Sunday, June 30, 2013


from the AALA update of July 1 |

27 June 2013  ::  The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), a national campaign launched by the Economic Policy Institute to focus on how socioeconomic status impacts schools, recently released a study entitled Market-Oriented Education Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality ( The authors were Dr. Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator of BBA, and Don Long, an independent education research consultant.

The study looked at the impact of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures and increased school choice (charter) access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. These districts were led, at the time, by noted reformers, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Rhee. (Need we say more?) These same reformers often tout the aforementioned actions as ways to improve student achievement and decrease race and income-based achievement gaps. The three districts were selected because they were under mayoral control and had reliable data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). The districts were compared to ten districts that were in the NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment program (TUDA) in 2003Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, New York City and San Diego. The study found that the reforms in Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York actually delivered, “ … few benefits and in some cases harm the students they purport to help, while drawing attention and resources away from policies with real promise to address poverty-related barriers to school success.” Key findings cited were:

 Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more in “reform” cities than in other urban districts. While test scores increased and the race-based achievement gap decreased in the TUDA districts, the scores for low-income and minority students remained stagnant in the reform districts. New York ranked second to last among the ten TUDA districts in test score gains from 2003 to 2011. In Chicago, Hispanic students gained little and black students gained nothing, while in D.C., the Hispanic students’ scores fell 15 points and black students’ scores fell 2 points.

 Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination. Reformers in D.C., New York and Chicago reported “success” in large test score gains and shrinking achievement gaps. When the data were recalibrated to make standards consistent, broken down by race and income and compared with NAEP scores, the gains vanished and gaps grew. For example, Mayor Bloomberg claimed that his district cut the race-based achievement gap by 50% from 2003-2011, when in reality, it just closed by 1%.

 Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers. In Washington, D.C., 52% of the teachers left after four years of reform and few ever reached experienced status. Even reformers have to know the effect that teacher turnover has on achievement. New York City spent $50 million on bonuses to teachers who substantially raised test scores only to have a RAND study say that the bonuses weren’t having much effect, failing to improve student achievement at any grade level. Chicago used test scores to close schools, forcing out many experienced teachers. In 2010, 749 of those teachers won a discrimination suit and the district was ordered to recall them.

School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money. The study found that when a school was closed, the students usually moved to schools with lower test scores or went to schools that became academically overwhelmed due to the large increase in population which resulted in attendance and graduation rates declining. In Chicago, only 6% of the students from closed schools moved to schools that had greater resources or better scores.

 Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students. We often hear how charter schools offer better options for students in “failing” schools, yet the study found that when the public schools were turned over to charter management in the nation’s capital, none improved. New York charter schools spend more per student and have fewer special needs, very low-income or English learners, so comparing achievement data is not valid.

 Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise. Some promising small pilot programs in all three districts showed success, but could not be expanded due to the focus on the market reforms. These programs had smaller class sizes, coaching, internships, college counselors and expanded opportunities for 3- and 4-year-olds. They all lost funding when the focus turned to reform via privatization.

 The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Much has been written about the need to address the increasing childhood poverty in this country. Lack of consistent physical and mental health care is a major driver of the opportunity gaps associated with growing up in poverty. Low-income children miss many more days of school due to preventable illnesses, relative to their wealthier peers—a reality largely dismissed in reform agendas. The report states that, “Failing to provide supports that alleviate impediments to learning posed by poverty ensures continued low student test scores and graduation rates, and large gaps between average scores of white and affluent students and scores of minority and low-income students.”

In all three cities, the focus on the market-driven reforms diverted attention from the need to address the socioeconomic factors that, as research continues to validate, impede learning. School reform has become an industry with billions of dollars to be made and urban districts have become the breeding ground. The public has been convinced that high-stakes testing and tying those scores to evaluations is the way to improve achievement, and the effect of poverty and poor health care has all but been cut out of the conversation. However, we know that achievement gaps have their root in opportunity gaps.

Only by closing the latter can we begin to shrink the former. Market-based solutions are not the answer.

The authors of this study conclude that reform must be more realistic, patient and multipronged if it is to achieve real, sustained change.

Read the executive summary

Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality


Read the report

Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality

The impacts of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, and increased charter school access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

By Elaine Weiss and Don Long




By Tom Chorneau, SI&A Cabinet Report |

Friday, June 28, 2013  ::  Among the line-item vetoes imposed on the final state budget by Gov. Jerry Brown is one that will eliminate what was hoped to be a first step in equalizing funding among special education programs statewide.

Just as the new budget seeks to streamline a complex funding system for schools overall, the 2013-14 spending plan also calls for consolidation of a number of programs and the elimination of restrictions on the use of that money.

But because of long-standing provisions that resulted in uneven funding, allocation of state and federal funds to Special Education Local Planning Areas varies greatly – from $570 per average daily attendance to about $1,090, according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst.

As part of the effort to distribute money more equitably,the Legislature has set aside $30 million to begin addressing the funding variance between SELPAs. The LAO estimates that if the state were to adopt funding rates to ensure that 90 percent of the state’s students with disabilities were supported the same, it would cost about $300 million.

And that’s exactly what Brown took out of the final budget with his blue pencil.

In his veto message, Brown said the additional funding created cost pressures to meet other demands including repayments of apportionment deferrals to schools and to implement the new Local Control Funding Formula – a landmark simplification of school funding that gives local school boards far more control over spending decisions.

In another interesting move, the governor removed $20 million that would have supported his own plan for advancing online education at state colleges and universities.

In total, Brown eliminated only about $50 million from the budget, the lowest in two decades.

In a statement, Brown expressed clear pride in the new agreement that appears to stabilize the state’s ongoing fiscal conundrum thanks mostly to voters passing higher taxes last fall.

“California’s finances are in very solid shape for the first time in a decade,” he said. “We’re making significant investments in the things Californians care most about – the education of our children and adequate health care.”

He noted that when he took office three years ago, the state faced a budget deficit of $26.6 billion. Today, he pointed out, California has a budget surplus and general fund spending stands at $96.3 billion. The budget act signed today also establishes a budget reserve of $1.1 billion.

To see a summary of the final budget plan visit:

Saturday, June 29, 2013


By Barbara Jones, LA Daily News |

LAUSD elementary school teacher Robert Pimentel, 57, during an arraignment for sex abuse charges at L.A. County Superior court in Long Beach, Calif., on January 24, 2013.

6/29/2013 4:12:49 PM PDT  ::  Two senior Los Angeles Unified administrators have been demoted and a principal has left the district following a two-month investigation into the handling of sex-abuse allegations against an elementary school teacher in Wilmington, Superintendent John Deasy said Saturday.

The inquiry focused on claims that parents had told district officials in 2009 that teacher Robert Pimentel was molesting their daughters at George De La Torre Elementary School, but that nothing was done. Deasy said he could not comment on what investigators had learned, but he did say that personnel changes had been made.

Linda Del Cueto, 53, the local superintendent and highest-ranking official in the San Fernando Valley, has been reassigned to an administrative post in the Office of Curriculum and Instruction, Deasy said. Del Cueto has worked for the district since 1982, and was honored in 2008 as an Outstanding Superintendent by the Association of California School Administrators.

Michael Romero, 50, a 25-year employee who was named last July to head the Adult Education Division, will be assigned to a yet-to-be-determined position at LAUSD's downtown headquarters, Deasy said.

Del Cueto and Romero, who each earned $171,239 annually under the previous jobs, will now "be eligible for a principal's salary," Deasy said.

According to the LAUSD salary table, the top yearly pay for a veteran principal is $134,290.

In addition, Valerie Moses, who had worked the last two years as principal of Los Angeles Elementary, has "separated from the district," said Deasy. He refused to say whether Moses had resigned, retired or been terminated. Moses, 57, had started her LAUSD in 1980 as a teacher's aide.

In 2009, Del Cueto was the local district superintendent overseeing De La Torre. Romero and Moses worked in her office, according to district records.

Deasy also said that David Kooper, another subject of the inquiry, has been reinstated as principal of Gulf Avenue Elementary. In 2009, Kooper was chief of staff to South Bay school board member Richard Vladovic.

Deasy put the four administrators on paid leave and opened the investigation in April, shortly after a lawsuit was filed by three alleged victims of Pimentel.

The suit claims parents had complained about the fourth-grade teacher as far back as 2002, but that district officials had failed to discipline him or notify authorities. It also alleges a district "cover-up" in the handling of the Pimentel case.

That claim is based on a confidential memo written by district social worker Holly Priebe-Diaz, recapping a meeting she had with De La Torre parents on Oct. 12, 2009. The parents told Priebe-Diaz they'd complained to Principal Irene Hinojosa that Pimentel had molested their daughters, but that she'd been "protecting" the teacher, according to the memo.

District officials have said that Priebe-Diaz reported parents' suspicions to police and county welfare workers. It's unclear what those agencies did with the information.

According to the suit, Del Cueto, Hinojosa and other administrators attended a meeting in October 2012 2009, when parents repeated their complaints against Pimentel. The lawsuit claims district officials failed to notify authorities or take action against Pimentel, which allowed him to continue abusing young girls.

smf: The date correction noted above is from an earlier version of the story. (noted: 6/30 8:41 am)

In March 2012, parents took their complaints against Pimentel to police, and he was removed from the classroom. Deasy has said he removed Hinojosa from her job after reviewing personnel files and determining that she'd failed to act on complaints against Pimentel in 2002 and 2008.

Pimentel and Hinojosa retired in April 2012, as Deasy was taking steps to fire them.

Pimentel, 57, was arrested in January and has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting nine girls in 2011-12 and a female relative from 2002-04. He remains jailed on $14 million bail.

MAYOR TONY LEAVES HIS MARK ON L.A. SCHOOLS II*: The exit interview with notes, fact checking and background …and many more questions left unanswered than answered.

* smf:  Neither the Times reporters nor I wrote that headline about  Tony “leaving his mark”; headline writers write that stuff. But the ball has been served and I’m returning service in a cheap shot into the far corner of the court: Tomcats leave their marks …and it ain’t a good thing!

Interview with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa conducted by Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe/Transcipt and annotation by Blume – from the LA Times website |

3:17 PM - 28 Jun 13/A tweet from @HowardBlume: The entire interview with Mayor Villaraigosa, including fact-checking notes, is here:

The following are links to a transcript of an interview on education with outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that took place on Wednesday, June 19.


The questions are edited for brevity and clarity but not content.

Parenthetical additions to the mayor’s remarks are sometimes included for clarity because on some issues the mayor spoke in a form of rhetorical shorthand.

There are also separate annotations that address fact-checking issues and provide background.

With the mayor was a communications staff member and Joan Sullivan, his deputy mayor for education, whose occasional brief remarks also are included below.

The interview was conducted by LA Times reporters Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume. The transcript was prepared by Blume.

The resulting LATimes article is here.


The mayor vowed to turn the district into an incubator of education reform. In his two terms, during which his nonprofit took over more than a dozen campuses, he's had mixed results.

By Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume, LA Times |

Alejandra Suarez attends L.A. Unified's Jordan High School.

Jordan High student Alejandra Suarez, center, met L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during his visits to her school. This fall, she’ll be the first in her family to go to college. (Bethany Mollenkof, Los Angeles Times / January 23, 2013)

June 27, 2013, 7:40 p.m.  ::  In the middle of Watts, at one of the worst-performing high schools in Los Angeles Unified, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was in his element.

As he sat with Jordan High students late last year, he shared snippets of his life story, as he's done during scores of school visits during his eight years as mayor. He was raised without a father, was kicked out of one school and dropped out of another before graduating from Roosevelt High with a 1.4 GPA — because his mother and a teacher believed in him, he told students.

"Do you believe in you?" he asked them. "I believe in you. I believe you can reach for the stars."

No other issue has stoked the mayor's personal passion as much as public education. Despite lacking any formal authority over the nation's second-largest school system, Villaraigosa has left a major imprint.

Soon after taking office in 2005, he tried to take control of L.A. Unified. When that ambitious effort failed, the school board allowed a nonprofit foundation he created to manage more than a dozen low-performing schools. He raised millions of dollars and vowed to turn the schools into incubators of reform.

His nationwide fundraising also helped elect a loyal school board majority that installed superintendents he favored. Through them, he has pushed for a brand of reform that includes tying teacher evaluations to test scores and providing more choices for parents, such as charter schools.

Along the way, the onetime teachers union organizer has confronted his former allies by challenging seniority-based layoffs and advocating a higher bar for tenure. He blasted the United Teachers Los Angeles union as "the one unwavering roadblock" to improving public education.

As he leaves office, Villaraigosa points to successes: an increase in the graduation rate to 66%. A doubling in high-performing schools, as measured by the state's Academic Performance Index, which is based on standardized test scores. An explosion in publicly financed, independent charter schools.

A Times analysis found a mixed record at the schools his nonprofit controls. Overall, the mayor's schools have performed comparably to district schools with similar demographics. Some of his schools, notably 99th Street Elementary, have seen significant improvements. But others, such as Gompers Middle School and Roosevelt High, have seen comparatively modest gains.

Villaraigosa sometimes exaggerates his effect: He has taken credit for the district's massive school-construction program, although it was firmly established by the time he took office. Overall, L.A. Unified has improved slightly faster than the state, but test scores remain below the state average. And the district's upward trend began before Villaraigosa became mayor.

Mixed record

L.A. Unified schools controlled by the mayor showed a range of results in the percentage of students scoring proficient or above in English and math in 2012.

California Dept. of Education

Data analysis by Sandra Poindexter

"The biggest impact Villaraigosa has had is simply changing the conversation," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "The fact that there is a debate in Los Angeles about charters and choice, about teacher support and evaluation, is due to the mayor's use of the bully pulpit."

Villaraigosa followed in the path of former Mayor Richard Riordan, who helped elect a school board that replaced a superintendent, launched the nation's largest school construction program and returned phonics to classrooms.

Recent academic gains came despite a punishing economic recession.

School board President Monica Garcia, a close ally, praised the mayor for "having the guts to do what's really hard … fighting for better in a very difficult time."

The mayor's combative style, however, has alienated key players, starting with teachers, said school board member Steve Zimmer, who beat back a Villaraigosa attempt to unseat him.

"I don't think that he's wrong in insisting that every child has a right to an excellent teacher every day," Zimmer said. "The difference is really in the pathway. Not enough care was taken to make sure that teachers felt supported."

Villaraigosa's odyssey into education began haltingly and only at the instigation of others. His pledge to take over L.A. Unified in his second bid for mayor was among a series of one-upmanship moves with incumbent James Hahn over education.

The state takeover law was challenged by the school board and ruled unconstitutional by an L.A. County Superior Court judge in 2006.

By that time, however, the mayor's Plan B was already in progress. He set out to seize de facto authority by helping elect a school board majority in 2007.

The new board quickly agreed to hand over Locke High to a charter school operator, Green Dot Public Schools — the first time L.A. Unified had made such a move. The board also approved scores of start-up petitions and renewed nearly all charters that came before it, giving the district 201 independently operated charters, the most of any school system.

The mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools took control of 15 of the district's lowest-performing campuses. Villaraigosa helped raise $72 million for the effort.

Without his commitment, philanthropist Melanie Lundquist said, her family would not have pledged $50 million over 10 years, resources that benefit some of the city's neediest students through teacher training, computers and more.

As part of the effort to recruit strong leaders, for example, Villaraigosa personally called then-Monrovia principal Traci Gholar, an administrator his team wanted on board. Gholar said Villaraigosa's support for schools was "pretty significant" in her decision to take a job at one of his schools.

But some critics, including former state Sen. Gloria Romero, said Villaraigosa should have focused more attention on helping all district schools.

"It became a conversation about his schools versus the rest," she said.

Some partnership initiatives have spread to the district at large, such as a new school report card, wider testing to identify more minority students as academically gifted and a parent training program.

Elise Buik, president of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said the mayor's leadership deepened the nonprofit's own education involvement. In the last five years, United Way has donated about

$8 million for after-school programs and training for parents and middle school principals — one of many community organizations now allied with the mayor.

They applauded a landmark lawsuit, supported by Villaraigosa, that allowed district officials to prevent seniority-based layoffs from disproportionately harming campuses.

Many teachers opposed this attack on their job protections and believe Villaraigosa also reneged on promises to give them substantial control at partnership schools. And a "top down" approach districtwide left parents feeling cut out of major decisions, said Ingrid Villeda, an elementary teacher and union activist.

Santee teacher Jose Lara said the partnership has supplied teachers at his high school with laptops and protected them from a charter-school takeover. But otherwise, he said, the experience has been one of "broken promises" and "photo ops."

In an interview, the mayor extolled teachers but offered no apologies for actions that angered many of them. "Change comes when you're willing to mix it up and push hard," he said. "I don't ask for forgiveness in standing up for these kids."

By most indications, incoming Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to tread an involved but less confrontational path, which worries Villaraigosa allies. They view the local reform mission as a battle against opposing interests that needs to be won.

Villaraigosa said he intends to remain involved in influencing school board elections. That effort stumbled this year when a backlash against donations by wealthy out-of-towners, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, contributed to the defeat of two of the three candidates Villaraigosa endorsed.

The mayor also said he will continue to raise money for the partnership and push for policies that could transform student lives.

"Every time I go to these schools," he said, "I look in their eyes and I see me."

Alejandra Suarez, 17, has met the mayor a few times at Jordan High. Before key exams, she followed his advice — she looked in the mirror and said: "OK, I believe in myself. I can do it."

And she did. This fall, the daughter of Mexican immigrants will be the first in her family to attend college: UC Berkeley.


2cents SEE: MAYOR TONY LEAVES HIS MARK ON L.A. SCHOOLS II*: The exit interview with notes, fact checking and background …and many more questions left unanswered than answered.


By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

6/27/2013 06:02:35 PM PDT/Updated:  6/27/2013 08:33:59 PM PDT  ::  A University of North Dakota group is giving thousands of dollars to a top-flight LAUSD mechanics school that trains students at Van Nuys Airport for high-paying jobs in aviation.

The University of North Dakota Aerospace Foundation on Saturday will present $25,000 to the North Valley Occupational Center's aviation program during a Valley of the Stars gala at Van Nuys Airport, hosted by the Valley Economic Alliance. The money will be used to fund scholarships.

"The University of North Dakota is home to one of the nation's top collegiate flight training programs, and we're honored to show our support for one of the nation's top aircraft mechanics schools," said Larry Martin, chairman of the board for the nonprofit UND Aerospace Foundation, in a statement.

The Aviation Center, once imperiled by budget cuts and a potential doubling of its rent, was saved this spring by a cut-rate lease arrangement between Los Angeles World Airports and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The Valley Economic Alliance banquet will honor longtime Van Nuys Airport businessman Clay Lacey, a board member at the foundation, which supports aviation programs at the Grand Forks university.

Friday, June 28, 2013


By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

6/28/2013 08:14:54 PM PDT  ::  Facing multimillion dollar sex-abuse settlements, Los Angeles Unified signed contracts Friday to buy five liability insurance policies for the next fiscal year starting Monday, but was unable to get coverage for molestation, officials said.

The premiums total $2.2 million -- about $1 million less than LAUSD paid this year -- but exclude coverage for molestation, a spokesman said. The policies also carry deductibles of $10 million each, compared with $3 million to $5 million for current coverage.

Details of the policies, including the names of the carriers and the total amount of coverage, were unavailable.

Los Angeles Unified has already been hit with claims from students and parents at Miramonte Elementary School, along with lawsuits by alleged victims of Paul Chapel at Telfair Elementary in Pacoima and Robert Pimentel at George De La Torre Elementary in Wilmington.

The district has already agreed to pay $30 million to settle claims with 58 alleged victims of former Miramonte teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer, who each are facing criminal molestation charges.

It also has offered to pay $17 million to settle 40 additional claims, although the plaintiffs' attorneys have indicated they'll reject the proposal.

The district had been counting on insurance to cover most of the costs, but one of its carriers filed suit this month in an effort to avoid paying the settlement. The lawsuit by Everest National Insurance Co., also names six other carriers that held LAUSD policies and asked a judge to determine their liability.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On the eve of the board president election, ‘The Daily News has learned…’: LAUSD BOARD MEMBER RICHARD VLADOVIC ACCUSED OF HARASSING EMPLOYEES

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

Richard Vladovic (Daily News file photo)

6/26/2013 07:46:22 PM PDT /Updated:   6/27/2013 06:54:04 AM PDT  ::  Los Angeles Unified has launched an investigation into allegations of employee intimidation and sexual harassment leveled against school board member Richard Vladovic, the Daily News has learned.

LAUSD's General Counsel's Office has retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into at least one formal harassment complaint filed against Vladovic, district sources said. Attorneys will also look into allegations of harassment voiced by several district staff members who were interviewed by attorneys as part of a sex-abuse investigation involving an elementary school in Vladovic's South Bay district.

Vladovic, who was elected to the Seventh District seat in 2007, said he would cooperate with the investigation and expects to be quickly exonerated. He also denied any inappropriate conduct involving employees, including a staffer he said recently filed a harassment complaint about a 12-year-old incident.

"I don't lie and I don't cheat and I don't retaliate," said Vladovic, 68.

But an LAUSD employee with direct knowledge of the Vladovic investigation said formal complaints have been filed by two employees -- a male and a female. Several other staff members have related incidents in which they claim they were bullied or intimidated by Vladovic, the employee said.

"People's jobs were threatened. People were harassed. People expressed (incidents) of sexual harassment. People indicated that they were guided, coerced and directed to hire or not fire employees who had otherwise-concerning backgrounds," the employee said.

"There were a number of phrases used, such as Dr. Death -- 'I would lose my job if I did not do what Dr. Death said.'"

The employee spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

Vladovic said he learned about the independent investigation on Wednesday after receiving a call from a reporter. But the employee said Vladovic was told about it last week and that he'd lashed out at district officials.

"Vladovic asserted numerous threats to current individuals that they would lose their jobs immediately "¦ that they would never work again as a result of this investigation," the employee said. "Those statements are now part of the general complaint."

School board members were alerted to the allegations against Vladovic on June 18, during a closed-door session held prior to their regular meeting, sources said.

Sources said attorneys first briefed the board on the status of the inquiry into the district's handling of sex-abuse complaints against Robert Pimentel, a former teacher now charged with molesting female students at George De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington. Members then were told that comments staff members made about Vladovic during their Pimentel interviews warranted a "secondary investigation."

Vladovic was not present for the Pimentel briefing or the discussion of the allegations against him. He said he recused himself because of his personal and professional ties to administrators being investigated for their handling of earlier complaints against the fourth-grade teacher.

The Pimentel probe is being conducted by the international law firm of Sedgwick LLC. A different law firm was hired to look into allegations involving Vladovic, sources said.

However, General Counsel David Holmquist refused Wednesday to divulge the name of the other firm or to answer any questions about the inquiry.

School board President Monica Garcia and Superintendent John Deasy also declined to comment.

Vladovic is a native of San Pedro who graduated from Cal State Long Beach and later earned a master's degree from Pepperdine University and a doctorate in education from the University of Southern California.

He started his teaching career as a social studies teacher at White Middle School in Carson, before beginning a decades-long career as an administrator in the South Bay. He retired in 2005 after a two-year stint as chief of neighboring West Covina Unified, then won his school board seat in 2007.

Vladovic generally comes across as a genial curmudgeon in his seat at the end of the board dais, but also shows occasional flashes of anger. Known to colleagues and supporters as "Dr. V," he's considered a strong ally of the teachers union. And he's made no secret of his desire to be elected board president when members meet next Tuesday to organize for the new school year.

Because of his ties to several officials involved in the Pimentel case, Vladovic said he feels as though he's been "under a microscope" since the teacher's arrest in January.

He was local district superintendent over the Carson area when the first allegations against Pimentel surfaced in 2002, and had supervised Pimentel's principal, Irene Hinojosa. As an administrator and, later, a board member, he also worked closely with officials involved in the Pimentel case.

Four other adminstrators were placed on paid leave in April while attorneys for Sedgwick determined whether they were aware of allegations regarding Pimentel and whether they had reported the suspected sex abuse as required by law.

They include David Kooper, Vladovic's former chief of staff who later became principal of Gulf Elementary in Wilmington. He is also a childhood friend of Vladovic's son. The others were Linda Del Cueto, now the top instructional administrator in the San Fernando Valley; Michael Romero, the head of the Adult Education Division; and Valerie Moses, principal at Los Angeles Elementary in South L.A.

District officials say they expect the Sedgwick investigation to wrap up soon.

Pimentel was pulled from his classroom in March 2012, when allegations of misconduct surfaced. Deasy suspended Hinojosa a few days later after he determined that she had failed to take action when parents complained about Pimentel in 2002 and 2008. Both Hinojosa and Pimentel retired on the same day in April as Deasy was preparing to fire them.

Pimentel has been ordered to stand trial on charges of molesting nine De La Torre students from 2011-12 and a female relative from 2002-04. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed on $14 million bail.

This story has been updated to correct information about the focus of the Sedgwick investigation.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The LAUSD has created a website to detail their settlement offer for the parents of students who say they were abused by teachers at Miramonte Elementary. (AP file photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LAUSD launches website to explain Miramonte sex-abuse settlement offers

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA DAILY NEWS |

L.A. Unified presses families to settle Miramonte abuse claims

By Howard Blume | -


6/25/2013 10:24:58 AM PDT  ::  Having already agreed to pay $30 million to settle about 60 claims related to the Miramonte Elementary sex-abuse scandal, Los Angeles Unified School District launched a website Tuesday detailing its efforts to resolve some three dozen other cases.

The website,, is aimed at providing "factual information" about the $17 million the district offered earlier this month to settle 35 additional claims filed by students who say they were molested by former teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer at the school in the Florence-Firestone area.

The offer, which expires on July 5 after 30 days, would pay each youngster about $425,000. That compares to the deal announced in March that awards 61 other children about $470,000 each. Claims by about two dozen other students have not been part of the settlement talks.

L.A. Unified said the website, which is in English and Spanish, shows how the proposed settlements could be invested to generate income and provide for the plaintiffs' future needs. "We wanted to be sure there was a central clearinghouse for information about what the offers mean and how they would work," said spokesman Sean Rossall. "We wanted to provide the best factual information possible as the plaintiffs consider the offers. It's important not only for settling the Miramonte allegations but for protecting taxpayer resources."

It's the latest salvo in what has become a public campaign by both the district and plaintiffs' attorneys to resolve claims stemming from the sex-abuse scandal that erupted in February 2012, when the arrests of the two teachers were announced. The district called a news conference on June 5 to announce the $17 million proposal, which General Counsel David Holmquist called a "fair offer that will provide for the health and welfare of the students for the remainder of their lifetimes."

Attorneys Michael Carrillo, left, Luis Carrillo, middle, and John Henrichs, right, who represents 14 mothers of 22 children who were students at Miramonte Elementary School, announces the filing of a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District during a news conference at his offices in Pasadena on July 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Attorneys Luis Carrillo and Brian Claypool have held frequent news conferences outside LAUSD headquarters to levy allegations of negligence against LAUSD officials. They've scheduled another for Wednesday to release a letter to Superintendent John Deasy and school board President Monica Garcia demanding "sweeping policy changes "¦ to protect the safety of all children." The lawyers have previously said the $17 million offer would not cover the costs of mental-health therapy for their clients or the emotional pain and suffering caused by the alleged abuse.

Berndt, 62, has pleaded not guilty to charges of committing lewd acts against 23 children. He's accused of blindfolding students and leading them in a bizarre "tasting game" in which he fed them spoonfuls of his semen and semen-tainted cookies. He remains jailed in lieu of $23 million bail, pending a preliminary hearing.

Springer, 51, has been ordered to stand trial on charges of committing lewd acts against three Miramonte students. He has pleaded not guilty.

Abusive conduct allegations

Former elementary teacher Mark Berndt, right, faces lewd conduct charges. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / February 21, 2012)

June 25, 2013, 10:18 p.m. ::  Alleged victims of abuse at Miramonte Elementary have until July 5 to accept recent settlement offers from the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials said Tuesday.

The school district pressed its point with a new website that emphasized that fact with a countdown clock clicking toward the deadline second by second.

"The reason we’re setting up the website is to provide information to the community -- both to the community at Miramonte and to the taxpaying community at large," said Sean Rossall, an L.A. Unified spokesman.

"There is a finite time on these offers," he said. "The idea is not to ratchet up the pressure, but to make sure the community understands there are deadlines on this.”

Attorneys representing alleged victims have accused the district of trying to strong-arm their clients into settling for less than they deserve. They have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday morning to respond.

The damage claims stem from allegations that former teacher Mark Berndt spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he called a "tasting game," among other alleged incidents of abusive conduct.

Berndt, 62, has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.

The new web page includes a sample lifetime payment structure that, with interest, is expected to provide victims at least $770,000 each.

There are 65 student claims and 63 parent claims remaining, Rossall said. The latest settlement offer applies to 35 students who were part of an earlier dispute-resolution process. L.A. Unified reached an earlier round of settlements in March with 61 alleged victims.

The district's offer is also part of a litigation strategy. If a court verdict falls below the offer, for example, the alleged victims would be responsible for some legal costs, officials said.

Attorneys representing alleged victims said they will renew their call for policy changes that would prevent future sexual misconduct and other abuse. They accuse the district of inaction that led to further student harm since Berndt's arrest in January 2012.

District officials vehemently deny that accusation, although old and new abuse cases have come to light in L.A. Unified and elsewhere.

Attorney Luis Carrillo said his firm represents 10 additional victims from seven different schools.

Cambie a Español


IMPORTANT - Please Read

On June 5, 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District made 35 settlement offers to the remaining plaintiffs who participated in the Miramonte Elementary School early resolution process. These offers were made according to Civil Code of Procedure 998, which creates certain legal ramifications for plaintiffs if not accepted within 30 days.


Since early in the process, the school district worked with plaintiffs’ lawyers to design an early resolution process that would allow the parties to use a respectful and private process to attempt to resolve the cases without litigation. Throughout that process, the school district tried to resolve the cases in a way that would promote healing and improve trust, while providing for the future health and educational needs of the children impacted.

Half of the Cases by Miramonte Students Have Settled

Earlier this year, nearly half of the cases by Miramonte students were settled. The court has already begun approving those settlements, and the families will start receiving their checks in the next two weeks.

As part of the more than 60 settlements, the students’ money will be invested into secure structures that can more than double the original amount, ensuring that each student will obtain ongoing financial resources for their lifetime.


The Facts about the 998 Offers and Miramonte Settlements:

If not accepted, the 998 offers establish a baseline amount that plaintiffs must beat in a court verdict. If the court verdict is less than the 998 offer amount, the individual plaintiffs will be personally responsible for paying certain legal costs incurred by the school district.

Plaintiffs only have 30 days to accept the 998 offers. Since they were served on June 5, 2013, all offers must be accepted by July 5, 2013. If the offers are not accepted within 30 days, they are considered rejected.

Each of the 998 offers included an example investment structure showing how the secure investments would make the settlement funds grow substantially so it could provide for the children over their lifetime. In some cases, the initial settlement amounts can be more than doubled through the use of structures. To see a sample structure, click here.

Through the proposed structured settlement, children will receive funds for healthcare and education. The payments are broken up so that there are several lump sum payments at various ages and then ongoing monthly payments from age 30 to age 70, ensuring that there are more than adequate funds for all future health and educational needs.


smf: Remember Tick-Tock the Croc in Peter Pan?  Long ago, Peter Pan cut off Captain Hook's left hand and fed it to the Crocodile. The Crocodile thought it was so delicious that he wanted to eat the rest of Captain Hook. This led Tick Tock to follow the wicked pirate wherever he went. Luckily for Hook, however, the crocodile also swallowed an alarm clock, allowing Hook to hear him coming. This is like that!


Notice Regarding Seeking Legal Advice

The information provided on this webpage is intended to help answer questions and provide factual information about how these offers work, what they mean and their potential impact. This information is not legal advice. You should consult your attorney for appropriate legal advice and to accept a settlement offer.



By Warren Fletcher - UTLA President | United Teacher Newspaper |

      “The Los Angeles Unified School District needs better schools and more resources to help all of our students meet or exceed their potential. That is why I became a teacher so many years ago. That is also why I ran for the Los Angeles School Board.”

—Bennett Kayser, LAUSD School Board Member

     “We should seize the moment—when the money, the will, and the desire come together— to start rebuilding.”

—Monica Ratliff, School Board Member-elect

June 21, 2013 :: This month, the California State legislature adopted the state budget for 2013-14. It is a budget that looks very different from the budgets we have seen over the past six years.

Since 2008, the annual debates in Sacramento have not been about how to help children and schools. Since 2008, the political wrangling has been over how deeply education funding would be cut, and over which irreplaceable functions and services (such as primary grade instruction, libraries, academic counseling, middle and high school class sizes, student mental health, adult and early ed programs, and essentially everything else) would be “thrown over the side of the boat” in the interest of balancing the books. They have been dark and painful times. We’ve seen our colleagues’ careers derailed by RIFs, and we’ve seen countless children’s educational experiences harmed.

This year, the debate in Sacramento was over how to pump funds into the schools. With Proposition 30 funds beginning to come in (thanks in no small part to our hard work last November), the governor, the Assembly, and the State Senate each came up with a different plan for how to get those new dollars into California’s classrooms. In the end, the final budget compromise favored the approach advocated by Governor Brown. His plan (called the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF), has two goals. The first is to apply the new tax dollars quickly, so that all school districts in the state can get back to their 2007-08 (pre-recession) funding levels as soon as possible. His second goal is to overhaul how state funds are distributed among the different school districts across the state, with the objective of sending more funds to districts that have large populations of students who live in poverty, who are English learners, or who are in foster care.

In other words, to districts like LAUSD.

The LCFF acknowledges what all of us already know: Inner-city districts face challenges that most suburban districts don’t, and schools and districts with high concentrations of higher needs students need more resources, not fewer.

Over the next several years, the LCFF will allocate significant extra dollars to districts where low-income and English learner students make up more than 55 percent of the population. In LAUSD, those students make up 86 percent of the current enrollment. The first allocation of those new dollars arrives this July 1. The people who voted for Prop. 30 naturally expect that the new dollars will go to the classroom. There are two simple ways to accomplish that.

A first priority for those dollars must be to reduce class size and restore full staffing to L.A. schools by bringing back the educators who remain on the RIF rehire list. I’m proud to say that, because of constant pressure from UTLA, the majority of educators who were RIF’d between 2010 and 2012 have already been returned to contract status.

But, as of this writing, 549 teachers and health and human services professionals remain laid off. It would be unconscionable for the District (or for us) to walk away from those colleagues when new state monies are arriving in time to save them and their careers. (The approximate cost to bring back all 549 people would be about $47 million, easily within the range of the new LCFF monies arriving in LAUSD this coming year.)

A co-equal priority is to put the new dollars into the classroom the old-fashioned way: by across-the-board salary increases. Since 2008, teachers and health and human services professionals have made deep financial sacrifices to keep the District financially afloat.

We have every reason to expect, with the District now moving slowly into the black, that the financial hits we have taken these last five years will be acknowledged and that the District leadership will take affirmative steps to essentially “pay us back” for the pain we have endured. Even the current superintendent, John Deasy, acknowledged as much in his recent policy report titled “Next Three Years: Policy and Investment.” In that report, he offers a “two-pronged proposal for compensation,” stating: “The first [prong] being across the board raises. Cost of living adjustments and salary enhancements have not been offered to our employees since the 2007/08 school year. Our employees have done so much more work for so much less compensation that it is paramount that we honor this hard work first and foremost.” Before you get your hopes up about a “kinder, gentler” John Deasy, we should note that the second “prong” of his planned salary proposal is (predictably) a merit pay scheme. Nonetheless, when Sacramento and Beaudry are both talking about how to better fund schools and the classroom, and when even administration is openly talking about pay raises, it clearly is a moment of opportunity.

End to the School Board “Reign of Error”?

The next key piece of the puzzle is the School Board. During the Reign of Error that has characterized Monica Garcia’s tenure as Board president, talking to the Board of Education about fiscal priorities and educator pay has been like talking to a wall. But that is clearly changing.

On June 18, the School Board adopted a resolution co-authored by Board members Kayser, Vladovic, and Zimmer, titled “Creating Equitable and Enriching Learning Environments for All LAUSD Students.” That resolution committed the District to: • A multi-year plan for class-size reduction and full health and human services staffing.

• A multi-year plan for restoration of the Adult Education and Early Education programs.

• A multi-year plan “to implement competitive wages for District employees whose pay rates have been cut repeatedly over the past several years.” The resolution passed on a 5-2 vote.

Two years ago, during the darkest days of RIFs and Public School Choice giveaways, it would have been difficult to imagine that the L.A. School Board would have ever passed a motion in which they would take the lead (much less be on the right side) on issues like class size, sufficient staffing, and competitive salaries.

But on June 18, they did exactly that.

Our role to play

The final piece of the puzzle is, of course, us. I began this piece with two quotes, one from Bennett Kayser and one from Monica Ratliff. Ratliff perfectly summarizes the situation in which we find ourselves. Opportunities are presenting themselves, but opportunities are, by definition, limitedtime offers. We owe it to our schools and our students to capitalize on these opportunities.

Sacramento can’t do it, and the School Board can’t do it. We, the united teachers and health and human services professionals, through the united voice of UTLA, are the only people who can—through focus, discipline, and unity—convert these opportunities to realities.

As always, it’s up to us.


The U.S. Department's office for civil rights asks for public comment

By Nirvi Shah in EdWeek Rules of Engagement blog |

June 25, 2013 8:59 AM |::  The next federal collection of data about every U.S. school district could probe districts further on how students are disciplined, how many pre-K kids are spanked, and whether bullies harassed classmates because of their religion or because they thought their peer was lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The U.S. Department's office for civil rights last week asked for public comment on these and other questions it hopes to ask of every district in the country during the 2013-14 and 2015-16 school years.

About every two years since 1968, the civil rights office has collected data from a selection of districts to monitor and enforce civil rights laws. (Check out some of the EdWeek reporting on the data.) The 2009-10 version captured information about 85 percent of public school students in the country and the 2011-12 iteration, which just wrapped up, took on all districts and schools nationwide. (A quarter of those districts have just one school, a federal education department spokesman said.)

The 2009-10 version zeroed in on school discipline issues, including asking districts how students were disciplined, including whether by suspension, expulsion, or by corporal punishment. Schools had to report how the punishment was meted out and break those figures down by students' race, gender, and disability. All of the information became public last year.

But some civil rights and education groups wanted more details about those data points. They could get it, if these proposed changes to the so-called civil rights data collection are adopted. Some of the new questions the department wants to ask—generally disaggregated by race, sex, disability status, and English-proficiency status:


  • How many allegations of harassment or bullying of K-12 students were on the basis of perceptions about sexual orientation or religion? (The department spokesman told me that this doesn't give schools the right to ask about a victim's LGBT status or their religion. "This is focusing on the likely motive of the alleged harasser not the actual status of victim," he said.)
  • How many students without disabilities, and how many with 504 plans, were removed from school for disciplinary reasons and sent to another school or an alternative school?
  • How many students ages 3-5 in preschool received corporal punishment?
  • How many times were students in preschool through 12th grade corporally punished? (So this goes beyond collecting information about how many students were spanked and captures students who were repeatedly disciplined this way.)
  • How many school days did students miss, collectively, because they were suspended out of school?
  • How many of the following incidents would trigger disciplinary action, including referrals to law enforcement and arrests: robbery with a weapon, with a firearm or explosive device, or without a weapon; physical attack or fight with a weapon, without a weapon, or with a firearm or explosive; rape or attempted rape; incidents of sexual battery other than rape; possession of a firearm or explosive; whether students, faculty, or staff died as a result of a murder at school; whether there was an incident at the school that involved a shooting.


  • Did any students participate in single-sex athletics?

Early Childhood Education

  • Does the district offer full- or part-day kindergarten because of state law and is there any cost for parents?

College and Career Readiness

  • Are students taking distance-education courses, and if so how many do?
  • Are students taking dual-enrollment or dual-credit courses, and if so, how many do?
  • Do any students participate in credit recovery programs?
  • How many students were absent 15 or more days?
  • How many students took an AP exam of any kind, including in a foreign language?
  • How many 7th grade students took Algebra 1? How many passed?


  • How many school psychologists, social workers, security guards, school resource officers, and sworn law enforcement officers are on staff?

Some of the 2009-10 data weren't very accurate. But an Education Department spokesman said the 2011-12 collection built in additional steps to ensure better quality data, including giving districts time to adjust information provided after a federal review, and those efforts would be enhanced in the 2013-14 and 2015-16 collections.

Many districts found the entire process to be a pain in the neck, and they are likely to weigh in with those concerns considering the proposed data collections would be even bigger.

The 2015-16 version could also be done as a representative sample of the country instead, the department spokesman said.

The proposed changes have to get through a 60-day public comment period, revisions, another 30-day comment period, and the Office of Management & Budget before becoming final.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Secretary Arne Duncan’s prepared remarks for his speech to the American Society of News Editors Annual Convention in Washington, DC.

tweeted by @HowardBlume | 12:29 PM - 25 Jun 13

Duncan on Core 6-25-13 by 4LAKids


By Kathryn Baron EdSource Today |

June 25th, 2013 ::  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan set aside years of acrimony and disagreements with Gov. Jerry Brown and sang the governor’s praises during an event Friday night in San Francisco.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in San Francisco. (Source: Public Policy Institute of California).
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in San Francisco. (Source: Public Policy Institute of California). >>

“I’m really impressed with what the governor is trying to do here. I think he’s showing real vision, real courage,” Duncan told about a hundred educators and education advocates when asked about Brown’s success at passing a historic school funding reform plan that provides additional money for English learners and low-income students. “For me it’s like common sense, but it’s actually revolutionary.”

Duncan’s gesture toward a new era of amicability came during a conversation with Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit research organization.

During a wide-ranging interview, Duncan also gave his strongest indication to date that he’s leaning toward supporting a waiver from some of the penalties of No Child Left Behind submitted by a group of nine California school districts. Again, he credited Brown.

VIDEO: A Conversation with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan – PPIC videos

“My strong preference would have been to work with California as a state; didn’t quite work out,” Duncan said. “I’ve worked very closely with Gov. Brown; he encouraged me to look at the CORE districts. You have some fantastic districts and superintendents.”

CORE, the California Office to Reform Education, submitted a waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education in March, shortly after Duncan’s office rejected a waiver from the California Board of Education because it failed to include teacher evaluations and other requirements.

CORE recently resubmitted the request after a significant rewrite based on questions from the U.S. Department of Education; a decision on the waiver is expected soon. Duncan acknowledged that there will be some challenges working with districts instead of a state, but also noted that with 1.2 million children in their schools, the CORE districts have two to three times more students than some states that have already received waivers.

“There are a lot of children, a lot of children of color, a lot of children who don’t come with a silver spoon in their mouth, and I think we have some really courageous superintendents who are trying to do the right thing, so we’ll continue to work through the details and go back and forth,” Duncan said.

Tense times

For several years now, the relationship between Duncan and Brown could be described as more eye-for-eye than eye-to-eye. In 2009, as California’s attorney general, Brown sent terse comments to the Education Secretary, criticizing the Department’s requirements for states to receive a slice of the $4.3 billion Race to the Top education reform funds. Among Brown’s criticisms was what he saw as overbearing federal control.

“This is a ‘one size fit all’ approach that ignores the vast diversity of our federal system and the creativity inherent in local communities. What we have at stake are the impressionable minds of the children of America,” Brown wrote. “In the draft you have circulated, I sense a pervasive technocratic bias and an uncritical faith in the power of social science.”

California lost all three of its bids to secure some of the funds, although it did get a piece of the smaller, $500 million, Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant.

In 2011, Brown vetoed a $2.1 million bill to develop CALTIDES, a statewide teacher database, and returned $6 million to the federal government, because he objected to the Department of Education’s requirement that it be linked to the student database in order to link test scores to teacher pay and evaluations.

Most recently, during his State of the State address in January, Brown took on the Department again with his memorable quip against high-stakes testing as “quiz-bits of information, regurgitated at regular intervals and stored in vast computers.”

Along with Duncan’s more charitable assessment of Brown was some movement away from earlier, inflexible positions on teacher evaluations and school accountability. He said No Child Left Behind got it “absolutely backwards” by being too loose on goals and too prescriptive on how to reach them.  He also acknowledged that teacher evaluations must include multiple measures, but held firm to the belief that the country must develop a system to identify the best teachers to help train the next generation of educators, while finding the worst-performing teachers and helping them move into other professions.

The secretary also took time contemplating his legacy in the Executive Branch.

“I’ve never had a job before when I knew I was going to get fired,” he told the audience. “I’m going to get to get fired in about three years, six months, so I spend a lot of my time thinking about the two or three or four things we can do to change education for the next couple of decades.”

His most ambitious goal is to double access to high-quality preschool, adding room for a million more young children, and financing the $75 billion price tag with a 94-cents-a-pack cigarette tax, but wondered if a “dysfunctional” Congress would take any action.

“It’s a battle,” Duncan acknowledged.  “If we do this I think we change education in this country for the next couple of decades.”


2cents smf: Duncan makes an extremely well reasoned presentation – like almost everyone in education he’s in it for the kids and he’s right most of the time. You almost can’t hear the ® when he says “®eform”.

No Child Left Behind got the goals wrong  Ducan says - or allowed states to jigger the goals – which was wrong. He doesn’t discuss that Rod Paige, his predecessor as Sect of Ed  - ‘”The Father of NCLB” and the maker of “The Taxes Miracle”  jiggered the goals and the numbers to his advantage when he was Houston superintendent – or that Paige is still lobbying  the Dept. of Ed in Washington rather than being asked to leave te building and/or doing time for fraud.

The Common Core Standards – the so called “voluntary* state” standards and testing regime aligned with federal priorities and altruistically designed by the textbook publishers and testing companies (already enriched and getting richer under NCLB) will make it better.  For everyone. Especially them.

Duncan makes a pretty good defense of making federal grants competitive in maintaining that most federal Ed funding is needs-based.

And then he says that needs-based programs like Title 1 and IDEA are ”rock solid” …which shows that someone isn’t paying enough attention!


* In PTA we have an expression for this kind of delegated volunteerism:  one doesn’t volunteer, one is “voluntold”.

Monday, June 24, 2013

iPADS FOR SCHOOL KIDS: Blushing at unanswered questions? ….or leveling the playing field for the poor?

By Doug McIntyre, L.A. Daily News columnist |

6/22/2013 04:40:07 PM PDT  ::  At first blush, it seems crazy.

The perpetually destitute Los Angeles Unified School District will spend $30 million to purchase thousands of iPad tablets to give away to students at 47 LAUSD campuses.

At second blush, it seems crazier.

This purchase all but commits the nation's second largest school district to hundreds of million of dollars of additional spending with Apple over the next two years.

That's right, two years, hundreds of millions.

At third blush, it seems like a rip-off.

The LAUSD will pay $678 per iPad, even though you can belly up to the Genius Bar at the local mall and pick one up retail for around $500.

At fourth blush, it looks like a conflict of interest.

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy is not only an Apple stockholder, he has appeared in at least one Apple promotional video.

At fifth blush, it doesn't seem ethical.

The funds slated to buy the iPads come from a school construction bond approved by voters for brick and mortar construction and maintenance on existing structures. Would voters have said "Yes" if they knew hundreds of millions would end up in Apple's pocket?

And at sixth, seventh, eighth and 50th blush, it raises all kinds of unanswered questions.

Questions like what happens when kids lose them? What happens when kids drop them? What happens when kids steal them from other kids? What happens when kids view porn on them? What happens when kids download personal photos onto them? What happens when kids drop out of school? What happens when kids move out of the district, or out of state, and take their LAUSD iPad with them?

And what happens to a generation of kids who will go through life without ever having opened a book? I mean a real book with covers and pages and print?

In our increasingly semi-literate, short attention span world, do we really need to expunge the few remaining books from our kid's lives only to replace them with yet another digital device offering flashy images and slickly produced video.

I know I'm a quasi-Luddite and I might as well take a kitchen broom to Zuma and try to sweep the Pacific back to China. Still, actual textbooks and the physical act of reading a full-length book is an exercise in long form study and concentration that trains the eye and mind to think.

No doubt the iPad is an amazing device. The wife has one; so do each of the kids. It's a magical machine with remarkable capabilities to educate and amuse.

But it's not superior to books. A reminder to the digital generation, Steve Jobs didn't have an iPad when he went to school.

Superintendent Deasy defends the move as a necessary step for students living in an increasingly online world. He specifically cited state and national standardized tests that will soon be offered only in digital form as one of the many reasons this program is not only necessary, but visionary.

So a case can be made. But this massive investment has been sprung on the public with far too little input from the people paying the freight and far too many unanswered questions.

For the record, I do not believe Deasy pushed this plan for personal profit and he correctly recused himself during the debate and vote. And the superintendent argues the high cost per iPad is deceptive because it includes an educational software package that replaces expensive textbooks. Fair enough.

But I suspect what's really driving the bus is the ugly underbelly of Los Angeles, massive poverty.

As more and more of life's processes are converted to online operations, the disparity between the haves and have-nots has become a digital divide. With so many kids living below or hovering near the poverty line, the LAUSD is attempting to level the playing field by giving every kid a tablet, costs be damned.

Doug McIntyre's column appears Wednesdays and Sundays.


By Jacob Tanenbaum in Education Week |

  • Pearson PLC is a British multinational publishing and education company headquartered in London. It is the largest education company and the largest book publisher in the world |  
  • Pearson is a prime developer of the Common Core State Curriculum and the Common Core State Standards tests to assess student progress.
  • Pearson is also the single-source supplier of content/software under Phase 1 of the Apple Common Core Technology Project (iPadsForAll) Contract with LAUSD.

Published Online: June 4, 2013  ::  Dear Pearson and, by extension, McGraw-Hill, and the rest of the companies that produce standardized tests for our classrooms:

Schools all over New York state just finished giving the tests you designed for us. I read that you got $32 million for those. Wow.

Recently, my colleagues and I sat in a meeting at our school learning how to score the tests using your materials. I hear these products are really helpful, and lots of teachers I know who use your grading software to track tests say it's really easy to work with, so thanks for selling all of it to us. New York state and its districts paid a lot of money to buy those tests and the accompanying resources we need to prepare our students and process the scores. You guys made a bundle, but I have one question for you: Can I have a little of that money back for my classroom?

See, I used to have a teaching assistant, but we can't afford her anymore. Our librarian was laid off, and we don't know who will maintain our collection in the years to come. The prekindergarten program was eliminated last year. Class sizes have been going up everywhere I look, and we hardly go on field trips anymore. Music and art are being cut in a neighboring district, and I'm worried about what else is in store for us. School budgets are not keeping up with rising operating costs as state aid and property taxes continue to shrink. So as the cost of testing mounts, cuts are made to classrooms like mine.

I know you have everyone convinced that we, teachers, should be held more accountable for student performance, but in trying to raise standards, you've managed to make a lot of money on testing, all of which has come out of classrooms like mine.

Here is a simple truth which you will have to learn and memorize, because there will be a test on it later when we are depending on the next generation to take care of us in our old age: Slashing music, art, library, field trips, and support staff from classrooms so money can go to your company and its shareholders isn't going to help educate anyone.

For the good of the students, you must reconsider. This country can't afford what you are doing to our schools and our children.


A Teacher

Jacob Tanenbaum teaches 4th and 5th grade science and computer technology in the South Orangetown Central School District in New York. His website is

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LAUSD also named in lawsuit

GLOBE NEWSWIRE - Source: Hecho en Mexico Authentic Mexican Cuisine

LOS ANGELES, June 24, 2013 (A popular restaurant in the El Sereno section of East LA is seeking more than $1 million in damages in a lawsuit against a controversial charter school and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The suit by Hecho en Mexico Authentic Mexican Cuisine and its co-owners claims officials of the school, Academia Semillas del Pueblo, engaged in a years-long campaign to disrupt the restaurant's operations and "rendered the property unfit for its highest and best use as a restaurant." The suit names LA Unified as a defendant because the school is operated "under the auspices of the LAUSD."

The Superior Court lawsuit was served today on the Semillas charter elementary school, its chairman Marcos Aguilar, and his wife Minnie Ferguson, who serves as the school's principal. It was served previously on LAUSD.

Hecho en Mexico is sandwiched between two parcels that comprise the elementary school. Semillas is a sister school to a charter high school about a mile away that is under the same ownership. Last week, the LAUSD board refused to renew the high school's charter, citing low test scores, financial troubles, alleged refusal to cooperate with district auditors, and failure to follow guidelines required of all district charters.

"We both immigrated from Mexico decades ago, became U.S. citizens and are trying to build the American dream. Now it has become a nightmare," said Connie Castro, who co-owns Hecho en Mexico with her husband Jorge Bravo. "We could have pursued business opportunities in South Pasadena or Alhambra, but we chose to stay in El Sereno because we wanted to help make the community better."

The popular restaurant is a local landmark. It has been at the same location since 1950. It was purchased by Castro and Bravo in 2004.

Castro said Hecho en Mexico's business, which had been growing at about 10% annually, has plummeted by 50% since Semillas began its campaign against the restaurant. She said the restaurant kept its staff intact as long as it could, but has been forced to cut hours and lay off half its workers, including cooks and waiters.

Simultaneous with its campaign against Hecho en Mexico, Semillas opened its own Mexican restaurant across the street. The Semillas restaurant was shut down for failure to comply with public health regulations but the campaign against Hecho en Mexico continued, the suit says.

The purpose of the Semillas campaign is "to interfere with and prevent the operation of (Hecho en Mexico's) business and ultimately seize the opportunity to operate the restaurant for themselves," the suit says.

Attorney Thomas W. Dressler of The Dressler Law Group LLP that is representing Hecho en Mexico, added, "All my clients want is to be left alone to operate a community institution in the same manner it has operated for decades without trouble. It is a tragedy for my clients and the community that Semillas chose the course it did. The decision to go to court was long, hard and carefully considered, and we are confident the court will remedy the situation."

According to the suit, Semillas:

  • Illegally converted its parking lots into playgrounds, then "unilaterally and contrary to ... zoning regulations" blocked restaurant customers from access to street parking, especially during the restaurant's busiest periods.
  • "Organized highly disruptive 'protests' (outside the restaurant) in which all access was blocked."
  • Directed students to pound drums "unreasonably loud" during the restaurant's peak hours, rendering its patio "unusable" by patrons and "disturbing" diners indoors.
  • Encouraged students to enter the restaurant's property and climb atop the patio's metal sunscreen to retrieve balls they'd thrown there, disrupting customers and exposing students to the hazard of personal injury.
  • Conducted a campaign of "false allegations" to damage the reputation of the restaurant and its owners.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Letters to the Editor of the LA Times |

Re "LAUSD awards pact to Apple," June 19

June 23, 2013

The decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide its 660,000 students with tablet computers is a step in the right direction. As the head of a nonprofit funder that provides computers and training to parents and teachers in three LAUSD schools, I have lessons to share:

With our partners, we see schools thrive when teachers are well-trained and encouraged to coach one another in collaborative settings. Teachers who champion technology deserve support.

The district is right to let the computers go home with the students, and it's critical to involve parents. The principals we work with say training parents to email teachers and monitor grades engages them in their children's education like nothing else has.

In L.A. County, 30% of households lack high-speed Internet. If we don't want idle students and computing devices after 3 p.m., let's challenge Internet service providers to offer discounted broadband to parents who participate in computer training at schools. Only then will the LAUSD's plan truly fulfill its potential.

Sunne Wright McPeak

San Francisco

The writer is the president and chief executive of the California Emerging Technology Fund.

The decision by the LAUSD to use school construction bonds to pay for Apple iPads is a violation of the voters' trust. Surely it was the intent of the voters who approved these bonds for the district to purchase infrastructure that will last the decades it will take to pay down the debt.

New computer systems are traditionally purchased through grants or by using monies from a district's general fund. The state ought to find a way to overturn the LAUSD's decision and make it clear that the use of school construction bonds must not be used for projects other than infrastructure.

If the state does not act, then the voters will — by becoming cynical and voting against future measures to fund education.

George Garcia

Long Beach

Each year, middle and high schools issue thousands of books to students. And each year, hundreds of those books are lost, stolen or damaged. Currently, the families of those students are responsible for replacing those books.

If iPads that are brought home are lost, stolen or damaged, will the families of these students be on the hook for replacing the $678 device? What is the district's plan for that?

This seems to me to be another poorly thought-out plan by a district that has had many over the years.

Tom Iannucci<

Los Angeles

Friday, June 21, 2013


By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News | Pasadena Star-News

06/20/2013 06:03:21 PM PDT    Los Angeles Unified's incoming freshmen class will be the first that will have to pass a rigorous college-prep curriculum with a "C" in order to get a diploma, which has district officials scrambling to identify and replicate successful programs that can get and keep students on track to graduation, Superintendent John Deasy said Thursday.

Speaking at a downtown forum on progress in implementing the so-called A-G curriculum for all students, Deasy said administrators and teachers are working this summer to analyze test scores and other data for the members of the Class of 2017 and ensure that students are scheduled into college-prep courses.

At the same time, district leaders are homing in on schools that have promising A-G completion records in the hope of creating a set of "best practices" they can implement at other campuses.

"When we're focused, we know how to get results and now we need to figure how to bring those results to scale," he said.

The challenge facing LAUSD was showcased in a report compiled by researcher Marisa Saunders from UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access. Using data provided by the district, she found that just 19 percent of the Class of the 2011 graduated with a "C" in the A-G curriculum, the requirement for admission to California's public universities.

Latinos and African-American students had even lower completion rates -- 17 and 14 percent, respectively -- and had a tougher time getting back on track if they faltered during their first years in high school.

The 2011 data used for the study is the most recent available. Since then, the school board has made A-G a requirement for graduation. Students who just completed their freshman year can pass the courses with a "D," while incoming freshmen have to earn a "C" to get credit.

To create a system with the necessary programs to support A-G and the new Common Core curriculum, Deasy said he'll recommend giving principals and school-site councils the authority to decide how to spend the tens of millions of extra dollars expected as the state funnels more money to districts with needy students.

"The maximum resources should go to schools, along with decision-making authority. We need to trust teachers and principals to know what's best for their communities and schools," he said.

"Higher autonomy means higher accountability."

Board member Steve Zimmer, another panelist, took a broader view of A-G, defining it as a civil rights issue that is key to preparing students for a successful life after high school.

To provide a safety net for students, he called for boosting the number of school counselors and social workers, along with school-based health clinics and parent centers to provide "wraparound support" for disadvantaged kids.

"We're at a crossroads of whether this is going to work," Zimmer said. "This has to be reciprocal and collaborative. The entire school community has to come together around our youths and say they believe in their potential, in their dreams, in their skills and their abilities. And this is how we get there together."


2cents smf: Eight years ago, when the A-G Graduation Requirement first passed, the District should’ve pulled together the District insiders and outsiders to begin “studying” these new curriculum plans. And they did!. Folk from LAUSD and from academe and from the community – and the very sponsors of A-G (the selfsame folks who sponsored Thursdays forum) met monthly and began the process – and some progress was made.

But then the meetings became less frequent and eventually stopped happening. -- and the record of the meetings was lost. And nothing happened – nothing being what institutional bureaucracies do best when left alone.. 

The current superintendent became supe two years ago when the implementation deadline was 6 years away – but instead of A-G The ®égime focused on teacher bashing and AGT and testing and Tablets4All. (I remind you that “The ®égime” are the selfsame folks who pushed A-G in the first place: UCLA IDEA/Families in Schools/Alliance for a Better Community/Inner City Struggle. The selfsame conveners of Thursday’s forum.)

Don’t blame us  …we didn’t do it.!”  Except “doing it” was what was required.

Sure – an attempt was made last year to make grad requirements easier (in an adult way) by eliminating Health Ed and electives – making high-school ALL A-thru-G/ALL THE TIME – but that didn’t get any political traction. Because ithese were bad ideas/bad pedagogy/bad for kids.

Now, with the first class that A-G applies to entering high school, a forum is convened. And hands are wrung. And teeth are gnashed. And the hems of garments are rent in photo opsa nd sound bytes.

Now we are waiting for the A-G app on the tablets. Waiting for Superman. …or the tooth fairy.