Sunday, November 30, 2014


Will Huntsberry | NPR Ed |

November 25, 2014 4:03 PM ET ::  Politicians from Jeb Bush to President Obama like to hype the revolutionary power and cost-effectiveness of digital learning, but a new study suggests, in many cases, it is neither more powerful nor cheaper than old-fashioned teaching.

Billions of public dollars have been directed toward digital learning initiatives in recent years, and the report from the National Education Policy Center, a research institute at the University of Colorado, found that they rarely improved outcomes. When they did, they cost more money, not less.

"On the whole, it is very difficult to have faith in the path we're going down," says Noel Enyedy, a researcher at UCLA who performed the analysis.

Lots of different kinds of digital initiatives are already in use, says Enyedy, but in most cases researchers don't really know what works and what doesn't. That means the consumers — local school districts — are buying blind.

Making things even harder for those districts are buzzwords like "personalized instruction" and "personalized learning" that sound great — particularly to a superintendent worried about missing the digital bandwagon — but are a bit nebulous, like an "organic" label.

Enyedy's work looked at two types of digital learning: online-only and another called "blended learning," an approach that combines digital innovation with traditional teaching.

An example of blended learning would be the flipped classroom, where students do readings or listen to a lecture at home and then work on "homework" in the classroom.

In drawing on multiple studies, Enyedy found that online-only learning had no impact on student achievement and in some cases had a slightly negative impact. The results of blended learning were more mixed, but in cases where it improved student learning, it also cost more than traditional methods.

The takeaway: Teachers remain crucial to learning, according to Enyedy. When students are actively engaged with digital tools and their teachers, it can help. When the information comes down a one-way street, it's less effective.

Tom Vander Ark runs Getting Smart and advocates for speeding up the use of education technology. He thinks a slowdown on digital learning, as the report suggests, would be a terrible idea.

"We have the best chance that we've ever had to dramatically improve achievement rates for students," says Vander Ark. "That's me looking through the front windshield. It's entirely possible to look through the rear windshield as this group did and say 'That was dumb, and it didn't work.' "

Vander Ark points to countless anecdotal examples of success and cost savings in digital learning. The report does the same but notes that, on the whole, these successes merely counterbalance digital learning's many failures.

Vander Ark and Enyedy agree on one point: School districts should look carefully into exactly what they're buying when they shop for new "personalized learning" platforms.


2cents small I love it! Tom Vander Ark is a (and is in the running for ‘the’) leading proponent of Data-Driven Ed Reform. But when the going gets tough, the tough point to “countless anecdotal examples”.

He is right of course. Education is a people business and as such operates by anecdote.

  • Grades are anecdotal*. College entry essays are anecdotal. Reference letters are anecdotal.
  • Standardized ‘High Stakes’ Test scores are data. College Admissions Officers and Employers don’t give them a second thought.

*This is arguable; some teachers may grade purely using data. Certainly GPA is data, but is based on anecdotal input.

ONLINE EDUCATION RUN AMOK? Private companies want to scoop up your child's data.

By Caitlin Emma | Politico Pro |

11/29/14 8:59 AM EST  ::  Massive open online courses, first envisioned as a way to democratize higher education, have made their way into high schools, but Washington is powerless to stop the flood of personal data about teenage students from flowing to private companies, thanks to loopholes in federal privacy laws.

Universities and private companies this fall unveiled a slew of free, open-access online courses to high school students, marketing them as a way for kids to supplement their Advanced Placement coursework or earn a certificate of completion for a college-level class.

But when middle and high school students participate in classes with names like “Mars: The Next Frontier” or “The Road to Selective College Admissions,” they may be unwittingly transmitting into private hands a torrent of data about their academic strengths and weaknesses, their learning styles and thought processes — even the way they approach challenges. They may also be handing over birth dates, addresses and even drivers license information. Their IP addresses, attendance and participation in public forums are all logged as well by the providers of the courses, commonly called MOOCs.

With little guidance from federal privacy law, key decisions on how to handle students’ data — including how widely to share it and whether to mine it for commercial gain — are left up to the company hosting the MOOC or its business partners. In fact, student data is even less protected by federal law since the Education Department updated regulations in 2012 to allow for even greater disclosure of students’ personal identifying information.

Parents, activists and a select group of lawmakers are clamoring for a fix. They’ve made student data privacy a top issue in state legislatures, and they’ve even dismantled major data collection efforts. For example, massive parent pushback led to the demise of inBloom — the $100 million student database funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — a little more than a year after its launch.

The White House also announced this month that course provider edX will give low-income high school students free completion certificates when they take the classes. And Coursera, another provider, will give teachers free online training. President Barack Obama lauded both commitments for advancing his ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect almost every student in the country to high-speed broadband and transform teaching and learning with technology.

Congress is divided on how to tackle federal privacy law, and existing proposals haven’t gotten traction. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) proposed a bill in July that would prohibit the use of personally identifiable information to target advertising to students. Some advocates says it doesn’t go far enough. But Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Luke Messer (R-Ind.), among others, want to ensure that fears over student data privacy don’t stifle innovation and make it hard for schools to use online resources that personalize instruction for every student.

They have more of an appetite for industry self-regulation — but critics argue that really isn’t regulation at all.

The people behind the online courses say the metrics they collect will help them better understand not just what students learn, but also how they learn. Less clear is the extent to which providers might profit from the information in other ways, be it by selling the data to other organizations or mining it themselves for marketing gold.

The trend is still young, but an Education Department official urges school districts that are contemplating MOOC instruction to bone up on The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and wade carefully through the often jargon-laden privacy policies of companies they work with.

“This is a space where districts need to get up to speed before they jump,” a department official said. “They need to have a common understanding with the MOOC provider about what would happen with the data.”

Murky federal privacy laws

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act gives parents rights to their child’s education records up to age 18, after which those rights are transferred to the student. While the department has received no complaints about MOOCs at the college level, “I anticipate receiving inquiries from K-12 officials on the subject,” the department official said.

Several states, including Colorado and Oklahoma, have filled the void with privacy laws of their own. In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation banning companies from using students’ personal information collected through online education technology for anything other than the purpose for which it was collected.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals recently issued strong recommendations suggesting that every shred of student data produced as students work online should be designated part of an official “education record” so it’s protected by FERPA. Districts should also appoint a chief privacy officer and ensure that all data involved in contracts with online service providers is protected. And the group said any federal agency or vendor storing student data should use strong encryption data.

So how is the ed tech industry approaching the issue? At the urging of Polis and Messer, 13 companies signed a pledge in October swearing never to sell student data or use it to target advertising at students. The pledge was signed by companies like Microsoft, Amplify, Edmodo, Knewton and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

But the pledge omits key protections, some privacy advocates say. And conspicuously absent were big names like Apple, Google, Pearson and Khan Academy, which offers free online tutorials used by millions of people worldwide.

Also not listed are edX and Instructure Canvas Network, two MOOC providers that offer courses to high school students.

EdX, a nonprofit founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, unveiled more than two dozen MOOCs for high school students in September. The nonprofit says it now offers more than 40 high school and AP courses. In January, a high school guidance counselor plans to offer a course called “The Road to Selective College Admissions.”

Instructure, a for-profit company, began hosting more than a dozen MOOCs for K-12 students and teachers in August on its platform called Canvas Network. One course, called “Mars: The Next Frontier,” is designed for students ages 14 to 18. There are also a few history courses, like “The Civil War Era,” “The Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties” and “The Great Depression to the War on Terror.”

Melissa Loble, senior director of Canvas Network, said the company would never release student data for noninstructional or noneducational purposes. But the company is still trying to decide whether to share student data with third parties for educational or research purposes, she said. If the company did, it would severely limit third parties’ access to the data, said Jared Stein, Instructure’s vice president of Research and Education. Stein said most privacy issues would be handled through him or the company’s vice president of operations. Employees are educated about privacy protections under the law when they’re hired, he said.

But privacy advocates note that “educational purposes” is an extremely vague term. It can also mean commercial purposes. For example, providers can use the data to develop new products or market specific courses to students who look like they need help in a certain area — which could ultimately benefit their own bottom line.

EdX’s privacy policy stipulates that the company can “publish information, but not personal information, gathered about edX access, use, impact, and student performance” and use the information to “send you updates about online courses offered by edX or other events, to send you communications about products or services of edX, edX affiliates, or selected business partners that may be of interest to you, or to send you email messages about site maintenance or updates.”

Also, the policy notes, aggregate information that isn’t personally identifiable can be shared with the public, researchers and business partners. (EdX has a list of the schools and partners that it works with.)

The nonprofit’s mission “is to allow the use of data from MOOCs for research into how students learn, but we place learner privacy as the priority,” edX General Counsel Tena Herlihy said in a statement. EdX “has appropriate policies and procedures in place to protect privacy, and we protect learner data to the levels required under FERPA.”

The problem is, FERPA is “hopelessly out of date,” said David Hoffman, global privacy officer for Intel Corp., which offers some educational services for teachers.

An Education Department official said that if a student’s performance in one of the online courses is tied to the student’s grade, the MOOC becomes part of the curriculum and the data generated may be protected by law.

The department issued guidance in February to help schools, districts and ed tech vendors navigate the murky world of federal law and how to use student data without subjecting it to commercial exploitation. But even that guidance got some heat for being unclear. “It depends,” begins the answer to one question, about whether student information is protected. “Because of the diversity and variety of online educational services, there is no universal answer to this question.”

What complicates things even further is that the online courses for high school students, still in their infancy, often aren’t supplementing students’ grades. Teachers might use MOOCs, which are open to anyone with an Internet connection, for practice, or students might enroll on their own.

Indeed, some enterprising high schoolers were already taking edX’s free, online college-level courses before the company launched MOOCs for high school students. EdX estimated that about 150,000 of its 2.5 million students were already in high school.

“Our site is not intended for use by individuals under the age of 13, and edX does not knowingly collect personal data from those in this age group,” edX’s privacy policy says. “If we become aware that someone under the age of 13 has registered, we will expunge any related personal information from our records.”

Coursera, another major MOOC provider, has encouraged participation from younger students in the past. For example, an eighth-grader in Pakistan advised interested students to balance MOOCs with homework or take a course with their family. The eighth-grader, her twin brother and mother also blogged about their experience for Coursera last year.

Striking the right balance

The value of data to researchers is also sketchy. In the post-secondary world, striking a balance between sharing data for research purposes and maintaining privacy has proven difficult for the online courses. A study from August found that sharing MOOC data can yield tremendous potential for social science research. But stripping the data of information that can be traced back to students can render it useless, the researchers said. Polis worries that privacy concerns could turn any number of digital learning initiatives into the next inBloom.

“A lot of the practices that occur instill fear in families and prevent them from taking advantage of these new services,” he said. “We need to provide answers and understanding so parents and families have the confidence that they need to have in their kids’ privacy.”

Intel’s Hoffman suspects many start-ups would not be able to answer basic questions — such as “Who is your chief privacy officer? Can you show me your documented internal policy that says how you will use data and what uses of data are prohibited? Will you show me the educational policies you use internally? Can you describe the risk management process to make sure policies are being upheld? Are your third-party vendors being held to the same standards? Do you audit those vendors?”

The potential of the online courses to transform education globally is tremendous, Hoffman said. Policymakers and providers need to unlock the tremendous potential of MOOCs, he said — but they need to do it up front, and they need to do it responsibly.

“We’re transitioning into a new phase of privacy,” he said. “We’re entering the phase of data ethics.”

Read more:


Los Feliz Ledger

By Ameera Butt, Los Feliz Ledger Contributing Writer |

After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, people paid tribute to the lives lost. Photo: Allison B. Cohen

After the Dec. 14th shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, people paid tribute to the 20 children and six adults killed leaving toys, cards and candles underneath a Christmas tree dedicated to each victim. Photo: Allison B. Cohen

Friday, November 28th, 2014 at 6:00 am  - ATWATER VILLAGE ::  The school entrance for Glenfeliz Elementary School will be revamped for safer security, according to Los Angeles Unified School District officials. The change is needed, officials say, in response to shootings at other schools across the nation.

Currently, the school’s main entrance provides access to the main office, the playground area and to its kindergarten classrooms, according to Principal Karen Sulahian. The reconfigured gate will tunnel visitors into the main office only, she said.

According to Sulahian, no shootings or threats have occurred at the school, but due to recent multiple school shootings across the United States, these precautionary measures are needed.

“We realized that times have changed,” she said, and that schools and playgrounds used to be open for public access. But now, she said, “It’s not the best practice to do that.”

On LAUSD school campuses, there has only been one recent accidental shooting at Gardena High School in 2011, according to the Los Angeles School Police Dept. There have been none since.

But since the Dec. 14th, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, there have been 91 incidences of shootings at schools, including at Santa Monica City College in June, 2013. Of the 91 shootings, 43 have been at colleges or universities, including one November 20th. The remaining 48 shootings have happened on kindergarten through 12th grade campuses.

After the October school shooting at a high school in Washington state, where a teenager with a gun shot four of his classmates and then himself, there have been no local concerns raised by parents, according to principal Sulahian.

But Sulahian said she is “acutely aware” of every shooting that takes place.

Part of the LAUSD’s procedures in active shooter situations are “lock down” scenarios, or having students remain in a classroom or designated location, according to Steven Zipperman, Chief of Police for the Los Angeles School Police Dept.

According to Zipperman, “lock downs” additionally occur if there is an intruder on campus or if police activity is near a campus.

However, after Sandy Hook, that claimed 26 students and staff, the LAUSD now allows principals and teachers to quickly move students off campus, if needed, to save as many lives as possible during an active shooter scenario, Zipperman said.

“It could be a church [or] wherever they may need to seek shelter and [be] away from the threat,” Zipperman said.

LAUSD Boardmember for District 5 Bennett Kayser said LAUSD students have also recently been trained to report fellow students with guns to school staff. But sadly, he said, today’s students seem all too familiar with gun violence.

“So many of our kids have experienced gun violence and trauma [in their homes], and LAUSD is truly a respite,” he said.

Meanwhile in nearby Echo Park, Emilio Garza, Principal of Elysian Heights Elementary School, said the school is discussing with LAUSD officials the addition of a buzzer and metal detector at the front of the school as a safety precaution. The buzzer would allow administrators to keep the front doors locked and allow them to buzz visitors inside. According to Garza, the front entrance to the school is currently not locked during school hours.

Zipperman, with the school police department, said every time a shooting happens elsewhere everyone thinks “OK, I guess we have some breathing room for a while. . . . But, we don’t know that,” he said. “These things remind everybody, first of all, there is [nowhere] 100% safe, no matter what plans you have in place.”

The cost of the improved security at Glenfeliz Elementary will be about $12,000 and will be completed by June 2015. According to principal Sulahian, the delay is due to other projects that have been prioritized first by LAUSD.

Allison B. Cohen contributed to this story.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

From the wonderful folks who brought you NCLB+The Common Core: U.S. PROPOSES NEW GUIDELINES ON TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS

U.S. Dept of Ed proposes rules that would shift money to institutions ranking higher on educating teachers …and Eli Broad likes ‘em!

By Carla Rivera LA Times |

29 Nov 2014  ::  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Tuesday announced new guidelines to improve the preparation of the nation's teaching ranks that will require states to rate the performance of training programs and shift federal funding to those that receive high marks.

The proposed regulations would allow states broad flexibility to develop measures of performance but demands that emphasis be placed on teacher outcomes, such as employment, retention and success in the classroom. That could include evaluating training programs based on the test scores of K-12 students taught by their graduates, a model that provokes heated contention in the education community.

We've done the opposite of what might be common sense by raising rigor and attracting a better quality student. - Mari Koerner, dean of Arizona State University's teachers college

The proposed changes could have broad implications for California, where an independent state agency, the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing, sets standards for teacher preparation for the more than 328,000 educators in the state's public schools. There are about 261 commission-approved institutions preparing educators, and about 1,395 other teacher training programs are accredited in the state.

The commission will review the regulations and will discuss them at the agency's meeting in December, according to spokeswoman Anne Padilla.

California State University is the nation's largest producer of teachers, with an annual average of 10,000 completing its programs, spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said.

Citing research findings that teachers often struggle at the beginning of their career and say that they are unprepared, Duncan called better preparation a moral issue.

"Nothing in schools matters as much as the quality of teaching students receive," Duncan said during a briefing with reporters. "We owe it to students to give them the best teachers possible, and we owe it to teachers to give them the best education possible."

Duncan cited examples of programs already achieving high standards, including Arizona State University's, which screens out students who may not be good candidates for the classroom before they enter training and places teacher trainees in challenging, high-poverty schools where they often stay after graduation.

"We've done the opposite of what might be common sense by raising rigor and attracting a better quality student," said Mari Koerner, dean of ASU's teachers college.

Other measures could employ teacher and employer surveys and outside accreditation reviews, and restrict eligibility for federal TEACH grants — available for students planning to teach in low-income schools — to training programs that are found to be effective for at least two of the previous three years.

Many education reformers praised the proposed regulations as long overdue.

The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to close the achievement gap, issued a statement saying that "Preparation programs that fail their graduates also fail students and ultimately our country."

Further, the group said: "As our schools work toward ensuring all students graduate high school college- and career-ready, we must ensure these programs are producing effective teachers and leaders."

Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad, a major education funder through the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, said the new regulations are encouraging, although training programs will still need more attention.

"They need to provide more high-quality classroom experience for their students before they graduate," Broad said. "They also have to work with school districts to better meet the needs of today's public schools. The new regulations are a step in the right direction."

Many other experts, however, decry the increasing use of student achievement to rank performance, arguing there is little evidence that test scores correspond to teacher quality.

"This will cause programs to reconsider placing their graduates in schools that serve our most vulnerable students," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. "And aspiring teachers who come from disadvantaged backgrounds will find their opportunities closed down as accountability pressures rise without increased support."

The Obama administration has encouraged school districts to evaluate teachers based in part on students' test results, but that effort has come under scrutiny from critics who say they fear instructors would be unfairly penalized and that test scores should not be used to guide instruction.

The proposed regulations will have a 60-day period for public comment, with the final rules to be published in mid-2015.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Debate> RESOLVED: EMBRACE THE COMMON CORE; Urgency vs. Following-through on what we’ve started

from intelligence² debates |

broadcast in KCRW/89.3 9am-10am 11/28/2014


Illustration by Thomas James

Debate Date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In K-12 education, there is nothing more controversial than the Common Core State Standards, national academic standards in English and math. Adopted by more than 40 states, they were developed, in part, to address concerns that American students were falling behind their foreign counterparts and graduating high school without the necessary skills for college and the workforce. But is this the reform we’ve been looking for? Has the federal government overreached and saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start? Or will the Common Core raise the bar and improve the quality of our children’s education?

  • Martin Headshot 90x90 For: Carmel Martin
    Exec. VP, Center for American Progress & Fmr. Assistant Secretary of Education
  • Petrilli-90 For: Michael Petrilli
    President, Fordham Institute & Co-Editor, Knowledge at the Core
  • Burris Headshot 90x90 Against: Carol Burris
    Principal, South Side High School & Blogger, Washington Post’s “Answersheet”
  • Hess Headshot 90x90 Against: Frederick Hess
    Resident Scholar and Director of Educational Policy Studies, AEI

  • Moderator Image

    John Donvan

    Author & Correspondent for ABC News

Intelligence Squared Common Core Debate transcript

Thursday, November 27, 2014

NCTQ: NATIONAL COUNCIL ON THANKSGIVING QUALITY (Part I) …and Yes, Virginia, there is a part II + III

from  NCTQ - reblogged by from Diane Ravitch's blog

Who We Are: 

We are a bi-partisan, not-for-profit established to reform current Thanksgiving Dinners.  We believe that every child deserves a high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner, and we advocate for raising standards and ensuring best Thanksgiving practices for all children in the United States.  We are supported by for-profit groups that seek to change the Thanksgiving-Industrial-Complex in a manner that moves profit from individual Thanksgiving laborers (your moms & dads, grandparents, and aunts & uncles) to shareholders who will standardize Thanksgiving Dinners, so they can all be considered highly effective.  Our board members combined have hundreds of years of experience in eating Thanksgiving Dinners, and thus they are experts.*


Why Our Work Matters:

No one would deny that every child deserves a high-quality Thanksgiving Dinner.  Literally millions of dollars are spent each year on Thanksgiving Dinners, and yet there is little tangible research pointing to the best ways to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner.  We seek to address this gap.  We also seek to report on the quality of Thanksgiving Dinners currently being offered to the nation’s children.  We already know that compared to other nations, American Thanksgiving Dinners are low quality.**  In fact, everyone really knows this, right?  We mean, come on: this fact is reported endlessly by the press, repeated constantly by politicians, and it’s denied by your moms, dads, and other family members.  Do we really have to provide evidence here?  Really?  You may like your own family’s Thanksgiving Dinner, but you know in your heart that the Thanksgiving Dinners of others in this country are of shamefully low quality.  Especially when compared to the Thanksgiving Dinners of other nations, as stated above.

We are also pleased to announce NCTQ’s not-for-profit partner, Thanksgiving For America (TFA), which uses government and private donations to replace moms and dads with elite college graduates with high grade point averages who will cook Thanksgiving Dinner for families in high-needs neighborhoods.  TFA offers a highly-intensive, 45-minute Thanksgiving Dinner training course, so you can be sure they will bring best practices to their cooking.***

(Continued in next post )

Remember, when you think NCTQ, think ‘Turkey”!
Footnotes, because there have to be footnotes.

* Few of our experts have actually cooked Thanksgiving Dinners, but they have read a lot of recipes.

** Other nations do not celebrate Thanksgiving, so we substituted other national holidays for the purposes of this report; thus, our research compares turkey to goat; dressing to Koshari; green beans to Jiaozi; and, apples to oranges. Note also, that in many other nations, only the food of the very wealthy was reported; thus the average American family’s Thanksgiving meal was compared to the holiday meals of the highest classes of other nations.  The gaps in quality between the meals we researched from other nations and US Thanksgiving Dinners was highly significant.

*** TFA fellows will use the kitchens and foods available in the host family’s kitchen.  If there is no stove, the dinner will be served cold.  If there no food, dinner will be replaced with standardized Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation™



Mary Plummer | KPCC 89.3 |

71089 full

File: Advanced violin students play their instruments at San Fernando Elementary. Ken Scarboro/KPCC

Audio from this story  ::  0:50 Listen

27 November 2104  ::  House of Blues has a holiday treat for budding musicians: its nonprofit foundation is handing out free instruments to students.

The campaign, known as "Give Music," is in its second year. Organizers expect this year to distribute about 350 instruments to aspiring musicians age 10 to 22.

"This program in particular is meeting the need to provide the opportunity for young musicians to practice or play music when they're not in school," said Nazanin Fatemian, program manager with the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation.  

RELATED: Outside funding brings 600 new instruments to LA schools

The musical instrument giveaway got its start when staffers noticed students in the foundation's school day programs didn't have enough time with instruments to practice what they learned. Organizers hope that if students practice at home with their own instruments, they will make real progress in their music and fully develop as performers.

House of Blues Music Forward Foundation is on track to help about 15,000 students in Southern California this school year through its music education programs.

Students can apply for a free instrument by visiting the foundation's website and writing a short essay for a chance to win. The deadline to apply is Dec. 5 and instruments will be delivered in January.

The public can also make a donation to support the campaign. Organizers say 100 percent of donations go directly towards purchasing instruments for students

from the HOB Music Forward Foundation website| :

What’s your musical wish?

This holiday season, we are partnering with friends and supporters around the country to give music to inspiring young musicians.

Here’s how it works: Do you need an instrument so you can practice, play, gig, jam, break-it-down, swing, groove or shred? Make a wish!

Tell us your wish in your own words (500 words or less). Start with: “Dear House of Blues…”

Need some ideas? Tell us why you love music. Share how this instrument would help bring music into your life. How would the instrument help you in the future?

If you are selected to receive an instrument, we’ll notify you and match your wish to the House of Blues community nearest you. Instruments will be given away at special receptions in January.

Opportunity is open to youth ages 10-22 who are currently enrolled in school. Applications must be postmarked or submitted online by November 30, 2014. Funds raised for Give Music will provide musical instruments and musical accessories only. Submitting a letter does not guarantee selection. Instruments will be delivered in January 2015.

Make Musical Wish Online Make Musical Wish By Mail

© 2014 • House of Blues Music Forward Foundation


from PBS  NewsHour |

2cents small  I monitor a lot of media in compiling 4LAKids – but my ‘go-to’ primary sources are The LA Times and NPR and PBS. When Times education reporter Howard Blume appears on on PBS NewsHour I pay particular attention. When the combined effort moves the LAUSD MiSiS Crisis to a “Disaster” I cannot help but consider that gospel.  Can 60 Minutes not be far behind? 

With Miramonte + iPads + MiSiS LAUSD could be the subject for an entire program – if not a season of 60 Minutes. Where is Mile Wallace when we need him?

November 26, 2014 at 6:15 PM EST  ::  A new student record system adopted by the Los Angeles Unified School District has caused chaos for kids, teachers and administrators. Kindergarteners were accidentally enrolled at high schools, while hundreds of older students spent weeks without class schedules. Judy Woodruff learns more from Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times.


JUDY WOODRUFF: This has been a very rough year for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Its new system for storing important student records like attendance, grades and test scores has not been working at all in many cases. It’s led to a chaotic fall for many of the 650,000-plus students.

Kindergartners were actually — were accidentally enrolled at, yes, high schools. Hundreds of students spent weeks without class schedules. The school board has replaced the district superintendent.

While the problem is particularly bad in L.A., it’s a cautionary tale for other school systems that struggle with coordinating large populations too.

I spoke about this recently with Howard Blume. He’s an education reporter at The Los Angeles Times.

Welcome, Howard Blume.

First of all, why did the L.A. school system need or want a new computer system and what was it supposed to do?

HOWARD BLUME, The Los Angeles Times: Well, they did need a new computer system, both — for a number of reasons.

One, it all began over a lawsuit over services to disabled students. They were essentially losing disabled students in the system and not keeping track of what their disabilities were and what special help they needed.

So, that was one issue. But then they realized as they got into this they needed a better tracking system and record system for all students, and they decided to try to do that. And it makes sense if you think about when the different departments switched from paper to computer, every department had its own system, they didn’t talk to each other. The systems are now old.

And we want to systems to do more than they used to do. So, like, for example, you want to find out if a student’s missing homework will turn into truancies, will turn into a dropout, so you can do all sorts of things with technology if you have the right technology working in the right way.

So it’s definitely a direction everyone wants to go in. It just didn’t work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you say, technology is supposed to be able to figure all this out, but it malfunctioned. What exactly went wrong?

HOWARD BLUME: What went wrong was lots of things.

Inadequate staffing, inadequate funding, inadequate planning, inadequate oversight — the system was just not ready. It was not able to bring all the information into it. It was taking information that was right and corrupting it. So students were getting wrong GPAs. They were getting classes they’d already taken. They were not getting the classes they needed to graduate or go to college.

The attendance accounting was wrong. There really wasn’t much that actually was working right. And something like this, you have to do a lot of things right and you have to move a little slowly if you need to and you have to test it, and you have to have some sort of independent voice to say, stop, if you need to say stop and slow down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It does sound like a nightmare.

Were students’ educations actually disrupted by this, or is this just a matter of delays and inconvenience?

HOWARD BLUME: Well, they were disrupted because, when you think about it, if you have a student getting their schedule right two-and-a-half months into the school year, that’s just a delay. That’s a disruption to their education.

And if they were taking — if they were supposed to be in a calculus class and they get in there two-and-a-half months after the start of the year, they are now behind and probably in trouble. If they needed a class to apply for college, if they needed a class to graduate, those are serious issues.

It got — those are the serious issues. They’re also comical issues, like in the elementary schools, they were bringing stacks of paper to school so that they could record this information by hand on paper, because they couldn’t do it on a computer anymore. But in some ways, it approached farce.

But there were definitely serious implications for students. And the district itself, its funding is based on accurate attendance accounting. So, if you can’t keep track of who’s in class, then the district itself won’t get the money it needs to continue operations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we reported, the former superintendent was asked to resign. He is gone. But what else is being done to fix this? How are they trying to get things back on track now?

HOWARD BLUME: Well, they have brought in experts from Microsoft, because the original software for the system goes back to Microsoft, and they’re working out a contract there. They have brought in retired administrators and counselors and sent them out to schools to try to get students’ records straight, and they’re focusing first on high school seniors who are most at risk of not being able to apply to college or not being able to graduate on time.

So they’re sending out an army of retired people, and they’re just — all hands on deck are trying to figure this problem. It is going to take, they estimate, more than a year to fix it and probably a lot of money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the lesson here though for other school systems around the country that, as you told us, may also be looking to update their data systems, their computer systems?


Everybody really has to do this. And once the system, if they ever get it working right, it will do some really great things. You will be able to track all the elements of a school child’s life and, of course, because of that, you also need privacy protections.

But the goal is that you can get students on the right program with the right help. But the key thing here is to make sure that you don’t unplug your backup system or your old system before you turn on the new system and figure out what’s going wrong. That’s one thing. You want to start off small and work out the bugs.

You need a little bit of distance and have some independent oversight, and make sure you’re fully staffed, that people are trained in how to use the system and that they get the help they need. Those are some of the lessons learned. And these things are expensive. If you do this — if you try to do this on the cheap or if you try to do it too fast, you are likely going to run into problems.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I have a feeling that people running school systems all over the country are watching this very closely.

Howard Blume with The Los Angeles Times, we thank you.

HOWARD BLUME: Happy to do it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle |

Updated 2:54 pm, Tuesday, November 25, 2014  ::  After 11 months of negotiations, the San Francisco Unified School District and the United Educators of San Francisco have agreed on a tentative contract that would give teachers and teaching assistants a 12 percent raise over three years.

The raises are among the largest recently agreed to for any urban school district in California, according to Superintendent Richard Carranza.

“To ensure our students get the education they need to be successful, we must invest in the people who are charged with teaching and supporting them in the classroom,” Carranza said.

Most beginning teachers now make $50,000 per year for 184 workdays. Once the raise is in full effect after three years, the starting salary would be around $56,300. The current salary for a teacher with average tenure — 12 years — is $69,135. In three years a teacher with 12 years of experience will be making almost $78,000 under the contract.

The contract will give educators “a fighting chance to stay, live and work in San Francisco,” said Dennis Kelly, who heads up the teachers union.

This deal “does not settle the problems we have with teachers staying in San Francisco,” he said. “But it helps. It helps very much.”

The tentative agreement also provides additional compensation for teaching assistants, known as paraprofessionals, most of whom work directly with students with special needs. Under the deal, paraprofessionals will receive the same 12 percent over three years as the teachers. In addition paraprofessionals with more than eight years in the district — about 70 percent — would get an extra 3 percent, bringing their three-year salary increase to 15 percent.

In addition to the salary increases, the agreement includes a significant increase in elementary teacher preparation time that includes time for teachers to collaborate and develop personalized instruction for every student. Prep time for elementary school teachers within the workday will jump from 60 minutes per week to 150 minutes per week.

The SFUSD Board of Education will vote on the agreement at an upcoming meeting. San Francisco teachers will vote on the tentative agreement by mail, with ballots due by Dec. 11, 2014. If everything goes as planned, the raises, which are retroactive to July 1, will show up in paychecks before the end of the year.

The union and the administrators reached an impasse in June, which led to mediation. But Kelly said that it was really when the mediator “stepped away” that progress was made. “You don’t solve these things through a mediator. You solve them by talking,” he said. “All in all this was a long road, but it was a fruitful road.”

Kelly said the union set out with three goals: a double-digit salary increase, extra raises for the paraprofessionals, and more preparation time for elementary school teachers. Originally Kelly had hoped to get 20 percent in raises.

Sandra Fewer, president of the Board of Education, said she was “relieved that (the tentative agreement) was done before the end of the year so that our employees can have a nice holiday. We get e-mails daily from teachers about this contract. Now they can concentrate on enjoying the end of the year.”

The contract agreement was announced at Francisco Middle School in North Beach. Patrick Whelly, a paraprofessional at the school who happened to be walking through the school yard during the announcement, was pleasantly surprised by the announcement. He said paraprofessionals have historically felt “underrepresented by the union.”

“Most people who work as paraprofessionals have other jobs to supplement their income,” he said. “This will help out a little bit.”


For LAUSD, more Chromebooks, iPads means more confusion

by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report |


Posted on November 25, 2014 4:41 pm  ::  While LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines was pretty clear on how he expected it to proceed, others in the district are not so sure.

Superintendent Deasy

“Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.”

Boardmember Zimmer

“[The Apple/Pearson/LAUSD contract] was absolutely cancelled. The resumption of the iPad contract, as it was, will never get through the Board of Education.”

Facilities Director Hovatter

“There was never any cancellation of a contract, and the contract was never suspended.”

stother martin in cool hand luke

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

The district’s Chief Facilities Director says the choice of devices might not be so wide as Cortines suggested, and at least one board member is uncertain how it will all play out.Last week Cortines gave the go-ahead to spend capital improvement funds to outfit 27 schools with tablet devices and 21 schools with laptops — the so-called Phase 2B. The so-called Phase 2A authorized devices for 11 schools.

In a written statement, Cortines said school principals “will be key in determining which educational tools are best for their school communities” and added that this round would include “more options than previous phases.”

But Mark Hovatter, the facilities director whose department oversees the procurement of devices, says school leaders will only have two choices: iPads pre-loaded with Pearson curriculum or Chromebooks with content developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Those are the only two that are within the budget that the board has authorized,” Hovatter told LA School Report. “They already approved Phase 2B under that contract.”

The board approved expanding the iPad program in January, allocating $114 million to the project. Under the existing contract the price tag on each Apple tablet is about $780 with all the bells and whistles, including a nearly indestructible protective case and keyboard. A Chromebook is about $100 dollars cheaper.

But how can iPads be part of the deal if the district’s contract with Apple was halted by former superintendent John Deasy?

Never happened, said Hovatter.

“There was never any cancellation of a contract, and the contract was never suspended,” he said. “We just made the determination not to place an order against that contract.”

That is a difficult position for board member Steve Zimmer to square. “It was absolutely cancelled,” he told LA School Report.

In August, Deasy said he was halting the iPad program and the corresponding deal with Apple and Pearson, amid questions about the bidding process.

At the time, Deasy told the school board, “Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.…Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology.”

For Zimmer, Deasy’s actions indisputably put an end to the deal with the companies. Furthermore, Zimmer added, “the resumption of the iPad contract, as it was, will never get through the Board of Education.”

Beyond that, Zimmer says he doesn’t believe the Pearson curriculum actually exists.

“Until I have it in front of me, until I see it demonstrated with a real child at every grade level, then the Pearson curriculum does not exist,” he said. “I have never seen it. I have never held it. I have never seen a child use it.”

But Hovatter contends that without any action by the board, the contract remains in place.

“The board never made the decision not to move forward, it was the [former] Superintendent who made that decision,” he said.

“If there had been a board action that had directed us not to move forward then of course, we would have to go back to the board” for approval to continue under the existing contracts, he added.

In other words, Cortines is not required to return to the board for another round of approval. That means Zimmer, other board members, or principals and teachers who had hoped for a better deal or different type of device, will have to wait a little longer.

The district intends to re-open the bidding process to new vendors and curriculum developers for Phase 3 of the one-to-one program. A timeline for that has yet to be determined.

The Common Core Technology Project team is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the rollout and set a timeline for the project.


2cents small The Board of Education meets on Tuesday.


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

Posted: 11/25/14, 7:25 PM PST | Updated: 11/26.14 ::  Before leaving Los Angeles Unified School District, former Superintendent John Deasy racked up credit card charges on more than 30 business trips, including visits to East Coast cities and dinner at a swanky steakhouse, according to media reports.

Deasy, who stepped down last month under scrutiny over technology blunders affecting classes for thousands of students, traveled more than 100,000 miles last year, visiting New York and Washington. D.C., five times each, according to an analysis of travel records by KPCC.

While a family-run philanthropic organization, the Wasserman Foundation, will pick up most of the charges, Supt. Ramon Cortines suspended travel last month after learning his predecessor and 25 high-level administrators traveled to Milwaukee for the Council of Great City Schools’ fall conference.

“I can’t imagine in good conscious how you could leave when Rome is burning,” Cortines said when he suspended all travel for the district.

Deasy’s Milwaukee trip occurred as Los Angeles Unified was scrambling to fix problems caused by Deasy’s decision to launch a new record-keeping system, MiSiS, before it was ready.

Transcripts, reports cards, attendance and other crucial records were crippled by the faulty system, which still needs to be fixed as the district gets ready for the start of a new semester. Students were stranded in auditoriums and the wrong classes at the start of the school year when the program failed to correctly enroll and schedule pupils.

Deasy did not return calls for comment on Tuesday. He remains on the district’s payroll, under “special assignment,” because the school board secretively struck a deal for his departure on Oct. 14.

Deasy’s expenses will be mostly or entirely paid for by the Wasserman Foundation. According to tax filings, the organization donated $1 million to the district and $875,000 to the LAUSD Educational Foundation in 2012.

The Wasserman Foundation did not return requests for comment.

Deasy charged the cost of flights, hotel rooms, meals and ground transportation for visits to Aspen, Austin, Birmingham and Boston, among other locations, KPCC reported.

In August 2013, Deasy booked tickets to Washington, D.C., New York, Pittsburgh and Albuquerque. His restaurant bills totaled $630 for the month, including a $250 charge at Fleming’s Steakhouse.

L.A. UNIFIED ADOPTS FREE HISTORY CURRICULUM FROM STANFORD UNIVERSITY: New history curriculum turns students into sleuths, not passive recipients of a lecture

By Teresa Watanabe, LA Times |

Stanford history curriculum at L.A. Unified

Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times: At Venice High, Daniel Buccieri's 10th grade students said their teacher's approach has completely changed their attitude toward history.

Novv 26, 2014  ::  Venice High sophomore Vanessa Pepperdine had always hated history class: the dry lectures, the boring textbooks, the forgettable factoids about famous dead people.

"You just read out of the textbook, and it wasn't interesting," Vanessa said.

But during a recent period of World History, Vanessa and her classmates were engaged in excited discussion about the 1896 Battle of Adwa between Ethiopia and Italy. Their teacher, Daniel Buccieri, showed them an illustration of the event and peppered them with questions.

Who do you think won? How do the American and Ethiopian accounts differ and why? How was Ethiopia able to defeat Italy in this pushback of European imperialism?

With that, the students became sleuthing historians in search of truth rather than passive recipients of a droning lecture.

That's the aim of a free, online Stanford University curriculum that is picking up steam nationally as educators grapple with widespread evidence of historical illiteracy among U.S. students.

Only about a third of Los Angeles Unified School District high schoolers were proficient on state standardized U.S. and world history tests last year; nationally, 12% were proficient in U.S. history in the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

L.A. Unified became the curriculum's largest booster this year when it signed an 18-month, $140,000 contract with the Stanford History Education Group for training and collaborating on more lesson plans. So far, 385 teachers and administrators — including about 40% of the social science instructors in the nation's second-largest school system — have attended Stanford-led workshops this year.

Nationally, the curriculum has been downloaded 1.7 million times by educators in all 50 states since the program was launched in 2009.

As the teaching of history comes under national scrutiny, with critics attacking the new Advanced Placement U.S. history guidelines as anti-American, the Stanford program takes no sides. With more than 100 ready-made lesson plans covering a range of U.S. and world events, the curriculum features a central historical question and provides primary documents for students to use in shaping their own answers, backed by evidence.

Was ancient Athens truly democratic? Were the "Dark Ages" really dark? Why did Chinese students support the Cultural Revolution? Did Abraham Lincoln actually believe in racial equality? What made the Vietnam War so contentious?

"This overturns the traditional textbook," said Sam Wineburg, the Stanford education professor whose research more than two decades ago laid the groundwork for the approach. "Students explore questions with original documents and cultivate a sense of literacy and how to develop sound judgment."

Stanford history curriculum at L.A. Unified

Michael Jamar attends a history class at Venice High. Only about a third of L.A. Unified high schoolers were proficient on state standardized U.S. and world history tests last year. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In a 2001 book, Wineburg argued that students must be trained to question history in order to understand it, just as professionals do; the curriculum is called "Reading Like a Historian." The ability to question the credibility of information and its sources, he said, is critically relevant in today's digital age — judging claims, for instance, that President Obama was born in Kenya.

The Stanford group has also developed free assessments, more than 65 so far, that gauge mastery of the targeted skills through short essay questions rather than traditional multiple-choice tests. In a test run five years ago, 236 students in five San Francisco high schools using the curriculum outperformed peers in factual knowledge and reading comprehension compared with those in traditional classes, Wineburg said.

For school systems such as L.A. Unified, the curriculum came at an opportune time — just as the district is shifting to new learning standards known as Common Core. The standards focus on cultivating such skills as reading complex texts and integrating and evaluating information from multiple sources.

"The Stanford curriculum aligns almost perfectly with Common Core," said Kieley Jackson, a district coordinator of social science curriculum.

Not all teachers have embraced the lessons. Some say they take too long, typically four days, although Stanford trainers say they can be adapted for one or two. Others say they are short on content. And some instructors prefer their approach of lectures and textbooks. Only about a quarter of social science teachers at Hollywood High use the curriculum, said Neil Fitzpatrick, the department chair.

But Fitzpatrick and many of the 60 colleagues who attended a training this month praised the curriculum and shared ideas on how they modified it — actions that Stanford fully supports — with bingo games, film clips, Play-Doh, poetry, poster sets, Google images.

Buccieri, of Venice High, said he added the Italian perspective of the Battle of Adwa to further enrich the lesson. He said he began incorporating elements of Wineburg's approach after reading his book more than a decade ago and found the Stanford curriculum on his own four years ago.

"History isn't a set of answers I'm passing down to kids," he said. "It's more a set of questions and problems. To me, that's more exciting."

Many students seem to agree. Michael Corley, a history teacher at Polytechnic High in Sun Valley, said nearly 90% of about 100 students he polled preferred the Stanford curriculum over their textbook.

Students don't feel they can argue with the textbook, he said. But using the Stanford lesson on Prohibition to debate why the 18th Amendment banning alcohol was adopted and evaluating perspectives about it from a medical doctor, anti-saloon activist and children's rights advocate? Now that excites them, he said.

He added that the Stanford curriculum seems to especially engage boys, perhaps by appealing to their competitive "gamer mentality," and said his students who typically earn Cs and Ds also do well because the lessons spark their interest. "You can see what they're truly capable of," he said.

At Venice High, Buccieri's 10th grade students said their teacher's approach has completely changed their attitude toward history.

Rosio Salas said she had 10 substitutes in one year who did nothing but assign textbook readings and worksheets. She didn't remember anything she learned. "You just did it because you had to do it."

Now, students say history is exciting. They understand it. They even remember it — as classmate James Gregorio proved by explaining that a Serbian terrorist's assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria ignited World War I.

"You're not just sitting there having to listen to him," sophomore Drew Anderson said. "You get to figure things out for yourself."


STANFORD HISTORY EDUCATION GROUP > Home > Curriculum > Reading Like A Historian |

Reading Like A Historian

The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities.

This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues. They learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence.

How do I use these lessons in my classroom?

The 73 lessons in the U.S. curriculum, initial 31 lessons of the world curriculum, and 5 lessons in the introduction to historical unit can be taught in succession. But these lessons are designed to stand alone and supplement what teachers are already doing in their classrooms. Most lessons take a full class period, though some extend over several. The U.S. and world history lessons generally follow a three-part structure:

1) Establish relevant background knowledge and pose the central historical question. Each lesson approaches background knowledge differently. For some, we've designed PowerPoints, in others we use a video clip from United Streaming* to establish historical context. Many lessons ask students to read a relevant selection from their textbook and answer questions. In some we've outlined mini-lectures or included a timeline that students might reference as they read the documents. Establishing background knowledge is the first step in the inquiry process. This background frames the central historical question, and motivates students to investigate the documents that accompany the lesson.

*Note: United Streaming requires a subscription to Discovery Education.

2) Students read documents, answer guiding questions or complete a graphic organizer. Our lesson plans include documents that address the central historical question. Most lessons draw on two or more documents with conflicting perspectives. The teacher's decisions on how or whether to assign homework plays a big part in pacing the lesson. Depending on the lesson plan, students will engage in different activities as they read and interpret the documents. The Reading Like a Historian curriculum is built around four basic lesson structures:

a) Opening Up the Textbook (OUT): In these lessons, students examine two documents: the textbook and a historical document that challenges or expands the textbook's account. For a sample OUT, see the Battle of Little Bighorn Lesson Plan.

b) Cognitive Apprenticeship: These lessons are based on the idea that ways of thinking must be made visible in order for students to learn them. In lessons following this format, teachers first model a historical reading skill, then engage students in guided practice, and ultimately lead them to independent practice. For a sample cognitive apprenticeship lesson, see the Stamp Act Lesson Plan.

c) Inquiry: All lessons in the curriculum include elements of historical inquiry, where students investigate historical questions, evaluate evidence, and construct historical claims. Some, however, are designed around an explicit process of inquiry, in which students develop hypotheses by analyzing sets of documents. Such inquiries are best suited for block or multiple class periods. For a sample inquiry, see the Japanese Internment Lesson Plan.

d) Structured Academic Controversy (SAC): For these lessons, students work in pairs and then teams as they explore historical questions. After taking opposing positions on a question, they work to gain consensus or at least to clarify their differences. These lessons are well suited to block or multiple class periods. They work best after students have gained experience working with primary documents. For a sample SAC, see the Lincoln Lesson Plan.

3) Whole-class discussion about a central historical question. The final segment of the Reading Like a Historian lesson plan is the most important. Too often, however, it is dropped due to time constraints. We think it's better to eliminate one of the documents than cut such a valuable opportunity to practice historical thinking skills, articulate claims and defend them with evidence from the documents. Only in whole-class discussion can students see that history is open to multiple interpretations, and that the same piece of evidence can support conflicting claims. Students often find this activity foreign and uncomfortable at first. But through practice they gain an understanding of their role as knowledge-makers in the history classroom.

Can I start the Reading Like a Historian curriculum in the middle of the school year?

Of course! Reading Like a Historian lessons are designed to stand alone or to supplement your existing curriculum at any point. However, because the Reading Like a Historian lessons present history in a way that may be unfamiliar, it's important to introduce students to the basic concepts of the curriculum. That's why the Introduction to Historical Thinking Unit includes five short lesson plans to orient students to the curriculum and five classroom posters to remind students what questions to ask when reading historical documents.

Featured Article

Reading Like a Historian: A Document-Based History Curriculum

This article explores a six-month intervention in five San Francisco high schools. Students using the Reading Like a Historian curriculum showed statistically significant gains in historical thinking, mastery of factual historical knowledge, and general reading comprehension. Read Article »

Monday, November 24, 2014



Written by The Red Queen in L.A.,  from her blog |

RED Queen Monday Nov 24 2014  ::  Why do some people seem to hate public institutions so? I just don’t get it. They apparently want public services, but won’t pay for them or don’t want to, and in a twist of killing the messenger, seem to express all this in a vicious hatred for middle management bureaucrats.

The type section for this suite of disjointed prejudices lies in Education of course.   Obviously we want the world’s best-educated next generation to own all the world’s resources and keep us in our golden years roaming the world via luxurious cruise ships. We fuss and whinge about international standardized tests and our loss of intellectual (as a surrogate for economic) supremacy to – to whom? To some other country, maybe a Superpower, maybe not – just anyone else. It’s all just too much, we can’t be not-number one. Never mind that various other metrices don’t even rank us so poorly at that, still we are spooked to the point of panic and precipitous curricular upheaval in reaction to the untenable notion of being not-number one.

But will we pay for a number-one Educational system? Will we adopt the behaviours of higher-ranking countries that treat teachers as honorable, highly remunerated professionals? No way, uh-huh, nope, yougottabekiddingme. All that panic seems to find outlet instead in simply excoriating public servants as a class (though not perhaps individually, everyone still loves their own school, their own teachers) but without recourse to mitigate their lot or our condition either. Thus the class of civil servants tasked with, say, teaching assumes a double-whammy of ignominy and poverty. Thrashed for doing a “poor job” for pay inadequate to commanding respect. Du-wha?

I had the task of assisting a pair of delightful octogenarians recently who were rightfully putout about having been forced to walk a half-mile to a public concert along cracked and broken sidewalks, despite holding a handicapped parking hanger to accommodate one who was hobbling along in a back brace. The lot where they might have parked was closed for lack of personnel to open it. They asked: “who can we talk to about this“? And the answer is: the rest of your fellow citizens who don’t pay enough to maintain our cities’ infrastructure, including sidewalks and city schools and personnel to have opened its parking lot thereby obviating their suffering.

In LAUSD, we don’t pay for enough teachers or staff, and those currently on payroll don’t receive enough of it. period.

This is a seemingly untenable truth, resulting in fury about the state of schools and those who comprise its state (teachers, school-site administrators), without reference to what composes the problem: insufficient funds throttled upstream. Thus the ultimate reasons for insufficiency may not simply be insufficient monies paying into the public fund, because dollars get grabbed at every stop in a massive hierarchy designed to feed on itself. The problem lies with those managing the institution from the top down, not the inherent nature of the institution, and certainly not with its ramifications at the “street-level”.

Where collateral ramifications amplify to enormous effect for: the well-being of our own children, obviously; for that precious external metric of superiority; for the stability of a working middle class that would teach those children; for the future of our society that is composed of these children; for our own position in that society as we become “redundant” with age; for the potential of society to maintain itself as a balanced, economic entity – when we husband our private resources and starve a public purse (whether directly or effectively, through poor management) there is grand, long-term consequences to the essence of our way of life. It is future generations who pay for mid-level stinginess and a failure to attach appropriate responsibility to management by and from the top.

Meanwhile the misplaced fury and prejudice toward public institutions and its stalwart personnel carries collateral damage. Killing the messenger without thought toward who sent the courier. Manifested in blatant dismissive presumptions of failure exemplified by this.

So much presumed disdain for “public schools” without reference to those who comprise it. So much disdain for a neighborhood institution that families flee into private schools or nominally “public” charter “choices”, effectively funneling public monies into private hands for little reciprocal benefit. Rather than address problems specifically, with upper-management or corruption surrounding budgets or contracts, a broad brush is used to paint disdain and dismissal of the broad notion of public service.

This goes for congress, for city council, for school politicians – we erupt in disdain and anger without recognizing we are shooting our own selves in the foot. By improperly husbanding public services like sidewalks and schools and the public budget for all of these, we wind up one day eighty years old and infirm, and unable to negotiate our way through public space.   Rather than nurture a functional mid-level of public servants we are left with a decrepit commons, crumbling amidst corruption and nothing but an opaque and narrow, parallel, self-selecting and self-serving, private sector.

The proper response to the outrage of children violated at Miramonte, as well as the subsequent millions strained from the budget to remunerate victims at the expense of future generations, is to decry entrenched upper-level mis-management and corruption that fails to identify monstrosities. With a school administration that actually affects feedback of teachers, that supports them and watches them and aides them while simultaneously, honestly, ceasing to excuse away problems (conducts a true analysis), with such leadership this all would all be different. If teachers were treated as respected professionals, evaluated authentically and paid concomitantly, it is hard to envision how this appalling behavior could have been sustained.

We need to recognize not only where the buck should stop, but demand accountability once it gets there. The problem with our public institutions is not with its civil servants or the system inherently. It is with its degenerate manifestation that would overfund elements to effectively shield a parasitic class hiding within its upper reaches. Not the teachers, not the students, not even the general budget but the administration that overlooked rogue teachers at Miramontes must be punished. Not the janitors, not the underpaid weekend staff, but the budget-eliminating, fiscally irresponsible community-shirking prop 13 must be recognized. We the public with the power of our vote must force better, true accountability from public institutions, not simply derivative finger-pointing and collective punishment. Now is the time to think about voting for better politicians at the top. Now is the time to start thinking about them.


2cents small On Thursday as I sit in the bosom of my family and give thanks for my blessings and my friends and for all we are about to receive,  I shall include among them The Red Queen and her intellect, her Queen's English, and – following an Oxford comma – her most excellent righteous indignation.    God save her and God bless us every one.

Saturday, November 22, 2014



By John Fensterwald | EdSource |

November 20, 2014 | Dozens and possibly hundreds of the state’s charter schools have adopted policies that illegally require parents to volunteer, the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates charged in a report issued on Thursday.

Some schools give parents the alternative of paying hundreds of dollars in lieu of volunteering and some charters policies threaten to dis-enroll children whose parents don’t comply, the Public Advocates report states (see school by school policies).

Public Advocates examined online documents of 555 of the state’s 1,184 charter schools, including charter petitions, handbooks and letters to parents. It found that 30 percent – 168 schools – imposed volunteer quotas. The report did not say how many of the charters had policies stating students would not be allowed to re-enroll if parents did not volunteer. An appendix summarizes all of the schools’ requirements and conditions.

John Affeldt, Public Advocates’ managing partner, said his firm did not contact any of the schools whose policies were cited to see how the schools enforced the policies and if they followed through with threats to prevent re-enrollment, he said. But, he said, the fact that a school has a policy requiring parents to volunteer is illegal and “discourages people from enrolling in a school who have a right to go there.”

Jed Wallace, the CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said that Public Advocates’ findings may be a case where charters’ “paperwork has not caught up with their actual practice.” The association has not heard of instances where charters have sanctioned students for their parents’ failure to volunteer. If it had, the association would have spoken out about this, he said.

Public Advocates said that the practice of requiring volunteer quotas violates children’s right under the State Constitution to a “free public school.” The firm also said it violates a 2012 state law banning public schools from demanding parents to provide “money or donations or goods or services.” Such policies discriminate against poor and working families, the report said, noting, “No public school should ever penalize or exclude a student because his or her parent or guardian cannot or chooses not to donate time or labor to the school.”

Wallace agrees. He said Thursday that the association has posted legal advice on the members’ portion of its website stating that “it is not legal or appropriate to take actions against students because of the actions of a parent.” He said that charters should actively encourage parents to volunteer and be flexible in seeking ways to involve families but they must not require it.

“No public school should ever penalize or exclude a student because his or her parent or guardian cannot or chooses not to donate time or labor to the school,” the report said.

Some of the schools Public Advocates reviewed had ambiguous policies or did not post policies online, the report stated. Volunteering requirements ranged from one event per year to one day per week, with 30 hours per year a common amount. Some charters permitted parents to buy back the hours at $5 to $25 per hour.

Public Advocates’ report calls on charter schools to halt the practice immediately and for districts to revoke charters of schools that continue it. Public Advocates also wants the State Board of Education to adopt regulations and the Legislature to amend charter laws to state that a forced donation of services constitutes an illegal fee and to demand that districts and county offices of education monitor for compliance.

Charters are public schools of choice, open to those who apply, that are independently managed – most often by nonprofit boards consisting of educators, parents and community leaders. They are overseen by school districts but are free from many of the regulations that the state Education Code imposes on districts. However, they are not exempt from the prohibition on charging fees and parental volunteer quotas, Public Advocates said.

James Trombley, Manzanita’s executive director, said the 150-student middle school relies on parents to be involved in the classroom and to help with custodial work. The school tries to accommodate scheduling conflicts and medical needs of its mostly low-income families. Those families that do not receive a waiver from the volunteer requirement lose their priority enrollment status but can enter the lottery the next year for admission, he said.

“We’re a distinguished school recognized for our parent partnerships,” he said.

Some confusion may come from a 2006 memo by Michael Hersher, deputy general counsel of the state Department of Education. Hersher wrote that it was his opinion that a charter school proposal “may lawfully include reasonable admission criteria, including a requirement that parents agree to do work for the charter school.” Affeldt said the memo is no longer on the Department of Education website, but at least one law firm serving charter school clients has posted it on its website. He wants the Department of Education to disavow it.

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union in California sued the state for permitting dozens of school districts to routinely charge fees, including charges for textbooks, AP exams, lab materials and gym uniforms. That led to the passage of AB 1575, which explicitly prohibits all public schools from charging fees for participating in an educational activity at the school. Public Advocates argues that forced volunteering constitutes a fee.

Going Deeper

Charging for Access: How California Charter Schools Exclude Vulnerable Students By Imposing Illegal Family...