using your power over those who are weaker, and make it less likely that he'll focus on how his actions affect others. Punishment undermines moral development by leading people to ask, "What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don't do it" and actively discouraging them from asking, "What kind of person do I want to be?" (I've laid out these arguments in more detail in my books Unconditional Parenting and Beyond Discipline, and I've just posted the relevant section of the former book on-line at for those who are interested.)

It's crucial to question not only the effectiveness of punishment—in fact, it can never buy us anything more than temporary compliance, and it does that at a disturbing cost—but the beliefs that often underlie it: that kids are basically bad and will do terrible things without the threat of punishment hanging over them, that punishment is the best (or even only) way to socialize children, that the only alternative to punishment is permissiveness, that it's an appropriate way to express love and care, and so on. As you know, many kids, too, have internalized some of these myths, which may be even sadder than encountering them in adults.

I don't want to be a purist here and demand that we (as educators) impose on parents our humanistic ideals that may sound unfamiliar and suspicious, particularly regarding what we do with their children, without explaining what we're up to, respectfully sharing our intentions, reassuring them about how our long-term objectives overlap with their own, and inviting their responses. But neither would I want us to shrug and say, "Well, they expect (or even demand) that kids will be punished when they misbehave, so we'd better do that." You wouldn't paddle a child just because a parent urged you to do so, right? Well, I draw the line at punishment itself, not just corporal punishment. I do so partly because of my bedrock values about how people of any age should be treated, and partly because the empirical case against punishment—its destructive effects and its lack of benefits—is so powerful.

As usual, Debbie, I celebrate your candor. Many people like to pretend it's not really punishment if they can portray what they're doing as "logical" or "natural"; you acknowledge that at its core it's really about power. And that in itself is a good reason to avoid it—for reasons based on what you have written about so eloquently elsewhere. Kids need to be able to develop trusting relationships with adults. You've pointed out many times that top-down, test-driven "school reform" teaches kids that their teachers aren't trustworthy. But power-based interactions between teachers and kids (such as punishment) fundamentally disrupt that trust and any sort of caring alliance. The tougher the kid, the more critical it is to establish that alliance—and thus, paradoxically, the more important it is not to punish when the kid does something wrong.

Were you really able to get away with saying "we'll see," rather than laying out a list of penalties as most schools do, when students wanted to know how they'd be punished for an offense? Most observers would be appalled by the prospect of inconsistency and unpredictability. My own view is that a rigid, legalistic system, with the same penalties applied to every offender, does offer some reassurance that adults can't play favorites—but it does so only in the context of a punitive system. You don't need to worry about applying the same penalty to every offender when you're not using penalties—that is, when you've replaced a "doing to" approach with a "working with" approach.

The latter, which I've described elsewhere (as have many others, of course), isn't just about reacting differently to what kids do, but seeing it differently, so a troubling action is construed as a problem to be solved rather than an infraction to be punished. And that's the model I think we try to communicate to parents. When we're asked, "What are you going to do to the kid who did this to my kid?", we might reply, "Well, that depends on our goal. If we're looking for revenge, I guess we could punish him. But if the goal is for your kid—and all the kids—to be safe here, then punishing that other student is the last thing we'd want to do. Here's why ..."

I'd like to say two things about what I'm calling a "working with" model. The first is that a lot of schools try to do something along those lines—building community, working on conflict resolution, implementing peer mediation programs, and so on—but they're still "doing to" kids at the same time, relying on punitive interventions like time-outs, detentions, suspensions, etc. What they're doing, I fear, is taking away with one hand what they're giving with the other.

My other observation is that rewards (or "positive reinforcement") isn't an alternative to punishment; it's just the other side of the same doing-to coin. That includes the reward of adult approval. Trying to win the favor of a teacher is still an extrinsic reason for treating other people decently or exploring ideas, and it's no more likely than other rewards or punishments to foster a genuine commitment to the value or an enjoyment of learning.

All of this leaves me musing about the related question you raised, which has to do with the nature of adult authority. Like you, I believe there's an important role for adults to play in kids' education, and it's not a passive one by any means. (Educational authoritarians and libertarians—Our Lady of the Fiercely Snapping Ruler and "free" schools like Sudbury Valley—paradoxically share the assumption that adult authority is based on power; they just disagree about whether that's a good thing.) But it's not just a question of whether teachers or administrators have authority; the question is what kind of authority it is. Is it based on the adult's position and relative power? Or is it authority that emerges from the quality of the adult's thinking, her wisdom, her deep concern for students' well-being?

Wouldn't you agree that we want kids to respect adults because their judgment is good rather than because they have the power to hurt kids who don't obey them? It's sort of like wanting kids to look up at adults metaphorically, not just literally—because the grown-ups are impressive and not because they're tall. The more we want the former kind of authority, the more we need to steer clear of punishment and the more we should, as a teacher once explained his approach to me, "be in control of putting the kids in control."

It's just like we're having dinner again, Deb. What's for dessert?



  • Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of twelve books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations. Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores."  -