Monday, June 30, 2014


from Dr. Mark Naison’s blog “With a Brooklyn Accent" |

March 11, 2014

A letter to my students of Los Angeles Unified:

You have been failed.

You have been failed not by the school or your teachers (or their boogeyman union), but by people far removed from the world you inhabit. These people in plush houses and all the creature comforts of life have tried to label the school you are now attending a failure, but the people who know only “of” you--who have never come down to see you in your class and home environment—are more interested in their own profit and aggrandizement than in actually seeing you succeed.

The failure has been on their part and the interests they represent in demonizing you and your situation.

Let me begin by saying I realize as an English teacher that everything is about definition and who gets to CONTROL definition. Thus it is with this powerful word: “education”. It does not mean the same thing to everybody.

There are two models of education that are in play.

One definition of “Education” is defined by people with tremendous power, both political and financial. It is a form of “education” that kids of our school shall receive.

There is another definition of “education” that exists that is entirely outside YOUR sphere because they genuinely believe you are not worthy of it.

Your own LA School Superintendent John Deasy will tell you that you shouldn’t worry about 40 and 50 kids in a class because that doesn’t matter. He tells you that the cleanliness of your school doesn’t matter. He tells you that the lack of electives doesn’t matter. He tells you that the lack of interesting classes, of arts programs of field trip opportunities don’t matter. He tells you that if only you had “better” teachers, your situation in life would change dramatically.

He knows this because what matters is how well you can do on a test. If you do well on a test it PROVES to his system that you are “educated.” Your quality of life in every other aspect is of little real concern to him.

John Deasy’s children and the children of his friends have a different model of education. They DO NOT get what you get. They get the BEST of education in a completely different environment. Look where so many people in LAUSD district headquarters send their kids. Are they the kids next to you in your classes? I would love you to go to their schools and check out what they have and see how wildly different it is from what you have experienced.

Like many school districts across the country, we are now beholden to forces far above that dictate our lives. The Pearson Testing organization (they run ALL the standardized tests that are inflicted upon you through the course of your life) and the Bill Gates corporation (the gagillionaire who is behind the advent of the Common Core and all those “education” software products have recently joined forces to make sure all your younger brother and sisters are under their yoke for good: while controlling and dictating the education market far into the future.

You see, education is Big Business. It is not about what is best for you. It is what is best for people who have power over your lives.

Pearson and Bill Gates KNOW what incredible things are out there in the world and the potential of a real education. Believe me, they make sure THEIR OWN KIDS take full advantage of it. They will give you computer programs and software instead. None of it is designed to challenge you as a thinking individual. There will be a lot of bells and whistles to the programs to simply make you DO the assignments. In their philosophy, they ask, “What has to happen for kids to DO their work?” Simply give you a computer program. Viola!

When was the last time you ever went on a field trip in LAUSD? When was the last time you got out and did something cool, exciting, interesting or mind-blowing? IT IS NOT A PRIORITY. If you did, it was because a teacher did something despite the school district, not because of it.

You get an iPad that you already know is old news and you do scripted assignments on it and are not allowed to take it home to do what YOU want to do with it. You do what THEY TELL YOU to do with it on programs that have bankrupted your district and made a tidy profit for the Testing Companies.

Your School Superintendent believes THIS IS WHAT YOU MOST NEED for your lives. He tells you THIS IS YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS issue. He is Rosa Parks fighting for Apple and Civil Rights is not your packed classrooms or any elective classes that would actually bring joy to your lives. If I had my way, it would be mandated that kids had to go on at least EIGHT field trips a school year. You all know that a SMART field trip is what you remember from school and has the ability to change your life. That means NOTHING to Pearson and Gates. It means NOTHING to many school districts who oversee urban education. They couldn’t care less. If it happens in school, great, but they certainly make ZERO effort to encourage it.

The TESTS are his biggest concern. Not your critical thinking skills. That is lip service since his notion of “critical thinking” and mine are at wild variances.

LAUSD now is LAUSD, INC. Under John Deasy, we are a factory. The goal is to just get you through high school and if we can prove you have done well enough on Pearson Tests, we proclaim you “educated”. Their bar which they believe is the TRUE measure of education is pathetic. It is insulting. It is abusive. It is a joke. He and Eli Broad have staffed LAUSD with like-minded administrators and district hires to oversee his pedagogy. The destruction of public education in LASUD is being cheered by the highest political and business powers while schools and communities are left reeling in the process.

You have heard all your life that we are trying to make you more competitive in a global economy. Another joke. These same powers-that-be have made sure that your lives are going to always be a struggle. For whatever token 1% of you can manage to get a full scholarship to college, the majority of you will have to incur massive student loan debt to “compete” with other kids who have had much higher privilege than you have enjoyed.

They will tell you it’s all about hard work and perseverance (and believe me, I’m not belittling those qualities at all!), but John Deasy got both his education and position through being guided and handled by the billionaires Eli Broad and Bill Gates. You are not likely to be as fortunate as him. He claims all his achievements are due to all his own hard work—again, a joke. Few individuals in life get so pampered and rewarded as he has been, but that is how the society works.

You get all the cheerleading illusions of “you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be!” but society is still ruled by the powerful elite who protect their own. Thus you are on the short end of a two tiered education system where one group keeps gaming the system for their own while you continue to struggle with the crumbs they throw you.

Your future is not in getting an iPad. Your future lies in realizing these phony gestures are meant to hurt you and KEEP you from getting what you are entitled to.

The education model they give you WILL harm you far more than if you were to just go to any library in the country and start reading all the books that interest you, start searching for websites that intrigue and inflame your brain, skip school to hit up the museums and art galleries and dance and theater performances that your school NEVER takes you to. You will have a much better shot at succeeding in life than if you stay within the Gates/Pearson/Deasy system you are being condemned to.

As a National Board Teacher, I am duty bound to tell you this. To pretend you are not in a grand political struggle is a lie. Deasy, Pearson, Gates, Race to the Top and the Department of Education are all political beasts who are in no way neutral about your life. They pour billions of dollars into school board races and appoint superintendents across the land to make sure their interests are enacted. They are not benign and helpful. They seek to hurt you with their vision for your future life.

Their grand talk is really only about their own selfish interests. You are outgunned by their money and political clout, but you can fight them guerilla style like other smart revolutionaries before you.

That means getting smart on your own terms. Reject theirs. Become aware and fight for our school. Fight for your families. Fight for your community. Fight for all kids everywhere in your situation. Do whatever you can to oppose their plans for you.

I wish you a much better life than what they offer.

Together, we will achieve it.


--Your High School English Teacher

Sunday, June 29, 2014


by Carrie Marovich SI&A Cabinet Report ::

June 24, 2014 (Md.)  ::  Books and Baseball Night. Fiesta-val of Math. Family Digital Summit. Fish Fry and Social Hour. For schools across the nation last year these family-oriented events – and dozens like them –  were more than just fun ways to promote learning.

They were all part of locally-designed, research-based plans to foster partnerships between schools and families with the ultimate goal of heightening academic achievement.

Ramping up parent involvement in their children’s learning is an emerging strategy for raising student achievement, according to Dr. Joyce Epstein, director of the National Network for Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University.

“Our research shows that well-designed and well-implemented programs of partnerships improve schools, strengthen families, energize communities, and increase student success at all grade levels,” said Epstein, who has been studying the impact of parent involvement at the school, district and state level for more than 30 years.

Many studies have established a connection between academically involved parents and higher achievement levels.

A 2005 study by Canadian researchers Lise Saint-Laurent and Jocelyne Giasson showed that first grade students made notable academic gains after nine parent information sessions over the course of a year.  The sessions, which encouraged parents to visit libraries with their children and showed them how to lead writing and reading activities at home, resulted in significantly higher student scores on general reading and writing tests, as well as measures of sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling and written narratives.

Similarly, a study published in the School Community Journal in 2012 found that when migrant families with kindergarteners attended 25 one-hour sessions that taught them how to work with their children on specific curricular skills, those children had significantly higher reading skills in fifth and sixth grade compared with students whose families did not attend the educational sessions.

Although federal law has long required that every district and school receiving Title I funding develop a written plan for engaging parents, it’s an area that Epstein says has been largely neglected.  As research reveals the academic gains that can be had by showing parents how to engage in their children’s learning, states and districts are beginning to embrace the family as an effective learning support.

In California, for example, a new mechanism for funding schools, the Local Control Funding Formula, requires districts to adopt Local Control Accountability Plans that address the state’s eight priorities for schools – one of which is parental involvement. In their plans, districts are required to show how expenditures will be used to encourage parent involvement in district educational programs.

Currently, the National Network for Partnership Schools works with 60 member districts and 600 elementary, middle and high schools across the nation to implement a research-based model for family and community involvement.

Epstein says the network helps to develop school and district leaders charged with making parents a larger part of the educational equation.

“Districts all have experts for implementing research-based programs in reading, math, and other subjects, but not on family and community engagement, she said. “Now, our studies indicate that this is something that districts must focus on."

Schools that join the network as a partnership school develop an action plan that includes all family and community involvement activities to be carried out by teachers and school groups for the year. Activities by member schools last year ranged from family math and literacy nights to surveys of parents regarding school climate, and community service efforts that brought families together to help those in need.

The success stories from the partnership schools are published each year by the network, Epstein said, to highlight the accomplishments of the participating schools and to serve as a source of inspiration for other schools hoping to get parents more involved in their children’s education. (Click here to read Promising Partnership Practices.)

In addition to organizing fun family events, partnership schools also implement a homework program called Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork, or TIPS.  The interactive homework students take home in the TIPS program is done with a parent or other family member who then provides the teacher with feedback as to how the well the assignment was completed.

A three-year case study by network researchers found that when math teachers at an elementary school implemented the TIPS program most parents became more involved in their student’s schoolwork and were grateful for the additional guidance the program offered. More to the point, the student’s math scores on state tests improved over the course of the study compared to scores of students in comparison schools. Scores for fourth grade students, for example, increased from 54 percent to 66 percent, while same-grade students at a comparison school rose from 54 percent to just 60 percent.

These results were bolstered by a 2011 study of third- and fourth-grade students in the TIPS program, which showed not only that students’ enjoyment of math homework increased due to the parental involvement component, but also that TIPS students had higher standardized math scores than did a control group.

According to Epstein, a major reason schools and teachers are often hesitant about involving parents or other family members in their practice is that teachers generally do not receive training about how to effectively work with families.

“So far, that kind of training hasn’t been typical in college courses for future teachers or administrators,” she said. “If educators are not sure of what they are doing, they are going to be wary of taking action. Our work with districts and schools across the country indicates that by providing the right training in research-based approaches to create these partnerships, the fears go away.”

Click here to read more about the National Network for Partnership Schools.


2cents small Like, duh.


By PAUL ELIAS, ASSOCIATED PRESS, from the santa rosa press democrat |

June 28, 2014, 10:57 AM  ::  SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court will decide if private emails and other electronic communications of government officials are public records open for inspection.

The high court announced Friday that it would step in and settle a long-simmering debate over access to public employees' private communications on personal devices discussing government issues.

Since the coming of email, activists and others in the state have been battling at all levels of government over whether public issues discussed on private devices with personal accounts are covered by the Public Records Act. Similar legal battles and political debates have sprung up across the country as well.

While 26 states view the use of private emails for government business as public records, California and the rest have no clear rules or prevailing case law — a source for continuing turmoil in state courts, according to the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

The case the California Supreme Court agreed to consider Friday began when environmental activist Ted Smith was denied access to messages sent on private devices through private accounts of the San Jose mayor and City Council members. He filed a lawsuit and a trial judge ordered San Jose to turn over the messages. But an appeals court ruled in April that electronic communications sent and received by public officials on their own devices are not public records regardless of the topic.

The city of San Jose is backed by the League of California Cities, which argues that beyond the legal issues, cities having to turn over messages from private devices would face significant administrative challenges in complying with records requests. City officials say they are concerned an adverse ruling will make them responsible to track the electronic communication on private devices of 5,000 city employees, creating potential compliance problems.

Several news companies and free speech organizations have formally sided with the environmentalist's lawsuit seeking the records. They argue that exempting emails sent privately about government business runs contrary to the spirit of California's Open Records Act, passed in 1968. The advocates argue that policies and procedures can be developed to safeguard officials from embarrassing disclosures of their private lives.


2cents “…But an appeals court ruled in April that electronic communications sent and received by public officials on their own devices are not public records regardless of the topic.”

smf:  As I sit in the the audience watching the Board of Education during meetings – doing what I assume to be is sending and answering emails (OK, some of them may be playing Freecell and/or online shopping) - when they are obviously (obliviously?) doing the publics business  – I notice that every one of their devices is burned with the legend: Property of LAUSD.

Friday, June 27, 2014


from Councilmember Jose Huizar’s Downtown Community e-newsletter |

27 June 2014  ::  The Music Center is excited to partner with Mona Golabek and The Los Angeles Unified School District to present “The Children of Willesden Lane” project, a special series of performances for middle and high school students November 3-7, 2014.  The performances will take place at Cortines High School in Downtown Los Angeles.  The program is the true story of Ms. Golabek’s mother and her experiences during the Holocaust as a teen.  It was her passion for music that kept her spirit alive during the darkest of times.

Participating teachers will attend a professional development workshop with “Facing History and Ourselves” in September and receive a classroom set of the book “The Children of Willesden Lane.”  Their hope is that students will have read the book before attending this powerful performance.  Ms. Golabek has raised funds to provide partial funding for school buses to assist schools in attending this important opportunity.
For details of the project and the form for teachers to sign-up please click here.



Annie Gilbertson | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC

Library Literacy - 2

Maya Sugarman/KPCC | Sada Mozer, the children's librarian for the Junipero Serra Branch, reads "Oh!" by Josse Goffin to Trinity Street Elementary School fifth graders.

June 27th, 2014, 5:00amThe Los Angeles Unified school district is spending $6 million next school year to bring back 192 libraries aides, opening shuttered libraries across the region.

"We are grateful that you have funded libraries for our students. We want to be the voice of our students who aren’t hear to thank you," Cathy Ellingford, a library aide at Eagle Rock Elementary, told the school board Tuesday. Ellingford spoke on the behalf of several library aides who sat in the audience, wearing matching blue t-shirts.

Last school year, KPCC reported L.A. Unified slashed hundreds of library positions to weather recession-era budget cuts.  To keep them open, many elementary school principals elected to use discretionary funds to hire library aides.

Others tried to use parent volunteers. But California law mandates schools use specialized staff to check out books, stock shelves and suggest grade-appropriate reading material.

Last year, 332 school libraries were unmanned, forcing mass closures. Some parents and teachers complained that, at the same time, L.A. Unified was spending hundreds of millions of dollars on iPads and tablet trainers and IT staff. Much of that was paid by school bonds, which can't be used for library staff.

Parents protested, and school board member Monica Ratliff took up the cause, establishing a library task force.

"We all know that one immediate solution is the staffing of all our libraries," Ratliff told her fellow board members earlier this year. "Few are openly opposed to the concept of staffing all our libraries, and many are currently interested in addressing the current system of inequity in which some students have access to library books and others don't."

With the help of $332 million more coming from recovering state coffers next school year, the board and Superintendent John Deasy budgeted for 15 new librarians and 192 library aides.

There are still 35 middle schools going without a librarian next year, according to Deasy's 3-year budget plan. He promised to fund them in the future.

The expansion means every L.A. Unified elementary school with a library can open it - but Ellingford said that doesn't mean every kid will get in every week. With only one aide working a three-hour shift per day, she said large elementary schools will struggle to rotate classes into the library every week.

“There are some schools that at three hours students will not receive equitable access," she said.  It's usually kindergartners and first graders who lose out.

Ellingford wants the district to schedule library aides for six hours per day at bigger campuses, where more students mean more books to pull for class assignments and more books to file in the stacks at the end of the day.

2cents small do the math/connect the dots:

  • Last year, 332 school libraries were unmanned,
  • Superintendent John Deasy budgeted for 15 new librarians and 192 library aides.
  • There are still 35 middle schools going without a librarian next year, according to Deasy's 3-year budget plan.
Equity and Access are the words o’ th’ day. If there is one school without a staffed library, if the there is one student who does not have access to a library and a trained professional to help him or her access the collection there is no equity.


By John Fensterwald |EdSource  |

Credit: John C. Osborn/EdSource Today

June 26, 2014  ::  Here are some key results of the poll of Californians’ views on education conducted by the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and Policy Analysis for California Education. For more details of the survey, see below.



An annual poll of Californians’ views on education contains bad news for teachers unions and advocates of the Common Core standards, good news for backers of charter schools, mixed news for preschool supporters and a warning for State Superintendent Tom Torlakson in his re-election campaign against Marshall Tuck.

The joint survey by the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and the independent research organization Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE, questioned 1,005 registered voters earlier this month about a range of education topics.

The poll indicated that some of the doubts and skepticism about the Common Core State Standards that have gained sway in other states are taking hold in California, too. As opposed to many states, in California the new standards in English language arts and math have the full support of the majority of the Legislature, the governor, the State Board of Education and organizations representing teachers unions, school boards and the state PTA.

But of the voters surveyed, the more they hear about Common Core, apparently the less they like it. Of the roughly three-quarters of voters who said they knew something about the standards, more had a “negative impression” (44 percent) than a “positive impression” (38 percent). Parents with kids in schools, who made up about 30 percent of those surveyed, had identical views.

“Republican opposition solidified, and Common Core has become a political litmus test for the national Republican Party, therefore, with some active politicking in California,” said David Plank, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education.

When read two statements, one presenting the case for Common Core and one against (see below), 32 percent of parents and of all voters surveyed said they favored the standards, while 41 percent of all voters and 45 percent of parents said they opposed them. Last year, when that question was asked, 36 percent of respondents, including parents, said they supported the Common Core and only 25 percent were opposed.

At the same time, the percentage who said they knew at least a little about Common Core increased from 29 percent of respondents last year to 47 percent of all respondents and 58 percent of parents this year.

“The response is striking,” said Julie Marsh, an associate professor at USC’s School of Education, who attributed the rise in negativity toward Common Core to an increase in national media stories about states pulling out of the two consortia that are creating the standardized tests for the new standards. She also said there is opposition to immediately holding teachers and schools accountable for test results.

At the same time, Marsh said, there has not been a lot of media attention in California on Common Core. “That creates a messaging problem potentially for Common Core advocates and the state,” she said.

David Plank, executive director of PACE, sees politics at work.

“Republican opposition solidified, and Common Core has become a political litmus test for the national Republican Party, therefore, with some active politicking in California,” he said. “We education folks have been mostly talking to one another about this and have done much to raise public awareness about why it is good for California schools and kids.”

Other issues in the survey:
Tenure and unions: Earlier this month, in Vergara v. State of California, a Superior Court judge ruled five teacher protection state laws – providing tenure within two years, mandating layoffs by seniority and creating complex disciplinary procedures – violated the state Constitution because they disproportionately harmed low-income and minority children’s education.

Of the 40 percent of voters polled who said they knew of the decision, 62 percent said they agreed with the decision, while 23 percent disagreed. Among parents, 67 percent agreed and 18 percent disagreed.

In addition, 35 percent of parents and of all respondents said there shouldn’t be a tenure system, while 41 percent of parents and 35 percent of all voters said granting tenure within two years after a teacher is on the job is too short a time to evaluate competency.

Of those surveyed, 66 percent of parents disagreed with laying off teachers based on seniority, while 20 percent supported it (about the same percentages for all voters).

Funding preschool: The poll found 62 percent of respondents and 64 percent of parents supported using public funding for preschool for low-income 4-year-olds. However, asked whether they’d support “a small tax increase” to pay for it, only 41 percent overall and 44 percent of parents said yes, while 49 percent overall and 48 percent of parents opposed the idea.

Going Deeper

Race for state superintendent: In the June primary, incumbent Torlakson soundly defeated Tuck, a former charter schools executive from Los Angeles, 47 to 29 percent in a three-way race for state superintendent. The poll, however, indicates that the head-to-head runoff election in November could be close.

Asked who they would vote for if the election were today, nearly 60 percent of parents and voters overall said they hadn’t made up their minds, with 27 percent overall favoring Torlakson and 16 percent for Tuck. Among parents, 25 percent favored Torlakson and 16 percent favored Tuck.

Asked again, once they had watched a campaign ad for Torlakson and one for Tuck, which has not been widely viewed, the race became a toss-up, close to within the poll’s 3.5 percent margin of error. Among all respondents, 38 percent backed Torlakson and 36 percent preferred Tuck, with 27 percent undecided. Among parents, more backed Tuck (40 percent) than Torlakson (35 percent), with 25 percent undecided.

Charter schools: About half of the respondents said they had a very good or somewhat good understanding of charter schools, with the rest little or no understanding. After they were read a paragraph objectively describing charters, 57 percent overall said the numbers of charter schools should be greatly or somewhat increased, with only 11 percent favoring fewer. Among parents, 63 percent favored more charters, with only 9 percent favoring fewer.

Participants in the poll were selected based on party affiliation, geographic location and ethnicity, and took the survey online. The results of underrepresented groups were given extra weight. This includes Hispanics, who make up 26 percent of registered voters but were 17 percent of the participants.

The arguments for and against Common Core in the poll are as follows:

  • California is right to implement the Common Core State Standards because they provide
    a clear, consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. These standards have been adopted by California and 45 other states.
  • California should not implement the Common Core State Standards because they represent a Washington, D.C.-based, one-size-fits-all approach that increases our reliance on standardized testing and does not take account of regional and classroom realities. Many states that have adopted the Common Core Standards are now re-evaluating their decision.


Commentary By Thomas J. Cottle and Jennifer Greif Green | Education Week

Published Online: June 20, 2014  ::  The location changes, but the story is a familiar one: An angry young man*—sometimes a teenager—guns down others in a public place. Whether it's Troutdale, Ore.; Isla Vista, Calif.; or Newtown, Conn., questions soon arise about the mental health of the killer and whether treatment could have prevented a tragedy.

Findings from the most recent National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, conducted from 2001 to 2004 and to date the largest nationally representative study of child and adolescent mental disorders, tell a striking story. Almost half the 13- through 18-year-olds studied met criteria for a mental disorder. Yet two-thirds of those with a disorder never received mental-health treatment. Even among those with the most severe disorders, only half reported receiving treatment for their symptoms.

There are many explanations for this gap in treatment. At the intersection of stigma, shame, budget constraints, the distances to doctors' offices, and inadequate insurance coverage stand the parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, counselors, and social workers who provide the best care they can, almost always with limited resources.

Despite their many other professional burdens, teachers remain in one of the best positions to attend to children exhibiting mental distress. Parents, only naturally, are biased and emotionally invested. They surely know their children better than anyone, but have limited knowledge of typical and atypical child development. Pediatricians, on the other hand, are knowledgeable purveyors of information on children, given their experiences with hundreds if not thousands of them, but a physician is unlikely to know an individual child as well as the child's teacher does.

So it is that we turn again to teachers. The essence of school would seem to be about the wellbeing of children, helping them live their lives according to their best lights, as University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann has written. They need to be educated, as well as cared for, in ways that will help them thrive. It is not melodramatic to assert, therefore, that education is a life-or-death enterprise.

Teacher referral of children to mental-health treatment is, however, a complex matter. It requires that teachers first recognize that students need help, and, second, conceptualize that need as a mental or emotional one and not just a medical, disciplinary, or parenting problem. But that is only the beginning. Teachers need to assess risk, know whether and with whom to consult, and then be confident that there are resources available for students.

In a series of interviews that one of us (Jennifer Green) conducted with junior high and high school teachers, they described the challenges they face. A high school math teacher said: "My average student I see for 50 minutes, 55 minutes, and unfortunately based on time and the things that you're trying to get through, … I know that there are things that I missed. … I'm sure that there are people who are suffering from some sort of emotional distress or just some general dissonance and, I don’t know how to address those."

An 8th grade history teacher talked about an all-too-common challenge: "We lost our full-time counselor last year, so when I first started at the beginning of the year, we didn't have a counselor." The school has a new counselor, but the teacher added: "I'm not sure exactly what the procedure is to utilize his services. Or even what days he's exactly in."

“Some teachers welcome the student-support role, but are unsure how to help students or where to find the information they need.”

From a high school math teacher: "I'm always just wishing we could do more to support these kids better. Put them in smaller classes. Have them connected to adults. How do we have every student in the school feel connected to an adult in the building? How do you get to know 1,500 kids and make sure they’re all connected somewhere? I think really, really, really the key—whether we're talking about their emotional health or their academic ability—is that students feel personally cared about, and I don't know how we do that."

Some teachers welcome the student-support role, but are unsure how to help students or where to find the information they need to do this well. Most teachers have little or no training in the complexities of addressing student mental-health issues.

Further, how do teachers balance the needs of individual students with those of an entire class?

From a high school teacher: "Our role in society is pretty vague, and I think for some teachers, they feel more like parents and are willing to accept that added responsibility, and for other teachers, I think myself included, I don’t like that responsibility. I didn't become a teacher to also become a parent. I pursued teaching because of the subject that I love, and I wanted to share that passion with young people.

"I just think if teachers knew more about the resources out there that we could use, just to prepare ourselves. … I can go on the Internet and do a Google search, but how do I know that that’s the right thing?"

It seems essential that teachers possess an understanding of normal and abnormal psychological development. They need not become experts in diagnosis or treatment; no one is suggesting they assume the role of therapist or counselor. But if we insist that regular classroom teachers receive training in special education, then why not instruction in mental health or, at the very least, the signs of potential danger? President Barack Obama actually called for such training in 2013.

A number of programs designed to instruct teachers in identifying and responding to mental-health and behavioral challenges already exist. For example, the American Psychiatric Foundation’s "Typical or Troubled?" program trains school staff members to identify signs of trouble among adolescents. Ought not this training be universal?

The reality is that many schools and communities are sorely lacking affordable and high-quality mental-health resources for young people. Let us hold in mind that children don’t slip through the cracks; they are overlooked, neglected, or at times simply improperly cared for. The path to understanding remains today as it did for Immanuel Kant: "[T]he human being can only become human through education." But let us add that recognizing, understanding, and treating mental illness are ingredients of that education.

Knowing what we do, how can we not act on these words from a high school English teacher: "We have to be the bridge—we know them the most, we see them the most, we see them consistently every day for however many minutes, and even though we have a lot of support systems, those people aren't going to know about it unless someone refers them."

  • Thomas J. Cottle is a professor of education at Boston University and the author of At Peril: Stories of Injustice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.) Jennifer Greif Green is an assistant professor of education at Boston University, where she studies school-based mental-health services.


* smf: In the interest of gender equality and Title IX: The authors seem to have forgotten the case of 16-year-old Brenda Spencer  who shot up Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego on January 29, 1979, The principal and a custodian were killed. According to Wikipedia, Brenda, who had a history of mental illness, asked for a radio for her birthday – and instead her father gave her a semi-automatic rifle and 500 rounds of ammo.



Pia V. Escudero, Director, LAUSD School Mental Health, Crisis Counseling & Intervention Services, writes 4LAKids:

Thank you for highlighting this article.

It is very relevant for our teachers at LAUSD. This year, we are successfully launching a 5 hour training for new teachers, district interns, and new SPED teachers.

Our focus is: Shifting the Lens from What’s Wrong? …to What Happened?  How to Promote Health and Wellness for Students in your classroom.

The five hour training includes: 

  • The connection between a student’s life experiences and their behaviors at school, including the impact of stressful/traumatic events on student’s behavior, spectrum of mental health and disorders,  development, social-emotional learning, and academics;
  • Protective and risk factors and how they are crucial for building resilience in the classroom;
  • The 5 component of Psychological First Aid, an evidence-informed model that can be used when students are in crisis and a daily dose of improving school climate;
  • The warning signs and risk factors for students who may exhibit suicidal/homicidal ideations or behaviors and what the District protocol is for responding to these situations and how to get students access to help;
  • How life stressors can impact teacher’s own physical and psychological well-being; self care strategies to working with students.

The emphasis on our seminars is to empower teachers to connect with their students, setting high expectations, and ensure they access services for their students, their families, or themselves when needed.

Human Resources has been had the foresight of collaborating closely with School Mental Health for years, this new initiative is very proactive and truly welcomed by teachers who want to teach but know mental health and behavior issues impede our students ability to succeed if untreated.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sacramento Lawmakers in AB 2449: STUDENTS NEED 20 MINUTES TO EAT

by Alisha Kirby | SI&A Cabinet Report ::

June 26, 2014  ::  (Calif.) A bill headed for a final vote in the state Senate addresses a problem many kids and parents would like to see resolved: Students not having enough time to eat lunch at school.

Twenty minutes, according to the California Department of Education, is considered the minimum “adequate time” to consume a meal once it has been served. AB 2449 would require schools not hitting that mark to coordinate with their district or county office of education on a plan to increase students’ time to eat beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

“If kids are buying lunch, they’re standing in line the entire time, and by the time they sit down to eat, they have to throw it away because lunch time is over,” said Tiffany Jensen, a parent of two who has volunteered in the cafeteria at Twin Lakes Elementary.

“If their class is one of the last ones coming into the lunchroom they’ve got probably less than 5 minutes,” she said in an interview with Cabinet Report. The kids that bring lunch get about 15 or 20 minutes,” she said.

With the passage in 2010 of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, greater focus has been placed on making sure kids are actually eating healthier foods. The goal of the law, which requires that more whole grain products as well as fruits and vegetables be served in schools, is to reduce childhood obesity by lowering calorie intake.

Research showing kids learn better when they’re rested and fed has prompted student and education advocates as well as law makers to focus on making sure that happens.

The CDE issued guidance in 2013 along with research suggesting that less time to eat discourages students from buying and eating complete lunches, and that waiting in line is the most common issue students have with lunches.

According to a staff analysis of AB 2449, less than 25 percent of elementary schools and 8 percent of middle and high schools have policies regulating the amount of time that students have to eat. The last student in line during the lunch period would only receive at least 20 minutes to eat at an estimated 28 percent of elementary schools and 45 percent of middle and high schools.

At Twin Lakes, the lunch period is 45 minutes, according to the school website. However, kids are allowed to leave the cafeteria early. Some students eager to be outside with friends spend the least amount of time they can in the lunchroom.

“[Schools] incentivize it,” said Jensen. “As soon as a kid is finished, they just sit there quietly and then [staff] lets them go to recess. Then the kids just dump their trays.”

Part of the problem, according to Denise Ohm, school nutrition specialist for the Enterprise Elementary School District, is what she calls “school lunch room culture.”

“It’s meal time – we’re here to eat, try new foods and take our time,” said Ohm, describing her ideal cafeteria, where an adult sits with children during the whole serving period encouraging them to eat.

“I don’t know where that kind of funding would come from,” she admitted, noting that schools would have to provide extra staff to supervise the lunchroom and playgrounds. “The intention of the bill is to ensure more eating time, but I don’t know if legislation can help us with that.”

Retweeting Howard Blume: U.S. STUDENTS BEST AT………..oops, sorry, I dozed off…….. OUR KIDS ARE BEST IN THE WORLD AT BEING SLEEPY!


Education Week

U.S. Students Get Top Scores for Sleepiness

By Holly Yettick , Education Week |

Published Online: June 10, 2014, Published in Print: June 11, 2014  ::  While U.S. students often catch flak for their performance on large-scale international assessments, they may be approaching world dominance on one such indicator: sleepiness.

In both the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, the percentage of U.S. pupils enrolled in classrooms in which teachers report that student sleepiness limits instruction "some" or "a lot" in 4th grade reading and 4th and 8th grade math and science has consistently exceeded 70 percent. Internationally, overall averages for sleepiness range from 46 percent to 58 percent, depending on the grade level and the subject. (Eighth grade science classes were the "sleepiest.")

What does this all mean? It is difficult to say. In 2011, the journal Sleep Medicine published a meta-analysis of 41 studies that found that, at least in adolescence, students in Asian nations went to bed latest on school nights, resulting in the world's highest rates of daytime sleepiness. But a quick glance at the TIMSS and PIRLS charts suggests that the United States generally has higher percentages of students enrolled in classes in which teachers reported that sleepiness limited instruction. Although some Asian nations and jurisdictions reported relatively high rates in certain subjects or grade levels, others (especially Japan) are generally below the international average.

Rankings Unclear

By contrast, U.S. rates range from 73 percent in science and 4th grade math to 85 percent in 8th grade science. Countries and jurisdictions with similar rates in at least some grade levels or subjects included Australia, Taiwan, Finland, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. However, because of the way the data were collected, TIMSS and PIRLS could not say where, precisely, the United States ranked in the world.

"What we can say is that greater percentages of students in the United States, in comparison to other countries, have teachers that report their instruction is limited due to students' lack of sleep," said Chad Minnich, a spokesman for the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College. "Further, our data show that when instruction is limited due to students' lack of sleep, that achievement in mathematics, science, and reading is lower."

However, Iris C. Rotberg, a research professor of education policy at George Washington University in Washington, says that valid conclusions about students' sleepiness cannot be drawn from teachers' responses to a questionnaire item asking to what extent their instruction was limited by students suffering from a lack of sleep.

"Further, because of the basic sampling and measurement flaws in international test-score comparisons generally, the factors contributing to test-score rankings cannot be accurately identified," Ms. Rotberg said.

But in a commentary published last month in the journal Teachers College Record, Meilan Zhang, an assistant professor of educational technology at the University of Texas at El Paso, argued that "[r]esearchers, policymakers, teachers, health-care practitioners, parents, and students" should take notice of the TIMSS and PIRLS findings.

"Improving student sleep deserves more attention than is currently received in public discourse and national agendas for education," she wrote. "It is likely that when the sleepiness rankings of U.S. students go down, their science, mathematics, and reading score rankings will move up in the next TIMSS and PIRLS."

Technology's Role

Ms. Zhang's theory is that U.S. students are sleepy in school because they spend too much time texting, playing video games, watching TV, and using media in other ways.

"Heavy media use interferes with sleep by reducing sleep duration, making it harder to fall asleep, and lowering sleep quality," she wrote, citing a 2011 research review in the journal, Sleep Medicine.

But the relationship between youth media use and sleep is not so simple, said Michael Gradisar, who coauthored both that review and the Sleep Medicine meta-analysis.

"Technology use is the new culprit when trying to answer 'Why are school-age children sleeping less?'" said Mr. Gradisar, an associate professor of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

There may be safe limits to technology use, Mr. Gradisar stated. For instance, recent research results indicate that using a bright screen for an hour before bed or even playing violent video games for less than that will not necessarily interfere with teenagers' sleep, he wrote.

But longer periods of usage can be harmful to sleep, Mr. Gradisar added. Rather than delay school start times, he said, a first step should be educating parents about limiting the hours their children are using technology before bed, and enforcing a consistent bedtime.

Early school start times are also commonly blamed for student sleepiness, especially for adolescents. Secondary schools around the nation and the world have been delaying start times, often with positive results.

Mr. Minnich of the TIMSS and PIRLS center hesitated to "attribute causality or apportion blame to any particular factor." But he did speculate that cost-saving measures to consolidate bus routes might help explain U.S. students' sleepiness.

"For those children who board the bus first, they must get up earlier, may end up dozing en route to school, and may end up arriving at school sleepy," he said.


Board members refuse to sign Declaration for the Right to School Libraries at June 25 meeting of the nation's third largest school system

George N. Schmidt –Substance News Boardwatch |

June 26, 2014  ::  A group of Chicago Public Schools librarians surprised the five members of the Chicago Board of Education who showed up for the Board's June 25, 2014 meeting with detailed information that this Board has created massive cutbacks in the libraries of the nation's third largest school system. The cuts have reached the point where it is possible that in the coming school year only half of Chicago's nearly 600 real public schools will have libraries staffed by professional librarians open to the children. The cuts in libraries have come most at those schools in the city's poorest ghetto and barrio communities.

Megan Cusick, librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School (the school serving the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center), delivered the first of four presentations on the library crisis in America's third largest school system to the June 25, 2014 meeting of the Board. Standing to the right (above) are Ellen Damlich, librarian at Chicago's Senn High School (far right), and Marci Merola of the American Library Association. Each made a presentation to the Board meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. >>

Speaking on behalf of themselves and a Chicago Teachers Union task force analyzing the library crisis in Chicago, three public school librarians provided the Board meeting with detailed information about the current state of affairs. They were joined by an official of the American Library Association, which will be considering the Chicago scandal at its meeting in Las Vegas this week.

The librarians also told Substance that the claim made during the Board meeting by Chief Executive Office Barbara Byrd Bennett that there weren't enough available librarians to staff Chicago's schools was simply a lie. In response to the public presentations by the librarians, Byrd Bennet had told Board members that there were only seven librarians available. Among other things left out in the CEO's claim is that fact that principals, especially at the high school level and in some of Chicago's most prestigious schools, have been placing their librarians in classroom programs as English teachers and staffing the libraries part-time with school clerks. The "college prep" schools at which this is happening, according to the librarians, include Payton and Lane Tech high schools.

Many observers believed it was a national scandal three years ago when a study showed that 163 schools in Chicago did not have libraries. But later, investigations (including one by Substance) showed that many schools had libraries -- but that principals and CPS officials were keeping the libraries closed and unavailable to children -- without librarians. According to the librarians studying the problem in 2014, more than a third of Chicago's public schools are now denying their children libraries, either because the school has taken professional librarians out of the libraries (as at Lane, Payton, and Clemente high schools currently) or because the libraries have been closed (in some cases, to be used as storage rooms, as at one South Side elementary school).

<<Chicago Public Schools "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley (above left, foreground) and "Chief Talent Officer" Alicia Winckler (right) showed their interest in the librarians' presentations in different ways. Above, the photo was taken while Megan Cusick was presenting to the Board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

The librarians presented the five Board members present (there are seven members of the Chicago Board of Education, all appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel) with a"Declaration for the Right to School Libraries" which had been signed by more than 2,000 people, including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. The Board members -- David Vitale, Mahalia Hines, Jesse Ruiz, Carlos Azcoitia, and Deborah Quazzo -- refused to sign the "Declaration" at the time of the meeting.

Instead, the Board members gave CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett the opportunity to claim a falsehood -- viz., that there weren't enough "available" certitifed librarians -- as the reason why the number of non-libraries is increasing in Chicago. What the Board members do is either respond themselves to public criticisms or ask for a response from their CEO, but they refuse to allow anyone who has raised an issue to respond when a CPS official lies or presents the public record with a half truth.

The statements by four librarians, including Marci Merola, a representative of the American Library Association, follow below here:


First page of the ALA letter to Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale presented to the Board on June 25, 2014.Good morning. My name is Megan Cusick and I am a CPS Librarian and a CPS parent.

This year, all schools are required by CPS to include literacy as a focus area in their School Improvement Plans. It is particularly troubling, then, that professionally staffed libraries—a key

contributor to student literacy—are disappearing from the CPS landscape.

In 2009, approximately 16% of CPS schools lacked a professional librarian. Next year that number will surpass 50%.

Despite assurances at hearings, press conferences, in videos and in these very chambers, and despite the tumultuous closing of 50 schools last year, the promise of properly resourced schools  continues to go unrealized.

What does this mean for students?

. -- Of 50 “Receiving Schools,” 31 are without a professionally staffed school library, including Courtenay, Chopin, Cullen, Harvard, and Pershing, to name just a few.

-- At least 5 high schools with the much touted, inquiry-focused IB program are without school librarians: Kelly, Farragut, Clemente, Hyde Park, and Back of the Yards.

Many of us watched a ribbon cutting for a CPS/Chicago Public Library partnership at Back of the Yards High School, where students have no access to that library during their school day.

What else does this mean? Hundreds of thousands of students will leave CPS lacking the full range of 21st century skills that are required to succeed in college, work and life.

It is, at best, disingenuous to say that principals are responsible for deciding whether or not to maintain a professionally staffed library program. It is also a disservice to our students.

Parents and community members: I urge you to advocate for schools that offer a comprehensive curriculum to our students—not one that forces one program to be added at the expense of another, but one that our own district leadership and indeed, our own mayor, has indicated that every child deserves.

Thank you.

<<  The two CPS executives largely responsible for the library situation sat without listening closely as Megan Cusick began the detailed explanation of the library crisis in America's third largest school system. Alicia Winckler (above left) is the "Chief Talent Officer" (i.e., Chief Human Resources Officer) of Chicago Public Schools. Tom Terrell (above right) is currently the "Chief Operations Officer." Winckler was hired five years ago after a career as an executive at Sears Holdings and has headed the personnel departments through four different name changes ("rebrandings"). Terrell was hired a year ago after his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps to oversee the moves that were required after the Board voted on May 22, 2013 to close 49 public schools and put their students into so-called "welcoming schools." Like the majority of CPS executives in 2014, neither Winckler nor Terrell has ever taught in a Chicago public school or served as a principal. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt>>


<<Senn High School librarian Ellen Damlich read her statement and distributed the Declaration to the members of the Chicago Board of Education at the Board's June 25, 2014 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

My name is Ellen Damlich. I am a CPS teacher librarian of 12 years and I currently work at Senn High School. Prior to that I was at Little Village High School and Ames Middle School -- Proudly all neighborhood schools.

This spring, a group of CPS librarians started a task force out of our collective alarm and concern for the elimination of nearly 50 CPS librarian positions. In some cases, the libraries were closed entirely.

We are here to present this Declaration for the Right to School Libraries, which underscores the fact that school libraries staffed by professional librarians are an indispensable part of a students’ education.

We have collected almost two thousand signatures from students, colleagues and parents. Even Governor Quinn signed our declaration.

To provide some context, I will read from the Declaration’s preamble: "In the spirit of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we believe that libraries are essential to a democratic society. In addition to a vast array of books, computers and other resources, library users benefit from the expert teaching and guidance of librarians to help expand their minds and open new worlds..."

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett (above, photographed during the remarks by Ellen Damlich) did not look happy that the destruction of Chicago's library programs was being exposed by the librarians and brought to the attention of the nation and the American Library Association. When asked to comment on the issues raised, Byrd Bennett lied and said the reason CPS schools didn't have more librarians in libraries was that there were only "seven" available. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.>>

As school libraries are essential to 21st century education, we declare and affirm our right to quality school libraries. Without a qualified librarian, one does not have a quality school library.

Finally, as a representative of the Librarian Task Force, I present these signed Declarations to Marci Merola, an Officer at the American Library Association. I am also presenting a copy to members of this Board.

I urge all of you to sign our declaration after this meeting, take our contact information, and fight for our students’ rights to professionally staffed school libraries.

Thank you.


My name is Nora Wiltse. I’m a National Board Certified school librarian working in CPS since 2003. I believe this board appreciates researchbased educational policies. We spend a lot of time testing our students so CPS can be “datadriven”.

I would like to present ‘data’ on school libraries. Research shows a strong connection to school libraries and student successes. Over 20 research studies by Keith Curry Lance, Stephen Krashen and others find a strong link between professionally staffed school libraries and increased student performance. The studies span over two decades, including an Illinois study from 2005 and they all find the same thing: students who interact with a certified school librarian have higher achievement. This correlation is seen even when other variables are accounted for, including socioeconomic status.

Yet, in CPS, school librarians and school libraries are disappearing rapidly. Due to “perpupil”  budgeting and an unfunded mandate for more PE and art minutes, school librarians are being placed in classrooms and school libraries are becoming store rooms.

This is a huge problem for CPS students. Many students in Chicago have no other safe place to check out books, and have very little reading materials in the home. It’s extremely important for CPS students to all have a school librarian because 87% of our students come from low income homes and school libraries are a great equalizer.

<< Coonley School librarian Nora Wiltse delivered her statement to the June 25, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

As Mayor Emanuel said in a librarian conference just last weekend, our libraries “create a level  playing field, which is what the melting pot is all about.” School libraries are not an “extra.” Students need literacy skills today as much as ever! Students need to know how to research online, and make sense of the information they receive. This happens in a school library. I urge you to return to a former policy to fund a school librarian for each school, paid for by the board and not from “perpupil” budgets.

Thank you.


CPS board warned of drought of librarians

by BECKY SCHLIKERMAN, Chicago Sun Times (Reprinted from Substance News)

WED, 06/25/2014 - 4:33PM,  ::  There is a drought of librarians at Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Board of Education heard Wednesday.

“Professionally staffed libraries, a key contributor to student literacy, are disappearing from the CPS landscape,” CPS mom and librarian Megan Cusick told the board.

Staffing projections show more than half of all CPS schools will lack a certified librarian next year, Cusick, a librarian at Jefferson Alternative High School told the board.

She later told reporters the projections were made by a group of Chicago Teachers Union librarians using data collected by the union.

And despite promises from the district, Cusick said 31 of the 50 schools that received children from closed schools do not have a “professionally staffed school library.”

“Hundreds of thousands of CPS students will leave this system lacking the full range of 21st century skills that are required to succeed in college, work and life,” Cusick said.

Cusick and other librarians and advocates appeared before the Board of Education after creating a task force out of “alarm and concern for the elimination of nearly 50 CPS librarian positions,” Senn High School librarian Ellen Damlich said at the meeting.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the board there’s a lack of qualified people to fill librarian jobs.

She said CPS is working with universities to determine who is on track to be certified.

“It’s not that we don’t want to have librarians in libraries ... but the pool is diminished,” Byrd-Bennett said.

Later, Cusick said certified librarians have been moved out the libraries and into classrooms, but she hopes to now work with the district to get the librarians back into libraries.

The board took no action regarding libraries, but it did approve a softer Student Code of Conduct that will reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions throughout the district, moving it away from a “zero tolerance” disciplinary policy and toward less punitive “restorative justice” practices.

2centssmf: We tend to believe that LAUSD is ground zero in the big urban district School Reform Battle – and ofttimes it is.

Other times it’s New York City or Chicago – where the mayors run the schools. Illinois school districts are generally governed by locally-elected school boards, where each district board hires a superintendent, who in turn hires administrators such as principals, who then must be approved by the school board. In contrast, the CPS board is appointed by the mayor, essentially making the entire system completely accountable to the mayor.( The Chicago Teacher’s union has been very resistant to Chicago Mayor Emmanuel's flavors-of-reform – many of which revolve around closing down underperforming schools. Fifty schools were closed last year. Closed schools in Chicago close – they don’t open again under new management.

The school library fight in Chicago is interesting because The LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee heard this morning from Library Aide (Elementary Librarian) and Library Task Force member Cathy Ellingford – and Beaudry Library Services staff - that the Common Core Standards require more/not less of libraries and librarians –and that LAUSD is currently increasing libraries, library staff  and services while CPS is reducing theirs.

As the Common Core is supposedly a national movement with shared goals and objectives 4LAKids just gets curiouser+curiouser.


By Valerie Strauss | The Washington Post Answer Sheet  |

June 26 at 6:00 AM  :: Standard & Poor’s has issued a new report that extends its “negative” outlook for the charter school sector. Of 214 public charter school ratings done by the agency, 41, or 19 percent, are negative while only 4 — or 2 percent — are positive. Furthermore, it says, funding has not generally “returned to pre-recessionary levels, and some schools are struggling to operate in this “new normal.’”

Here’s the complete report:

USCharterSchools (1) by The Washington Post


by John Merrow  in his blog, Taking Note |

26. Jun, 2014  ::  How much does a sign reading “CHARTER SCHOOL” reveal about the education being offered inside the building? My answer: About as much as a ’RESTAURANT’ sign reveals about the food it serves. That is, nothing at all. This sad state of affairs makes me wonder whether the charter school movement has been hijacked or, at a minimum, has strayed off course. If it has lost its way, whose responsibility is it to restore order and integrity?

I posed that general question to a number of leaders in the charter school arena and will share some of their answers below, but let me explain why I am bringing up the subject.

I’ve been following the story since 1988, when a number of educators convened near the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota to develop an idea that had been put forth–separately–by Albert Shanker, the teacher union leader, and Ray Budde, a Massachusetts educator. You will recognize the names of some of those who participated: Mr. Shanker, Joe Nathan, State Senator Ember Reichgott, Ted Kolderie and Sy Fliegel. (I was there as the moderator.)

The basic idea that emerged was than any school district could create a ‘charter school’–essentially free of nearly all regulations–that would allow exploration of new models of teaching and learning. These charter [1] schools, people hoped, would incubate and then spread innovations.  Taking risks would be OK because only a small number of willing parents, students and teachers would be involved.

In the era of great enthusiasm for parental choice, the planners didn’t want people to be allowed to open charter schools just because they were ‘enthusiastic’ or public-spirited.  As Ted Kolderie explains in his new book, the planners insisted on an authorizing body that would scrutinize applicants and grant charters only to those who had the qualifications to run a school. [2]

Three years later Minnesota passed the first charter school law, and in 1992 the nation’s first charter school opened [3].  Today at least 5,000 charter schools [4] in 41 states enroll about 2.4 million students–but almost none of these charter schools are ‘incubators of innovation’ working with a school district, as the planners had envisioned.

Both school districts and teacher unions ended up opposing the idea. The ‘authorizer as means of setting a high standard’ was diluted to the point of meaningless when some states decided to allow just about anybody to authorize the opening of charter schools. And in some states, authorizers have in turn allowed every Tom, Dick and Harry to set up charter schools.

Some states banned charter schools outright, while others set limits, often low ones, on the number that would be allowed.  Some states appeared to approve charter schools but added a crippling condition: no state funds could be used for facilities. That meant would-be charter school operators had to first raise enough money to acquire a building before they could enroll students or hire teachers and quality for state funds.

A few states–notably Michigan, Ohio and Florida–specifically encouraged for-profit charter schools. To see how disastrously that’s turned out in Michigan, you must read the results of a 1-year investigation by the Detroit Free Press.  It’s a stunning story of greed, mismanagement and failure of oversight that is being reported this week.

Earlier this year the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education published “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse,” its title taken from a report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General.

This report charges that $100 million in taxpayer funds have been lost, stolen or misspent. it cites six areas of abuse:

Charter operators using public funds illegally for personal gain;
School revenue used to illegally support other charter operator businesses;
Mismanagement that puts children in actual or potential danger;
Charters illegally requesting public dollars for services not provided;
Charter operators illegally inflating enrollment to boost revenues; and,
Charter operators mismanaging public funds and schools.”

Overall, charter schools have not been a smashing success academically speaking.  Several studies (.pdf) have indicated that about one-third of charter schools significantly outperform their traditional counterparts, while another third underperform them.

These waves of bad news threaten to obscure the movement’s successes. Over the years a number of Charter Management Organizations (called that to distinguish them from the for-profit charter groups, which are known as “Education Management Organizations”) have established successful chains of charter schools. The best-known CMO is KIPP, for Knowledge is Power Program, but Yes Prep, Achievement First, IDEA Public Schools and a few others have attracted a strong following among parents dissatisfied with traditional public schools…and have demonstrated significant academic gains.

The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools will be meeting soon in Las Vegas, which is why I raise the issue of the movement’s future at this point. In fact, I posed my questions to Nina Rees, the Executive Director of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, Reed Hastings, the Californian who strongly supports charter schools, Joe Nathan and Ted Kolderie, two who were key players at that 1988 meeting, and Greg Richmond, the leader of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

Greg Richmond and Reed Hastings were quick to point out that the influence of the profit-seekers was diminishing. Here’s part of Greg’s response:

The share of charter schools run by for-profit companies appears to have been flat for the past few years. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools shows a range of 11% to 13% over their most recent years of data (2008 to 2011) with a decrease in for-profits as a percent of the whole sector from 13% to 12.3% for the most recent year. The National Education Policy Center, no fan of charter schools, in its most recent report (released November 2013 with 2011-12 data) states “we estimate that the actual number of EMO-managed public schools has remained relatively stable over the past few years, and that large companies are diversifying into supplemental educational services rather than expanding in the full-service management area.

However, Richmond believes that the profit-seeking 100% virtual charter schools, which are growing in number, are a big problem in the charter community.

Their results are uniformly bad, and they have undue political influence in state capitols. Some important charter advocates would like to figure out a way to “kick them out” of the charter school movement.

My colleague John Tulenko did a piece for the NewsHour about one cyber-charter in Pennsylvania that you may have seen. Shortly after John’s piece aired, the founder was indicted.

I also asked about the influence of ideologues on the charter school movement. Some dismissed this, but Greg Richmond believes that those with blind faith in the free market–complete deregulation and parental choice–have been hurting the charter movement.

What I saw in New Orleans [5] supports Richmond’s point about the need for some regulation, because Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard learned that the independent charter schools had to be regulated and supervised or else some of them would play fast and loose [6] with the system and weed out (or not admit) students who might not do well academically or who were more expensive to educate.  Dobard saw it happening and worked to create universal standards on behavior, suspension and expulsion.

Richmond cites an activist group, the Center for Education Reform (CER), as the leading voice of this free market philosophy but adds,

The CER is much less influential than it used to be. After two decades of experience, few people in the charter movement believe that choice and deregulation are guaranteed to produce superior results. Those are good things, but talented teachers, great school leaders, adequate funding, facilities and high standards are just as important, if not more so.

Could the threat to the charter school movement come from the non-profits, not the profit-seekers?  It’s possible.  The non-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMO) are the fastest growing component of the charter movement. They represented just 11.5% of charter schools in 2008, but jumped to 20.2% in 2011.

In his new book, Ted Kolderie bemoans the division between these ‘franchise’ operations and the stand-alone charter schools, which detractors dismiss as “Mom and Pop” operations. In turning its back on individual charter schools,the charter movement is losing its way, Kolderie believes.  It’s in those individual schools that innovation is more likely to occur, he told me, because the franchises stress sameness, just like Burger King and McDonalds.

Greg Richmond sees the same divide as a threat. He wrote, in part,

The people who run these (stand alone) schools are interested in running their one school, not growing a network. Many of them came out of their local districts. They don’t like how the district was run, but they don’t inherently hate the district. They want the district to succeed too. These folks have real philosophical differences with the pro-growth, charter network people, while the network people believe that the stand-alone people are na├»ve.

Governmental and foundation policies support the CMO’s, whether it’s funding from the U.S. Department of Education or the newly established Broad Prize for Charter Schools, a cash award of $250,000 that goes to a CMO.[7]  There is no equivalent award for a stand-alone charter school.

How painfully ironic would it be if the dominance of networks stifled the innovation that the founders of the charter school movement saw as the fundamental advantage of chartering in the first place?

If the clash of philosophies between charter networks and the stand-alone schools is real, relevant and threatening to the stand-alone schools, whose responsibility is it to make sure that the playing field is level?

Nina Rees, the executive director of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, suggested that the responsibility for keeping the movement on course rests with authorizers and, should they fail, politicians. Perhaps, but shouldn’t the Alliance itself support even-handed treatment of networks and stand-alone charter schools? Shouldn’t the Alliance be speaking out against too-easy authorization of would-be charter operators?  Shouldn’t the Alliance stand firmly in favor of more effective and transparent ways of holding failing charter schools accountable?  Shouldn’t it be praising effective state charter school laws, and criticizing those laws that hurt the charter movement by opening the door to unscrupulous people?

I believe the charter movement is off course for another reason: Like the rest of public education, it is hostage to our obsession with test scores as the bottom line measure of school quality.  Charter schools could be leading the conversation about multiple measures of school and teacher effectiveness, but it seems to me that many of them have bought into the bubble test mania.

Charter schools were conceived of as pockets of innovation and cooperation.  We finally found [8] a school district that has welcomed charter schools and is striving to learn from them. Sometime in the next week or two the PBS NewsHour will carry our report about Spring Branch, Texas, where Superintendent Duncan Klussman has invited KIPP and Yes Prep to open schools inside two of his middle schools.  As you will see, the relationship is, so far at least, mutually beneficial, although it appeared to us that the charter schools are having a stronger impact on the traditional schools, not vice-versa.  But that’s as it should be, if charter schools are pushing the inside of the envelope.

The term “Charter School” has to stand for something; right now its meaning is in doubt, and that’s not good. I cannot be in Las Vegas for the annual meeting of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, but I hope some of the ideas above will be part of the conversations there.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

1. Ted Kolderie and others call them ‘chartered schools.’

2. “The Split Screen Strategy: Improvement and Innovation,” Beaver’s Pond Press, 2014

3. In Saint Paul.

In recent years numbers of Catholic parochial schools have converted to charter schools.

5. Our film, “Rebirth: New Orleans,” is available on Netflix. It’s the result of six years of filming there.

6.  For evidence ot that in other places:

7. This year it will go to KIPP, IDEA Public Schools or Achievement First.  The award will be presented in Las Vegas.

8. I learned about the experiment from Richard Whitmire’s new book about charter schools, On the Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools are Pushing the Envelope (Wiley, 2014)


  • John Merrow is a veteran education reporter for PBS, NPR, and dozens of national publications. He is President of Learning Matters, a 501(c)(3) media production company based in New York and focused on education. He is also the author of The Influence of Teachers.


by smf for 4LAKidsNews, from the office of Boardmember Zimmer

At last Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting the following “not an amendment” to the Arts and Music Education Budget detail was offered by Boardmember Steve Zimmer and accepted by the superintendent and the Board of Education without objection.

Adoption of the Arts Education line item in the 2014-15 budget is contingent on the submission of a revised plan from the new Executive Director in August, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • A plan to add funding to the Arts Instruction implementation plan that uses District, grant and/or Foundation funds,
  • A detailed budget showing how much more money would be required to expand beyond the proposed 9 week rotation arts proposal presented to the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee in April to semester rotations and full year rotations,
  • The creation of an Arts Equity Index indicating access to comprehensive arts education bringing the index factors to the Board in September and the Index for approval in December, and
  • The formation of Arts Equity Working Group to advise the Executive Director and the Board of Education on implementation, funding and access issues