Wednesday, April 30, 2014

DISTRICT 1 CANDIDATES FORUM | Thursday, May 1 | 7:00PM | Hamilton High School

2014 Community Town Hall Meeting: LAUSD School Board Candidate Forum

Town Hall 2014: LA School Board District One Candidate Forum

A public Q&A about the future of our schools

For the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), this is a time of unprecedented changes and challenges. Public debate continues over testing and core curricula, teacher tenure and the role of unions, the introduction of computer tablets and other technologies, breakfast in the classroom programs, student safety, and more.
At this crucial period for our schools, the School Board seat for this area—District One—is currently open. The South Robertson Neighborhoods Council (SORO NC) and League of Women Voters of Los Angeles are co-sponsoring a candidate forum to help residents understand the issues and how each candidate would help guide LAUSD through them.
The Candidates
  • George McKenna, Retired Principal / Superintendent
  • Hattie B. McFrazier, Retired Educator / Counselor
  • Omarosa O. Manigault, Teacher / Children Advocate
  • Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Education Consultant
  • Rachel C. Johnson, Educator / Gardena Councilmember
  • Alex Johnson, Education Policy Advisor
  • Sherlett Hendy Newbill, Teacher / Mother / Coach

Join us for a lively and enlightening evening as the candidates respond to your questions. 
Download the flyer to share with your neighbors here.
The event is free, and open to everyone.


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By Mark Baldassare / commentary | EdSource Today |

Mark Baldassare April 29th, 2014 | The elections this year offer the first statewide look at Californians’ willingness to raise revenue for their local schools since passage of Proposition 30, the tax initiative to benefit education that voters passed in November 2012. While it’s too early to know how many local school districts will test the waters by placing a construction bond or parcel tax on the ballot, there are undercurrents in our new survey that spell trouble ahead for local school ballot measures. In short, the public’s sense that schools are in crisis has diminished.

<<Mark Baldassare

Our annual PPIC Statewide Survey on Californians and Education (follows) shows that likely voters view fiscal conditions in education as generally improving. The proportion who say that the state budget situation is a “big problem” for California’s K–12 public education has dropped by 10 points—from 72 percent to 62 percent—between April 2012 and today. More importantly, the proportion of likely voters saying that the level of current state funding for their local public schools is “not enough” has also dropped by 10 points between April 2012 and today—from 59 percent to 49 percent. In other words, the likely voters who currently view state funding of their local schools as problematic now make up less than a majority.

In our recent poll, 55 percent of likely voters would vote yes if there was a local school bond on the ballot—just barely meeting the minimum passage level. By contrast, 48 percent of likely voters would vote yes on a local school parcel tax—falling far short of the two-thirds needed to pass.

It is important to note that likely voters who are public-school parents are bucking these statewide trends: a majority of them view state funding for their local public school as inadequate, and over 60 percent say they would support a local school bond and a local school parcel tax this year. But our poll finds that public-school parents make up less than 30 percent of the likely voters who will determine the ballot outcomes.

Since 2001, the statewide passage rate for local school bonds has been 81 percent and for local school parcel taxes, 60 percent, as noted by and EdSource. This year, those rates may fall. Alternatively, there may be fewer local school ballot measures this year as funding proponents focus on a smaller set of school districts with voter profiles that offer favorable odds for passing these measures. For instance, our poll finds majority support for local school bonds and local school parcel taxes among Democratic, Latino, lower-income and Bay Area likely voters.

Meanwhile, some legislators have proposed lowering the vote threshold needed to pass these taxes from two-thirds to 55 percent, which requires changing Proposition 13. But since the Democrats lost their supermajority when three of their senators were suspended, the Legislature is much less likely to send this change to the voters for approval. Californians are not inclined to make this change anyway. The proportion of likely voters who say that this change to Prop. 13 is a good idea has declined—from 46 percent in April 2011 to just 39 percent today.

It is possible that voter concern about school funding needs will surface later this year, as school districts implement two dramatic changes: the Common Core Standards in the classroom and theLocal Control Funding Formula, which provides more money for districts with higher proportions of English learners and lower-income students. These changes could offer two new avenues to engage voters about the need for local school funding. For now, though, we will be watching for signs that Prop. 30’s passage will make it harder for local school ballot measures to succeed in 2014.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California.

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education previously published on 4LAKids as



Mary Plummer | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC

Mary Plummer/KPCC

Steven McCarthy, Los Angeles Unified's K-12 arts coordinator, outlines a proposed new curriculum plan to a school board committee.

April 29th, 2014, 5:46pm  ::  Los Angeles Unified School District officials proposed a dramatic new vision for arts education Tuesday that would reduce most elementary art programs in an effort to serve more students. 

The new plan would provide all third-through-fifth graders with access to visual arts, choral, dance and theater instruction — each in nine-week chunks throughout the school year. All students would receive instruction in all four art forms. The plan would go into effect for the 2015-16 school year.

"This is pruning," said Steven McCarthy, the district's K-12 arts coordinator who led the presentation during a school board curriculum committee meeting on Tuesday. "This is going backwards a bit."

not reported in this story:

2cents small I sit on this committee, I was there.  Pruning is reductive, not supplemental. By spreading programs thinner to guarantee equitable access for all students the programs are reduced, not increased.

When pressed and forced to answer the question “What would it take in the upcoming year’s budget to provide adequate arts education?” McCarthy said that it would take at least double the allocation for Arts and Music Education in the superintendent’s draft budget just to bring the program back to where it was in 2007-8, when the reductions began.

And a Gates Foundation sponsored program to create a test to measure the effectiveness of the Arts+Music curriculum isn’t what the students need. They don’t need another test - they need an Arts+Music Curriculum!

If approved, the plan would drastically reduce established programs in many schools. Choral programs would be the hardest hit — choral instruction at the elementary level has traditionally featured year-long curriculum.

"Arts instruction requires continuity and this plan destroys it," said Barbara Aran, a former LAUSD teacher who retired in 2010. Aran spoke during the public comment period of the meeting and called for more input from stakeholders.

Under the new plan, elementary orchestra has been spared. It will be the only art form to remain a year-long program.

McCarthy emphasized that the new plan is not set in stone and that he hopes the plan would build as further funds became available. He said he supports the plan because it's urgent to provide more students in the district access to the arts. Currently, many students in the district do not have access.

"I'm just talking about the current resources I have available to me," he said. 

But questions arose about equity issues regarding which schools will get orchestra access. McCarthy said 175 schools requested orchestra, but he only has resources to staff and provide instruments for 160 schools. McCarthy said he expects to be able to provide orchestra next year for all schools that submitted requests by the deadline. A lottery system has been proposed to allocate orchestra resources.

Earlier this year, district officials proposed a plan that would reduce elementary orchestra programs to one semester. But that plan was reversed following reporting from KPCC and outrage from teachers and parents.

Discussion on the new plan lasted nearly two hours. Board member Steve Zimmer raised concerns that the plan doesn't honor the intent of the school board, which unanimously passed a resolution to make the arts a core subject in October 2012. At the time, Los Angeles Unified was widely regarded as a nationwide leader in the arts, but so far the district hasn't come close to providing all students with arts access, as the resolution required.

"My fear is that we'll lose our aspiration," Zimmer said.

The new plan also outlines a pilot program for K-2 students that would have their classroom teachers to use techniques that incorporate the arts into subjects such as math and history. The pilot program would include a study to evaluate its effectiveness.

School board member Monica Ratliff, who heads the committee, along with fellow member Bennett Kayser both raised questions about the budget needed to fully fund the arts. Ratliff asked McCarthy to return with a budget that would adequately fund a comprehensive arts plan.

A slide presented by Los Angeles Unified's K-12 Arts Coordinator Steven McCarthy outlining part of the district's new elementary arts proposal:


iPAD, Wi-Fi ISSUES INTERRUPT LA SCHOOLS TESTING: “When everyone goes on at once, it overloads it…"

Annie Gilbertson | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

April 30th, 2014, 5:30am  ::  Teachers and students often grumble about end of the year tests,but at the Los Angeles Unified School District, the complaints are mounting:

  • iPads the district purchased to take new state competency tests aren’t getting online.
  • They’re having trouble connecting to keyboards.
  • And, in some cases, they’re not turning on at all.

"It took a while for it to work, and I only ended up answering three questions by the end of class," said Lia Peña, a junior at Hamilton High School in Culver City.

Peña's classmate, Antonia Lorenzo, compared the iPads' sluggish start to the's numerous technical glitches.

"The whole system didn't work. When everyone goes on at once, it overloads it," she said.

To prepare for the new digital test, the district spent well over $20 million on 45,000 iPads. Of those, the district says about 10 wouldn't turn on at all or had trouble charging, and 100 had configuration issues. Defective devices were replaced.

The school board's curriculum and instruction committee was scheduled to address testing progress at its meeting Tuesday, but the item was pulled from the agenda. Committee chair and board member Monica Ratliff said the four-hour meeting was going too long.

LAUSD officials declined to be interviewed, but spokeswoman Shannon Haber said the technology team works quickly to resolve any technical issues, and for many schools, the process is going smoothly, she said.

Switched back to PCs

Some principals have switched back to old desktop computers with more reliable Internet connections. Staff at Millikan Middle, Pomelo Community Charter and Thomas Starr King Middle have reported problems with logging iPads on to the Internet.

Wil Page, an English and history teacher at  Starr King in Silver Lake, said doing preliminary tests earlier this year helped pinpoint issues.

“The primary problem we found had to do with the size of the screen on the iPad and the fact that the keyboard took up 40 percent of the screen,” Page said.

The district then purchased keyboards for about $20 a piece. Hamilton High School principal Gary Garcia said many of the kinks have been worked out, but he still thinks there are better options.

“I have been lobbying the board of education and the district that, in the future, high school students should take this test on a laptop," he said.

The scores from the this year's state competency tests will not be released since the exams are considered part of the pilot rollout. 

In figures released today, the California Department of Education says its technical assistance center is taking an average of 722 calls a day from schools around the state.

And there's not much troubleshooting time left. Students at Los Angeles Unified have less than three weeks to log on and finish up.


Alex Caputo-Pearl

Alex Caputo-Pearl won elected president of the United Teachers Los Angeles, defeating incumbent Warren Fletcher in a runoff vote. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2014)

Alex Caputo-Pearl wins runoff election to head L.A. teachers union

Howard Blume , LA Times | 

April 29, 2014, 1:59 p.m.   ::  A veteran social studies teacher has defeated incumbent Warren Fletcher in an election to head the union that represents teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system.

Alex Caputo-Pearl received 80% of the votes cast and Fletcher 20%, United Teachers Los Angeles announced Tuesday.

In the vote-by-mail election, 7,235 members cast ballots, fewer than one in four of those eligible to vote. The union has more than 31,000 voting members, including guidance counselors, school psychologists and nurses.

Caputo-Pearl, 45, vowed to make the union a force for advancing education reforms favored by teachers. 

"The union needs to be a real leader in taking control of school improvement and in really working with members and the community around how to improve schools," he said in an interview Tuesday. 

Caputo-Pearl’s positions on issues do not differ substantially from Fletcher’s. Both, for example, oppose using test scores to evaluate teachers. But Caputo-Pearl said his history of activism and community organizing have prepared him for this role.

The result was no surprise because Caputo-Pearl had strongly outpolled Fletcher, 48% to 21%, in the first round of voting in March, when 10 candidates were on the ballot. As the top two finishers, Caputo-Pearl and Fletcher faced off in the runoff.

But Fletcher quickly said he was suspending active campaigning — accepting his challenger’s win as nearly inevitable. Fletcher received slightly fewer total votes in the second round.

Fletcher, 55, said he was advised that he could have won only with a negative campaign, which he said he was unwilling to do.

"Only a fool fights in a burning house," Fletcher said at the time, describing it as important to avoid unnecessary discord “because of the attacks UTLA is under and that our profession is under."

In recent weeks, Fletcher began including Caputo-Pearl in senior-level deliberations in anticipation of a leadership transition. 

Three years ago, Fletcher rode a wave of discontent to defeat a candidate viewed as the favorite of the union establishment. This time, Caputo-Pearl and his "Union Power" slate won districtwide union positions. His team included three incumbents who deserted Fletcher: vice presidents Betty Forrester and Juan Ramirez and treasurer Arlene Inouye.

Two other incumbents, vice president M.J. Roberts and secretary David Lyell, were not on Caputo-Pearl's slate; they lost.

Caputo-Pearl captured the endorsement of 250 campus union representatives. The three-year position pays $101,000 annually.

To some degree, Fletcher was a victim of bad timing. The recession hurt Fletcher and his members, leaving him little alternative but a strategy of trying to limit job losses and salary cuts. Meanwhile, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy pushed aggressively for his brand of school reform — which included using test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation and limiting traditional job protections to improve the overall quality of the workforce.

Many teachers have complained of ever-increasing demands while their pay declined, class sizes increased and school support services, from counseling to classroom cleaning, diminished.

Fletcher capitalized on this discontent by rallying members to a vote of no confidence in Deasy -- more than 50% of union members took part, with 91% of those opposing the superintendent. But little concrete came of the effort, except that Fletcher and Deasy stopped speaking.

Within the union, Fletcher’s critics accused him of being too isolated within UTLA’s headquarters

New United Teachers Los Angeles president elected

By Thomas Himes, San Bernardino Sun from the LA Daily News |

4/29/14, 8:51 PM PDT   ::  Promising double-digit pay raises and an end to ‘teacher jail,’ Alex Caputo-Pearl was elected president of the nation’s second largest union of educators, United Teachers Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Caputo-Pearl, who’s part of a union faction called “Union Power,” beat out incumbent Warren Fletcher by a 4-1 margin. Other members of Union Power also won positions in union leadership.

“With the Union Power team sweeping this election, UTLA members have given its leadership a mandate for our union to lead in the fight for the schools L.A. students deserve and the respect LA educators deserve,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Although Caputo-Pearl overwhelmingly won, the election runoff only netted 7, 235 ballots from the 35,000-member union. The lack of ballots, Caputo-Pearl said, is a signal that the union needs to do a better job of engaging its members.

Caputo-Pearl, a teacher of 22 years who currently works at Frida Kahlo High School, will begin a three-year term July 1, 2014, when results are certified by the UTLA’s board.

As president, Caputo-Pearl said he plans on getting pay raises of at least 10 percent.

Caputo-Pearl also said he’ll reduce the population of ‘teacher jail.’ Taking teachers out of classrooms and assigning them to a cubicle inside the district’s headquarters for months or years, he said, is out of control. Some teachers, he said, don’t even know what they’ve done wrong.

“While there is a need for a place to put the very, very, few people who may be suspected of abusing young people, teacher jail has become a place where they just throw people the administration doesn’t like,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Zimmer: Congratulations for Caputo-Pearl, Thanks for Fletcher

by LA School Report |

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer

April 29, 2014 4:02 pm  ::  The LA Unified School Distirct issued a statement from board vice president, Steve Zimmer, on the election of Alex Caputo-Pearl as president of UTLA, the teachers union:

“I want to congratulate Alex Caputo-Pearl, and his team of candidates upon their electionto the leadership of the nation’s second-largest teacher union, local United Teachers Los Angeles.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Caputo-Pearl has been committed to uplifting the rights of children, their families, their teachers and their school communities. I look forward to working with Alex, and his entire team, to celebrate and elevate the teaching profession in this District and beyond. Working together, I know we can positively change the public education trajectories for students throughout our District.

“I also want to recognize and thank outgoing President Warren Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher led the union through the worst budget crisis ever to face L.A. Unified. I appreciate his role in helping to preserve public education in Los Angeles.

“There has never been a more important time for the District, our teachers, our families and our school communities to work collaboratively to ensure the promise of public education is fulfilled for all students. In Mr. Caputo-Pearl and his team, I know we have partners in our effort to make equality in our education outcomes becomes social justice reality in our time.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014



Annie Gilbertson |   Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC

Facebook/Repairs not iPads

April 29th, 2014, 5:02am  ::  The Los Angeles Unified school district has a backlog of 50,000 repairs. A look at next year's budget shows its likely to continue to trail the state in maintenance and operations funding.

The Los Angeles Unified spends the least on maintenance and operations of California's largest school district, according to new analysis by a district committee. The committee, which oversees bond money used for major repairs, argues the district should increase maintenance spending to avoid more costly work from deterioration created by compounding problems.

"If you don't maintain it, it falls apart and then it comes back to us as a big repair," said Scott Folsom, a committee member. "We didn't fix the pipes so now we are replacing all the plumbing."

According the committee's new report the district dedicated 8.6 percent of its total expenditures on maintenance and operations last year, covering work such as electrical and plumbing repairs in addition to cleaning and on-going maintenance such as replacing filters and light bulbs. In dollars, it adds up to $99 million for repairs.

The biggest spender among large California districts was Fresno Unified, which used more than 11 percent of its budget on maintenance. L.A. Unified spent less than 9 percent.

Since the recession, L.A. Unified's budget for maintenance and operations has been slashed by 65 percent. Officials argued dwindling funds had to be diverted to teacher salaries and other more immediate needs.

In the interim, Folsom said administrators have tried to cover more repairs with bond funds —the same pool of money being used for the district's $1.3 billion iPad project and to build and modernize schools.

Teachers and parents across the district rallied for increasing maintenance speding after a teacher created a Facebook group called "Repairs not iPads."

Since KPCC first reported on the fledgling group, it's membership ballooned to over 5,000 members, many posting pictures of decaying schools and even a political cartoon ridiculing Superintendent John Deasy's financial priorities.

Deasy has proposed increasing the maintenance and operations budget by a relatively small $1.5 million next school year, pushing the budget up to $100.5 million. District officials estimate it will take closer to $400 million every year. Deasy has also recommended increasing the custodial budget by $1.5 million.

By comparison, he wants to increase the district's iPad and technology budget by $9.8 million next year.

The committee overseeing the district's bond spending points out L.A. Unified's maintenance budget is at the bottom nationally.

A report released last year by Council for Great City Schools found L.A. Unified spent less per student than 65 of the nation's largest districts, including San Francisco, Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.

The school board is expected to discuss maintenance and operations funding when it weighs next year's budget May 13th.


Justices seem likely to rule that a government employee who testifies about corruption cannot be fired. First they'd have to revisit a 2006 ruling limiting those rights.

2cents small The operative words in the above headline are “MAY” and “SEEM LIKELY” - ‘May’ has a meaning in the law, it is optional [a choice to act or not, or a promise of a possibility, as distinguished from "shall"  or “must” - which makes it imperative] - “seem likely’ is purely speculative’.

CURRENT SETTLED LAW UNDER GARCETTI v. CEBALLOS (547 U.S. 410- 2006) IS THIS:  “Although teachers and other public employees are free to speak as citizens, the high court ruled, the 1st Amendment does not protect them if they learn something on the job and reveal it to the public over the objections of their employer.”

By David G. Savage, L.A. Times |

8:08 PM PDT, April 28, 2014  ::  WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday sounded ready to rule that a public employee who testifies about corruption in his government department cannot be fired for revealing the truth.

But first justices will need to confront their own 2006 ruling that sharply limited the free-speech rights of such workers.

"Why do we put people at risk for telling the truth?" asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as the court heard the case of an Alabama community college official who was dismissed after revealing that a state legislator was drawing a salary for a college job but doing no work.

Edward Lane, the fired official, lost his free-speech lawsuit last year against the college president who dismissed him after the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, under the 2006 Supreme Court precedent, Lane was not protected.

Although teachers and other public employees are free to speak as citizens, the high court ruled, the 1st Amendment does not protect them if they learn something on the job and reveal it to the public over the objections of their employer. The 5-4 ruling in Garcetti vs. Ceballos rejected a suit by a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who was demoted after raising questions about the validity of a disputed search warrant.

The court's opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the deputy district attorney was speaking about an internal complaint. He was "not speaking as a citizen for 1st Amendment purposes," Kennedy said.

That decision left public employees with little protection from supervisors upset by their comments.

Civil libertarians, whistle-blowers and public employee unions supported Lane in his appeal and urged the justices to revisit the issue so that public employees who expose corruption can be better protected.

In Lane's case, federal prosecutors had ordered him to testify in the corruption trial of the state legislator.

"Well, what is he supposed to do?" Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked an attorney defending the college president. "He gets a subpoena" from the prosecutor and has to tell the truth in court.

"Mr. Chief Justice, we would never suggest anybody not comply with a subpoena and testify truthfully," said Mark Waggoner, a lawyer from Birmingham.

"But you are suggesting he can be fired if he does it," Roberts replied.

Sotomayor said the court should retreat from what it said in the Garcetti decision. "If someone is called to testify truthfully about a matter of public concern, should they be able to be fired under the 1st Amendment?"

It was clear she and most others thought the answer was no.

But Lane may win only a partial victory. Several justices said that although Lane had a strong free-speech claim, Central Alabama Community College President Steve Franks could avoid paying damages because the law was unclear.

The court usually shields police or other public officials from paying damages for violating a constitutional right if the law was not clear at the time. A decision in Lane vs. Franks is due by late June.

Meanwhile, the court agreed Monday to hear the case of a Florida fisherman who was ensnared by a federal law designed to prevent white-collar criminals from shredding documents.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act makes it a crime to hide documents or any "tangible object" to thwart a federal investigation. Fisherman John Yates was accused by a federal agent of reeling in red grouper that were under the 20-inch minimum, then tossing them overboard to hide the evidence.

Yates was sentenced to 30 days behind bars. The justices will hear his appeal arguing that the so-called anti-shredding provision should not apply to fish.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Increasing support for the arts in Los Angeles County


April 28, 2014

This Wednesday, the Arts Community is coming to LACMA for a Supervisor Candidate Forum on Culture & Creativity at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theatre.

Can I count on you to be there?

The next County Supervisor for the 3rd District will replace Zev Yaroslavsky, who, among other accomplishments, has been a huge advocate for the arts, including the LA County Arts Commission and its many initiatives like Arts for All.

It's crucial to demonstrate that the arts community is engaged, organized, and eager to advocate for creativity, arts education, and public investment in arts and culture.

The Forum is free and open to the public, though pre-registration is required

Arts for LA does not endorse candidates; however, we are invested in fostering an engaged voter population, and we want our voters to know where their candidates stand on the issues of arts, culture, and arts education.

Casual networking will begin at 6 p.m., at which time guests may purchase beverage from Coffee + Milk near the Bing Theatre.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the Forum will begin at 7:15 p.m.  Eligible candidates seeking election to Los Angeles County's Third District have been invited to participate.  Dr. Frank Gilliam of UCLA will serve as the Forum's moderator.

Please click here to RSVP for this event.

Arts for LA thanks our Media Partners for their support in promoting this event: KCET's Artbound, CalNonprofits, Center for Cultural Innovation, Hammer Museum, LA 2050, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LA STAGE Alliance, Otis College of Art + Design, Performing Arts Live, and Southern California Grantmakers. Support for this event is provided in part by Arts for LA Member Organizations, The Boeing Company, and in-kind support from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

For more information, please visit our registration page or contact Arts for LA's Charles Flowers at 213-225-7524 or


Danielle Brazell
Executive Director

Arts for LA

is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts advocacy organization

working to foster a healthy environment

in which arts and culture may thrive and

be accessible to all in Los Angeles.


By Beth Greenfield,  Yahoo Shine Staff | Team Mom

Photo courtesy of Harley Avenue School.

Aprill 28, 2013  ::  A New York public school has decided to nix an annual year-end kindergarten show in favor of more college-prep time for its youngest students, sounding alarm bells for those concerned about the toughening standards of early education.

“These are 5-year-old children! This is outrageous!” notes parent Ninette Solis, whose petition to reinstate the student performance has gotten more than 2,000 signatures in just two days. “The kindergarten show is a positive experience and beneficial to the children’s development. … This helps them build confidence in themselves. The show also helps develop public speaking skills while allowing the children to celebrate a big accomplishment.”

The Harley Avenue Primary School on Long Island, which offers a half-day kindergarten program within the Elwood Union Free School District, sent out a letter of explanation to parents on April 25. It was posted on Facebook and linked to by the Washington Post, and signed by interim principal Ellen Best-Laimit as well as four kindergarten teachers. “The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple,” it reads. “We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers.” The letter also acknowledges that while “the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade,” the reality of it is just now “beginning to feel unsettling for some people.”

Those people include not only parents — who have called the decision “disastrous,” “tantamount to child abuse” and “just plain sad” in Solis’s petition — but education experts as well.

“It’s just so awful that it’s sort of like you’re in the twilight zone,” Dr. Lisa Fiore, early education professor and dean of faculty at Lesley University’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass., tells Yahoo Shine. “It’s just so sad, and increasingly common now, that academics are eclipsing what we know to be best for kids.” While Fiore expresses concern over whether the teachers signed the letter of their own volition, she notes that this and other similar situations are fallouts of Common Core and the race-to-succeed culture. “At its most fundamental level, what it symbolizes is fear and competition — the fear is that our country is not doing well enough to compete on a global scale, whatever that means,” Fiore says.

That focus, she explains, creates the sense of being in a race, which fuels anxiety for both parents and children. It also can wind up eliminating truly valuable parts of the education experience, Fiore says. “You get one shot at kindergarten, and what are you going to remember?” she asks. “The show, that’s collaborative and special for so many reasons?” Or “more seat work and worksheets?"

On Monday, the school announced on its website a special board of education meeting on April 29 to host a public discussion. It also released a statement to Yahoo Shine recognizing concerns over its replacement of the performance with “Game Day” (which is not explained).

“We support the decision of our educators and believe it is important to recognize the rationale at work in this decision,” the statement reads. “Elwood Union Free School District only offers a half-day program for our kindergarten students due to financial constraints. But that does not mean we do not have significant goals for our youngest learners. In fact, one of the key goals established this year is to ensure that every student is reading at least at grade level by third grade, which will prepare them for the newest rigors of learning and assessment they will experience. Our educators believe that the traditional kindergarten performance requires multiple days away from classroom work for preparation and execution, and together with the lost instructional time this year due to poor weather, is not the best use of the limited time we have with our youngest learners.”

And there you have it.

  • SEE ALSO: Elwood School District cancels annual Harley Avenue School kindergarten show; parent starts petition (News 12 Long Island)



ASCD logo

From ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development) NewsBrief |

Capitol Connection

APRIL 28, 2014  ::  The U.S. Senate and House education committees are undergoing significant changes in their membership that could greatly influence their priorities and decision-making, ultimately affecting the day-to-day lives of educators.

Senate Education Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), who took leadership of the committee in 2009, plans to retire at the end of this year, leaving a vacancy in one of the most powerful education positions in the nation. Harkin—a 40-year veteran in Congress—has served as a champion for students with disabilities, advocating for more special education funding and early intervention. He lists investing in early education and providing more healthy school meals as priorities for his remaining time in office. Depending on the outcome of the 2014 elections, major education policies will be shepherded by either Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a former teacher who sees a significant role for the federal government in education policy, or ranking committee member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a former Secretary of Education who believes that education decisions are best when left to the local level, one of whom could be tapped as the committee’s next leader.

Meanwhile, due to retirements from the House education committee, several recently-opened seats have been filled. New committee members include newly elected Bradley Byrne (R-AL), who previously served on the Alabama State Board of Education; Mark Pocan (D-WI), a strong supporter of preK education; and Mark Takano (D-CA), a former high school teacher. Additionally, rural education advocate Dave Loebsack (D-IA) has been named the newest ranking member of the early education, elementary and secondary subcommittee. The top Democrat on the house education committee, George Miller (D-CA), will also retire at the end of this year, although his seat will not be filled until after the November election. Committee chairman John Kline (R-MN) has reached his term limit but could remain in his post if the House Republican Steering Committee grants a waiver.

Major legislation regarding the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, career and technical education, and higher education could be determined by the next Congress, influencing the groundwork of educators. Stay tuned as Capitol Connection follows the shifts in committee leadership and priorities.


By Howard Blume, LA Times |

L.A. Unified iPad distribution

Students at Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights use iPads provided by the school district. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / September 17, 2013)

April 25, 2014, 4:55 p.m.  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District will seek the approval of parents before sending iPads home with students, under an updated policy.

"That is a wonderful development," said school board member Monica Ratliff. "Parents need to be clearly notified that the device is going home, and that it will go home only if they agree to it.”

Officials chose this approach in response to families who objected to earlier plans, which would have distributed tablets for home use among all students.

The new policy clears away one more uncertainty from a $1-billion-plus effort to provide a device to every student, teacher and campus administrator in the nation's second-largest school system.

For the moment, no devices are going home with students, but that is expected to change by the start of the next school year if parents sign consent forms.

Last fall, students at some schools briefly took iPads off campus, but administrators called them back after some students deleted security filters so they could surf the Internet freely. The devices were stored at some campuses; at others, students used them only during the school day. Forty-seven schools took part in the initial rollout of the iPad project.

Officials said this week that new security measures will prevent unfiltered browsing.

Parents also have expressed other concerns. Some said they do not want to be responsible for the expensive tablets, which cost more than $750 apiece. The district says it does not intend to make families financially liable unless the computers are handled irresponsibly.

Parents also said they feared their children would be targets for assaults if the devices were in their backpacks on the way to and from school.

Officials countered that the iPads would have no value for thieves. The district can permanently disable any lost device, technical specialist Marlon Shears told the district technology committee Thursday.

L.A. Unified is looking at ways to publicize the message that thieves might as well leave students alone. At the meeting, the district showed off a sample public-service video that could air on local television and the district website. School police also have told local pawnbrokers that the tablets have no commercial value.

Ratliff chairs the technology panel, which was scheduled to shut down earlier this year. Ratliff said she intends to hold one more meeting because she is still waiting for answers to some of her questions about the project.


By Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily News |

4/25/14, 1:08 PM PDT  ::  A pilot program in which the city would join with the Los Angeles Unified School District to coordinate delivery of services to the parents of students was approved Friday by the Los Angeles City Council.

This summer, four schools in the district will implement the program, called Optimizing Access to Service Integrating Success (OASIS), but plans are to incorporate others after any initial kinks are worked out, said Superintendent John Deasy. The council voted 12-0 to back the program.

“We will expand it as quickly as we can because we recognize the need in the city,” Deasy said.

Venice High School, Fremont High School, Audubon Middle School and Utah Street Elementary — some of the neediest in the district in terms of students eligible for federal poverty programs — are the first schools to benefit.

Deasy said the program, which makes the schools potentially a hub of community services — everything from job training and budget planning to access to technology and health care providers — will help the district address the needs of students and their families by coordinating what is available from the city and county.

“We simply need to do whatever it takes to close the education, opportunity and achievement gap,” Deasy said. “OASIS looks at what happens to our youth when they leave in the afternoon.”

The program was developed by SEIU Local 99, which represents the classified workers of the school district and is considered a strong political force in the district. These are the workers outside the classroom — custodians, cafeteria workers, schoolbus drivers and security guards.

“Your vote of approval will help build a partnership with the city that will transform schools at the centers of support for our families,” said Courtney Pew, executive director of the union.

“We recognize that students are often overwhelmed by issues of poverty, hunger and illness at the home. At the end of the school day, they go home, and no parents are there because they are working two and three jobs to make ends meet.”

On the city end, the departments of Economic and Workforce Development, Recreation and Parks, Housing and Library will be asked to report back on what specific services are needed.

Deasy said officials believe parents will be more agreeable to visiting a school campus than they would a government agency to seek assistance.

City Council members embraced the proposal.

“The only request I have is that you come out to the San Fernando Valley district I represent where some of the neediest communities exist,” said Councilwoman Nury Martinez. “Panorama City, the North Valley, Sun Valley. We need to make sure our resources are spent in the neediest communities in the city.”

Councilman Felipe Fuentes said he also wanted the district to look at how other programs can be included, such as street and sidewalk repair, so nothing impedes the students’ trip to school.


By Lisa Leff, The Associated Press from the San Bernardino County Sun |

4/27/14, 12:01 PM PDT  ::  SAN FRANCISCO >> The high school graduation rate in the United States will not increase as quickly as experts think it can without more improvement in California, which educates one-fifth of the nation’s low-income school children and more Hispanic students than any other state, a report set to be released Monday concludes.

The “Building a Grad Nation” report (follows on 4LAKidsNews) , produced by a coalition of advocacy groups and researchers at Johns Hopkins University, credits the nation’s most populous and diverse state with developing effective strategies that helped push its 2012 graduation rate to 79 percent, an increase of five percentage points from two years earlier and one point below the national average.

“California has been making progress, notwithstanding huge demographic changes and budget challenges,” said the report’s authors, who foresee 90 percent of the nation’s high school students earning diplomas in 2020, if recent trends hold. “Educators have learned how to address the needs of students from non-English speaking backgrounds; districts have embarked on major reform efforts (and) large investments were made in out-of-school-time learning.”

The gains from 2010 to 2012, the most recent year for which statistics were available, were seen across economic and racial groups, with the graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged high school seniors also increasing five percentage points, from 68 percent to 73 percent. During the same two-year period, the growth was six percentage points for Hispanic and African-American students, who graduated at a rate of 74 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Among the factors contributing to the positive trend are the state’s $550 million annual investment in after-school and summer classes for students in kindergarten through ninth grade, outreach and support programs geared at parents who do not speak English and the creation within high schools of smaller programs that combine a career theme with academics.

“This is really something most educators buy into, the need to graduate from high school,” Russell Rumberger, director of the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara. “I think they have realized it’s no more work to them other than to pay a little more attention to kids.”

But Rumberger, who has reviewed the report and contributed information to it, cautioned against painting too rosy a picture. He noted that the four-year graduation rate in 2012 was 62 percent for California’s English language learners, who make up 29 percent of the state’s K-12 student population.

“There is movement in it. It has gone up more compared to for the state as a whole. But that still means one out of every three English learners is dropping out of high school, so that’s nothing to brag about,” he said.

The California Department of Education could show it was serious about boosting the four-year graduation rate by including the information in a school-by-school accountability program, Rumberger said.

“I don’t personally think the state is doing as much as it could or should, and I don’t think the federal government is either,” he said.

Joanna Fox, a senior policy analyst at Johns Hopkins who wrote the part of the report on California, said she is hopeful the state’s new school funding system, which directs money to schools based on how many students they have from low-income families, learning English or living in foster care, will help keep the national momentum going.

“I think California can drive it, to be honest, because of the size of your student population,” Fox said.

The report was a collaboration of the America’s Promise Alliance, a coalition of groups focused on helping disadvantaged young people that was founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell; the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins; the Alliance for Excellent Education; and the public policy firm Civic Enterprises. It is scheduled to be presented Monday in Washington at the Building a GradNation Summit.

  • California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson also is scheduled to release high school completion data for the class of 2013 on Monday. (follows report below)


CDE PRESS RELEASE | Grad Rate Tops 80% - Year 2014 (CA Dept of Education)

California Department of Education News Release

Release: #14-42
April 28, 2014

Contact: Tina Jung
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces High School Graduation Rate Tops 80 Percent

LOS ANGELES—For the fourth year in a row, California's graduation rate climbed as the dropout rate fell, particularly for students of color, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

More than eight out of 10 students statewide, or 80.2 percent, who started high school in 2009-10 graduated with their class in 2013. That is up 1.3 percentage points from the year before (Table 1). Graduation rates among African-American and Hispanic students climbed faster than the statewide average, although the rates remained lower overall. Among African-American students, 67.9 percent graduated with their class in 2013, up 1.9 percentage points from the year before. Among Hispanic students, 75.4 percent graduated with their class, up 1.7 percentage points from the year before (Tables 2 and 3).

"For the first time in our state's history, more than 80 percent of our students are graduating—a clear sign of their hard work and the support they receive from their teachers, families, and communities," Torlakson said. "We are continuing toward our goal of graduating 100 percent of our students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed."

Along with the rise in the graduation rate, there was a dip in the dropout rate. Of the students who started high school in 2009-10, 11.6 percent dropped out. That is down 1.5 percentage points from the 2011-12 dropout rate (Table 1). Again, the decline in dropout rates among African-American and Hispanic students compared favorably to the statewide rates. Among African-American students, 19.9 percent dropped out, down 2.2 percentage points from the year before. Among Hispanic students, 14.1 percent dropped out, down 2 percentage points from the year before (Tables 2 and 3).

Another 8.2 percent of students in the total cohort are neither graduates nor dropouts. That group is up 0.1 of a percentage point from 2011-12 (Table 1). A cohort refers to a particular group of students tracked over a given time period. These students either are non-diploma special education students (0.5 percent), other students who elected to take and then passed a high school equivalency test (in this instance, the General Educational Development [GED] Test) (0.2 percent), or still enrolled in school (7.5 percent).

Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort information using the state's California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This is the fourth time this four-year cohort information was calculated, meaning data may only be compared accurately over the four-year period from 2009-10 to 2012-13. Prior to 2009-10, graduation and dropout rates used different calculation systems and cannot be accurately compared to the cohort rates.

Cohort graduation rates are used to determine whether schools met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal accountability system. The cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students grades nine through twelve, although some students drop out as early as middle school.

To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, visit the California Department of Education's DataQuest. Downloadable data sheets are available on the Cohort Outcome Data Web page. Caution is urged when comparing graduation or dropout rates across individual schools and districts. For example, some county office schools, alternative schools, or dropout recovery high schools serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools. Therefore, these individual schools and districts cannot be directly compared.

Attachments: Tables 1–3

# # # #

Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100


By John Fensterwald | EdSource Today

April 27th, 2014  ::   To even out the boom-and-bust revenue cycles that can particularly destabilize education funding, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing a separate reserve for K-12 schools and community colleges in his revised plan for a rainy day fund.

But that lock box for education would gather dust most years because of the tight restrictions that Brown is proposing, according to analysts who have looked at the proposal. It would likely be the end of the decade before one of the preconditions for making an initial deposit is met, and even then, the rules for diverting money from Proposition 98, the main source of funding for schools, would be restrictive.

Funding for K-12 schools and community colleges under Proposition 98 fell from $56.6 billion in 2007-08 to $47.2 billion in 2011-12. Gov. Brown says socking away some of the money from capital gains tax receipts in fat years would even out peaks and valleys in the future. Source: Summary of  Governor's 2014-15 Budget.

<< Funding for K-12 schools and community colleges under Proposition 98 fell from $56.6 billion in 2007-08 to $47.2 billion in 2011-12. Gov. Brown says socking away some of the money from capital gains tax receipts in fat years would even out peaks and valleys in the future. Source: Summary of Governor’s 2014-15 Budget.

Had Brown’s plan for a reserve been in effect since Prop. 98 was adopted 25 years ago, it could have been activated only once, in 2012-13. There would have been no money put into a reserve in the years leading up to the Great Recession, when Prop. 98 funding fell from $56.6 billion in 2007-08 to $47.2 billion in 2011-12.(The rules for filling Brown’s proposed separate General Fund rainy day reserve would not be as tight, and the Legislature could tap it to help stabilize Prop. 98 funding in a recession, budget analysts said.)

But the Brown administration points to a more recent trend to justify why a separate education reserve will be both relevant and important. Revenues from the state’s progressive income tax have become less predictable and more unstable amid rising income disparities. At the same time, the state has relied increasingly on capital gains tax receipts. Just as climate scientists are predicting cycles of more frequent, devastating hurricanes from global warming, the Department of Finance is warning that a heavier reliance on capital gains taxes could lead to bigger gyrations in state revenues and less certainty in budgeting.

Brown wrote in his January budget summary that instability is the downside of relying on taxes from the wealthiest residents. But he then noted, “Instead of shifting the overall tax burden to be less progressive, a preferred option is to better manage the revenue spikes.” He believes that a Prop. 98 reserve, even if not used often, will be part of the solution to moderate the impact on schools.

A new rainy day fund already on the ballot

With his latest proposal, Assembly Constitutional Amendment X-2 1 (ACA X-2 1), Brown wants the Legislature to amend a proposed rainy day fund on the November ballot. That measure, ACA 4, would strengthen a weak rainy day fund that voters approved in 2004. It’s far from certain that two-thirds of the Legislature, including a few Republicans, will agree to amend ACA 4 as Brown wants. But last week, lawmakers did agree to take up Brown’s request. The Assembly Budget Committee plans a hearing on it Monday.

The current rainy day fund requires that the Legislature set aside 3 percent of the General Fund annually until reaching $8 billion or 5 percent of the General Fund, whichever is greater. There’s no limit on how much the Legislature can take out of the rainy day fund, and the governor can suspend or reduce contributions. The state made contributions for two years, then used it up when the recession hit. Governors have suspended payments to it annually for the past seven years.

The graph shows the fluctuations in state capital gains tax revenue, as indicated by the percent above or below average annual receipts. The variations have become more pronounced in since 2000. Source: Overview of Governor's 2014-15 Budget.

The graph shows the fluctuations in state capital gains tax revenue, as indicated by the percent above or below average annual receipts. The variations have become more pronounced since 2000. Source: Summary of Governor’s 2014-15 Budget. >>

ACA 4 would increase the reserve to 10 percent of the General Fund and would allow no more than half of the fund to be depleted in any year. It also would allow using some of the payments to pay down infrastructure bonds.

Brown’s plan would make several significant changes to ACA 4. The most important would be using above-average receipts from the capital gains tax as the sole trigger for depositing money into both the general rainy day fund and the new Prop. 98 reserve. ACA 4 would determine contributions using a complex formula based on historical revenue trends.

Brown’s alternative would also allow money that would otherwise go into the reserve to be used to pay off liabilities that make up what Brown calls the state’s “wall of debt.” And it would require the governor to declare a fiscal emergency to dip into the reserve.

Details of Prop. 98 reserve

Brown mentioned in his January budget summary that he would propose a separate reserve for Prop. 98 funding, but he hasn’t disclosed details until now. Comparable to the General Fund reserve, the maximum size of the Prop. 98 reserve would be 10 percent of Prop. 98 funding or, if it were in effect, about $6 billion as of next year.

Deposits would be made into both the General Fund and Prop. 98 reserves when revenues from capital gains taxes exceed 6.5 percent of the total General Fund – which is a little less than the historical average, according to an analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. In 2014-15, the year before the rainy day fund would take effect, the Department of Finance is predicting that capital gains tax revenues will mushroom to 9.9 percent of the General Fund – producing about $3.5 billion that potentially could be split between the two reserves.

But Brown is proposing additional restrictions to the Prop. 98 reserve that would delay implementation and make it rarely used. Money could be placed in it only if:

  • Past shortages in Prop. 98 funding have been paid off. This funding IOU is called the Prop. 98 maintenance factor; it accumulates whenever a year-to-year funding increase does not cover the growth in student enrollment and the growth in per capita state income. The maintenance factor is currently $7 billion, and the Legislative Analyst is predicting that it won’t be paid off until after 2019-20. This restriction acknowledges that school districts are still struggling to get back to pre-recession funding levels and should be made whole before the state puts any money aside in a K-12 reserve. However, repayment of future Prop. 98 IOUs would not be a prerequisite for money to be deposited in the Prop. 98 reserve. That’s a concern of school districts as they consider the long-term impact of the proposal.
  • There’s sufficient funding to meet that year’s full Prop. 98 obligation, including mandated cost increases.
  • The Legislature has not suspended its requirement to fund the Prop. 98 obligation that year, which it has the authority to do with a two-thirds vote.
  • Proposition 98 funding is in what is called a “Test 1 year.” This is the big catch, because it has happened only twice between 1990-91 and 2013-14. Under Test 1, which occurs when state revenues plummet or surge, K-12 schools and community colleges are guaranteed about 40 percent of the state General Fund. Money would not be deposited in the Prop. 98 reserve in a Test 1 year when revenues fall; that happened in 2011-12. But theoretically there would have been a deposit in 2012-13, when Prop. 98 revenues soared following the passage of temporary increases in the sales and income taxes under Proposition 30. Creating a reserve would not change the rules for determining the annual Prop. 98 obligation; it would affect when schools get some of the money.

Brown is projecting that a surge in capital gains taxes will push Prop. 98 into Test 1 again in 2014-15, and the Department of Finance believes Test 1 will be more prevalent in the future. That’s why the governor wants to set in place a Prop. 98 reserve, tied to capital gains tax receipts and linked to Test 1 years.

“You would expect, with a more progressive state tax structure and the continued growth in the share of income going to the top of the income scale, we would continue to hit Test 1 in the future,” H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance, wrote in an email.

Education groups have reacted coolly to a separate reserve for Prop. 98 while praising the governor’s intent to stabilize the state’s finances.

Naj Alikhan, spokesman for the Association of California School Administrators, agreed that a rainy day fund is good for state-level appropriations but said that “districts already are required to keep a reserve and so we are not sure why two are necessary.” He added, “We believe (the proposed reserve) erodes the integrity of Prop. 98. This reserve would either act like a deferral or a suspension of Prop 98.”

Vernon Billy, executive director of the California School Boards Association, said the concept of Brown’s plan makes sense long term but that a Prop. 98 reserve would “send a confusing message to the public.” At the same time that education advocates are saying that schools are underfunded in California, hundreds of millions of dollars that districts urgently need would be put aside.

Billy also said that Brown has already demonstrated that governors can manage finances efficiently in high-revenue years without making long-term spending commitments or putting money into reserves. He did this with one-time appropriations in the current year: $1.25 billion for implementing the Common Core state standards and $250 million for creating career education partnerships.

Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff for Assembly Speaker John Pérez, agreed with Billy, saying “I’m not sure if the case has been made that we need it.” Proposition 98 was established to guarantee a minimum level of funding each year for schools, not a maximum. Diverting money into a reserve in good years implies that Prop. 98 funding is sufficient, “that it is not a floor but a ceiling,” Simpson said. “In several years, when temporary taxes expire and revenues begin to tail off, the voters could look at money in a reserve and conclude, ‘Why do you need more money if you already have more dough?’”

Edgar Cabral, principal fiscal and policy analyst for the Legislative Analyst’s Office, said the office has concerns with the mechanics of the rainy day proposal, which, he said, would add a new set of formulas to an already complicated financing system. He said it is especially risky to predict capital gains taxes, based on projected stock market returns, a year ahead. The actual capital gains tax receipts won’t be determined until more than a year later, requiring “settle-up” calculations after the state budget has already been spent. Since Brown is proposing restrictions that would limit the utility of a Prop. 98 reserve, he asked, “Is it worth the benefit for a lot more complexity?”

  • John Fensterwald covers education policy.


ELECTIONS 2014: In the race to replace the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte in District 1, he stands out as the kind of person the district needs right now.

by Times Editorial Board |

George McKenna

George McKenna (Handout / April 28, 2014)

April 28, 2014  ::  The seven candidates for the District 1 seat on the Los Angeles Unified School Board include several teachers, a reality-show contestant and a former member of the board. The one who stands out, though, is former principal and district administrator George McKenna.

In 1985, years before "school reform" became a buzz phrase, McKenna was profiled in People magazine for refusing to accept the high truancy, campus crime and terrible academic performance at George Washington Preparatory High School in Westmont, where he was principal. He enlisted help to clean up the rundown, low-performing school physically, socially and academically. Students signed behavior contracts, teachers were required to submit lesson plans and assign daily homework, and truancy plummeted. A year later, his efforts became the subject of a made-for-TV movie.

Though there are several qualified candidates on the ballot to replace longtime board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December, McKenna strikes us as the one who would put the needs of District 1's largely low-income and minority students above any particular ideology or political alliance. The victor in this election will serve out the last year of LaMotte's term, which ends in mid-2015.

What the board needs most is a sensible and thoughtful new member, neither reflexively pro-union nor a blow-up-the-system reformer. Most candidates lean one way or the other; what's most important is their ability to substantiate their opinions with facts, to consider the nuances of contentious issues and to exercise common sense. L.A. Unified's students would not be well served by a new board member who wants to fire Supt. John Deasy or remove him as soon as his contract is up. Though the superintendent's impatience sometimes translates as imprudence — the billion-dollar iPad purchase is proof enough of that — he has been a strong positive force for the district overall.

Another consideration for this particular election: The current board is too often combative, politicized and gridlocked. It would work more effectively with the addition of a consensus seeker. In other words, McKenna.

The race includes several qualified candidates, two of whom have raised more money than McKenna. Former board member Genethia Hudley-Hayes, who is endorsed by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has a number of good ideas for getting beyond the same old arguments over whether low academic performance is the fault of teachers or parents or poverty. But her style and angry attitude toward the school board come off as too rancorous and not what's needed now. Serious questions also have been raised about whether Hudley-Hayes padded her resume, and she has not adequately answered them. Alex Johnson, education aide to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, is a smart and engaging candidate but one who has not given adequate thought to what he can contribute to the board and how. He talks about the board being stuck — which is true enough — and says he would move it forward. But when asked how he would do this, he gave two examples of how he would have voted differently from LaMotte. In neither example had the board been stuck, and in neither case would his vote have changed the outcome.

One of McKenna's primary goals is to foster increased collaboration on the board, and with his thoughtful demeanor and the wide respect he commands as a longtime community and educational leader, he can accomplish that. His focus on reducing dropout rates is welcome, as is the priority he places on making sure that more vocational courses are made available to students. His stances on divisive topics are well reasoned; he's an independent thinker who doesn't reach for the simplistic soundbite. He knows, for example, that the existing teacher tenure laws make it too hard to fire truly bad teachers; he also thinks, and we agree, that the lawsuit to have tenure laws declared unconstitutional is an overreach. He would fight to ensure that new state money intended for low-income students actually reaches them.

Each candidate in this race has certain strengths, but McKenna's are the best fit for what Los Angeles Unified needs right now.


By Teresa Watanabe, LA Times |

School standards survey

Californians support new national learning standards known as Common Core, a new survey found. In Santiago Elementary School in Santa Ana, teachers are already using the new standards to emphasize critical thinking and prepare students for more complex tests. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times / April23, 2014)

April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.  ::  In a broad consensus across racial, political and economic lines, most Californians support two historic changes in how academic subjects are taught and state dollars are allocated to schools, according to a statewide survey released Wednesday.

More than two-thirds of Californians surveyed support new national learning standards known as Common Core, which are currently being rolled out to better prepare students for college and careers with a deeper focus on critical thinking over rote memorization. California’s support is in marked contrast to growing resistance to the standards in New York, Indiana, Oklahoma and several other states.

And 70% of Californians back a new education finance system that gives more money to school districts for students who are low-income, learning English or in foster care. The new funding system is supported across all income levels and by 77% of Democrats, 65% of independents and 60% of Republicans, according to the survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“Generally, Californians are very supportive of these historic and dramatic changes,” said Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president. “There is so much pent up dissatisfaction with the status quo that they’re hoping these changes will maybe lead to a breakthrough.”

Reflecting wide agreement about the value of early childhood education, nearly three-fourths of those surveyed backed state funding for voluntary preschool for all 4-year-olds. Strong majorities across political parties, regions and demographic groups said preschool was important to a child’s later academic success.

And while 52% of Californians gave A's and Bs to their local schools, 81% said the quality of education statewide remained a problem. Only 35% gave high marks to schools for preparing students for both college and a career.

About half of those surveyed and 62% of public school parents said more school funding was needed, even after voters approved a temporary tax hike in 2012 to raise $6 billion annually for education.

In other findings, 56% of likely voters generally approved of Gov. Jerry Brown. But only one-third approved of his handling of the public school system. The Legislature’s job rating was just 29%.

The survey of 1,702 California adult residents was conducted between April 8 and April 15. The margin of error was 3.8%.

California’s broad support for new national standards crossed all income levels, although 73% of those earning less than $40,000 annually backed them compared with 68% of those earning more than $80,000. In other states, however, they have faced opposition from such critics as teacher unions and tea party conservatives. In Indiana, for instance, Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation last month that reversed the state’s adoption of the Common Core standards and instructed that they be rewritten locally.

Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Assn., said Californians were more supportive of the standards than elsewhere because the state has been more “thoughtful and deliberative”  in rolling them out. Among other things, he said, the state is taking several years to develop and refine student tests linked to the new standards and will not use the results to evaluate school and staff performance until 2017-18.

In addition, state lawmakers have approved $1.25 billion for teacher training, computers and other needed items to properly implement Common Core.

“All of this differentiates California from every other state,” Vogel said. “We are doing it the right way.”

He said 70% of his union members surveyed support Common Core but with “reservations.” Teachers are excited by the mandate to teach fewer standards at a deeper level rather than “drill and kill” test prep. But they want to be involved in developing the curriculum rather than having it imposed by outside consultants or district officials, he said.

The survey found stronger support for the standards among Asian Americans (88%), Latinos (77%) and African Americans (71%) than whites (57%). Baldassare said he was unclear on the reason.

About two-thirds of those surveyed said they were at least somewhat confident that the standards will help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education
Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Sonja Petek, and Jui Shrestha
April 2014

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Education

Sunday, April 27, 2014


#9 Winddowphoto 4LAKids’ Scott Folsom interviewed by KPFK host John Cromshow for a special report on Teacher Jail for “Politics or Pedagogy”, analysis of education, policy and practice affecting our public schools.


Note: This interview was recorded on Thursday, April 24th before Greg Schiller was released – and was broadcast Saturday, April 26, 2014  at 10:57 am


#9 Winddowphoto Interview with teacher Greg Schiller by John & Ken, KFI Talk Radio hosts on Friday April 25th, after his first day back to school from Deasy Jail.

CLICK HERE  -  listen from 1:35-10:05


photo from Getty Images by Sal Loeb

2cents small I wonder we could get a grant from the National Rifle Association …or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Foundation – to mount one of these puppies in the balcony of the Beaudry Boardroom?

Friday, April 25, 2014


Two candidates file to seek Galatzan school board seat

by Michael Janofsky, L.A.  School Report |

Posted on April 24, 2014 11:30 am Whether LA Unified board member Tamar Galatzan runs for reelection or not, voters in her District 3 will have two other candidates to consider in the 2015 board election.

Carl Petersen, Director of Logistics for a Glendale manufacturing company, and Elizabeth Badger, owner of an auto repair company in Canoga Park, have filed to run, according to the LA City Ethics Commission.

Galatzan, who is also an assistant city attorney, has not yet filed with the commission to run for reelection.

Carl Petersen LAUSD

Carl Petersen

Elizabeth Badger

Elizabeth Badger

Petersen’s candidacy represents his first run for public office.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a year,” he said in an interview, explaining that his prime motivation was encountering obstacles in his quest for help for two of his daughters with autism.

“It’s such a bureaucratic process with all the hoops they make you jump through,” he said. “There’s a feeling throughout the district that the board doesn’t listen to parents. You see it in Breakfast in the Classroom, the iPads. They have a deaf ear to parents. Parents are speaking, but the board doesn’t listen.”

Petersen, 46, said his interest in running was not necessarily in protest of Galatzan. Not initially, anyway.

“At first it was more general,” he said. “But then, I attended one of her community meetings about the budget. After listening to her, I was not impressed.”

Badger, 55, is no stranger to local politics. In April 2013, she finished fourth in a field of six for a City Council seat, winning 9.3 percent of the vote. Five months later, she placed seventh in a field of 11 in a special election for a California assembly seat, with 2.8 percent of the vote.

Her decision to run for the school board was based on experiences similar to Petersen’s.

As the mother of children with special needs, she said she grew angry and frustrated over efforts to get them support they needed in school.

“I refused to give up,” she told LA School Report, recalling months of grappling with school officials. She finally prevailed, she said, and that inspired her to seek the board seat.

“Children need an advocate, who understands them, who will fight the system for them, who will stand up to the status quo,” she said. “That’s me.”

She also said her initial motivation was not dissatisfaction with Galatzan. Rather, she said, it was an encounter with Galatzan in January when she asked if she intended to run again.

“She just told me she was thinking about it,” Badger said. “Filing for the seat started in the Fall. So it was clear to me she’s not running.”

Both candidates said they are supportive of UTLA, the teachers union, but not without limits. Petersen said he favors teacher evaluations but not solely based on standardized testing. Badger said she’s open to all approaches to education, even charters, if it helps children learn.

“I’d like to work with the union to fix problems,” Petersen said. “But blind loyalty? I wouldn’t say that. Depends on the issue; I like to look at both sides.”

Badger said, “The unions have done great work, but some of it has gone too far, especially UTLA. I’m not afraid to stand up to them. I’d love their support, but if I don’t get it, that’s fine.”

Board District 3 is now the third of LA Unified’s four districts to have a contested election next year.

In District 1, the seat held for a decade by the late Marguerite LaMotte, three people have entered the race Daymond Johnson, Erick Morales and Rodney Robinson, [smf: for the June 2015 election – there are 6 candidates for the special election this year to complete the term.] and in District 5, now represented by Bennett Kayser, SEIU Local 99 President Barbara Torres has filed to run.

Only in District 7, represented by the board’s current president, Richard Vladovic, has no challenger emerged.


JUST IN: Board Member Galatzan announces bid for third term

by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report |

Posted on April 24, 2014 4:30 pm ::  LA Unified school board member Tamar Galatzan, a strong supporter of Superintendent John Deasy and his efforts to reform public education, said today she plans to run for another term next year.

“I plan to seek a third term in order to continue the work I’ve been doing since voters in Board District 3 first chose me to represent them in 2007,” she said in a statement.

 Tamar Galatzan LAUSD School Board Member

“As the only board member with kids in Los Angeles Unified, I want to build on my efforts to guarantee that all district students have access to effective teachers, safe campuses, cutting-edge technology and the other resources they need to thrive academically,” she added. “I also remain committed to increasing transparency and accountability in the nation’s second-largest school district.”

Representing a Valley district that has experienced an explosion of affiliated charter schools since she was first elected, Galatzan says she has “worked tirelessly” on behalf of students in the West San Fernando Valley.

Tamar Galatzan LA Unified School Board Member>>

Among her board achievements, she cites funding shade structures and air-conditioning projects for campuses in the some of the hottest areas of the Valley, equipping other schools with devices for their computer labs and holding community meetings on critical topics like the Common Core State Standards, school funding and teacher evaluations.

Her announcement means that District 3 will have at least three candidates running. Two others, Carl Petersen and Elizabeth Badger, have filed with the LA City Ethics Commission to oppose her.

In addition to serving on the LA Unified board, Galatzan, 44, is a prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office