Friday, May 30, 2014


School board member Galatzan defends her move to oust a critic of the iPad program

by Howard Blume, LA Times |

May 29, 2014 7:08 PM  ::  The committee that oversees school bond spending in Los Angeles has called for the reinstatement of iPad project critic Stuart Magruder.

Magruder surrendered his seat last week after the L.A. Board of Education refused to reappoint him to a second two-year term.

The committee met Thursday -- without Magruder -- and unanimously approved a letter objecting to his exclusion.

Stuart Magruder

<<Stuart Magruder had to leave a committee overseeing school bond spending after the L.A. Board of Education refused to reappoint him. (Los Angeles Unified)

“Independence of the Bond Oversight Committee is vital to its proper function," the letter said. "Disagreement with the comments, questions, and votes of a duly appointed member of the BOC is not a valid justification for the Board to refuse to reappoint that member.”

Magruder remains the nominee of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, one of several groups allowed to select a member for the panel. The school board, which can select two parent members, is required to approve the choice of each outside group. But there is disagreement over whether it has the authority to reject a nominee.

The 15-member oversight body reviews the spending of money from voter-approved school bonds. Its votes are not binding on the Board of Education. L.A. Unified plans to spend more than $1 billion in bond funds to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator.

Magruder's reappointment was blocked at the urging of school board member Tamar Galatzan, who said he overstepped the proper role of a committee member by intruding into instructional decisions.

She added that she did not object to criticism from Magruder or anyone else.

“I know a couple of members who object to purchasing technology,” Galatzan said. “I will renominate them. I respect that position completely.”

Galatzan said that for several years she has urged the panel to provide more oversight on construction projects. The panel, she said, was too willing to rubberstamp unnecessary or overly expensive projects, especially when there was political pressure to do so.

On the iPad and other technology purchases, however, she said members of the panel, especially Magruder, had gone to the other extreme. She said they were attempting, improperly, to set district policy. Galatzan faulted Magruder and others for second-guessing technology purchases that educators at schools wanted to make.

Galatzan also stood by her criticism of Magruder for allegedly insisting on architecture services as a condition for every project that he would approve.

Magruder has denied that allegation, and other members of the panel defended his integrity. He had been selected for the group's smaller executive committee.

On Thursday, committee counsel Joseph Buchman said that the school board agreed in 2002 not to interfere with nominees from outside groups. Updates to that deal have not changed those provisions, he said.

Galatzan noted that she wasn’t on the board in 2002 so she could not speak to the original intent of the pact. She insists that the wording does not prevent the school board from turning down a nominee. District general counsel David Holmquist has supported her position.

Panel member Quynh Nguyen said that she’s had some strong disagreements with Magruder, but “my respect [for him] has done nothing but grow.”

She added: “In the long run it is not in [the board’s] best interests to meddle in the appointments…if we ever want to pass school bonds again.”

BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE TO BOARD OF ED: REAPPOINT MAGRUDER - “Independence of the Bond Oversight Committee is vital to its proper function”

On a day when a delegation from LAUSD, including Superintendent Deasy and Board of Ed Vice President Steve Zimmer, were in New York City meeting with Wall Street investment bankers to discuss bond ratings -  testing the market and paving the way  for future school construction bond sales - the rift between the Board of Ed and the Bond Oversight Committee became more apparent.



Thursday, May 29, 2014


By John Fensterwald | EdSource Today

The proposed $9 billion bond measure would include $6 billion for K-12 districts to renovate and build new school facilities. Source: Flickr

The proposed $9 billion bond measure would include $6 billion for K-12 districts to renovate and build new school facilities. Source: Flickr

May 28th, 2014 ::  The Assembly Appropriations Committee has finally put a dollar figure to a school construction bond measure that it wants to place on the November ballot: $9 billion.

Voter approval to issue new 30-year construction bonds would be the first state financing for facilities for K-12 schools and higher education since voters passed a $10.4 billion school construction in 2006. Of the proposed $9 billion, $6 billion would go for K-12 facilities modernization (split $3.25 billion for modernization, $2.25 billion for new construction and $500 million for charter school facilities); $2 billion for community college facilities and $500 million each for the University of California and California State University. According to an analysis by the Appropriations Committee, the bond would meet a small piece of the tens of billions in new or renovated building needs that K-12 districts and higher education systems say they need.

Last Friday, with a 16-0 vote (with Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, R-Hisperia abstaining), the committee passed Assembly Bill 2235, co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, and Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills. Since 1998, state voters have approved $35 billion for school construction that has cost the state $2.4 billion in annual debt service, according to the Department of Finance. However, funds in the School Facility Program, which regulates how funds are distributed, are now depleted.

As with past bond measures, school districts would have to pony up their own money to get state funding. For upgrading buildings, districts must contribute 40 percent of the cost. For new construction, it’s a 50-50 split with the state.

There is no statewide inventory of school districts’ facilities, but Buchanan estimates that the proposed bond measure would take care of districts’ needs for about five years. Some of the money would help clear out the backlog of districts that have passed local bonds with the expectation of matching money. “I get calls constantly from districts that say they would have to cut back on projects they need” without state funding, she said. “There are 50-year-old schools in need of repair and schools without technology. The job is not done yet.”

With bipartisan support in the Assembly and a coalition of the building trades unions, the construction industry and business and education groups behind a new school bond, Buchanan is confident of getting a two-thirds majority approval in the Legislature to put the measure on the ballot.

Winning Gov. Jerry Brown’s backing, however, could prove harder. In the state budget he proposed in January,  Brown dedicated $188 million of one-time money to reimburse districts for emergency repairs. At the same time, he criticized the current system of funding K-12 construction and indicated he was re-evaluating schools facilities funding, “including consideration of what role, if any, the state should play in the future of school facilities funding” (see page 7 of K-12 budget summary). He said the current system of facilities approval is too complex and does not allow districts enough flexibility for non-standard building and classroom designs. He questioned the first-come, first-served system of funding, saying it favors large districts. And he said the current system may encourage districts to overstate their space needs.

Buchanan said that she has met with Department of Finance officials and is open to clarifying the bill to address issues that Brown raised. The governor hasn’t indicated whether he would support a bond of any size this year, she said.

Buchanan said her bill does deal with several issues the governor raised. Districts would have to re-establish their eligibility by recalculating their building needs, using updated attendance projections and accounting for all new construction and renovations since the last state bond measure. And she said the bill would require that the Office of School Construction recommend regulations providing school districts with flexibility in designing facilities.

AB 2235 does not propose giving funding priority to school districts with large numbers of high-needs students. However, it does allow for full state funding of facilities in financially stressed districts that lack the capacity to take on additional debt.

Going deeper


Mary Plummer | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC

Mary Plummer/KPCC | School board members Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff during an April 29, 2014 school board committee meeting.

May 28th, 2014, 3:58pm  ::  Los Angeles Unified School board members on Tuesday repeatedly called for more information on how administrators are providing arts education, saying they've been largely shut out for months.

"This is a point of ongoing concern and frustration," board member Steve Zimmer said during a curriculum committee meeting in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday. "We remain right where we were almost a year ago now."

Board member Monica Ratliff, who heads the committee, said she won't vote on Superintendent John Deasy's proposed 2014-15 budget until administrators provide a detailed budget showing how they'll expanded access to the arts.

A detailed budget was initially due when the district's new arts plan was released last summer, to show how administrators would meet an October 2012 school board decision to make the arts a core subject and drastically increase access.

In February, district officials presented a budget outline that would increase funding by nearly $16 million in the next three years — but most of new funds were budgeted for "arts integration" for classroom teachers. It didn't address how the district would expand arts classes.

Ratliff requested an expanded budget again during an April 29 committee meeting. It was due Tuesday. School administrators failed to deliver it.

"I was disappointed," Ratliff said.

None of the district's arts education staff spoke during the public meeting. Gerardo Loera, executive director of the school system's office of curriculum and instruction, responded to board members' questions.

Some of those questions involved the elementary school orchestra program. Back and forth changes over the past few months have created lots of confusion at schools.

Some that have had a successful orchestra program for many years reported losing it for the upcoming school year because the new form the district required them to fill out didn't make it clear the central office would pay for the classes.

Administrators handed out a list of 165 elementary schools scheduled to get instrumental music classes next year. (Check list below to see if your school is included).

But Loera said he didn't know whether schools that want orchestra and aren't on the list might still be able to get it.

"That's something we can definitely research and get back to you," he said.

Ratliff also asked Loera to dig up a staffing list for the arts branch, a breakdown of which schools are paying for their own arts teachers, which get them from the district — and which get none at all.

Without those details, she said, the board can't make informed decisions on the Superintendent's budget proposals.

"This is not about an interest group," Zimmer told Loera as questions piled on, "this is about equitable access to arts education for our kids."

He asked Loera take a message to the administration: the board needs more transparency from administrators so it can craft policies that provide arts access to students who need it the most.


Staying power of LAUSD Supt. John Deasy's policies could be affected by who wins seat on Board of Education

by Howard Blume, LA Times |

May 28, 2014 |  9:59 PM  ::  The Los Angeles teachers union and a powerful group of civic leaders are sitting out Tuesday's key race for a seat on the Board of Education in what has become a spirited, wide-open contest among seven candidates.

The special election is being called to fill the remainder of the term of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. She represented 74,000-plus students in 92 schools and 37 charter campuses across a swath of south and southwest Los Angeles.

LaMotte could be a searing critic of schools Supt. John Deasy. Yet she rarely mustered the votes to thwart his actions, such as using test scores for part of a teacher's evaluation or replacing instructors at a persistently low-performing campus.

I think everyone is waiting to see what happens and to pick their sides in the next round.- Eric Hacopian, political consultant

The staying power of Deasy's policies — and possibly his job security — could be affected by who wins the seat on the seven-member board.

Filling that spot with a union ally would appear to be a major priority for United Teachers Los Angeles, which has agitated against Deasy and has been a consistent major funder of candidates.

Conversely, bolstering Deasy would seem mandatory for the other side, a political action committee called the Coalition for School Reform. It has included members of the local civic and business elite as well as philanthropists and outside groups.

"I think everyone is waiting to see what happens and to pick their sides in the next round," said political consultant Eric Hacopian, who is not affiliated with any of the campaigns. "They weren't confident about the candidates. There are too many questions about who is on what side and they decided to punt."

The coalition, which included former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, amassed unlimited contributions from relatively few big-name donors in the 2013 elections. This time, supporters are giving directly to candidates and are limited to $1,100.

Such donors have generally split between candidates Genethia Hudley-Hayes and Alex Johnson, leaning somewhat toward Johnson, who has backed Deasy and the growth of independently managed, public charter schools.

Another factor is that the coalition hasn't always appealed to South L.A. voters. LaMotte, for example, effectively portrayed its funders as carpetbaggers and profiteers.

"Of all the board seats, this is the place where these guys carry the most baggage," Hacopian said. "It's not always helpful to be this group's candidate."

"Our first directive is: Do no harm," said one coalition insider, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak for the group.

The coalition's money has not guaranteed success. Last year, teacher Monica Ratliff, with little money and virtually no support from the union, defeated a lavishly funded coalition candidate.

Johnson hasn't needed the coalition, spending more than the other candidates combined — $296,881 through May 17, the most recent reporting date.

Johnson's war chest substantially reflects the support of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, for whom Johnson, 33, serves as senior education adviser. Ridley-Thomas, in essence, has filled the vacuum left by the union and the coalition.

Hudley-Hayes, 69, a board member from 1999 through 2003, has raised $105,090, including $37,000 in personal loans. She lost her reelection bid to LaMotte, who was backed by the teachers union.

Retired district administrator George McKenna, 72, also has raised an amount of money that makes him competitive, observers said.

He collected $122,533, including a $10,000 personal loan, relying on long-standing community ties. He has worked as a senior administrator in L.A., Inglewood, Compton and Pasadena.

The union disliked McKenna's involvement in overseeing the replacement of teachers at Fremont High; Deasy allies worry that he will challenge the superintendent's actions, as he has in the past.

If no one wins a majority in Tuesday's primary, the top two finishers will face off in August.

McKenna is considered a contender to get into a runoff. If he does, he could become the choice of either the union or the coalition. That's another reason, both sides said, to wait and see.

All the other candidates are short on cash. Substitute teacher and assistant pastor Omarosa Manigault, 40, had a varied career that included a run as a reality-TV personality.

The financially stressed union is looking ahead to a possible runoff and to four other school board elections within the next year. Those contests will decide four-year terms, whereas the special election winner serves only through June 2015.

The union opted to endorse three candidates with longtime union ties, but to provide only a $1,100 contribution to each.

They are: Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, 41, a Dorsey High physical education teacher, who is close to the union's incoming leadership; Rachel Johnson, 54, a veteran elementary instructor and a Gardena City Council member; and Hattie B. McFrasier, 65, a longtime union activist who highlights her experience as a counselor and teacher working with students of all ages.

"This strategy is stupid," said one union insider, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak. "Everybody realizes that endorsing three people isn't effective."

A similar approach by the union failed last year in defeating incumbent Monica Garcia.

Vice President Gregg Solkovits said, in defense of the union: "It doesn't make much sense to put money into a race where UTLA has so many divergent opinions."

Hendy-Newbill said the union endorsement helps — if people know about it. She's relying on a core of volunteers — teachers, students and other supporters — to knock on doors and address envelopes.


by email from the office of LAUSD boardmember Bennett Kayser

May 28, 2014 4:51 PM  ::  In the name of independence, citizen volunteers and an informed LAUSD bond oversite committee, we have submitted the language below for first hearing at the 6/10 Reg Bd mtg and for action at the 6/17 Special Board Mtg.

Mr. Kayser- Reappointment of Mr. Magruder to the School Construction Bond Oversight Committee

Resolved, That the Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District reappoints Mr. Stuart Magruder, representing the American Institute of Architects, as Member to the School Construction Bond Oversight Committee for two-year terms commencing immediately. The Board determines that Mr. Magruder is not an employee, official, vendor, contractor, or consultant of the District.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


By Lillian Mongeau, Ed Source |

May 2014

School librarian Shannon Englebrecht reminds Tori Reese, 8, that she has several books overdue.Englebrecht allows students at Charles Drew Preparatory Academy, a public school in San Francisco, to check out as many books as they want. Credit: LillianMongeau, EdSource

May 26th, 2014 ::   Shannon Englebrecht, who works for the San Francisco Unified School District, is poised to become one of a rare breed in California when her hours are increased next year: a full-time public school librarian.

California employed 804 school librarians in 2012-13, which translates to one certified school librarian for every 7,784 students in 2012-13, according to data from the California Department of Education. That is the lowest per-student ratio of any state in the country. The national average in the fall of 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, was one school librarian for every 1,022 students, according to The National Center for Education Statistics.

The lack of certified librarians has led to a decrease in student access to books, a decline in student research skills and the loss of an important resource for teachers, said Janice See-Gilmore, president of the California School Library Association.

“It’s actually pretty dreadful,” See-Gilmore said. “In 1999 we had 1,300 teacher librarians. We’re just going in the wrong direction.”

There are fewer school librarians in California today than there were in 1988. (Note: Data for years 1989-1997, 1999 and 2009 is approximate.) Sources: California Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

(Click to enlarge.) There are fewer school librarians in California today than there were in 1988. (Note: Data for years 1989-1997, 1999 and 2009 is approximate.) Sources: California Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

State funding for school libraries has never been steady. Prior to 1994, there was no money specifically set aside for them. Between 1994 and 2009, various statewide initiatives – from a check-off on income tax forms to a block grant program for districts – funneled vastly varying amounts of money to public school libraries. Those amounts ranged from $266,000 to $158.5 million annually.

Beginning in 2009, the funding set aside for libraries became “flexible,” meaning it could be spent on other priorities as districts scrambled to slash their budgets during the recession. Many districts now employ only one teacher librarian who oversees all the libraries in the district.

Cities that have managed to avoid that fate have had to look for money closer to home. San Francisco residents voted in 2004 to set aside money from the city’s general fund that would support “extras” like sports, art and school libraries, among other programs, for public school students. See sidebar.

As tax revenues returned to pre-recession levels this year, the fund has grown significantly, allowing public schools like the one where Englebrecht works – Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy – to increase the number of hours their librarians spend on campus.

Funding SFUSD’s libraries

A decade ago, the San Francisco Unified School District partnered with the city to set aside a portion of the city’s general fund to help pay for school programs and services. The money goes to libraries, sports, arts and music programs, universal preschool, school nurses, translation services for immigrant parents, social workers and other resources.

The budget set-aside, which did not call for a tax increase, passed with 71 percent of the vote in 2004. Known as the Public Education Enrichment Fund, it is up for renewal in November.

Since the fund has been in place, children are checking out books at three times the rate they were the year before it was enacted. The district staffs all schools with teacher librarians, up from 18 percent the year before the fund existed. And the total number of books in circulation now tops 1 million.

“(The fund lets us) make sure that kids who traditionally don’t have access to books, do have access,” said Kathy Fleming, supervisor of the public enrichment fund.

On a recent afternoon in her sunny library at Charles Drew, Englebrecht shifted some chapter books around on a shelf, trying to make it look full. Short, easy-to-read chapter books are exactly the type she knows her young students, who live in a low-income neighborhood of San Francisco, need more of.

Englebrecht gets an annual budget to buy new books and replace dog-eared or out-of-date ones. Since Charles Drew hasn’t had a full-time librarian dedicated to curating the collection for a while, Englebrecht said there’s work to be done. In addition to more chapter-books for early readers, she’d like her 6,000-book collection to include more graphic novels for children who aren’t ready for large blocks of text and more books about sports and other topics that tend to interest boys.

“I’m looking for empowering, enabling books about African-American children,” saidEnglebrecht, whose school population is 80 percent black. “Then (for books about) Latino kids. They also deserve to see themselves in the collection.”

Englebrecht also takes her teacher-support role seriously. She’s created a teacher resource library in a storage room off the main library. Teachers can find collections of books on subjects they teach, lesson plans and curriculum reference materials.

“Having a librarian has definitely directly benefited me as a teacher,” said Englebrecht’s colleague, Laura Todorow.

Todorow, who teaches 3rd grade at Charles Drew, said the library contributes to a climate of learning and valuing books. Her students have had a chance to practice selecting and caring for books, have learned how to use a book catalogue and are more engaged in silent reading in class this year, Todorow said.

May 2014

Two 3rd grade boys look through chapter books aboutAfrican American children in the library at Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy, a public elementary school in San Francisco. Credit: Lillian Mongeau,EdSource

“I feel a school librarian is a non-negotiable necessity in any school,” she said.

Across the San Francisco Bay in Oakland, district librarian Ann Mayo Gallagher worries that teachers in her district might not know what benefits a school librarian could bring. Of the 75 school libraries in Oakland public schools, 23 are closed, 10 are run by volunteers and another 23 are run by part-time clerks. Nineteen are staffed by professional librarians, Mayo Gallagher said, but only one of those is paid by the district. The others are paid by individual schools, usually with money raised by the PTA.

And not even the open libraries are open all the time, Mayo Gallagher said. Of the libraries that are open, about half are open less than 20 hours a week.

“Currently (in Oakland), it’s possible to enter kindergarten and graduate high school never having gone to a school that has a library,” Mayo Gallagher said.

Many districts in the state face issues like those in Oakland. About half of the 600 elementary and middle school libraries in Los Angeles public schools are closed, according to a story in The Los Angeles Times. Forty of San Diego Unified’s 180 school libraries have been closed since budget cuts in 2008, according to a story in The School Library Journal. And the problem has spread beyond large urban districts, said See-Gilmore with the California School Library Association. She is the only teacher librarian in her suburban district of La Mesa Spring Valley, east of San Diego.

California has more students per school librarian than any state in the country. (Note: Data for years 1989-1997, 1999 and 2009 is approximate.) Sources: California Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

California has more students per school librarian than any state in the country. (Note: Data for years 1989-1997, 1999 and 2009 is approximate.) Sources: California Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

A few school districts in the state, like Palo Alto Unified, have managed to use their wealthy, local tax base to support public school libraries for years. Despite the difference in demographics, teachers in Palo Alto cited many of the same benefits of having full-time librarians as their San Francisco counterparts.

“The librarian is an amazing resource,” said Beth Maxwell, a fifth-grade teacher at Addison Elementary School in Palo Alto. “Teachers can do a lot, but when you’ve got someone who knows the kids and who can help instill the love of learning and reading, it makes a difference.”

Maxwell said the librarian at her school, PatriciaOhanian, works closely with teachers to support whatever they are working on in their classrooms. In addition to providing appropriate books and resources to match the content of classroom lessons, Maxwell said librarians teach students skills they need to finish their classroom work. During a recent research project on famous Americans, for example, Ohanian taught students how to write a bibliography during their weekly library visit.

Ohanian has been a teacher librarian for nearly 20 years and she’s been at Addison for the past six years. In addition to supporting teachers, Ohanian said she spends time keeping the school’s 16,680-book collection up to date and high quality, hosting special events like visiting authors, answering parents’ questions about their kids’ reading and leading school-wide literacy initiatives.

As Maxwell’s students took their seats in the library recently, Ohanian reminded them to get started on their opening activity for poetry month: Picking poems they liked from the collection of books on each table and copying them down so they would have several to pick from for “Poem in My Pocket Day.” Next, she led the class in reading out loud from a half dozen poems posted on the walls.

boy with iPad, May 2014

San Francisco 3rd grader Kalique Cheeves zooms in on a iPad he’s learned to use thanks to a grant written by his school librarian. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

“My curriculum is based on Common Core standards,” Ohanian said later, referring to the English language arts and math standards that most states have adopted. “I take different themes of literature and then I weave in whatever I can.”

For school districts without the resources or community support found in Palo Alto, the new Local Control Funding Formula might be an option for better funding school libraries and hiring more librarians.

Districts are still developing their plans for how to spend the money they will receive under the formula and it’s unclear if libraries and librarians will rise to the top of their priority lists.

Oakland has not yet published a draft of its plan. San Jose’s East Side Union, one of the districtsEdSource is following closely this year, will be increasing the number of librarians in the district in response to community feedback. West Contra Costa is taking a different tack. Under the new formula, West Contra Costa plans to buy books and other library materials, but makes no mention of hiring additional librarians.

For districts that don’t choose to hire more librarians under the new funding formula, a bill currently before the state Assembly Appropriations Committee, AB 1955, might provide them with extra funding for three school years to hire a school nurse, a school psychologist and a school librarian. Districts would need to have at least 55 percent of their student population classified as low-income to qualify for the funding.

April 2014

Librarian Patricia Ohanian reviews personification with fifth grade students at Addison Elementary School in Palo Alto. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

Back in Addison’s library, 5th grader Simrun Rao had a mission. She’d just read a book called“Blue Jasmine,” about an Indian girl who immigrated to the United States and had to build a new life for herself. Simrun, who is Indian-American, wanted her friend to read the book too, so she asked Ohanian for the name of the author. Hearing “Kashmira Sheth,” the two girls scurried off to the “S” area of the fiction section.

Ohanian was glad to know that Simrun had liked “Blue Jasmine” so much, as she had recommended it. Like Englebrecht, Ohaniansaid it is critical for students to see themselves in the books they read and she has chosen the books in her collection accordingly. Her familiarity with her collection is the trait her students say they value most.

“If you tell her what type of book you like, she’ll help you out,” said fifth-grader SamanthaFeldmeier, who visited the library with her class after Maxwell’s class had finished.

“She doesn’t have to look it up on the computer,” Emily Crowley​, also in fifth grade, added with a bit of awe in her voice. “She just knows.”

Going deeper

A New York Times essay by renowned children’s book author Walter Dean Myers on how a school librarian turned him on to reading by providing books with people who looked like him in their pages.

A summary of research showing the effect a school librarian can have on student achievement by Scholastic.

Monday, May 26, 2014


by Michael Janofsky, Managing editor LA School Report |

CWC Mar Vista Charter School LAUSD Stoner Elementary

CWC Mar Vista Charter School

May 23, 2014,  2:07 pm  ::  Parents of students at Stoner Elementary School, who have been fighting to get the co-located Citizens of the World  Charter School Mar Vista (CWC) off their campus, have succeeded in their quest.

A letter from LA Unified has informed them the charter “will not be co-locating” on the campus next year, a decision that effectively ends CWC’s presence at the Del Rey campus after just one tumultuous year.

The letter, dated May 22 and signed by Lorena Padilla-Melendez, director of community relations for LA Unified’s Facilities Services Division, offers no explanation for why the decision was made, and requests for comment from the district were unsuccessful.

The letter apparently caught the CWC school community by surprise. Amy Held, executive director of CWC Los Angeles, said in an email late yesterday that CWC was “caught off guard” by the letter inasmuch as CWC officials had been in talks with the district to remain at the campus,

She said her side has reached out to Superintendent John Deasy “for clarification.”

If CWC is leaving, it would bring an end to months of friction, including several incidents of violence, linked to the oil-and-water mix of the two schools.

Neighbors had complained to school and district officials that daily traffic congestion reflected an untenable relationship between the two schools, and outsiders used the conflict as an exhibit in their eternal fight against charter schools and California’s Prop 39, a decade-old law that allows under-enrolled public schools to share their space.

“The way it was handled was very much by the book,” said Adam Benitez, the father of a daughter at Stoner and one of the neighbors leading the efforts to get the charter removed. “The district told us it was a ‘compliance’ issue, but they didn’t tell us what wasn’t complied with.”

He added, “I’m not sure we can take full credit for getting them off our campus. It was their own ineptness.”

The removal of CWC, a school run by a national charter organization, means that to continue, it would need to negotiate for another space in the district.

A message left for Alison Kerr, the CWC Mar Vista principal, was not immediately returned


By Howard Blume, LA Times |

L.A. Unified shifting 'teacher jails' to homes

UTLA President-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl said the change "was brought about by the pressure generated over the last few months from parents, school communities and educators." (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

May 26, 2014, 4:57 pm  ::  As of Tuesday, Los Angeles teachers suspended amid misconduct investigations will be allowed to remain at home rather than report during the workday to district offices — known within the profession as "teacher jails."

The change, ordered by L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy, will affect about 250 instructors who face allegations such as breaking district rules, mishandling money or abusing students.

There are costs associated with maintaining employees in a workplace. There are supervision issues. There also are other opportunities to use the space.- district general counsel David Holmquist

"There are costs associated with maintaining employees in a workplace," district general counsel David Holmquist said. "There are supervision issues. There also are other opportunities to use the space."

United Teachers Los Angeles had pushed for ending the practice of informally confining teachers during school hours, but the district said its action was not in response to the union. Other government agencies, Holmquist pointed out, routinely have employees wait out investigations at home.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union's president-elect, challenged Holmquist's explanation for the change.

"The district's move was brought about by the pressure generated over the last few months from parents, school communities and educators," he said, adding that it would "ameliorate some of the horrible conditions that educators face in the actual teacher jail rooms."

The standard practice had been for suspended teachers to report to a non-campus office during the workday — typically doing very little, while under some form of supervision. Some have remained "housed," as the district terms it, for several years.

If anything, all this new policy does is make teacher jail invisible to the public.- Scott Mandel, union officer for the San Fernando Valley

Although the teachers continue to be paid, many said they consider the mandatory reporting obligations humiliating. Housed teachers cannot do work outside of their regular duties, such as help the central office with filing. They also cannot contact substitutes to provide lesson plans for their students while they are away.

The number of housed instructors more than doubled — at times exceeding 400 — in the wake of the 2012 arrest of Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt. He pleaded no contest in November to 23 counts of lewd conduct and received a 25-year prison sentence.

Since Berndt's arrest, officials have been quick to remove any teacher who was under a cloud, saying student safety is paramount.

The union has argued that many housed teachers ought to be sent back to the classroom because they pose no threat and, in fact, the students need them.

Holmquist agreed that many of those suspended presented no danger. The reason they were not at work, he said, had to do with keeping teachers from compromising evidence or witnesses.

Not all instructors were celebrating the end of teacher jails.

"This new policy does nothing to correct the moral injustices of the teacher jail system," said Scott Mandel, a union officer for the San Fernando Valley. "Innocent teachers are still being removed based on speculation, with few basic legal rights. If anything, all this new policy does is make teacher jail invisible to the public."

The union now might have more trouble reaching and organizing them, teachers and union activists said.

They also asserted that the district has over-corrected for past situations, such as the misconduct of Berndt, by presuming instructors are guilty and by unfairly dismissing many.

Another long-standing complaint is that teachers sometimes do not know what they are accused of for lengthy periods.

L.A. Unified officials said that they are providing information to teachers much more quickly than before. The district also recently assembled professional investigators to resolve cases more rapidly.

Aside from sexual wrongdoing, misconduct can include being verbally abusive, excessively missing work or failing to follow the rules for giving standardized tests.

Science teacher Greg Schiller recently was ordered from Cortines High School of Visual & Performing Arts because a staff member accused him of allowing students to make dangerous science projects. After a public outcry, officials returned him to the downtown high school.

Editorial - CONGRESS’ ASSIGNMENT: SCHOOL REFORM. Why not start with No Child Left Behind?

Los Angeles Times Editorial |

President Obama visits a school

President Obama is seen visiting a school in Maryland. Congress is considering several education bills this year. (Chip Somodevilla / EPA)

May 26, 2014  ::  School reform shouldn't be this hard

Congress is taking up a large number of education bills this year. Unfortunately, the issue it is ignoring — as it has for years — is the one that most needs its attention: an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act. It would be an understatement to say that school reform is in a state of disarray because of this legislative inaction.

No Child Left Behind will surely rank as one of the most poorly constructed laws of its time.- 

No Child Left Behind, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2001, focused public attention on how poorly many students were doing in school. At that time, low-performing school districts often took it for granted that close to half their students would drop out; students who couldn't read were routinely promoted from grade to grade until they reached high school barely able to read a Dr. Seuss book. The new law, passed with bipartisan support, made it clear that was not acceptable.

But No Child Left Behind will surely rank as one of the most poorly constructed laws of its time. The remedies it laid out for low academic performance were narrowly drawn, unconscionably rigid and in many ways antithetical to the goal of improving education for the largest number of students. The law ushered in an era of over-reliance on test scores to measure educational quality. At the same time, it was lax about letting states set their own definitions of academic proficiency; as a result, standards varied wildly from state to state, making it much easier for states with too-low targets to meet their goals.

Now here we are in 2014, the year by which the law mandated that practically all students at all schools must be performing at grade level in their studies. With that impossible deadline to meet a goal that was never realistic — and with Congress getting nowhere on reauthorization of the law — the Obama administration took matters into its own hands and created a system of waivers from the requirements of No Child Left Behind, but only for states that agreed to meet certain conditions.

Overall, the rules for waivers were more sensible than those in the law, but they also reflected the administration's biases. It was made clear, for instance, that states would be better situated to win a waiver if they adopted the Common Core curriculum standards, and if they made test scores a significant factor in evaluating teacher performance. The latter was an overreach; the government is within its rights to demand higher achievement in exchange for federal money, but how that is accomplished should be left to states, which are constitutionally authorized to run public schools.

Some states, including California, refused to accept the administration's insistence on using test scores in teacher evaluations, and were denied waivers as a result. The state of Washington agreed to it and received a waiver, but now has been told its waiver is being revoked because it hasn't followed through on its promise. Other states were warned they might lose their waivers on similar grounds, but in early May, the administration softened its stance.

Meanwhile, there has been a backlash among states that rushed to implement Common Core to obtain waivers. California, for its part, was threatened with loss of federal funding because it was only field-testing the Common Core tests this year and not producing actual test results, even though that was a legitimate and smart way to proceed. The U.S. Department of Education, which was starting to look foolish by cracking down on a state that was embracing Common Core, backed off.

In other words, right now the nation is operating under a hodgepodge of federal rules that seem to change state by state and depending on the political winds. The Obama administration hasn't done a particularly good job, but the bulk of the blame rests with lawmakers for leaving No Child Left Behind on the books.

School reform shouldn't be this hard. States should be allowed to set up their own improvement programs, as long as those programs meet certain parameters for ensuring steady progress for a broad spectrum of students, especially disadvantaged and minority students. The measurement of those improvements should include more than test scores. The U.S. government should get out of the business of micromanaging schools, using its authority instead to ensure that it is receiving good value for the dollars it spends on public education.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


If schools slowed down and focused on a deeper kind of flourishing, they might be more productive (if not very Goveian)

Melissa Benn


by Melissa Benn, The Guardian,

●●smf’s translation:

GOVEIAN: of or pertaining to the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove, British Conservative Party politician, the Secretary of State for Education and the Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath.  Gove’s is a climate change denier whose educational philosophy (and his national curriculum) is  definitely+defiantly old school/drill+kill – some scholars decry the curriculum as an “endless list of spellings, facts and rules,” arguing it would “stifle creativity and take the fun out of learning.”  “Classic novels Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird will be banned from British classrooms because Michael Gove thinks teenagers should study works by British writers.”


'Educational reform now largely equals intensive schooling: catch-up classes, after-school clubs, longer terms, more testing.' Photograph: David Davies/PA

Wednesday 16 April 2014 11.10 EDT  ::  Do you know a ghost child? Are you possibly raising one? A report this week by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) pinpoints a worrying new phenomenon – the institutionalised infant, a whey-faced creature, stuck in school for 10 hours a day, the child of commuting parents possibly, wandering from playground to desk to after-school club without real purpose, nodding off through boredom and fatigue.

The sad thing is, as yet another timely ATL report brings home, the ghost child is increasingly likely to be taught by the ghost adult – a teacher grey with fatigue and stress, stuck at school for 10 hours or more a day, wandering from duty to duty in playground, classroom or after-school club. Both, it seems, are part of a culture that increasingly overworks our citizens, from a younger and younger age, in the often fruitless quest for job security and social mobility.

We know the figures. England is one of the most overworked European nations. What's really new is that we no longer question or even quarrel with this fact. Instead we deploy American-lite righteousness. Work is now not merely a sign of virtue, it is a sign of proper panic, of appropriately anxious aspiration. Any other approach takes you right down benefits street.

Such values have easily transferred to education, where decades of inequality in provision and under-investment have neatly reduced the problems in our system to one of effort, or the lack of it. When a few years ago I interviewed Sir Michael Wilshaw, then still head of Mossbourne academy, he brimmed with anger at "clockwatching" teachers whom he believed had failed to bring poorer pupils on.

Concerns like these have now morphed into a settled theory of education, and childhood itself. Educational reform now largely equals intensive schooling: early-morning catch-up classes, after-school clubs, longer terms, shorter holidays, more testing, more homework.

The trouble is, the human body and human communities do not flourish through being flogged. Families don't benefit from frenetic rushing. They simply forget who each other is, or could be, which is where the real problems begin. Overtired children don't learn. And hungry overtired children simply fall asleep, or kick off.

We could have learned this years ago from some of the most impressive education systems in the world, where children do not start formal learning till as late as seven – and certainly not at two, the scary suggestion now being made by some in government – and where the school day is much shorter. Visitors to some of the Nordic countries, including Finland – still the highest-performing system in Europe – report that it can look as if the children are doing very little in the classroom. There, the educational conversation is all about deep flourishing, enjoyment, stimulation of a different kind.

That makes sense, right? Some of the most productive, and highly professional, people I know work relatively short days and even seem to spend an awful lot of time in contemplation: reading, thinking, staring into space. As one eminent academic said to me, puzzled at so much manic activity in modern living: "I have never worked a 15-hour day in my life."

And the language of effort will not eradicate – only possibly obscure – the educational inequalities that have shifted remarkably little over my lifetime. A poor child on site gets a much-needed breakfast and long hours of subsidised childcare. A better-off child is more likely to be wheeled around to all sorts of extracurricular activities that might make them fractious and overtired but will surely enrich them, in every way, later in life.

This government won't shift gears. It is fully signed up to the ghost road, particularly for the poor. But in other more interesting spaces and places there is a return to ideas that celebrate a different approach to learning, earning and being a human being.

The New Economics Foundation recently proposed that we should make "part time ... the new full time" – that by sharing employment in a time of austerity, with some guarantee on income, of course, we create more time for everyone, old and young alike, to do the things that make us human: spend time with family, friends, take a walk, read a book.

John White, the brilliant philosopher of education, has long argued that "schools [should] be mainly about equipping people to lead a fulfilling life". Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, home of the much-celebrated "happiness lessons", would surely agree.And the wonderful movement for "slow education" stresses the importance of process over pushing, quality over endless quantifying. "The notion of slow ... fosters intensity and understanding and equips students to reason for themselves ... the arts of deliberation are an essential element in this." according to its architect Maurice Holt.

Of course, such notions are utterly unGoveian. Fiendishly Finnish in fact. At their heart is the radical idea that time itself – time to think, time to laugh, time to potter; time at home, time alone – should make a comeback in pedagogical and human discourse. Our growing army of ghost children deserve nothing less.

Friday, May 23, 2014


from the AIA/LA

When the passage of Proposition 39 in 2000 led to the provision of the Education Code that required that the Board of Education appoint all BOC members, we and the other stakeholders agreed to the Memorandum of Understanding between the District and the BOC that, while the formal appointment would be done by the Board as a receive and file, the Board would faithfully appoint the nominee of each stakeholder group.



‘If you don’t like the criticism, fire the critic 3!”: L.A. UNIFIED BOARD REFUSES TO REAPPOINT MEMBER OF OVERSIGHT PANEL + smf’s 2¢

by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

Tamar Galatzan and John Deasy

School board member Tamar Galatzan, shown here with Supt. John Deasy last year, was one of the staunchest supporters of the original iPad plan. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

May 22, 2014, 901 PM  ::  The Los Angeles Board of Education this week acted against a critic of its controversial iPad program by refusing to reappoint him to a key review panel, the latest of several actions that could limit scrutiny of the project.

On Tuesday, a board majority removed Stuart Magruder as a nominee for a second, two-year term on the Bond Oversight Committee, which analyzes and votes on spending from school-construction bonds. The L.A. Unified School District is using more than $1 billion from these bonds to pay for providing a computer to every student, teacher and school administrator.

Board member Tamar Galatzan said she opposed Magruder because he overstepped his role.


He's an architect and . . . has made many forays into telling the instructional people how to do instruction. I think it's inappropriate. - Tamar Galatzan, LAUSD board member

"He's an architect and ... has made many forays into telling the instructional people how to do instruction," Galatzan said at the Tuesday meeting. "I think it's inappropriate. I don't think that's what his expertise is."

Galatzan confirmed later that she was referring to some of Magruder's challenges of the iPad project.

lNearly a year go, the board approved an iPad contract that was expected to expand districtwide. But the fall rollout at 47 schools was plagued by difficulties, such as inadequate wireless Internet and inconsistent policies on who was responsible for the costly devices. Early on, students at three high schools deleted security filters so they could browse the Web freely. Officials also have come under fire for misstating costs and terms of the contract with Apple, which makes the iPad.

In an interview, Magruder, 47, defended his inquiries, saying officials needed to justify the huge expenditure.

"They claim there's good pedagogical support for having iPads everywhere for all grades but they haven't been able to provide any support for that," he said.

"It is also clear to me that the district was not really prepared to launch this initiative and have it add value to the classroom," said Magruder, who has two children attending district schools.

Eventually, the district responded to critics by slowing down the districtwide expansion and by trying out laptops as an alternative to iPads in high school.

Galatzan also accused Magruder of voting against any project that did not use architects. Magruder denied that.

The oversight committee grew out of attempts, in the 1990s, to pass school-construction bonds for relieving overcrowding and repairing dilapidated campuses. They also can be used for technology.

The first bond election failed. On the next try, officials added the oversight committee to enhance voter confidence. That bond passed, as have several since. The 15 committee members are unpaid, and their votes are not binding on the district.

Certain groups have had the right to name a member to the panel, including the county Federation of Labor. Another organization with a seat is the local branch of the American Institute of Architects, which chose Magruder two years ago.

Until this week, the school board has never rejected a nominee from a designated outside group, said Tom A. Rubin, the consultant for the bond panel.

During the meeting, Galatzan proposed approving only a second nominee, Barry Waite, whose nomination by a taxpayer-rights group also was before the board. Monica Garcia voted with Galatzan without comment. Galatzan and Garcia were the staunchest backers of the original iPad plan.

Joining them was board President Richard Vladovic.

"I'm going to go with my colleague, who seems to be very knowledgeable," Vladovic said of Galatzan.

Bennett Kayser also voted with them, but only to support Waite. He said later that he also would back Magruder. Steve Zimmer voted no, objecting to the exclusion of Magruder, and Monica Ratliff abstained. The seventh board seat is temporarily vacant.

In denying Magruder, the board acted improperly, said civil rights attorney Robert Garcia, who chaired the oversight body from 2000 to 2005. He said district officials had signed a legally binding agreement to ratify the selections of the outside groups.

Galatzan said she was not aware of the earlier agreement.

"If we couldn't vote no, why else would it be brought to us?" she said.

L.A. Unified general counsel David Holmquist insisted that the board retains the right to reject nominees.

Current oversight chairman Stephen English is out of the country, but sent word that he intended to resubmit Magruder's nomination, said committee consultant Rubin.

The architect's group also is standing behind Magruder.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who was frequently at odds with the panel over the iPads, said he is not taking sides.

District officials have taken other steps that critics said would limit public review of the technology project. In January, Vladovic announced the impending end of an internal technology committee headed by Ratliff. More recently, officials refused to release the findings of an internal investigation into the project.


2cents smf:  In the interest of full disclosure: I am a member of the Bond Oversight Committee.

I am the longest serving and most senior member. I have been an appointee of Los Angeles Tenth District PTA on-and-off – serving for over a dozen years. I was there when the current memorandum of agreement  - the operative agreement establishing the BOC and governing the relationship between the BOC, the District and the Board of Education - was negotiated with LAUSD and the Board of Education. The MOU clearly states that the appointing authority is the appointing authority – and that the Board of Education shall accept the appointment if the appointee is qualified – and those qualifications are that the appointee is not an employee, official, contractor, vendor or consultant of the District. The vote of the Board is to confirm the qualifications, not approve the appointment.

“3.1.8. The Board shall appoint one member nominated by the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter.”

Much is ambiguous in contract law and in legal definition. But the meaning of “shall” is unchanged since Exodus. You have to do it.

The independent appointing authorities are: The Mayor of Los Angeles, The City Controller, The County Auditor, PTA, a senior citizens group (AARP), ,a representative of a charter school group, a taxpayers organization, the Early Childhood Ed Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the general contractors, a representative from the building trade unions and a representative from the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Additionally the Board of Education gets to select and appoint two parents of LAUSD students.  Some of these appointing authorities – like PTA and the taxpayers group - are stipulated in the State Law that governs school bonds, Others were established by the Board of Ed when they passed the first BB Bond and created the first Bond Oversight Committee in 1997.. The make up of the committee has changed slightly over the years by mutual consent of the board and the committee.

The issue is that of Independent Oversight – and independence cannot/will not  be maintained if the Board can approve or disapprove its overseers.

Independent Oversight was and continues to be the promise made to the voters and taxpayers and all the stakeholders from community members, teachers, district employees, parents and past, present and future students of the District  - when we passed all the school facilities bonds from BB to K, R, Y and Q.

Ms. Galatzan says Stuart goes too far in opining on instructional issues – an in other times and circumstances I might agree. But in the Deasy  administration bond funds are being used to purchase instructional materials and therefore Stuart’s the Bond Oversight Committee’s opinions are entirely relevant.

I do not agree with Stuart Magruder on some issues; I don’t have to. He is the appointee of the AIA/LA and as long as he has their faith and confidence he is their guy.

There is a lay preacher who regularly makes public comment at BOC and Board Meetings and preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ as he believes it – he forecasts everlasting damnation if we don’t change our ways.  If he’s right, we’re toast. I’ve spoken to him, he’s a nice guy and he is genuinely concerned about my soul and Tamar’s and Dr Deasy’s and Stuart’s and all of us. We may not be listening and we may not be saved  - but the National Cemeteries are filled  and battlefields around the globe are stained with the blood of those who gave their lives and/or sacrificed their youth so that he could say those things and the rest of us could ignore him.

Take Monday off and think about that.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

“If you don’t like the criticism, fire the critic 2!”: OUSTED OPPONENT OF LA SCHOOLS iPAD FIGHTS TO REGAIN SEAT ON OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

    1. ALSO SEE: “If you don’t like the criticism, fire the critic!”: SCHOOL BOARD BLOCKS APPOINTEE CRITICAL OF iPADS |
    2. BASED ON ED REPORTER HOWARD BLUME's TWITTER FEED, A MAJOR STORY IS COMING FROM THE LA TIMES: @howardblume: ●Next week's meeting of school bond oversight committee has new agenda item: Stuart Magruder, the nominee Board of Ed wouldn't approve. ●Current & former committee members say L.A. Unified exceeded authority by blocking Magruder from panel overseeing spending of bond $s. ●Some LAUSD officials say they had right to reject Magruder, the nominee of architects assn. He's a vocal critic of $1billion+ iPad effort. ●Bond Committee apparently not giving in to district. They'll take up matter first off at meeting next week.
    3. NOTE TO THE LAUSD BOARD: What part of “Independent Oversight” is so hard to understand?
    4. WITNESS THE WITLESSNESS YOURSELF:  Start it at 8:30, turn your volume up and pay more attention to the words and actions of the members who are OFF mic, rather than the ones who are ON-mic, right up to the point where Ms Galatzan says, "Jeff, I'm confused."

BY Annie Gilbertson |  Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC



May 21st, 2014, 5:38pm  ::  The architect tossed off a Los Angeles Unified School District oversight committee Tuesday is fighting to be reinstated.

The school board voted to remove Stuart Magruder, an outspoken critic of the district's iPad program, from a list of renewal appointments on the committee that oversees how bond funds are spent. Those voter-approved bonds have been the principal funding source for Superintendent John Deasy's $1 billion one-to-one tablet initiative.

School officials have said bond funds can be spent on technology upgrades.

But Magruder said voters clearly meant for the $19 billion loans to be used to maintain and build schools, not to buy "the modern equivalent of pencils and paper." He said his ouster was political retribution.

"It drastically calls into question the independence of the committee," he said in an interview.

On Wednesday, the American Institute of Architects asked the school board — nicely — to reconsider his reappointment, given that the committee's founding documents give the institute to a guaranteed seat on the committee.

"According to the charter memorandum of understanding, the school board shall appointment one member nominated by the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles chapter and our nominee is Stuart Magruder," said Nicci Solomons, the Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles chapter.

The lawyer for the Bond Oversight Committee said the school board has violated the contract. The Memorandum of understanding states the school board "shall" appointment the the institute's nominee after confirming the person has no conflicts of interest.

L.A. Unified officials said Margruder does not benefit financially from school building projects.

At a mostly closed school board meeting Tuesday, member Tamar Galatzan moved to have Magruder name removed from the reappointment list, voicing concerns about his employment as an architect. Board member Steve Zimmer was the only dissenting vote, and Monica Ratliff abstained.

“I believe Stuart Magruder has overstepped his role as the American Institute of Architects representative to the BOC, and I cannot vote for his reappointment," Galatzan said in a written statement emailed to KPCC Wednesday.

Zimmer did not return calls for comment.

In addition to his criticism of the iPad program, Magruder has called into question Galatzan's discretionary use bond funds.

He raised issue with her request for $290,000 for computers at specific schools in her district. Since 2011, school board members have spent about $4.5 million of discretionary bond funds on computers not related to the iPad program. Tw0-thirds of that money went to Galatzan's district, which represents the middle- and upper-class West San Fernando Valley.

Magruder argued the money would be better spent on building repairs, which officials estimate will cost $13 billion over the next fifteen years, much more than the remaining bond funds.

Magruder's position won him some fans, including teachers who formed a Facebook group called "Repairs, not iPads." They have protested the district's spending choices when schools still have to deal with broken toilets and leaky facets.

Matthew Kogan, the L.A. Unified teacher who heads the group, called Magruder's removal an exercise of "unchecked powers."

"I think it shows a disregard for our democratic institutions," Kogan said.

The group has taken to twitter to protest, posting a video documenting Magruder's critique of the iPad program made earlier this year.

LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee Meeting 3-27-14 from Julie Carson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

“If you don’t like the criticism, fire the critic!”: SCHOOL BOARD BLOCKS APPOINTEE CRITICAL OF iPADS

Posted on  LA School Report by Vanessa Romo |

May 20, 2014 4:00 pm  ::  What is normally a routine, no-questions-asked formality for the LA Unified School Board hit a snag today.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan opposed the reappointment of Stuart Magruder, an outspoken critic of the use of bond money for iPads, from the School Construction Bond Oversight Committee (BOC).

The board effectively blocked Magruder’s reappointment by removing him from a resolution. That will leave the 15 member BOC, an independent body formed to oversee bond money used to build and repair schools, with an empty seat.

Stuart Magruder LAUSD ipads

<< Stuart Magruder, Los Angeles Architect

“It’s not unprecedented but this doesn’t usually happen,” Jefferson Crain, LA Unified Board Secretariat, said of the board’s move.

An architect, Magruder has served one term as an appointee nominated by the American Institute of Architects Association. Throughout his tenure, he has strongly opposed the use of bond funds for buying instructional materials including the district’s controversial and expensive iPad program.

Speaking out against Magruder, Galatzan said, “I just don’t think he’s the right person for that role. I think he’s overstepped his bounds…I think he’s overstepped his expertise on the Bond Oversight Committee.”

She told the board, who had just minutes earlier approved the reappointment, that Magruder often used his time during BOC meetings to expound on curriculum and instruction matters, and she urged her colleagues to rescind their support.

“I’m not going to be supporting him and I think we can find other people in our vast community who are a little more open-minded,” Galatzan said.

At a BOC meeting in March Magruder said, “We are spending roughly a $100 million on software for the iPads, which I guess is supposed to be a text book, which is actually not really being used very much as far as I can tell with my daughter’s experience at Palms Middle School.”

“That to me is really problematic,” he continued. “We’re throwing away $100 million on something that is not being used and is certainly not something we’re supposed to be paying for with construction bond funds.” (see video here)

Magruder’s term expired on May 8. However, a lawyer for the group suggested they are seeking alternatives for resubmitting Magruder for consideration.

In a 4-1 vote, the board agreed to reappoint Barry Waite, of the California Tax Reform Association to the BOC. Board member Monica Ratliff abstained while Board member Steve Zimmer was the only dissenting vote.

The board did not take any other actions during the board meeting.


Long-rumored hire to fill never-advertised job  is agreed-to in secret closed Board of Ed session, Third time (at least) is the charm for bringing art educator Rory Pullens to L.A.


The leader of one of the nation’s top arts high schools has accepted a position in charge of arts education for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Rory Pullens, 56, has served as head of school and chief executive officer at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Pullens had been recruited by the nation’s second-largest school system for several years. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said he was "thrilled."

Rory Pullens

<< Rory Pullens, head of school at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., has accepted a senior arts program position with the Los Angeles Unified School District. (Ellington School of the Arts)

“He brings an extraordinary background in the arts along with a string of astounding successes in his previous posts," Deasy said.

Previously, Pullens had twice accepted a job heading L.A.’s flagship downtown arts high school, but thenbacked out. One time he withdrew to deal with a family crisis. On the second occasion, he reconsidered after the Ellington school community made a concerted effort to retain him.

Besides running the Ellington school, Pullens spent more than a decade as an arts administrator in Denver, where he designed the first elementary arts school for the public school system there, according to his posted biography. He worked for nearly two decades as a writer, director and producer in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Pullens will receive a salary of $147,086 on a one-year contract plus a $10,000 moving allowance. According to the district job description, Pullens will direct the entire arts education program at L.A. Unified "to ensure increased arts ... opportunities" and to integrate arts into instruction. L.A. Unified made substantial cuts in this area during the recent recession, some of which are gradually being restored.

Earlier, when Pullens was recruited to head the downtown arts high school, philanthropist Eli Broad offered to supplement his salary. But a staffer with Broad's foundation said her organization was unaware of the hiring.

Broad had encouraged L.A. Unified to bring in a nationally respected figure such as Pullens to lead the arts high school, which is named after former L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon Cortines.

Another high-profile arts school administrator, Kim Bruno, has since taken on the job and is finishing her first year at the campus. She had been principal at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


By Doug McRae / commentary in EdSource |

Doug McRae

May 19th, 2014 | ::  Since June 2011 when California joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the target date for implementation of computer-adaptive Common Core tests has been spring 2015. With that date now fast approaching, are California schools ready?

<<Doug McRae

My answer is “no.” In my view, the earliest date for valid, reliable, comparable, fair scores from a computerized Common Core statewide testing program will be spring 2017, or possibly even spring 2018.

The fundamentals

There are two fundamental requirements that I believe must be met before California implements Common Core computerized statewide assessments:

  • Common core instruction must be be implemented for all students the entire school year before tests are implemented in the spring.
  • Technology, including human support, needs to be available for all schools during a relatively short window (say 4-5 weeks) when statewide tests will be administered.

Will Common Core instruction be implemented by 2014-15? The answer in most districts is clear: No. Instructional materials for math were approved by the State Board of Education January 2014, and it’s likely that many local districts will need upwards of two years to conduct local adoptions and teacher professional development for the specific materials they adopt. Instructional materials for English Language Arts/English Language Development standards are not scheduled for approval by the State Board until November 2015, with local district adoptions and professional development to follow.

The earliest school year for full Common Core instruction in math will be 2015-16 with statewide assessments in spring 2016. The earliest year for full instruction in Common Core standards for English language arts will be 2016-17 with statewide assessments in spring 2017. Dave Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent, perhaps said it best in a Sacramento Bee article in mid-February on the relationship between instruction and assessments. Until schools are teaching Common Core in all of their classrooms, Gordon said, “it wouldn’t be fair to test students on skills they haven’t been taught.”

It is true that some schools in California will not wait for the State Board’s adoption of instructional materials before implementing Common Core instruction. However, there is scant evidence this will be the case for the majority of schools in California (see my testimony at the May 7 State Board of Education meeting, here and here).

For technology, including personnel support for technology, the 2014 Smarter Balanced field tests appear to be providing encouraging news although a recent report in the Los Angeles Times on Los Angeles Unified’s field test experiences are discouraging. Additional devices and support are still needed at the local district level, but with short field test administration times, local districts seem to have handled the field test load this spring. At the state level, it appears California has diverted dollars for assessment vendors to upgrade our K-12 high speed network, which provides the main connection to the Internet for many county offices of education and school districts, and the CALPADS data system. These technology strategies have provided plenty of server power to handle peak loads during the field testing window. A more nuanced technology question is whether technology will compromise students’ ability to demonstrate their knowledge of the material being tested. That is ultimately a question that can only be answered by studies comparing how the students perform on the same computer-administered and paper-and-pencil tests. However, the results won’t be available until at least late 2015 since full Smarter Balanced tests will not be administered until spring 2015.

A set of school visits I conducted recently suggested that students’ ability to use computer technology does affect their ability to demonstrate achievement, especially at schools with high percentages of low income students and English Learners (see my assessment, which I presented to the State Board).

Additional factors

Several additional factors should play into final decisions for when to implement new statewide assessments:

  • Will test administration times unreasonably intrude on instruction time? While the Smarter Balanced consortium estimates test administration times will be 6 to 10 hours per student, in my view, after carefully reviewing the Smarter Balanced plans, there are reasons to believe actual test administration times will approach 10 to 15 hours. We will not know actual test administration times until the final Smarter Balanced tests are administered.
  • Will costs be reasonable? The governor’s initial budget request suggested Smarter Balanced tests in 2015 will cost $24 per student, but this request appears to be a lowball estimate. Intestimony before the Legislature, I estimate the actual costs will likely be $42 per student, translating to tens of millions of additional dollars annually in California.
  • Is it reasonable to expect that California schools will be ready to administer and students will be prepared to take Common Core assessments by the spring of 2015?  For our 1997 standards, the first assessments were implemented in 2003, a 6-year time frame. While Common Core standards were adopted in 2010, fiscal conditions prevented initial implementation activities for Common Core instruction until 2012. By contrast, implementing Common Core computer-adaptive tests to measure Common Core instruction with a 3-year timeline is warp speed, a very dubious proposition.
  • If California did decide to delay implementation of Common Core computerized assessments until spring 2017 or even spring 2018, as I recommend, is there a Plan B to meet federal as well as California statutory requirements for annual assessments? Yes, there is: short paper-and-pencil tests to measure the Common Core can be constructed from the now-mothballed state standardized tests, using only items aligned to the Common Core. These transition tests would maintain achievement trend data from 2003 forward, including data from new computerized Common Core tests when they are implemented, with the exception of a skipped year in 2014. In addition, using existing data from the state tests, we can pre-qualify students for the CAHSEE graduation requirement and eliminate the need to give the high school exit exam to 80 percent of 10th graders, reducing testing time and saving money.

Until districts have implemented Common Core instruction, end of the year tests cannot validly measure how much students can demonstrate what they know. And premature implementation of computerized tests, particularly among low income and English Learner students who have not mastered the new technology, will distort the test results. These and other factors support delaying Smarter Balanced computer-adaptive tests until at least spring 2017, if not spring 2018.

  • Doug McRae is a retired educational measurement specialist living in Monterey who has served as an educational testing company executive in charge of design and development of K-12 tests widely used across the US, as well as an adviser on the initial design and development of California’s STAR assessment system.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


scanned from the L.A. Times/page A25/May 18, 2014



by MILES CORWIN, Op-Ed in the LA Times |


Sean Kelly / For The Times

May 18, 2014  ::  Every spring, during college graduation season, I think about a former professor who uttered two astonishing sentences that changed the course of my life.

I was a disaffected student, attending community college because I didn't have the grades, the money or the motivation to attend a four-year university. I had no real interest in business — my major — but my mother, a typical immigrant, had convinced me it would be the most practical course of study.

Reading a novel is as valuable as a dry economics lecture, and the themes might resonate more and, ultimately, have a greater impact on your life.- Professor David Kaplan

My parents didn't know much about college. My mother never had the opportunity to go, and my father's plans to attend college were derailed by World War II. He was an obsessive reader who would have thrived in college, but after more than nine months on the front lines in France, Luxembourg and Germany, his ambition dissipated.

I might not have finished college myself if it hadn't been for a required class in which I had little interest. On a fall morning during my sophomore year, I was seated in a large lecture hall — back row, left corner — for my Econ 1 class. As the professor lectured about macroeconomic theory, I propped up my textbook, slipped the novel "John Barleycorn" by Jack London inside, and began reading.After about 20 minutes, the professor pushed aside his notes and began walking toward my side of the classroom. Every student but me, I was told later, watched him traverse the aisle toward the back of the lecture hall. I was engrossed in the novel.

When he reached my desk, he slipped behind me, leaned over and snatched the book from my hands. I suddenly realized that every single student in the class was staring at me. I was mortified. My throat went dry and I could hear my heart pounding in my chest.

The professor leafed through a few pages of the novel. The absolute silence in the classroom was terrifying.

Finally, he held the book above his head, waved it and announced in a stentorian tone: "This student won't be spending the rest of his life studying columns of debits and credits. He's interested in literature." He pronounced the last word with genuine reverence.

He handed the book back to me, strolled back down the aisle and resumed his lecture.

I was so stunned, I spent the rest of the class in a daze.

During the next few weeks, I pondered his reaction. If an economics professor valued literature as much as or even more than economics, perhaps there was some real value in all the reading I was doing outside of class. Maybe reading novels wasn't just an escape and a diversion. Maybe the study of literature would be a worthwhile pursuit. And if I could succeed as a literature student, maybe this would lead me in a direction that might enhance my career prospects. I had no idea what career this would be, but I hoped that by the time I finished school, I'd find out.

I changed my major to English, raised my grades and transferred to UC Santa Barbara. I appreciated school for the first time, and I discovered that a love of reading translated to an affinity for writing. I attended graduate school in journalism and embarked on a career as a newspaper reporter, including two decades at the Los Angeles Times. I eventually left daily journalism to write books.

Last month, after telling this story to group of college students, I decided to give the professor a call. I could only recalled his last name, so I contacted a member of the faculty alumni association. He put me in touch with David Kaplan, who is 83; he retired 14 years ago.

The first thing I asked Kaplan was whether he remembered our encounter. He did not.

"But it doesn't surprise me that I'd respond like that," he said. "It reflects what I was thinking about at the time and what I was going through, personally."

After obtaining bachelor's and master's degrees in economics at UCLA and teaching the subject for a decade at Santa Monica College, Kaplan had come to the conclusion that his education was narrow and incomplete. He began taking literature classes at UCLA and reading widely on his own.

Kaplan continued teaching economics, and to believe in the need for practical majors such as business. But he also began to think that university officials who de-emphasized the humanities, and students who dismissed their significance, were misdirected.

Economic theory is important, he told me, but reading authors such as Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dickens, Shakespeare and Wordsworth has a different and equally important kind of worth, shaping students' values and deepening their understanding of life. The writing, critical thinking skills and appreciation for creativity that students learn as liberal arts majors, Kaplan said, will enrich their lives and also serve them well in a variety of careers, including business.

"I probably reacted to you the way I did because I believe that reading a novel is as valuable as a dry economics lecture," he said, "and the themes might resonate more and, ultimately, have a greater impact on your life."

  • Miles Corwin's most recent book is the crime novel "Midnight Alley." He teaches literary journalism at UC Irvine.