Wednesday, December 31, 2014


from NPR Morning Edition |

December 31, 2014 3:27 AM ET

Listen: 3:53   /  Transcript follows

Thomas O'Donnell reads about Twiggle the Turtle to his kindergartners at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Baltimore.

Thomas O'Donnell reads about Twiggle the Turtle to his kindergartners at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Baltimore. Elissa Nadworny/NPR

31 Dec 2014  ::  Thomas O'Donnell's kindergarten kids are all hopped up to read about Twiggle the anthropomorphic Turtle.

"Who can tell me why Twiggle here is sad," O'Donnell asks his class at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Baltimore.

"Because he doesn't have no friends," a student pipes up.

And how do people look when they're sad?

"They look down!" the whole class screams out.

Yeah, Twiggle is lonely. But, eventually, he befriends a hedgehog, a duck and a dog. And along the way, he learns how to play, help and share.

These are crucial skills we all need to learn, even in preschool and kindergarten. And common sense — along with a growing body of research — shows that mastering social skills early on can help people stay out of trouble all the way into their adult lives.

So shouldn't schools teach kids about emotions and conflict negotiation in the same way they teach math and reading? The creators of Twiggle the Turtle say the answer is yes.

Emotional Intelligence 101

Twiggle is part of a program called Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, or PATHS. It's designed to help young kids recognize and express emotions.

Matthew Henson Elementary is one of about 1,500 schools around the country using this program, which was first developed in the 1980s.

Every week, students get two 15- to 20-minute lessons on themes like self-control and treating others with respect. Especially for the youngest kids — in kindergarten and first grade — Twiggle often serves as their guide.

O'Donnell says his students are really taking to the lessons. They're trained, for example, to "do the Turtle" when they're upset. "That's when they stop and cocoon themselves. They wrap their arms around themselves and they say what the problem is," he explains.

O'Donnell's kids do the turtle all the time — in the hallway and during class.

Right before class starts, for example, one little girl tells her friend, "I don't like when you touch my hair, because it makes me sad."

"Sorry!" her friend responds.

While most kids will eventually figure out such strategies on their own, or with help from their parents, O'Donnell says, the lessons help them learn more quickly.

And for some, especially those with troubled home lives, Twiggle is their first and only introduction to healthy self-expression, he says. "Some of them don't have words to express how they feel before this."

The Long Game

We previously reported on a national study comparing PATHS and other, similar programs showing positive effects in preschool. They are based on research showing that kids who act up a lot in school and at home — even very young kids — are more likely to have mental health problems and commit crimes years later as adults.

So Kenneth Dodge, a psychologist at Duke University, asked, "Could we do something about that to prevent those problems from actually occurring?" And he has dedicated his career to answering that question.

He and his colleagues launched the FastTrack Project to see if they could change students' life trajectory by teaching them what researchers like to call social-emotional intelligence.

Back in 1991, they screened 5-year-olds at schools around the country for behavior problems. After interviewing teachers and parents, the researchers identified 900 children who seemed to be most at risk for developing problems later on.

Half of these kids went through school as usual — though they had access to free counseling or tutoring. The rest got PATHS lessons, as well as counseling and tutoring, and their parents received training as well — all the way up until the students graduated from high school.

By age 25, those who were enrolled in the special program not only had done better in school, but they also had lower rates of arrests and fewer mental health and substance abuse issues. The results of this decades-long study were published in September in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The findings prove, Dodge says, "In the same way that we can teach reading literacy, we can teach social and emotional literacy."

Cost Versus Benefit

PATHS and FastTrack aren't the only programs of their kind. A social-emotional learning program called RULER, developed at Yale University, has shown promising results, as well. And every year, the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning rates the top evidence-based emotional intelligence programs around the country.

So what's the catch? Why don't all schools offer emotional intelligence lessons?

Well, it's expensive.

The full, intensive FastTrack program costs around $50,000 per student, over a 10-year period. Schools can also pick and choose elements of the program.

For example, the short PATHS lessons about Twiggle at Matthew Henson Elementary cost less — about $600 per classroom to start, plus an additional $100 a year to keep it running.

It's pricey, but it does cost less per child than juvenile detention or rehab programs later on, according to Dodge. As a society, we spend a lot on remedial services — programs like PATHS are preventive, he says. "This is something that in the long run will save dollars."

At Clark K-8 School in Cleveland, fifth-grader Tommy DeJesus Jr. says he thinks it's been worthwhile.

DeJesus has been exposed to the PATHS curriculum since he was in kindergarten, and he says he continues to use the social skills he learned from good old Twiggle.

The other day, for example, DeJesus says, he was quick to step in when he saw that a friend was being teased. "They were making fun of his shoes and how he dressed. I said, 'Just because you have shoes and he doesn't, that doesn't give you the right to bully him,' " he says.

And the cool thing was, they listened.

As-broadcast transcript:                                          

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: One of the things we need to learn right away in school, even in kindergarten, is how to get along. Research shows that teaching social skills in those early years is crucial. It can help people stay out of trouble well into their adult lives. NPR's Maanvi Singh visited an elementary school where a vital lesson is learning how to be friends.

MAANVI SINGH, BYLINE: Today in Thomas O'Donnell's kindergarten class, we're reading about Twiggle, the anthropomorphic Turtle.

O'DONNELL: Who can tell me why my friend Twiggle here is sad?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1: Because he didn't have no friends.

SINGH: We're at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Baltimore, and Twiggle's helping us learn about emotions.

O'DONNELL: Who can describe what he looks like and how he feels right now? Is he looking up or down?



SINGH: Yeah, Twiggle's feeling low. But don't worry. He eventually befriends a hedgehog, a duck and a dog. And along the way, he learns how to play, help and share. All of this is part of a program called PATHS, or Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies. It was first developed in the '80s. Matthew Henson is one of about 1,500 schools in the U.S. that are using this model. Every week students, get two 15- to 20-minute lessons on themes like self-control and treating others with respect. Today in O'Donnell's class, the kindergartners are learning how to be good friends. They talk about times when they helped.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #2: I like when you help me read books.

SINGH: And times when they shared.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #3: I like when you share the (unintelligible) and you help me build all the stuff that I needed to build.

KENNETH DODGE: In the same way that we can teach reading literacy, we can teach social and emotional literacy.

SINGH: That's Kenneth Dodge, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Duke University. He spent the last few decades figuring out the best ways to do just that. PATHS and other educational programs he's worked with are all based on this body of research. It shows that kids who act up a lot in school and at home, even really young kids, are more likely to have problems later. They're more likely to have mental health problems and commit crimes as adults.

DODGE: Could we do something about that to prevent those problems from actually occurring?

SINGH: To answer that, they came up with a basic framework that combined PATHS lessons with one-on-one counseling. And then they created an experiment to test it out. They identified about 900 high-risk kindergartners around the country. Half the students got emotional intelligence classes and the counseling for 10 years. The rest went to school as usual. By age 25, those were who enrolled in the special program had lower rates of arrests and fewer mental health and substance abuse issues. So what's the catch? Well, it is expensive.

DODGE: About $50,000 per child across a 10-year period of time.

SINGH: That's for the full intensive program. Schools can also pick and choose elements. It's pricey, but it does cost less per child than juvenile detention or rehab programs later on.

DODGE: This is a model that in the long run will save dollars.

SINGH: And research suggests that it does work. Several studies have found that PATHS and other programs helped all students do better academically. The Clark K-8 School in Cleveland has been using it for years. So I asked a fifth grader, how's it going?

TOMMY: You have to talk with people with respect and treat people how you want to be treated.

SINGH: That's Tommy DeJesus Jr. He's been exposed to the PATHS curriculum since he was in kindergarten. And he says he continues to use his social skills he learned from good old Twiggle, like the other day when he saw that a friend was being teased.

TOMMY: They were making fun of his shoes and how he dressed. I said, just because you have shoes and he doesn't, that doesn't give you the right to bully him.

SINGH: And the cool thing was they listened. I'm Maanvi Singh, NPR News.

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE: What it is and is not + smf’s 2¢

Editorial By the editors of Rethinking Schools | Volume 29 No.1 - Fall 2014 |

Misbehave, get punished.

That pretty much sums up the approach to “disciplining” students that educators through the decades have taken in schools and classrooms. The most extreme form of this law-and-order strategy is zero tolerance, described in Rethinking Schools by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn back in 2000, as these policies gained popularity:

Schools everywhere—public, private, urban, suburban, rural, and parochial—are turning into fortresses where electronic searches, locked doors, armed police, surveillance cameras, patrolled cafeterias, and weighty rule books define the landscape.

In schools today, educators still respond to what they perceive as student misbehavior with punishment. However, schools and school districts appear to be abandoning the language of zero tolerance and in many places are introducing what is often called “restorative justice.” This represents an enormous victory for the activists and organizations that for years have fought the school-to-prison pipeline. Zero tolerance puts school resources toward policing and push-out instead of toward teaching and support. The number of youth—overwhelmingly youth of color—out of school and incarcerated has skyrocketed; LGBTQ and disabled youth are also targeted.

So we welcome the abandonment of zero tolerance.

But simply announcing a commitment to “restorative justice” doesn’t make it so. Restorative justice doesn’t work as an add-on. It requires us to address the roots of student “misbehavior” and a willingness to rethink and rework our classrooms, schools, and school districts. Meaningful alternatives to punitive approaches take time and trust. They must be built on schoolwide and districtwide participation. They are collaborative and creative, empowering students, teachers, and parents. They rely on social justice curriculum, strong ties among teachers and with families, continuity of leadership, and progress toward building genuine communities of learning.

Too often, this is not what we see in places that tout a focus on restorative justice. At far too many schools, commitments to implement restorative justice occur amid relentless high-stakes “test and punish” regimens—amid scripted curriculum, numbing test-prep drills, budget cutbacks, school closures, the constant shuffling from school to school of students, teachers, and principals.

Meaningful restorative justice also requires robust funding. It can’t mean a high school teacher released for one class period to “run the program” or a mandated once-a-year day of staff development training. Under these circumstances, announcing one’s embrace of “restorative justice” is hypocritical window dressing.

What Is Restorative Justice?

The concepts of restorative justice are based largely on indigenous approaches. The Navajo system is a good place to start, described by Robert Yazzie in “‘Life Comes from It’: Navajo Justice Concepts”:

Navajo justice is a sophisticated system of egalitarian relationships, where group solidarity takes the place of force and coercion. In it, humans are not in ranks or status classifications from top to bottom. Instead, all humans are equals and make decisions as a group. . . .

There is no precise term for “guilty” in the Navajo language. The word “guilt” implies a moral fault that commands retribution. It is a nonsense word in Navajo law due to the focus on healing, integration with the group, and the end goal of nourishing ongoing relationship with the immediate and extended family, relatives, neighbors, and community.

So what might this look like in public schools? Cedric, a thin African American teenager in a red shirt, sits in a circle with his parents, other students, teachers, counselors, the principal—about two dozen people. Cedric is returning to Ralph J. Bunche High School in Oakland, California, after being incarcerated, and this is his welcome and re-entry circle.

Eric Butler, from Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), explains the goal: to provide support for Cedric’s return to school. The circle starts with a relationship-building round: Everyone says what they, as children, hoped for in adulthood.

The next round is on values necessary to have the discussion: speak your truth, compassion, commitment. Then a round on what everyone commits to doing for Cedric. The principal says, “I am the person who will ensure you get your high school diploma and get on with your life.”

“You’re making me blush,” Cedric says, covering his face with his hands. Later he explains: “That touched me. . . . At first I couldn’t trust them, but then they all looked me in the eye and told me what they could do to help me, so I felt like I could give them a chance.”

Butler asks Cedric’s mom what kind of help she needs from the group. “I need you to support my son,” she says.

After repeated times around the circle, they make a concrete plan, decide who will do what, and agree to meet in 30 days. At the end, everyone shakes Cedric’s hand or gives him a hug.

The circle for Cedric (made into a short video by RJOY) highlights what restorative justice can offer—healing harm rather than continuing a cycle of crime and punishment. There are a number of models of restorative practices, but they always start with building community. Then, when a problem arises, everyone involved is part of the process. As in Cedric’s healing circle, shared values are agreed on. Then questions like these are asked: What is the harm caused and to whom? What are the needs and obligations that have arisen? How can everyone present contribute to addressing the needs, repairing the harm, and restoring relationships? Additional questions can probe the roots of the conflict and make broader connections: What social circumstances promoted the harm? What similarities can we see with other incidents? What structures need to change?

A commitment to restorative justice has to be built over time; it can’t be mandated or compelled. For example, Rita Renjitham Alfred was hired in 2005 as case manager in a pilot program to reduce expulsions, suspensions, and fights at Cole Middle School in Oakland. She started with a support group for teachers. The next year, Alfred and a colleague offered five days of training in restorative justice spread out over the year. They also got a commitment from the principal to conduct one staff meeting a month on restorative justice principles.

Soon the teachers suggested that the students get involved. Alfred went class to class, explaining restorative practices and starting discussions. The following year there was an elective in restorative justice and it became an accepted approach for dealing with school problems. By the program’s third year, suspensions had dropped 87 percent.

Alfred tells a story that illuminates the program’s impact and how it reaches into the school curriculum:

One day, two middle school students at Cole came to me in tears. “We need an RJ circle on teaching slavery,” they said. They asked for my help talking to their teacher, a wonderful teacher who had been an active participant in our RJ trainings, about how she was teaching a unit on slavery in U.S. history. She agreed and we set up the circle.

“We love you,” the students said, “but we have to tell you what this unit is doing to us. This is our identity, and the way you’re teaching slavery is making us feel terrible.” After a long discussion, with tears on all sides, the teacher suggested a strategy: She would reconstruct the unit, putting it in the context of African history overall, and as an international struggle over power, resources, and economic systems—looking at slavery in the context of conquest and resistance all over the world rather than isolating a specific group as victims. She still teaches the unit that way.

What Isn’t Restorative Justice?

Given the strengths of restorative justice, doesn’t it make sense to charge full steam ahead? Of course, but restorative justice depends on building community, rooting it in social justice curriculum, and integrating classroom practices with schoolwide practices.

Restorative justice is not a set of prompts. The switch from seeing offenders and victims to looking for harm (when everyone involved may well have been harmed) is an enormous one. It’s also not a quick fix to change suspension statistics.

Kathy Evans, from Eastern Mennonite University, worries that

in our haste to implement RJ in schools, we don’t lose our way. Not all programs that call themselves restorative are indeed restorative. Many are restorative-ish; others have been completely co-opted so that restorative terminology is used to rename the detrimental programs they are meant to replace. For example, having kids wash the cafeteria tables in lieu of suspension may be a better option, but it isn’t necessarily restorative. . . . Implementing restorative justice to address behavior without critically reflecting on how curriculum content or pedagogy perpetuates aggression is limiting.
Restorative Justice as the Finger in the Dike

Several years ago, at a workshop on restorative practices at the national Free Minds, Free People conference, teachers spoke up during the discussion period. “We spent three years getting buy-in from the administration and the staff for restorative justice, and we were starting to work with the kids. Then our school got ‘turned around,’ and we lost our principal and most of our staff. Now we’re starting over.” “I’ve started over three times,” one New York teacher said. “I can’t do it again.”

Restorative justice won’t work as a band-aid when schools are being torn to shreds. Look at Philadelphia. The schools have faced years of devastating cuts. Last year at Bartram High School, there were two counselors for more than 1,000 students, 91 percent low-income. Bartram has lost more than a third of its total staff over the last three years, including its only librarian, assistant principals, aides, and a third of its teachers. Dozens of new students came to Bartram as a result of 24 city school closings in 2013. Violence increased, including an assault on a conflict resolution specialist. The administrative response: four more police officers, stricter enforcement of the uniform policy and rules against cellphones and tardiness—and “a commitment to restorative practices.” Under such circumstances, what real meaning does that commitment have?

And, as the students at Cole understood, there is a strong relationship among curriculum, pedagogy, and restorative practices. Restorative justice can’t grow in the margins of scripted, test-driven curriculum; it’s based on teachers hearing, understanding, and responding to the academic, social, and emotional needs of students.

Don’t get us wrong. Rejecting zero tolerance is huge. “Restorative-ish” programs are a vast improvement over zero tolerance. But we need to advocate the essential values of restorative practices. That includes fighting for schools that meet the needs of all our students and the communities they serve. The healing that lies at the heart of restorative practices must include healing the wounds from the kinds of miseducation that oppress children and teachers alike.

  • Ayers, Bill, and Bernardine Dohrn. 2000. “Resisting Zero Tolerance,” in Rethinking Schools, Vol. 14, No. 3.
  • Evans, Kathy. 2014. “Restorative Justice—Possibilities, but Also Concerns,” Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice Blog. June 26. Available at
  • Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth and Oakland Unified School District. 2013. Restorative Welcome and Re-Entry Circle. Filmed by Cassidy Friedman. Available at
  • Yazzie, Robert. 2005. “‘Life Comes from It’: Navajo Justice Concepts,” in Nielsen, Marianne and James Zion, eds. Navajo Nation Peacemaking: Living Traditional Justice. University of Arizona Press.

2cents small Discipline Policy gets a bad semantic rap because the word ‘discipline’ is almost always (mis)understood to be punitive – or is popularly associated with babes in leather bustiers with whips.(I apologize if you are offended – no further dominatrices will appear in this commentary.)   If you knew that ‘dominatrices’ was the proper plural form you are way too into the scene!

Discipline is a positive, active force – very much in the present tense.

Discipline:[dis-uh-plin] (noun)” training to act in accordance with rules; activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; the rigor or training effect of experience; a branch of instruction or learning. (verb) to train by instruction and exercise.

Restorative Justice is ten-steps-in-the-right-direction …but it doesn’t arrive at the destination! RJ is after-the-fact/past tense/reactive to situations and behavior. It restores.

Positive Discipline is proactive: It prevents unacceptable behavior before it happens  and teaches and models acceptable behavior.

RAGE AGAINST THE COMMON CORE: “The Obama administration has only itself to blame”

OP-ED in the NY Times Sunday Review By DAVID L. KIRP |

DEC. 27, 2014  ::  STARTING in the mid-1990s, education advocates began making a simple argument: National education standards will level the playing field, assuring that all high school graduates are prepared for first-year college classes or rigorous career training.

While there are reasons to doubt that claim — it’s hard to see how Utah, which spends less than one-third as much per student as New York, can offer a comparable education — the movement took off in 2008, when the nation’s governors and education commissioners drove a huge effort to devise “world-class standards,” now known as the Common Core.

Although the Obama administration didn’t craft the standards, it weighed in heavily, using some of the $4.35 billion from the Race to the Top program to encourage states to adopt not only the Common Core (in itself, a good thing) but also frequent, high-stakes testing (which is deeply unpopular). The mishandled rollout turned a conversation about pedagogy into an ideological and partisan debate over high-stakes testing. The misconception that standards and testing are identical has become widespread.

At least four states that adopted the Common Core have opted out. Republican governors who initially backed the standards condemn them as “shameless government overreach.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a Republican and a onetime supporter of the Common Core, sued his own state and the United States Department of Education to block the standards from taking effect. When Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, recently announced his decision to “actively explore” a 2016 run for the White House, he ran into a buzz saw of opposition because of his embrace of the Common Core.

Rebellions have also sprouted in Democratic-leaning states. Last spring, between 55,000 and 65,000 New York State students opted out of taking tests linked to the Common Core. Criticizing these tests as “unproven,” the Chicago schools chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, declared that she didn’t want her students to take them.

In a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll conducted last spring, 57 percent of public school parents opposed “having teachers in your community use the Common Core State Standards to guide what they teach,” nearly double the proportion of those who supported the goals. With the standards, the sheer volume of high-stakes standardized testing has ballooned. “The numbers and consequences of these tests have driven public opinion over the edge,” notes Robert A. Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest.

Students are terrified by these tests because the results can jeopardize their prospects for advancement and graduation. In New York, the number of students who scored “proficient” plummeted by about 30 percentage points in 2013, the first year of testing. Some 70 percent scored below the cutoff level in math and English; the 2014 results in math were modestly better, but the English language scores didn’t budge.

Many teachers like the standards, because they invite creativity in the classroom — instead of memorization, the Common Core emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving. But they complain that test prep and test-taking eat away weeks of class time that would be better focused on learning.

A Gallup poll found that while 76 percent of teachers favored nationwide academic standards for reading, writing and math, only 27 percent supported using tests to gauge students’ performance, and 9 percent favored making test scores a basis for evaluating teachers. Such antagonism is well founded — researchers have shown that measurements of the “value” teachers add, as determined by comparing test scores at the beginning and end of the year, are unreliable and biased against those who teach both low- and high-achieving students.

The Obama administration has only itself to blame. Most Democrats expected that equity would be the top education priority, with more money going to the poorest states, better teacher recruitment, more useful training and closer attention to the needs of the surging population of immigrant kids. Instead, the administration has emphasized high-stakes “accountability” and market-driven reforms. The Education Department has invested more than $370 million to develop the new standards and exams in math, reading and writing.

Questioning those priorities can bring reprisals. During the search earlier this year for a New York City schools chancellor, Education Secretary Arne Duncan lobbied against Joshua P. Starr, the superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Md., in part because he had proposed a three-year hiatus on high-stakes standardized testing.

Last year, Mr. Duncan said that opposition to the Common Core standards had come from “white suburban moms who realize — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

He has only recently changed his cavalier tune, acknowledging, “Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy and cause unnecessary stress.”

It’s no simple task to figure out what schools ought to teach and how best to teach it — how to link talented teachers with engaged students and a challenging curriculum. Turning around the great gray battleship of American public education is even harder. It requires creating new course materials, devising and field-testing new exams and, because these tests are designed to be taken online, closing the digital divide. It means retraining teachers, reorienting classrooms and explaining to anxious parents why these changes are worthwhile.

Had the public schools been given breathing room, with a moratorium on high-stakes testing that prominent educators urged, resistance to the Common Core would most likely have been less fierce. But in states where the opposition is passionate and powerful, it will take a herculean effort to get the standards back on track.

  • David L. Kirp is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author, most recently, of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How did we get to where we are?: HISTORIC SUMMIT FUELED PUSH FOR K-12 STANDARDS


by Alyson Klein, Education Week |

Published Online: September 23, 2014/ Published in Print: September 24, 2014, as “1989 Education Summit Casts Long Shadow”

Twenty-five years ago this month, President George H.W. Bush and the nation's governors took an unprecedented step that poured political accelerant on the nascent movement for standards-based education reform: They proclaimed that the country needed to set educational goals on issues ranging from early-childhood education to adult literacy, and to hold itself accountable—somehow—for meeting them.

President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, center, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, right, and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, behind right, arrive for ceremonies concluding Mr. Bush’s 1989 education summit with state governors in Charlottesville, Va. —Doug Mills/AP-File

That agreement was forged during a two-day summit in Charlottesville, Va., that brought the White House together with the chief executives of nearly every state to discuss a single policy issue, for only the third time in American history.

The Sept. 27-28, 1989, gathering at the University of Virginia concluded in a haze of bipartisan camaraderie with Mr. Bush commending his future presidential opponent, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, for his role in helping bring about consensus.

But big questions loomed amid the fanfare: Exactly what should those education goals be, and what steps should the federal government and states take to reach them? Who should foot the bill for any new policies directed at the goals? And, perhaps most important: How should the nation measure progress toward the goals, and who was best positioned to do that measurement?

Two and a half decades, four presidential administrations, and countless laws and marquee initiatives later, educators and policymakers are still searching for the answers. Questions remain even as a majority of states have taken concrete and sometimes controversial steps to realize the vision that emerged from the summit.

"It was a very optimistic time: We really thought, as governors, that we could really make a difference, and we could do it over a relatively short period of time. The White House was right with us," said Thomas H. Kean, an early leader in the standards movement who took part in the event as the Republican governor of New Jersey. "We haven't had a moment like that since, on any subject."

At the same time, there were some clear fissures that emerged in Charlottesville and afterward, as policymakers struggled to find a framework for moving forward on the goals set after the summit.

There was disagreement over education funding; the right balance among federal, state, and local control in setting policy; and tension over whether schools could be held accountable for student achievement without policymakers also being held to account for providing certain supports, such as preschool programs for poor children.

Such tensions still reverberate, most recently in the contention over the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

"The common core is a descendant" of Charlottesville and its aftermath, Mr. Kean said. "And so is the debate against it."


The 1989 summit, to its supporters, was an acknowledgment that thousands of school districts—and even 50 states—working alone, without national leadership, couldn't confront the challenges enumerated by the landmark report A Nation at Risk, issued six years earlier.

That report, which had helped spawn a wave of state-level reform efforts, particularly in the South, warned that the American education system was falling behind its international competitors, threatening the nation's future prosperity. While the report's premises were subject to dispute, its impact was great.

The Charlottesville conference, which was attended by 49 of the nation's governors, with the exception of Rudy Perpich, a Democrat from Minnesota, received front-page attention in major newspapers. But the work was only beginning when the president and the governors left Virginia.

After months of meetings—which generally included Mr. Clinton, at that time a leader of the education task force of the National Governors Association; and Roger B. Porter, Mr. Bush's domestic-policy adviser—the goals became a centerpiece of President Bush's State of the Union address in January 1990.

By 2000, Mr. Bush told the country, every child in the United States would start school ready to learn, and the high school graduation rate would rise to at least 90 percent. Every American adult would be a literate and skilled worker. The nation would lead the world in math and science achievement. Schools would be safe and drug-free.



President George H.W. Bush used his 1990 State of the Union address to champion goals spurred by the previous September’s education summit.

● GOAL 1: By the year 2000, all children will start school ready to learn.

WHERE WE STAND NOW: Twenty-eight percent of 4-year-olds attended state-funded preschool programs, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research’s most recent report on preschool participation, released in 2013. Meanwhile, many states are implementing kindergarten-readiness assessments intended to help teachers shape instruction, but those assessments vary in what they measure and how their results are used.

● GOAL 2: By the year 2000, the high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.

WHERE WE STAND NOW: The four-year graduation rate in the United States hit a historical high in the 2011-12 school year of 80 percent, according to a report released in April by the Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm.

● GOAL 3: By the year 2000, American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter, including English, mathematics, science, history, and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern economy.

WHERE WE STAND NOW: Twenty-six percent of 12th grade students scored at or above the “proficient” level in mathematics on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. The same year, 37 percent of 12th graders scored at or above the “proficient” level in reading.

● GOAL 4: By the year 2000, U.S. students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.

WHERE WE STAND NOW: Twenty-nine nations and jurisdictions outperformed the United States in math by a statistically significant margin, according to the most recent Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, administered in 2012. In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average.

● GOAL 5: By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate and will possess the skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

WHERE WE STAND NOW: Policymakers continue to express concern that Americans lack the skills necessary to compete in a global economy. Advocates of the Common Core State Standards often cite workforce readiness as a key justification for the initiative. According to a 2013 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 17.5 percent of American adults scored at the lowest levels in literacy based on an international survey.

● GOAL 6: By the year 2000, every school in America will be free of drugs and violence and will offer a disciplined learning environment conducive to learning.

WHERE WE STAND NOW: Between 1995 and 2011, the percentage of students ages 12 to 18 who reported being afraid of attack or harm at school decreased from 12 percent to 4 percent, according to the 2013 Indicators of School Crime and Safety report from the Institute of Education Sciences and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The percentage of students in grades 9-12 who reported that illegal drugs were offered, sold, or given to them decreased from 32 percent in 1995 to 26 percent in 2011, according to the same report.

SOURCES: Institute of Education Sciences; Bureau of Justice Statistics; Program for International Student Assessment; National Institute for Early Education Research; Education Week

And, most critically: Every student would leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography.

The goals reflected a " 'Field of Dreams' optimism," said Jal Mehta, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "If we built the goals, then schools would meet them."

There was no clear path forward for bringing the goals to fruition, and no way to measure progress toward them, said Mr. Mehta, the author of The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.

But Michael Cohen, who played a key role backstage at the summit as the director of education policy for the NGA, said the goals were intentionally aspirational.

"People understood these goals were high, lofty, difficult to reach," said Mr. Cohen, who later served in the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration.

And in 1990, the NGA's education task force, led by then-Gov. Clinton, a Democrat, and Gov. Carroll A. Campbell of South Carolina, a Republican, released a blueprint for meeting the goals that had a significant impact on subsequent state efforts to improve education, Mr. Cohen said.

What's more, he said, savvy governors, including Mr. Clinton, knew that the need for assessment measures would stir the policy pot.

"They were happy to be doing something that they hoped would usher in the next generation of testing. … Work on standards and testing and accountability has been a federal-state partnership since the beginning, and the beginning started at the summit," said Mr. Cohen, who is now the president of Achieve, a Washington-based group that helps states bolster academic standards and played a key role in launching the common-core standards.

But Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, said policymakers have ultimately failed to pair standards with increased resources for schools and richer professional development for educators. That's something that was happening in states such as Kentucky at the beginning of the standards movement but, in her view, it hasn't been as widespread as it needs to be in the common-core era.

"Just getting standards and attaching them to tests, which are attached to consequences, is not really enough," Ms. Darling-Hammond said. Disadvantaged children, especially, need greater supports if they are going to meet more rigorous expectations, she said, which is something policymakers haven't really addressed on a national level.

"The inequality question never got answered," she said.


The consensus that educational standards and accountability needed to be part of a national strategy to ensure that the United States remained economically competitive gave rise to a cascade of K-12 initiatives, each identified with successive presidential administrations.

The first President Bush followed up the summit with America 2000, a plan that called for voluntary national standards and tests. Congress, which had been left out of the goals summit, never passed the proposal.

The Bush administration nonetheless financed the development of voluntary standards in a range of subjects. That effort ultimately faltered in the mid-1990s, in part because of conservative opposition to the American history standards, and in part due to concern over the federal role in encouraging the standards' development.

Mr. Clinton, who was elected president in 1992, crafted Goals 2000, which borrowed ideas from Mr. Bush's plan. The Clinton initiative provided grants to help states develop content standards and created a panel to sign off on model state and national standards.

Standards-based education redesign was also encouraged through the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, dubbed the Improving America's Schools Act.

The standards panel was eliminated by Congress after Republicans took control following the 1994 elections. But by the time Mr. Clinton left office after two terms, nearly every state had set academic expectations, and many had begun to assess their students.

In 2001, President George W. Bush picked up the ball with the No Child Left Behind Act, his overhaul of the ESEA, which put the federal government front and center in ensuring that assessments and federally mandated school improvement remedies were a feature of every state's accountability system.

And President Barack Obama later encouraged states to adopt the common-core standards through his signature Race to the Top grant competition and waivers from the mandates of the NCLB law.

Standards-based education reform remains controversial. But the past four presidents—although of different parties—have each made a pivotal contribution to the standards movement, said Marc S. Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, a Washington research group. Mr. Tucker also writes an opinion blog for Education Week.

"What began at Charlottesville was a long march of a bipartisan [movement] to fundamentally change the system," said Mr. Tucker, who served as an unofficial consultant to the cadre of officials involved in developing the goals. "It had good results and bad, but it survived changes in administration in a way that few things did. It was not A Nation at Risk that did that. It was Charlottesville."


Charlottesville also is sometimes credited with helping to crack open the door to more federal involvement in K-12 education.

But the participants didn't see the summit that way at the time, said Paul Manna, an associate professor of government at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., and the author of School's In: Federalism and the National Education Agenda.

"The governors were really looking at the summit as a way to advance some ideas about standards and advance their own position," he said.

Before the first President Bush called the summit, governors had collaborated on their own educational goals and improvement efforts through groups such as the NGA and the Southern Regional Education Board.

Governors wanted political cover to move forward on standards-based reform, Mr. Manna said. And some sought more federal aid, especially for early-childhood education. But the governors didn't want—or expect—the federal government to take more responsibility for student outcomes, he said.

Washington, meanwhile, had been focused primarily on steering aid to disadvantaged students and students in special education, not on prodding states to measure what students needed to know and be able to do.

While the White House may have used the summit to help the senior Mr. Bush make good on his 1988 campaign promise to be the "education president," the administration expected leadership to come from the state level.

In fact, in selecting Charlottesville as the site for the meeting, Mr. Bush intended to send a clear signal that the states were the power center on K-12 policy, said Mr. Porter, a professor of business and government at Harvard University. The two previous presidential-gubernatorial summits—on the economy during the Great Depression, and on conservation in 1908—both took place in the White House. Mr. Porter suggested holding the 1989 education meeting there, too.

"The president said, 'I don't want to do it in Washington. That will send the message that Washington is where the solutions will come from,' " Mr. Porter recalled.

The increase in the federal footprint came years later, Mr. Cohen said, as policymakers—particularly in Congress—became frustrated with the pace of educational progress. The nation "didn't seem to be getting the results we wanted," he said. "We tightened the screws again and again," first with NCLB and then with the Obama administration's waivers.


Soon after the summit, it became clear that there needed to be some entity to track the nation's progress toward the goals, if the country was going to sustain the momentum.

Also, Democratic governors in particular wanted a mechanism to hold the federal government—and themselves—accountable if there wasn't going to be a major infusion of federal money to help meet the goals, something the Bush administration largely took off the table, Mr. Cohen said.

To do that, the governors and the White House created the National Education Goals Panel, originally consisting of six governors and four members of the administration, along with several members of Congress who served ex officio.

But it was clear from the panel's first report, issued in the fall of 1991, that a lack of clear assessment measures complicated the task.

"The national goals panel had a [task] that was almost impossible to achieve," said Roy Romer, a Democrat who participated in the summit as governor of Colorado and later chaired the goals panel. "We didn't have national systems of measurement that were accurate," and the goals themselves had "unrealistic expectations of students."

At a 15th-anniversary event commemorating the summit, Richard W. Riley, the former governor of South Carolina who later served as Mr. Clinton's secretary of education, from 1993 to 2001, would put his finger on the limitations of the goals approach.

"Even though we failed to achieve those goals, that failure taught us something about how hard it is to achieve education reform at the national level," he said. "If you don't put money and teeth behind the goals, not much is going to happen. Also, education improvement takes time."


How close is the nation to fulfilling the vision of the summit and the national education goals it spawned?

The common core and its aligned tests are an obvious heir of Charlottesville, those who were involved with the summit say. Beyond sharing the aim of a national approach to a more rigorous education system, the common-core initiative also was spurred by a multistate partnership, with federal encouragement and assistance.

The common standards have been hit with conservative criticism. So were the policies promoting standards that the first President Bush pursued after the summit and that President Clinton advanced with his Goals 2000 initiative.

That doesn't mean the standards movement hasn't come a long way since 1989, said James B. Hunt Jr., an early leader in the effort who served as governor of North Carolina from 1977 to 1985, and from 1993 to 2001.

"I think we've got pieces of it," he said. "We have set goals, and put in approaches to measure their progress and reward success and require changes if we're not succeeding. I think all of the fuss about common core has sort of obscured that for now."

But Marshall S. Smith, who served in top posts in the Education Department during the Clinton administration and as an informal consultant to policymakers in developing the goals, said the political climate is markedly different now.

"Even though the goals themselves were outrageous in their stretch, people came out of Charlottesville with a good feeling that the country could move on them," Mr. Smith said. "I don't think we have that sense across the country now."

  • Librarian Holly Peele contributed to this article.


2cents small These goals, Clinton’s Goals 2000 and Bush II’s misbegotten NCLB – as well as LAUSD’s Perfect Attendance+100% Graduation goals show the futility of setting impossible goals (this article calls them ‘Field of Dreams ‘ optimism, ancient wisdom calls them ‘chimera’.) We can sing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “The Impossible Dream” at every assembly and homeroom – but not achieving perfection has the appearance of failure to children (these ARE goals for children!) – who want to believe and quickly learn otherwise.

I am not being defeatist, I am not being cynical when I call for REALISTIC GOALS – and then call for all of us – community, students, teachers: We the People – to meet them.

When President Kennedy called for us to put an American on the moon by the end of the decade, a goal that would be hard, he expected us to meet it. And we did, with 164 days to spare.


by the LA Times Editorial Board |


Like the teaching of American history, education about government can be delicate, raising questions about the distinction between instruction and indoctrination. (David Suter / For The Times)

30 Dec 2014  ::  In 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Chief Justice Earl Warren emphasized the importance of public education as a crucible for good citizenship.

“Today,” Warren wrote, “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.”

EDITORIAL SERIES: Exploring the meaning of citizenship in the 21st Century

EDITORIAL SERIES: Exploring the meaning of citizenship in the 21st Century>>

But a growing number of critics charge that education in good citizenship is being shortchanged by an American educational system that is focused on other “core competencies.” The result is that too many products of that system are ignorant of the basics of how American democracy functions, and lack the knowledge to participate fully in the society it sustains. One of the most prominent spokespeople for this view is retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the last member of the court to have held elected office.

In a 2008 article written with former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, O'Connor argued that “civic education has been in steady decline over the past generation, as high-stakes testing and an emphasis on literacy and math dominate school reforms. Too many young people today do not understand how our political system works.”

VIDEO INTERVIEWS: What does citizenship mean to you?

VIDEO INTERVIEWS: What does citizenship mean to you?>>

Unfortunately, O'Connor is right. A survey of adults conducted in September by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that only 36% could name all three branches of the U.S. government; 35% couldn't name even one. Only 27% of respondents knew that it requires a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a president's veto, and 21% wrongly thought that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision must be returned to Congress for reconsideration. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg center, said the survey “offers dramatic evidence of the need for more and better civics education.”

Education in good citizenship is being shortchanged by an American educational system that is focused on other 'core competencies.' - 

Civics education hasn't completely disappeared from American schools. Virtually all states require students to take at least one social studies course as a requirement for high school graduation, and most require some study of civics or American government. Often students are required to study foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. In California, content standards for 12th-grade students include study of “the history and changing interpretations of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the current state of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of government.” Even the much-maligned Common Core standards for English Language Arts & Literacy identify the Declaration of Independence and Constitution (along with Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address) as foundational documents that all students should be able to analyze.

Yet the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found in 2012 that only nine states required students to pass a social studies test in order to graduate from high school. The same report found that such tests increasingly have taken the form of multiple-choice questions to the exclusion of essay questions or independent projects that might acquaint students with how democracy actually works. (A student can learn more about parliamentary procedure by taking part in a mock congressional vote than by reading an account of a real one.)

That leaves ample room for improvement. At a minimum, students in all grades need to be taught about the American political system and the structure of government at the federal, state and local levels. Documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution should be studied not just as literary or rhetorical artifacts but as examples of political philosophy and guides to civic engagement. And civics education (like all education) should encourage participation and creativity on the part of students. Finally, students should be specifically assessed on how well they understand the operation of the political system in which they will play a role as citizens. Granted, students, teachers and parents already feel burdened by the proliferation of tests, and a good case can be made that too many tests are administered too often. But there should be room in any testing regime for an assessment of knowledge about civics.

U.S. naturalization test: The 100 questions you should know the answers to

<< U.S. naturalization test: The 100 questions you should know the answers to

These ideas figure in a report issued this year by the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning, chaired by California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Among other recommendations, the task force proposes that an emphasis on “civic learning” be incorporated in instruction beginning in kindergarten (a 12th-grade civics requirement is of no use to a student who leaves school earlier than that) and that civics instruction be “action-oriented” and “project-based.” The task force also recommends that the state “integrate civic learning into state assessment and accountability systems for students, schools and districts.” Finally, it suggests that schools reach out to “community stakeholders” who could assist in “civic education and engagement.” That's a promising idea but also a potentially controversial one. Schools need to find a way to expose students to public officials and activists without seeming to take sides.

Like the teaching of American history, education about government can be delicate, raising questions about the distinction between instruction and indoctrination. Some supporters of expanded civics education believe it should not only inform students about the American system of government but also celebrate it as superior to all others — an unwise approach that would make civics class an extension of the Pledge of Allegiance. We believe that schools can inform students and engage them as citizens without imposing an official orthodoxy. After all, debate and dissent are also civic virtues.


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NOTHING TO DO WITH EDUCATION, EDUCATIONAL NONETHELESS: This is a definitive Los Angeles story, at once tragic (young black man in the ‘hood senselessly killed in in a drive-by …and if ‘gang-related’ it is all the more senseless), comedic (a mentally ill man finds a hearse idling with the keys in the ignition) and farce:

  • “When he went outside to collect the casket, he noticed that the black hearse was missing….”
  • …any police blotter story with a set-up sentence beginning: “Meanwhile….”
  • "Even with all of that occurring, the service for this gentleman was only 30 minutes late and it was nice,'' she said.

Without being intentionally insensitive or purposefully disrespectful: This a black comedy at its darkest! Americans have a hard time pulling it off… but post-war Brits in the famed Ealing Studios could retell this tale and do it justice. This reporter may go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, but she will never have a more perfect story to write about than this one!


A man who was suspected of being mentally ill allegedly stole a hearse that contained a casket during a funeral in South Park Saturday morning, according to Los Angeles Police Department officials.

By Catherine Saillant LA Times |

30 Dec 2014  ::  A South Los Angeles family chased down a man who allegedly stole a hearse containing their departed relative's casket, angrily exchanging words with him before police were called.

The incident occurred about 11 a.m. Saturday, as a funeral director was preparing services for 19-year-old Jonté Lee Reed at Ebenezer Baptist Church in South Los Angeles. Reed died Dec. 9 after being shot in South Park, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

Shirley Little, wife of pastor Kenneth Little, said the funeral director had left the hearse idling as he arranged flowers inside the church at 4901 Avalon Boulevard.

When he went outside to collect the casket, he noticed that the black hearse was missing, she said. Devastated, he immediately called a group of ministry friends to help track down the missing car, she said.

Meanwhile, family members driving to the funeral had been notified of the theft and saw a hearse passing them near 52nd and Main streets, about four blocks from the Baptist church. They made the driver pull over and began angrily arguing with him, Little said.

Police were called and the man was taken into custody, according to a report by KTLA-5. Police told the station that the man would be charged with auto theft and have his mental condition evaluated.

Little said the hearse and casket were returned to the church a short time later and the funeral services took place. The body did not appear to be disturbed, she said.

"Even with all of that occurring, the service for this gentleman was only 30 minutes late and it was nice,'' she said.

She said that in the 75-year history of the church no one could recall a similar heist. "This is truly one for the books,'' she said.

The L.A. Times Homicide Report |

Jonté Lee Reed, 19

Posted Dec. 15, 2014

Jonté Lee Reed, a 19-year-old black man, was shot and killed Tuesday, Dec. 9, in South Park, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

Reed was traveling as a passenger in a car when someone outside the vehicle fired into it, according to the coroner's account. The driver of the car continued for several blocks before stopping to call 911, authorities said. The shooting took place just east of the 110 Freeway on W. 50th St.

Reed was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.


Four reader comments:

This was a senseless killing. Jonte was a very nice respectful young man. He always kept a smile on his face. I never saw him sad or mad. We the community must come together and look after one another.

— Toni O:-) Dec. 16, 2014 at 5:43 a.m.

Jonte didn't deserve to die this was he was a very kind person always keeping everyone smiling my condolence to his family members for this tragedy you'll always be in our hearts it's sad that I'm not going to be able to see you no more . And that's heart braking hopefully they find your killers and bring justice to your family another young man gone r.i.p my brother i'll see you in heaven one day hopefully your watching us and taking care of us

— michelle Dec. 17, 2014 at 9:45 a.m.

Jonte you will forever be in our minds and in our hearts. This tragic nightmare has woken us up, for this is an example that we can leave this place at any moment, at any age. Yes you were young, and learning life through so many people, yet God needed you. Jonte thank you for coming into our lives, you have made an impact on all of us! We love you and won't EVER forget you!

— Michelle C Dec. 27, 2014 at 10:33 p.m.

Scandals, Screw-ups & Secret Deals - STUMBLES IN L.A. INSTITUTIONS LEAD TO SOME STEPS FORWARD. A new Sheriff, new Fire Chief, a recycled School Superintendent: Quo imus?

Stumbles in L.A. institutions did lead to some leaps forward


by Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times |


Ramon Cortines

Interim Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon Cortines, shown at an October board meeting, knows that business-as-usual in the nation's second-largest school district isn't good enough anymore. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Dec 30, 2014  ::  Scandals, screw-ups and secret deals made 2014 a tumultuous year for some of the region's most important institutions. But those stumbles may pay dividends in 2015 because they sparked improvements: leadership changes, new rules and court decrees aimed at providing more oversight and better scrutiny.

The Los Angeles City Fire Department now seems to have a reform-minded chief who wants to upgrade technology — so we can get an honest look at how long it takes crews to reach emergencies — and overhaul hiring practices that long have favored the friends and family of current employees.

Jim McDonnell

<<< Incoming L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, right, is sworn in by county Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey on Dec. 1. McDonnell is the first outsider to hold the post in 100 years. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Hiring in the county Fire Department is due for a makeover too. Outside monitors were asked this fall to oversee the process after a Times investigation found evidence that firefighters' sons had an unfair advantage.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also got a new leader this year, with Lee Baca being nudged into retirement amid a federal corruption probe and a scathing report on brutality against inmates by jail deputies. New Sheriff Jim McDonnell — the first outsider to hold the post in 100 years — says he doesn't mind a civilian commission looking over his shoulder as he weeds out problem deputies and reorganizes the department.

The Los Angeles Police Department didn't get a new chief, but it did get a lot of unflattering scrutiny this year — including Times accounts of inaccurate reporting of crime stats, uneven discipline of officers accused of misconduct, and tension between cops and residents in some neighborhoods. This month, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan to help rebuild community trust by outfitting patrol officers with body cameras.


Those public safety changes make me think we'll be moving in the right direction next year. But when it comes to education, I feel a bit worried. In the beleaguered Los Angeles Unified School District, the events of 2014 were just as dramatic, but their impact is less clear.

It's easy to tally winners and losers in the district if politics is your guide. The teachers' union won, and former Supt. John Deasy lost. That's a blow to charter schools and corporate-driven reforms — and a reminder to school board members that they'd better toe the party line.

It's harder if the well-being of students is your measuring stick. Children tend to get short-changed when grown-ups battle over power and politics. The students are bound to suffer if district leaders don't find a way to build on the good accomplished during Deasy's watch.

His legacy, after all, is bigger than a botched iPad project. Deasy's focus on achievement, particularly for low-income children, helped advance a student-centric agenda that got a boost from two court decisions.

In June, a judge struck down the state's teacher tenure system, ruling that it harmed students by protecting incompetent instructors. In October, another judge ordered state officials to intervene when L.A. Unified failed to rescue high school students locked out of classes for months by a computer boondoggle.

That sort of higher-power intervention signals that business-as-usual isn't good enough anymore.

Interim Supt. Ramon Cortines is savvy enough to recognize that. He seems to have the will and wisdom to push the district forward — but does he have the stamina and courage to battle institutional inertia?


The lion's share of the columns I've written this year were related to education. I think that's one of the most important services our government provides. Done right, education prepares, encourages and inspires.

And despite the shortcomings of school districts, teachers, principals and parents are doing things right in classrooms and homes all across Los Angeles. The same is true of the region's firefighters and law enforcement officers, who routinely conduct themselves with valor and compassion.

Reporters focus our coverage on the problems of government and its institutions, as we should. But we need to appreciate as well the unsung heroes on our streets and in our schools who are just doing their jobs.

Like LAPD Sgt. Tami Baumann, who befriends the homeless and down-and-outers she encounters in South Los Angeles, even tending their pets and staying in touch with far-flung families. And Fremont High teacher Kenia Gomez, who spends her own money and most of her free time helping students cram each year for the Academic Decathlon.

I interviewed both of them this year, although neither thought what they'd done was extraordinary. Baumann ticked off a half-dozen names of local folks who'd helped her care for a homeless man whose death I wrote about last spring. Gomez gave credit to her students, her principal, other teachers, the parents of her kids.

"I'm not going to lie to you," she told me last summer. "At the end of the day I'm wiped out. But at the end of the day I'm always able to find something to feel good about. You have to look for the positive and just go with that."

So here's hoping we all find something to feel good about in 2015. I'm just going with that.

Monday, December 29, 2014


…and is last year’s Prop 30/LCFF “new money” (17% less than 2008) really “more money”?

by Annie Gilbertson | KPCC |

Audio from this story: 0:48 Listen

Despite new investments from the state, researchers found California school "districts offer modest innovation in this first year."

Despite new investments from the state, researchers found California school "districts offer modest innovation in this first year." Michael Buckner/Getty Images for UNICEF

Monday, Dec. 29, 2014  ::  Education researchers say it's impossible to tell how California schools are spending new funds targeted at high-need students.

Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based advocacy group, analyzed the first year's impact of California's new Local Control Funding Formula, the budgeting process that's intended to bump up spending on low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

"Districts are not laying out plans and budgets that convincingly show that the kids who brought in the money are the kids who are getting the money," said Carrie Hahnel, director of research and policy analysis for the organization.

The new funding formula drew in an additional $137 million for high-need students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state's largest district. KPCC reported some local parents and activists opposed former Superintendent John Deasy proposal to invest part of the funds in school police, custodians and IT support for the district's controversial iPad program.

The recession continues to impact California's classrooms. School administrators complain basic school services cut during the lean years have not been restored. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a research group that advocates for low-income families, calculated per-pupil spending in California last school year trailed pre-recession numbers by 17 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the local control funding formula law last year, giving schools cause to celebrate. The law mandated that districts develop plans showing how the new funding would help low-income students, English Learners and foster children.

But many of these plans are not connected to a district's overall budget, making it difficult to track if money earmarked for high-need students is being used to plug budget gaps, Hahnel said.

"If we aren't seeing more services, then it tells us that the dollars are being moved around in a creative way, potentially being used to fund pension obligations or rising staffing costs," she said.  Hahnel suggested school administrators connect plans and budgets for greater funding transparency.

The report also recommended improving enforcement at county offices of education, which must approve district plans for high-need students.

"Many counties worked closely with their districts to strengthen their [plans]," according to the report. "However, some other counties provided little feedback and approved plans with noticeable errors."

The Los Angeles County Office of Education questioned Deasy's plan as critics pointed out that the district used more half of the money for the high-need students to shore up rising special education costs

Officials at L.A. Unified's argued four out of five special education students fall into one or more the targeted groups. County officials later approved the plan unchanged.

The Education Trust-West report said state officials could encourage investment in high-needs students by holding districts accountable to goals such as higher test scores, increased graduation or better attendance.

"What really matters is whether high-need students are achieving better results," according the report.


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I’m not sure what’s going on at KPCC (besides year-end fundraising) but this online article is substantially different from the as-broadcast radio version.

  1. Both make their points, but I have a feeling that this version is all the stuff they chose (for whatever reason) not to broadcast.
  2. The broadcast version holds LAUSD and their Local Control  Accountability Plan up for scrutiny; it is much more detailed in its 48 seconds in that regard. This version holds the L.A. County Office of Ed responsible for not holding LAUSD accountable.
  3. Technically+legally the County Board of Ed oversees LAUSD and LAUSD is ultimately accountable to the county board and LACOE; this is made difficult in that the county board is appointed by the county supervisors and the LAUSD Board of Ed is democratically elected by the populace. [LA County is the only county in California where the Bd of Ed and the County Superintendent serve at the pleasure of the board of supervisors. This would seem to violate the spirit if not the letter of Article IX §6 ¶2 of the California Constitution   …but who am I to question that?
  4. LAUSD is the only school district in California (of more than 1000 – plus hundreds of charter schools) that used LCFF funds to the extent it did to supplement Special Ed.
  5. Ed Trust-West is pretty much in the back pocket of the Gates/Broad Forces of Education ®eform and the U.S, Dept. Of Ed (The Common Corps or Arne’s Army)  – as was Dr. Deasy, the author of LAUSD’s 2014-15 School Budget and Local Control Accountability Plan.  Ed Trust-West  is frequently a paid outside consultant to LAUSD. It is curious that Ed Trust-West is now challenging Dr. Deasy’s work. Not bad …just curious.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Jurors award $3.35 million to an ex-military man they find was fired for whistle-blowing at LAUSD school


by Howard Blume, LA Times |

A jury awarded $3.35 million in damages to Archie Roundtree, a former JROTC instructor in L.A. Unified.

Dec.27, 2014  ::  After Archie Roundtree and Gerardo Loera clashed at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, their careers quickly diverged. Roundtree lost his job and his teaching certification. Loera rose to become chief academic officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school system.

This month, however, Roundtree, 57, received a measure of vindication regarding the events that ended his career.

After a three-week trial, a Superior Court jury found that Loera had targeted Roundtree for blowing the whistle on problems with the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Polytechnic. Loera was the school principal at the time.

The verdict was $3.35 million in damages, including more than $1 million for Loera's conduct.

Gerardo Loera >>

L.A. Unified has denied that Loera or anyone else did anything improper and may appeal.

The lawsuit arises from events that occurred three years ago, when Roundtree headed the JROTC at the San Fernando Valley campus. Loera had hired Roundtree in 2009, after the retired Air Force major left an Apple Valley school that had discontinued the program.

Roundtree said he taught students about drill and military ceremonies, the history and structure of the Air Force as well as government systems and the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He also taught ethics, fitness, ways to deal with stress and good conduct.

In the fall of 2011, Roundtree met with Loera to discuss the instructor's concern that the schedule allowed for only an introductory JROTC class, which he felt was not enough to build a program. He said he also believed Poly was not complying with two key rules.

For one, Poly failed to enroll at least 100 students for two full quarters. And too few students chose to be in JROTC; rather, they had been assigned involuntarily to the class, according to testimony.

Roundtree wrote a request to the Air Force that Loera signed, asking for Poly to offer the program temporarily with fewer than 100 voluntary cadets. And the letter talked of these students being enrolled for two quarters. The Air Force approved it, according to court documents.

I respect the jury verdict, but that cannot replace what was taken from me. - Archie Roundtree, former L.A. Unified teacher

"I thought he would shake my hand and be happy to stay in compliance with the law," Roundtree said. "I thought he would appreciate me bringing that to his attention."

But Roundtree reported that Loera did not abide by the commitment. The teacher also later raised concerns about the school's other JROTC instructor teaching geometry. The Air Force paid half the cost of its instructors and expected them to teach only JROTC, he said.

Scheduling more JROTC courses was challenging because they no longer counted toward a student's physical education requirement. The school system also was focusing more intensively on English and math.

Loera complained to the Air Force about Roundtree, accusing him of undermining the program to force a transfer to another school. He also directed an assistant principal to compile student complaints, which, Loera testified, first surfaced without his prompting. Within L.A. Unified, Loera was regarded as a JROTC supporter, sometimes serving as the district's designated expert on the subject.

Loera, 41, did not respond to requests for an interview.

In a statement, L.A. Unified said that "each of the administrators' actions were taken with the students' interests at heart and were not done in retaliation against Major Roundtree."

In court documents and at trial, Roundtree's attorney, Renuka V. Jain, raised several issues with Loera's conduct. She offered evidence that Roundtree learned that a case was being made against him only after the military had already taken steps that led to his "decertification" as a JROTC instructor. That action can't be appealed.

Moreover, under the teachers contract, Jain said, Roundtree should have had a chance to address all of the accusations against him.

At trial, witnesses from the Air Force, relying on information from L.A. Unified, sided with the school district. The Air Force has declined to comment.

The jury, on Dec. 16, found that Roundtree proved that district employees retaliated for his report of a violation of a federal law or regulation. It also found that Loera and two other administrators made "one or more defamatory and untrue statements" with the intent to harm Roundtree.

Loera had never been under an obligation to keep Roundtree at Poly, but his actions against him ultimately prevented the instructor from teaching ROTC at any campus after he finished the school year at Poly, Jain said.

Loera left Poly for a senior management position later that same year.

The district's share of damages owed was more than $1.8 million. Loera was assessed $1 million, and assistant principal Adriana Maldonado-Gomez, $500,000. The district said it will pay these costs because the administrators acted within the scope of their duties.

"I respect the jury verdict, but that cannot replace what was taken from me," said Roundtree, who returned to Apple Valley and works as a part-time driving instructor and substitute teacher.

The Air Force closed its program at Poly last June. It hadn't attracted enough students.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Friday evening  the superintendent shared this message with members of the board of education, local superintendents and senior staff:

Friday, December 19, 2014  | 5:00 PM

Dear Board Members,

In the midst of this holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the progress we have made with the My Integrated Student Information System (MiSiS). Although there have been challenges, there have also been some important accomplishments that we should take time to acknowledge.

Please find – as a small holiday gift – my reflection on some of the most significant achievements:

  • The District is on track to provide attendance data for the first reporting period (P1), due January 8, 2015, and we are confident that we will meet this deadline.
  • As of today, rollover of classes from fall to spring has been completed at 96 percent of our secondary schools.
  • Final marks for the Fall 2014 Semester are being posted to Transcripts, and high school seniors will have updated documents to submit with college applications.
  • All data for students who were eligible to reclassify during the 2013-14 school year are now reflected accurately in MiSiS.
  • By 3:00 p.m. today, secondary schools had entered more than 1,680,000 grades successfully, which represents approximately 99% of all secondary school grades we expect to be entered. Despite intermittent technical challenges with entering grades and report generation this week, secondary schools are now on track to submit all of their grades by midnight tonight.
  • The District has been cultivating stronger relationships with the U.S. Department of Education and Microsoft to improve MiSiS.
  • The MiSiS team has adopted a renewed sense of urgency and collaboration.

With these improvements, I am confident that MiSiS will prove to be a landmark achievement for LAUSD.  Enjoy your rest and relaxation over the break. I look forward to continuing our work together in the New Year.

Bah Humbug,

Ramon C. Cortines


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